Roundup: Historian's Take
This is where we place excerpts by historians writing about the news. On occasion this page also includes political scientists, economists, and law professors who write about history. We may from time to time even include English profs.
SOURCE: New York Sun (7-24-07)
Two positions dominate and polarize the American body politic today. Some say the war is lost, so leave Iraq. Others say the war can be won, so keep the troops in place.
I split the difference and offer a third route. The occupation is lost but the war can be won. Keep U.S. troops in Iraq but remove them from the cities.
I already predicted failure for an American-led military occupation of Iraq in February 1991, right after the Kuwait war ended, writing then that an occupation lasting for more than some months"would probably lead to one of the great disasters in American foreign policy." I reached this conclusion on the basis of the Iraqi populace coming"very strongly to resent a predominantly American occupying force." Therefore, I concluded, as the ignominy of sniper fire buries the prestige of high-tech military superiority,"the famous victory achieved by Tomahawks, Tornadoes, and Patriots would quickly become a dim memory."
In April 1991, I added that"American troops would find themselves quickly hated, with Shi'is taking up suicide bombing, Kurds resuming their rebellion, and the Syrian and Iranian governments plotting new ways to sabotage American rule. Staying in place would become too painful, leaving too humiliating."
With the occupation a half-year old in October 2003, I forecast that"the mission in Iraq will end in failure" because the Iraqi motivation to remove coalition forces greatly exceeds coalition motivation to remain."The US-led effort to fix Iraq is not important enough for Americans, Britons, or other non-Muslim partners to stick it out."
Now again, I reiterate that lack of will (how many Americans or Britons care deeply about Iraq's future course?) means that coalition forces cannot achieve the grandiose goal of rehabilitating Iraq. In calling for withdrawal, critics reflect the national mood that leaves the Bush administration increasingly isolated, a trend that almost surely will continue.
But President George W. Bush is right to insist on keeping troops in Iraq.
In part, America's credibility is on the line. The country cannot afford what Victor Davis Hanson notes would be its first-ever battlefield flight. The cut-and-run crowd deludes itself on this point. Senator George Voinovich (Republican of Ohio) holds that"If everyone knows we're leaving [Iraq], it will put the fear of God in them," to which Jeff Jacoby sardonically replies in the Boston Globe: sure,"Nothing scares al-Qaeda like seeing Americans in retreat."
The troops should remain in Iraq for another reason too: Iraq offers an unrivaled base from which to influence developments in the world's most volatile theater. Coalition governments can use them to:
- Contain or rollback the Iranian and Syrian governments.
- Assure the free flow of oil and gas.
- Fight Al-Qaeda and other international terrorist organizations.
- Provide a benign presence in Iraq.
What coalition troops should not be doing: A heavily armed U.S. Marine Corps lance corporal, Eliot Yarmura, led masked Iraqi soldiers through an alley during a security patrol of Barwana, Iraq, on Jan. 15, 2006. (View large version)
I call for international troops to be released from improvised explosive devices, urban foxholes, and armed convoys, and redeployed to the deserts and borders where they and their high-tech equipment can play a strategic role.
This implies the coalition abandoning its overly ambitious goal of a democratic, free, and prosperous Iraq, aiming instead for an Iraq that is secure, stable, and decent. In particular, holding elections in January 2005, a mere 22 months after the tyrant's overthrow, was premature and unrealistic; Iraqis will need years, perhaps decades, to learn the subtle habits of an open society.
Removing Saddam Hussein was a realistic and welcome act of international sanitation but repairing Iraq in the face of a liberated, fractured, and ideological Iraqi populace remains beyond the coalition's will. The coalition gave Iraqis a fresh start; it cannot take responsibility for them nor rebuild their country.
Focusing on the strategic level also means the coalition distancing itself from Iraq's internal developments and treating Iraqis as adults shaping their own destiny, not as wards: no more hugging the country's leaders, treating its parliamentarians as subalterns, nor encouraging local partners to emigrate to Denmark or the United States.
That means staying the course but changing the course, redeploying to desert bases, not leaving Iraq.
This article is reprinted with permission by Daniel Pipes. This article first appeared in the New York Sun.
Posted on: Tuesday, July 24, 2007 - 18:46
SOURCE: Madman of Chu (blog) (7-20-07)
The US occupation of Japan was obviously a major historical model upon which Bush administration officials drew in planning for the invasion of Iraq. The United States' perceived success in bringing postwar order and democracy to Japan stood testimony, so our leaders thought, to the possibility of replicating that success in Iraq. Such logic failed to grasp the underlying historical dynamics at work in both mid-twentieth-century Japan and current-day Iraq. In essence, one may say that in 1945 and 2003 the US did approximately the same thing to two radically different societies, effecting, unsurprisingly, vastly different results in either case. Where the defeat and dissolution of the Japanese Imperial Army helped bring Japan back from the brink of self-destruction and set it once again on a progressive path, the dismantling of Saddam Hussein's military produced quite the opposite effect. Understanding why this is so is essential to grasping not only the ill wisdom of having invaded Iraq from the outset, but the few effective options that might produce positive results in Iraq moving forward.
Japan prospered so well after being defeated in World War II because the defeat itself rid Japan of the single most dysfunctional and malignant institution of twentieth-century Japanese society: the Japanese Imperial Army. Though the Army had played a somewhat progressive modernizing role in the early Meiji Era, with the acquisition of colonies in the wake of the first Sino-Japanese War of 1895 the Japanese military began to grow and evolve in ways that were destructive of Japanese social stability and prosperity. Serving under hardship conditions among hostile populations, constantly harassed by guerrillas and rebels, compelled to adopt ever-increasingly brutal tactics in the struggle to maintain imperial authority, the colonial garrisons of the Japanese military developed a world view that was at once clannish, belligerent, paranoid, expansionist, and utterly contemptuous of civilian political leadership.
Due to the perceived urgency of their mission, the proximity of Japan's colonies to the metropole, the influence of geopolitical forces (the spread of Eurasian communism, the Great Depression, etc.), and the lack of inhibiting checks and balances in the Meiji Constitution, the colonial garrisons steadily grew in scope of power and control. Each expansion of Japan's territorial domain brought more insecurity, the favored military remedy for which was always further aggression and expansion. This, in turn, drew more resources into the military and made its penetration into political and social life more total. Thus the militarization of Japanese state and society steadily accelerated over the first decades of the twentieth century, becoming incredibly rapid in the years between the Mukden Incident of 1931 and the final defeat of Japan in 1945. By 1945, ordinary Japanese citizens found themselves co-opted into doing things they would not have dreamed of scant years before. For example, the incredible speed with which the military expanded led to the creation of bizarre rituals for rapidly acclimating new personnel to the culture of the armed forces. New officers were asked to behead unarmed prisoners or participate in atrocities against civilians, so as to induce a sense of alienation from civilian life and forge a bond with the military unit through shared transgression.
Deeply malignant as it had become, the Japanese army was a conventional military and could be defeated through conventional strategic means. Deprived of the large capital assets that gave it structure and the state offices through which it was organized by a sustained campaign of positional warfare, the Japanese military could not retain institutional coherence. Free from the destructive influence of the military, Japanese society followed an intrinsic dynamism that quickly tended toward restored prosperity. In the absence of the army Japanese state and society still retained many other institutions and cultural resources that could serve as the matrix of restored civil order: the imperial throne, commonly revered Shinto and Buddhist religious establishments, a robust school system, a shared language and history, a tradition of representative government. Americans often point to constitutional innovations "imposed" upon Japan by the US occupation, but in the absence of fundamental indigenous social, cultural and political resources no new institutional structures would have sufficed to create civil order in Japan ex nihilo.
The historical situation of Iraq at the time of the US invasion in 2003 was vastly different than that of Japan. It would be wrong to call the Iraqi military a "benign" force, but it would be equally inaccurate to label it the most malignant and destructive influence on Iraqi state and society. The most destructive elements of the Iraqi state were affiliated with the Ba'ath Party and a narrow oligarchic clique centered around Saddam Hussein and his Tikriti kin. The military had been thoroughly co-opted to serve the oppressive ends of these malignant groups, but it was never the "hand at the switch" setting the policy of the Hussein regime. As complicit as the military was in the crimes of the Hussein regime, it did serve as an institution that could provisionally mediate between and somewhat ameliorate the ethnic and sectarian tensions of Iraqi society. Hussein himself exploited the "social coherence" potential of the military at the expense of the military's operational efficiency. Large units that were tactically non-functional were kept on the books as a way of "buying off" young men that would otherwise be unemployed, thus turning the military into an ad hoc social welfare program. The Iraqi military was not a force, like the Japanse Imperial Army, which generated its own doctrine and pursued its own initiatives, but was one that served the whims and agendas of agents independent of itself.
The swift destruction of the Iraqi army through the same kind of campaign of positional warfare that had brought down the Japanese military was not, therefore, an effectvie remedy for Iraq as the latter victory had proved to be for Japan. Since the forces that had oppressed Iraq had never wholly identified with the army, they were able to survive its collapse, and live on in the form of the insurgency that still persists today. Moreover, Iraqi state and society never possessed the kinds of resources that Japan could summon toward the restoration of civil order. Absent the military, Iraq was left without social or cultural structures that could create genuine community. There is no common Iraqi language or ethnicity and little shared sense of history. What cohesive institutions do remain, such as the Shi'ite clerical establishment, enjoy the allegiance of only part of the community and attract the violent enmity of the rest.
