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: Informed Comment (Blog run by Juan Cole) (4-20-08)
I am quoted in this NYT piece today on John McCain's allegations that the US is fighting"al-Qaeda" in Iraq and that there is a danger of"al-Qaeda" taking over the country if the US leaves.
Those allegations don't make any sense. McCain contradicts himself because he sometimes warns that the Shiites or Iran will take over Iraq. He doesn't seem to realize that the US presided over the ascension to power in Iraq of pro-Iranian Shiite parties like Nuri al-Maliki's Islamic Mission Party and Abdul Aziz al-Hakim's Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq. So which is it? There is a danger that pro-Iranian Shiites will take over (which is anyway what we have engineered) or that al-Qaeda will? It is not as if they can coexist. Since the Shiites are 60 percent and by now well armed and trained, how could the 1 percent of the 17 percent of the country that is Sunni Arab and maybe supports Salafi radicalism hope to take over?
Even if McCain only means, as his campaign manager tried to suggest, that"al-Qaeda" could take over the Sunni Arab areas of Iraq, that doesn't make any sense either (McCain has actually alleged that al-Qaeda would take over the whole country.) The Salafi radicals have lost in al-Anbar Province. Diyala Province, one of the other three predominantly Sunni areas, is ruled by pro-Iranian Shiites. That leaves Salahuddin and Ninevah Provinces. Among the major military forces in Ninevah is the Kurdish Peshmerga, some of them integrated e.g. into the Mosul police force. Hint: The Kurds don't like"al-Qaeda", i.e. Salafi radicalism. Jalal Talabani is a socialist.
So the Shiites and the Kurds among the Iraqis, now more powerful than the Sunni Arabs, would never allow a radical Salafi mini-state in their midst. They would crush them. And substantial segments of the Iraqi Sunni population have already helped crush them.
Moreover, Shiite Iran, secular Turkey, Baathist Syria and monarchical Jordan would never put up with a Salafi radical mini-state on their borders. They would crush it. Jordan's secret police already appear to have played a role in killing Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the Jordanian terrorist who had his own"Monotheism and Holy War" organization that for PR purposes he at one point rechristened"al-Qaeda in Mesopotamia" (he actually never got along with Bin Laden and al-Zawahiri).
McCain's whole discourse on Iraq is just a typical rightwing Washington fantasy made up in order to get you to spend $15 billion a month on his friends in the military industrial complex and to get you to allow him to gut the US constitution and the Bill of Rights. ...
At the moment no guerrilla group in Iraq even calls itself al-Qaeda. Zarqawi's organization appears to have collapsed in Ramadi with his death, which is a part of the story of the rise of pro-American 'awakening councils' there that no one mentions.
Here are the Open Source Center headlines about Sunni guerrilla activities in Iraq. These are found and translated by US intelligence:
' Ansar Al-Islam Claims Attack on Oil Tanker in Iraq
Al-Rashidin Army Claims 16 Apr Attack on US Hummer . . . ["The statement was attributed to Abu-al-Abbas Isa Bakr al-Iraqi, the Media Bureau, the Al-Rashidin Army, the Jihad and Change Front."]
Iraqi Armed Revolution Comments on Government Clashes with Al-Mahdi Army . . . [says"both sides want to seize power"]
Shield of Islam Brigade Claims Attack on Iraqi Forces in Baghdad
1920 Revolution Brigades Claims Attack on US Stryker Vehicle
Sa'd Bin-Abu-Waqqas Brigades Claim 3 Attacks on US, 'Enemy' Forces '
Note that the 1920 Revolution Brigades fights against the Islamic State of Iraq and some of its cells have joined US-backed Awakening Councils. None of these communiques mentions anything about"al-Qaeda" or Usama Bin Laden. Aside from the 'Islamic State in Iraq,' which seems to be a front for a small group of foreign fighters who have some local support in Diyala province, they are just Iraqi Sunnis, folks. A lot of them were in the Baath army six years ago. Opinion polling shows that a majority of Iraqi Sunnis says that a separation of religion and state is desirable, which is what you would expect from a population ruled by the secular Arab nationalist Baath Party for 25 years. The US has 24,000 or so Iraqis in custody but less than 150 foreign fighters. Doesn't that tell you something?
McCain can't come out and say we need to crush the Armed Iraqi Revolution, because that would be an admission that the US has been fighting Iraqis for 5 years and still hasn't defeated them. So he and the Republican strategists and the retired generals and their Pentagon handlers make up this"al-Qaeda" business, as though people in Baquba would be gunning for Americans if Americans hadn't invaded their country and turned it upside down.
It is the US military occupation of Iraq that is producing"al-Qaeda" wannabes, and if it is ended the Iraqis and their neighbors will polish those off tout de suite. Keep the military occupation going, as McCain desires, and you are running an incubator for terrorism against the US and its allies that has already produced hits on Madrid and the London Underground.
In other words, elect McCain, my friends, and you are summoning the awful genie of another 9/11. I said it. I mean it. I'm not taking it back. That man's announced policies could well produce a blowback that will lead to the end of democracy in the United States. It is a momentous decision.
Posted on: Sunday, April 20, 2008 - 16:59
SOURCE: RealClearPolitics.com (4-17-08)
It is only four months into 2008, but the presidential campaign -- already too long and nasty -- is still a long way from over. And the casualties are mounting.
First, George Bush's popularity remains dismal -- even though some of the complaints about his first term have gone by the wayside. The French and German governments are now staunchly pro-American. Violence in Iraq is still way down from a year ago. America has been free from a terrorist attack since 9/11.
No matter. Nothing has seemed to help the president. His approval rating stays at, or sinks below, 30 percent.
Why? The current gloomy economic news and the continuing human and financial costs of Afghanistan and Iraq explain a lot. But another reason is this present election cycle. For the first time in nearly six decades, no incumbent president or vice president is daily hammering back in defense of the recent four years.
We expect Democratic opponents Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton to trash an incumbent Republican president. But Republican nominee John McCain seldom endorses anything about the two Bush terms.
Again, the last time America witnessed anything similar was when Harry Truman left office with a 22 percent approval rating -- under furious attack by Republican candidate Dwight Eisenhower and yet shunned by his own party's nominee, the maverick Adlai Stevenson, who had not been part of the Truman administration.
If the current president hasn't been helped by the present campaign, look what's it's done to his predecessor. The Clinton legacy is wrecked. Left-wing bloggers, liberal columnists and some Democratic politicians now despise Bill and Hillary Clinton -- even more than did "the vast right-wing conspiracy" of the 1990s.
A furious Hillary keeps charging the media with the same sort of bias that the Republicans used to routinely claim always favored her husband. Apparently the left has become infatuated with Barack Obama and does not want another eight years of the once-iconic Clintons -- especially after their use of the race card, the hardball politics and Hillary's chronic exaggeration and misstatements....
Posted on: Thursday, April 17, 2008 - 16:34
SOURCE: Jerusalem Post (4-17-08)
There's an impression that Muslims suffer disproportionately from the rule of dictators, tyrants, unelected presidents, kings, emirs, and various other strongmen – and it's accurate. A careful analysis by Frederic L. Pryor of Swarthmore College in the Middle East Quarterly ("Are Muslim Countries Less Democratic?") concludes that"In all but the poorest countries, Islam is associated with fewer political rights."
The fact that majority-Muslim countries are less democratic makes it tempting to conclude that the religion of Islam, their common factor, is itself incompatible with democracy.
I disagree with that conclusion. Today's Muslim predicament, rather, reflects historical circumstances more than innate features of Islam. Put differently, Islam, like all pre-modern religions is undemocratic in spirit. No less than the others, however, it has the potential to evolve in a democratic direction.
Marsiglio of Padua
To render Islam consistent with democratic ways will require profound changes in its interpretation. For example, the anti-democratic law of Islam, the Shari‘a, lies at the core of the problem. Developed over a millennium ago, it presumes autocratic rulers and submissive subjects, emphasizes God's will over popular sovereignty, and encourages violent jihad to expand Islam's borders. Further, it anti-democratically privileges Muslims over non-Muslims, males over females, and free persons over slaves.
Mahmud Muhammad Taha
Atatürk's efforts and Taha's ideas imply that Islam is ever-evolving, and that to see it as unchanging is a grave mistake. Or, in the lively metaphor of Hassan Hanafi, professor of philosophy at the University of Cairo, the Koran"is a supermarket, where one takes what one wants and leaves what one doesn't want."
Islam's problem is less its being anti-modern than that its process of modernization has hardly begun. Muslims can modernize their religion, but that requires major changes: Out go waging jihad to impose Muslim rule, second-class citizenship for non-Muslims, and death sentences for blasphemy or apostasy. In come individual freedoms, civil rights, political participation, popular sovereignty, equality before the law, and representative elections.
Two obstacles stand in the way of these changes, however. In the Middle East especially, tribal affiliations remain of paramount importance. As explained by Philip Carl Salzman in his recent book, Culture and Conflict in the Middle East, these ties create a complex pattern of tribal autonomy and tyrannical centralism that obstructs the development of constitutionalism, the rule of law, citizenship, gender equality, and the other prerequisites of a democratic state. Not until this archaic social system based on the family is dispatched can democracy make real headway in the Middle East.
Globally, the compelling and powerful Islamist movement obstructs democracy. It seeks the opposite of reform and modernization – namely, the reassertion of the Shari‘a in its entirety. A jihadist like Osama bin Laden may spell out this goal more explicitly than an establishment politician like Turkey's Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, but both seek to create a thoroughly anti-democratic, if not totalitarian, order.
Islamists respond two ways to democracy. First, they denounce it as un-Islamic. Muslim Brotherhood founder Hasan al-Banna considered democracy a betrayal of Islamic values. Brotherhood theoretician Sayyid Qutb rejected popular sovereignty, as did Abu al-A‘la al-Mawdudi, founder of Pakistan's Jamaat-e-Islami political party. Yusuf al-Qaradawi, Al-Jazeera television's imam, argues that elections are heretical.
Despite this scorn, Islamists are eager to use elections to attain power, and have proven themselves to be agile vote-getters; even a terrorist organization (Hamas) has won an election. This record does not render the Islamists democratic but indicates their tactical flexibility and their determination to gain power. As Erdoğan has revealingly explained,"Democracy is like a streetcar. When you come to your stop, you get off."
Hard work can one day make Islam democratic. In the meanwhile, Islamism represents the world's leading anti-democratic force.
Posted on: Thursday, April 17, 2008 - 13:08
SOURCE: TomDispatch.com (4-15-08)
... Throughout history, major shifts in power have normally been accompanied by violence -- in some cases, protracted violent upheavals. Either states at the pinnacle of power have struggled to prevent the loss of their privileged status, or challengers have fought to topple those at the top of the heap. Will that happen now? Will energy-deficit states launch campaigns to wrest the oil and gas reserves of surplus states from their control -- the Bush administration's war in Iraq might already be thought of as one such attempt -- or to eliminate competitors among their deficit-state rivals?
The high costs and risks of modern warfare are well known and there is a widespread perception that energy problems can best be solved through economic means, not military ones. Nevertheless, the major powers are employing military means in their efforts to gain advantage in the global struggle for energy, and no one should be deluded on the subject. These endeavors could easily enough lead to unintended escalation and conflict.
One conspicuous use of military means in the pursuit of energy is obviously the regular transfer of arms and military-support services by the major energy-importing states to their principal suppliers. Both the United States and China, for example, have stepped up their deliveries of arms and equipment to oil-producing states like Angola, Nigeria, and Sudan in Africa and, in the Caspian Sea basin, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, and Kyrgyzstan. The United States has placed particular emphasis on suppressing the armed insurgency in the vital Niger Delta region of Nigeria, where most of the country's oil is produced; Beijing has emphasized arms aid to Sudan, where Chinese-led oil operations are threatened by insurgencies in both the South and Darfur.
Russia is also using arms transfers as an instrument in its efforts to gain influence in the major oil- and gas-producing regions of the Caspian Sea basin and the Persian Gulf. Its urge is not to procure energy for its own use, but to dominate the flow of energy to others. In particular, Moscow seeks a monopoly on the transportation of Central Asian gas to Europe via Gazprom's vast pipeline network; it also wants to tap into Iran's mammoth gas fields, further cementing Russia's control over the trade in natural gas.
