Roundup: Media's Take
This is where we excerpt articles from the media that take a historical approach to events in the news.
James Ricci and Patricia Ward Biederman, in the LAT (March 30, 2004):
That gays are more widely accepted in American society is readily apparent in everything from television sitcoms to corporate anti-discrimination policies to recent U.S. Supreme Court opinions.
Less apparent is why and how the shift in attitude occurred. Although some religious and social leaders believe the new visibility of gays points to a national moral decline, the evolution of attitudes about gays is a complex brew of factors, according to historians, social psychologists and others who have studied the phenomenon.
The American Enterprise Institute, a conservative think tank in Washington, D.C., has compiled 30 years' worth of major public opinion poll results on Americans' attitudes toward homosexuals. While the surveys consistently show that about two- thirds of Americans oppose gay marriage, an issue that has now reached the California Supreme Court, they also demonstrate remarkable shifts on numerous other fronts. For example:
Public acceptance of gays in the military grew from 51% in a 1977 Gallup Poll to 80% in 2003.
Approval of gays as elementary school teachers grew from 27% in 1977 to 61% over the same period.
A 1999 Gallup survey showed that 59% would vote for a well-qualified presidential candidate who was homosexual, up from 26% in 1978.
"There's been an enormous increase in tolerance that's the bottom line," said Karlyn Bowman, who compiled the poll results for the institute.
Some of the factors fueling the changes have been related to gays' own efforts, some have not. Some factors have opposed one another, some have been mutually reinforcing. The black civil rights movement, changes in state and local laws, the AIDS epidemic and even the Sept. 11 catastrophe have been part of the mix.
Two powerful societal forces associated with the 1960s the sexual revolution and the civil rights movement are credited with driving the change in attitude.
The emergence of widespread contraception and a new insistence on sexual privacy were key elements in Americans' evolving view of sexuality, according to Gregory Herek, a UC Davis psychology professor and an authority on sexual orientation and prejudice. That a person's sexual behavior was his or her affair, and not society's, became an accepted precept...
Marc Morano, in the Cybercast News Service (April 1, 2004):
The 1970s anti-war group that included John Kerry was "heavily infiltrate[d]" by individuals dedicated to the teachings of Chinese communist leader Mao Tse-Tung and to the use of violence, if necessary to achieve their goals, according to a historian friendly to Kerry.
"The RCP (Revolutionary Communist Party) was already beginning to heavily infiltrate the [Vietnam Veterans Against the War in 1971]. They eventually took it over around '73 and basically pushed out all the real veterans and brought in all the RCP functionaries and destroyed the organization," Gerald Nicosia, author of Home to War: A History of the Vietnam Veterans' Movement and a Kerry supporter, told CNSNews.com.
"Even in 1971, there was an RCP presence ... [RCP is] a crackpot organization, very violent, extremely violent, far left Maoist organization," led by a man named Bob Avakian, Nicosia said.
"[In 1971] they were trying to take over and eventually did take over VVAW," he added.
Nicosia said Kerry was aware of communism's increasing presence in the VVAW operations and it was one of the factors that led to his resignation as one of the leaders of the group in November 1971.
But even though Kerry resigned from the group's leadership in November 1971, several published news accounts cite Kerry as a representative of VVAW into 1972.
The RCP's efforts to control VVAW came to a head in 1978, when the communist factions split off to form their own group called Vietnam Veterans Against the War - Anti-Imperialist (VVAW-AI.) This group still exists today and refers to the U.S. as "AmeriKKKa" on its website.
Other radical factions influenced VVAW, according to Nicosia.
"There were guys that were not Maoist, but guys who were like Scott Camil," Nicosia said, referring to the man who allegedly advocated the possible assassination of U.S. senators still supportive of the U.S. war effort in Vietnam. "They were veterans and still believed in the U.S and still saluted the flag, but believed this government was all wet and wanted to get rid of it," Nicosia said.
"There was Al Hubbard, who was a Black Panther who was also pushing the organization toward violent confrontation," Nicosia added. Hubbard, who had appeared at Kerry's side in April of 1971 on NBC's Meet the Press , was later shown to have lied about his military record.
Current VVAW member David Cline dismissed the communist presence in VVAW during the time Kerry served as the group's spokesman.
"Some people had philosophies of varying types. There [were] people who
were driven by religious views ... there was one guy who was involved in Veterans
for [the George] McGovern campaign. So there [were] people coming from different
areas," Cline told CNSNews.com . "Anytime you are going to get a big
organization, you are going to get a lot of different views."...
Mike Anton, in the LAT (March 31, 2004):
Throughout most of human history, a man married a woman out of desire -- for her father's goats, perhaps.
Marriage was a business arrangement. The bride was a commodity, her dowry a deal sweetener. And the groom was likely to be an unwitting pawn in an economic alliance between two families.
A church may or may not have been involved. Government was out of the loop. There was no paperwork, no possibility of divorce, and -- more often than not -- no romance. But there was work to be done: procreation, the rearing of children and the enforcement of a contract that allowed for the orderly transfer of wealth and the cycle of arranged matrimony to continue.
In the debate over same-sex marriage, each side offers competing ideals that they claim hark back to the historical essence of matrimony.
In calling for a constitutional amendment banning homosexual marriage, President Bush has described contemporary heterosexual marriage as "the most fundamental institution of civilization," forged during "millennia of human experience." Thousands of gays and lesbians who have married in defiance of state law in San Francisco and elsewhere maintain they possess what has always mattered most in a relationship: Love.
But marriage, it turns out, has never been that simple. For much of its history, matrimony has been a matter of cold economic calculation, a condition to be endured rather than celebrated. Notions of marriage taken for granted today -- its voluntary nature, the legal equality of partners, even the pursuit of happiness -- required centuries to evolve.
"We live in such a chaotic world, the idea of a relationship that is constant -- not only in our own lives but historically -- is something we want to invest in," said Hendrik Hartog, a Princeton University history professor who wrote a book on the legal evolution of marriage. "It's natural to romanticize the history of marriage, and advocates of gay marriage are as invested in this as conservatives are."
Marriage as Americans know it today didn't exist 2,000 years ago, or even 200 years ago. Rather than an unbending pillar of society, marriage has been an extraordinarily elastic institution, constantly adapting to religious, political and economic shifts and pliable in the face of sexual revolutions, civil rights movements and changing cultural norms.
"It's extremely malleable," said Thomas Laqueur, a history professor at UC Berkeley who has studied marriage and sexuality. "Historically, anthropologically, the word 'marriage' needs to be placed in quotation marks." One reason that marriage seems so unchanging is that it has evolved glacially, inching forward on many paths at once.
In Greek mythology, Zeus created Pandora, the first woman. Then he made her the first bride and gave her as a gift to the Titan Epimetheus. The union ended poorly when Pandora opened the wedding gift she came with, unleashing from the box all of the evils of mankind.
And some newlyweds today complain when they get a toaster.
Like Zeus, Greek fathers considered their daughters property and essentially bartered them for the purpose of cementing an economic or political alliance.
The Romans codified marriage, introducing the idea of consent and setting the minimum age of grooms at 14, brides at 12. There were three types of union, and which one you got depended on your social class. The rich got a confarreatio, which included a big celebration, a special cake, maybe an animal sacrifice. The masses simply shacked up, and after a time they were considered married. A woman in a coemptio was essentially sold to her husband and had the same status as a child.
Arranged marriages remained common in Western societies into the 19th century. It is still the rule in parts of central Asia, Africa and the Middle East. It's a practice replete with abuse, from female infanticide by parents fearful of having to pay for a marriage someday to "bride burnings" of women whose families provide an insufficient dowry.
The Romans promoted monogamy at a time when polygamy was common throughout the pre-Christian world. The ancient Chinese had their concubines, and from David to Abraham, the Hebrew scriptures read like Utah in the mid-19th century, full of men who had dozens, even hundreds, of wives.
"Now King Solomon loved many foreign women: the daughter of Pharaoh, and Moabite, Ammonite, E'domite, Sido'nian, and Hittite women ... ," reads 1 Kings 11:1, in the revised standard version of the Bible. "He had seven hundred wives, princesses, and three hundred concubines; and his wives turned away his heart." Add a pickup, and it's a country song.
In fact, polygamy has been more common than monogamy over the full sweep of human history. The Roman Catholic Church would take up the push for monogamy, and through the centuries it overtook polygamy as the standard worldwide.
But polygamy is stubborn. Though the U.S. Supreme Court outlawed it in 1879, polygamy survives in the shadows of the Mormon West. And, while waning, it is still practiced in the Muslim world and illegally in Israel by some ultra-orthodox Jews, among other places. Polyandry, marriages involving one woman and more than one man, have cropped up among Eskimos and, even today, in Tibet.
Even where there have been clear rules about marriage, there have been more loopholes than there are in the U.S. Tax Code.
King Henry VIII famously broke from Catholicism and started his own church largely so he could divorce and marry again -- and again. European commoners who couldn't legally divorce sold their wives.
