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: Nation (8-31-07)
Has the field of constitutional law and history been so infiltrated by the Federalist Society and its brigades of Rehnquist-Scalia-Thomas law clerks that Vice President Dick Cheney's remarks about belonging to the executive and legislative branches continue to stand unchallenged and unanswered?
Anyone with an elementary knowledge of political science, or even eighth-grade civics, must know the most basic fact of separation of powers theory. Article I, Section 6 of the Constitution stipulates that "no Person holding any Office under the United States shall be a Member of either House during his Continuance in Office."
There it is: Vice President Cheney cannot be a member of Congress--not if he wants to be Vice President, or Co-President, or whatever he wishes to call himself. The Constitution dictates that he belong to one branch or the other. Cheney leaves us nostalgic for Vice President Richard Nixon--or even Spiro Agnew. It is unimaginable that either would have issued such sweeping, uninformed nonsense.
Cheney is at it again, claiming a uniqueness for his office--an office historically unique largely for its insignificance and of little consequence save for the necessity to succeed a President who had died or, in one case, resigned. Cheney's office recently acknowledged it had documents relating to the Administration's warrantless surveillance program. But his staff typically added that the Vice President would resist any efforts for Congress to see them.
Earlier, Cheney had refused to divulge his office's classification of documents, as required by President George W. Bush's 2003 executive order requiring executive branch agencies to report their annual accounting of such records to the National Archives. Cheney has not complied, demanding an exception in the most audacious terms. His spokeswoman declared the order "does not apply to the [Office of the Vice President]." Officials at the National Archives followed up by sending two letters to Cheney's staff arguing that the order's requirements do, in fact, apply to the OVP. Cheney's office never acknowledged the letters.
When Congress threatened to withhold funding for Cheney's office because of his refusal to comply, the White House backed off. "The rationale had been the view of the Vice President's lawyers, not Cheney himself," Mike Allen reported in Politico. Apparently, we are to believe that Cheney will disclose the material. But he has not reported to the National Archives and has ignored the Archives' request for an on-site inspection.
In his thus-far successful defense, Cheney has argued that he uniquely belongs to the executive and legislative branches. Incredibly, he insists that the order did not apply because his office is not an "entity within the executive branch." To quote the late Senator Joseph McCarthy: "This is the most unheard thing I ever heard of."
Cheney told CBS Radio July 30 that he finds his position "interesting" because of his dual commitments. He acknowledges that he advises the President and sits as a member of various executive branch offices, such as the National Security Council. But he also notes his legislative responsibilities: He presides over the Senate and can vote in the event of a tie. (Somehow he rationalizes that he is paid by the Senate, not the United States government--like all other officers and Congressmen.) Thus, the Vice President believes he has "a foot in both branches" and is a "unique creature." Well, one thing's for sure: Cheney certainly belonged to the executive branch for two hours and five minutes during the President's surgery in July.
We remember Cheney's academic difficulties during his days of student deferments and graduate work in political science at Yale and the University of Wisconsin, and we remember his "other priorities" were far more important than military service in the Vietnam War. But he must have had time to learn the basis of separation of powers, with its relevant constitutional underpinning. Then again, maybe not.
If Cheney had paid attention, he might have learned that the First Congress directed the first Secretary of the Treasury, Alexander Hamilton--no faux Federalist there; he was the genuine article--to digest and prepare a report on the nation's financial concerns. But when Hamilton, feistier and far more intellectually gifted than Cheney, tried to appear on the floor of Congress to discuss it with the members, they rebuffed him. They certainly understood "original intent," and they understood the intended separation of offices and powers.
Cheney's minions do not. Closeted and insulated from public view and scrutiny, the Vice President's notorious chief of staff, David Addington, and his fellow neoconservatives formulate the most absurd, wrongheaded theories, factually and historically. What history, what "original intent," can they possibly conjure as they invoke their "unitary executive" theory, or all the other pseudo-political science they peddle?
President Bush has endowed Cheney with unprecedented powers and authority. (Notwithstanding his own suspect constitutional theories and understanding.) That does not make the Vice President immune from any Congressional oversight, an authority the passive, enabling Democrats largely have neglected--save for Congressman Henry Waxman's yeoman efforts.
Some history is in order. John Adams, our first Vice President (a real conservative for all to admire), endowed the office with the most telling insight when he crabbily noted that "my country has in its wisdom contrived for me the most insignificant office that ever the invention of man contrived or his imagination conceived." John Nance Garner, who surrendered enormous power as Speaker of the House to become Franklin D. Roosevelt's first Vice President, said the office wasn't worth a bucket of warm spit--undoubtedly he meant a liquid of darker color. And Nelson Rockefeller dismissed the office as "stand-by equipment." Alas! He finally accepted it himself.
Al Gore may have had the most visible role of any previous Vice President. Visible, but of uncertain influence. Imagine if he had a Scooter Libby or a David Addington as his chief of staff or éminence grise. Imagine if he had asserted powers as sweeping as Cheney has pronounced. Can you hear the bullets flying and the howls from outraged Republican ranks, accompanied by the venom of talk-radio, and the follies of Fox News? Where are the "strict constructionists" when we need them?
Cheney, meanwhile, should resurrect those yellowed reading lists he so studiously ignored forty years ago. For openers, he and his staff can start with his now-tattered copy of the Constitution of the United States.
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: Friday, August 31, 2007 - 20:04
SOURCE: Dissident Voice (8-30-07)
The Jeff Gannon Affair drew our attention to the fact that a male prostitute can sleep over at the White House on multiple occasions. The Mark Foley Affair alerted us to the phenomenon of conservative Republican lawmakers’ passion for teenage pageboys. The Ted Haggard Scandal showed us that conservative Republican preachers who sermonize against gay rights can smolder with lust for man-to-man action. The arrest of Republican Florida State Rep. Bob Allen at a park in Central Florida, showed us that the coauthor of a recent public lewdness bill can lewdly solicit sex from an undercover male cop. And now, the Larry Craig Scandal draws our attention to the phenomenon of conservative Republican lawmakers firmly opposed to gay rights getting off on impersonal anonymous homo-sex in men’s room toilet stalls.
It looks like two more conservative “family values” Republican senators may be “outed” soon, by Mike Rogers, the same blogger who originally fingered Craig. The gay activist claims that South Carolina Sen. Lindsay Graham is gay. More interestingly, he claims that, “Republican Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s quick expulsion from the Army—for fondling a private’s privates—is finally being discussed in Kentucky.” He notes that McConnell, discharged after just 10 days in the Army in 1967, “has consistently prevented anyone from seeing his military discharge papers” but a Freedom of Information suit may bring them to light. (After the revelation of Craig’s arrest and confession, McConnell cosigned a statement with other top Republican legislators stating, “This is a serious matter” and indicating he is examining “other aspects of the case to determine if additional action is required.”)
Schadenfreude aside, I almost feel badly for the rank and file homophobic Christian rightists who have to read about these scandalous goings-on. Perusing some blogs I encounter a couple of their confused, angry reactions: (1) it’s the Log Cabin Republicans’ fault, (2) the Democrats are to blame for promoting the idea that such behavior is “normal.” (I haven’t found anyone accusing the cop of a politically-motivated set-up.)
The widespread occurrence of such depravity in their own ranks must produce some frustration among the ultras. These men they trust as sincere homophobes, taking their cue from Leviticus 18:22 and Romans 1:26-27, turn out to be such hypocrites. Of course if the sinner repents, and seeks treatment for his sickness, the Christian can forgive. But this cascade of scandals has got to produce some doubts about the whole antigay campaign central to the religious right’s political program. The rigid un-nuanced minds of these people crave authority figures, and when the latter so suddenly and deeply disappoint, there has to be some wavering of faith. But that’s a good thing.
Forgive my failure to express moral outrage about these scandals. I am among other things an historian of sexuality and attempt to address sexual issues dispassionately. I’m not going to dwell on the Idaho senator’s two-facedness—everybody else is doing that anyway—or rejoice in his embarrassing situation, which if he weren’t such a fraud would strike me as rather tragic. After all, he was just a guy in an airport restroom, signaling the guy in the next stall that he had some urgent needs which a consenting partner might be able to satisfy. For his trouble he got busted by a cop, apparently well versed in gay subculture protocols, sitting there on a toilet with his pants up for God knows how long (and compensated by how many taxpayer dollars) for the express purpose of arresting men for tapping their feet, and intruding those feet or their hands into the neighboring space expecting a positive response. Sgt. Dave Karsnia was there to crack down on this sort of behavior on the grounds that it infringed the typical toilet-user’s privacy. That strikes me as reasonable enough, although I’d think a simple, “get your foot out of my stall, dude,” would have immediately aborted the overture.
I wonder how many of these police missions are triggered by complaints by men never threatened or meaningfully harassed during their stall-time but merely disgusted by the realization that there are men in this world so sick as to play footsie on the toilet, soliciting gay sex, and inclined to visit the wrath of God on their degenerate selves by doing so. I don’t mean to minimize the sense of privacy invasion felt by those experiencing unwanted stall intrusions, but I can see homophobia as a factor fueling appeals for police action.
The point of the police action in the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport last June, which resulted in Craig’s arrest, was to discourage men with Craig’s particular fetish by arresting a bunch of them. Every so often police departments, responding to complaints from public restroom patrons, undertake these clean-up missions. One Canadian study (published in the Canadian Journal of Criminology and Criminal Justice) indicates that in one day in one restroom around 1990, police charged 17 men. The owner of a facility in another case requested police action, and in one day 30 men were warned.
These figures suggest that that the facilities that had come to serve as reliable centers for sexual contact and were visited largely for that purpose. This appears to be a widespread phenomenon.