The danger, of course, is that such endeavors, multiplied over time, will provoke regional arms races, exacerbate regional tensions, and increase the danger of great-power involvement in any local conflicts that erupt. History has all too many examples of such miscalculations leading to wars that spiral out of control. Think of the years leading up to World War I. In fact, Central Asia and the Caspian today, with their multiple ethnic disorders and great-power rivalries, bear more than a glancing resemblance to the Balkans in the years leading up to 1914.
What this adds up to is simple and sobering: the end of the world as you've known it. In the new, energy-centric world we have all now entered, the price of oil will dominate our lives and power will reside in the hands of those who control its global distribution.
In this new world order, energy will govern our lives in new ways and on a daily basis. It will determine when, and for what purposes, we use our cars; how high (or low) we turn our thermostats; when, where, or even if, we travel; increasingly, what foods we eat (given that the price of producing and distributing many meats and vegetables is profoundly affected by the cost of oil or the allure of growing corn for ethanol); for some of us, where to live; for others, what businesses we engage in; for all of us, when and under what circumstances we go to war or avoid foreign entanglements that could end in war.
This leads to a final observation: The most pressing decision facing the next president and Congress may be how best to accelerate the transition from a fossil-fuel-based energy system to a system based on climate-friendly energy alternatives.
Posted on: Wednesday, April 16, 2008 - 19:54
SOURCE: Middle East Strategy at Harvard (MESH blog) (4-10-08)
Who speaks for Islam? This question forms the title of a new book authored by John L. Esposito, director of the Alwaleed Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding at Georgetown University, and Dalia Mogahed, executive director of the Gallup Center for Muslim Studies. The book is meant to answer it. According to the authors, their aim is to settle important disputes regarding the attitudes and opinions of contemporary Muslims on a range of pressing questions.
Of course, the most important dispute is whether terrorists, like Al Qaeda and other radicals, speak for contemporary Muslims and for Islam itself. According to the authors, understanding this issue—”understanding extremists and the nature of extremism”—”requires a global perspective that extends beyond conflicting opinions of experts or anecdotes from the ‘Arab street.’” We need to go beyond dueling op-eds and books, and ground our opinions in hard facts by finding out “What do Muslims polled across the world have to say? How many Muslims hold extremist views? What are their hope and fears? What are their priorities? What do they admire, and what do they resent?” In the service of the right approach, the authors invoke no less an authority than Albert Einstein: “A man should look for what is, and not what he thinks should be.” In accord with this motto and the highest scientific standards, “the data should lead the discourse.”
Happily, according to the authors, we can now heed Einstein’s advice, through the good offices of the Gallup Organization. The book’s cover proudly proclaims that it is “Based on Gallup’s World Poll—the largest study of its kind,” and presents itself as an account of that poll.
So who does speak for Islam? Apparently, Esposito and Mogahed do. For the book does not actually present the poll. It provides a very small and partial account of the responses to some questions, but fails to include even one table or chart of data. It does not even provide a clear list of the questions that were asked. The appendix, where one might expect to find questionnaires, charts, and tables, provides only a short narrative discussion of Gallup’s sampling techniques and general mode of operation.
To a certain degree, the authors admit the bias of their presentation: “The study revealed far more than what we could possibly cover in one book, so we chose the most significant, and at times, surprising conclusions to share with you. Here are just some of those counterintuitive discoveries.” But this admission is ridiculously inadequate. After all, this is a book, not an article. In the end, the authors betray their own standard that “data should lead the discourse,” because there is no data. A reader without deep pockets cannot easily remedy this deficiency: the Gallup Organization charges $28,500 to access the data.
If not data, then what fills the pages of this book? In effect, we are given an opinion piece by Esposito and Mogahed—one not unlike the op-eds they decry, only much longer. Like op-eds, it is buttressed by anecdotal evidence, much of which is not even drawn from the survey. Indeed, given the partiality of the material they do draw from the survey, it too must be counted as anecdotal, notwithstanding the percentage signs which are scattered here and there. Moreover, the conclusions that Esposito and Mogahed draw, as well as their policy prescriptions, are indistinguishable from Esposito’s opinions, as expressed and disseminated in his books and articles long before Gallup polled its first Muslim. As in almost every Esposito product, the book even includes a chapter devoted to a description of the religion of Islam.
But to accept this book as an extended op-ed is not quite adequate. After all, Esposito claimed to apply a higher standard—that of “a man [who] should look for what is, and not what he thinks should be.” Seen in this light, the book is a confidence game or fraud, of which Esposito should be ashamed. So too should the Gallup Organization, its publisher.
The defective character of the book makes it exceptionally risky to address any of its specific “findings” and the policy prescriptions derived from them. This is partially because the authors either misunderstand or misrepresent their “data”—or both. But overall, according to this book, Muslims turn out to be pretty much like Americans. There is no “clash of civilizations” and no need for one. Muslims are not even essentially anti-American. In fact, they admire America for its democracy, technology and prosperity, and would like to have these benefits for themselves—benefits denied to them by the authoritarian governments under which they presently suffer. They are particularly keen on freedom of speech and other features of democratic life, including gender equality. The only issue is how they might best succeed in achieving democratic governance, and how America might assist that. The real cause of Muslim resentment against us is not our principles but our policies, which impede their progress and persuade them that we view them with contempt. Democracy and respect (”R.E.S.P.E.C.T.”) are all they want.
Well, not quite. There are some wrinkles that reveal a certain confusion on the part of Muslims which may even rise to the level of self-contradictions. The authors do not regard these as major issues, perhaps because they are confused themselves.
For example, while Muslims say they are for democracy, they are repulsed by its apparent corollary in America: the corruption of personal and especially sexual morals. But no matter. The authors observe that many Americans object to such moral corruption themselves. The authors likewise lament the “well-meaning” but misguided and high-handed approach of American feminists to the status of Muslim women. (One cannot help wondering whether Esposito would lend himself to a movement for the reform of morals, and especially the restoration of “female modesty,” on Georgetown’s campus.)
It thus turns out that Muslims apparently want a different kind of “democracy,” one which avoids moral and other kinds of risks. For example, although they would like freedom of speech, they would not like it to be unlimited, such that it might permit speech offensive to religious sensibilities. In other words, blasphemy laws should limit it.
As for other “freedoms,” the authors provide no information. In particular, we do not know whether Muslims accept “freedom of religion.” This is a most peculiar omission since it is essential to a clear understanding of contemporary Muslim views of democracy.
But perhaps all of this is to be understood in light of the finding that Muslims—women as well as men—want to ground their “democracy” partly or entirely in Sharia or Islamic law. The authors hasten to assure the readers that this does not mean that “Muslim democracy” would actually be a “theocracy,” since their respondents largely reject the prospective rule of Muslim jurists.
But this leaves the matter totally confused. If Sharia is to be the partial or entire base of future “democratic” governments, who is constituted to decide what Sharia prescribes, other than the jurists to whom its interpretation has always been and is still entrusted? We are left totally in doubt as to whether the poll asked this kind of question. We are also left in doubt about a whole set of issues, including and especially whether or not “Muslim democracy” would permit religious freedom of the sort characteristic of American and other liberal democracies. Would the status of non-Muslims—especially Christians—be governed by traditional Sharia prescriptions for non-Muslim or dhimmi minorities, which involve various legal disabilities and inequities? Or would they be fully equal? Would non-Muslims be permitted to run for and hold public office?
We just can’t know from what the authors choose tell us. But we and they do know how Americans understand and practice democracy. We also know that despite discontent with this or that consequence of democracy—including moral decay—Americans have been ready to run those risks rather than alter their fundamental principles. To suggest, then, that it is only our policies and not our principles which leads to a divide with the Muslim world is entirely wrong and extremely misleading. The authors’ dubious understanding of the issues, and especially the problem of “conflicts between the West and the Muslim world,” is summed up laughably in the book’s last paragraph. There we are told that 90 percent of Lebanese Christians and Muslims have a high regard for one another despite the long history of civil war. Perhaps this is so, but if Lebanon is a model of comity and harmony, it has escaped everyone’s notice except the authors.
And what about our policies? According to the authors, Muslims would like us to be supportive of their democratic efforts. Yet they also would like us not to interfere. This too presents a kind of confusion: they want to have their cake and eat it too. Well, who doesn’t? The interference is a consequence, not a cause. To suggest, as the authors constantly do, that the main problem Muslims face stem from outside does no service to Muslims or the truth. The book encourages Muslims and non-Muslims to avoid dealing with “what is,” and so ends up as a prime example of precisely that which its authors decry.
Posted on: Wednesday, April 16, 2008 - 19:45
SOURCE: Huffington Post (Blog) (4-15-08)
On Sunday, Pope Benedict XVI asked the crowd gathered in St. Peter's Square to pray that his first visit to the United States as pontiff this week would "be a time of spiritual renewal for all Americans." Surely spiritual renewal would be beneficial to all of us -- not least the pope and his Church.
Benedict's visit is an appropriate time for American Catholics to call upon him to recognize that spiritual renewal, like charity, begins at home. The pope must take action to revive a Church in desperate need of revolutionary renewal by pushing significant reform in the area of its largest failings: policies concerning women and sex. Faced in recent years with what may be its greatest crisis since the abuses of the Renaissance papacy five hundred years ago stimulated the Protestant Reformation, the Church has to seize the opportunity to reverse two thousand years of misguided views on women.
This pope's history offers little hope that he will do so. He was, as Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, the principal author of the Vatican's 2004 letter to bishops, "On the Collaboration of Men and Women in the Church and in the World." In that document the Church once more chose to blame the victim rather than to examine its own major role in the problem.
Modern feminism is the trouble, the old men who cling to power in Rome contend. "Faced with the abuse of power," the Vatican letter complained of feminism, "the answer for women is to seek power." Well, yes. And if the men of the Church--and men more generally--had not been abusing power for thousands of years, there would be no need for women to seek ways to redress the balance.
Perhaps even more disturbing is the homily Cardinal Ratzinger gave on the day before the convening of the conclave that selected him as pope. He denounced a "dictatorship of relativism" that, he contended, threatens to undermine the fundamental teachings of Christianity. What Benedict XVI and other anti-progressive Catholics fail to realize is that the current teachings of the Church on a host of interrelated issues -- women priests, clerical celibacy, birth control, abortion, homosexuality, and, most basic of all, the sex of God -- are themselves the result of the Church at various times in the past having been, in Ratzinger's words the day before he became pope, "tossed and swept along by every wind of teaching" to conform to the practices and prejudices of societies now long gone.
What Pope Benedict XVI should, but almost certainly will not, do is call a council of the Church to address these intertwined issues and to recognize that the Church's positions on them are not based on the teachings of Jesus. The Church established from the time of St. Paul onward was set up as a No-Woman's Land. The general views on the inferiority of women come from Paul's interpretation of the literally incredible story of the creation of Eve from Adam, a story that men had made up to overcome their feelings of inferiority because of women's capacity to give birth. The ban on women priests also emanates from Paul's reliance on Genesis and from the Early Church Fathers' rejection of the role of women around Jesus and particularly the centrality of Mary Magdalene as one equal to St. Peter.
Priestly celibacy was not established as a requirement until the Middle Ages and was based on the belief that women are unclean because they menstruate (another indication of the envy of female capacities that is the root of all the restrictions men place on women). When Thomas Aquinas declared in the thirteenth century that "woman is defective and misbegotten," he was echoing Paul, Genesis, and Aristotle -- not Jesus.
The Church's opposition to birth control and to abortion even early in pregnancy is largely an outgrowth of its all-male composition and those males' attempts to degrade women's physical powers by asserting that women and the intercourse into which they putatively tempt men are necessary evils ("It is well for a man not to touch a woman," Paul instructed the Christians of Corinth), the only purpose of which is procreation. The condemnation of homosexuals is based entirely on Old Testament rules established by men who feared anything that placed in question their insistence on the polarity of the sexes.
The idea that God is solely male is the work of the Church Fathers who chose which gospel accounts to include in the official New Testament and excluded all the Gnostic Gospels that contain references to an androgynous God, and of the bishops who met at Constantinople in 381 and modified the Creed to say that the Holy Spirit is male. The idea that a Creator could be of only one sex is absurd on its face. Yet this nonsensical belief, which actually diminishes God, has been one of the main bases for the subordination of women and values associated with them -- precisely the values taught by Jesus -- throughout the history of the Church.
The bottom line is that none of the Church's positions on women and sex come from the teachings of Jesus. All of them are the products of the very relativism that the current pope decries. The relativism of an earlier day has become the dogma of today.