The Muslim tradition of a temporary "pleasure" union, which dates to the days of Muhammad, is still used to legalize sex under Islamic law.
Its Western counterpart: the Vegas quickie wedding, sometimes sanctified at a drive-through chapel or presided over by an Elvis impersonator. Impassioned couples began to flock to Nevada in the 1920s, after California imposed a three-day waiting period in an attempt to keep drunken lovers from the altar.
What constitutes a marriage is so fluid that many anthropologists sidestep the word altogether, preferring "unions" or "alliances," said Roger Lancaster, a professor of anthropology and cultural studies at George Mason University in Virginia. Other scholars refer to same-sex unions throughout history -- in cultures as varied as ancient Greece, tribal Africa and native North America -- as marriages.
Back in the early 1970s, two New York Times journalists — Drew Middleton and Herbert Matthews — set out part of the practical argument which faces war reporters. Middleton contended that the correspondent's duty is"to get the facts and write them with his interpretation of what they mean to the war, without allowing personal feelings about the war to enter into the story. No one," he added," can be completely objective but objectivity is the goal." Matthews, however, argued instead for"honest, open bias" proclaiming that"a newspaperman should work with his heart as well as his mind."
There, in a nutshell, is the dilemma every journalist — whether a reporter on assignment or an editor running a paper — must face in wartime. Heart or mind. Patriotism or professional detachment. Propaganda or objective reportage.
Now, I'm going to take you through a good slice of history because I find the structure an excellent way of ensuring that the dilemmas I'll be exploring are grounded in reality. Considering what happened in the past provides both detail and context for the contentions I'll take up as I proceed. So let's scare you just a little by starting way back in 55 BC, when Julius Caesar's legions invaded Britain. There were no newspapers around then, no cameras, no rolling news channels, not a scribe — not a war correspondents — in sight.
But Julius knew the value of telling the Roman people about the bravery of his army, about his battle victories and, naturally, about his own heroic part in leading the conquest of another country. So he played war correspondent to tell the story of his own war, bequeathing us the only report of what happened at a crucial moment in European history.
He had several advantages, of course, not the least being the fact that he didn't file his copy until years afterwards, well after British territory was indisputably Roman, thus allowing himself the luxury of telling of some of the reverses suffered by his troops. We can't be certain that he told the truth in his 'Commentaries on the Gallic Wars' [De Bello Gallico] — because there were no fact-checkers, what joy! — but it's generally accepted that he didn't embroider his story because he didn't need to. What isn't in dispute is that his account amounted to propaganda: Caesar's military exploits in Gaul and Britain added to the greater glory of Rome and, undoubtedly, to the greater glory of General Julius.
He wasn't the first soldier to talk up his triumphs — various Greeks did it hundreds of years before — and he certainly wasn't the last. Indeed, for many hundreds of years soldiers were virtually the only sources for wars and improbably were usually considered to be authoritative. British newspapers up to the mid-1800s relied on letters from junior officers and treated them as true accounts of what had happened.
William Howard Russell, the man who deserves to be known as the father of war reporting — well, the great, great, great grand-papa, if you like. His reporting of the Crimean war in 1854 is remarkable in all sorts of ways since, in almost every aspect, it prefigures the subsequent clashes between the government and its military on one side, and journalists and their editors on the other. The conflict between the two sides, put quite simply, was about whether Russell's attempts to tell the truth were unpatriotic.
Russell was sent to the Crimea by the London Times, which had been a cheerleader for the war against Russia. But Russell's Gallipoli dispatches revealed that British soldiers were living in substandard conditions and highlighted the administrative inadequacies of the army. The military hadn't wanted Russell there in the first place, having prevented him from sailing on a troop ship.
Once they realized what Russell was writing, they did their best to frustrate him, denying him the right to sleep within army lines and looking the other way when his tent was torn down. But Russell stuck to his task, won over many of the junior officers who agreed with him and also sent back descriptive articles — of the battle of Balaclava and the charge of the light brigade — which rank as classic pieces of reportage. He later told of the horrific deprivations suffered by soldiers during the winter months, concentrating especially on the lack of proper medical facilities.
Back in London, Russell's editor — John Delane — stayed local to his correspondents by fearlessly publishing his controversial reports. He did so in the face of considerable heat from a host of establishment critics, who included powerful figures in both the main political parties, not to mention the monarch, Queen Victoria, who called The Times an"execrable publication." One senior politician remarked:"If England is ever to be England again, this vile tyranny of The Times must be cut off." The British government reacted as war-making governments in a corner inevitably do, accusing Russell of exaggeration and sensationalism, while desperately trying to discredit The Times.
But people flocked to donate money to a fund set up by The Times to send out medical supplies — and Florence Nightingale. Several politicians made formal complaints about the paper breaching security and made vain attempts to censor it. Many of the attacks on The Times referred to it misusing its supposed"power." But it was The Times which came out on top: the government was forced to resign and The Times' status grew immeasurably afterwards.
Now, let's be fair here: Russell's writing style was florid, emotive and, yes, often sensational and it later became clear that he was far from 100 per cent accurate on occasion, getting many details wrong. But, in essence, he got the substantive story right: largely through incompetence, the politicians and the military high command had allowed more than a third of their army to perish through sickness. He had done a good journalistic job.
So, 150 years ago, at the very dawn of professional war reporting, we can see the schisms opening up: the reporter at the front was doing his job while the generals at the front were attempting to do theirs. The editor back in London was fulfilling his proper role while the government was fulfilling its.
From an interview on NPR's Talk of the Nation (March 2004):
Magnus Ranstorp: ... I think if you ask any Hamas official, they would see themselves as part of a chapter of the Muslim Brotherhood, the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood that was created in 1928. The Muslim Brotherhood was one of the first forces that fought Israel in the war of independence in '48, '49. Hamas--or shall we say that what Yassin sort of was responsible for creating--was primarily in the social sphere. He created the Al-Mujamma Al-Islami, the social sphere which was registered with Israel in 1978. It was primarily at a time in the late 1960s and the '70s that Hamas was expanding its social activity and trying to re-Islamicize society from the bottom up. In the 1980s, the movement became somewhat more militant in the sense--in '84 Yassin was charged and he was also imprisoned for some time for involvement or at least association with some terrorist activity in having weaponry, and he remained in prison for a majority of the time in the late 1980s.
Of course, Hamas really, as we know it today, came out of the first Palestinian uprising that began on the 9th of December, 1987. A few days later in early '88, Hamas actually adopted the name The Islamic Resistance and began to participate in the uprising against Israel. In 1988, it also--and '89--began to want to pursue a more violent strategy. And progressively it has escalated using different means of violence, beginning in 1989, 1990, with a war of knives; kidnapping Israeli soldiers, that led to the expulsion of 415 Hamas and Islamic Jihad activists to South Lebanon; and of course, coming into contact with Hezbollah in Lebanon, the Lebanese Shiite group that had been fighting the Israelis, adopted the suicide bombing and imported that into the Palestinian territory and began its first operation in terms of suicide bombings in April of 1994....
I see that its turn towards violence is very much a function of its competition for leadership in the Palestinian polity with the PLO, now the PA--that is to say, it has moved in this direction in order to outflank the Fatah-PLO-PA bloc, which it has succeeded in doing. The net effect of its actions--not only suicide bombings, all of its actions--and of this approach has been that it has gone from having less than 20 percent support in most polls to having close to double that right now.
Jimmy Breslin. in Newsday (March 30, 2004):
I just made a professional appearance in Washington and as I am a working person, as differing from these Pekinese of the Press, I found Ms. Condoleezza Rice's contention shady that she cannot appear under oath and in public in front of the 9/11 committee because of precedent and separation of powers.
Bush the president has told her not to appear. This makes him somewhat more than an innocent bystander in this.
Zbigniew Brzezinski says he was national security adviser in 1980 and that he appeared -"under oath!" - in front of a Senate committee in 1980.
We present herewith - and prominently - the proof that she has been lying.
Wednesday, Sept. 17, 1980
U.S. Senate Subcommittee to Investigate the Activities of Individuals Representing the Interests of Foreign Governments of the Committee on the Judiciary. Washington, D.C.
Senator Pell: Mr. Chairman, it seems to me that we have a mandate to be as wide-ranging as we care to be as a committee, but from the viewpoint of the White House this is already a historic occasion. It is the first time that I can recall that the National Security Adviser has come up in quite a while, if ever, or even a limited area and they chose to waive executive privilege only in the area concerning Libya and Billy Carter.
Mr. Brzezinski: I think it is the first time ever, Senator.
Sen. Pell: The first time ever in history that they have waived executive privilege, and I think that fact should be noted.
Mr. Brzezinski: That is my recollection, and I believe in testimony by other participants it's supported by them as well.
Sen. Dole: Now, were you aware of Mr. Kirbo's trip to Saudi Arabia in the spring of 1980 which related to the National Bank of Georgia, just a few days before the public Saudi F-15 decision by the White House?
Mr. Brzezinski: What was the date?
