Roundup: Media's Take
This is where we excerpt articles from the media that take a historical approach to events in the news.
Todd Purdum, in the NYT (Feb. 28, 2004):
On April 22, 1971, John Kerry , a decorated 27-year-old Navy veteran of two tours in Vietnam, electrified the Senate Foreign Relations Committee with his passionate testimony against the war, and with tales from fellow veterans about"the absolute horror of what this country, in a sense, made them do" in Southeast Asia.
Summarizing the accounts of American soldiers he had heard at an antiwar conference in Detroit weeks earlier, Mr. Kerry said the men told how"they had personally raped, cut off ears, cut off heads, taped wires from portable telephones to human genitals and turned up the power, cut off limbs, blown up bodies, randomly shot at civilians, razed villages in a fashion reminiscent of Genghis Khan, shot cattle and dogs for fun, poisoned food stocks and generally ravaged the countryside of South Vietnam."
As both a veteran and anguished opponent of the Vietnam War, Mr. Kerry has spent years working to square the circle of a conflict that divided his generation, and the nation. Now, his old words have come back to haunt his presidential campaign, as conservative backers of President Bush question whether Mr. Kerry is"a proud war hero or angry antiwar protester," as National Review Online recently asked.
The full picture is complex. In 1970 and 1971, Mr. Kerry was among the most prominent spokesmen for Vietnam Veterans Against the War, whose major patrons included the actress Jane Fonda, and which later staged takeovers of public buildings and walkouts from Veterans Administration hospitals. But when Mr. Kerry was involved, contemporaries recount, he often took steps to moderate the group's actions, believing it was better — for it, and him — to work within the political system that he ultimately sought to join. When he organized the mass march on Washington that resulted in his Senate testimony, Ms. Fonda was nowhere to be seen.
"I think Kerry made a big effort not to have me invited to participate in that," Ms. Fonda said in a telephone interview this week."Because I think he wanted the organization to distance itself from me, that I was too radical or something." She added:"I went to North Vietnam in July of 1972, so it was not even `Hanoi Jane' yet, but I was still considered a lightning rod and radical. He knew that they had to get the attention of Congress, and he didn't want any unnecessary baggage to come with them."
Asked for comment, Mr. Kerry replied through his campaign spokeswoman, Stephanie Cutter, that he had made an effort to limit the protest to veterans.
For many Democrats, part of Mr. Kerry's appeal lies in the very fact that he both served in, then opposed the war, giving him the cachet of gallant warrior and principled dissident.
But many critics see Mr. Kerry's words as impugning the honor of all who served in Vietnam, and in recent weeks, they have circulated a picture of him seated a few rows behind Ms. Fonda at an antiwar rally in Valley Forge, Pa., and taken pains to note that she helped sponsor the"Winter Soldier Investigation" in Detroit, to which Mr. Kerry referred in his Senate testimony.
Official Republican spokesmen have largely refrained from attacking Mr. Kerry's antiwar activities, focusing instead on what they say is his failure to adequately support national security programs over the years."I have not highlighted it, but it is public testimony," the Republican National chairman, Ed Gillespie, said this week."People have talked about it."
Mr. Kerry was so concerned that the April 1971 protest in Washington be nonviolent and legal that he faced criticism from fellow members of Vietnam Veterans Against the War, who were growing more radical. He opposed the group's plan to sue President Richard M. Nixon to end the war, and in November 1971, he left it, citing"personality conflicts and differences in political philosophy."
In January 1972, after the group's protesters took over the Statue of Liberty, Mr. Kerry said in an interview with The New York Times that he had left to work on"electoral politics" and that the departure of moderates like himself had contributed to the organization's shift toward militancy. While the organization claimed 20,000 members, he said, it actually had fewer than 1,000 active participants.
Later in 1972, when protesters from the group including Ron Kovic, the disabled veteran later played by Tom Cruise in"Born on the Fourth of July," disrupted the Republican Convention, Mr. Kerry watched them on television.
"There was a lot of resentment against John because he wasn't more radical," recalled Bobby Muller, a friend from those days who now heads the Vietnam Veterans of America Foundation, recalled.
David G. Savage, writing for the Los Angeles Times (Feb. 29, 2004)
The ghost of Supreme Court Justice Harry A. Blackmun will be back in the news this week, five years after his death and more than 30 years after he wrote the momentous and still-disputed Roe vs. Wade opinion that legalized abortion.
His reputation in life was controversial. Liberals saw him as a conservative Midwestern Republican who grew in his job to become a champion of women's rights and a reborn foe of the death penalty. Conservatives saw him as a weak and indecisive judge who was unnerved by the criticism he received for the abortion decision...
...On Thursday, the anniversary of his death, the Library of Congress will open Blackmun's papers to the public -- all 1,576 boxes full.
Historians and legal scholars are eager to examine the papers, looking for clues to explain Blackmun's shift from right to left during his court career. President Richard M. Nixon nominated him as a conservative, law-and-order judge. By the time of his retirement, he was the court's most liberal justice.
It is a familiar story, and a distressing one for conservatives. Since Nixon's election in 1968, Republican presidents have named 10 justices to the Supreme Court while Democrats have named two. Yet the court as a whole has disappointed conservatives, largely because Blackmun, Sandra Day O'Connor, Anthony M. Kennedy and David H. Souter proved more liberal on social issues than the Republican presidents who appointed them.