Yes, I confess I’ve done some research on this issue over the last 24 hours. As an historian of sexuality, I tend to approach these issues in academic fashion. So I checked out Laud Humphreys’ Tearoom Trade: Impersonal Sex in Public Places, written under the direction of Harvard sociologist Lee Rainwater, published in 1970 and recipient of the C. Wright Mills Award of the Society for the Study of Social Problems. “Tearoom trade” refers to homosexual activity (almost always oral) in public men’s rooms, and Humphreys examines it in clinical detail. His most interesting finding was that over half of the men involved in this activity were married (to women) and carefully separated their private and social selves, donning “the breastplate of righteousness” in public as conservative “moral crusaders” (p. 131f).
They expressed no anti-police sentiment, but encouraged more vice squad activity, suggesting that “deviant behavior may be plagued by a sort of moral arms race, in which the deviant is caught in the cycle of establishing new strategic defenses to protect himself from the fallout of his own defensive weapons. It is not necessary to adapt a psychoanalytic viewpoint in order to discern the self-hatred behind such a punishment process” (p. 141). This is not to say that their private, men’s room self is at war with their social, official self; it can be flushed away and forgotten as they leave their stalls. But the latter self that takes over at that point wants to appear cleaner than the norm and to sneer with particular distain at all moral defilement.
One thinks of Mark Foley coauthoring legislation criminalizing the sharing of obscenity over the internet with minors. Or Bob Allen authoring a statute against public lewdness. There’s a specific pathology here. Craig’s record on gay rights has been among the most conservative in the Senate. In 2005 the American Conservative Union gave his voting record a score of 96 out of 100. Outwardly a pious Methodist, a member of the board of directors of the National Rifle Association since 1983, he’s the picture of far-right respectability. But there he sits, on the tearoom toilet seat, tapping his foot as he solicits gay sex. It’s just too amusing. But also sort of sad.
Posted on: Thursday, August 30, 2007 - 18:09
SOURCE: Salon (8-29-07)
... The American search for a scapegoat in Iraq is a bipartisan effort ... and Maliki seems to fit the bill, especially since his political support is collapsing at home. He was dealt a new blow Tuesday when clashes between Shiite militiamen, security forces and pilgrims left 26 dead in the sacred city of Karbala, forcing the evacuation of 1 million pilgrims and the cancellation of one of Shia Islam's holiest festivals. If a Shiite prime minister can't keep order in a Shiite city, what chance does he stand against his critics at home and abroad?
But the American politicians who are trying to hasten his demise often get their facts wrong, and may be undermining him for the wrong reasons. They could be preparing the way for a successor even less likely to cooperate with the Sunnis. They do not, in short, seem to understand how their "feudal estate" works.
Levin started the latest round of Maliki bashing a week ago Monday, saying, "I hope the parliament will vote the Maliki government out of office and will have the wisdom to replace it with a less sectarian and more unifying prime minister and government." Clinton piled on two days later, saying that the Maliki government "cannot produce a political settlement, because it is too beholden to religious and sectarian leaders." She added, "I share Senator Levin's hope that the Iraqi parliament will replace Prime Minister al-Maliki with a less divisive and more unifying figure when it returns in a few weeks."
By the time Clinton spoke, President Bush had worsened the situation with some injudicious, impromptu remarks, admitting, "I think there's a certain level of frustration with the leadership in general, inability to ... come together to get, for example, an oil revenue law passed or provincial elections." Journalists understandably thought he might be giving up on Maliki -- not at all his intended message, according to what I was told by someone with inside knowledge of the administration's Iraq policy. The president was constrained to clarify later that he thought Maliki a "good man" with "a difficult job" and said he supported him. He underscored his support with Tuesday's laudatory speech before the American Legion.
Some of the charges against the prime minister are true. Maliki had neglected to reach out to the Sunni Arabs in his national unity government. But Sunni demands, which included the rehabilitation of Baathists and the release of large numbers of detainees suspected of involvement in guerrilla actions, were often unpalatable to Maliki.
Some of the charges are based on a misreading of Iraq. Sen. Warner, for one, made several misstatements about Maliki during his appearance on "Meet the Press." "You've got to remember," he insisted, "that the Maliki government, Shia interests, are very closely aligned with Iran." He added that the Shiites, having gotten to the "top of the hill," are "[reluctant] to give up a fair share to the Sunnis, to the Kurds ... Unless you have a unity government between those three factions, Iraq will not become a strong sovereign nation."
Warner is wrong to imply that Maliki's Shiite government has bad relations with the Kurds. In fact, the Kurdistan Alliance is what keeps Maliki in power, given that two major Shiite factions have quit his governing coalition. Likewise, Warner doesn't grasp the role of Iran. Maliki is less close to Iran than his predecessor, Ibrahim Jaafari, was. Warner does not understand the Islamic Call Party or its history as an Iraqi nationalist organization with a Shiite emphasis.
And the pressure now coming from Congress to replace Maliki is also unlikely to produce positive change. Although any 55 parliamentarians may introduce a vote of no confidence, at this point it's hard to see how Maliki's Iraqi critics could overcome their own divisions to form the majority vote needed to unseat him. Nor is there an obvious, tested alternative who would have more chance of achieving Bush's benchmarks, which include provincial elections, changes in the harsh de-Baathification laws that have excluded many Sunni Arabs from public life, and a new law specifying equitable distribution of oil income. Former appointed interim Prime Minister Ayad Allawi has hired a fancy Washington public relations firm and is among four politicians aiming to bring down Maliki and take his place. But Allawi, an ex-Baathist, Shiite secularist and old-time CIA asset, only has 25 seats in parliament and does not have the popularity to come to power by democratic means.
If parliament brought down Maliki, it would not choose his successor directly. By the constitution, President Jalal Talabani would have to go to the single largest bloc in parliament (still the Shiite fundamentalist United Iraqi Alliance) and ask it to choose a prime minister. The new choice would come either from Maliki's Islamic Call Party or from the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council of Shiite cleric Abdul Aziz al-Hakim. SIIC is much closer to the ayatollahs in Tehran than Maliki is, and much less likely to compromise with the Sunni Arabs....
Maliki's American critics may be right that he is not the man for the job of reconciliation. It is more likely that no Iraqi politician could accomplish much in today's Iraq, where the civilian government is largely irrelevant and the Iraqi army is still poorly trained and equipped and suffers from poor morale. Most of this dysfunctionality can be traced to American decisions and policies, which deprived Iraq of a functioning army and a professional bureaucracy. In any case, Maliki's fate depends not on the U.S. but on the Iraqi parliament, and intervening in their relationship is inevitably a form of imperialism. Playing musical chairs with the prime minister, an old colonial habit in the United States with regard to its overseas possessions, will simply undermine what little faith remains in democracy in Iraq.
Posted on: Wednesday, August 29, 2007 - 14:50
SOURCE: Toronto Globe and Mail (8-29-07)
I am a carnivore. I eat chickens, cows, and sometimes even pigs. For food. Michael Vick is a dogfighter. He teaches dogs to kill each other, and sometimes he even kills them himself. For fun. What's the difference?
We've just concluded a month-long media gang-tackle against Vick, who pleaded guilty on Monday to helping kill pit bulls and to supplying money for gambling on their fights. The Atlanta Falcons quarterback now faces up to five years in prison and indefinite suspension from the National Football League. Some people think he should never play again.
And when you read about what Vick and his buddies did at Bad Newz Kennels, it's easy to see why. For Vick and Co., it wasn't enough to train the dogs to mutilate each other. They had to electrocute, drown, or shoot the poor mutts that didn't measure up. It's truly nauseating.
But how is it worse than what happens at your run-of-the-mill cattle or chicken farm? If you're a vegetarian, you have every right to get on your high horse (as it were) and condemn Michael Vick. But if you eat meat, like I do, you need to explain why it's OK to kill animals for the dinner table but not for the gambling table.
One answer lies in humans' unique moral sensibility. We're better than animals, because we can tell right from wrong. That gives us the right to use them for food or for medical research, under certain conditions. And we call those conditions"humane," because humans know--or should know--the difference between decent treatment and needless suffering.
To animal-rights activists, of course, these distinctions ring hollow. All beings have the same right to live and thrive, the animal-rights crowd says, so they all fall under the categorical imperative that Immanuel Kant described three centuries ago: thou shalt not make another being into the means for your ends. You can't enslave, torture, or eat another human, just to serve your own purposes. So you shouldn't kill animals, for any reason.
Most of us won't go that far. We understand that animals experience pain, so we try to minimize it wherever we can. And we're revolted when people like Michael Vick add to it, just to get their own jollies.
But we also think that humans are more noble, enlightened, and worthy creatures than any other being that X (pick your deity) created. Our reaction to Vick proves as much. We cringe at the torture of animals, but chickens and cows and dogs don't. Yes, they feel physical suffering. But they don't feel the moral kind, that deep ache in your heart--and in your soul--about the suffering of others.
And that's also why we penalize cruelty against humans more strongly than cruelty against animals. If human beings are better--in reason, ethics, and sensitivity--than it's worse for us to harm them.
But not, it would seem, if the humans who are harmed are female. That's one thing we've learned over the past month: in the American mind, it's more abhorrent to hurt a dog than a woman.
Open up the sports pages, and you'll see a constant spate of stories about domestic violence. The roster of stars who have been charged with this crime reads like a veritable Hall of Shame. In baseball, Barry Bonds and Brett Myers; in basketball, Jason Kidd and Ron Artest; in hockey, Patrick Roy; in boxing, Mike Tyson; and in football, Warren Moon.
Just this May, Cincinnati Bengals linebacker A. J. Nicholson was arrested for hitting his girlfriend in the face. This was the same gentleman who had to sit out of the 2006 Orange Bowl, when the then-college star was accused of sexual assault.
To their credit, the Bengals released Nicholson. But I didn't hear anyone demanding a long jail term or a lifetime NFL suspension for him. To most readers, I would suspect, the punishment already fit the crime.
And that's a crime, in and of itself. If humans are really better than other beings, as we meat-eaters insist, then we need to take violence against humans more seriously than violence against animals. But when the victims are women, we don't.
You might retort that Vick and his buddies killed the dogs. The athletes charged with domestic violence didn't murder anyone; they only beat them with fists, or threatened them with guns.