Sen. Dole: It was in the spring of 1980, a few days before the Saudi F-15.
Mr. Moses: What decision are you referring to?
Sen. Dole: Pardon?
Mr. Moses: What announcement was there from the White House that you're referring to? May we have the announcement?
Sen. Dole: The question was whether or not they should have more - or whether they should have the F-15s, but I was just wondering if Dr. Brzezinski was aware of Mr. Kirbo's trip to Saudi Arabia in the spring of 1980.
Mr. Brzezinski: (Are) you retracting the reference to some decisions about F-15?
Senator Dole: That's only a time frame.
Mr. Brzezinski: So you're not referring to any decision regarding F-15?
Sen. Dole: I'm just asking if you're familiar, personally familiar, with that trip to Saudi Arabia of Mr. Kirbo, whether you had briefed Mr. Kirbo, whether you had any discussion with Mr. Kirbo in the spring on 1980.
Mr. Moses: Senator are you associating Mr. Kirbo's trip with any decision made or considerations given F-15's or has that been withdrawn from your questions.
Sen. Leahy: Were you aware at the time of his [Billy Carter] public appearance around the country with Libyans?
Mr. Brzezinski: I have some recollection of the fact that he either hosted or was a co-host of a Libyan group in this country.
Sen. Leahy: Were you aware of ...
Mr. Brzezinski: May I finish?
Sen. Leahy: Were you aware of his financial problems?
Mr. Brzezinski: No, I was not aware at all of his financial situation.
Sen. Thurman: I ask you did you alert U.S. intelligence? Do you care to answer or not?
Mr. Brzezinski: I cannot allege someone to do something which they're already doing.
Sen. Thurman: Then you were satisfied with what you were doing then?
Mr. Brzezinski: Pardon?
Sen. Thurman: You were satisfied with what they were doing?
Mr. Brzezinski: I was satisfied that info they were giving indicated that they knew what was going on.
Sen. Thurman: From testimony we have heard so far there is substantial evidence that Admiral Taylor was not acting as director of Central Intelligence but as messenger ...
I have as I type this, 1,600 pages of this testimony in case somebody still feels that no national security adviser ever testified in front of a congressional committee. Anybody who wants to learn the rest of this testimony can call my newspaper and I will read it to you over the phone, and to Condoleezza Rice, who says what you just read never happened.
Neil A. Lewis, in the NYT (March 31, 2004), writing about the history of executive privilege:
A study published in 2002 by the Congressional Research Service, a branch of the Library of Congress, cited 20 instances since World War II in which presidents, waiving the privilege, had allowed senior White House aides to testify before Congressional committees.
In the case of Ms. Rice, however, the White House said no other incumbent national security adviser had ever testified in public concerning policy matters.
In 1980, President Jimmy Carter did allow his national security adviser, Zbigniew Brzezinski, to appear before the Senate Judiciary Committee to discuss efforts by the president's brother, Billy, to lobby on behalf of Libya. But that proceeding was considered something akin to a criminal investigation.
Some members of the Sept. 11 commission have noted that in 1994, President Bill Clinton allowed Samuel R. Berger, then his deputy national security adviser, to testify about American policy in Haiti. But Alberto R. Gonzales, the Bush White House counsel, pointed out in a letter to the commission last week that Mr. Berger's appearance had been in closed session.
In a letter on Tuesday in which the administration agreed to make Ms. Rice available for public testimony, Mr. Gonzales said the White House was making an"extraordinary accommodation" that"does not set any precedent."
One authority on executive privilege, Peter Shane, a law professor at Ohio State University, disagreed. Professor Shane said that if anything, Ms. Rice's testimony would bolster the idea that there is no impediment to having the national security adviser testify publicly.
"If the argument is that such testimony will damage the presidency and she goes ahead and testifies and the presidency remains undamaged," he said, that only makes it more difficult to resist the next time.
Matthew Stannard, in the San Francisco Chronicle (March 29, 2004):
When famous whistle-blower Daniel Ellsberg boarded a plane to Cincinnati earlier this week, he took along a little light reading: a stack of articles about former counterterrorism czar Richard Clarke, who has stirred controversy with allegations in his book and testimony before a special panel that the Bush White House was somewhat indifferent to al Qaeda before Sept. 11 and obsessed with Iraq afterward.
Ellsberg, who in 1971 leaked the Pentagon Papers documenting government misrepresentations about the Vietnam War, sees Clarke as part of a trend:
well-placed individuals in the government who have gone public with books or interviews outlining their concerns and criticisms about their country's government--while that government is still in power.
Ellsberg is not alone in that observation--observers from across the political spectrum, whether they support Clarke's actions or not, agree that a new willingness exists to tell all far sooner, and far more publicly, than in the past.
Ellsberg cites officials such as Scott Ritter, the former lead inspector for the U.N. Special Commission on Concealment and Investigations team, and Katharine Gun, a British government linguist who leaked an e-mail purportedly from U.S. intelligence services asking for help spying on U.N.
Opinions differ on whether the willingness to tell all is a good thing, but to Ellsberg, who has been sharply critical of the war in Iraq and even written articles encouraging current government employees to leak what he calls "Iraq's Pentagon Papers," the phenomenon is a source of optimism.
"I think these people are heroes. They're really acting appropriately in a very dangerous situation," he said. "It's as if we are learning about the Tonkin Gulf a month or two later instead of years later."
Although Ellsberg, now 72 and living in Kensington, considers Clarke somewhat of a kindred spirit, he doesn't quite see him as a whistle-blower.
Clarke was no longer an employee of the administration when he spoke out and did not provide documentation to back up his accusations--accusations the administration has rejected.
Ellsberg said the only real whistle-blower of recent times is Gun, who briefly faced charges under the British Official Secrets Act and supported her claims with documents.
"I find her really admirable," Ellsberg said, but he considers the rest remarkable, too, for being willing to go public in a way and with a speed that simply didn't occur 40 years ago.
"Why are they acting differently from people in my generation?" he said. "We knew (Vietnam) was just as deceptive and the policy was just as bad, but we certainly weren't tempted to leak."
At least, not until Ellsberg did it. But since then, a number of observers said, going public early and often has become more and more acceptable, even among ranking government officials....
Robert Scheer, in the LAT (March 30, 2004):
"Worse Than Watergate," the title of a new book by John Dean, Richard Nixon's White House counsel, is a depressingly accurate measure of the chicanery of the Bush/Cheney cabal. According to Dean, who began his political life at the age of 29 as the Republican counsel on the House Judiciary Committee before being recruited by Nixon,"This administration is truly scary and, given the times we live in, frighteningly dangerous." And when it comes to lies and cover-up, the Bush crowd makes the Nixon administration look like amateurs. As Dean writes, they"have created the most secretive presidency of my lifetime … far worse than during Watergate."
Dean knows what he's talking about. He was the one who dared tell Nixon in 1973 that the web of lies surrounding the Watergate break-in of the Democratic Party headquarters had formed"a cancer on the presidency." When Dean went public about that conversation, the Nixon White House smeared him as a liar. Fortunately, the conversation had been taped, and Dean was vindicated.
The dark side of the current White House was on full display last week when top officials of the Bush administration took to the airwaves to destroy the credibility of a man who had honorably served presidents Reagan, Clinton and both Bushes.
The character assassination of Richard Clarke, the former White House anti-terrorism chief, was far more worrisome than Nixon's smears of Dean because it concerned not petty crime in pursuit of partisan political ambition but rather the attempt to deceive the nation and the world as to the causes of the 9/11 assault upon our national security — and to justify an unnecessary war in Iraq.
First, Bush's aides suggested that Clarke had invented the meeting in which Clarke said the president pressured him to find a link between the 9/11 attack and Iraq, ignoring Clarke's insistence that intelligence agencies had concluded that no such link existed. But on Sunday, national security advisor Condoleezza Rice was forced to admit that Bush had pressed Clarke on an Iraq connection. This backed up earlier assertions by former Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill as to Bush's obsession with Iraq from the very first days of his administration at the expense of focusing on Osama bin Laden and Al Qaeda.
That the Bush lies didn't work this time may be because just too many veterans of the U.S. intelligence community are finding their voices and are willing to denounce an administration that has seriously undermined the nation's security.
They are speaking out, as 23 former CIA and other defense intelligence agents did in Robert Greenwald's devastating documentary,"Uncovered." They have stepped forward, as did David Kay, Bush's former chief weapons inspector in Iraq.
This is an administration that has been dominated by the neoconservative ideologues who condemned the logical restraint of the first Bush administration on foreign policy as a betrayal of the national interest.
Is Sen. John F. Kerry a liberal? As the presidential campaign unfolds over the next seven months, the parties will no doubt spend a lot of time debating this question, with Republicans insisting that he is and Democrats just as vehemently denying it.
The question of how to measure a senator's or representative's ideology is one that political scientists regularly need to answer. For more than 30 years, the standard method for gauging ideology has been to use the annual ratings of lawmakers' votes by various interest groups, notably the Americans for Democratic Action (ADA) and the American Conservative Union (ACU).