A popular hymn asserts that the Church's one foundation is Jesus Christ. The truth, however, is that since the early centuries of the religion that took up the name of Christianity, the Church's one foundation has been male insecurity and its consequent subordination of women. Peter may have been the rock upon which Jesus sought to build his Church, but the rock upon which those who built Christianity in the early centuries after Jesus was the misogyny of their societies. Benedict XVI needs to lead the Church in a true revolution: a circling back to the actual teachings of Jesus and away from the perversions of those teachings by the early Church Fathers and their successors.
During the second week of his papacy in 1978, John Paul I sensibly declared that God "is a Mother as well as a Father." Eighteen days later John Paul I was dead, only 33 days after his election. Despite that unfortunate example and his own stance against desperately needed reform, Benedict XVI owes it to Catholics to take the bold steps needed to break the hold on the Church of earlier flings with relativism and to bring the institution he heads into line both with the needs of the modern world and with the teachings of Jesus.
Posted on: Wednesday, April 16, 2008 - 14:49
SOURCE: TruthDig.com (4-15-08)
It was inevitable for Barack Obama to beat a retreat from his recent remarks about his difficulty in reaching Pennsylvania’s working-class voters. The railroad, coal and steel jobs that once fueled the Pennsylvania economy have declined dramatically for several decades. Obama noted that the frustrations and anger of working-class families determined and dominated their voting beliefs. “It’s not surprising, then,” he said, “they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren’t like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations.”
Our intrepid media, always anxious to find mountains where molehills exist, declared a state of war, signaling Hillary Clinton to do her thing. The cable networks, particularly MSNBC, which barring a weather calamity or a missing child, seems to report politics to the exclusion of everything else, were in battle mode, anxious for what some called a “full-blown political disaster.” And they certainly tried for one. Clinton predictably blasted Obama, saying she was “taken aback” by his “demeaning remarks,” which, she told Indianapolis plant workers, were “elitist and out of touch.” This from Wellesley’s and the Yale Law School’s finest. With a $100 million-plus income.
And so the Obama retreat: “If I worded things in a way that made people offended, I deeply regret that,” Obama said in an interview later as the story flamed, threatening to ignite our cable lines. “I didn’t say it as well as I should have,” the senator remarked. At first, it had appeared he would not back off. That same morning he told a Muncie, Ind., town hall meeting his remarks could have been better phrased, but he maintained they were what “everybody knows is true.” He amplified his earlier remarks, saying that “what is absolutely true is that people don’t feel like they are being listened to.” Still, he succumbed and we received his sort-of-apology.
Clinton eagerly grasped another straw in the battle for the superdelegates she hoped would rescue her candidacy. No more sniper fire for her as she sent up a fusillade: “People don’t need a president who looks down on them,” she said. “They need a president who stands up for them.” Now, perhaps she had gained some control over her campaign. When Bill Clinton was asked that day at a rally in North Carolina about Obama’s remarks, the former president passively (or passively aggressively?) replied, “I agree with what Hillary said.” We shouldn’t parse that too much.
The sound and fury of course signifies nothing—other than the media’s innate desire to create a story and demean the political discourse they supposedly are to report. Within the confines of a private exchange between the two, Obama’s remarks undoubtedly would have had Clinton head-nodding in agreement. Obama offered a clever—but hardly original—insight into the psychology of folks depressed for decades or forced to live on the margin. The only story in this affair is one the media concocted, their self-fulfilling “full-blown political disaster,” and one neatly made to order for Clinton. Thus another media happening, created and nurtured by a media anxious for bigger coverage, even when it amounts to peanuts.
The media are the self-appointed arbiters of our political discourse. By their rules, candor is wholly unwelcome. They cannot or will not abide complexity. And thus, the sound bite is the story.
No media account provided any discussion whatsoever to weigh the possibility of a more thoughtful consideration of Obama’s remarks. Could he have had a useful insight? None of our talking heads, our “strategists” and “pundits,” probed Obama’s meaning, his motivation—or, heaven forbid, the possibility he might have been right. Instead, the media cavalierly dismissed his remarks as offensive and demeaning—and worst of all, tarred them with the brush of elitism. Obama provided cannon fodder to sustain the media’s reason for their self-defined existence. They believe their mission is to find drama, conflict and controversy—but hey!—what about understanding?
By the new week, MSNBC was talking about “journalistic standards” and Dr. Phil. And then Obama characterized Clinton as “Annie Oakley,” following her revelation (what did we know all these years?) that she learned to shoot a gun as a child. Where will that go? Somewhere, you can be sure. In the meantime, why aren’t we discussing the administration’s torture policy—or its proposed status-of-forces agreement with Iraq? Or are such stories too complex? The media are killing us.
Posted on: Tuesday, April 15, 2008 - 16:19
SOURCE: Politico.com (4-14-08)
The only thing that makes the brutal presidential nomination battle between Barack Obama and Hillary Rodham Clinton tolerable for most Democrats is the hope for a big payoff in November: united government, which would occur if the eventual party nominee wins the general election and, as seems likely, House and Senate Democrats retain and expand their majorities.
But Democrats should not expect too much if everything works out in the election. United government is not what it used to be when, in the 1930s and 1960s, Democrats used their control of the White House and Congress to pass through historic New Deal and Great Society legislation.
The differences were evident by the 1990s. In 1993 and 1994, President Bill Clinton and the Democratic Congress certainly enjoyed a key victory when they passed a deficit reduction bill that raised taxes, without any Republican support. The passage of the North American Free Trade Agreement was more of a mixed bag, given that numerous Democrats opposed the measure because they feared its negative impact on workers.
Overall, though, Democratic victories were limited. The most important item on President Clinton’s agenda was a national health care program. Clinton campaigned on the issue, and Democrats promised to deliver this benefit to more than 40 million uninsured Americans. Republicans opposed Clinton’s legislation as another example of Big Government liberalism. They used the power of the congressional minority — allying with influential groups in the health industry — to stop passage of the bill. Making matters worse, Republicans capitalized on the defeat to retake control of Congress.
Republicans were more successful after 2002, backing a second Bush tax cut in 2003 and many other administration proposals. Yet united government, as well as a historic and devastating terrorist attack, did not give a two-term Republican president and Republican Congress a free hand. Democrats prevented progress on most Republican efforts to cut the size of government. Social Security remained intact, Medicare grew to include an expensive prescription drug benefit and federal spending skyrocketed. Ironically, the biggest changes that Bush made to domestic policies in this period involved expansions of government — with health care and homeland defense — rather than contractions.
Republicans were even constrained with the war on terrorism. While the war in Iraq constituted a major foreign intervention, Republicans did not fulfill the militaristic Bush Doctrine elsewhere in the world.
Rogue nations such as North Korea flouted nuclear arms agreements. The administration relied more frequently on diplomacy than on war in the second term. The war in Afghanistan withered as the notorious Taliban regrouped. In Iraq, the president did not possess unlimited manpower for postwar reconstruction and, by 2005, faced a restive Congress that undermined his public standing. Domestic security programs came under fire, as well; the administration backed down from a deal for providing port security, and it was forced to start reconfiguring several programs.
So what’s the problem? For one thing, decision making gradually moved from committee chairmen to congressional leaders. Voters changed, as well. As Southerners became Republican and the Northeastern liberal Republicans vanished, fewer centrists were elected in either party who could cut bipartisan deals. Gerrymandered districts meant that House members would focus on ideologically rigid party activists who tended to come out in the primaries. ...
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Posted on: Tuesday, April 15, 2008 - 16:15
SOURCE: TheCuttingEdgeNews.com (4-14-08)
Refael Bigio in Montreal remembers the moment that the regime of Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser seized his family’s property. He was driving to the factory with his father that traumatic August day in 1962. Police cordons surrounded the buildings at 14 Aswan Street in the Cairo suburb of Heliopolis. As Bigio and his father nervously stepped up the stairs, a policeman barked that the government had nationalized the business. "Give me the keys," he demanded. Once inside the offices, policemen and soldiers demanded the keys to the vault as well.
The nightmare of dispossession suffered by approximately one million Jews throughout the Arab world had finally descended upon the Bigio family. Brutal jailings and intimidation against Bigio family members culminated in a forced penniless exodus from the nation. The Bigios, along with a million other Jews across the Arab world, were expelled with just a few dollars in their pockets. The family fled to Canada. But the Bigios never forgot the life they knew in Egypt—or their assets.
The Bigio assemblage of warehouses and manufacturing buildings sprawled across 10,000 square meters in the midst of bustling Heliopolis traces its main commercial life to the 1930s when Bigio’s grandfather first bought the land and built a shoe polish plant. Eventually, the family business added a tin container operation to hold the shoe polish, and from that expanded into general tin plating. Eventually they produced tin bottle caps for soda. In 1942, at the height of World War II, a Coca-Cola licensed bottler became the family’s tenant, bottling the world-famous cola. Later the fruity drink called Fanta that Coca-Cola originally developed for the Nazi military was added.
In the fifties, the Coca-Cola licensed bottler in Egypt expanded greatly, the plant was moved to a nearby location, and in 1959 Coca-Cola in Atlanta signed a major license agreement with the Bigios to produce the bottle caps.
In the early sixties, using the Nazi Aryanization model that seized Jewish businesses and then either used them for state purposes or sold them to others, the Nasser regime ordered middle-class Egyptian Jews pauperized and expelled from Egypt. The Bigios’s land was seized, and their various cola bottling and manufacturing supply companies were nationalized and merged into a single, larger enterprise called the El Nasr Bottling Company or ENBC. Unbeknownst to the Bigios, the land itself was sold off to the Egyptian national insurance company, Misr.
After the late Egyptian president Anwar Sadat visited Jerusalem and signed a White House peace treaty, the beginnings of Jewish restitution appeared in Egypt. The Bigios went back to Cairo and sought to recover their property and factories. The government in 1979 invalidated the earlier confiscation. The Egyptian Ministry of Finance issued Decision Number 335, declaring the land rightfully belonged to the Bigios. The government even returned the money Misr Insurance had originally paid for the illegally seized Bigio property.
But Misr refused to comply, unwilling to give up the constantly appreciating land now purportedly valued at many millions based on its central location in fast-growing Heliopolis.
In the early nineties, Egypt embarked upon a sweeping privatization program, selling off nationalized properties, including those seized from innocent Jews in prior decades. This massive privatization program included not only such public sector entities as the banks and utilities, but also some 400 private enterprises. Together the privatized businesses reportedly accounted for almost 70 percent of the nation’s industrial output. In 1994, pursuant to Public Business Sector Law 203, nearly 50 private businesses were sold, according to a 1995 USAID study. The American Chamber of Commerce in Egypt was active in the government’s decision-making, lobbying on behalf of U.S. companies colliding at the door to scoop up businesses. These included the two major soda companies.
New York Pepsico bought the Egyptian bottler of Pepsi-Cola.
To the Bigios’s astonishment, Atlanta-based Coca-Cola, their former business tenant and customer, purchased Coke bottler ENBC for a reported $142 million. The Atlanta conglomerate acted through a Coke subsidiary and in concert with a partner called MAC Investments, according to documents related to the sale. Amid much fanfare, ENBC was renamed The Coca-Cola Bottling Company of Egypt (TCCBCE).
Unmentioned in the glitter and gee-whiz surrounding the acquisition was that the company Coca-Cola purchased from the Egyptian government and renamed TCCBCE included the illegally seized and never returned businesses of the Bigio family.
Coca-Cola was thrilled with its major multimillion dollar business accomplishment. In a 1994 declaration to shareholders shortly after acquisition, the company stated, "The Company is committed to continuing to strengthen its existing strong bottler system. Over the last decade, bottling investments have represented a significant portion of the Company's capital investments. … When considered appropriate, the Company makes equity investments in bottling companies. Through these investments, the Company is able to help focus and improve sales and marketing programs, assist in the development of effective business and information systems and help establish capital structures... For example," the notification continued, "the joint venture known as the Coca-Cola Bottling Companies of Egypt was formed in the second quarter of 1994 following the privatization of the Egyptian bottler, which was previously government-owned."
Coke’s predilection for success came to pass, judging from internal Coca-Cola information and vendor materials and videos obtained by this reporter. TCCBCE now derives an estimated $100-$500 million in annual revenue selling an estimated 150 million cases of soda and related products each year. The operation involves nine bottling plants and approximately 29 sales and distribution centers throughout Egypt. Employing approximately 7000-8000 Egyptians, TCCBCE has become one of that country’s leading employers. Growth became so explosive, TCCBCE needed to install some 700 network computer workstations to handle inventory and customer transactions, monitored by a single state-of-the-art console. A major data center is situated in Cairo, with an emergency back-up facility located 50 kilometers away. Volume escalated so much that the company’s call center was outsourced. Production became so enormous that TCCBCE had to hire an international environmental consultant to develop a multi-phase process for handling emissions, discharges, pollutants and hazards.