Only? If you think animals are endowed with exactly the same rights as humans, that argument might fly. But if you're a carnivore, like me, you still need to explain why it's a more serious crime to kill a dog than to hit a woman. And I don't think you can.
Posted on: Wednesday, August 29, 2007 - 14:31
SOURCE: New York Sun (8-29-07)
Non-Muslims occasionally raise the idea of banning the Koran, Islam, and Muslims. Examples this month include calls by a political leader in the Netherlands, Geert Wilders, to ban the Koran — which he compares to Hitler's Mein Kampf — and two Australian politicians, Pauline Hanson and Paul Green, demanding a moratorium on Muslim immigration.
What is one to make of these initiatives? First, some history. Precedents exist from an earlier era, when intolerant Christian governments forced Muslims to convert, notably in 16th-century Spain, and others strongly encouraged conversions, especially of the elite, as in 16th- and 17th-century Russia. In modern times, however, with freedom of expression and religion established as basic human rights, efforts to protect against intolerance by banning the Koran, Islam, or Muslims have failed.
In perhaps the most serious contemporary attempt to ban the Koran, a Hindu group argued in 1984–85 that the Islamic scriptures contain"numerous sayings, repeated in the book over and over again, which on grounds of religion promote disharmony, feeling of enmity, hatred and ill-will between different religious communities and incite people to commit violence and disturb public tranquility."
The taking of this demand, known as"The Calcutta Quran Petition," to court prompted riots and deaths in Bangladesh. The case so alarmed New Delhi that the attorney general of India himself took part in the proceedings to oppose the petition, which, not surprisingly, was dismissed.
Pim Fortuyn (1948-2002) led the most consequential effort so far to end Muslim emigration, in his case, to the Netherlands.
The coordinator of Italy's Northern League, Roberto Calderoli, wrote in 2005:"Islam has to be declared illegal until Islamists are prepared to renounce those parts of their pseudo political and religious doctrine glorifying violence and the oppression of other cultures and religions."
A British member of Parliament, Boris Johnson, pointed out in 2005 that passing a Racial and Religious Hatred Bill"must mean banning the reading — in public or private — of a great many passages of the Koran itself." His observation prompted a Muslim delegation to seek assurances, which it received, from the Home Office that no such ban would occur. Patrick Sookhdeo of the Institute for the Study of Islam and Christianity in 2006 called for prohibiting one translation of the Koran, The Noble Koran: A New Rendering of its Meaning in English, because"it sets out a strategy for killing the infidels and for warfare against them."
Other Western countries witnessed lesser efforts: Norway's Kristiansand Progress Party sought to ban Islam in 2004 and Germany's Bundesverband der Bürgerbewegungen sought to prohibit the Koran in 2006, arguing for its incompatibility with the German constitution."Stop the Islamification of Denmark" demanded in early 2007 the prohibition of parts of the Koran and all mosques, calling them unconstitutional. Australia's Catch the Fire Ministries argued in 2004 that because"The Koran contradicts Christian doctrine in a number of places and, under the blasphemy law, [it] is therefore illegal."
Elsewhere, writers have made the same demands. Switzerland's Alain Jean-Mairet is the strategist of a two-part plan, popular and juridical, with the goal that"all the Islamic projects in Switzerland will prove impossible to fulfill." In France, an anonymous writer at the Liberty Vox Web site wishes to ban Islam, as does Warner Todd Huston in the United States.
The 2006 movie V for Vendetta portrays a future Britain in which the Koran is banned.
My take? I understand the security-based urge to exclude the Koran, Islam, and Muslims, but these efforts are too broad, sweeping up inspirational passages with objectionable ones, reformers with extremists, friends with foes. Also, they ignore the possibility of positive change.
More practical and focused would be to reduce the threats of jihad and Shariah by banning Islamist interpretations of the Koran, as well as Islamism and Islamists. Precedents exist. A Saudi-sponsored Koran was pulled from school libraries. Preachers have gone to jail for their interpretation of the Koran. Extreme versions of Islam are criminally prosecuted. Organizations are outlawed. Politicians have called for Islamists to leave their countries.
Islam is not the enemy, but Islamism is. Tolerate moderate Islam, but eradicate its radical variants.
This article is reprinted with permission by Daniel Pipes. This article first appeared in the New York Sun.
Posted on: Wednesday, August 29, 2007 - 13:25
SOURCE: Counterpunch (8-25-07)
We'll never know whether Germanicus, the highly accomplished Roman general, was mortified by the actions of his spawn, the insane and insanely destructive emperor Caligula. Or whether he was even more humiliated that, on top of that particularly notable contribution to imperial history, his grandson Nero would later strive valiantly to best the family high-water mark for sheer degenerate depravity. We won't know because Germanicus had the good grace or the good fortune to die before either of them came to power.
Not so George H. W. Bush. He's still very alive, and there's little he can do to avoid the shame of having fathered the boy who nearly ruined America, and may yet still do so in his remaining 17 months as the country's emperor. Back in the day, of course, the shamed father would have removed himself to the garden shed or some other suitable location on the family compound and"done the right thing" to avoid the stinging stigma of responsibility for a mess now so large it makes the Exxon Valdez look like a stopped-up toilet in comparison. But I guess Poppy finds denial a more convenient route.
The Bushes and the Walkers, and certainly any fool dumb enough to carry the moniker George Herbert Walker Bush, are the bluest of American blue bloods. And so it is tempting to think that they have always been so completely in it for themselves that it doesn't much matter to them that their progeny has single- handedly almost wrecked a republic two-plus centuries old, and one, moreover, that is the reigning great power of its day. As long as they can check out at the Carlyle Group cashier's window on their way to Dubai, who cares if a country of 300 million goes down the toilet?
And yet Poppy, like the Kennedys and Al Gore and John Kerry, went to war--the front lines, no less--when it was expected of them, risking life and limb. This is no small deal, reckless youthful abandon notwithstanding. Joe Kennedy never made it home. JFK, Poppy and John Kerry each had close brushes with death in battlefield action. This business of risking one's own life for queen and country is not exactly the sort of thing you might expect from a completely self-interested cad who could care less about the fate of the nation. Of course, a more cynical take is that some or all of these lads, destined for a life of pre-planned greatness, took a calculated gamble, knowing that a heroic war story, if they survived, would catapult them ahead of the pack on the way to their personal rendezvous with destiny....
Bob Woodward once asked Bush,"How is history likely to judge your Iraq war?" His response?"History, we don't know--we'll all be dead."
Notwithstanding that this is perhaps the most honest sentence ever to pass across this sorry Caligula's perpetually lying lips, he might also have mentioned, while he was at it, that one hell of a lot of us are already dead because of his lies and aggression.
Like about a million Iraqi civilians, so far. And counting.
Yeah, you'd think he might have mentioned that part. Unless you're the Bush administration, that is, for whom not counting is just yet another way of lying and aggressing.
Welcome to History, regressive style.
Posted on: Tuesday, August 28, 2007 - 22:39
SOURCE: Informed Comment (Blog) (8-28-07)
So Churchill would advocate another surge and toughing it out forever in Iraq, right? Here is what he wrote in 1922, a couple of years after Britain was awarded Iraq by the Versailles Treaty as a 'mandate' (i.e. colony). [Britain was forced out as mandatory power in Iraq in 1932, when it became an independent country, though of course it was influential until 1958.]
"Winston S. Churchill to David Lloyd George (Churchill papers: 17/27) 1 September 1922
I am deeply concerned about Iraq. The task you have given me is becoming really impossible. Our forces are reduced now to very slender proportions. The Turkish menace has got worse; Feisal is playing the fool, if not the knave; his incompetent Arab officials are disturbing some of the provinces and failing to collect the revenue; we overpaid £200,000 on last year's account which it is almost certain Iraq will not be able to pay this year, thus entailing a Supplementary Estimate in regard to a matter never sanctioned by Parliament; a further deficit, in spite of large economies, is nearly certain this year on the civil expenses owing to the drop in the revenue. I have had to maintain British troops at Mosul all through the year in consequence of the Angora quarrel: this has upset the programme of reliefs and will certainly lead to further expenditure beyond the provision I cannot at this moment withdraw these troops without practically inviting the Turks to come in. The small column which is operating in the Rania district inside our border against the Turkish raiders and Kurdish sympathisers is a source of constant anxiety to me.
I do not see what political strength there is to face a disaster of any kind, and certainly I cannot believe that in any circumstances any large reinforcements would be sent from here or from India. There is scarcely a single newspaper - Tory, Liberal or Labour - which is not consistently hostile to our remaining in this country. The enormous reductions which have been effected have brought no goodwill, and any alternative Government that might be formed here - Labour, Die-hard or Wee Free - would gain popularity by ordering instant evacuation. Moreover in my own heart I do not see what we are getting out of it. Owing to the difficulties with America, no progress has been made in developing the oil. Altogether I am getting to the end of my resources.
I think we should now put definitely, not only to Feisal but to the Constituent Assembly, the position that unless they beg us to stay and to stay on our own terms in regard to efficient control, we shall actually evacuate before the close of the financial year. I would put this issue in the most brutal way, and if they are not prepared to urge us to stay and to co-operate in every manner I would actually clear out. That at any rate would be a solution. Whether we should clear out of the country altogether or hold on to a portion of the Basra vilayet is a minor issue requiring a special study. It is quite possible, however, that face to face with this ultimatum the King, and still more the Constituent Assembly, will implore us to remain. If they do, shall we not be obliged to remain? If we remain, shall we not be answerable for defending their frontier? How are we to do this if the Turk comes in? We have no force whatever that can resist any serious inroad. The War Office, of course, have played for safety throughout and are ready to say 'I told you so' at the first misfortune.
Surveying all the above, I think I must ask you for definite guidance at this stage as to what you wish and what you are prepared to do. The victories of the Turks will increase our difficulties throughout the Mohammedan world. At present we are paying eight millions a year for the privilege of living on an ungrateful volcano out of which we are in no circumstances to get anything worth having."