The ADA, which describes itself as"the nation's oldest independent liberal organization," was founded in 1947 by a group of distinguished postwar liberals -- including Eleanor Roosevelt, labor leader Walter Reuther and historian Arthur Schlesinger -- to rally support for progressive causes. Shortly afterward, the ADA began publishing an annual legislative score card. Every year, the ADA's Legislative Committee selects what it considers to be the 20 most important votes cast in each house of Congress. Senators and representatives then receive a score ranging from 0 to 100, based on the percentage of times they voted for the liberal position, as identified by the ADA. In 1971, a group called the American Conservative Union began publishing a conservative counterpart to the ADA ratings, using the same method.
The ADA and ACU ratings are valuable as yardsticks for several reasons. Both have been around for a long time, thus providing some historical perspective. Both groups are able to speak with some authority about what constitutes the"liberal" and" conservative" positions on various issues. And both are good at distinguishing between meaningful and unimportant votes. Voters back home might be taken in if the House passes a resolution saying that all Americans have the right to adequate health care or a strong national defense -- but doesn't take any action or provide any money toward that goal. The ADA and ACU almost certainly won't...
...Either way, Kerry's voting record is a very liberal one, according to both rating systems. The ADA's Web site notes that"those Members of Congress considered to be Moderates generally score between 40% and 60%." By that criterion, Kerry's record falls well outside the"moderate" range.
The same point is borne out by a comparison of Kerry's ratings with those of other Democrats who are often classified as moderates, such as Sen. John Breaux of Louisiana. Breaux's lifetime average ADA score through 2002 is 55. When Lloyd Bentsen of Texas was a senator, his lifetime ADA score was 41. Former Georgia senator Sam Nunn had a lifetime ADA average of 37. Al Gore had a 65 average. Joe Lieberman, who is sometimes described as a liberal and sometimes as a moderate -- he has a generally liberal voting record but also dissents from several important liberal positions -- has a lifetime ADA score of 76 through 2002.
At the other end of the spectrum, three senators are often singled out as the most liberal: Barbara Boxer of California, Pat Leahy of Vermont and Ted Kennedy of Massachusetts. Their lifetime ADA scores through 2002 are, respectively, 96, 93 and 90 -- statistically indistinguishable from Kerry's.
In recent weeks, a number of commentators have asserted that Kerry's voting history is complicated to classify. The evidence doesn't bear this out. If you were to take the numbers shown here, cover up Kerry's name and then ask a sample of American political scientists,"I have here a senator who in the past 10 years has had an average ADA score of 92 and an average ACU score of 6. Is he a liberal, a moderate or a conservative?" they would have no difficulty in classifying the 2004 Democratic candidate as, for better or worse, a liberal.
ACCEPTING responsibility is an essential part of everyday life, something every parent and child, every boss and worker, every friend and colleague wrestle with, or know they should. But for a president it is quite rare, and at least in the view of some historians and government experts, getting rarer, as a national culture of shifting blame permeates American politics.
So it was last week that some powerful words were spoken to the spouses and families of those who died two and a half years ago in the terror of Sept. 11.
"Your government failed you. Those entrusted with protecting you failed you. And I failed you." The words of apology were unmistakable, but the face was hard to place. It belonged to none of the recognizable leaders of the government -- not President Bush or Defense Secretary Rumsfeld, Secretary of State Powell or Condoleezza Rice, the national security adviser. Here was a middle-aged man with disappearing white hair and an American flag pinned in his left lapel: a former middle-level foreign policy official of three presidential administrations named Richard A. Clarke...
Did the Bush people lack confidence in his ability? Not really; after all, on the terrible day of 9/11, Condoleezza Rice, Clarke's boss, instructed Clarke to run the crisis-management operation in the White House Situation Room while she chose to hunker down in a secure bomb shelter...
...It is one thing for a deputy at the National Security Council to accept blame on behalf of not one but several administrations, an act perched between admirable and presumptuous. But it is quite something else for a president of the United States to say he is sorry.
In October 1983, terrorists in Lebanon drove a truckload of explosives into a building housing American marines, killing 241. That December, a Defense Department commission prepared to release a report castigating officers in the chain of command for failing to safeguard their troops.
A copy was sent to President Reagan before its release. He read through it, David R. Gergen, then an aide, recalled, and with little discussion headed for the press room."If there is to be blame," Mr. Reagan said before the assembled corps,"it properly rests here in this office and with this president. And I accept responsibility for the bad as well as the good."
The commanders, Mr. Reagan said, should not be punished"for not fully comprehending the nature of today's terrorist threat."
There was some criticism at the time that Mr. Reagan had pre-empted the military disciplinary process. But over all, Mr. Gergen said, the acceptance of responsibility for something that happened during his term vastly improved Mr. Reagan's status with the military and strengthened him for the rest of his presidency...
...Of course, accepting responsibility, let alone blame, for the events of Sept. 11 is on a scale different from virtually anything else a modern president has had to deal with. Certainly, an argument could be made that Sept. 11 is more analogous to Pearl Harbor than to Beirut, and Franklin D. Roosevelt never accepted responsibility for that sneak attack. Indeed, he talked the Republicans out of making it an issue in the 1944 campaign, saying it would hurt the war effort.
Within hours after the World Trade Center towers crumbled, Bush and Clinton partisans began blaming each other for the failure to stop Al Qaeda, and have been doing so ever since in any venue they can find.
The record is actually surprisingly clear, that there was a series of moments stretching back from Sept. 11 across at least eight years when more aggressive actions might have produced a different outcome that crisp, blue morning. For example:
In 1997 a commission led by Vice President Al Gore recommended steps to tighten airline security, including tougher screening of passengers and stronger locks on cockpit doors. Civil libertarians and the airline industry resisted...
...The most famous presidential keepsake in American history is arguably a 2 1/2-by-13-inch glass sign made at the Federal Reformatory at El Reno, Okla. On one side, the side that faced the president, it said,"I'm from Missouri." The other side, the side that faced visitors to the Oval Office, said,"The Buck Stops Here."
To Harry S. Truman that meant accepting responsibility for making tough decisions, including firing Gen. Douglas MacArthur. But it did not necessarily mean expressing regret for them later. He was proud of saying he never lost sleep over his decision to drop the atom bomb, and 10 years later when he was invited to Japan he said he would go only if he did not have to kiss the posterior portion of any Japanese citizen's anatomy. (He didn't go.)
Mr. Bush made it clear last week that he was more in the Roosevelt than the Reagan mode of the responsible commander in chief, offering a narrow test of presidential responsibility in the Sept. 11 context.
"Had I known," President Bush said the day after Mr. Clarke's testimony,"that the enemy was going to use airplanes to strike America, to attack us, I would have used every resource, every asset, every power of this government to protect the American people."
It is hard to imagine that anyone -- even Mr. Bush's fiercest critics -- doubts that.
But Mr. Bush's statement illustrates the transition from a political culture where accepting responsibility demonstrated strength to one in which it exposes weaknesses.
Compare the actions of another young president faced with a crisis early in his administration. It was mid-April 1961, and a C.I.A.-organized invasion of Cuba had collapsed at a place called the Bay of Pigs.
"There is an old saying," President John F. Kennedy said,"that victory has a hundred fathers and defeat is an orphan." The president added,"I'm the responsible officer of the government."
Despite the debacle, Mr. Kennedy's popularity increased.
But statesmanship is not always everything it seems, said Michael Beschloss, a presidential historian. Even as Kennedy was taking responsibility, his aides were out quietly -- on background as they say in Washington -- blaming the fiasco on Dwight D. Eisenhower, who had set the invasion in motion. Eventually, one Kennedy administration official, Stuart L. Udall, blamed Eisenhower in public, which brought a fierce rebuttal from his vice president, Richard M. Nixon, and forced the White House to retreat. President Kennedy, his spokesman, Pierre E. Salinger, said, bears sole responsibility and wanted everyone to know it.
In those days, a leader took responsibility in public and his aides spread the blame only in private. Today, those aides spread the blame on cable TV and only former mid-level officials take responsibility. In the culture of today's politics, presidents may well be afraid to admit they can't make everything perfect.
There was enough in the 9/11 hearings on Tuesday and Wednesday to make partisans on all sides unhappy. Partisans for the truth, however, have some ground for optimism.
If one were a Bill Clinton partisan, one would not be happy about the portrayal of the 42nd president and his anti-terror record. It appears that the Clinton administration had as many as four opportunities to try to kill Osama bin Laden in 1998-9, and seized upon none of them.
Sandy Berger, national security adviser during those years, testified on Wednesday that Clinton had ordered using"the full measure of the CIA's capabilities" to eliminate bin Laden...
...At the same time, if one were a George W. Bush partisan, one would not be pleased by the depiction of the 43rd president and his War on Terror record. In 2001, the Bush people inherited a holdover terrorism" czar," Richard Clarke, but they demoted him and cut his access and clout.