Where demilitarizing Japan had been the key solution to Japan's social and political problems, such is not the case for Iraq. By destroying the Iraqi military the US deprived Iraq of one of the only truly pan-communal institutions it possessed. To date, the US has yet to restore the Iraqi military to anything approaching its former potency. The Iraqi Army as it currently exists is only one of many armed factions, and absent the heavy weapons (tanks, planes, helicopters, artillery) that the Hussein-era military once possessed it remains suspended in a state of virtual parity with the various militias and insurgent groups that operate throughout Iraq, totally lacking in the prestige, authority, or raw combat power of a genuine sovereign military.
Until a viable and full-blooded Iraqi army exists once again there is no chance of building authoritative state and social institutions in Iraq, and until such institutions are built Iraq will know no stability or peace. Creating a fully-armed Iraqi military will create a power contest that may become very violent. The final outcome of that contest will be decided by Iraqi leaders, and because the US can not predict who those leaders will ultimately be or control what sort of institutional order they ultimately impose, America chooses not to entrust real power to its Iraqi partners. The risks of entrusting military power to Iraqis may be real, but if the US should refuse to trust Iraqis one is forced to ask why American soldiers should die to aid a people whom we hold in such contempt. Whatever US leaders decide to do the fact shall remain: though dismantling the Japanese military may have been an effective remedy for Japan, only fully rebuilding the Iraqi military will set Iraq back on the path to order and stability.
Posted on: Tuesday, July 24, 2007 - 18:39
SOURCE: Dissent (7-1-07)
The summer of 2007 marks the fortieth anniversary of America’s worst season of urban disorder. The most famous riots happened in Newark and Detroit. But “nearly 150 cities reported disorders in Negro—and in some instances Puerto Rican—neighborhoods,” reported the 1968 National Advisory Commission on Civil Disorders. Today, the most intriguing question is not why the riots occurred but why they have not recurred. With the exception of Liberty City, Miami, in 1980, and South-central Los Angeles in 1992, American cities have not burned since the early 1970s. Even the botched response to Hurricane Katrina did not provoke civil violence.
The question becomes all the more intriguing in light of October 2005, when riots erupted in at least three hundred cities and towns across France. They were the worst France had experienced since 1968. Mass joblessness, isolation in ethnic ghettos, and cultural discrimination fueled anger at the police, which erupted after two teenagers of North African and Malian origins were electrocuted as they climbed a fence to escape what they believed to be police pursuit.
As in France, immigrants are transforming U.S. cities, which, already highly segregated by race, contain zones of exclusion characterized by poverty and joblessness. But American cities do not burn. Urban violence has not disappeared; it has been transformed. Anger and frustration turn inward, exploding in gang warfare, homicide, and random killing in drive-by shootings. But civil violence—burning, looting, sniping at police—actions aimed largely at symbols and agents of exclusion and exploitation remain part of urban history, not live possibilities in the urban present. What accounts for the absence of civil violence on American streets?
The question is puzzling because many of the conditions thought to have precipitated the eruption of civil violence in the 1960s either persist or have grown worse. Nationally, after the Second World War, income inequality decreased until 1973, when it swung upward. Even worse, the proportion of African American men out of the regular labor force rose sharply. The number incarcerated skyrocketed. On any given day, one of three black men age twenty to twenty-nine was either in jail or on probation or parole. Nor did allegations of police violence disappear. Police departments professionalized, waves of reform swept across urban schools, job training programs proliferated, new government incentives promised to recreate markets in inner cities. But city schools by and large continued to fail; the homeless haunted city streets; most public housing, when it was available, was awful; the police were still problematic; chronic joblessness increased; and inner cities remained bleak.
Other conditions that had contributed to the 1960s’ civil violence also worsened. Racial segregation increased until the 1990s, reaching historic highs. Although African American poverty rates declined, within cities the spatial concentration of poverty intensified as whites moved to the suburbs. Ethnic transition added to urban tensions as immigration, primarily from Asia and Latin America, soared after 1980, accounting for one-third of population growth in the 1990s. Recent immigrants settled mainly in cities. ...
Posted on: Tuesday, July 24, 2007 - 18:17
SOURCE: WaPo (7-21-07)
It seems that the House Judiciary Committee is considering seeking help from the Justice Department to enforce contempt citations against Bush administration officials such as Joshua Bolten who refuse to respond to congressional inquiries into alleged White House wrongdoing. That would be a mistake.
Such a strategy leaves Congress beholden to hostile executive branch officials to enforce its prerogatives on exactly the type of charges that the administration said this week it would not allow officials to pursue. This strategy also would allow the president to pardon his underlings should they ever be indicted and convicted.
Yet under historic and undisturbed law, Congress can enforce its own orders against recalcitrant witnesses without involving the executive branch and without leaving open the possibility of presidential pardon.
And a Supreme Court majority would find it hard to object in the face of two entrenched legal principles.
First is the inherent power of Congress to require testimony on matters within its legislative oversight jurisdiction.
So long as Congress is investigating issues over which it has the power to legislate, it can compel witnesses to appear and respond to questions. That power has been affirmed over and over in prosecutions for contempt.
In modern times, this congressional power has been enforced by referring contempt cases to the U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia for indictment and prosecution. That, of course, is the rub. It allows the president to exercise his plenary power under the Constitution to issue pardons "for offenses against the United States."
But no law says that indictment and prosecution by the Justice Department is the exclusive means to enforce congressional prerogative.
Indeed, in an 1895 case ( United States v. Chapman), the defendant unsuccessfully argued that Congress could not have such cases of contempt prosecuted through the courts but must punish such defiance on its own, without judicial assistance. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia held that judicial enforcement of Congress's inherent power was optional.
This power of Congress to punish contemptuous behavior itself was reinforced in 1934. In Jurney v. McCracken, the Supreme Court denied a writ of habeas corpus to a petitioner who had been taken into custody by the Senate sergeant- at-arms for allegedly destroying documents requested in a Senate subpoena....
Posted on: Tuesday, July 24, 2007 - 14:00
SOURCE: Chronicle of Higher Education (CHE) (7-23-07)
What comes after Iraq? If President Bush's current surge of troops fails to produce "victory," what lessons will the United States draw for its future foreign policy? Will it turn inward as it did after the defeat in Vietnam three decades ago? Will it turn away from a values-oriented foreign policy of promoting democracy to a narrow realist view of its interests? Even while discussion in Washington is fixated on current events in Iraq, four books have begun to draw lessons for the next stage. All four agree on condemning the Iraq War, but their recommendations then diverge.
Academics and pundits have often been mistaken about America's position in the world. For example, two decades ago, the conventional wisdom was that the United States was in decline, suffering from "imperial overstretch." A decade later, with the end of the cold war, the new conventional wisdom was that the world was a unipolar American hegemony. Some neoconservative pundits drew the conclusion that the United States was so powerful that it could decide what it thought was right, and others would have no choice but to follow. Charles Krauthammer celebrated this view as "the new unilateralism," and it heavily influenced the Bush administration even before the shock of the attacks on September 11, 2001, produced a new "Bush Doctrine" of preventive war and coercive democratization.
That new unilateralism was based on a profound misunderstanding of the nature of power in world politics. Power is the ability to get the outcomes one wants. Whether the possession of resources will produce such outcomes depends upon the context. For example, a large modern tank army is a power resource if a war is fought in a desert, but not if it is fought in a swamp — as the Americans discovered in Vietnam. In the past, it was assumed that military power dominated most issues, but in today's world, the contexts of power differ greatly on military, economic, and transnational issues. Those include some of the greatest challenges we face today, among them climate change, pandemics, and trans-national terrorism. The old academic distinction between realists and liberal institutionalists needs to give way to a new synthesis that might be termed liberal realism.
The only way to grapple with these new problems is through cooperation with others, and that requires smart power — a strategy that combines the soft power of attraction with the hard power of coercion. For example, American and British intelligence agencies report that our use of hard power without sufficient attention to soft power has increased rather than reduced the number of Islamist terrorists over the past five years. The soft power of attraction will not win over the hard-core terrorists, but it is essential in winning the hearts and minds of mainstream Muslims without whose support success will be impossible in the long term. Yet all the polling evidence suggests that American soft power has declined dramatically in the Muslim world. There is no simple military solution that will produce the outcomes we want. The nature of these transnational problems means that the United States does not have the luxury of turning inward, no matter what the outcome in Iraq. These are not problems that stop at the water's edge....
[HNN Editor: In this long article Nye critiques the arguments made by Chalmers Johnson and others concerning the threats to American power.]
Posted on: Monday, July 23, 2007 - 21:03
SOURCE: TomDispatch.com (7-22-07)
Pity the poor Democratic candidates for president, caught between Iraq and a hard place. Every day, more and more voters decide that we must end the war and set a date to start withdrawing our troops from Iraq. Most who will vote in the Democratic primaries concluded long ago that we must leave Iraq, and they are unlikely to let anyone who disagrees with them have the party's nomination in 2008.
But what does it mean to"leave Iraq"? Here's where most of the Democratic candidates come smack up against that hard place. There is a longstanding bipartisan consensus in the foreign-policy establishment that the U.S. must control every strategically valuable region of the world -- and none more so than the oil heartlands of the planet. That's been a hard-and-fast rule of the elite for some six decades now. No matter how hard the task may be, they demand that presidents be rock-hard enough to get the job done.
So whatever"leave Iraq" might mean, no candidate of either party likely to enter the White House on January 20, 2009 can think it means letting Iraqis determine their own national policies or fate. The powers that be just wouldn't stand for that. They see themselves as the guardians of world"order." They feel a sacred obligation to maintain"stability" throughout the imperial domains, which now means most of planet Earth -- regardless of what voters may think. The Democratic front-runners know that"order" and"stability" are code words for American hegemony. They also know that voters, especially Democratic ones, see the price of hegemony in Iraq and just don't want to pay it anymore.