From Martin Gilbert, WINSTON S. CHURCHILL IV, Companion Volume Part 3, London: Heinemann, 1977, pp. 1973-74.
From: This web site, winstonchurchill.org.
Posted on: Tuesday, August 28, 2007 - 21:26
SOURCE: http://www.asiamedia.ucla.edu (8-27-07)
Department of History, University of Colorado,
Like many Americans, I watched with hope, apprehension, and finally with real sadness as the saga of the six miners trapped underground at Utah's Crandall Canyon mine played out earlier this month. Anybody in the United States who keeps even half an eye on the news is familiar with the broad outlines of the Utah mine story. But how many of these same Americans who experienced genuine pathos over its outcome know that another mine tragedy was playing out simultaneously on the other side of the world?
Only those who happened to hear the excellent report on National Public Radio or read the news very closely know that on Friday, Aug. 17, just as the search for the Utah miners was reaching its sad denouement, a river in eastern China's Shandong province burst its dike, trapping 172 miners deep inside the Zhangzhuang coal mine. Nine miners at a nearby smaller mine (owned by the same Huayuan Mining Company) were unaccounted for as well.
Despite the appallingly high presumed death toll in this Chinese mine disaster, the Shandong tragedy unfortunately did not surprise me. As a China specialist who has paid close attention to safety problems in the Chinese coalmining industry I have learned to expect news of this kind and grown used to a steady drip, between reports of massive tragedies, of stories about smaller mine disasters involving ten or even several dozen deaths. Last year alone thousands of Chinese coal miners died in workplace accidents, an average of 13 die each day according to official estimates.
Inured though I've become to the tragic news emanating from China's coal mines, I was struck by something else altogether last week. The drama in Utah received wall-to-wall, saturation coverage in the American media, but the far more horrendous (in terms of numbers killed) Chinese coal mine disaster received merely sidebar-style coverage from most news outlets.
Under the circumstances, it would be perverse to claim that the Chinese mine disaster was somehow not newsworthy. After all, American news outlets had transformed the Utah tragedy into a two-week media circus. Journalists competed with one another to find the most arresting images and, sometimes it seemed, most invasive ways of violating the privacy of the grieving families and friends of the Utah miners. This was the perfect human drama for the dog days of early August and the 24/7 media machine had a field day with it.
Given how transfixed Americans were by a tale of six trapped miners, isn't it natural to think that the simultaneous entombment of more than thirty times as many Chinese miners also deserved some copy?
It's true that information about the Chinese tragedy has been limited and that American journalists couldn't set up camp outside the Chinese mine, but surely that alone cannot account for the near silence.
Nor is it a good enough explanation to say that news of lax Chinese safety regulations is irrelevant to "us." After all, the American media recently has been chock full of stories, some of them highly alarmist, about unsafe Chinese goods for sale in the United States. Hardly a day goes by without word of another unsafe Chinese-made product's recall. But here was a case where the victims of a safety standard violation (the Shandong mine disasters appear to be related to the deliberate flouting of codified safety procedures) were Chinese not Americans.
How do we think about that at a time when China-bashing by American political forces is rising? Furthermore, how do we think about the fact that the Chinese government is trying to improve safety standards in the country's mines, and elsewhere, but is up against corruption and ruthless, mercenary forces nearly impossible to control? Is activist government regulation good or bad? To what extent should governments interfere with markets to ensure that they work with maximum efficiency and assure the greatest amount of social justice?
In an era of massive trade between countries, are these national or international matters? What obligations do all countries have to play by international rules?
There are no simple answers to these issues that we share with China (and other countries), just as there is no way of determining exactly how much sympathy is "appropriate" when we confront human tragedies, be they American or Chinese. For better or worse, like people everywhere, we Americans tend to be more interested in news involving ourselves than we are in news about others. Yet to me there was something deeply disturbing about the imbalance in coverage given to these two terrifying and tragic mine disaster stories. If the fate of six Americans is deemed worthy of round-the-clock news coverage for days on end, why has the fate of exponentially more non-Americans in similar circumstances gotten far less than half as much attention?
In the parlance of the day, I regard the failure of the American media to pay serious attention to the recent Chinese mine disaster as a "missed opportunity." Rather than devoting so much attention to sensationalistic coverage of the Utah story, it would be refreshing to see the American media demonstrate a more global outlook that takes human suffering seriously wherever it occurs. Rather than focusing so much on the prurient human interest aspect of such suffering, it would be desirable if its deeper, complex causes were explored and reported on.
In the case of China, whose fate is increasingly intertwined with that of the United States, isn't there a particular need to pay attention when "they" experience something very similar to what "we" experience?
The views expressed above are those of the author and are not necessarily those of AsiaMedia or the UCLA Asia Institute.
Posted on: Tuesday, August 28, 2007 - 21:16
SOURCE: Renehan Blog (8-28-07)
The predicament of conservative Republican senator Larry Craig brings to mind old Sumner Welles, FDR's brilliant, well-connected, and personally tormented undersecretary of state.
Welles was far beyond being a closeted gay. He was a man who lived long years in personal denial of his sexual identity (a life of near-total repression), who drank secretly in order to help himself cope, and who eventually found himself consigned to political oblivion after public lewd conduct transacted while intoxicated.
Welles was a grand-nephew of the famous Massachusetts senator and abolitionist Charles Sumner. As a twelve year old, he'd been a page boy at the wedding of Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt. Like Franklin, he attended Groton and Harvard. Entering the State Department in 1915, Welles quickly earned himself a reputation as a shrewd and reliable diplomat and an inspired crafter of foreign policy initiatives.
But in 1940, a drunken Welles made sexual overtures to several black sleeping-car porters while traveling through Alabama aboard the presidential train with FDR aboard. As Welles's son Benjamin wrote years later: "Possibly no one would believe that a senior government official in his right mind - least of all the patrician Under Secretary of State - would solicit Pullman porters on a train carrying the President, the cabinet, the Secret Service and railway officials." A similar incident occurred on yet another train not long after. Subsequent investigations found other instances of sleeping car porters being propositioned as early as 1937.
When word got back to FDR, the president at first took no action against Welles. In part, FDR's response suggested his respect for the professional abilities of the man who would shortly help craft the Atlantic Charter. FDR's response also reflected his long friendship with Welles, and his belief that what a gentleman did when drunk should never be held against him. Eventually, however, Secretary of State Cordell Hull prevailed in his insistence that Welles be fired. Welles left the administration under a cloud in 1943.
What came next were eighteen tragic years in the political wilderness. Welles drank to excess, and his wife divorced him. At one point in 1948 the self-loathing Welles - raised in a world where his healthiest, most natural instincts were condemned as vile - sank so low that he attempted suicide near his mansion on the Potomac. In time, Welles hired a bisexual ne'er-do-well as man-servant. The servant, named Gustave, facilitated Welles's alcohol abuse while helping him run through his money with speed. During 1956 the gossip magazine Confidential "outed" Welles long before that word had even been invented.
Welles died of natural causes in 1961.
Posted on: Tuesday, August 28, 2007 - 20:53
SOURCE: Seattle Times (8-28-07)
When Upton Sinclair wrote "The Jungle" (1906) describing the horrendous conditions in Chicago's slaughterhouses, he hoped to convince Americans to improve labor standards for American workers.
Instead, disgusted by Sinclair's descriptions of what entered their food supply, Americans passed the Meat Inspection Act and the Pure Food and Drug Meat Inspection Act, which led to the establishment of the Food and Drug Administration. They hoped to improve their food, but forgot about the workers.
"I aimed at the public's heart and by accident hit its stomach," Sinclair observed.
In the recent scare about Chinese-made products, we risk once again putting products ahead of the people who make them.
It was not until the Wagner Act (1935), passed as part of Franklin D. Roosevelt's New Deal, that American workers gained the right to organize in order to have greater control over their working conditions, including hours and safety, and to demand a fair share of the fruits of their labor.
Yet, between the Civil War and the New Deal, hundreds of American workers had died in industrial accidents and in armed combat against their employers. Americans in the late 19th century feared "industrial warfare" as they watched employers and employees literally take arms against each other....
We cannot forget the lessons of our own history. It took generations of conflict between workers and their employers before the United States established fair and safe working conditions. In certain sectors of our economy — most notably agriculture and, once again, slaughterhouses — that fight continues....
Lead-laden toothpaste and toys from China put us at risk. Americans are right to demand that China improve its products' safety. But, this time, let's not forget that Chinese laborers also work long hours, sometimes under egregious conditions, and are denied their right to organize in a country that benefits from global capitalism while refusing its workers the freedom that should be part of all free markets....
Posted on: Tuesday, August 28, 2007 - 12:19
SOURCE: Special to HNN (8-24-07)
Blaming the United States for everything gone awry underneath the sun of the Middle East has become the fashion of the day. Interestingly enough, critics are not confined to a specific geographic location. A visiting scholar at the Middle East Center of Carnegie Endowment in Beirut wrote that Washington’s manipulation of politics in Lebanon has been fatal. Supporting his thesis that US-backed allies lose in free elections (in reference to the recent Lebanon’s Metn by-elections in which a former President and a key member of the US-backed March 14 Forces was defeated by a relatively unknown political figure, allied with the Hizbollah-led opposition), a reporter for the New York Times quoted a Middle East expert who stated that “The minute you are counted on or backed by the Americans, kiss it goodbye, you will never win.” Ironically, little, if any, was said about the fact that had it not been for the US swift military and logistical support of the Lebanese army, the radical group, Fatah al-Islam, battling the Lebanese army would have, indeed as it has claimed, created a Jihadi Emirate in northern Lebanon.
These critiques have become fodder for Hizbollah’s leadership who recently asserted that Washington is the party standing against forming a government of national unity and thus against a political settlement of the ongoing crisis in Lebanon. Underlying this accusation is the notion that the United States is the real driving force of the Siniora government. The corollary of this line of thought is that the Siniora government is not nationalist and is only an instrument to help create Washington’s imperial policy of a new Middle East, which Hizbollah is dedicated to frustrate.