Did the Bush people lack confidence in his ability? Not really; after all, on the terrible day of 9/11, Condoleezza Rice, Clarke's boss, instructed Clarke to run the crisis-management operation in the White House Situation Room while she chose to hunker down in a secure bomb shelter...
...When they came into power, Bush & Co. had the idea that they needed a comprehensive review of national security policy, which called for less emphasis on terrorist networks, such as al-Qaida, and more emphasis on terrorist-sponsoring states, such as - in their minds, at least - Iraq.
That review took more than seven months; the first cabinet meeting on the administration's anti-terror policy took place on Sept. 4, 2001.
Do changes in policy, from one president to another, take time? Of course. But the Bush folks managed to reverse Clinton policies on taxes, global warming and abortion within weeks of taking office; it's obvious that unlimbering a new anti-terror policy was a second-tier priority for them...
...If an anti-terror czar is like a fireman, the Bush people left Clarke with the power to see what was happening but without the power to send out the fire engines. He had been worrying about al-Qaida for a decade, and yet even as he saw terror flames growing on the horizon, the Bush people pushed him aside.
No wonder Clarke is an angry man. In his memoir,"Against All Enemies," he recalls being in the Situation Room on 9/11 when he got a call from an FBI colleague:"We got the passenger manifests from the airlines. We recognize names, Dick. They're al-Qaida."
Clarke wondered, expletive-ly, how those killers had gotten on board."CIA forgot to tell us about them," came the FBI reply. In other words, his worst nightmare had come true: Al-Qaida operatives had slipped between the jurisdictional cracks of the federal government; the CIA had a list of al-Qaida names, but hadn't passed them on to the FBI, nor to airport security officials...
...What's striking about Clarke is not that he expressed his apologies to the 9/11 families for their loss, and for his own degree of responsibility for that loss. That was a bit of political theater that his fellow panelists must be kicking themselves for not having thought to do themselves.
No, what's striking about Clarke is that he delivered detailed testimony that bulls-eyed the incompetence of his ex-colleagues in the Bush administration. While all the other witnesses were generous in their praise for each other - leaving one hard-pressed to recall, as they spoke, that 3,000 people had died on their watch - Clarke was blunt. The Bush administration, in particular, had done a bad job, he said - and he said it under oath.
Of course the Bushies have a right to call Clarke's credibility into question. They can point to his smarmy letter of resignation, addressed to Bush, dated Jan. 20, 2003, in which Clarke praised Bush for his" courage, determination, calm, and leadership." But if the White House really wants to knock a hole in Clarke's chronicle, then top officials should joust with him on a level playing field - on which they, too, are under oath...
...The White House pleads"executive privilege," but that's a dodge. If the issue is important enough, constitutional nuance ought to give way to the people's right to know. In 1974, for example, the sitting president of the United States, Gerald Ford, testified, under oath, before the House of Representatives about his pardon of Richard Nixon. And ever since then, Ford has enjoyed a deserved reputation as a straight-talker...
...For the moment, the Clintonians and Bushites seem to be playing for narrow personal and political advantage.
By contrast, Clarke, warts and all, seems to be thinking about the truth - which means he is thinking about the national interest, as well as the long haul of history.
These hearings have the potential to embarrass all concerned. But while the truth might hurt top government officials, former as well as present, America will benefit from a full, if painful, account of mistakes that were made.
The 9/11 Commission is due to issue its final report on July 26; the 10 commissioners have an opportunity to help their country - if they can put aside their partisan differences and deal with the truth.
The grave of Senator Joe McCarthy has been pillaged. In the think tanks of the Republican right, in the broadcasts of Fox News, and in the pages of some of the most popular books in America, he lives again. From the mid-1950s until 2001, there was a consensus in America that McCarthyism was a brief period of political psychosis. The Senator's drunken belief that the democratic American left consisted mainly of closet Reds working to subvert the United States was seen as risible; a sulphuric firework that threatened American civil liberties and democracy for a moment but then deservedly died away.
No longer. The fourth best-selling book in the US last year - Ann Coulter's Treason: Liberal Treachery from the Cold War to the War on Terrorism - was an explicit apologia for McCarthy."What this country needed in the 1950s was Joe McCarthy," she says."Amid all the mandatory condemnations of Joe McCarthy, the little detail about his being right always seems to get lost. His fundamental thesis was absolutely correct... He was not terrorising people purposelessly. His targets were Soviet sympathisers and Soviet spies." She describes the Hollywood blacklisting of suspected Communists as"honourable", and concludes,"McCarthy's gravest error was in underestimating the problem of Communist subversion."
She is not a lone madwoman. The rehabilitation of McCarthy is currently a major theme on the US right. William Buckley Jr, the grande dame of American conservative intellectuals, has published a tedious but aggressive novel, The Redhunter, which glorifies the Senator. The historian Arthur Herman has published an acclaimed revisionist biography which says McCarthy's fears"weren't paranoid delusions. They were true." Campaigning group Accuracy in Academia recently staged a conference entitled"Rethinking McCarthy". Henry Kissinger has noted - echoing Coulter - that McCarthy"did not go far enough."
Is it possible that there was a vast Communist plot to subvert American democracy, and only McCarthy understood the depth of the problem? The new McCarthyites claim their reappraisal was triggered by new evidence: the declassification of a series of documents from the Soviet archives known as the Verona cables. These documents do indeed show that some of the individuals defended by the 1950s left and savaged by McCarthy were actually Soviet spies. The most prominent is the left's old cause celebre, Alger Hiss.
This is a serious blow, and it should be honestly acknowledged. A minority of people on the left are still inclined to see 1950s Stalinists as misguided idealists, decent believers in equality and liberty who somehow went astray. This is unsustainable. By the time Hiss was offering his secrets to Stalin's agents, the news about the gulags - vast concentration camps which slaughtered over 15 million innocent people - was out and beyond dispute. The US has many flaws, but it is lunatic to believe it is domestically equivalent to this; there are no mass graves in Kansas.
Too much of the left for too long implied there was moral equivalence between the two sides in the Cold War. They're wrong: the defence of a basically free society is not the same as the defence of a totalitarian state. A society where minorities can organise and fight for recognition is not the same as a society where minorities are herded up and executed. Hiss was not swapping secrets between two equally bad tribes.
But it's a wild leap to say that these cables therefore vindicate McCarthy. A handful of his allegations have turned out to have been right. A handful of Mystic Meg's predictions no doubt end up being accurate too. McCarthy made so many accusations - with virtually no evidence - that it would be extraordinary if he did not hit the target a few times.
More than this, it is a blatant distortion of the historical record to claim that only McCarthy was opposed to Communist spies. Most of the democratic left saw the menace of Stalinism and the crucial importance of defending America's imperfect democracy. If anything, McCarthy damaged the cause of anti-Communism by associating it with paranoid madness.
Some people will see this as an arcane historical debate. They are wrong. The Verona cables were decoded in 1995, but they have only been vigorously debated since 11 September 2001. There's a reason: at the start of a long war against Islamic fundamentalism, Americans are thinking about the launch of their last long war. How McCarthy is viewed provides us with an indication of how the"War on Terror" will proceed.
If the errors of the early stages of the Cold War are not acknowledged now, they will be repeated. The history of the 1950s is a must-read today. The first lesson is clear: within America, dissent must be defended vigorously from Coulter-style charges of treachery. The way to defend democracy is not to shut it down but to embrace it. Public debate and a frank analysis of American mistakes will make the battle against Islamic fundamentalism more efficient, not less.
In particular, it will help us to distinguish between when the US acts in a legitimate war against Islamic fundamentalism, and when it uses this as a pretext aggressively to extend its own business interests. This blurring went on throughout the Cold War: uppity democracies trying to fend off US business exploitation, like Guatemala, were crushed in the name of the war on communism. The neo-McCarthyites must not be allowed to silence opponents of aggressive US businesses with a howl of"Treachery!" It is one thing to die fighting Stalinism or Bin Laden; it is another to kill for the United Fruit Company or Halliburton.
The second lesson is that to oppose Islamic fundamentalism, Americans must repudiate their own far right. A Cold War in which America was led by McCarthy and his acolytes might not have been winnable at all. An America that jailed people for their political beliefs or that launched"limited nuclear wars" (another McCarthy obsession) might have been an America that collapsed under its own lunacies before the Soviet Union did. The US side in the Cold War was at its weakest - and its most morally indefensible - when it was fought by the President politically closest to McCarthy: Richard Nixon.
The third lesson is that the US and Britain should not back the far right abroad - foreign McCarthys - in the mistaken belief that they will help us to prevail. The Cold War led the US to overthrow many decent democratic regimes that it feared were pro-Soviet (or simply found economically inconvenient): Salvador Allende in Chile, the Sandinistas in Nicaragua, Mohammed Mossadeq in Iran. This damaged the American cause by making it - in foreign policy terms - for a time as totalitarian as the Soviet Union.