But the main clue to Blackmun's shift may be as simple as the Roe vs. Wade opinion itself.
"The explanation for his leftward evolution is the happenstance of his being assigned to write Roe," said David Garrow, a court historian at Emory University."It was not just the criticism and the hate mail he received, but also thank-you letters he received from women. Over time, he came to think he had done a great thing for women, and it made him much more attuned to the cause of protecting individual rights."...
...Blackmun had been on the court less than two years when the justices took up a challenge to a Texas law that made all abortions a crime. When the justices voted 7-2 to strike down the law, Chief Justice Warren E. Burger selected his fellow Minnesotan to write the opinion because of Blackmun's background. Before becoming a judge, he had been the general counsel to the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn.
"He had spent much of his time working around doctors," Karlan, the Stanford professor, said."He viewed [abortion] as a medical matter. It was about the doctor-patient relationship. He also had the old-style Republican view that this wasn't the government's business."
Just as the Roe vs. Wade ruling has divided the nation, so did it serve as a divide in Blackmun's career. His clerks said the justice spent hours reading hate mail. By the late 1970s, Blackmun had split away from the conservative Burger, a boyhood friend from St. Paul, and aligned himself with the liberal Justice William J. Brennan, an Eisenhower appointee.
"He took so much heat from the right," said Dennis J. Hutchinson, a University of Chicago law professor and biographer of Justice Byron White."And the women's rights and liberals groups lionized him. That would have bounced off a lot of justices -- White, Powell, [Antonin] Scalia, for example. But Blackmun had a lot of insecurities, and he took slights very personally."...
...Some court historians say Blackmun's papers may contain little news, since the previously released papers of Justices Thurgood Marshall and Powell cover the same period."I would be surprised if there's anything that dramatically changes our thinking about him," said Mark V. Tushnet, a law professor at Georgetown University and a biographer of Marshall.
Some historians said they were troubled that Blackmun's law clerks gave advance access to the documents to Linda Greenhouse of the New York Times and Nina Totenberg of National Public Radio. They were given two months of advance access to the files, and their reports will begin Thursday....
...This is not an effort to manage the story," Koh said of the special arrangements."We didn't want someone to grab one piece of paper and make that the story. You need someone who can introduce this collection to the world in a way that promotes genuine public understanding of what this collection means."
That explanation has not impressed several historians who have worked on past collections."This is post-mortem spin control and the closest thing to an in-house press release," said Hutchinson of the University of Chicago."It anoints one person, or two, and says their version is authoritative and trustworthy. I think it's outrageous."
"This is an attempt to manage the coverage, despite what Koh says," said Garrow, who wrote a history of the abortion rulings."He wants a gentle and friendly front page in the New York Times. And he also wants NPR and the 'News Hour' to think well of Harold Koh."
There is, alas, one simple factual problem in Charles Krauthammer's thoughtful piece today. It is the following assertion:[B]ecause of the Full Faith and Credit clause of the Constitution (which makes every state accept"the public Acts, Records, and judicial Proceedings of every other State"), gay marriage can be imposed on the entire country by a bare majority of the state supreme court of but one state. This in a country where about 60 percent of the citizenry opposes gay marriage.
This is inaccurate. Historically, marriage has never been one of the"public acts, Records, and judicial Proceedings" that the Full Faith and Credit clause mandates are transportable from state to state. If that had been the case, we would never have had a struggle over inter-racial marriage. As soon as one northern state legalized it, it would have been legal in every Southern state. (Civil divorce, ironically, is such an institution. It is the result of a judicial proceeding. Civil marriage, in contrast, is a license.) It has long been established law that the states have a public policy exception to recognizing marriages from other states; and Massachusetts' marriage licenses, to cite the current controversy, are even issued on the condition that they are void elsewhere if unapproved in other states. So the notion that four judges in Massachusetts can impose civil marriage for gays on an entire country is simply mistaken. Some argue that activist courts these days will over-rule these precedents. But with 38 states explicitly saying they won't recognize such marriages; with the Defense of Marriage Act backing that up; the likelihood is minimal. And once you remove that premise, Charles' argument about who is the aggressor here is undermined (although I am glad that he wants to defend the Constitution from unnecessary meddling). In my view, the religious right amendment is both extreme - in that it bans any state from granting civil marriage rights to gays - and premature - in that the need for it on purely federalist grounds hasn't been in any way proven. Here's my offer, then, to my friend, Charles. If all legal precedent fails, if DOMA is struck down, if one single civil marriage in Massachusetts is deemed valid in another state, without that other state's consent, I will support a federal constitutional amendment that would solely say that no state is required to recognize a civil marriage from another state. By that time, we might even have had a chance to evaluate how equal marriage rights play out in a single state or two. How's that for a compromise?
A PREVIOUS MARRIAGE AMENDMENT: A letter writer to the Washington Post reminds us that marriage amendments have been introduced before."On Dec. 12, 1912, Rep. Seaborn Roddenberry (R-Ga.) proposed this amendment to the Constitution:"Intermarriage between negros or persons of color and Caucasians ... within the United States ... is forever prohibited." Ernest Miller provides some historical context.
Editor's Note: In a subsequent blog entry Sullivan noted that Roddenberry was actually a Democrat.