So the Democratic front-runners must promise voters that they will end the war -- with not too many ideologically laden ifs, ands, or buts -- while they assure the foreign-policy establishment that they will never abandon the drive for hegemony in the Middle East (or anywhere else). In other words, the candidates have to be able to talk out of both sides of their mouths at the same time.
No worries, it turns out. Fluency in doublespeak is a prime qualification for high political office. On Iraq, candidates Dennis Kucinich and Bill Richardson don't meet that test. They tell anyone and everyone that they want"all" U.S. troops out of Iraq, but they register only 1-4% in the polls and are generally ignored in the media. The Democrats currently topping the polls, on the other hand, are proving themselves eminently qualified in doublespeak.
Clinton:"We got it right, mostly, during the Cold War"
Hillary Clinton declares forthrightly:"It is time to begin ending this war…. Start bringing home America's troops…. within 90 days." Troops home: It sounds clear enough. But she is always careful to avoid the crucial word all. A few months ago she told an interviewer:"We have remaining vital national security interests in Iraq…. What we can do is to almost take a line sort of north of, between Baghdad and Kirkuk, and basically put our troops into that region." A senior Pentagon officer who has briefed Clinton told NPR commentator Ted Koppel that Clinton expects U.S. troops to be in Iraq when she ends her second term in 2017.
Why all these troops? We have"very real strategic national interests in this region," Clinton explains."I will order specialized units to engage in narrow and targeted operations against al Qaeda and other terrorist organizations in the region. They will also provide security for U.S. troops and personnel and train and equip Iraqi security services to keep order and promote stability." There would be U.S. forces to protect the Kurds and"our efforts must also involve a regional recommitment to success in Afghanistan." Perhaps that's why Clinton has proposed"that we expand the Army by 80,000 troops, that we move faster to expand the Special Forces."
Says her deputy campaign manager Bob Nash,"She'll be as tough as any Republican on our enemies." And on our friends, he might have added, if they don't shape up. At the Take Back America conference in June the candidate drew boos when she declared that"the American military has done its job.… They gave the Iraqi government the chance to begin to demonstrate that it understood its responsibilities.… It is the Iraqi government which has failed." It's the old innocent-Americans-blame-the-foreigners ploy.
More importantly, it's the old tough-Americans-reward-friends-who-help-America ploy. We should start withdrawing some troops, Clinton says,"to make it clear to the Iraqis that … we're going to look out for American interests, for the region's interests." If the Iraqi government is not"striving for sustainable stability…. we'll consider providing aid to provincial governments and reliable non-governmental organizations that are making progress."
Clinton's message to the Iraqi leaders is clear: You had your chance to join"the international community," to get with the U.S. program, and to reap the same benefits as the leaders of other oil-rich nations -- but you blew it. So, now you can fend for yourselves while we look for new, more capable allies in Iraq and keep who-knows-how-many troops there to"protect our interests" -- and increase our global clout. The draw-down in Iraq, our signal that we've given up on the al-Maliki government,"will be a first step towards restoring Americans moral and strategic leadership in the world," Clinton swears.
"America must be the world's leader," she declared last month."We must widen the scope of our strength by leading strong alliances which can apply military force when required." And, when necessary, cut off useless puppet governments that won't let their strings be pulled often enough.
Hillary is speaking to at least three audiences: the voters at home, the foreign-policy elite, and a global elite she would have to deal with as president. Her recent fierce criticism of the way President Bush has handled Iraq, like her somewhat muddled antiwar rhetoric, is meant as a message of reassurance to voters, but also to our elite -- and as a warning to foreigners: The next President Clinton will be tough on allies as well as foes, as tough as the old cold warriors."We got it right, mostly, during the Cold War.… Nothing is more urgent than for us to begin again to rebuild a bipartisan consensus," she said last year in a speech that cut right to the bottom line:"American foreign policy exists to maintain our security and serve our national interests." That's what the bipartisan consensus has always believed.
Obama and Edwards: Don't Tread on Us
That seems to be what Barack Obama, another loyal member of the foreign-policy establishment, believes too."The single most important job of any president is to protect the American people," he affirmed in a major foreign-policy statement last April. But"the threats we face…. can no longer be contained by borders and boundaries…. The security of the American people is inextricably linked to the security of all people." That's why the U.S. must be the"leader of the free world." It's hard to find much difference on foreign policy between Clinton and Obama, except that Barack is more likely to dress up the imperial march of U.S. interests in such old-fashioned Cold War flourishes.
That delights neoconservative guru Robert Kagan, who summed up Obama's message succinctly:"His critique is not that we've meddled too much but that we haven't meddled enough.… To Obama, everything and everyone everywhere is of strategic concern to the United States." To control everything and everyone, he wants"the strongest, best-equipped military in the world.… A 21st century military to stay on the offense." That, he says, will take at least 92,000 more soldiers and Marines -- precisely the number Secretary of Defense Robert Gates has recommended to President Bush.
Like Hillary, Barack would remove all" combat brigades" from Iraq, but keep U.S. troops there"for a more extended period of time" -- even"redeploy additional troops to Northern Iraq" -- to support the Kurds, train Iraqi forces, fight al Qaeda,"reassure allies in the Gulf,""send a clear message to hostile countries like Iran and Syria," and"prevent chaos in the wider region.""Most importantly, some of these troops could be redeployed to Afghanistan…. to stop Afghanistan from backsliding toward instability."
Barack also agrees with Hillary that the Iraqi government needs a good scolding"to pressure the Iraqi leadership to finally come to a political agreement between the warring factions that can create some sense of stability…. Only through this phased redeployment can we send a clear message to the Iraqi factions that the U.S. is not going to hold together this country indefinitely.… No more coddling, no more equivocation."
But Obama offers a carrot as well as a stick to the Iraqis:"The redeployment could be temporarily suspended if the parties in Iraq reach an effective political arrangement that stabilizes the situation and they offer us a clear and compelling rationale for maintaining certain troop levels…. The United States would not be maintaining permanent military bases in Iraq." What, however, does"permanent" mean when language is being used so subtly? It's a question that needs an answer, but no one asks it -- and no answer is volunteered.
John Edwards offers variations on the same themes. He wants a continuing U.S. troop presence"to prevent a genocide, deter a regional spillover of the civil war, and prevent an Al Qaeda safe haven." But he goes further than either Obama or Clinton in spelling out that we"will also need some presence in Baghdad, inside the Green Zone, to protect the American Embassy and other personnel."
Around the world, Edwards would use military force for"deterring and responding to aggressors, making sure that weak and failing states do not threaten our interests, and … maintaining our strategic advantage against major competitor states that could do us harm and otherwise threaten our interests." His distinctive touch is to stress coordinated military and civilian efforts for"stabilizing states with weak governments…. I would put stabilization first.""Stabilization" is yet another establishment code word for insuring U.S. control, as Edwards certainly knows. His ultimate aim, he says, is to ensure that the U.S. will"lead and shape the world."
Running for the Imperial Presidency
The top Democrats agree that we must leave significant numbers of U.S. troops in Iraq, not only for selfish reasons, but because we Americans are so altruistic. We want to prevent chaos and bring order and stabilization to that country -- as if U.S. troops were not already creating chaos and instability there every day. But among the foreign policy elite, the U.S. is always a force for order,"helping" naturally chaotic foreigners achieve"stability." For the elite, it's axiomatic that the global"stability" that keeps us secure and prosperous is also a boon for the people we"stabilize." For this to happen in Iraq, time must be bought with partial"withdrawal" plans. (It matters little how many foreigners we kill in the process, as long as U.S. casualties are reduced enough to appease public opinion at home.) This is not open to question; most of the time, it's not something that even crosses anyone's mind to question.
Well, perhaps it's time we started asking such questions. A lost war should be the occasion for a great public debate on the policies and the geopolitical assumptions that led to the war. Americans blew that opportunity after the Vietnam War. Instead of a genuine debate, we had a few years of apathy, verging on amnesia, toward foreign affairs followed by the Reagan revolution, whose disastrous effects in matters foreign (and domestic) still plague us. Now, we have another precious -- and preciously bought -- opportunity to raise fundamental issues about foreign policy. But in the mainstream, all we are getting is a false substitute for real public debate.
With an election looming, the Democrats portray themselves as the polar opposite of the Republicans. They blame the Iraq fiasco entirely on Bush and the neocons, conveniently overlooking all the support Bush got from the Democratic elite before his military venture went sour. They talk as if the only issue that matters is whether or not we begin to withdraw some troops from Iraq sometime next year. The media report this debate in excruciating detail, with no larger context at all. So most Americans think this is the only debate there is, or could be.
The other debate about Iraq -- the one that may matter more in the long run -- is the one going on in the private chambers of the policymakers about what messages they should send, not so much to enemies as to allies. Bush, Cheney, and their supporters say the most important message is a reassuring one:"When the U.S. starts a fight, it stays in until it wins. You can count on us." For key Democrats, including congressional leaders and major candidates for the imperial Presidency, the primary message is a warning:"U.S. support for friendly governments and factions is not an open-ended blank check. If you are not producing, we'll find someone else who can."
The two sides are hashing this one out in a sometimes strident, sometimes relatively chummy manner. The outcome will undoubtedly make a real difference, especially to the people of Iraq, but it's still only a dispute about tactics, never about goals, which have been agreed upon in advance.
Yet it's those long-range goals of the bipartisan consensus that add up to the seven-decade-old drive for imperial hegemony, which got us into Vietnam, Iraq, and wherever we fight the next large, disastrous war. It's those goals that should be addressed. Someone has to question that drive. And what better moment to do it than now, in the midst of another failed war? Unfortunately, the leading Democratic candidates aren't about to take up the task. I guess it must be up to us.