The same mistake may be repeated today. If the US continues to back fascistic dictatorships like the House of Saud, Islam Karimov in Uzbekistan and now Colonel Gaddafi, in the mistaken belief that they will help us in the"War on Terror", then the US will continue to haemorrhage its moral superiority over Islamic fundamentalists. The best way to defend democracy is to spread democracy, not supress it in the interests of fair-weather friends.
The corpse of Joe McCarthy is being paraded before us. The more extreme wing of the US right believe he offers us a model for how to fight a war against Islamic fundamentalism. They're right - and it's a model that leads straight to liquidated democracy and defeat.
Abraham Cooper and Harold Brackman, in the Straits Times (March 22, 2004):
THE brutality of the 20th century has given George Santayana's observation that 'those who forget history are condemned to repeat it' the standing of an absolute truth. Less noted but equally true is that dictators study history in order to repeat it.
Benito Mussolini, Adolf Hitler and Joseph Stalin were students of political history, including the works of Machiavelli. Saddam Hussein carried a well-worn Arabic translation of Mein Kampf.
Now, North Korean leader Kim Jong Il shows he is a no less apt pupil of history, having learnt from his mentors how to use terror to gain and exercise power, crush domestic opposition and build and maintain brutal concentration camps to rival anything built by Hitler and Stalin.
MR KIM also excels at the propaganda war, especially when it comes to brainwashing the country's children. Consider how he uses The Diary Of Anne Frank, the touching chronicle of a child desperate for love and hope while hiding in Nazi-occupied Amsterdam.
Anne's moving plea for tolerance and peace in the midst of despair and brutality is presented in North Korea's schools as a manual for preparing for the next war against 'the American imperialists' who, as one student puts it, are 'worse than Hitler's fascists'. Like his totalitarian predecessors, who contorted hope into hatred, Mr Kim's regime twists the message of Anne Frank to teach hatred of 'Nazi America'.
Unfortunately, the Nazi analogy is devastatingly appropriate - not for the United States, but the brutal North Korean regime. In the past few weeks, new information has come to light bolstering charges that political prisoners are being gassed in 'experiments' worthy of Josef Mengele, Auschwitz's 'angel of death'.
Korean human rights activist Do Hee Youn revealed top secret documents from North Korea's secluded Vinalon Complex - site of a factory producing nerve gas and blister and choking agents.
The factory's former chief engineer Kang Byong Sop smuggled out papers showing political prisoners were trucked in twice a week for experiments. He also provided this personal witness: 'I saw human hands scratching a round glass window inside a chamber that was locked with a heavy metal door.'
The factory is in the remote town of Hamhung, along with Camp No. 22, Mr Kim's largest concentration camp.
Mr Kang's revelations are new confirmation of what Mr Kwon Hyuk, former security chief at Camp No. 22, told the world a few months ago. 'I witnessed a whole family being tested on suffocating gas and dying in the gas chamber,' he charged.
'The parents were vomiting and dying, but till the very last moment they tried to save their children with mouth-to-mouth breathing.'
North Korea 'stonewalled' and attacked the credibility of these reports. The most prestigious Western media, and even US Secretary of State Colin Powell ('optimistic' about six-power talks with Pyongyang on nuclear weapons) downplayed or chose to ignore the horrifying claims of North Korean concentration camps and gas chambers.
The resulting virtual non-story is not only eerily similar to initial reports
of Saddam's 1988 gassing of Kurds but another haunting reminder of the Holocaust,
when so many early reports of Nazi killing squads and death camps were also
dismissed as biased or erroneous by Allied governments and media.
John D. Podesta and Judd C. Legum, in Salon (March 22, 2004):
Every time our nation faces a threat to national security there is a powerful tension between the need to keep the people informed and the need to keep the enemy in the dark....
On July 20, 1916, a group of German saboteurs blew up a large munitions dump on the New York Harbor, creating what the New York Times later described as"a colossal, ear-splitting, ground-shaking, glass-breaking explosion" that could be heard as far away as Maryland. Shrapnel pierced the Statue of Liberty. Thus, terrorism was an issue of great national concern nearly 90 years ago.
The attack on the New York Harbor and, more broadly, the beginning of the United States involvement in World War I marked the birth of the modern secrecy movement. During the first days of World War I, the Army implemented the first modern information-classification system. And just weeks after the United States entered the war, Congress passed the Espionage Act of 1917, which made it unlawful to disseminate information relating to the broad categories of"national defense" or"public defense."
In October 1917, Theodore Roosevelt expressed the prevalent attitude of the day:"The men who oppose the war; who fail to support the government in every measure which really tends to the efficient prosecution of the war; and above all who in any shape or way champion the cause and the actions of Germany, show themselves to be the Huns within our own gates and the allies of men whom our sons and brothers are crossing the ocean to fight."
Attorney General John Ashcroft, in an eerie echo of Roosevelt's comment, made it clear that the"Huns within" syndrome is alive and well. Testifying in support of the USA PATRIOT Act, a law which significantly expanded the ability of the government to act in secret, Ashcroft infamously said:"To those who scare peace-loving people with phantoms of lost liberty, my message is this: Your tactics only aid terrorists for they erode our national unity and diminish our resolve. They give ammunition to America's enemies and pause to America's friends. They encourage people of good will to remain silent in the face of evil."
It has always been this combination of the fear of the enemy as well as the fear of disloyalty -- what Roosevelt referred to as the"Huns within" -- that has been the rationale for withholding government information from the American public. As apprehension of subversives rises, so does the scope of government secrecy.
The lesson of the Cold War
Secrecy became more formalized and pervasive during the Cold War. The Soviet Union heightened anxieties of external attack, domestic infiltration and espionage. Communists and"fellow travelers" became the new"Hun within."
As fears of the Communism increased, the executive branch expanded the role of the intelligence communities, continually placing more of the government's operations under a shroud of secrecy. Stunningly, by 1957, the epidemic of over-classification was acknowledged by the government. That year a presidential Commission on Government Security concluded that a"vast, intricate, confusing and costly complex of temporary, inadequate, uncoordinated programs and measures designed to protect secrets and installations vital to the defense of the National against agents of Soviet imperialism" had grown unrestrained. But the commission's advice to reduce and control that system went unheeded. That same system, although somewhat narrowed or expanded by succeeding presidents, underpins our classification system today.
The Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba in 1961 demonstrated the unfortunate consequences of increasing reliance on government decision making performed exclusively through secret channels. The aim of the limited invasion, planned and carried out in a narrow and covert channel, was intended to spark a popular revolt against Castro. Instead the failed mission set in motion a chain of events that led to the Cuban missile crisis of 1962.
The year before the invasion, Lloyd Free, a Princeton University social scientist, conducted an extensive public-opinion survey in Cuba. The study revealed that at the time Cubans were quite optimistic about the future. Free unambiguously concluded that Cubans"are unlikely to shift their present overwhelming allegiance to Fidel Castro." Even though this public information was specifically given to the U.S. government, it was ignored. This is one of the most tragic consequences of the culture of secrecy: Crucial public information becomes devalued, easily disregarded or dismissed.
Nearly 40 years later the U.S. invasion of Iraq mirrors the problems associated with the Bay of Pigs fiasco. The Bush administration concluded that Iraq currently possessed weapons of mass destruction based on information that it was provided largely in secret, even though much of this information was self-serving, secondhand or otherwise unreliable. For example, the government relied heavily on information provided to it by Ahmed Chalabi, its favorite exile who hadn't been in Iraq for decades and had a strong self-interest in precipitating a U.S. invasion.
Rev. Mark Gallagher, minister of the Michael Servetus Unitarian Universalist Fellowship, Vancouver, WA, in Columbian.com (March 21, 2004):
Two men of my Vancouver congregation recently got a marriage license from Multnomah County, and I traveled to their Portland home to conduct the ceremony. Given their loving and committed relationship of over 13 years, they were perhaps the most deeply ready of any couple I have married.
I ask,"Why on Earth should these men be excluded?" Objectors answer:"You can't go tampering with an institution like marriage. It has always been this way!"
Which way would that be?
In ancient and medieval Europe, marriage was not about love but property. It was arranged by parents, often prior to the bride reaching puberty, with a dowry paid to the husband upon consummation. The overriding concern was economic.
According to the Bible, Abraham and his wife, Sarah, were children of the same father. We call that incest today. Old Testament men routinely took multiple wives. We call that polygamy today. After failing to get pregnant, Sarah offered her slave Hagar for Abraham to have children with. I'm not sure what we'd call that today.
Marriage has not always been any particular way.
[We hear:] "Change marriage and civilization will collapse!" This hysteria echoes throughout history. From the Boston Quarterly Review in 1859:"The family, in its old sense, is disappearing from our land, and not only our free institutions are threatened but the very existence of our society is endangered."
The prospect of divorce also spelled society's downfall. In 1816 Timothy Dwight, president of Yale University decried Connecticut's new divorce law:"Within a moderate period, the whole community will be thrown into general prostitution." Horace Greeley suggested that a partnership with the possibility of divorce should be called something other than marriage. ("Civil union" perhaps?)