Sidney Schanberg, in the Village Voice (Feb. 24, 2004):
Senator John Kerry, a decorated battle veteran, was courageous as a navy lieutenant in the Vietnam War. But he was not so courageous more than two decades later, when he covered up voluminous evidence that a significant number of live American prisoners—perhaps hundreds—were never acknowledged or returned after the war-ending treaty was signed in January 1973.
The Massachusetts senator, now seeking the presidency, carried out this subterfuge a little over a decade ago— shredding documents, suppressing testimony, and sanitizing the committee's final report—when he was chairman of the Senate Select Committee on P.O.W./ M.I.A. Affairs.
Over the years, an abundance of evidence had come to light that the North Vietnamese, while returning 591 U.S. prisoners of war after the treaty signing, had held back many others as future bargaining chips for the $4 billion or more in war reparations that the Nixon administration had pledged. Hanoi didn't trust Washington to fulfill its pro-mise without pressure. Similarly, Washington didn't trust Hanoi to return all the prisoners and carry out all the treaty provisions. The mistrust on both sides was merited. Hanoi held back prisoners and the U.S. provided no reconstruction funds.
The stated purpose of the special Senate committee—which convened in mid 1991 and concluded in January 1993—was to investigate the evidence about prisoners who were never returned and find out what happened to the missing men. Committee chair Kerry's larger and different goal, though never stated publicly, emerged over time: He wanted to clear a path to normalization of relations with Hanoi. In any other context, that would have been an honorable goal. But getting at the truth of the unaccounted for P.O.W.'s and M.I.A.'s (Missing In Action) was the main obstacle to normalization—and therefore in conflict with his real intent and plan of action.
Kerry denied back then that he disguised his real goal, contending that he supported normalization only as a way to learn more about the missing men. But almost nothing has emerged about these prisoners since diplomatic and economic relations were restored in 1995, and thus it would appear—as most realists expected—that Kerry's explanation was hollow. He has also denied in the past the allegations of a cover-up, either by the Pentagon or himself. Asked for comment on this article, the Kerry campaign sent a quote from the senator:"In the end, I think what we can take pride in is that we put together the most significant, most thorough, most exhaustive accounting for missing and former P.O.W.'s in the history of human warfare."
What was the body of evidence that prisoners were held back? A short list would include more than 1,600 firsthand sightings of live U.S. prisoners; nearly 14,000 secondhand reports; numerous intercepted Communist radio messages from within Vietnam and Laos about American prisoners being moved by their captors from one site to another; a series of satellite photos that continued into the 1990s showing clear prisoner rescue signals carved into the ground in Laos and Vietnam, all labeled inconclusive by the Pentagon; multiple reports about unacknowledged prisoners from North Vietnamese informants working for U.S. intelligence agencies, all ignored or declared unreliable; persistent complaints by senior U.S. intelligence officials (some of them made publicly) that live-prisoner evidence was being suppressed; and clear proof that the Pentagon and other keepers of the"secret" destroyed a variety of files over the years to keep the P.O.W./M.I.A. families and the public from finding out and possibly setting off a major public outcry.
The resignation of Colonel Millard Peck in 1991, the first year of the Kerry committee's tenure, was one of many vivid landmarks in this saga's history. Peck had been the head of the Pentagon's P.O.W./M.I.A. office for only eight months when he resigned in disgust. In his damning departure statement, he wrote:"The mind-set to 'debunk' is alive and well. It is held at all levels . . . Practically all analysis is directed to finding fault with the source. Rarely has there been any effective, active follow-through on any of the sightings . . . The sad fact is that . . . a cover-up may be in progress. The entire charade does not appear to be an honest effort and may never have been."
Finally, Peck said:"From what I have witnessed, it appears that any soldier left in Vietnam, even inadvertently, was in fact abandoned years ago, and that the farce that is being played is no more than political legerdemain done with 'smoke and mirrors' to stall the issue until it dies a natural death."...
Attorney Heather Bolejack, in the Indianapolis Star (Feb. 27, 2004):
I thought I was a"n----r" when I was in kindergarten because my classmates told me so.
As a biracial child, I thought I was"part slave" in the fourth grade because the teacher and textbooks taught me that all black people were slaves until Harriet Tubman, the abolitionists and Abraham Lincoln"set us free."
In fifth grade, I learned of lynching and the"strange fruit" that hung from the trees of America's South, and as the only child of color in the classroom, I was afraid.
Black history is not"G-rated." Black history is"X-rated" for the crossing out of identities and culture, deletions of a history that begins with ancient kingdoms and black pharaohs, and for gratuitous violence, rape, obscenity and nudity that are part and parcel of American black history.
Should young children learn the unfettered truth of black history in the classroom? Mel Gibson's movie"The Passion of The Christ" depicts the shocking and disturbingly realistic violence of the last 12 hours of Christ's life. Psychologists, religious scholars and parents have cautioned for weeks that children under the age of 12 should not view the movie, albeit educational, due to the psychological effect of viewing the violence and gore of Christ's suffering.
Parents, forewarned and forearmed, therefore have the autonomy to make the final decision regarding how, when and where their children will be exposed to the crucifixion of Christ. We give little scrutiny, however, to how, when and where our children will learn black history, and the frightening stories of human degradation associated with telling that history.
Our children would not be exposed to even moderately violent and offensive material in the classroom without prior permission from parents. When it is time for the"good touch, bad touch" program at school, we are asked to sign a permission form. Yet our children are walking into some schools and being exposed to images that depict racist vitriol and violence against blacks as part of the school's" celebration" of Black History Month while we are unaware and out of the loop.