This article first appeared on www.tomdispatch.com, a weblog of the Nation Institute, which offers a steady flow of alternate sources, news and opinion from Tom Engelhardt, a long time editor in publishing, the author of The End of Victory Culture, and a fellow of the Nation Institute.
Copyright 2007 Ira Chernus
Posted on: Monday, July 23, 2007 - 20:08
SOURCE: Counterpunch (7-21-07)
Eric Edelman is back in the news, tussling with Hillary Clinton and the Senate Armed Services Committee on which she sits. The Undersecretary of Defense responded to a letter from Clinton to his boss, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, which asked the following:
"Given the express will of the Congress to implement a phased redeployment of United States forces from Iraq and the importance of proper contingency planning to achieve that goal, I write to request that you provide the appropriate oversight committees in Congress---including the Senate Armed Services Committee---with briefings on what current contingency plans exist for the future withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq. Alternatively, if no such plans exist, please provide an explanation for the decision not to engage in such planning."
Edelman replied, to the Senate committee that in theory oversees the Pentagon as a body representative of the American people, with the following contemptuous declaration:
"Premature and public discussion of the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq reinforces enemy propaganda that the United States will abandon its allies in Iraq, much as we are perceived to have done in Vietnam, Lebanon and Somalia. [S]uch talk understandably unnerves the very same Iraqi allies we are asking to assume enormous personal risks."
In other words: No, I'm not giving you that information. And your very request for it helps the Enemy.
Clinton spokesman Philippe Reines called Edelman's claim "outrageous and dangerous." The senator responded Friday with a letter to Gates, asking if he agreed with the charge. It is possible that he does not; Gates indeed stated last April that debate in Congress over a timetable for U.S. withdrawal "probably has had a positive impact -- at least I hope it has in terms of communicating to the Iraqis that this is not an open-ended commitment." Gates is not a neocon ideologue.
Edelman on the other hand was on Dick Cheney's staff, that headquarters of darkness, working under "Scooter" Libby between February 2001 to June 2003. He was Principal Deputy Assistant to the Vice President for National Security Affairs. In an interesting shakeup of the traditional Department of Defense structure in the fall of 2005, he was inserted into the command structure in the number four spot. Earlier there had been a civilian Secretary of Defense, followed by a Deputy Secretary of Defense, and then an active-service officer in the third spot. But Cheney quietly inserted right under the Deputy Secretary of Defense his minions Stephen Cambone, Eric Edelman and Kenneth Krieg. (Cambone had been a member of the Office of Special Plans formed in 2002 to build the case for war on Iraq, formed by Paul Wolfowitz, headed by William Luti and answering to Douglas Feith. One army general told the Army Times, ""If I had one round left in my revolver, I would take out Stephen Cambone." There's no love lost between these chickenhawk neocons and the military establishment.) The point was apparently to add layers of neocon authority between the top brass (which is unenthusiastic about more war) and Donald Rumsfeld, then still Secretary of Defense and key Cheney ally.
The bureaucratic change elevated the post of Undersecretary of Defense for Policy, which had earlier been held by Feith. (You remember, he's the guy Gen. Tommy Franks, head of the U.S. Central Command, once called "the fucking stupidest guy on the face of the earth." I repeat: There's no love lost between these chickenhawk neocons and the military establishment.) Edelman acquired and continues to hold that crucial post.
In the interim, between working in Cheney's office and moving to the Defense Department, Edelman spent two years as the U.S. ambassador to Turkey. Appointed soon after the U.S. invasion of Iraq (which the Turkish parliament had opposed, rejecting U.S. demands for cooperation in that crime), Edelman alienated the Turkish public and press. "Edelman is probably the least-liked and trusted American ambassador in Turkish history," wrote one Turkish columnist. "Considering the range of his activities, his statements which violate the decorum of democracy, and his interest in Turkey's internal affairs, Eric Edelman acts more like a colonial governor than an ambassador. . . . If we want to address the reasons for anti-Americanism, Edelman must be issue one. As long as Edelman stays in Turkey, the chill wind disturbing bilateral relations will last."
This is the Pentagon official who undiplomatically tells Hillary she's helping the enemy by inquiring about contingency plans for a withdrawal from Iraq. You'd think such plans must exist, contingent upon a range of scenarios. What if, following the planned bombing of Iran, the military concludes and suggests to civilian officials that it should urgently withdraw from Iraq because of the sudden intensification of hatred for the U.S. presence in the Shiite south, the collapse of any political support for the occupation and the utter unfeasibility of maintaining it? Certainly fine minds in the Pentagon are thinking about this, losing sleep about it. Surely officers are writing up papers on the issue. A senator on the Armed Services Committee with some small sense of responsibility or even intellectual curiosity is entitled to ask about these contingency plans. Edelman's disparaging response to the inquiry is an extraordinary expression of chickenhawk arrogance.
"Premature and public discussion of the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq reinforces enemy propaganda that the United States will abandon its allies in Iraq, much as we are perceived to have done in Vietnam, Lebanon and Somalia," he says. So the U.S. should have stayed in Vietnam, fighting "enemies"? Ronald Reagan ought to have kept U.S. forces in Lebanon after the disastrous intervention in the civil war in 1983? Clinton should have kept U.S. forces in Somalia after the arrogant effort to shape the country's future provoked the "Black Hawk Down" incident in 1993?
But so typical of those in Cheney's neocon inner circle. We fight evil, they tell the legislative branch, although almost to a man they avoided military service. It's not your business how we do it! they say. We don't have to tell you what we're doing, what we're thinking, what our plans are. Because we're defending you from terror, and if you question us, if you bother us, you're aiding the enemy!
"Outrageous and dangerous," says Hillary. Well, I hope Edelman has gotten her dander up. The outrage needs to grow. It's already there at the base, where the people are crying out for impeachment. There must be more before the timid fence-sitting opportunists in the political class, maybe with some support from the military leadership, help drive this regime from power. If not, I fear, the neocons will get their way, Iran will fall victim to U.S. terror and "public discussion" become far more difficult.
Posted on: Monday, July 23, 2007 - 19:53
SOURCE: Truthdig (7-20-07)
Jon Wiener: When Hillary arrived at Wellesley as a freshman in 1965, she was a Goldwater Republican. What happened then?
Carl Bernstein: Like many rather sheltered Midwestern kids who came of age in the ’60s, 1968 was especially significant for her: that was the year of the assassinations of Martin Luther King and Bobby Kennedy, and the escalation of the war. Hillary moved from being a Goldwater Republican to becoming an antiwar Democrat.
Wiener: She went to New Hampshire in 1968 to work in the Eugene McCarthy primary challenge to LBJ.
Bernstein: She also went to the Republican convention that year—to work for Nelson Rockefeller. But by that time she was really a closet Democrat, and was hoping to see McCarthy elected.
Wiener: What did young Hillary think of Nixon at this point?
Bernstein: She always really despised Nixon. She made no bones about it.
Wiener: This was an era when antiwar students were seizing administration buildings and confronting the police. Was this Hillary’s world?
Bernstein: This was not. Hillary’s way, especially at Wellesley, was to be a student leader with one foot firmly planted in the establishment camp, with good relations with the administration of the school. She was eager to find ways of protest that did not anger the administration, like teach-ins. She did not join many street demonstrations elsewhere in New England, except occasionally. It was a very cautious course.
Wiener: Yet her senior thesis at Wellesley dealt with radicalism.
Bernstein: She’s always been fascinated by radicalism. She wrote her senior thesis on a great radical organizer of poor people, Saul Alinsky of Chicago. Though when she was offered a job by Alinsky, after she wrote about him, and she turned him down—because she didn’t think he was effective enough. She said to her boyfriend at that time, to be in politics you have to win. And it didn’t look to her like Alinsky was winning enough of his battles. She came to question his methodology and concluded in her thesis that larger government programs and funding were needed, not just community action at the grass roots.
Wiener: How were you able to see her senior thesis? I thought Wellesley had it locked up ever since she became first lady.
Bernstein: I finally got it. She did have it locked up, obviously because she feared it would paint her not only as someone fascinated by radicalism, but perhaps worse—as someone who had called for large government funding programs. This was during that first campaign of 1992, when she and Bill Clinton were being criticized for being “tax-and-spend liberals.”...
Posted on: Monday, July 23, 2007 - 19:03
SOURCE: National Review Online (7-20-07)
The present Washington parlor game is to argue over the consequences of a precipitous withdrawal from Iraq. Vietnam is often the referent for both sides — the Left claiming that at least American human and material costs ceased after 1975, as Vietnam eventually found a weary sort of equilibrium. The Right replies with the genocide in Cambodia, the Boat People, and the thousands of Vietnamese executed and sent to reeducation camps — and, of course, the three decades of tyranny that followed.
But even that notorious parallel is inexact. Almost all American ground troops were already gone from Vietnam by 1973, in Richard Nixon’s multi-year “Vietnamization” plan of withdrawal that had slowly reduced our footprint from over a half-million soldiers to about fifty. That surreal scene of American choppers on the Saigon-embassy roof in 1975 was an evacuation of diplomatic personnel and loyal South Vietnamese desperate to flee Communism, not a mass flight of American military personnel in the face of battle.
In fact, the military of the United States has never abandoned an entire theater of operations in its history. It lost its army in the Philippines in 1942, but did not flee. The disasters in Mogadishu and Beirut — as hallowed to the architects of radical Islam as the bloody victories of Iwo Jima and Okinawa are to us — were small affairs involving minimal numbers of ‘peace-keepers.” Wake Island and the Kasserine Pass are still infamous six decades after the fact, but both were tactical defeats under fire, not wholesale theater abandonments of the battlefield.