So successful was Coca-Cola’s Egyptian enterprise, in 2002, Secretary of State Colin Powell with Ambassador to Egypt David Welch awarded the company the State Department’s "Award for Corporate Excellence" in a special ceremony led by Powell himself. The award cited and hailed Coca-Cola’s stellar accomplishments arising from the 1994 privatization of ENBC.
Bigio, seeing a gigantic multimillion dollar business achievement that incorporated his businesses and involved his land, contacted Coca-Cola in Atlanta early on. Explaining that he was the rightful owner of the land and factories that were seized in the 1960s to create ENBC, he asked for back rent and compensation. Coca-Cola, the record reflects, would not acknowledge his claims. Bigio took Coca-Cola to court under a variety of legal theories including trespass, unjust enrichment and liability under the Alien Tort Claims Act, which has been successfully used in foreign terrorism cases.
Bigio retained Washington DC superlawyer Nathan Lewin. Lewin, often called "defender of the tribe," has represented such high profile clients as President Richard Nixon, Attorney General Ed Meese and actress Jodie Foster. Having argued some 27 cases before the U.S. Supreme Court, Lewin has taught law at Harvard, University of Chicago, Georgetown, Columbia and George Washington University Law Schools. He is an expert in the financial prosecution of such terrorist groups as Hamas.
In reviewing the Bigio litigation, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals repeatedly cited as pivotal Lewin’s argument that "Coca-Cola engaged in wrongdoing by ‘acquiring the assets of ENBC, knowing that plaintiffs had been deprived of their rights to the property solely because of their religious faith.’"
Hence, the key question is whether Coca-Cola in Atlanta did or did not know prior to the acquisition of ENBC that it included the looted assets of the Bigio Family.
A copy of the Coca-Cola Code of Ethics states that extensive and careful review is required, often by company attorneys, prior to completing all transactions. In an emailed statement to this reporter, Coke averred, "Prior to submission of the bid for the purchase of the Egyptian bottler by a Coca-Cola Company subsidiary, a due diligence investigation was conducted. The investigation did not reveal any pending claims by the Bigios against ENBC."
But in fact, Coca-Cola did know in detail, according to correspondence and other documents obtained by this reporter. According to a review of documents, Bigio on February 3, 1994, long before the acquisition, telephoned Coca-Cola in Atlanta to alert the company that it was about to purchase his stolen property.
The record details letter after letter by Bigio warning the company not to proceed until compensation had been arranged. These letters went to senior officials including top attorneys in Coca-Cola’s Legal Department.
For example, on February 4, 1994, Bigio wrote Joseph O. Gladden, board member and chief of the company’s legal department, "We wish to hereby confirm our telephone conversation of yesterday by which we have advised you that we have started a lawsuit in Egypt to stop the sale of Coca-Cola Egypt. As I have informed you the Bigio Family owns the 10,000 square meters on which El Nasr Bottling has its warehouse in Heliopolis (Cairo)... In addition, Mrs. Bahia Bigio [Bigio’s mother] owns exclusively some of the buildings on this land. The two nationalized plants belong to the Bigio family… [and] are now part of litigations against Misr Insurance Company and are based on a release obtained from the Egyptian Ministry of Finance (Department of Sequestration)."
Bigio even enclosed a clip from an Egyptian newspaper that had covered the controversial pending sale.
"The purpose of having started the above stated litigation in Egypt," Bigio’s February 4, 1994 letter continued, "is not in fact to prevent the sale of El Nasr Bottling but to insure that the payments representing the value of this sale be distributed in such a fashion that the ultimate owners of these assets and factories receive a just and fair compensation share in this acquisition.
"By being presently notified, all parties to this acquisition will undoubtedly be able to take the best possible decision with regards to how the funds should be distributed, this insuring a smooth and sure operation. It is our opinion that Coca-Cola International seeks only clean and clear cut operations."
Despite abundant warnings and requests for reasonableness, Coca-Cola went ahead and in 1994 acquired ENBC, renaming it The Coca-Cola Bottling Company of Egypt.
Even after Coca-Cola proceeded with the acquisition, Bigio tried to reason with the giant beverage firm. A telling June 20, 1995 letter to Coca-Cola attorneys in Atlanta with a copy to Chairman Roberto C. Goizueta, asserts, "We made you explicitly aware of the situation and thus put you on notice by forewarning you on the telephone, in addition to the written confirmation which followed, stating our objection to your acquiring these assets without paying us our just share."
The 12-page June 20, 1995 letter again outlines all the historical facts about the decades-old family enterprise in Egypt and the many efforts the family had made to communicate with Coca-Cola to obtain some element of compensation. One passage of the Bigio letter to Coca-Cola attorneys reads: "After speaking with Mr. Tom Hall we did agree on a meeting date, to take place at the end of May  and at which time which we would put forth our proposal. Regretfully, due to the above, we had no idea of what in fact was in store … Two days before the date set for our encounter, Mr. Hall who was calling to reconfirm that we were meeting as planned, stated: ‘I wonder, is there really a reason to meet as we have just finalized our deal with the Egyptian Government which we just signed a week ago.’
"To which we replied: "How could you have done such a thing! …You know, we may have to sue you now for such an act!" … to which Mr. Hall responded: "I hope not."
Another passage in the June 20, 1995 letter states: "You are continuing to carry on the shameful, illegal and forceful occupancy of the real estate of Mrs. B. Bigio, denying her rent owed for the last 30 years (since you have acquired the assets and liabilities of Coca-Cola Egypt), or vacate the property to enable us to sell it at the market price of today, which would actually fetch millions, as you are well aware."
In a summary section, the letter states: "Our properties were confiscated and our plants nationalized; we were never compensated in any adequate manner with regards to the nationalization of our manufacturing plants, in any adequate manner, and you benefiting from such hideous acts."
A Coca-Cola attorney replied on July 19, 1995: "I have given careful consideration to the matters raised by you in your letter of June 20, 1995, and to the other correspondence and exchanges between you and this Company last year regarding the claims you allege against the Company in respect of certain Bigio family assets in Egypt. This review has given me no reason to advise the Company to change its position… The company performed a thorough due diligence of the books and records of the El-Nasr Bottling Company ("ENBC") prior to the acquisition. This process disclosed no record of any current liability then due from ENBC to your mother, Mrs. Bahia Bigio… I have to conclude that your claims, regardless of their merits, lie in Egypt, governed by the laws of that country, and that they must be pursued there with the relevant Egyptian government authorities and state-owned industries responsible."
Bigio’s uphill litigation against Coke has spanned more than a decade. In recent years, his cause was taken up by Mort Klein, executive director of the Zionist Organization of American, a pro-Israeli group. Klein became an active agitator and in the run-up to Coca-Cola’s 2007 annual shareholder meeting, he threatened a visible protest and boycott of Coke. The media—from the Chicago Tribune to the Wall Street Journal was filled with brief articles about Bigio’s "David and Goliath" struggle. The noise was enough to get Coca-Cola’s attention. To assuage Klein and quiet the tumult, Coca-Cola promised to negotiate fairly with Bigio’s attorneys to resolve the matter.
A year later, little has happened to show progress, according to those close to the legal team. Coke to this day continues to pay a pittance for rent on the Bigio property—not to the Bigios but to Misr Insurance Company which refuses to comply with the Egyptian governmental decree to return the property. The rent on the multimillion dollar Heliopolis properties: a mere $350 per month.
An angry Klein said he has given up waiting for fairness from Coca-Cola. "For a year" he said, "Coca-Cola made no more than a miserly offer on the properties despite a valuation of millions. Coke’s conduct is completely absurd."
Attorney Lewin who has been heading the stalemated negotiations agreed, the Coke offer is "world’s apart," from the economic value of the property.
Klein vowed to throw a protest line in front of the annual stockholder’s meeting tomorrow April 15, 2008 at the Hotel du Pont in Wilmington, Delaware. He stated, "The only answer now is a boycott of Coke and we are launching one in time for Passover. It is important," Klein continues, "to remind people that Jews of Arab countries had their wealth and possessions stolen." The irony was not lost that Passover observes the ancient injustices heaped upon the Jews in Egypt. Indeed, the House of Representatives on April 1, 2008 adopted House Resolution 185 officially recognizing the refugee status and plight of Jews expelled from Arab countries."
Lewin says the problem is this: "It is now more than 13 years after Coca-Cola callously rejected the Bigios’ personal plea made to the corporate officers in Atlanta and embarked on its major capital investment that took and exploited the Bigios’ property in Egypt. The time has come for Coca-Cola to meet a minimal standard of decency and justice."
Jewish leaders also want to see good faith negotiations. Abraham Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League states, "It’s about time that the Bigio matter be resolved, in good faith, either by negotiation or speedy litigation."
Malcolm Hoenlein, executive vice chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, which represents some 26 leading groups, added, "When the government of Egypt originally seized this property, that was clearly wrong. The fact that Coke joined in needs to be taken into account. It is not realistic to give back the property, but it is realistic to provide fair compensation to the Bigios." Hoenlein emphasized, "The very essence of the word ‘compensation’ means it must be a fair amount."
One observer of corporate conduct stated, "Coke will probably find it easier to throw some token money at Jewish organizations to buy their silence, rather than deal fairly with the Bigio family."
Despite numerous attempts by this reporter to pose questions or obtain any specific answers on the topic, officials at Coca-Cola headquarters in Atlanta would not respond, with the spokesman’s office asserting it was short-staffed and busy preparing for the annual meeting. But the company did email this reporter a statement: "We are sensitive to the plight of individuals who have lost property through the actions of others in various countries around the world. We understand their desire for a fair and open hearing of their claims. In this case, The Coca-Cola Company has never had, and currently does not have, any ownership interest in the property at issue in the litigation. Misr, an Egyptian state-owned insurance company, owns the property." The company added that it now uses the property only for "non-critical storage, repair and administrative functions."
Coca-Cola in its emailed statement also stood by its legal argument: "This dispute is between the competing claimants, Misr and the Bigios. The Coca-Cola Company is not the proper defendant."
But those who support the Bigios say they will press on both seeking justice and proliferating a Jewish-led boycott of Coke products.
As the Passover period starts among Jews, they will recall the injustice of ancient Egypt, injustices that saw civilization’s first reparations as fleeing Israelites collected just compensation from their former taskmasters. As Jewish families recall that story, not a few of them will raise a glass of the special seasonal "Kosher for Passover" cola. Ironically, the leading maker of that beverage is none other than Coca-Cola. The Bigio family wishes they would choose another beverage as for them, the bitter taste has never gone away.
Posted on: Tuesday, April 15, 2008 - 16:07
SOURCE: Weekly Standard (4-21-08)
The last time General David Petraeus and Ambassador Ryan Crocker reported to Congress on the state of the Iraq war, "benchmarks" were all the rage. Congress had established 18 criteria in early 2007 both to pressure the Iraqis and to keep score on their progress. And in September, Congress faulted the Iraqi government for failing to meet many of those measures. Concocting a checklist of laws and actions that would lead to national reconciliation in Iraq was always a fool's errand and misunderstood the complexity of the situation. But having laid down this marker, Congress would want to hear an update, surely. Not so. The word "benchmarks" was scarcely heard last week when Petraeus and Crocker reappeared before Congress. Crocker testified that the Iraqis have actually met about two-thirds of the benchmarks, including four or five of the six key legislative benchmarks and all of the benchmarks measuring their contribution to their own security. In reply, the congressmen who insisted on legislating these benchmarks now say benchmarks are a poor way to measure progress in Iraq.
Their disingenuousness is monumental--but they are right. So by all means, let's look beyond the benchmarks. Let's look instead at the fact that the overwhelming majority of the Sunni Arab community turned against al Qaeda and the Baathist insurgents in 2006 and 2007 and opted for political engagement instead of armed struggle. The Sunni militias who were previously fighting against us and the Iraqi government have been reconstituted as the Sons of Iraq (SOI) and have enlisted in the fight against al Qaeda. Polls show that about 90 percent of them mean to vote in upcoming provincial elections. One of the most overlooked developments of 2007 was the flood of volunteers from Anbar province into the Iraqi Security Forces themselves, not just into the SOIs, or "concerned local citizens," as they were previously called. The behavior of the SOIs in Baghdad during the recent violence has also been instructive: They did not leave their posts, they did not seize the opportunity to kill Shia; they behaved professionally, and helped maintain order at a very fraught moment. The Shia Iraqi government, as a result, has a new sense of the value the Sunni SOIs add in Baghdad and that sense is likely to lead to even greater integration and cooperation.