I hesitated to write this for fear of sounding"ungrateful" or"uppity." After all, shouldn't we just be glad that schools are at least participating in discussions of black history and thankful for the inclusion? Absolutely not.
Our children are growing up in a different world, blessedly one in which everyday use of the word"n----r" is foreign to them. We take it for granted that black children are desensitized to the"N-word" and thus will not feel offended or hurt if they hear the word in the context of education about black history.
It frustrates me that I cannot even write the full word in this article but must use well-placed dashes because it is considered an obscenity. Yet children of tender years are hearing the hateful"N-word" for the first time at school in an educational format. It is a shocking, violent word when heard in the context of its historical use to demean and degrade a race of people.
Joel Mowbray, in frontpagemag.com (Feb. 24, 2004):
After the media tore into President Bush's 30-year-old National Guard record like a rabid pit bull into a bacon-scented postman, Democrats have been licking their chops in anticipation of highlighting John Kerry's decorated service during the same time period.
A new web site that launched yesterday (Monday, January 23), however, should give Democrats more than a moment's pause—and is likely just the opening salvo in exposing the truth about the outlandish actions of Kerry and his comrades as part of an anti-war group known as Vietnam Veterans Against the War.
Created by the conservative Free Republic Network, WinterSoldier.com seems to contain the most comprehensive compilation of Kerry's words and deeds shortly after returning to America more than three decades ago. (It can also be found at JohnKerryforPresident.info .)
The new site is named after the event that helped raise Kerry to prominence in 1971. The Winter Soldier Investigation, as it was called, was held in Detroit from January 31 to February 2—with financial backing from Hanoi Hannah herself, Jane Fonda, according to an historian cited on the web site—where over 100 veterans testified about the most horrendous war crimes imaginable happening every day .
John Kerry was an instant celebrity, and the group behind the three-day conference, Vietnam Veterans Against the War (VVAW), certainly served his political ambitions well. But if the wealth of information found at WinterSoldier.com gains any traction, Kerry's past could come back to haunt him.
Although it is not the most user-friendly site, WinterSoldier.com carries everything from charges leveled at the original Detroit event to excerpts from historians' books that are quite damning to Kerry and VVAW.
But the bulk of the research for the site, done largely by Free Republic Director Scott Swett, comes from a book authored by John Kerry and the VVAW, “The New Soldier.” Since the out-of-print book is almost impossible to find—Free Republic spent over $400 to obtain its copy—most people will have to rely on the new web site to fully appreciate just how radical VVAW and Kerry were.
VVAW was a media favorite: war veterans who were anti-war. Quite a sales pitch. But the more realistic characterization would have been Americans who were anti-American. (Literally, too: One of the documents at WinterSoldier.com is the minutes of a VVAW executive meeting where members decided to take down American flags from all VVAW offices.)
Their goal was not just to sour Americans on the Vietnam war, but to make them hate America and American soldiers.
Hence the Winter Soldier Investigation.
The three-day circus featured tales of the most sadistic forms of torture, including genital mutilation and gang rape, and wanton mass murder of innocent civilians. In the words of Kerry three months later to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, “These were not isolated incidents but crimes committed on a day-to-day basis with the full awareness of officers at all levels of command.”
In other words, Kerry and VVAW claimed that almost unprecedented war crimes were not simply rampant, but committed as a matter of U.S. policy.
One of the most shocking quotes comes from Kerry himself, admitting that he had committed war crimes in Vietnam, then shrugging that off as merely a matter of following orders. Following orders, however, does not absolve someone of guilt for committing war crimes. Which begs the question: will Kerry be willing to discuss the details of the war crimes he admits committing?
Though not quite proof of a war crime, WinterSoldier.com has two flyers for a September 1971 event listing both Kerry and the former Mrs. Ted Turner as speakers. Though that issue makes for media fodder, it is far from the most appalling piece of evidence on the new site.
Also under the “documents” section at WinterSoldier.com is a particularly incendiary VVAW flyer with the screaming, all-caps headline, “A U.S. INFANTRY COMPANY JUST CAME THROUGH HERE!” Just below, the top line reads, “If you had been Vietnamese--” and it is followed by eight lines of increasingly inflammatory charges. Each line begins with “We might have” and then finishes with such doozies as “burned your house,” “shot your dog,” “shot you,” and “raped your wife and daughter.”
Some will excuse VVAW's actions and hyperbolic rhetoric as necessary tactics or as the work of people understandably disillusioned by an embittering war experience. But there is evidence suggesting that many of the atrocities routinely touted by VVAW were, well, made up.
An excerpt of historian Guenter Lewy's book According to America posted on WinterSoldier.com discusses the results of a government investigation that attempted to corroborate the claims made at the VVAW event in Detroit. The investigators couldn't.
According to Lewy, the VVAW had told its members not to cooperate with the government inquiry—a probe that was initiated by Sen. Mark Hatfield of Oregon in order to verify gruesome claims made at the VVAW-sponsored event. The historian also notes that government inspectors found veterans whose names had been used by people testifying in Detroit that were not actually there.