In truth, this country has never quite experienced anything like the French collapse in 1940 or its precipitous withdrawal from Algeria in 1962, or the implosion of Soviet forces in Afghanistan and Eastern Europe in the late 1980s, much less the more rapid backpedaling of entire German army groups in 1944 on both the Western and Eastern fronts.
What would be the consequences of such a novel experience? Who knows? But the Left is probably correct — cf. the July 8 editorial in the New York Times — that we could probably redeploy without significant casualties. And it is likewise prescient to anticipate that mass killings in Iraq would probably follow — if not a Cambodia-like holocaust, at least something akin to the gruesome fate of the Harkis, those Algerians loyal to France, but left behind to be disemboweled after the French flight across the Mediterranean....
In fact, “redeployment” is a euphemism for flight from the battlefield. And we should no more expect an al Qaeda that won in Iraq to stop from pressing on to Kuwait or Saudi Arabia than we should imagine that a defeated U.S. military could rally and hold the line in the Gulf. Would the IEDs, the suicide bombers, the Internet videos of beheadings, the explosions in schools and mosques cease because they now would have to relocate across the border into Kuwait or Saudi Arabia?
In essence, the American military would be reconstituted for a generation — and recognized as such by our enemies — as a two-pronged force of air and sea power. The army at best would stay capable of fighting non-existent conventional wars but acknowledged as incapable of putting down increasingly frequent insurgencies. If Vietnam, Beirut, or Mogadishu left doubt as to the seriousness of American guarantees, Iraq would confirm that it is a dangerous thing to ally oneself with an American government and military. Aside from realignment in the Middle East, South Korea, Taiwan, and the Philippines would have to make the necessary “readjustments.”
The “surge” would be our high-water mark, a sort of 21st-century Pickett’s charge, after which skilled retreat, consolidation, holding the line, and redeployment would be the accepted mission of American arms.
It is not easy securing Iraq, but if we decide to quit and “redeploy,” Americans should at least accept that the effort to stabilize Iraq was a crushing military defeat, that our generation established a precedent of withdrawing an entire army group from combat operations on the battlefield, and that the consequences will be better known even to our enemies than they are to us.
Posted on: Monday, July 23, 2007 - 16:44
SOURCE: Legal Times (7-23-07)
A constitutional storm is rumbling along Pennsylvania Avenue. The House Judiciary Committee may hold Harriet Miers, the former White House counsel, in contempt for refusing to testify this month. President George W. Bush is asserting executive privilege to keep Miers mum about deliberations over the firings of nine U.S. attorneys. According to her lawyer, Miers was directed “not to appear, not to produce documents in response to the subpoena, and not to provide testimony.”
Congressional leaders seem disinclined to accept the president’s refusal to cooperate in the case of Miers or such other current and former White House advisers as Joshua Bolten and Sara Taylor. The administration seems inclined to dig in its heels, announcing last week that no U.S. attorney would be permitted to bring any congressionally directed contempt charges against officials who refused to testify on the ground of executive privilege. Hence the approaching thunder and the desire for a bright and clear solution.
Despite the negative connotations created by Watergate, most legal experts agree that executive privilege is a constitutionally based power that belongs to the president and may be asserted to cover his closest advisers. The need for occasional secrecy in White House deliberations is hardly controversial.
But the consensus breaks down when the discussion turns to particular uses of the power. Some say the president can withhold testimony of current and former aides whenever he chooses; others disagree.
The temptation is to fill in all the gray areas between right and wrong with a statutory explanation or judicial clarification. It is frustrating to many observers that there are no clear answers when assessing the competing claims of the White House and Congress. And yet the desire to draw a bright line on executive privilege is seriously misguided.
The definition of executive privilege should be left broad enough to allow for an essential process of give-and-take between the political branches. Let them fight their way to a reasonable compromise on the facts today.
CLAIM VERSUS CLAIM
What we have in the exercise of executive privilege is a classic balancing of the competing interests of the president and Congress. Presidents have the right to candid advice without fear of public disclosure of every Oval Office utterance. Some have been more aggressive than others in asserting this principle.
When confronted with a threat of a congressional subpoena to compel testimony by a White House aide during the Army-McCarthy hearings of 1954, President Dwight Eisenhower famously said, “Any man who testifies as to the advice that he gave me won’t be working for me that night.” Ike went on to characterize a close aide’s work as “really a part of me.” The Washington Post weighed in with editorial support, writing that the president’s right to withhold information and testimony from Congress “is altogether beyond question.”
Two decades later the Post and the Supreme Court fashioned a very different response to executive privilege when President Richard Nixon tried to use the principle to shield evidence of criminal conduct in the White House. In United States v. Nixon (1974), the Court ruled that executive privilege is subject to limits and to the competing interests of the other branches. In the case of Watergate, access to evidence in a criminal investigation had to override the president’s generalized claim to confidentiality.
Just as presidents have legitimate needs to keep information secret, Congress has a legitimate need to access executive branch information in order to carry out its duty to investigate executive branch actions. Moreover, in a democratic republic, the presumption strongly favors openness. Despite Solicitor General Paul Clement’s suggestion that Congress has failed to show a “demonstrably critical” need for information on the U.S. attorney firings, the burden generally rests with the president to prove that he requires secrecy, rather than with Congress to show that it has a right to investigate.
But if both branches have legitimate claims, which one prevails? The answer isn’t usually or appropriately decided by legalistic definitions, but by politically informed compromise. Two examples from the past — involving Presidents Nixon and Ronald Reagan — help us to judge the current controversy. ...
HNN Hot Topics: Executive Privilege
Posted on: Monday, July 23, 2007 - 16:17
SOURCE: Special to HNN (7-19-07)
The bias in the way in which the Media has covered the emerging presidential campaign has been evident for some months now.
The implication has been that a hawk like Rudy Giuliani speaks for the American soldiers and other military members, when he, John McCain, Fred Thompson and others, continue to parrot the Bush Administration's line that the US must "stay the course in Iraq," as withdrawal would be a betrayal of our heroic fighting men and women.
The Media has given short shrift to Ron Paul, the only candidate among the Republicans who argues for withdrawal.
If that logic was correct, then Ron Paul must be the most hated of the candidates among those people associated with the US Military. But, is that true?
Given the means of electronic voting today, if the Bush Administration had the intestinal fortitude to do so, that hypothesis could readily be tested. The GOP was certainly keen to count the Military's votes in the disputed election in Florida during the 2000 election.
Is there some alternative means of ascertaining the feelings of our Military with respect to the candidates and their views? As it happens, perhaps there is!
Few would argue that in politics, people and interest groups tend to put their money where their mouth is. That is, they give money to those candidates whose views reflect their own interests.
That being the case, the latest information we have about party donations is quite interesting!
Analyzing the latest finance reports, military-support for the Republican candidates, The Spin Factor broke down the donations from the Army, Navy, Air Force, and among Veterans (their figures do not include the Marines, which only slightly alters the results). The results can be easily verified by checking the reports by employer for Ron Paul and the other candidates.
*Note: The numbers for the last five candidates have not been thoroughly verified.
52.53%: Ron Paul
Thus, more than half of the Military and Veterans donating funds to the Republican Party candidates gave their monies to one candidate, Dr. Ron Paul.
I would suggest this is about a clear an indication of the views of our Military on the positions of the Republican candidates as we are apt to get. Why doesn't the Media offer this data to the American people?
Posted on: Thursday, July 19, 2007 - 19:16
SOURCE: Baltimore Sun (7-19-07)
Historians in the future will undoubtedly find many and varied lessons from the war in Iraq. But we in the present do not have the luxury of waiting for all the evidence to be in before we start to understand what has gone wrong and what has gone right in Iraq.
What has gone right is that the Iraq war is already over.
Our troops won it.
But our politicians may once more lose the peace - and with disastrous consequences for us and for the world....
Nations cannot be built.
You can transplant institutions from one country to another, but you cannot transplant the history and culture from which the attitudes and traditions evolved that enable those institutions to work. It took centuries for democracy to evolve in the Western world. Yet we tried to create democracy in Iraq before we created the security - the law and order - that is a prerequisite for any form of viable government.
Having made democracy the centerpiece of the reconstruction of postwar Iraq, Americans have been hamstrung by the inadequacies of that government and the fact that our military could not simply ignore the Iraqi government when its politicians got in the way of restoring law and order....
Neither in Europe nor in Asia did today's democracies begin as democracies. As late as 1950, no one could have called Taiwan or South Korea democracies....
Trying to create democracy in places where it has never existed - and where the prerequisites for democracy may not exist - has been a needless gamble.
Among those prerequisites are a toleration of different views, an accommodation of different interests and a willingness to put the national interest above one's own.
The Middle East is the last place to look for such qualities....
Many have argued that democracies tend not to start wars, so that having more democracies in the world is in the interest of peace-loving people.
But that is vastly different from saying that we know how to create democracies - or that so much blood and treasure should be gambled on that long shot.
Posted on: Thursday, July 19, 2007 - 17:14
SOURCE: WSJ (7-18-07)
Newspapers in Israel yesterday were full of stories about President Bush's call on Monday for the creation of a Palestinian state and an international peace conference. While Israeli officials were quoted expressing satisfaction with the fact that "there were no changes in Bush's policies," commentators questioned whether the Saudis would participate in such a gathering and whether Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, with his single-digit approval ratings, could uproot Israeli settlers from the West Bank.