The specter of interracial marriage was a grave threat to civilization. At one point, 41 states banned interracial marriage. It was not until 1967 that the Supreme Court ruled such laws unconstitutional. At the time of that"activist court" decision, according to one survey 72 percent of Americans disapproved of interracial marriage; 48 percent believed it should be a crime. That is significantly higher disapproval than we see today regarding same-sex relationships.
From the Rush Limbaugh Show, transcript by Limbaugh (March 22, 2004):
RUSH: Now, I'm not going to use any video of Clarke from 60 Minutes, but he was on Good Morning, America today, and here's just a couple, maybe three sound bites. Charlie Gibson says,"So, you deal with the exigencies of the day on September 11th. You come in September 12th ready to plot what response we take to Al-Qaeda. Let me talk about the response that you got from top administration officials. On that day, what did the president say to you?"
CLARKE: Well, the president wanted us to look to see if Iraq was involved. Now, the White House is trying to say he very calmly asked me to do due diligence and see who might have done it to look at all the possibilities. That wasn't it, and the White House is also saying maybe the meeting didn't take place, and there are witnesses who have said the meeting took place. The president in a very intimidating way left us, me and my staff, with the clear indication that he wanted us to come back with the word that there was an Iraqi hand behind 9-11, because they had been planning to do something about Iraq from before the time they came into office.
RUSH: You know, all this would really be powerful if the first thing we had done is go into Iraq. But my memory tells me, my friends, that the first thing we didn't do was go to Iraq, that we went to Afghanistan. You know, and plus, Mr. Clarke, this is an opinion. He’s indulging here in opinion, what he thinks of what the president wanted, what he thinks was on the president's mind. The president was faking him out, the president, look, I want you to come back here, I don't care what you find, it better say Iraq. Well, the president didn't get what he wanted, apparently, and so how can that be? If the president had his mind made up and wanted to see Iraq in this report, and it wasn't there, then what would we logically expect the president to do, fire the people who didn't do what he wanted to do and then launch a salvo on Iraq the next day?
By the way, you know, folks, I want to take you back, if you care to traverse back to September 12th, 2001, when this first happened, who did you think it might be? Who was it that you thought it might be? I tell you what, my first thought was Saddam Hussein. Here's Bush's kid, Bush 41's son in the White House, who is still steaming over the Gulf War. That was my first thought, and a lot of other people's first thoughts as well. The administration was mum. The administration didn't say anything, and we were wondering why. We didn't know what they were thinking. This idea that Richard Clarke is sitting here on the inside, he was a holdover from the Clinton years. And it's obvious there were people keeping him at arm's length even though he was on board. The next sound bite, Richard Clarke answers Charlie's question on Good Morning, America, today. Did Bush ask about any other nations other than Iraq?
CLARKE: Oh, no, no. No. Not at all. It was Iraq, Saddam, fight find out, get back to me.
GIBSON: And were his questions more about Iraq than about Al-Qaeda?
CLARKE: Absolutely. Absolutely. He didn't ask me about Al-Qaeda. I think they had an"idee fixe," a plan from day one, that they wanted to do something about Iraq, while the World Trade Center was still smoldering, while they were still digging bodies out, the people in the White House were thinking, ah, this gives us the opportunity we've been looking for to go after Iraq.
RUSH: Yeah, while the bodies were being dug out and the World Trade Center was still smoldering the administration trying to concoct and arrange a scenario to allow them to go into Iraq no matter what? Well, the only problem here, uh, Mr. Clarke is that Bush didn't go into Iraq no matter what. Once we knew it was Al-Qaeda we went to Afghanistan, not Iraq. I mean, it's one thing for you to go out and say all this and offer these opinions but history doesn't bear him out. History doesn't bear him out. Well, he's claiming he was in on the big meetings but he obviously wasn't in on the big meetings. We'll get to that in just a second. So Gibson says,"All right, you write in the book.." And, by the way, there's no challenge to anything this guy said on 60 Minutes, there's very little challenge to what he said on Good Morning, America today. Oh, you say this, okay, well what do you say about this, what do you say about that? He wasn't challenged on much of anything. Gibson says,"You write in the book no doubt the U.S. could have brought true stability to Afghanistan with a larger force, could have made the return of the Taliban and the terrorists virtually impossible. Instead, the larger force was held back for Iraq?"
CLARKE: That's right. And to this day Afghanistan is not stable. To this day we're hunting down Osama bin Laden. We should have put U.S. special forces in immediately, not many weeks later. U.S. special forces didn't get into the area where bin Laden was for two months and we tried to have the Afghans do it. You know, basically the president botched the response to 9-11. He should have done right after Afghanistan, right after bin Laden, and then he made the whole war on terrorism so much worse by invading Iraq.
RUSH: You know, this is just the amazing thing. How many times had Al-Qaeda via bin Laden acted when Richard Clarke meant something in the counterterrorism force, and we never once went after bin Laden. In fact, bin Laden was offered to us at least twice from Sudan, recall? When Richard Clarke was there. And we said no, the Clinton administration said no because there are lawyers in the justice department, i.e., Janet Reno advised against it,"we don't have enough evidence to hold him" or some other concoction. All this talk, you should have done this, you should have done that - he was in the White House for nine months when all this happened, you guys were in there eight years, Mr. Clarke, with event after event after event, terrorist attack after terrorist attack after terrorist attack, and you are the ones that strengthened bin Laden by not pursuing him, by not retaliating and in fact by caving to him in Somalia.
And then there's this line again,"made the whole war on terrorism so much worse by invading Iraq." Oh, yeah, the terrorists really got mad then, that's going to really make 'em mad. As though we did go to Afghanistan, whether our special forces got there when he wants them there or not we did go to Afghanistan, we blew up Tora Bora, we have imprisoned terrorists of al-Qaeda down at G'itmo. What do you mean, we're going to make 'em mad? He is espousing here, espousing a recipe for not pursuing these people, because"he's only going to get mad, they're only going to get mad." I mean, let me ask you a question. During the Clinton administration was there ever a war on terrorism? Did they ever mount a war on terrorism? I don't recall one! I don't recall terrorism being a big focus of the Clinton administration.
I do recall after the embassy bombings, Madeleine Albright saying,"We're declaring war on terrorism," and that's when they launched the salvo at the aspirin factory in Sudan and the missiles at the empty terrorist camp in Afghanistan and the missiles in Baghdad and that's all they did and those events happened to coincide with key grand jury testimony of people, witnesses, in the Monica Lewinsky case, which led at an impeachment case. You know, they had a terrorism summit somewhere on some island off of Egypt somewhere, a Clinton photo op. What war on terrorism did this administration fight? I've got a piece here on Richard Clarke written a year ago -- I have to double-check where it is, it's in the stack here in just a second, but this piece is written by an expert in the field who said that Clarke when he was in the Clinton administration running around warning everybody of the dangers posed by electronic warfare and terrorism, that the Internet was going to be the focal point of it. He couldn't have been more wrong. The only war that the Clinton administration fought, ladies and gentlemen, was on Ken Starr, and now they're mounting a war on George W. Bush as they seek to protect their own keisters. That would be rear ends for those of you in Rio Linda.
The Balkans risk being plunged into a new cycle of instability and bloodshed if the three main international decision-makers in the region do not act quickly and start political negotiations over the status of Kosovo, diplomats and analysts warned yesterday...
...Nato, the EU and the UN have invested much time, money and personnel in the small province that the US-led military alliance defended against Slobodan Milosevic, the former Yugoslav leader indicted by the Hague Tribunal for alleged war crime and genocide.
However, since the 1999 Nato bombing campaign against Serbia, all three organisations have been reluctant to address the main issue that dogs stability in the Balkans: Kosovo's future political relationship with Serbia...
...The EU started negotiations last year but they have made no progress, partly because of the rise of Serb nationalists in Belgrade and a weak, nationalist leadership in Kosovo."But there is also a lack of political will by the EU," said a European diplomat. Yet Balkan experts warned yesterday that if political negotiations did not start soon, it was likely violence would continue in the province and spill over to the rest of the region.
In Kosovo, the small ethnic Serb minority - which has never felt secure since 1999 - could call on Serbia to help them.
The ethnic Albanian majority could be tempted to use the unrest, fanned by some Serb nationalists in Belgrade, as a means to push their case for independence.
Next door in Bosnia and Herzegovina, where the EU is expected to take over from the 12,000-strong Nato-led Sfor later this year, Bosnian Serbs could use the chance to break away from the federation of Croats, Bosniaks and Bosnian Serbs.
The EU and Nato have been trying to sew this republic back together since the bloody civil wars of the 1990s, but Bosnian Serbs still hanker to join with Serbia.
Were that to happen, nationalist Croats, both in Croatia and Bosnia, might seize a similar chance, say analysts.
Diplomats suggest that Montenegro, now linked with Serbia, could use unrest in Kosovo to push its own claims for independence from Belgrade. There is also concern about what might happen in Macedonia....