In other words, some of the “witnesses” in Detroit were impostors, tarnishing the names of real soldiers
From NPR (Feb. 19, 2004):
TAVIS SMILEY: The largest wave of African-American migration to the north for a better life began during World War I. African-Americans trying to escape racism in the South flocked to cities from the Midwest to the East Coast. Civil rights activist and historian Timuel Black, son of first-generation migrants to Chicago , surveys this exciting time through the eyes of those who lived through it. He recently talked to our reporter, Allison Keyes, about his new book, "Bridges of Memory: Chicago 's First Wave of Black Migration," an oral history.
Mr. TIMUEL BLACK (Author, "Bridges of Memory: Chicago's First Wave of Black Migration"): Blacks found friendship with one another because most of them had left the South and most of them had left urban areas of the South, Birmingham, Memphis, New Orleans, Atlanta, so they had some familiarity with what the city was like, and many of them, like my parents, had been met by friends or relatives when they came into Chicago.
ALLISON KEYES reporting:
Mr. BLACK: And they were given some kind of coaching as to how to get along and behave in Chicago . Now there was quite a few jobs in Chicago at that period of time, right after World War I, and so they had no problems with employment. What they had problems with was mobility in the city, where they were met with hostility if they went beyond the boundaries of those ghettos.
KEYES: If I recall correctly, a lot of the people you spoke to in your book said that black people didn't even need to go downtown because there was so much happening on the South Side, and lots of people my age don't remember a lot of that. Can you tell us about some of the places that don't exist anymore, like the Vendome, where you first saw Louis Armstrong?
Mr. BLACK: Oh, the Vendome, the States(ph), the Mecca building; moving southward, the Regal, the Savoy, the places where Duke and Count Basie and all those--the Grand Terrace, the Rum Boogie, the DeLisa. I could name many places of entertainment.
KEYES: And there was a black ballpark at 39th and Wentworth.
Mr. BLACK: Oh, yes, that was American Giants, where the founder of the American Negro League, Luke Foster(ph), had been sort of given or lent this land by Charles Comiskey, who was somewhat liberal in his terms. The White Sox park was in the old place where now there's a public housing development there.
Mr. BLACK: But yeah, Luke Foster, who--was as much a businessman as he was a baseball player, and he organized the Negro Baseball League.
KEYES: The group that you spoke to in this book is from your generation, and they pretty much came because they thought Chicago was the promised land, and they wanted their kids not to have to learn about sharecropping and tobacco picking.
Mr. BLACK: All of my grandparents were born in slavery. My mother and father were born in relatively small towns, Jacksonville , Alabama , and Florence , Alabama . By the way, Florence , Alabama , was the home of the first African-American elected to the Congress after Reconstruction, Oscar DePriest. Mr. DePriest went to Kansas City and then found that Chicago, for him, sounded more like the opportunity place, so he came to Chicago and there he bought a lot of land and became rather prosperous and went into politics very early.
So my mother and dad left Jacksonville and Florence , and they met in Birmingham , where I was born. I was eight months old when they decided that they did not want to raise their children in that terroristic environment, that--not only terroristic, one that did not yield the opportunities that they felt my brother and sister and I deserved.
KEYES: But when people got to Chicago , they still found some of the same kind of discrimination, but kind of in a different manner.
Mr. BLACK: With the influx of more and more African-Americans to the big cities, particularly Chicago , the landowners and the landlords had made an agreement called restrictive covenants, that they would not rent or sell to people of color, primarily Negroes. Also, Asians were included in that, particularly Chinese, but it wasn't as explicit as that deprivation of opportunity to move freely for blacks. And so we were confined in a relatively small area. The population density in the black community was three to four times what it was in the white community.
KEYES: You've written that many young African-Americans don't know anything about the glorious past history of black Chicago and that they've lost their sense of identity. Was teaching them that your primary reason for writing this book?
Mr. BLACK: My primary reason for writing was to broaden the interest, at least, among young people, black and white, and bring memories of people of my generation, who lived that period of time in Chicago , but to stimulate younger people, black and white, but focusing on young African-Americans who know so little about their history. I won't say all, but too many do not know. As a result, they don't have a sense of pride in the sense of their history that gives them a signal to strive harder, even when times are tough.
Margot Adler, on NPR News (Feb. 23, 2004):
If you are talking about a single marriage law that covers both heterosexual and homosexual couples, the history of same-sex marriage is only three years old. Today such laws exist in the Netherlands , in Belgium , as well as two provinces in Canada , British Columbia and Ontario . Gay registered partnerships, the equivalent of civil unions, go back further. Denmark was the first country to legalize them in 1989. Norway followed in 1993. There are several other European countries with some form of domestic partnership arrangement.
Here in the United States , the legal history of attempts by gays to get a marriage license go back at least to the early 1970s. In 1971, two cases, one in Minnesota and one in Washington state, challenged bans on gay marriage. Both failed. Other cases followed. They, too, failed. In 1984, the Unitarian Universalist Association voted to approve ceremonies celebrating same-sex unions. Several other denominations followed.
If you go back further in time, facts are much harder to come by. There are historical examples of gays attempting to marry. Louis Crompton, Americas professor of English at the University of Nebraska , cites one. He is the author of "Homosexuality in Civilization." Crompton quotes the Venetian ambassador in Rome in 1578, describing an incident involving Portuguese and Spanish men.
Professor LOUIS CROMPTON (Author, "Homosexuality in Civilization"): And they were part of a group--and I'll quote what he wrote about them--"who had assembled in the church where they performed some ceremonies of a horrible wickedness which sullied the sacred name of matrimony." Two years later, the French philosopher Montaigne visited Rome and commented on the incident. And he identified the church, which is still standing, as the Church of St. John at the Porta Latina. The men were later captured and burned in the square in Rome where heretics were regularly executed.