This psychological warfare, which Hizbollah has perfected, has had a chilling effect on the March 14 Forces in general and on the Siniora government in particular. In fact, the Siniora government has acted in a way indirectly bearing out Hizbollah’s assertion. Facing off the opposition, the Siniora government has tried to justify its actions as the result of international and American pressure. In this way, the thinking goes, the government, acting in the belief of protecting national unity, would neither provoke nor be held responsible for any potential national rift caused by its actions. However, this has inadvertently and incorrectly confirmed the analysis by the afore-mentioned critics, save sharpening the image constructed deceptively by Hizbollah that the US dictates the government’s policies.
This was put in sharp relief with regard to creating the international tribunal to prosecute those who assassinated Lebanon’s former Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri. The Siniora government tried hard to persuade the permanent members of the UN Security Council to set up the international tribunal without a formal request from the Lebanese cabinet. A similar case took place when the Siniora government, over the objection of some members of the UN Security Council, successfully convinced the international organization to raise the number of UNIFIL troops in south Lebanon in the wake of the Hizbollah-Israel conflagration in summer 2006 without the cover of Chapter Seven.
Admittedly, the government’s actions have baffled the permanent members of the UN Security Council. In fact, the recent letter on June 25 by Prime Minister Fouad Siniora to the UN Security Council requesting the extension of the term of the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) for an “additional period of one year ending on 31 August 2008, in conformity with the activity of UNIFIL as stipulated in paragraph 11 of resolution 1701 (2006), and without amendment,” has perplexed UNSC members.
Given that the UN itself expressed its concern about arms smuggling into Lebanon from Syria in violation of UNSCR 1701, and that six members of UNIFIL were recently murdered in their area of operations in south Lebanon, some UNSC members found it troubling that the Siniora government did not include an amendment of the resolution’s mandate in its request for an extension of the term of the UNIFIL. This is all the more so because the resolution itself (paragraph 16) “expresses its intentions to consider in a later resolution further enhancements to the mandate.”
Significantly, the recent report by the fact-finding mission of the International Lebanese Committee (ILC) for UNSCR 1559  (which has consultative status with the UN) revealed that Syria still occupies approximately 458 square kilometres of Lebanese territory in different areas adjacent to the border, and that it has changed the topography of the land so as to facilitate smuggling of weapons into Lebanon. The Syrian regime, far from withdrawing from Lebanon (even technically) has created new "facts on the ground" which have made its compliance with a slew of United Nations Security Council resolutions - especially Resolution 1680  (May 2006) and Resolution 1559  (September 2004) - a mockery of the international system.
All this begs the question why has not Siniora’s government asked for an international force to help the Lebanese army monitor the border with Syria? It is hardly possible that the government, or any government for that matter, could extend its authority throughout Lebanese territories with Hizbollah and Palestinian extremist groups, such as Palestinian Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command and Fatah-Intifada, are being armed to the teeth by Syria and Iran. It is no idle speculation that the government may indeed be hoping for the international community to come to its help by taking the initiative and sponsoring a new resolution. France has already circulated to the other permanent members of the Security Council a draft for extending the Resolution’s mandate. Unfortunately, last week, the UNSCR voted for the renewal of the resolution as is, wihtout modification. Which means a neutralization of a UN additional role at the eve of crucial Presidential elections in Lebanon. A mistake which will cost more to the Lebaneseand their allies and friends worldwide
Under either condition, the Siniora government should overtly seek the backing of the international community, especially of the US, and expose Syria and Hizbollah’s violations irrespective of national and regional considerations. In this way, the government, which has thus far led the battle for democracy in Lebanon, would reclaim the bold initiative to defend Lebanese sovereignty. No less significant, it would send a signal to the world that it is the one calling the shots and is thankfully standing by the US, thereby ending the stream of distorted and antagonistic analysis of US policy in Lebanon.
Posted on: Tuesday, August 28, 2007 - 11:50
SOURCE: WaPo (8-26-07)
... New Orleans appears to be largely abandoned by the Department of Homeland Security, except for its safeguarding of the Port Authority (port traffic is at 90 percent of pre-Katrina numbers) and tourist districts above sea level, such as the French Quarter and Uptown. These areas are kept alive largely by the wild success of Harrah's casino and a steady flow of undaunted conventioneers.
The brutal Galveston Hurricane of 1900 may be a historical guide to the administration's thinking. Most survivors of that deadly Texas storm moved to higher land. Administration policies seem to tacitly encourage those who live below sea level in New Orleans to relocate permanently, to leave the dangerous water's edge for more prosperous inland cities such as Shreveport or Baton Rouge.
After the 1900 hurricane, in fact, Galveston, which had been a large, thriving port, was essentially abandoned for Houston, transforming that then-sleepy backwater into the financial center for the entire Gulf South. Galveston devolved into a smallish port-tourist center, one easy to evacuate when hurricanes rear their ugly heads.
To be fair, Bush's apparent post-Katrina inaction policy makes some cold, pragmatic sense. If the U.S. government is not going to rebuild the levees to survive a Category 5 storm -- to be finished at the earliest in 2015 and at an estimated cost of $40 billion, far eclipsing the extravagant bill for the entire Interstate Highway System -- then options are limited.
But what makes the current inaction plan so infuriating is that it's deceptive, offering up this open-armed spin to storm victims: "Come back to New Orleans." Why can't Bush look his fellow citizens in the eye and tell them what seems to be the ugly truth? That as long as he's commander in chief, there won't be an entirely reconstructed levee system.
Shortly after Katrina hit, former House speaker J. Dennis Hastert declared that a lot of New Orleans could be "bulldozed." He was shot down by an outraged public and media, which deemed such remarks insensitive and callous. Two years have shown that Hastert may have articulated what appears to have become the White House's de facto policy. He may have retreated, but the inaction remains.
The White House keeps spinning Bush's abysmal poll numbers by claiming that his legacy will rise decades from now the way Harry S. Truman's did. But Truman had a reputation for straight talk and bold vision. If Bush wants history to perceive him as Trumanesque, then he must act Trumanesque.
Bush's predecessors moved mountains. Theodore Roosevelt set aside 230 million acres for wildlife conservation (plus built the Panama Canal). Franklin D. Roosevelt began a kaleidoscope of New Deal programs to calm the Great Depression and Truman oversaw the Marshall Plan rebuilding of Western Europe after World War II. Bush could seize the initiative and announce a real plan to rebuild, a partnership between the government, Fortune 500 companies and faith-based groups....
How we deal with New Orleans's future will tell us a lot about our nation's future. In 2008 it should really be an up or down vote. Category 5 levees or not? An independent FEMA or a FEMA still ensconced in Homeland Security? Do we pour $40 billion into grandiose Louisiana engineering projects or do we instead put up "no trespassing" signs in the areas below sea level? All are hard choices with various merits and pains.
The important thing, however, is for America to decide whether the current policy of inaction is really the way we want to deal with the worst natural disaster in our history.
Posted on: Monday, August 27, 2007 - 16:45
SOURCE: TomDispatch.com (8-24-07)
French Egypt and American Iraq can be considered bookends on the history of modern imperialism in the Middle East. The Bush administration's already failed version of the conquest of Iraq is, of course, on everyone's mind; while the French conquest of Egypt, now more than two centuries past, is all too little remembered, despite having been led by Napoleon Bonaparte, whose career has otherwise hardly languished in obscurity. There are many eerily familiar resonances between the two misadventures, not least among them that both began with supreme arrogance and ended as fiascoes. Above all, the leaders of both occupations employed the same basic political vocabulary and rhetorical flimflammery, invoking the spirit of liberty, security, and democracy while largely ignoring the substance of these concepts.
The French general and the American president do not much resemble one another -- except perhaps in the way the prospect of conquest in the Middle East appears to have put fire in their veins and in their unappealing tendency to believe their own propaganda (or at least to keep repeating it long after it became completely implausible). Both leaders invaded and occupied a major Arabic-speaking Muslim country; both harbored dreams of a"Greater Middle East"; both were surprised to find themselves enmeshed in long, bitter, debilitating guerrilla wars. Neither genuinely cared about grassroots democracy, but both found its symbols easy to invoke for gullible domestic publics. Substantial numbers of their new subjects quickly saw, however, that they faced occupations, not liberations.
My own work on Bonaparte's lost year in Egypt began in the mid-1990s, and I had completed about half of Napoleon's Egypt: Invading the Middle East before September 11, 2001. I had no way of knowing then that a book on such a distant, scholarly subject would prove an allegory for Bush's Iraq War. Nor did I guess that the United States would give old-style colonialism in the Middle East one last try, despite clear signs that the formerly colonized would no longer put up with such acts and had, in the years since World War II, gained the means to resist them.
The Republic Militant Goes to War
In June of 1798, as his enormous flotilla -- 36,000 soldiers, thousands of sailors, and hundreds of scientists on 12 ships of the line -- swept inexorably toward the Egyptian coast, the young General Napoleon Bonaparte issued a grandiose communiqué to the bewildered and seasick troops he was about to march into the desert without canteens or reasonable supplies of water. He declared,"Soldiers! You are about to undertake a conquest, the effects of which on civilization and commerce are incalculable."
The prediction was as tragically inaccurate in its own way as the pronouncement George W. Bush issued some two centuries later, on May 1, 2003, also from the deck of a great ship of the line, the aircraft carrier the USS Abraham Lincoln."Today," he said,"we have the greater power to free a nation by breaking a dangerous and aggressive regime. With new tactics and precision weapons, we can achieve military objectives without directing violence against civilians."
Both men were convinced that their invasions were announcing new epochs in human history. Of the military vassals of the Ottoman Empire who then ruled Egypt, Bonaparte predicted:"The Mameluke Beys who favor exclusively English commerce, whose extortions oppress our merchants, and who tyrannize over the unfortunate inhabitants of the Nile, a few days after our arrival will no longer exist."