Now let's look at the Shia side. Since the seating of the Maliki government in May 2006, a constant criticism has been that it is eager to send money to Shia areas and send troops against Sunni fighters, but not the other way round. Well, the Sunni leadership in Anbar province has succeeded in drawing $100 million from the central government while Shia provincial governors in Karbala, Qadisiyah, and Babil complain that they're not getting what they need from Baghdad. Similarly, the Iraqi Security Forces are now fighting with Anbaris against common enemies, and an Iraqi army unit was just deployed from Anbar to Basra to fight against Shia militias. General Petraeus testified that about 20 percent of the Sons of Iraq are Shia, and Maliki has announced new plans to develop SOIs in Shia areas. So much for the notion that SOIs are a militia-in-waiting for the next Sunni takeover. Taking a step back, we can identify an even more important dynamic. In late 2006 and 2007, Shia, Kurds, and the majority of Sunni Arabs formed a political and military bloc to defeat al Qaeda and the Baathist insurgents and negotiate their differences peacefully. In early 2008, Shia, Kurds, and Sunni Arabs strengthened this political bloc while using it to strike against illegal, Iranian-supported Shia militias and terrorists. That is the most important and positive sign of reconciliation of all....
Posted on: Tuesday, April 15, 2008 - 14:21
SOURCE: Omaha Herald (4-12-08)
Are protesters following the Olympic torch trying to"politicize" the Beijing Games, as Chinese leaders have charged? You bet. And it's a good thing, too.
Remember, the Olympics have always been political. They were in 1936, when Adolf Hitler used the Berlin Games to burnish his international image; in 1968, when two African-American medalists in Mexico City raised their fists in a black-power salute; in 1972, when terrorists murdered 11 Israeli athletes in Munich.
And they were political in 1980, when the United States led a boycott of the Moscow Games to protest the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.
Sixty-two countries joined the 1980 boycott. And one of them was - surprise! - the People's Republic of China.
So it's patently absurd, if not hypocritical, for the Chinese government to bemoan the"politicizing" of this summer's Olympics. The Chinese have their own political goals for the Beijing Games, of course - to showcase their achievements and disguise their misdeeds.
It certainly worked for Hitler, who received an enormous propaganda boost from the 1936 Summer Olympics. Many people still maintain that the Games helped undermine Hitler's doctrine of Aryan race supremacy, because African- American runner Jesse Owens garnered four gold medals. According to one well-worn myth, Hitler even refused to shake Owens' hand.
The truth is exactly the opposite. To hide Nazi racism from foreign eyes, Hitler ordered German journalists to refrain from criticizing black athletes. He also refused to pare footage of Owens from Leni Riefen- stahl's prize-winning documentary about the Berlin Games, rejecting suggestions that the film was"too positive" toward African-Americans.
Likewise, the Chinese regime must have hoped that the 2008 Games would divert attention from its own crimes. But this time, it's not working. And we should all be happy about that.
Reasonable people can differ about whether Chinese human rights abuses - in Tibet and elsewhere - merit an Olympic boycott, or whether a boycott would help curb these abuses. I don't know myself.
But this I do know: The Chinese government is a cruel dictatorship. It monitors all communication - including, most remarkably, the Internet - for the smallest hints of opposition. It jails dissidents or takes away their jobs, leaving them destitute.
And it has occupied Tibet for a half-century, against the clear wishes of the Tibetans themselves. Anything that focuses international concern upon these brutalities is a positive step for human freedom.
So let's make the Olympics more political, not less so.
This summer, whether you support a boycott or not, raise your voice against Chinese repression. China's rulers won't thank you, that's for sure. But one day, their victims will.
Posted on: Tuesday, April 15, 2008 - 13:54
SOURCE: NYT (4-12-08)
WHEN it comes to Olympic protests, the demonstrators in London, Paris and San Francisco are a pretty wimpy bunch, at least compared to the ancient Greeks. Back in the classical era, protesters really knew how to disrupt an Olympics ceremony.
In 364 B.C., soldiers stormed the arena in Olympia and a pitched battle occurred on the field. It was history’s most dramatic clash of politics and sports. The management of the Games, according to Xenophon, had been wrested from the traditional hosts, the Elians, by a neighboring bunch, the Pisans — and the Elians weren’t pleased. They decided to invade the festival at its climax, when thousands of Greek spectators were happily watching a wrestling match.
At the sacred sanctuary of Olympia, the Pisans, and their allies the Arcadians, took up defensive positions, with archers on the temple roofs, but the Elians burst through their ranks. Hand-to-hand combat went on in the sacred precinct of Zeus.
Sports fans weren’t fazed. According to the author Diodorus, crowds “still wearing their festive robes, with wreaths and flowers in their hair” watched the fighting from the sidelines, “impartially applauding the doughty deeds performed on both sides.”
The violent protest worked wonders. The Elians were forced to withdraw, but the next Games were restored to their control.
Today, we admire the ancient Olympic ideal of athletics being above petty rivalries. The Greeks instituted a “sacred truce” to allow athletes and spectators to get to the festival, quite a feat in a land constantly torn by internal warfare. But the Greeks didn’t always live up to their ideal.
There were embargoes: the Spartans were banned from attending in 420 B.C., during the Peloponnesian War. ...
Posted on: Monday, April 14, 2008 - 19:12
SOURCE: The Australian (4-15-08)
The future of Europe is in play. Will it turn into"Eurabia," a part of the Muslim world? Will it remain the distinct cultural unit it has been over the last millennium? Or might there be some creative synthesis of the two civilizations?
The answer has vast importance. Europe may constitute a mere 7 percent of the world's landmass but for five hundred years, 1450-1950, for good and ill, it was the global engine of change. How it develops in the future will affect all humanity, and especially daughter countries such as Australia which still retain close and important ties to the old continent.
I foresee potentially one of three paths for Europe: Muslims dominating, Muslims rejected, or harmonious integration.
(1) Muslim domination strikes some analysts as inevitable. Oriana Fallaci found that"Europe becomes more and more a province of Islam, a colony of Islam." Mark Steyn argues that much of the Western world"will not survive the twenty-first century, and much of it will effectively disappear within our lifetimes, including many if not most European countries." Such authors point to three factors leading to Europe's Islamization: faith, demography, and a sense of heritage.
The secularism that predominates in Europe, especially among its elites, leads to alienation about the Judeo-Christian tradition, empty church pews, and a fascination with Islam. In complete contrast, Muslims display a religious fervor that translates into jihadi sensibility, a supremacism toward non-Muslims, and an expectation that Europe is waiting for conversion to Islam.
The contrast in faith also has demographic implications, with Christians having on average 1.4 children per woman, or about one third less than the number needed to maintain their population, and Muslims enjoying a dramatically higher, if falling, fertility rate. Amsterdam and Rotterdam are expected to be in about 2015 the first large majority-Muslim cities. Russia could become a Muslim-majority country in 2050. To employ enough workers to fund existing pension plans, Europe needs millions of immigrants and these tend to be disproportionately Muslim due to reasons of proximity, colonial ties, and the turmoil in majority-Muslim countries.
In addition, many Europeans no longer cherish their history, mores, and customs. Guilt about fascism, racism, and imperialism leave many with a sense that their own culture has less value than that of immigrants. Such self-disdain has direct implications for Muslim immigrants, for if Europeans shun their own ways, why should immigrants adopt them? When added to the already-existing Muslim hesitations over much that is Western, and especially what concerns sexuality, the result are Muslim populations that strongly resist assimilation.
The logic of this first path leads to Europe ultimately becoming an extension of North Africa.
(2) But the first path is not inevitable. Indigenous Europeans could resist it and as they make up 95 percent of the continent's population, they can at any time reassert control, should they see Muslims posing a threat to a valued way of life.
This impulse can already be seen at work in the French anti-hijab legislation or in Geert Wilders' film, Fitna. Anti-immigrant parties gain in strength; a potential nativist movement is taking shape across Europe, as political parties opposed to immigration focus increasingly on Islam and Muslims. These parties include the British National Party, Belgium's Vlaamse Belang, France's Front National, the Austrian Freedom Party, the Party for Freedom in the Netherlands, the Danish People's Party, and the Swedish Democrats.
They will likely continue to grow as immigration surges ever higher, with mainstream parties paying and expropriating their anti-Islamic message. Should nationalist parties gain power, they will likely seek to reject multiculturalism, cut back on immigration, encourage repatriation of immigrants, support Christian institutions, increase indigenous European birthrates, and broadly attempt to re-establish traditional ways.
Muslim alarm will likely follow. American author Ralph Peters sketches a scenario in which"U.S. Navy ships are at anchor and U.S. Marines have gone ashore at Brest, Bremerhaven or Bari to guarantee the safe evacuation of Europe's Muslims." Peters concludes that because of European's"ineradicable viciousness," its Muslims"are living on borrowed time" As Europeans have"perfected genocide and ethnic cleansing," Muslims, he predicts,"will be lucky just to be deported," rather than killed. Indeed, Muslims worry about just such a fate; since the 1980s, they have spoken overtly about Muslims being sent to gas chambers.
Violence by indigenous Europeans cannot be precluded but nationalist efforts will more likely take place less violently; if any one is likely to initiate violence, it is the Muslims. They have already engaged in many acts of violence and seem to be spoiling for more. Surveys indicate, for instance, that about 5 percent of British Muslims endorse the 7/7 transport bombings. In brief, a European reassertion will likely lead to on-going civil strife, perhaps a more lethal version of the fall 2005 riots in France.
(3) The ideal outcome has indigenous Europeans and immigrant Muslims finding a way to live together harmoniously and create a new synthesis. A 1991 study, La France, une chance pour l'Islam (France, an Opportunity for Islam) by Jeanne-Hélène Kaltenbach and Pierre Patrick Kaltenbach promoted this idealistic approach. Despite all, this optimism remains the conventional wisdom, as suggested by anEconomist leader of 2006 that concluded that dismissed for the moment at least, the prospect of Eurabia as"scaremongering."
This is the view of most politicians, journalists, and academics but it has little basis in. Yes indigenous Europeans could yet rediscover their Christian faith, make more babies, and again cherish their heritage. Yes, they could encourage non-Muslim immigration and acculturate Muslims already living in Europe. Yes, Muslim could accept historic Europe. But not only are such developments not now underway, their prospects are dim. In particular, young Muslims are cultivating grievances and nursing ambitions at odds with their neighbors.
One can virtually dismiss from consideration the prospect of Muslims accepting historic Europe and integrating within it. U.S. columnist Dennis Prager agrees:"It is difficult to imagine any other future scenario for Western Europe than its becoming Islamicized or having a civil war."
But which of those two remaining paths will the continent take? Forecasting is difficult because crisis has not yet struck. But it may not be far off. Within a decade perhaps, the continent's evolution will become clear as the Europe-Muslim relationship takes shape.
The unprecedented nature of Europe's situation also renders a forecast exceedingly difficult. Never in history has a major civilization peaceably dissolved, nor has a people ever risen to reclaim its patrimony. Europe's unique circumstances make them difficult to comprehend, tempting to overlook, and virtually impossible to predict. With Europe, we all enter into terra incognita.
Posted on: Monday, April 14, 2008 - 17:54
SOURCE: Austin American-Statesman (4-14-08)
In Mike Nichols' classic film "The Graduate," Mr. McGuire comes up to Benjamin Braddock, played by Dustin Hoffman, and says, "I just want to say one word to you. Just one word." The one word he says is "plastics." The word has been a kind of koan for more than 40 years. It is now time to replace it.
Everything is swollen beyond our unrealistic expectations these days: the price of gas, the number of real estate foreclosures, unemployment statistics. The cost of the Iraq war grows and grows, whether measured in dollars, in impact on America's international reputation, in human lives, or in the 100 years John McCain is willing to have American troops and mercenaries stay there. So let's replace the one word "plastics" by three: "Whisky Romeo Zulu."
If you want to know what is at stake when Federal Aviation Administration inspectors are coerced to pass structurally weakened Southwest Airlines planes, or when American Airlines grounds half its scheduled flights because it did not get mandated repairs right the first time, don't listen to American Airlines representatives who say safety was never compromised and that they are victims of "stepped up scrutiny" on the part of the FAA. Go rent the Argentine film "Whiskey Romeo Zulu."