ADLER: Many other examples of gay unions in history are contested. A controversial historian, the late John Boswell, claimed liturgical ceremonies in the Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches sanctioned gay unions, but many historians dispute his scholarship.
Mr. DANIEL MENDELSOHN ( Princeton University ): I thought that Boswell's book was extremely problematic.
ADLER: Daniel Mendelsohn is a writer who also teaches classics at Princeton University . He says the ceremony that Boswell describes, called the Adelphopoiesis, the making of brothers, was never meant as a marriage.
Mr. MENDELSOHN: People have always known about this ceremony, which he presented as this spectacular, new, earth-shaking find. It had always been satisfactorily explained as a sort of official blood-brother ceremony used to reconcile, say, the heads of warring clans.
ADLER: Mendelsohn says Boswell and others have also attempted to find gay marriage in the classical world. Ancient Greece and Rome are often seen as models of societies that accepted homosexuality. Mendelsohn says although there was one satirical ceremony in Rome where an emperor married a slave during a banquet, and in classical Athens there were clearly homosexual bonds...
Mr. MENDELSOHN: There was nothing like a marriage between men, which would have been looked on really with horror by most Athenians. You know, you had at some point this sort of boyfriend, but you were always supposed to be married to a woman, to procreate, to make babies who would grow up to be good Athenians.
ADLER: When you turn to indigenous societies, both past and present, there are some examples. Some Native American peoples have a concept of two-spirit people, people who are not tied to one gender. In some tribes, there are special ceremonies to determine if a child is a two-spirit person. Gilbert Herdt is a professor and director of human sexuality studies at San Francisco State University . He says the designation of someone as a two-spirit person can sometimes create a same-sex marriage.
Professor GILBERT HERDT (San Francisco State University): Which means that biologically, it may be a male, in the case of a male-male arrangement, but they have the designation of two-spirit, which means that the social role they take as two-spirit obviates or, if you like, overrules their biological gender.
ADLER: But not many people fall into this category. Herdt also argues that over the last few hundred years in the West, people who were not in heterosexual marriages with children have not been seen as true adults or accorded social and political power. In the postmodern world, he says, that definition is now being challenged socially, legally and scientifically by reproductive technologies.
Prof. HERDT: And that's why this whole debate is so dramatic and is so wrenching to people who come very much from the historical and cultural and religious perspective of the modern period. They deeply that a full person or a full citizen is someone who is heterosexually married and produces children. And they cannot accept that you would extend that definition to someone else.
ADLER: Perhaps this subtext is why, history or no history, the stakes in the battle over gay marriage are so high. Margot Adler, NPR News, New York .
Evan Thomas, in Newsweek (Feb. 23, 2004):
John Kerry did not have to think all that hard about joining the military and going to Vietnam . He had doubts about the wisdom of U.S. intervention in Vietnam , which was rapidly escalating during 1965-66, his senior year at Yale. But Yale leaders were expected to serve, as the school song went, "for God, for Country, and for Yale." His closest friends in Skull and Bones, the Yale senior society for the best and the brightest, were signing up. Fred Smith, who would go on to found Federal Express, was joining the Marines. So was Dick Pershing, grandson of World War I Gen. "Black Jack" Pershing. There wasn't a lot of anguished debate, recalls Kerry's fellow Bonesman David Thorne, who, like Kerry, joined the Navy. But, he added, "if it had been '68, we might have made a different decision."
What a difference two years makes: 1968 was the year George W. Bush graduated from Yale. By then, virtually no Yale graduates were going into the military, if they could possibly avoid it. The war and the counterculture it spawned had transformed Yale. Preppy boys in coat and tie were rapidly giving way to long hair and angry protesters. The prom was canceled for lack of interest; marijuana was replacing beer. A throwback, good-time frat brother, young Bush had little use for the antiwar movement. On the other hand, he didn't want to go to Vietnam . Draft deferments for graduate school were ending that spring of 1968. The Texas Air National Guard offered another way. "I was not prepared to shoot my eardrum out with a shotgun in order to get a deferment. Nor was I willing to go to Canada ," Bush explained to The Dallas Morning News back in 1990. "So I chose to better myself by learning how to fly airplanes."
The two men were still fighting the Vietnam War last week. Kerry was defending himself from conservative radio talk-show hosts who accused him of siding with "Hanoi Jane" Fonda to undermine the war effort when he came home as an angry vet. The White House was showering reporters with documents attempting to show that Bush had not gone AWOL from the National Guard, as some Democrats allege. But flaps were mostly side-shows based on sketchy facts (Kerry barely met Fonda; Bush apparently did his time in the Guard, if a bit sporadically). The Vietnam era was critically important in the lives of both men. But the vastly different outcomes for the two men were the product of a subtle interplay of class and character and of small but critical differences in time and place.
From the editorial page of the WSJ (Feb. 5, 2004):
(Editor's note: Sen. Kerry delivered this speech on the Senate floor Feb. 27, 1992. The previous day, Sen. Bob Kerrey, a Vietnam veteran and candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination, spoke in Atlanta, where he criticized fellow candidate Bill Clinton for his lack of military service during Vietnam.)