But all the focus on the conference misses the point. Mr. Bush has not backtracked an inch from his revolutionary Middle East policy. Never before has any American president placed the onus of demonstrating a commitment to peace so emphatically on Palestinian shoulders. Though Mr. Bush insisted that Israel refrain from further settlement expansion and remove unauthorized outposts, the bulk of his demands were directed at the Palestinians.
"The Palestinian people must decide that they want a future of decency and hope," he said, "not a future of terror and death. They must match their words denouncing terror with action to combat terror."
According to Mr. Bush, the Palestinians can only achieve statehood by first stopping all attacks against Israel, freeing captured Israeli Cpl. Gilad Shalit, and ridding the Palestinian Authority of corruption. They must also detach themselves from the invidious influence of Syria and Iran: "Nothing less is acceptable."...
Posted on: Wednesday, July 18, 2007 - 16:41
SOURCE: History News Service (7-17-07)
Claudia Alta Taylor "Lady Bird" Johnson was a lady. A great lady, as my Republican mother has said. But "Lady" is a term many of us are uneasy with. Originating in an older, patriarchal world, "Lady" conferred a certain female power, even as it contained it; "Lady" relegated women to the parlor and pedestal, away from public power. The respect and honor garnered by being a lady was a consolation prize: the hand that rocked the cradle or poured the tea did not rule the world, and everyone knew it.
But "lady," the word, as well as idea, has value, even as we contemplate the possibility of America's first female leader. And there was no finer example of a lady than Lady Bird Johnson. Being a southerner, she had a good start; southern women of all classes and races know a lady when we see one. She combines a highly attuned sense of others' needs with an awareness of how she is seen by others. Some women, in attending to others' needs, efface their own selves in lifelong sacrifice (think Melanie Wilkes in "Gone With the Wind"). Other women turn that knowledge of others and the power of their gaze into something greater than themselves.
Lady Bird Johnson embodied both kinds of ladies, the self-effacing and the self-amplifying. Shy and uncertain about her own abilities as a young woman, she was electrified by her association with her husband, Lyndon Baines Johnson, who was not only an outgoing, extroverted man, but one with a political
mission. The role of a good political wife is to keep the unofficial machinery of politics running smoothly, presiding over all the social events and "private" encounters in which politics gets "done." Whatever her private reservations, over thirty-four years Lady Bird Johnson grew into the consummate political hostess, nurturing policy decisions and political ties over dinner and tea.
But the job of First Lady, if it is to be done well, requires something more. As created by the first First Lady Dolley Madison, the First Lady has a chance to be the larger-than-life embodiment of her husband's administration, imparting psychological and emotional messages of stability, reassurance, legitimacy and morality. Lady Bird Johnson, upon her ascension to First Lady, made this part of the role her own. Long known for "softening" her rough-and-tumble Texas husband in the eyes of his constituents, she became a bridge between him and the world. Standing in a field of wildflowers, utterly feminine, she made middle America understand and care about the then-fringe notion of environmentalism.
Lady Bird's greatest success as her husband's charismatic figure came during her four-day whistle-stop tour for her husband's 1964 campaign. The Civil Rights Law of 1964, signed by Lyndon Johnson only months before, threatened his election to the presidency; indeed, eight southern states were deemed too dangerous for campaigning. But Lady Bird Johnson went to all eight of them on a 1,628-mile journey on her own train, The Lady Bird Special.
Once so terrified of public speaking that she turned down her class's valedictorian medal, Lady Bird Johnson delivered 47 speeches in 47 cities and towns, speaking to more than half a million people. As she stood on the platform, in her beautiful suits, smiling graciously and waving white-gloved hands, she carried messages of reassurance, reproach and, ultimately, faith.
To her sister and fellow southerners, the sight of an instantly recognizable and certified lady reassured them that, whatever they felt about civil rights, they were being ruled by the right people. Lady Bird Johnson also stood as symbol for all Americans, a gentle reminder that none of us had it right on race, that now it was time to change. After all, she, a daughter of the South, had learned to change, and we could, too. Like a perfect lady and mother, Lady Bird gently goaded us Americans into being the best we could be and to live out our highest ideals.
By taking the public platform, she told us, "You will do the right thing, I know you will." And, waved into the voting booth by her white-gloved hand, we did. We voted her husband president, we began to see people with different colored skins as being more like us than different, and we awoke to the
beauty of our own land.
A lady always know when it is time to take her leave, so we must trust in her judgment. But we will miss Claudia Alta Taylor Johnson and know that we are a better people for having had Lady Bird as our First Lady.
This piece was distributed for non-exclusive use by the History News Service, an informal syndicate of professional historians who seek to improve the public's understanding of current events by setting these events in their historical contexts. The article may be republished as long as both the author and the History News Service are clearly credited.
Posted on: Tuesday, July 17, 2007 - 21:22
SOURCE: Counterpunch (7-16-07)
"Cheney Pushes Bush to Act on Iran." That's the headline of a very frightening article by Ewen MacAskill and Julian Borger in the London Guardian. Sub-heads:
· Military solution back in favour as Rice loses out
· President 'not prepared to leave conflict unresolved'
What a nightmare Dick Cheney is visiting on our planet! Isn't it time we awaken to the fact that he's a crazed monster egging on a vain, cruel, delusional religious fanatic of a president as he inflicts incalculable suffering on the Middle East, sacrificing American blood and treasure in the process? Of course many of us have awakened to that fact, one reason why 54% of us want to see Cheney impeached. Yet he's still there, operating in his highly secretive fashion, gaining rather than losing influence according to MacAskill and Borger.
"The balance in the internal White House debate over Iran has shifted back in favour of military action before President George Bush leaves office in 18 months," they write. They cite a "well-placed source in Washington" as stating "Bush is not going to leave office with Iran still in limbo." The source also states, "The balance has tilted [ towards the advocates of an attack on Iran]. There is cause for concern."
Surely that concern is felt among the highest ranks of the military as well as the average citizen whom polls indicate feels no enthusiasm for the planned assault. But Congress has cooperated fully by passing every bill or resolution against Iran backed by the horrifically influential AIPAC lobby. Recall how Nancy Pelosi omitted a requirement for Congressional authorization of any Iran attack from legislation at the Lobby's behest?
The prospect of yet another war-based-on-lies boggles the rational mind. But according to the Guardian, there was a meeting between Bush, Cheney, and Pentagon and State Department officials on Iran last month, and Bush sided with Cheney when the latter "expressed frustration at the lack of progress" on Iran. That is to say, lack of progress in moving ahead with the bombing of Iran. Undersecretary of State Nick Burns, the key State Department official responsible for Iran and an advocate of negotiation, indicated at the meeting that diplomatic talks with Iran would probably continue beyond the end of Bush's term. For Bush and Cheney that is unacceptable, especially because they don't believe the next administration will have the guts to bomb.
Patrick Cronin, director of the International Institute for Strategic Studies suggested to the Guardian that Israel is calling the shots. "If Israel is adamant it will attack, the US will have to take decisive action. The choices are: tell Israel no, let Israel do the job, or do the job yourself." According to the Washington source, the administration is "reluctant for Israel to carry out any strikes because the US would get the blame in the region anyway."
The handwriting is on the wall here. All these reports from unnamed sources about Iranian support for Iraqi "insurgents" of this or that faction. The display with much fanfare of captured weapons in Iraq identified as of Iranian manufacture. All these confident allusions to a nuclear weapons program Iran denies exists, for which the IAEA finds no evidence. All these assertions that Iran plans to cause a second Holocaust through a nuclear attack on Israel. Norman Podhoretz's Wall Street Journal op-ed piece praying for the U.S. to bomb Iran. John McCain's crooning "Bomb-bomb-bomb Iran." The disinformation, distortion, even vilification of Iran in popular culture. The propaganda barrage is reminiscent of that which preceded the criminal invasion of Iraq.
The uniform support for keeping an attack "on the table" among nearly all presidential candidates. The incessant arm-twisting of governments to back sanctions on Iran. The abuse of the IAEA, forced by a majority vote to find Iran "in non-compliance" with the Non-Proliferation Treaty. The huge naval buildup in the Persian Gulf. The provocative arrest of Iranian diplomats in Iraq, protested by the Iraqi puppet government itself. The demand that Iran renounce its legal right to enrich uranium---a demand designed to be rejected and to constitute a pretext for regime change. The handwriting is written in big conspicuous letters on the wall.
That doesn't mean the attack cannot be stopped. How to do so? By not giving Cheney/Bush the remainder of their term. If 54% want Cheney impeached, he should be impeached. NOW, before he's allowed to further terrorize the world. Cheney impeachment hearings will weaken Bush and increase the percentage of Americans (now 45%) favoring the president's own impeachment. All that is required here is political will in a Congress that has seen its approval rating plummet due largely to its failure to stop the administration's war. Those wishing to reverse that have an easy option: vote to impeach. And while you're at it, vote to insist on Congress's exclusive power according to the Constitution to declare war.
Posted on: Tuesday, July 17, 2007 - 21:15
SOURCE: Christian Science Monitor (7-17-07)
Rudy Giuliani received $11 million last year in speaking fees alone. John McCain is worth between $20 million and $32 million, most of it earned the old-fashioned way: he married into it. John Edwards, a former trial lawyer, has assets of about $62 million. But they're all paupers compared to Mitt Romney, founder of a private equity firm, whose personal fortune is somewhere between $190 million and $250 million.
So what else is new?
As the presidential primary contests heat up, we're being treated to yet another round of"exposés" about the personal wealth of America's presidential candidates. And no one has received more attention than Mr. Edwards, the antipoverty crusader with the $400 haircut and a new $4.2 million home."What Would Jesus Do With John Edwards's Mansion?" Fox News anchor Brit Hume quipped, in a typical jibe.