Those words are the NATO phonetic alphabet identifier of the Boeing 737-200 operated by Líneas Aéreas Privadas Argentinas (LAPA) as Flight 3142. It crashed on Aug. 31, 1999, on take-off from Buenos Aires, killing 65 and severely injuring 17. "Whiskey Romeo Zulu," released in 2005, is a myth in the classic sense of all great myths. It reveals truths by giving us profound insights into how human beings behave and the tragic consequences that follow upon the choices we make, choices often resulting from human weakness, what Aristotle would call our tragic flaws.
The movie reveals the corruption at work within LAPA and the regulatory agencies that should have seen to the safety of Argentine commercial planes. We also see the cost to the principled pilot named Enrique Piñeyro, who was viewed as a troublemaker and chicken little for bringing up safety violations and equipment failures aboard LAPA flights. Pilots and regulators were coerced by LAPA supervisors in tandem with government regulators to overlook these problems to keep planes flying and making money for the airlines. Eventually, he refuses to fly and is replaced.
When Flight 3142 crashes, LAPA blames pilot error. However, a scrupulous district attorney unearths Piñeyro's reports and is able to demonstrate that pilots were habituated to ignore safety alarms. The pilots on Flight 3142 ignored the wrong alarm.
"Whiskey Romeo Zulu" rings true because the screenwriter, director and main actor are all Piñeyro himself. Like all great myths, the film reveals deep truths about ourselves, emotionally and intellectually.
I have flown more than 1 million miles on American Airlines alone. I am living proof that American Airlines has been attentive to safety since 1985. But it let things slide recently with an eye to its quarterly reports.
American did not notify me that my flight last Thursday was grounded. I found out from a friend at my destination. I was relieved that I would not be in the air in an unsafe plane. When I finally got through to a reservations specialist, Cora in Tucson, she worked for one hour and six minutes to find me an alternative flight.
There is nothing wrong then with what American did last week or how its ticketing agents responded. The fault is in the emphasis on profits that led to the crisis, which could have been avoided, and the focus now in American's news releases on how terribly they are being treated by the FAA.
I could say "hogwash," but I'll say instead, "Whiskey Romeo Zulu," a new koan for our age when corporate profits take precedence over the lives of human beings.
Posted on: Monday, April 14, 2008 - 16:34
SOURCE: New York Sun (4-14-08)
One of the most memorable experiences of my life is the two weeks I spent in Independence, Mo., in 1970 talking to Harry Truman, which is why I reacted with special dismay to the recent story about the former president, William Clinton, making tens of millions of dollars as a speaker and business consultant since he left office.
I had come to Independence with the president's daughter, Margaret Truman Daniel, to help her research a biography of Truman in his presidential library. In the evening, after dinner, we discussed his presidency. Gradually, our talks broadened to the office itself. I soon realized Truman had given deep thought to the topic.
Truman believed the American presidency was the most significant political office ever devised by human beings in 3,000 years of politics. He had devoted not a little of his library's exhibits to an extended lecture on the office, its many sides, its diverse powers, and its awesome responsibilities. He could point to its roots in George Washington insistence that the office was central to a successful federal government.
Truman saw a strong presidency as vital to America's political health. Without it we had congressional government, which Truman considered more dangerous to the future of America than the machinations of the Soviet Russia and Communist China combined. The reason was simple but profound. In Congressional government, no one is responsible. The politicians act as a group and are subject to pressures and emotional appeals to which they frequently succumb.
Anyone who damaged the presidency earned Truman's contempt and when he was in a strenuous mood, his denunciation. He was particularly hard on presidents who committed such an offense. He could savagely annotate their failures, from James Buchanan to Ulysses Grant to Warren Harding. In 1970, he was merciless toward Lyndon Johnson. "No guts!" was the way Truman summed up the big Texan's chief executive years. Johnson had let protestors drive him from the White House — a deplorable act of presidential cowardice, according to Truman.
Truman thought Johnson should have run for reelection in 1968, as Abraham Lincoln had run in 1864, when his presidency was under savage attack in a far more terrible war. Truman had no doubt that Johnson would have won — and North Vietnam, intimidated by this evidence of the determination of the American people, would have come to the bargaining table. America would have concluded a peace that made South Vietnam an independent county, like South Korea.
Truman had no illusions that presidents sometimes have to pay a price to do the right, the courageous thing. His poll numbers were almost subterranean when he left office in 1952, because of his insistence in achieving a free South Korea. He came home to Independence, that marvelously symbolic city, with very little money and no income worth mentioning beyond an advance for his memoirs. There were no pensions for presidents in those days, and no secret service protection.
Soon Truman was bombarded with offers of figurehead jobs with cushy salaries as chairman-of-this and president-of-that. His answer, invariably, was no. "The presidency is not for sale," he said. His respect for the office was so immense, so central to his mind and heart, that he could not and would not risk tarnishing it in any way. He would not even accept fees for a speech, beyond travel expenses.
Now we have Mr. Clinton, making $51.9 million for speeches in the seven years since he left the presidency, plus $12.5 million from his murky "consultant" relationship with Yucaipa, the Los Angeles investment firm run by his friend, the billionaire Ronald Burkle. Mr. Clinton also earned $3.3 million for advising the head of the database firm InfoUSA, Vinod Gupta, who has also given his friend Bill $900,000 worth of trips around the world in his private plane. Mr. Gupta's stockholders have accused him of looting the company for Clinton-linked outlays.
For this ex-president, the mantra has never been, "The presidency is not for sale." To all comers and buyers, Mr. Clinton's motto has been — and still is — "How much?"
It is not hard to imagine what Truman would have to say about the damage Mr. Clinton has inflicted on the office of the presidency. It is more difficult to picture his incredulity if he were alive today and watched millions of voters and thousands of reporters and editors and TV commentators contemplate with equanimity the prospect of returning this man to the White House in the guise of voting for his wife.
Posted on: Monday, April 14, 2008 - 15:00
SOURCE: Informed Comment (Blog run by Juan Cole) (4-14-08)
George W. Bush and Dick Cheney initially rejected the Baker-Hamilton Iraq Study Group report, which advised that Iraq could not be solved militarily and that regional diplomacy and engagement would be necessary.
Bush chose instead to pursue an escalation of the war, which he euphemistically called a 'surge.' This tactic backfired when Bush inadvertently allowed the ethnic cleansing of the Sunnis of Baghdad, turning the capital into a playground for the Shiite Mahdi Army. As a result of the Shiitization of Baghdad, violence in the city thereafter declined, since there were fewer Sunnis around to kill (many were cowering in Damascus). The US achieved a ceasefire with the Mahdi Army (and why not, since the US military was disarming its enemies and allowing it to then chase them off to Syria?)
Moreover, Baghdad was only one hot spot in a very complicated country, and security continued to deteriorate in the Kurdish north along the Turkish border and in the southern Shiite oil port of Basra, as I argue in an op-ed today in the Boston Globe.
Even the temporary reduction in violence was more modest than the US press tended to assume. And the death rate may have reached its nadir and begun climbing back up now that the extra troops are being withdrawn. As David Fiderer pointed out, that outcome is precisely what the ISG report predicted.
So now it turns out that recently General David Petraeus has been doing regional diplomacy in an attempt to get local regimes to cooperate in cutting the flow of foreign fighters, money and arms to Iraq.
In other words, the military escalation, which is now getting to be over with, did not do the trick. So the only alternative is to go back to the Baker Hamilton Commission recommendations.
Question: How far ahead of the game would we be if this regional diplomacy had started in December of 2006 instead of being dismissed by Bush and Cheney in favor of a set of purely military tactics?
Another question: Why not also talk to Iran?
Likewise, the ISG pointed out that the Badr Corps paramilitary was trained by the Iranian Revolutionary Guards and is close to Tehran. (See below). It fought on Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki's side in the recent Basra fighting. In other words, the government side was the pro-Iranian side. The Mahdi Army and Sadr neighborhood militia forces they attacked were largely Iraqi nativists who bad-mouth Iran. Fiderer points out that the ISG report had already diagnosed this syndrome. The Bush team did propaganda, pointedly declining to name Badr as an Iranian client and blaming Iran for the Mahdi Army's violence. In fact, the violence came as a response to violations of the cease fire by the US and the Iraqi government, which took advantage of it to arrest Mahdi Army commanders (that's a ceasefire?)
The key role of Iran in backing the Badr Corps (which Ryan Crocker and Gen Petraeus pointedly did not condemn, and Senator Lindsay Graham actually defended!) is demonstrated by the following:
' Al-Sharqiyah, Al-Iraqiyah Roundup: Political Blocs Express Support for Government
Iraq -- OSC Summary
Thursday, April 10, 2008
Dubai Al-Sharqiyah Television in Arabic . . carries between 1400 GMT and 2000 GMT on 10 April the following . . :
--"The Badr Corps Command took a series of quick measures to protect itself from any possible military campaign against all militias in Iraq. A high-ranking official at the Interior Ministry, who asked to remain anonymous, said that the Badr Corps withdrew its key commanders to Iran in the past few days after it entered a new batch of fighters, around 1500 it total, into the Interior Ministry services. '
The Ministry of Interior in Iraq is a security ministry, and its special police commanders have long been dominated by the Badr Corps militia, which as you can see is very close to the Iranian Revolutionary Guards and the ayatollahs in Tehran, but which is also allied with Bush.
Iran admitted on Saturday that it had negotiated a ceasefire by the Mahdi Army when approached by Iraqi parliamentarians (who were from the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq and the Da'wa Party, al-Maliki's backers). In other words, while Bushco blames Iran for Iraq's instability, in fact the Iranians have tried to and often succeeded in calming the situation down.
Ma`d Fayyad of al-Sharq Al-Awsat even says, writing in Arabic, that the Iranians were annoyed with Muqtada al-Sadr over his militia activities and have more or less expelled him from Iran (though Iranian authorities denied he was ever there). The OSC translation of the money graf from Fayyad's article (Al-Sharq al-Awsat (Internet Version-WWW)Saturday, April 12, 2008) is:
' The Iraqi sources in Qom and Al-Najaf asserted that the Iranian authorities informed Al-Sadr of the need to leave their territories because of the security problems he had caused in Iraq following the armed clashes between the pro-Al-Sadr"Al-Mahdi Army" militia and Iraqi forces in Basra, Baghdad, Al-Diwaniyah, Karbala, and Al-Kut. They added that moderate officials in Iran denounced Al-Sadr's presence in their territories saying that this was causing problems with the Iraqi Government and that"affects the course of relations between Tehran and Baghdad." Iraqi sources in Al-Najaf said Al-Sadr"arrived from Qom the night before yesterday and stayed at the house of one of his aides, where his supporters were banned from reaching him, after being forced to stay for six months in an isolated house on the outskirts of the Iranian city of Qom."'
The transparently false US charges against Iran, of being behind most disturbances in the Shiite south, are apparently propaganda intended to prepare the way by Dick Cheney for a US attack on Iran. Cheney wants to do regime change in Tehran before he kicks the bucket.
Despite incorrect Bushco claims that the Mahdi Army is a tool of Iran (that is like calling the Minutemen vigilantes in Arizona tools of the Mexican government), Secretary of Defense Robert Gates says Muqtada is not considered an enemy of the US if he sticks to politics. What? His politics consists of pushing the US out of Iraq!
As for the Bush charges that Iran backed rogue militiamen against the al-Maliki government, it is contradicted by the US intelligence community. The USG Open Source Center did a report on the Iranian stance toward the recent fighting between al-Maliki's forces and those of Mahdi Army and other militias. It found that the Iranian press (hint: it is not independent of the Iranian government) backed al-Maliki! In other words, Bush and Iran are on the same side:
'OSC Report: Tehran Supportive of Iraqi Government Operations Against Militias
Iran -- OSC Report
Thursday, April 10, 2008 . . .
Iran-Iraq -- Tehran Supportive of Maliki Government Operations Against Militias Iran has praised Nuri al-Maliki and the Iraqi Security Force's (ISF) operations against militant groups in Basra and has portrayed them as being necessary to establishing peace and stability in Iraq. As such, the Islamic Republic has dismissed allegations that it is supplying weapons to Shiite militias and has echoed its long-standing call for US forces to withdraw from Iraq.