Mr. President, I also rise today--and I want to say that I rise reluctantly, but I rise feeling driven by personal reasons of necessity--to express my very deep disappointment over yesterday's turn of events in the Democratic primary in Georgia.
I am saddened by the fact that Vietnam has yet again been inserted into the campaign, and that it has been inserted in what I feel to be the worst possible way. By that I mean that yesterday, during this presidential campaign, and even throughout recent times, Vietnam has been discussed and written about without an adequate statement of its full meaning.
What is ignored is the way in which our experience during that period reflected in part a positive affirmation of American values and history, not simply the more obvious negatives of loss and confusion.
What is missing is a recognition that there exists today a generation that has come into its own with powerful lessons learned, with a voice that has been grounded in experiences both of those who went to Vietnam and those who did not.
What is missing and what cries out to be said is that neither one group nor the other from that difficult period of time has cornered the market on virtue or rectitude or love of country.
What saddens me most is that Democrats, above all those who shared the agonies of that generation, should now be refighting the many conflicts of Vietnam in order to win the current political conflict of a presidential primary.
The race for the White House should be about leadership, and leadership requires that one help heal the wounds of Vietnam, not reopen them; that one help identify the positive things that we learned about ourselves and about our nation, not play to the divisions and differences of that crucible of our generation.
We do not need to divide America over who served and how. I have personally always believed that many served in many different ways. Someone who was deeply against the war in 1969 or 1970 may well have served their country with equal passion and patriotism by opposing the war as by fighting in it. Are we now, 20 years or 30 years later, to forget the difficulties of that time, of families that were literally torn apart, of brothers who ceased to talk to brothers, of fathers who disowned their sons, of people who felt compelled to leave the country and forget their own future and turn against the will of their own aspirations?
Are we now to descend, like latter-day Spiro Agnews, and play, as he did, to the worst instincts of divisiveness and reaction that still haunt America? Are we now going to create a new scarlet letter in the context of Vietnam?
Certainly, those who went to Vietnam suffered greatly. I have argued for years, since I returned myself in 1969, that they do deserve special affection and gratitude for service. And, indeed, I think everything I have tried to do since then has been to fight for their rights and recognition.
But while those who served are owed special recognition, that recognition should not come at the expense of others; nor does it require that others be victimized or criticized or said to have settled for a lesser standard. To divide our party or our country over this issue today, in 1992, simply does not do justice to what all of us went through during that tragic and turbulent time.
I would like to make a simple and straightforward appeal, an appeal from my heart, as well as from my head. To all those currently pursuing the presidency in both parties, I would plead that they simply look at America. We are a nation crying out for leadership, for someone who will bring us together and raise our sights. We are a nation looking for someone who will lift our spirits and give us confidence that together we can grow out of this recession and conquer the myriad of social ills we have at home.
We do not need more division. We certainly do not need something as complex and emotional as Vietnam reduced to simple campaign rhetoric. What has been said has been said, Mr. President, but I hope and pray we will put it behind us and go forward in a constructive spirit for the good of our party and the good of our country.
Mr. Kerry, who served as a Navy lieutenant in Vietnam, is a Massachusetts senator and candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination.
Anne E. Kornblut, and Lyle Denniston, in the Boston Globe (Feb. 26, 2004):
History shows that presidents rarely influence the fate of constitutional-amendment proposals; the Constitution gives them no role in the process at all. It is also a lengthy ordeal that, in this case, will almost certainly last beyond the November elections.
As a result, it is relatively easy for Bush, like presidents in the past, to embrace the idea of a constitutional amendment during election season without having to follow up with any real time investment - or suffer the blame if it passes or fails.
"Presidents really don't have much effect on the amending process," said Richard B. Bernstein, a constitutional historian who is a specialist on that process. "Most presidents play games with the process; it happened a lot in the 1980s and 1990s."
For example, Bernstein said, "Ronald Reagan talked a lot about a balanced-budget amendment, but he never fully committed to making it a reality. The same with [the first] President Bush; he never committed his political capital to that amendment."
Bush has expressed his desire to block attempts to legalize gay marriage for more than a year, and there is little doubt that Bush sincerely opposes an expansion of marriage beyond the union of a man and a woman....
In the past, presidents have had almost no impact on the constitutional-amendment process, which tends to be driven more by advocacy groups and members of Congress.
President Carter got some credit for embracing the Equal Rights Amendment, to give women full legal equality, which eventually failed. His role, however, was apparently not much greater than that of his wife, Rosalyn, who signed a resolution endorsing ERA's passage. "The impetus came more from the women's movement, working with their friends in Congress," not Carter, said Sylvia Law, a New York University professor of constitutional law.
Perhaps the only president to move an amendment forward was Abraham Lincoln, who led the way for the Thirteenth Amendment, abolishing slavery. "He was really involved in getting it through Congress, really exerting pressure," noted Daniel Farber, a constitutional historian and law professor at Boalt Hall, the law school at the University of California .
But even Lincoln was not involved in the process of drafting the changes, a measure of how unimportant a president's stamp of approval can be.
From the Congressional Record, quoting Rep. Jim McDermott (D-WA) (Feb. 25, 2004):
Mr. McDERMOTT . Mr. Speaker, the President's presidential prayer team is urging us to ``pray for the President as he seeks wisdom on how to legally codify the definition of marriage. Pray that it will be according to Biblical principles.''