Bonaparte's laundry list of grievances about them consisted of three charges. First, the beys were, in essence, enablers of France's primary enemy at that time, the British monarchy which sought to strangle the young French republic in its cradle. Second, the rulers of Egypt were damaging France's own commerce by extorting taxes and bribes from its merchants in Cairo and Alexandria. Third, the Mamluks ruled tyrannically, having never been elected, and oppressed their subjects whom Bonaparte intended to liberate.
This holy trinity of justifications for imperialism -- that the targeted state is collaborating with an enemy of the republic, is endangering the positive interests of the nation, and lacks legitimacy because its rule is despotic -- would all be trotted out over the subsequent two centuries by a succession of European and American leaders whenever they wanted to go on the attack. One implication of these familiar rhetorical turns of phrase has all along been that democracies have a license to invade any country they please, assuming it has the misfortune to have an authoritarian regime.
George W. Bush, of course, hit the same highlights in his"mission accomplished" speech, while announcing on the Abraham Lincoln that"major combat operations" in Iraq"had ended.""The liberation of Iraq," he proclaimed,"is a crucial advance in the campaign against terror. We've removed an ally of al Qaeda, and cut off a source of terrorist funding." He put Saddam Hussein's secular, Arab nationalist Baath regime and the radical Muslim terrorists of al-Qaeda under the sign of September 11th, insinuating that Iraq was allied with the primary enemy of the United States and so posed an urgent menace to its security. (In fact, captured Baath Party documents show that Saddam's fretting security forces, on hearing that Abu Musab al-Zarqawi had entered Iraq, put out an all points bulletin on him, imagining -- not entirely correctly -- that he had al-Qaeda links.) Likewise, Bush promised that Iraq's alleged"weapons of mass destruction" (which existed only in his own fevered imagination) would be tracked down, again implying that Iraq posed a threat to the interests and security of the U.S., just as Bonaparte had claimed that the Mamluks menaced France.
According to the president, Saddam's overthrown government had lacked legitimacy, while the new Iraqi government, to be established by a foreign power, would truly represent the conquered population."We're helping to rebuild Iraq, where the dictator built palaces for himself, instead of hospitals and schools. And we will stand with the new leaders of Iraq," Bush pledged,"as they establish a government of, by, and for the Iraqi people." Bonaparte, too, established governing councils at the provincial and national level, staffing them primarily with Sunni clergymen, declaring them more representative of the Egyptian people than the beys and emirs of the slave soldiery who had formerly ruled that province of the Ottoman Empire.
Liberty as Tyranny
For a democracy to conduct a brutal military occupation against another country in the name of liberty seems, on the face of it, too contradictory to elicit more than hoots of derision at the hypocrisy of it all. Yet, the militant republic, ready to launch aggressive war in the name of"democracy," is everywhere in modern history, despite the myth that democracies do not typically wage wars of aggression. Ironically, some absolutist regimes, like those of modern Iran, were remarkably peaceable, if left alone by their neighbors. In contrast, republican France invaded Belgium, Holland, Spain, Germany, Italy, and Egypt in its first decade (though it went on the offensive in part in response to Austrian and Prussian moves to invade France). The United States attacked Mexico, the Seminoles and other Native polities, Hawaii, the Spanish Empire, the Philippines, Haiti, and the Dominican Republic in just the seven-plus decades from 1845 to the eve of the U.S. entry into World War I.
Freedom and authoritarianism are nowadays taken to be stark antonyms, the provinces of heroes and monsters. Those closer to the birth of modern republics were comforted by no such moral clarity. In Danton's Death, the young Romantic playwright Georg Büchner depicted the radical French revolutionary and proponent of executing enemies of the Republic, Maximilien Robespierre, whipping up a Parisian crowd with the phrase,"The revolutionary regime is the despotism of liberty against tyranny." And nowhere has liberty proved more oppressive than when deployed against a dictatorship abroad; for, as Büchner also had that famed"incorruptible" devotee of state terror observe,"In a Republic only republicans are citizens; Royalists and foreigners are enemies."
That sunlit May afternoon on the USS Abraham Lincoln, President Bush seconded Büchner's Robespierre."Because of you," he exhorted the listening sailors of an aircraft carrier whose planes had just dropped 1.6 million pounds of ordnance on Iraq,"our nation is more secure. Because of you, the tyrant has fallen, and Iraq is free."
Security for the republic had already proved ample justification to launch a war the previous March, even though Iraq was a poor, weak, ramshackle Third World country, debilitated by a decade of sanctions imposed by the United Nations and the United States, without so much as potable drinking water or an air force. Similarly, the Mamluks of Egypt -- despite the sky-high taxes and bribes they demanded of some French merchants -- hardly constituted a threat to French security.
The overthrow of a tyrannical regime and the liberation of an oppressed people were constant refrains in the shipboard addresses of both the general and the president, who felt that the liberated owed them a debt of gratitude. Bonaparte lamented that the beys"tyrannize over the unfortunate inhabitants of the Nile"; or, as one of his officers, Captain Horace Say, opined,"The people of Egypt were most wretched. How will they not cherish the liberty we are bringing them?" Similarly, Bush insisted,"Men and women in every culture need liberty like they need food and water and air. Everywhere that freedom arrives, humanity rejoices; and everywhere that freedom stirs, let tyrants fear."
Not surprisingly, expectations that the newly conquered would exhibit gratitude to their foreign occupiers cropped up repeatedly in the dispatches and letters of men on the spot who advocated a colonial forward policy. President Bush put this dramatically in 2007, long after matters had not proceeded as expected:"We liberated that country from a tyrant. I think the Iraqi people owe the American people a huge debt of gratitude. That's the problem here in America: They wonder whether or not there is a gratitude level that's significant enough in Iraq."
Liberty in this two-century old rhetorical tradition, moreover, was more than just a matter of rights and the rule of law. Proponents of various forms of liberal imperialism saw tyranny as a source of poverty, since arbitrary rulers could just usurp property at will and so make economic activity risky, as well as opening the public to crushing and arbitrary taxes that held back commerce. The French quartermaster Francois Bernoyer wrote of the Egyptian peasantry:"Their dwellings are adobe huts, which prosperity, the daughter of liberty, will now allow them to abandon." Bush took up the same theme on the Abraham Lincoln:"Where freedom takes hold, hatred gives way to hope. When freedom takes hold, men and women turn to the peaceful pursuit of a better life."
"Heads Must Roll"
In both eighteenth century Egypt and twenty-first century Iraq, the dreary reality on the ground stood as a reproach to, if not a wicked satire upon, these high-minded pronouncements. The French landed at the port of Alexandria on July 1, 1798. Two and a half weeks later, as the French army advanced along the Nile toward Cairo, a unit of Gen. Jean Reynier's division met opposition from 1,800 villagers, many armed with muskets. Sgt. Charles Francois recalled a typical scene. After scaling the village walls and"firing into those crowds," killing"about 900 men," the French confiscated the villagers' livestock --" camels, donkeys, horses, eggs, cows, sheep" -- then"finished burning the rest of the houses, or rather the huts, so as to provide a terrible object lesson to these half-savage and barbarous people."
On July 24, Bonaparte's Army of the Orient entered Cairo and he began reorganizing his new subjects. He grandiosely established an Egyptian Institute for the advancement of science and gave thought to reforming police, courts, and law. But terror lurked behind everything he did. He wrote Gen. Jacques Menou, who commanded the garrison at the Mediterranean port of Rosetta, saying,"The Turks [Egyptians] can only be led by the greatest severity. Every day I cut off five or six heads in the streets of Cairo.... [T]o obey, for them, is to fear." (Mounting severed heads on poles for viewing by terrified passers-by was another method the French used in Egypt...)
That August, the Delta city of Mansura rose up against a small French garrison of about 120 men, chasing them into the countryside, tracking the blue coats down, and methodically killing all but two of them. In early September, the Delta village of Sonbat, inhabited in part by Bedouin of the western Dirn tribe, also rose up against the Europeans. Bonaparte instructed one of his generals,"Burn that village! Make a terrifying example of it." After the French army had indeed crushed the rebellious peasants and chased away the Bedouin, Gen. Jean-Antoine Verdier reported back to Bonaparte with regard to Sonbat,"You ordered me to destroy this lair. Very well, it no longer exists."
The most dangerous uprisings confronting the French were, however, in Cairo. In October, much of the city mobilized to attack the more than 20,000 French troops occupying the capital. The revolt was especially fierce in the al-Husayn district, where the ancient al-Azhar madrassa (or seminary) trained 14,000 students, where the city's most sacred mosque stood, and where wealth was concentrated in the merchants and guilds of the Khan al-Khalili bazaar. At the same time, the peasants and Bedouin of the countryside around Cairo rose in rebellion, attacking the small garrisons that had been deployed to pacify them.
Bonaparte put down this Egyptian"revolution" with the utmost brutality, subjecting urban crowds to artillery barrages. He may have had as many rebels executed in the aftermath as were killed in the fighting. In the countryside, his officers' launched concerted campaigns to decimate insurgent villages. At one point, the French are said to have brought 900 heads of slain insurgents to Cairo in bags and ostentatiously dumped them out before a crowd in one of that city's major squares to instill Cairenes with terror. (Two centuries later, the American public would come to associate decapitations by Muslim terrorists in Iraq with the ultimate in barbarism, but even then hundreds such beheadings were not carried out at once.)
The American deployment of terror against the Iraqi population has, of course, dwarfed anything the French accomplished in Egypt by orders of magnitude. After four mercenaries, one a South African, were killed in Falluja in March of 2004 and their bodies desecrated, President Bush is alleged to have said"heads must roll" in retribution.
An initial attack on the city faltered when much of the Iraqi government threatened to resign and it was clear major civilian casualties would result. The crushing of the city was, however, simply put off until after the American presidential election in November. When the assault, involving air power and artillery, came, it was devastating, damaging two-thirds of the city's buildings and turning much of its population into refugees. (As a result, thousands of Fallujans still live in the desert in tent villages with no access to clean water.)