Tehran has publicly been supportive of Nuri al-Maliki and the ISF's recent performance against militant groups in Basra, and is careful to differentiate such groups from"legitimate" political parties like the Sadr Trend. Iranian President Mahmud Ahmadinezhad and Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki meeting in Baghdad (President.ir, 3 March)
Presenters on Iran's state-run television described Prime Minister Maliki's Basra offensive as being against"illegal armed groups," and Foreign Ministry spokesman Mohammad-Ali Hoseyni warned Iraqi political parties against falling"into the trap of the lawless militias." He added:"There is a difference between the illegal armed groups that commit crimes and the political parties that are active in politics and present in the Iraqi government and parliament. The move by Mr Maliki should receive all-out support. This way, both the interests of the Iraqi nation and government and the interests of Iraqi neighboring countries will be served" (IRINN, 7 April).
Similarly, on 8 April, the Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA) described al-Maliki's response against"illegal armed groups" as being"rightful," and various Iranian news agencies quoted the prime minister's statements in which he detailed the ISF's"successes" in ridding Basra of"lawbreakers, armed groups, and criminal gangs" (Mehr News Agency; Fars News Agency, 3 April).
On 4 April, Iran's Mehr News Agency published an interview it had conducted with Iraqi Islamic Supreme Council's Mohsen Hakim in which he claimed that Iran had"played a positive role" in ending the violence in Basra. Three days later, Mohammad-Ali Hoseyni acknowledged that Iran had recently hosted an Iraqi"delegation" and that it had" called on the parties involved to exercise self-restraint" (IRNA, 7 April).
As such, the Islamic Republic has predictably dismissed allegations that it is supplying weapons to Iraqi militias and has attempted to distance itself from Shiite militia leader Muqtada al-Sadr -- despite Western claims that al-Sadr is currently in Iran.
In an interview with Aftab News, Mohammad-Ali Mohtadi of the Iranian Foreign Ministry's International Relations faculty dismissed claims that Iran was providing weapons to the Mahdi Army, saying:"To Iran, any clash in Iraq will not be to the interest of any clashing party. Therefore, the Islamic Republic of Iran has done its best to stop the clashes. In fact, if anything, Iran played as a mediator in Iraq" (6 April).
On 5 April, Iranian Government spokesman Gholamhoseyn Elham dismissed reports that Muqtada al-Sadr was in Iran as being"released by the occupation forces to blame the current insecurity in Iraq on other sides" (IRNA).
The conservative Tabnak website dismissed Muqtada al-Sadr's claim in a 30 March interview with Al-Jazirah that he told Iran's Supreme Leader last year that he disagreed with Iran's"political and military objectives in Iraq" and that Iran should stop its"intervention." The website, which is affiliated with former IRGC Commander Mohsen Reza'i, described al-Sadr's remarks as"rude," and said that such claims were made at a time when"America's worst accusation against Iran" is that it is arming al-Sadr's group and that he is residing in Iran. Tabnak asserted that Iran,"a serious ally of Iraq's popular government," always has opposed such actions by"hard-line clans" that"only weaken the government and people of Iraq and give a pretext to its occupiers" (31 March).
Instead, Iranian officials and media have directed blame at the United States for the insecurity in Iraq, and have echoed their long-standing call for US forces to withdraw.
During his 10 April meeting with Iraq's former Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Ja'fari, Iran's Foreign Minister Manuchehr Mottaki urged the United States to"stop provoking crisis in the Middle East" and called for the US to"set a fixed timeline to withdraw its troops from Iraq" (Fars News Agency).
An editorial in the prominent conservative daily, Jomhuri-ye Eslami, declared that Iraq's"occupation is the root of all problems" in the country and claimed that"as long as these forces remain in Iraq, bloodshed would continue" (3 April).
On 30 March, Foreign Ministry spokesman Hoseyni called upon Iraqi Government forces and militias to end their fighting in order to remove any"pretext" for US troops to stay in Iraq" (Fars News Agency). '
Posted on: Sunday, April 13, 2008 - 21:12
SOURCE: NY Review of Books (5-1-08)
Two men, two speeches. The men, both lawyers, both from Illinois, were seeking the presidency, despite what seemed their crippling connection with extremists. Each was young by modern standards for a president. Abraham Lincoln had turned fifty-one just five days before delivering his speech. Barack Obama was forty-six when he gave his. Their political experience was mainly provincial, in the Illinois legislature for both of them, and they had received little exposure at the national level—two years in the House of Representatives for Lincoln, four years in the Senate for Obama. Yet each was seeking his party's nomination against a New York senator of longer standing and greater prior reputation—Lincoln against Senator William Seward, Obama against Senator Hillary Clinton. They were both known for having opposed an initially popular war—Lincoln against President Polk's Mexican War, raised on the basis of a fictitious provocation; Obama against President Bush's Iraq War, launched on false claims that Saddam Hussein possessed WMDs and had made an alliance with Osama bin Laden.
Neither man fit the conventions of a statesman in his era. Lincoln, thin, gangling, and unkempt, was considered a backwoods rube, born in the frontier conditions of Kentucky, estranged from his father, limited to a catch-as-catch-can education. He was better known as a prairie raconteur than as a legal theorist or prose stylist. Obama, of mixed race and foreign upbringing, had barely known his father, and looked suspiciously "different."
The most damaging charge against each was an alleged connection with unpatriotic and potentially violent radicals. Lincoln's Republican Party was accused of supporting abolitionists like William Lloyd Garrison, who burned the Constitution, or John Brown, who took arms against United States troops, or those who rejected the Supreme Court because of its Dred Scott decision. Obama was suspected of Muslim associations and of following the teachings of an inflammatory preacher who damned the United States. How to face such charges? Each decided to address them openly in a prominent national venue, well before their parties' nominating conventions—Lincoln at the Cooper Union in New York, Obama at the Constitution Center in Philadelphia....
Posted on: Saturday, April 12, 2008 - 11:45
SOURCE: http://www.logosjournal.com (winter 2008) (2-1-08)
...The attractiveness of the Obama candidacy lies in its post-racial nature. It is as if the call of the Civil Rights Movement for integration and equality among all Americans had been realized; the old coalition politics, in which African Americans had become merely another interest group wanting its share of the pie, could finally be transcended. While Hillary Clinton’s victory might break what she calls “the hardest glass ceiling,” it’s not clear that she would inaugurate a post-feminist era—which might not be a good thing! She is a first-class politician whose victory, however, would be the triumph of partisan politics over the hope of democratic renewal.
There was a revealing implication in Mrs. Clinton’s insistence on the role of the president in the realization of civil rights reform. When Lyndon Johnson signed the Civil Rights Law, he told friends, “there goes the South for a generation.” And he was right; the Republican party conquest of the South, and Washington, began at that moment. Some praise Johnson for putting the national interest above partisan concerns. But, in spite of his tone-deafness to movements of national liberation abroad, Johnson was a politician who, like Machiavelli’s republican Prince, knew that opportunity knocks only once. In that sense, he may indeed be a kindred spirit to Barak Obama rather than Hillary Clinton.
“It won’t be easy… It won’t be easy,” repeats Barack Obama at every recent speech. He’s right. But when people try to explain to him that he’d be better off remaining in the Senate, gaining experience and reputation before leaping onto the national stage, his response is more significant than he realizes. The moment for action arises only once; the time has found its man, who can’t shy away. Obama may have thought of Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar (Act IV), which insists that “There is a tide in the affairs of men / Which taken at the flood, leads on to fortune; / Omitted, all the voyage of their life / Is bound in shallows and in miseries.” But he of course does not cite the author’s probable source—Machiavelli—even though he is in fact applying the political teaching of the Florentine, who wagered on virtu to vanquish the vicissitudes of fortuna. It’s perhaps this old political lesson—understood by the Elizabethan dramatist better than the well-intentioned reformers—that suggests the possibility for the renewal of a republic that had fallen prey to a fear manipulated by political reactionaries.
This hope is bolstered by historical experience. As opposed to the European model whose origins lie with the French revolution—which had to seize state power and then use it to remodel society in a way that would overcome the distinction between the particular interests of society and the general interest incarnated by the state—the Americans sought to protect the autonomy of their social relations by creating republican institutions whose universality would protect the plurality of an active democratic society. The European model is a democratic republic, a social democracy in which class differences are leveled as far as possible; the American is a republican democracy in which political institutions keep alive the pluralism and pragmatism that insure the dynamism of social relations. What appears to Obama’s critics to be the vague, merely rhetorical character of his campaign is from this perspective its power. It is not necessary to be a poet to recognize that words have a unique power just because they create a shared world of meaning in which individuals find themselves able to act together. Was that not, in the last resort, the power of John F. Kennedy, to whom Obama is often compared?
Posted on: Friday, April 11, 2008 - 19:26
SOURCE: National Review Online (4-10-08)
Representative Tom Cole (R., Okla.), chair of the National Republican Congressional Committee, made a revealing but little-noticed comment to the New York Times. He said of the presidential race: “I don’t need the nominee to win; I just need him to be competitive enough that we can win behind him in the places that should be ours. I need him to be Gerald Ford.”
Conservative readers may have blanched at that name. But Cole was not talking about Ford’s policies. He was referring to the 1976 election. In the aftermath of their huge losses in the 1974 midterm, Republicans feared for their party’s survival. And early in the 1976 campaign, they appeared to be dinosaurs looking at an incoming asteroid. Ford was heading for a wipe-out that would doom dozens of GOP lawmakers. Yet by Election Day, he had pulled almost even with Carter, enabling House and Senate Republicans to hold their own.
It was the perfect defeat. Its narrowness kept the party from going deeper into the hole, and its aftermath was GOP resurgence.
The out-party had gained seats in every midterm for decades, and the 1978 election followed the pattern. That year’s freshmen not only bolstered the GOP’s ranks but included such extraordinary figures as Newt Gingrich and Dick Cheney. Their activism opened the way for greater gains in 1980 and the Reagan Revolution that followed.
To grasp the value of Ford’s downfall, ponder the alternative: a narrow GOP victory in 1976. The midterm effect would have worked against the Republicans in 1978, shrinking an already small congressional base. As the vice president in 1980, Bob Dole might well have won the presidential nomination instead of Reagan. After three straight GOP terms, the public would have been itchy for change. So there might have been no pickups in the House, no majority in the Senate, and no Reagan Revolution....
Posted on: Friday, April 11, 2008 - 14:15
SOURCE: Nation (4-21-08)
Back when the Republican presidential race was still competitive, the insults against John McCain from leading conservative voices were so extravagant they almost constituted a new literary genre. Rush Limbaugh said McCain threatened "the American way of life as we've always known it." McCain's Senate colleague Thad Cochran said, "The thought of him as President sends a cold chill down my spine." Ann Coulter charged the most unforgivable sin of all: McCain was, in fact, "a Democrat." Coulter's employer, Fox News, seconded the smear on February 7 by printing the words "John McCain (D-AZ)" under footage of the Arizona Republican.
That day was no ordinary one in the history of McCain-hate. On that afternoon, most of these figures' preferred candidate, Mitt Romney, announced at CPAC, the big annual conservative conference in Washington, that he was dropping out of the race. McCain, now the presumptive Republican nominee, was booed. The next morning the conservative magazine Human Events sent out a weekly roundup of its top ten stories to its e-mail list. Eight were anti-McCain jeremiads. One called the McCain ascendancy "the new Axis of Evil." Michael Reagan's article "John McCain Hates Me" posited a "huge gap that separates McCain--whose contempt for his fellow humans is patently obvious--and my dad, Ronald Reagan," and concluded, "He has contempt for conservatives who he thinks can be duped into thinking he's one of them."
Michael Reagan, for one, would not be duped. He would not defile his father's sacred memory. At least for a week. Eight days later Reagan's article for Human Events argued, "Assuming that John McCain will be the Republican nominee, you can bet my father would be itching to get out on the campaign trail working to elect him even if he disagreed with him on a number of issues."
Such are the strange McCain contortions Republicans have been forcing themselves into in recent weeks. Tom DeLay used to fret that he "might have to sit this one out" if McCain won the nomination. Now he's stumping for the presumptive nominee with apparent enthusiasm. At a March 1 "Reagan Day" dinner (Republicans used to call them "Lincoln Day" dinners), Texas Senator John Cornyn likened the base's swing to McCain to the grieving process: "You come to acceptance."
But what is it that made supporting a senator who has earned an 83 lifetime rating from the American Conservative Union and votes with his party 88.3 percent of the time feel like mourning in the first place? They weren't this hard, after all, on fair-weather conservatives Bob Dole in 1996 or George H.W. Bush in 1988 and 1992, were they?