These attacks reflect a curious American blend of romanticism and cynicism. On the romantic side, Americans like to imagine that their leaders once came from log cabins and other modest circumstances. In the cynical vein, meanwhile, they presume that a wealthy candidate could not – or would not – fight for the less fortunate.
But neither claim holds up to historical scrutiny. Despite the rags-to-riches mythology, American presidents have almost always come from the wealthiest sector of society. And despite their riches, some of these leaders have spoken valiantly and effectively for the poor.
Consider the first US president, George Washington, who grew up on a plantation with 49 slaves and more than 10,000 acres. After he died, biographers tried to paint him as a humble yeoman farmer. But during his presidency, Forbes magazine reports, Washington would have made its list of the 400 richest Americans!
Ditto for Andrew Jackson, regarded as America's first common-man president. Jackson grew up on an estate in South Carolina with slaves and a gristmill. He also attended a private academy, another mark of wealth at the time.
In the"Tippecanoe and Tyler too" campaign of 1840, William Henry Harrison swept into the White House by pretending that he had lived in an actual log cabin. He hadn't. Like his running mate, John Tyler, Harrison belonged to the elite crust of Chesapeake society known as the First Families of Virginia. Harrison's father inherited six plantations and served as Virginia's governor during the American Revolution.
Even Abraham Lincoln, who routinely touted his youthful poverty, was relatively well-to-do. At the time of Lincoln's birth, his father owned two farms of 600 acres along with several town lots, livestock, and horses. Five years later, Thomas Lincoln was listed among the richest 15 percent of property owners in his Kentucky community.
So there's nothing new in the personal wealth of today's presidential aspirants. Even the humblest of the major candidates, Barack Obama, scraped by on a $1 million income last year.
What is new, however, is the cynical idea that wealth will somehow infect a leader's political positions. If you come from serious money, the argument goes, you can't really represent people who don't.
Wrong again. Think of Franklin D. Roosevelt and John F. Kennedy, who both inherited vast sums. But they felt that their riches gave them a special responsibility to aid others.
As a sophomore at Harvard, Roosevelt wrote a history thesis about his own family's"democratic spirit" in the face of enormous wealth."They have felt ... that being in a good position, there is no excuse for them if they did not do their duty by the community," he asserted.
As president, Roosevelt would face charges of class treason – and, even, of communism – from his fellow patricians, who worried that his New Deal policies would cut into their affluence."They are unanimous in their hatred for me," Roosevelt declared in 1936,"and I welcome their hatred."
So it's fair to say that plenty of rich Americans didn't give a hoot about the poor. As Roosevelt's example shows, however, it hardly follows that a vast personal fortune prevents you from identifying with people less fortunate. Sometimes it works in reverse: Your wealth makes you more sensitive to the plight of the infirm, the homeless, and the unemployed.
So why do Americans continue to believe that their leaders come from the salt of the earth? At its root, the log-cabin legend expresses a basic myth about America itself: that anyone can make it here. Work hard, and you can become whatever you want. Even president.
That's obviously false. But it's equally false to think that the economic status of a leader will determine his or her attitudes toward wealth, poverty, and everything else. Come primary time, then, let's look less at our candidates' homes and haircuts and more at their platforms and policies. And let's beware confusing one with the other.
Posted on: Tuesday, July 17, 2007 - 20:40
SOURCE: New York Sun (7-17-07)
Imagine that an Islamist central command exists — and that you are its chief strategist, with a mandate to spread full application of Shariah, or Islamic law, through all means available, with the ultimate goal of a worldwide caliphate. What advice would you offer your comrades in the aftermath of the eight-day Red Mosque rebellion in Islamabad, the capital of Pakistan?
Probably, you would review the past six decades of Islamist efforts and conclude that you have three main options: overthrowing the government, working through the system, or a combination of the two.
Islamists can use several catalysts to seize power. (I draw here on"Waiting for the Other Shoe to Drop: How Inevitable is an Islamist Future?" by Cameron Brown.)
- Revolution, meaning a wide-scale social revolt: Successful only in Iran, in 1978–79, because it requires special circumstances.
- Coup d'état: Successful only in Sudan, in 1989, because rulers generally know how to protect themselves.
- Civil war: Successful only in Afghanistan, in 1996, because dominant, cruel states generally put down insurrections (as in Algeria, Egypt, and Syria).
- Terrorism: Never successful, nor is it ever likely to be. It can cause huge damage, but without changing regimes. Can one really imagine a people raising the white flag and succumbing to terrorist threats? This did not happen after the assassination of Anwar Sadat in Egypt in 1981, or after the attacks of September 11, 2001, in America, or even after the Madrid bombings of 2004.
A clever strategist should conclude from this survey that overthrowing the government rarely leads to victory. In contrast, recent events show that working through the system offers better odds — note the Islamist electoral successes in Algeria (1992), Bangladesh (2001), Turkey (2002), and Iraq (2005). But working within the system, these cases also suggest, has its limitations. Best is a combination of softening up the enemy through lawful means, then seizing power. The Palestinian Authority (2006) offers a case of this one-two punch succeeding, with Hamas winning the elections, then staging an insurrection. Another, quite different example of this combination just occurred in Pakistan.
The Red Mosque (Lal Masjid) complex sits at the heart of official Islamabad, the capital city of Pakistan, amid the country's ruling institutions.
The vast Red Mosque complex, also known as the Lal Masjid, Pakistan's ruling institutions, boasts long-standing connections to the regime's elite, and includes huge male and female madrassas. But, turning on its benefactors, Kalashnikov-toting burqa-clad students confronted the police in January 2007 to prevent them from demolishing an illegally constructed building.
In April, the mega-mosque's deputy imam, Abdul Rashid Ghazi, announced the imposition of Shariah"in the areas in our control" and established an Islamic court that issued decrees and judgments, rivaling those of the government.
The mosque then sent some of its thousands of madrassa students to serve as a morals police force in Islamabad, to enforce a Taliban-style regime locally with the ultimate goal of spreading it countrywide. Students closed barbershops, occupied a children's library, pillaged music and video stores, attacked alleged brothels and tortured the alleged madams. They even kidnapped police officers.
The Red Mosque leadership threatened suicide bombings if the government of Pervez Musharraf attempted to rein in its bid for quasi-sovereignty. Security forces duly stayed away. The six-month standoff culminated on July 3, when students from the mosque, some masked and armed, rushed a police checkpoint, ransacked nearby government ministries, and set cars on fire, leaving 16 dead.
This confrontation with the government aimed at nothing less than overthrowing it, the mosque's deputy imam proclaimed on July 7:"We have firm belief in God that our blood will lead to a[n Islamic] revolution." Threatened, the government attacked the mega-mosque early on July 10. The 36-hour raid turned up a stockpiled arsenal of suicide vests, machine guns, gasoline bombs, rocket-propelled grenade launchers, anti-tank mines — and letters of instruction from Al-Qaeda's leadership.
Mr. Musharraf termed the madrassa"a fortress for war." In all, the revolt directly caused more than 100 deaths.
Mosques have been used as places for inciting violence, planning operations, and storing weapons, but deploying one as a base to overthrow the government creates a precedent. The Red Mosque model offers Islamists a bold tactic, one they likely will try again, especially if the recent episode, which has shaken the country, succeeds in pushing Mr. Musharraf out of office.
Our imaginary Islamist strategist, in short, can now deploy another tactic to attain power.
This article is reprinted with permission by Daniel Pipes. This article first appeared in the New York Sun.
Posted on: Tuesday, July 17, 2007 - 16:15
SOURCE: Nation (7-17-07)
The Constitution's Framers, who naïvely believed their grand experiment would eschew partisan politics--they did not even anticipate the formation of parties--might have had their checks and balances unhinged had they heard the Congressional testimony of former Surgeon General Richard Carmona, who served in George W. Bush's Administration for one term, from 2002 to 2006. After his testimony, we know why he was not asked to return.
Partisan politics pervades our national bureaucracy, enforced and supervised with what smacks of a full-blown political commissar system. The White House has deployed a far-flung raft of apparatchiks, apparently reporting to Karl Rove at Political Central. Carmona revealed their shadowy workings. They appear in the organization charts as" chiefs of staff" or simply"aides," situated to ensure that the White House's political needs trump policy considerations.
Recent revelations of firings of US Attorneys have seen once-anonymous, woefully inexperienced folks such as Kyle Sampson, Monica Goodling and Paul McNulty--and their White House contacts, like Rove's aide, Sara Taylor--exposed as political operatives.
Carmona offered a carefully calibrated account of the Administration's insistence that politics trumps science and wise social policies--but without publicly naming names. He testified that Bush officials weakened or suppressed public health reports to suit their political agenda. He was prohibited from making any speeches or reports about stem cells, emergency contraception, sex education, global health, public health of the prison population or mental health issues. The Surgeon General's report on the dangers of secondhand smoke was delayed for years. Dr. Carmona was expected to support Republican candidates and to attend political briefings. When the stem cells issue emerged, he said that"I was told to stand down and not speak about it." And he had to submit his speeches to vetting and--call it by the right name--censorship; specifically, any remarks on stem cell issues were removed from his speeches.
Carmona asserted that the apparatchiks insisted he mention the President three times on every page of his speeches--what substantive information could he offer with such a requirement? The Stalinist Romanian dictator Nicolae Ceausescu required his scientists to mention his name and his wife, Elena, in their speeches or papers. So far, we have no known requirement that Laura Bush receive equal time.
The New York Times dutifully carried the Administration's rejoinders. A Department of Health and Human Services spokesman disagreed with Carmona, predictably noting that the Administration believed"public health policy should be rooted in sound science." A White House spokeswoman turned the doctor's testimony on its head when she bemoaned his failure"to use his position to the fullest extent" to advocate policies he thought served the nation's best interests. Carmona probably has been in the Administration's gun sights since he was forced out.