Last week, an obscure government actuary named Richard S. Foster rocked Washington with accusations that the Bush administration had muzzled his economic forecasts for overhauling Medicare. Mr. Foster calculated that it would cost more than $500 billion to provide a prescription drug benefit over the next 10 years, but says his boss threatened to fire him if he shared the information with Congress. Lawmakers passed the bill relying on a much lower -- and politically palatable -- figure of $400 billion.
The health and human services secretary, Tommy G. Thompson, immediately ordered an internal investigation, while Mr. Foster's boss, who has since left government to become a health industry lobbyist, denied making any threats. But Democrats wasted no time in charging that the White House had tampered with the truth.
The Foster case was only the latest in a string of high-profile controversies over how the Bush White House handles information, from scientific data to health facts to intelligence in the war in Iraq.
In recent weeks, Environmental Protection Agency employees have said they were told to forgo the customary scientific and economic studies in developing a rule on mercury emissions. Nobel laureates issued a statement asserting the administration had distorted scientific fact on the environment, health, biomedical research and nuclear weaponry. Mr. Thompson acknowledged his agency had altered a report on racial disparities in health to sound more positive. And the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, a nonpartisan research institution, found that administration officials"systematically misrepresented" the threat from Iraq's nuclear, chemical and biological weapons programs...
...But the line between spin and deception is a thin one indeed, as Mr. Clinton ("I did not have sex with that woman") amply demonstrated. And as the Medicare controversy unfolded last week, Republicans noted pointedly that President Bush won election by vowing to restore integrity to the White House, a goal they say he has more than achieved...
...So the question is not whether the Bush administration has shaded the facts, but whether in doing so, it has approached a tipping point, beyond which even its Republican allies in Congress no longer trust what it says.
"I think the White House has come under such disrepute over the years that whether we have approached what would be the tipping point is hard to say," said James MacGregor Burns, a presidential historian at the University of Richmond, who studies leadership."A lot of the cynicism among the public results from failures on the part of not only this president, but also earlier presidents, in putting out full and accurate information."
With its agencies and research institutions churning out analyses, Washington is awash in facts and figures. Alice Rivlin, who has served Democratic presidents from Johnson to Clinton, said Americans have been"very lucky as a nation" to have career bureaucrats dedicated to producing accurate information."What has characterized our government, over all the time I've been in it, is that the numbers are honest," she said...
In 1981, David A. Stockman, who ran the Office of Management and Budget under President Reagan, nearly lost his job after he confessed to a magazine reporter that upon discovering that the White House could not simultaneously reduce taxes, increase military spending and cut the deficit, he altered his computer models to suggest that it could.
"This thing pales in comparison to what David Stockman did," said Lou Cannon, a biographer of President Reagan, referring to the Medicare controversy. Of the Bush administration, he said,"If you invented some deceptiveness scale, I don't think this administration stands out."
Others, though, say the Bush administration bends the facts more than most.
"I think the Bush administration, for various reasons, seems to have a higher ratio of statistical prevarication than most," said Kevin Phillips, the author of"American Dynasty: Aristocracy, Fortune and the Politics of Deceit in the House of Bush," a book that is highly critical of the president.
One reason may be the ballooning deficit, which Mr. Phillips said is forcing the White House to put a positive spin on its economic numbers -- especially in an election year. The deficit was clearly an issue with the Medicare bill. With conservative Republicans balking at the $400 billion cost, it might have been defeated, or significantly altered, had Mr. Foster's estimates been widely known.
While Democrats on Capitol Hill are trying to evoke memories of Watergate ("What did the president know; when did he know it?" Senator Edward M. Kennedy of Massachusetts asked last week about the Medicare numbers), Mr. Cannon, the Reagan biographer, says it is difficult to imagine the president paying attention to the work of a lowly actuary. Questions about Mr. Bush's credibility, he said, will ultimately be decided on the far bigger issue of how the administration handled intelligence information leading up to the Iraq war.
Mr. Burns, the presidential historian, agrees."If you make a mistake or a misstatement about domestic policy, you can retrieve it, but if you make a mistake in military policy of the sort that involves bad information, there may be no remedy," he said."That, it seems to me, is the tipping point."...
A year ago we were present at the destruction. The march of US and British troops into Iraq did more than divide old allies over how best to confront Saddam Hussein. It marked the final collapse of the geopolitical architecture that had safeguarded the peace for 50 years. Amid the rubble of the postwar order, we now have incoherence and argument. The consequent risks to the west's security far outweigh the immediate threat of another al-Qaeda atrocity.
The old system, of course, was crumbling before George W. Bush decided to go to war with Iraq. The collapse of the Soviet Union in 1989 removed the existential threat that had bound the US and Europe into the transatlantic alliance. The terrorist attacks of September 11 2001 awakened America to both its unique power and its new vulnerability.
We have heard half a dozen other reasons during the past year or two why the old transatlantic relationship was no longer sustainable. For some, it is simply a question of relative power. America is militarily strong, Europe weak. Once attacked, the US was always bound to discard the old constraints on its freedom of action. After all, the multilateralist impulse that had seen America create the common institutions of the postwar order had been as much an act of realpolitik as of Wilsonian idealism.
The Bush administration, the argument continues, never accepted the bargain under which Europe embraced US leadership in return for a say in the way it was exercised. Primacy meant America could make its own choices and opt for the flexibility of ad hoc coalitions over the obligations of fixed alliances.
There were changes too on the European side of the Atlantic. Just as the fall of the Berlin Wall meant that Europe ceased to be the centre of Washington's geopolitical universe, so too Europe felt less dependent on the US defence guarantee. Germany's implacable opposition to the invasion of Iraq would have been unimaginable during the cold war.
These are all part of the explanation. Behind them lies a deeper divide, rooted in history, culture and geography. Europe's central historical experience has been that military victories produce only temporary peace. The European Union encapsulates a visceral conviction that shared sovereignty, multilateral organisations and the rule of law are the essential explanation for the absence of war. As Jean Monnet once put it:"Institutions govern relationships between people. They are the real pillars of civilisation."
Europeans, though, failed from the outset to understand how profound was the psychological shock delivered to the US by September 11 2001. Flanked by two great oceans, America had considered itself immune from significant attack. The demonstration of vulnerability transformed a status quo power into a revolutionary one.
What we are left with is incoherence. The best that can be said of relationships between Washington and some of its erstwhile allies is that a certain public civility has returned to the conduct of diplomacy. Gerhard Schroder has visited the White House, the president has shaken the hand of France's Jacques Chirac.
A more optimistic view would say that circumstance has also obliged the antagonists to modify their views. I was rereading the other day a speech given by Richard Cheney, the US vice-president, in late August 2002. Historians will see Mr Cheney's text, which seethes with contempt for the United Nations, as a vital moment in the transatlantic rupture.
Yet the grim experience of its forces in Iraq has taught the US something of the UN's value. Only after Kofi Annan, the UN secretary-general, conferred his legitimacy on the process could Washington press ahead with plans to return sovereignty to the Iraqis. Mr Bush, if not Mr Cheney, has learned something of the importance of combining military might with legitimacy.
Europe, of course, has its own confusions and divisions. Tony Blair rested his hopes of keeping the US in the international system on getting up close to the president. Mr Chirac preferred traditional balance-of-power resistance. Both failed. Now the terrorist bombing of Madrid and the outcome of the subsequent Spanish election have added to the fog.
We can dismiss the charge by Mr Bush's Republican allies that the decision of the Spanish electorate to overturn the government of Jose Maria Aznar was an act of terrorist appeasement. You can be resolute against al-Qaeda and yet believe that invading Iraq was a terrible mistake. Those in Washington who now attack Spain's exercise of democracy would presumably argue that a victory for John Kerry in November's presidential election would also mark the triumph of Islamist fundamentalism.
Europe, though, does not have a single or convincing narrative as to how the Pax Americana might work. It is one thing to laud multinational institutions, another to say how they can be remade to meet the new strategic realities and threats. To tell America that it must work through alliances is not enough.
There are, of course, plenty of specific ideas around as to how to reinvigorate the transatlantic partnership. Among those under discussion in coming months will be a new mission statement for Nato and a joint commitment to encourage liberal democracy in what is now called the Greater Middle East.
These are worthy endeavours. But to have meaning they require a change of mindset on both sides of the Atlantic to fit them into a wider framework. There is no need to pretend that the postwar order was perfect. Nor should we think that it can, or should, be rebuilt precisely as it was. But the transatlantic relationship will be fixed only when America and Europe begin to talk seriously about the shape of a new bargain that can accommodate both America's power and Europe's fears. Pace Donald Rumsfeld, the sheriff and his posse will not do it.
I have heard it said that we should be patient. The system that emerged after 1945 was not a single, neat construction. It took many years to create. There was improvisation alongside vision, pragmatism stirred in with principle. That is true, in as far as it goes. But Islamist extremism has not shown itself indulgent of delay. Al-Qaeda will exploit the west's disunity at every turn. And where are today's Trumans and Adenauers, Marshalls and Schumans?