Conservatism is, among many other things, a culture. The most important glue binding it together is a shared sense of cultural grievance--the conviction, uniting conservatives high and low, theocratic and plutocratic, neocon and paleocon, that someone, somewhere is looking down their noses at them with a condescending sneer. And to conservatives, McCain has been too often one of the sneerers. It is, as much as anything else, a question of affect. As Michael Reagan wrote, "I don't like the way he treats people. You get the impression that he thinks everybody is beneath him."
They are not entirely imagining things. Birds fly, fish swim, McCain preens: it has ever been thus. His preening has turned the thin-skinned crypt-keepers of conservatism hysterical. "McCain's apostasies," Charles Krauthammer recently wrote in the Washington Post, "are too numerous to count." They aren't, really. Some conservatives still call the Republican nominee "Juan" McCain, for what Reagan calls "such blatantly anti-conservative actions as his support for amnesty for illegal immigrants." But of course Reagan's sainted father, in signing the 1986 immigration bill, was a more unapologetic and effective advocate of "amnesty" than McCain ever was--and you don't hear him getting labeled "Ronaldo" Reagan. Note, also, that other supposed bugaboo of conservative ideology: pork-barrel government spending. McCain is the Senate's leading fighter against spending earmarks. If pork was what they truly cared about, he'd be a hero. But that stance has earned him no points on the "conservative" side of the ledger.
The issues aren't the issue. George Stephanopoulos once asked Tom DeLay what it was conservatives demanded of McCain, and DeLay admitted as much: "I don't think they're demanding that he change in his position," he said. "It is attitude."
In other words: it's the ring-kissing, stupid. Consider George H.W. Bush's attitude: he all but groveled before conservatives--first calling supply-side doctrine "voodoo economics," then swallowing hard and accepting a spot as voodoo priest Reagan's running mate. Bob Dole, formerly a proud budget balancer, lay prostrate before them in accepting a 15 percent across-the-board tax cut as the cornerstone of his 1996 presidential platform, then took on movement hero Jack Kemp as his running mate.
For conservative leaders, making candidates pay them court, publicly and ostentatiously, is a colossal source of their symbolic power before their followers. It's kabuki theater, mostly. Ronald Reagan never did much to make abortion illegal. He did, however, deliver videotaped greetings, fulsome in praise for his hosts, to antiabortion rallies on the Mall. Pentecostal leaders were horrified to see George W. Bush violate what they considered biblical prophesy by giving over the Gaza Strip to the Palestinians in 2004. After they made their dismay known, Bush did not change his mind. He did, however, send top White House and National Security Council staffers to flatter them in a private meeting that concluded, according to an account one of the pastors sent to his followers, "with a heart-moving send-off of the President in his Presidential helicopter." Rings kissed, egos assuaged--and these particular Pentecostals stopped complaining about the sacrilege. The issue wasn't the issue.
For decades, the operative theory in Republican politics has been that there exists a seething mass of lockstep conservative voters controlled by leaders like these, without whose support no Republican can win a presidential election. Michael Reagan puts it this way: "If [McCain] gets the nomination the only way he could win against Hillary or Barack Obama would be to be part of a McCain-Limbaugh ticket." But that's certainly never been reflected in any actual electoral data. Indeed, this year it appears that conservative opinion leaders are more out of touch with the masses they purport to lead than ever. According to a recent CBS poll, only 17 percent of Republicans want an uncompromising conservative as their nominee. Eighty percent of Republicans are satisfied with McCain. Sixty percent of conservative primary voters say they "want a candidate who would compromise with Democrats in order to get things done."
McCain has called their bluff. He didn't suck up to Rush Limbaugh but won the nomination anyway; he's also faring well in general election matchups. He has shown that the kingmakers have no clothes. The humiliation is hard to forgive. It has made it harder for conservative leaders to do business and turned politicians like McCain (and Arnold Schwarzenegger), in their eyes, into monsters. On Glenn Beck's CNN show, for instance, Democratic consultant Peter Fenn pointed out that the reason McCain does well with voters is that "they think he is independent."
"Yes," Beck replied, "well, so is Dr. Frankenstein."
Kind of gives the game away: in their mind, these conservative leaders create Republican Presidents. But what's the point if GOP candidates are just going to go crashing around the countryside doing whatever the hell they want?
And so the professional conservatives did their best to set loose the torch-bearing mob. Late in January, former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum made call after call after call spreading the word that, yes, even a President Hillary Clinton or a President Barack Obama would be better than a President McCain. At one point, according to Democratic activist Mike Lux, who overheard an indiscreet Santorum making such calls on the New York-DC Metroliner, Santorum attempted to talk an interlocutor into "coming out with a terrible story about McCain from five or six years ago." Clearly the crusade to sabotage McCain didn't work. Professional conservative Monica Crowley finally admitted the obvious: "A lot of people have actually voted for McCain, and they weren't just moderates and independents. Enough Republicans have voted for him to give him the nomination--and yes, a decent number of conservatives have too."
The frustration has been palpable. There was, for instance, the incident with radio host Bill Cunningham. Cunningham had warmed up a partisan crowd before a McCain speech in Cincinnati by barking out Obama's infamous middle name, Hussein. When McCain later "learned" about the remark, he pronounced himself shocked, shocked--and said he'd never met Cunningham in his life. Republicans have been choreographing such stylized minuets for so long now--the "grassroots conservative" gets the smears "out there," the "establishment" candidate distances himself from them, everyone emerges all the stronger--that the steps have become implicit. But Cunningham pretended to have forgotten the dance. He went on TV and complained that, of course he had met McCain several times before, and that of course McCain's handlers had told him to throw the crowd "red meat."
But everyone couldn't abandon McCain. If the Democrats won the presidency, after all, the country would see, as Human Events's Bret Winterble warned, "Obama socializing entire corporate sectors." Republicans were stuck with McCain. So what would happen next?
Conservatives started to pivot publicly in the middle of February. It may have had something to do with reports that McCain gave in to what Robert Novak identified as the negotiating terms of "elements of the Republican Party's right wing": "first, that McCain would veto any tax increase passed by a Democratic Congress; second, that he would not emulate Gerald Ford and George H.W. Bush in naming liberal Supreme Court Justices such as John Paul Stevens and David Souter." It may also have something to do with McCain's bowing down before the conservative holy grail of super-harsh enforcement-first immigration reform.
Or, if my theory is correct, the conservative turnabout may have less to do with any particular policy pledges than with an ostentatious shift in apparent attitude: a show of groveling before the professional conservatives. "I've listened and learned," ran McCain's Super Tuesday radio ads announcing he'd seen the light on immigration: "No one will be rewarded for illegal behavior." Note the language. "Listening" is precisely the word the angriest professional conservatives use most when describing McCain's attitude problem. "He promises to hear, not to listen," Human Events editor Jed Babbin complained. "I am appalled by his contempt for the intelligence of his listeners," Michael Reagan moaned in his column.
We may never know how these meetings went down. Something, however, seems to have shifted in those days following CPAC. Jack Kemp, the man who was made Bob Dole's 1996 running mate as a sop to conservatives, penned an open letter to right-wing talk-radio on February 11, arguing that for conservatives to sit petulantly on their hands this fall would turn over the nation to "those who would weaken our nation's defense, wave a white flag to al-Qaida, socialize our health-care system, and promote income redistribution and class warfare instead of economic growth and equality of opportunity." He even, rather comically, compared McCain to another "well-known maverick" conservatives once foolishly turned against: Winston Churchill. "He was even banned from talk radio (aka the BBC) in those days," Kemp wrote.
Then, fortuitously, in the third week of February, just as the floodgates for McCain's redemption were opening, came an exposé of his alleged favors to an attractive blond lobbyist--from dreaded bête noire of conservatives, the New York Times. That offered the fig leaf to erstwhile McCain-haters who wished to make the pivot to party loyalty and still save face. It was no accident, they claimed, that it had been the people Jed Babbin called in another context "the hyperliberal editors of the New York Times" who had engineered the man's downfall. "The New York Times is trying to Swift Boat McCain," trumpeted one Republican strategist. "This is the first real salvo of the general election." An RNC letter sent, among other places, to the Human Events e-mail list blared, "The New York Times has proven once again that the liberal mainstream media will do whatever it takes to put Senator Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama in the White House." Mac-Lash: Times Slime Boo$ts McCain, declared the New York Post headline on a story of the fundraising blip that ensued.
To which a citizen of the reality-based community might reasonably ask: why would the editors at the Times--a paper that hired McCain's most consistent and aggressive backer in the conservative opinion firmament, Bill Kristol, as a columnist--"Swiftboat" a candidate they had endorsed for the Republican nomination?
How naïve you are. "The media picked the GOP's candidate," explained Rush Limbaugh, "and is now, with utter predictability, trying to destroy him." Shock-talker Laura Ingraham helpfully elaborated: "You wait until it's pretty much beyond a doubt that he's going to be the Republican nominee, and then you let it drop." The Times conspiracy was so immense and manifestly evil that even McCain's sworn rival, Mike Huckabee, found it in his heart to denounce it.
So the right is finally rowing more or less in the same direction, right? Not so fast. Newsmax.com on the day of CPAC, approvingly quoting Limbaugh, added to the anti-McCain thunder this way: "We are sick and tired of how the people who seem to be triumphing in our party are precisely the people who seem to be selling this party out in terms of its ideology." Four days later, McCain's nomination guaranteed, Newsmax, whose e-mail list of millions of names makes it much more influential than elite outlets like National Review or The Weekly Standard, attempted an awkward 180-degree twist. It quoted the testimony of a left-wing British writer, Johann Hari--identified as an "editorial board member of The Liberal magazine," so he must be speaking for Liberal Central Command--saying that McCain's "credentials as a 'bipartisan progressive' are in fact a 'lazy, hazy myth'.... 'The truth is that McCain is the candidate we should most fear.'"
See? The liberals hate him. So it's safe for us to like him.
But conservatism, like I say, is a business. You know you never get an e-mail from Newsmax editors without them trying to sell you something. What they were selling this time was a previous issue of their magazine with a McCain story on the cover. The piece was called "Inside McCain's Head," and it retold the far right's favorite former story about the man: that he's a Manchurian candidate whose true loyalties ultimately belong to the enemy. Newsmax hadn't even bothered to change the advertising copy now that former foe was friend: "In this eye-opening report on McCain Newsmax magazine delves into: How McCain charmed Manhattan's media elites with an exclusive fete that pundits say 'launched' his 2008 campaign for the White House.... "Why Paul Weyrich thinks McCain isn't the right man for the White House.... "McCain's 14-hour stints at the Las Vegas craps tables."
We like to think of the American right as a finely honed mechanism--a "conservative noise machine." And most times over the previous decade, the metaphor worked. But these days, the movement can no longer keep its stories straight. It reminds me of the McCain website the day after the New York Times lobbying exposé, the same day the RNC sent out its fundraising letter accusing the Times of electioneering for the Democrats. To anyone who might doubt that the good old conservative machine is overheating from the confusion and strain, here is proof that the noisemakers had clearly neglected to coordinate their anti-Times fundraising push with the McCain campaign. For there was the Times endorsement on its website that same day, bold as brass.
The gears of the contraption are jamming. Let the contortions of a Michael Reagan or a Newsmax attest to that, if nothing else. The whole machine had always been built on a series of bluffs: that once the malign hand of the liberals was removed from the executive, legislative and judicial branches, our new conservative Jerusalem would be achieved. But something remarkable occurred in the five years between 2001 and 2006: for the first time since the rise of the modern conservative movement with the nomination of Barry Goldwater in 1964, then the rise of Newt Gingrich's revolutionaries in 1994, the right had a chance to control all three branches of government--to actually run the country. Naught but obvious failures have been the result: a crashing economy, a rotting infrastructure, a failed war and a less safe world, more Americans saying their nation is on the wrong track than at any time since pollsters started measuring.
In the face of all this, the conservative movement has kept on trying to do the only thing it knows how to do: sell conservatism. Saner heads in the Republican Party, meanwhile, have done their darnedest to put forward a presidential prospect who might let the party distance itself, if only rhetorically, from the disaster that conservatism in power has proved to be.
But without "conservatism" as the core narrative, the Republican Party doesn't know how to tell any stories at all. Its confusion over how to talk about McCain is only the symptom. The conservative era is over--if you want it.
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, April 11, 2008 - 11:22