The White House controls a powerful microphone--so powerful that we might be at the end of the story as far as the media is concerned. The New York Times followed the story with an editorial pleading for more independence for the Surgeon General, ignoring the pervasiveness of political surveillance.
Regimes everywhere naturally are inclined to audit their inner workings, check independent judgments and enforce conformity. Bureaucratic independence is usually rare and precious. If only Carmona (and others) had resigned and publicly protested the damage he had witnessed. He is a brave man who served in the Army Special Forces and earned two Purple Hearts in Vietnam. (We can hear the Swift Boat folks revving their engines.) But he stayed the course for his term and tolerated the abuses he recently reported. Alas, in the American system, high-level officials do not resign on principle; they soldier on, no matter how humiliated they have been (see Colin Powell).
Make no mistake: This phenomenon is not the exclusive province of the present Administration. Two of Carmona's predecessors testified to political interference by the Reagan and Clinton administrations. Dr. C. Everett Koop, a feisty figure in the Reagan years, said that officials tried to prevent him from discussing AIDS, but he did so nevertheless. Clinton's Surgeon General, Dr. David Satcher, complained that the Clinton White House discouraged him from issuing a report on the effectiveness of needle-exchange programs, but he, too, released it. The Bush Administration is nearing its end, but it would be foolish to think that imposing political discipline and correctness will wind down. The practice is not new--only the scale and scope are new. Will it be expanded and refined by Bush--as well as his successors?
Our President's Political Central demands its scientific people (and others, of course) be nothing less than shills for political dogma that most of this country does not share. We have this Administration for eighteen more months. Congress must reassert its proper role, now and beyond. This does not mean perfunctory two-hour hearings but rather carefully prepared and executed inquiries--followed by actions. For the past decade, Congress has forsaken its equal role in the government; instead, it has passively accepted Bush's designation of it as merely his advisory body.
Perhaps we have a supersecret agency tucked away in the Executive Office Buildings--directed by Rove or maybe Vice President Cheney and his dubious staffers--tasked to review or suppress policies, or to add laudatory remarks about the President in officials' speeches. The primary mission of Political Central--wherever it is located--is to enforce political conformity, no matter how compelling the requirements and needs of public policy may be. The Soviets did it better, but that was the Soviet system, not ours.
Reprinted with permission from the Nation. For subscription information call 1-800-333-8536. Portions of each week's Nation magazine can be accessed at http://www.thenation.com.
Posted on: Tuesday, July 17, 2007 - 15:39
Upon assuming office, United States Congressmen swear to “support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic.” Representative Keith Ellison (D-MN) is on the job, zeroing in on a large-scale plan to subvert the Constitution, led by none other than George W. Bush. Speaking last week in Minnesota to a meeting of a group called Atheists for Human Rights, Ellison said of the September 11 attacks: “It’s almost like the Reichstag fire, kind of reminds me of that. After the Reichstag was burned, they blamed the Communists for it, and it put the leader [Hitler] of that country in a position where he could basically have authority to do whatever he wanted.”
The Nazi regime staged the fire at the Reichstag, the German Parliament building, on February 27, 1933, and blamed it on German and foreign Communist agents. The German Communist party was swiftly outlawed, thousands of Communists were arrested, and Hitler and his henchmen were able to bully the other parties in the German Parliament to grant him dictatorial powers, allowing him to legislate without approval from the assembly. But in making this comparison Ellison emphasized that he wasn’t saying that the Bush Administration staged the 9/11 attacks, because, “you know, that’s how they put you in the nut-ball box -- dismiss you.”
Ellison didn’t entirely avoid the “nut-ball box,” however. He went on to assert that Vice President Cheney’s behavior when he refused to answer questions put to him by Congress was “the very definition of totalitarianism, authoritarianism and dictatorship.” Such a “definition” may come as a surprise to those who may think that concentration camps, rule by fiat, and violent suppression of dissent are more reliable hallmarks of totalitarianism, authoritarianism and dictatorship than declining to respond to inquiries. And Ellison’s overall point was no more successful at avoiding “nut-ball” territory. To suggest that since 9/11 Bush has been “in a position where he could basically have authority to do whatever he wanted” ignores not only the Democrat-controlled Congress and the mainstream media’s unstinting hostility to the President, but the fact that Ellison himself was speaking freely, without fear of retribution – while if someone like him had said similar things in National Socialist Germany, he would have faced arrest and torture.
Meanwhile, as someone who has sworn to “support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic,” Ellison has more to answer for than just hysterical anti-Bush rhetoric. Ellison has taken money from the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR), a group that has been named as an unindicted co-conspirator in a case involving funding of the terrorist group Hamas. The mainstream media has been silent on this; would treat the specter of a congressman taking money from the Ku Klux Klan with similar indifference? CAIR co-founder Nihad Awad has declared his support for Hamas in the past, although he now disavows the group. And as for the Constitution, CAIR spokesman Ibrahim Hooper has said: “I wouldn’t want to create the impression that I wouldn’t like the government of the United States to be Islamic sometime in the future.” And Omar Ahmad, co-founder of CAIR with Awad, has declared that “Islam isn't in America to be equal to any other faith, but to become dominant,” with the Qur’an “the highest authority in America.” Ahmad now denies having said this, but the original reporter of his remarks stands by her story.
Such statements don’t require forced and hysterical comparisons with Hitler to be recognized as explicit threats to the U.S. Constitution. Will Ellison, now that he has sworn to defend that document and appears so solicitous to fend off threats to it, now disavow CAIR, return the money he has received from that organization, and repudiate any attempt by Muslims in the United States to impose Islamic Sharia law here?
When Ellison was elected, some of his supporters shouted “Allahu akbar!” at his victory party, while the victor himself looked on with obvious embarrassment. But he had no need to be concerned. In a gushing piece on his victory, the New York Times never mentioned CAIR once – and dismissed concerns about his record as coming from “Muslim-bashers in the blogosphere.” It noted that some “Muslim American activists” have compared Ellison’s candidacy to “John F. Kennedy’s breaking the taboo against a Roman Catholic’s being president.”
The big difference, of course, is that in Kennedy’s case he addressed those concerns – which were in any case baseless, since the Pope had in fact no plans to rule the United States through a Catholic president. But concerns about Ellison’s views on terror groups and Islamic supremacism are hardly baseless: they stem from amply documented statements and activities of the CAIR officials whose support he has never disavowed. Nevertheless, these concerns are dismissed as “bigotry” and left unanswered, while the congressman himself compares the leader of the world’s oldest and largest republic to the most notorious dictator in history. If he would tone down the hysteria and instead answer some pointed questions about his own associations and views, Americans would rightly be reassured.
Posted on: Monday, July 16, 2007 - 17:51
SOURCE: Boston Globe (7-15-07)
FIFTY YEARS AGO this month [in 1957], a young senator from Massachusetts with his eye on the White House took a big gamble. On the Senate floor, before his astonished colleagues, John F. Kennedy gave a controversial speech that questioned nearly all of the assumptions of American foreign policy and delved deeply into a hot-button topic that no one wanted to talk about. He was instantly denounced by the White House, the State Department, American allies, and the press. But the speech eventually won him admirers around the world, and brought him that much closer to his party's nomination for president.
The immediate subject of Kennedy's speech was the war that France had been fighting for three years against insurgents in Algeria -- a war that was revealing a pattern of entrenched guerrilla conflict that would become all too familiar. But he went beyond that topic to address the larger question of how America could effectively promote change in the Middle East.
Most politicians, then as now, preferred to stick close to safe and popular utterances. Kennedy went straight into the hornet's nest of Arab discontent with the West in a speech that anticipated many of the problems faced today. It rejected the tired "us vs. them" structure of Cold War thinking; it criticized the military option as a clumsy tool of foreign policy, and it suggested that real advocates of "freedom" were just as likely to be opposed to Western intervention as they were to Communist takeovers.
At first glance, Algeria was not even an American problem. France had been fighting its ugly war to keep Algeria within what was left of the French empire, committing more than 400,000 soldiers to subdue a restive Islamic population. Both sides were capable of great violence, including torture, assassination, and roadside bombs -- which the French routinely denounced as terrorism. (Pentagon strategists recently rediscovered the harrowing 1966 film "The Battle of Algiers," which recalls that conflict's uncomfortable similarities to Iraq.)
But Kennedy had traveled widely, taking trips to Indochina, to the Middle East, and behind the Iron Curtain. And to a surprising degree, this child of privilege was growing concerned about the huge economic disparities in the world and the particular quandary of former colonial peoples in Africa, Asia, and the Arab countries. That was not an issue most Cold Warriors concerned themselves with. But it was a growing problem all the same, and Kennedy was disenchanted with the complacent answers coming from the Eisenhower Administration and its high priest of platitudes, Secretary of State John Foster Dulles.
When Kennedy rose to deliver the speech, on July 2, 1957, he began with a ringing statement. "The most powerful single force in the world today," he said, "is neither communism nor capitalism, neither the H-bomb nor the guided missile -- it is man's eternal desire to be free and independent." Hardly anyone would disagree with that. But he continued with a provocative thought -- that "imperialism" was the chief foe of freedom, and that the Western form of imperialism was very nearly as bad as the Soviet version. By emphasizing America's desire to spread freedom in the Middle East, he couldn't have sounded more like today's neoconservative architects of the Iraq war. By stressing the impossibility of spreading freedom through force, he couldn't have sounded more different....
Posted on: Sunday, July 15, 2007 - 21:40