Bush must have been satisfied. Heads had rolled. More often, faced with opposition, the U.S. Air Force simply bombed already-occupied cities, a technology Bonaparte (mercifully) lacked. The strategy of ruling by terror and swift, draconian punishment for acts of resistance was, however, the same in both cases.
The British sank much of the French fleet on August 1, 1798, marooning Bonaparte and his troops in their newly conquered land. In the spring of 1799, the French army tried -- and failed -- to break out through Syria; after which Bonaparte himself chose the better part of valor. He slipped out of Egypt late that summer, returning to France. There, he would swiftly stage a coup and come to power as First Consul, giving him the opportunity to hone his practice of bringing freedom to other countries -- this time in Europe. By 1801, joint British-Ottoman forces had defeated the French in Egypt, who were transported back to their country on British vessels. This first Western invasion of the Middle East in modern times had ended in serial disasters that Bonaparte would misrepresent to the French public as a series of glorious triumphs.
Ending the Era of Liberal Imperialism
Between 1801 and 2003 stretched endless decades in which colonialism proved a plausible strategy for European powers in the Middle East, including the French enterprise in Algeria (1830-1962) and the British veiled protectorate over Egypt (1882-1922). In these years, European militaries and their weaponry were so advanced, and the means of resistance to which Arab peasants had access so limited, that colonial governments could be imposed.
That imperial moment passed with celerity after World War II, in part because the masses of the Third World joined political parties, learned to read, and -- with how-to-do-it examples all around them -- began to mount political resistance to foreign occupations of every sort. While the twenty-first century American arsenal has many fancy, exceedingly destructive toys in it, nothing has changed with regard to the ability of colonized peoples to network socially and, sooner or later, push any foreign occupying force out.
Bonaparte and Bush failed because both launched their operations at moments when Western military and technological superiority was not assured. While Bonaparte's army had better artillery and muskets, the Egyptians had a superb cavalry and their old muskets were serviceable enough for purposes of sniping at the enemy. They also had an ally with advanced weaponry and the desire to use it -- the British Navy.
In 2007, the high-tech U.S. military -- as had been true in Vietnam in the 1960s and 1970s, as was true for the Soviets in Afghanistan in the 1980s -- is still vulnerable to guerrilla tactics and effective low-tech weapons of resistance such as roadside bombs. Even more effective has been the guerrillas' social warfare, their success in making Iraq ungovernable through the promotion of clan and sectarian feuds, through targeted bombings and other attacks, and through sabotage of the Iraqi infrastructure.
From the time of Bonaparte to that of Bush, the use of the rhetoric of liberty versus tyranny, of uplift versus decadence, appears to have been a constant among imperialists from republics -- and has remained domestically effective in rallying support for colonial wars. The despotism (but also the weakness) of the Mamluks and of Saddam Hussein proved sirens practically calling out for Western interventions. According to the rhetoric of liberal imperialism, tyrannical regimes are always at least potentially threats to the Republic, and so can always be fruitfully overthrown in favor of rule by a Western military. After all, that military is invariably imagined as closer to liberty since it serves an elected government. (Intervention is even easier to justify if the despots can be portrayed, however implausibly, as allied with an enemy of the republic.)
For both Bush and Bonaparte, the genteel diction of liberation, rights, and prosperity served to obscure or justify a major invasion and occupation of a Middle Eastern land, involving the unleashing of slaughter and terror against its people. Military action would leave towns destroyed, families displaced, and countless dead. Given the ongoing carnage in Iraq, President Bush's boast that, with"new tactics and precision weapons, we can achieve military objectives without directing violence against civilians," now seems not just hollow but macabre. The equation of a foreign military occupation with liberty and prosperity is, in the cold light of day, no less bizarre than the promise of war with virtually no civilian casualties.
It is no accident that many of the rhetorical strategies employed by George W. Bush originated with Napoleon Bonaparte, a notorious spinmeister and confidence man. At least Bonaparte looked to the future, seeing clearly the coming breakup of the Ottoman Empire and the likelihood that European Powers would be able to colonize its provinces. Bonaparte's failure in Egypt did not forestall decades of French colonial success in Algeria and Indochina, even if that era of imperial triumph could not, in the end, be sustained in the face of the political and social awakening of the colonized. Bush's neocolonialism, on the other hand, swam against the tide of history, and its failure is all the more criminal for having been so predictable.
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 Juan Cole
Posted on: Sunday, August 26, 2007 - 19:13
SOURCE: NYT Magazine (8-19-07)
The twilight of the idols has been postponed. For more than two centuries, from the American and French Revolutions to the collapse of Soviet Communism, world politics revolved around eminently political problems. War and revolution, class and social justice, race and national identity — these were the questions that divided us. Today, we have progressed to the point where our problems again resemble those of the 16th century, as we find ourselves entangled in conflicts over competing revelations, dogmatic purity and divine duty. We in the West are disturbed and confused. Though we have our own fundamentalists, we find it incomprehensible that theological ideas still stir up messianic passions, leaving societies in ruin. We had assumed this was no longer possible, that human beings had learned to separate religious questions from political ones, that fanaticism was dead. We were wrong.
An example: In May of last year, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran sent an open letter to President George W. Bush that was translated and published in newspapers around the world. Its theme was contemporary politics and its language that of divine revelation. After rehearsing a litany of grievances against American foreign policies, real and imagined, Ahmadinejad wrote, “If Prophet Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Ishmael, Joseph or Jesus Christ (peace be upon him) were with us today, how would they have judged such behavior?” This was not a rhetorical question. “I have been told that Your Excellency follows the teachings of Jesus (peace be upon him) and believes in the divine promise of the rule of the righteous on Earth,” Ahmadinejad continued, reminding his fellow believer that “according to divine verses, we have all been called upon to worship one God and follow the teachings of divine Prophets.” There follows a kind of altar call, in which the American president is invited to bring his actions into line with these verses. And then comes a threatening prophecy: “Liberalism and Western-style democracy have not been able to help realize the ideals of humanity. Today, these two concepts have failed. Those with insight can already hear the sounds of the shattering and fall of the ideology and thoughts of the liberal democratic systems. . . . Whether we like it or not, the world is gravitating towards faith in the Almighty and justice and the will of God will prevail over all things.”
This is the language of political theology, and for millennia it was the only tongue human beings had for expressing their thoughts about political life. It is primordial, but also contemporary: countless millions still pursue the age-old quest to bring the whole of human life under God’s authority, and they have their reasons. To understand them we need only interpret the language of political theology — yet that is what we find hardest to do. Reading a letter like Ahmadinejad’s, we fall mute, like explorers coming upon an ancient inscription written in hieroglyphics....
Posted on: Friday, August 24, 2007 - 17:38
SOURCE: NYT Magazine (8-19-07)
The recent rumbles and ruptures in the financial markets are finally making people reassess the dubious systems of credit that have arisen in the past few years. In retrospect, it seems clear that honest, tried-and-true ways of borrowing money were recklessly abandoned and replaced by financial legerdemain: black-box transactions, synthetic collateralized debt obligations, mezzanine tranches and credit-default swaps — to cite just a few of the exotically named financial instruments now facing scrutiny. America’s once-solid economy became a house of cards, a web of debt masquerading as wealth, a system crying out for correction. As one Wall Street banker quoted by The Financial Times concluded, the recent credit crunch suggests that things are finally “returning to a more ‘normal’ level after ‘abnormally’ loose conditions over the past few years.”
But what if the last few years of playing fast and loose with credit were not a deviation from the norm but a return to America’s economic roots? Though it is hardly the sort of thing you read about in heroic histories of America’s rise to economic greatness, the credit system in the United States has often been, in effect, a confidence game writ large, relying heavily on shaky paper promises, shell games and other trickery. The standard account would have you believe that the road to individual and national wealth was paved by hard-working, honest entrepreneurs who steered clear of get-rich-quick schemes, counterfeiters’ printing presses and suckers’ swindles. But for better and for worse, such shady institutions lie at the heart of the country’s moneymaking past and, if recent events are any indication, its present.
The very phrase “making money” had a curiously literal meaning in the years between the founding of the United States and the onset of the Civil War. Throughout that era — a time before the federal government issued its own, exclusive paper money — hundreds and eventually thousands of individual banks extended credit and conducted business by printing and circulating their own “bank notes” in denominations and designs of their choosing. Unlike today’s currency, bank notes were promises to pay, not cool, hard cash. A bank issuing a note vowed to pay the stated amount in “real” money (gold or silver coin) if someone presented it for redemption at the bank’s counter — a promise that many banks failed to keep in times of panic. These slips of paper became the nation’s de facto money supply, as well as the building blocks of the country’s credit system....
Posted on: Friday, August 24, 2007 - 17:37
SOURCE: Informed Comment (Blog) (8-23-07)
PM Nuri al-Maliki responded to Senator Carl Levin's (D-Michigan) call for him to be unseated, and Bush's failure to support him on Tuesday by unwisely getting hot under the collar and saying he can find other friends in the world to support his endeavor. I predicted that Levin's unwise and inappropriate comment (in a conference call with Tel Aviv!-- Americans have no clue about Middle Eastern politics) would elicit an angry response. Levin managed to make it look as though he were ordered by the Israeli government to see al-Maliki gotten rid of because he was making economic deals with Syria (thus strengthening the latter). I underline that such an interpretation is unfounded, but that is how many in the region see it. Levin is usually sure-footed and careful on Middle East issues, including especially Iraq, so I can't understand why he wants to appoint himself secretary of state all of a sudden.
The serial episodes of unwisdom are lengthening and feeding on one another. Now Hillary Clinton has urgedthat al-Maliki be unseated.
But as Farah Stockman of the Boston Globe and Damien Cave of the NYT point out, it may not be easy for parliament to dump al-Maliki. And, Senator Clinton should be more careful about this sort of thing. Here's a scenario: al-Maliki survives and is PM in January 2009, and Hillary is inaugurated as US president. She now has to deal with him in arranging for an orderly withdrawal of US troops. She needs him, depends on his sway with Shiite militias to have them avoid harassing our troops on their way through the Shiite south to Kuwait. And he should put himself out to help her at that point. . . why?
Of course, al-Maliki's survival is a little unlikely (see above), but it is not out of the bounds of the possible and wisdom would dictate taking that possibility into account.
Presidential candidates should not box themselves in on foreign policy issues by making categorical statements of this sort. Hillary Clinton has to stop talking like a junior senator and start thinking like a president if she wants to succeed abroad.
Posted on: Friday, August 24, 2007 - 16:23
SOURCE: Informed Comment Global Affairs (Group Blog run by Juan Cole) (8-23-07)
The Supreme Court decisions continue to change the landscape of Pakistan's history and politics. Since Chief Justice Chaudhry Iftikhar's reinstatement on July 20th, 2007 [see Justice's Turn], the Supreme Court has released various political prisoners, most notably Javed Hashmi.
Today, the Supreme Court has ruled that Nawaz Sharif, the deposed Prime Minister, can return from exile to Pakistan.
Nawaz Sharif, you may recall, was the Prime Minister whose administration fell to Pervez Musharraf's military coup in 1999. Since then, he has been living in Saudi Arabia and London - forced, he says, to agree to a 10 year long exile by Musharraf's regime. A similar exile was arranged with Benazir Bhutto. The reason these leaders agreed to the exile may have to do with the myriad anti-corruption cases launched against their persons and administration by Musharraf's government [some are highly merited - and are currently active in the courts].
Benazir Bhutto has recently met with Musharraf and been in discussions to return to Pakistan as well. She gave some details of those "power-sharing" arrangements but this decision by the Supreme Court will undoubtedly complicate, if not make moot, such discussions.
Both exiled ex-PMs Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif want to be back in Pakistan by October and running for re-re-re-election in December. Hopefully.
What does it all mean? In terms of internal politics of Pakistan, this is tremendous news for the resurgent democratic movement in Pakistan. The full participation of the many political parties - including the Bhuttos and Sharifs - will guarantee that Pakistan start recovering from the despotic military regime. However, that is easier said than done. The military, under Musharraf, has become the largest land-owning, asset-controlling entity in Pakistan with ex- and current military officials serving across the civil and social landscape. How can that military be coaxed "back into the barracks"? It is quite probable that there are forces within the military eager to curtail their political vulnerabilities. The popular image of the military in Pakistani society has underwent tremendous change in recent years - from a highly valued and respected institution (the only "corruption-free" one) to a hegemonic and undesirable presence. I could argue that the military's own interests lie in withdrawing from the political realm and re-burnishing its image and standing. Of course, the defense budget remains the highest expenditure in the country and no successive civil government will change that. By and large, the military cannot lose by "giving democracy back" to the country. That was, after all, what Musharraf claimed when he took control.
In terms of oft-mentioned "Talibanization" of Pakistan and the wider conflict with extremism, the answers are less apparent at the moment. Some certainties do exist: any civil government will continue to fully cooperate with the US efforts. In fact, the efforts in Waziristan would be strengthened by the participation of Baluchistani leaders at the Federal level [Baluchistan has always been a Federal/State controversy]. The elections will not result in any rise-to-power of Mullah Omar in Islamabad. And a democratic Pakistan will surely be a far valuable ally within the Muslim world. The uncertainties largely hinge on the nature of the elections - the participation of various groups and their freedoms to do so. It will also be a chaotic period which can make Pakistan vulnerable to further attacks and incursions.
However, the bottom line is that Pakistan needs full and immediate US support through the next six months. UN should take an interest in insuring fair elections. And the subsequent government should be cultivated and nourished throughout the full term.
Posted on: Friday, August 24, 2007 - 16:15
SOURCE: Special to HNN (8-22-07)
Rudolph Giuliani invoked the specter of Staten Island in responding to Betty Schuler’s question about his experience as a former mayor of New York City now campaigning for the Republican presidential nomination in rural Iowa.
Here is a handful of census data (2005), based upon Giuliani’s response to his questioner.
|Persons per square mile*||52||7,589|
|Speak language other than English at home (age 5+)||6%||30%|
|Number of persons employed in farming, fishing, or forestry (age 16+)||59,387||57|
|Single-unit detached home||74%||34%|
* based upon calculations for 2000
** To conduct research on Staten Island in the US Census, look up Richmond County, NY.
Posted on: Wednesday, August 22, 2007 - 18:27
SOURCE: Special to HNN (8-22-07)
The hunger and poverty afflicting millions of Iraqis harm any peace efforts in the war-torn nation. In July, the charity Oxfam International released a report citing eight million Iraqis in desperate need of help.
Iraqi children, in particular, are suffering. The Oxfam report showed that 28 percent of Iraqi children are malnourished, compared to 19 percent before the 2003 invasion. It is urgent that the international community increase humanitarian aid to Iraq.
Oxfam calls for the Iraqi government to expand its food and medicine distribution network to reach more of its citizens. Currently, Baghdad serves as the central warehouse location of these supplies for the whole country. But it is local authorities that should be given the ability to quality-check and distribute these basic necessities.
Spreading warehouses across Iraq would speed distribution and allow for a safer dispersal of food and medicine. Oxfam notes the recent burning of a warehouse as proof of why these supplies need to be spread out.
Such planning is critical in a humanitarian crisis. Think back to World War II in 1945 when British and American planes air dropped desperately needed food into the German-occupied section of the Netherlands. Food shortages for the Dutch were terrible during the last year of the war. The Allies actually negotiated with the German leadership in the Netherlands to arrange additional food drops and truck deliveries via the Canadian army. These food convoys utilized supplies stockpiled in a liberated section of the country. Amid the difficulties of a world war, food was able to be pre-positioned and delivered to the starving people of the Netherlands.
Today, the Iraqi government must ensure that food and medicine reach those in need in an efficient manner. The international community must also step up and increase funding for charities operating within Iraq. UNICEF and the UN World Food Programme should also receive additional funding for their programs aimed at helping Iraqi children.
Hunger and poverty in Iraq make the daunting task of building peace all the more difficult. Humanitarian aid must play a larger role in this peace process.
Posted on: Wednesday, August 22, 2007 - 16:48
SOURCE: Salon (8-20-07)
On Fox News Sunday morning, Karl Rove played the victim. He told host Chris Wallace that in the wake of his resignation as White House deputy chief of staff, his enemies were on the hunt. Rove compared himself to a legendary monster whom the ancient Anglo-Saxon hero Beowulf sought to slay. "I mean, I'm a myth, and they're ... You know, I'm Grendel ... They're after me."
But Rove, who pursued his Democratic foes with a relentless repertoire of dirty tricks, smears and outright lies, won't win many sympathizers by depicting himself as unfairly maligned. He is likely to be remembered above all for his own expertise at demonization, specifically for his ability to paint his political opponents as unreliable partners in the "war on terror" -- as traitors to the United States. A master propagandist, he portrayed his rivals as fellow travelers with Osama bin Laden, the Taliban and Saddam Hussein. Like Cain, from whom Grendel was said to be descended, Rove was more interested in fratricide than in the welfare of his people.
While the Democrats were debating on ABC's "This Week" Sunday morning, Rove appeared on the other three political talk shows. Surprisingly, it was Wallace of "Fox News Sunday" who asked Rove to defend his rhetorical legacy. For about a fourth of his interview, Wallace pushed Rove again and again to explain his willingness to cast aspersions on the patriotism of Democrats.
First, he asked Rove about the decision of the White House to turn the "war on terror" into a campaign issue in the 2002 midterms. He cited as an example the Republican attacks on Democratic Sen. Max Cleland of Georgia as weak on national security.
Cleland, a veteran who lost an arm and both of his legs in Vietnam, faced Republican Saxby Chambliss, who had never worn a uniform. Yet Chambliss lashed out at Cleland "for breaking his oath to protect and defend the Constitution," accusing him of treason. Chambliss won the election. Many believe that Rove advised Chambliss and other Republican candidates to pursue this sort of smear campaign. Terrorism, Rove observed, is a good issue for the Republicans to take to the country.
Among Rove's techniques was to identify every stance, every word, in every piece of legislation put forward by President Bush as identical with the welfare and security of the United States, and therefore any opposition to any jot or tittle of it as inimical to the country's essential interests. That is, he inscribed the nation on the person of George W. Bush, so that opposition to the president was coded as betrayal of America.
Pressed by Wallace on Sunday to explain what made Cleland a traitor, Rove responded by attacking the former Georgia senator yet again, this time for having wanted to allow employees of the Department of Homeland Security to have a union. He did not explain why such stances made Cleland a menace to the Constitution, unless one holds that unions are unconstitutional.
Wallace followed up by asking Rove to justify the notorious June 22, 2005, speech he gave before the New York Conservative Party, in which he alleged that Democrats were soft on terror. It is worth recalling at length what Rove said on that occasion: "Conservatives saw the savagery of 9/11 and the attacks and prepared for war; liberals saw the savagery of the 9/11 attacks and wanted to prepare indictments and offer therapy and understanding for our attackers. In the wake of 9/11, conservatives believed it was time to unleash the might and power of the United States military against the Taliban; in the wake of 9/11, liberals believed it was time to ... submit a petition."
Rove's diatribe depended for its effect on a series of deft substitutions, both explicit and implied. First, he misrepresented liberals by coding MoveOn.org, the grass-roots Internet activists who did urge alternatives to a frontal assault on the Taliban, as representative of liberal opinion generally. Then, by mentioning Democratic Party figures such as Howard Dean and Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin, he implied that he was speaking about that party. Unless we assume that most Democrats are not liberals, then the attack was certainly partisan. It was also false. In polling soon after the 2001 attacks, 84 percent of self-identified liberals supported military action in response, and 80 percent of Democrats favored war against Afghanistan. Democratic members of Congress largely supported the Afghanistan war as well, with the senators voting for it unanimously....
Posted on: Tuesday, August 21, 2007 - 18:43