With that in mind, I thought I would remind the body of the biblical principles they are talking about.
Marriage shall consist of a union between one man and one or more women . That is from Genesis 29:17-28.
Secondly, marriage shall not impede a man's right to take concubines in addition to his wife or wives . That is II Samuel 5:13 and II Chronicles 11:21.
A marriage shall be considered valid only if the wife is a virgin . If the wife is not a virgin, she shall be executed . That is Deuteronomy 22:13.
Marriage of a believer and a nonbeliever shall be forbidden . That is Genesis 24:3.
Finally, it says that since there is no law that can change things, divorce is not possible, and finally, if a married man dies, his brother has to marry his sister-in-law. Gen. 38:6-10; Deut 25:5-10
George Will, writing for the Washington Post (Feb. 25, 2004)
It used to be said that anti-Catholicism was the anti-Semitism of the intellectuals. Today anti-Semitism is the anti-Semitism of the intellectuals.
Not all intellectuals, of course. And the seepage of this ancient poison into the intelligentsia -- always so militantly modern -- is much more pronounced in Europe than here. But as anti-Semitism migrates across the political spectrum from right to left, it infects the intelligentsia, which has leaned left for two centuries.
Here the term intellectual is used loosely, to denote not only people who think about ideas -- about thinking -- but also people who think they do. The term anti-Semitism is used to denote people who dislike Jews. These people include those who say: We do not dislike Jews, we only dislike Zionists -- although to live in Israel is to endorse the Zionist enterprise, and all Jews are implicated, as sympathizers, in the crime that is Israel.
Today's release of Mel Gibson's movie"The Passion of the Christ" has catalyzed fears of resurgent anti-Semitism. Some critics say the movie portrays the governor of Judea -- Pontius Pilate, the Roman prefect responsible for the crucifixion -- as more benign and less in control than he actually was, and ascribes too much power and malignity to Jerusalem's Jewish elite. Jon Meacham's deeply informed cover story"Who Killed Jesus?" in the Feb. 16 Newsweek renders this measured judgment: The movie implies more blame for the Jewish religious leaders of Judea of that time than sound scholarship suggests. However, Meacham rightly refrains from discerning disreputable intentions in Gibson's presentation of matters about which scholars, too, must speculate, and do disagree. Besides, this being a healthy nation, Americans are unlikely to be swayed by the movie's misreading, as Meacham delicately suggests, of the actions of a few Jews 2,000 years ago.
Fears about the movie's exacerbating religiously motivated anti-Semitism are missing the larger menace -- the upsurge of political anti-Semitism. Like traditional anti-Semitism, but with secular sources and motives, the political version, which condemns Jews as a social element, is becoming mainstream, and chic among political and cultural elites, mostly in Europe....
...The appallingly brief eclipse of anti-Semitism after Auschwitz demonstrates how beguiling is the simplicity of pure stupidity. All of the left's prescriptions for curing what ails society -- socialism, communism, psychoanalysis,"progressive" education, etc. -- have been discarded, so now the left is reduced to adapting that hardy perennial of the right, anti-Semitism. This is a new twist to the left's recipe for salvation through elimination: All will be well if we eliminate capitalists, or private property, or the ruling class, or"special interests," or neuroses, or inhibitions. Now, let's try eliminating a people, starting with their nation, which is obnoxiously pro-American and insufferably Spartan.
Europe's susceptibility to political lunacy, and the Arab world's addiction to it, is not news. And the paranoid style is a political constant. Those who believe a conspiracy assassinated President Kennedy say: Proof of the conspiracy's diabolical subtlety is that no evidence of it remains. Today's anti-Semites say: Proof of the Jews' potent menace is that there are so few of them -- just 13 million of the planet's 6 billion people -- yet they cause so many political, economic and cultural ills. Gosh. Imagine if they were, say, 1 percent of Earth's population: 63 million.
Tracey Kaplan, Kansas City Star (Feb. 25, 2004):
President Bush on Tuesday joined a long, proud - and mostly unsuccessful - line of Americans that stretches back 215 years: those who have tried to amend the U.S. Constitution.
Even before the notion of banning same-sex marriage became grist for constitutional debate, Congress had considered 1,186 proposed amendments to the nation's defining document. They range from a flag-burning ban in 1989 to an 1810 law that would have stripped the citizenship of anyone who kept or accepted a title of nobility from a foreign land.
But only 27 made it into the Constitution, most recently a 1992 ban on members of Congress raising their own pay between elections. And more than a third of the 27 constitutional postscripts were approved more than 213 years ago as a package - the 10-amendment Bill of Rights.
Historically, amendments that expand the rights of citizens have fared far better than those proscribe rights. The lone amendment that took away rights from citizens, the hugely unpopular prohibition of alcohol, was tossed out 14 years after it became law - and it took another amendment to do that.
Despite Bush's support, the gay-marriage amendment will have a hard time obtaining the necessary support even within the president's own party, experts say. Republicans expressed strong reservations Tuesday about the championing the amendment proposed by U.S. Rep. Marilyn Musgrave and Sen. Wayne Allard, both Republicans from Colorado.
And even proposals with broad political support face a daunting challenge to becoming part of the Constitution.
Purposely reserving amendments only for" certain great and extraordinary occasions," the founding fathers required that any Constitutional amendment be approved by a two-thirds majority in both houses of Congress and then ratified by three-fourths of the states.
Right now, the GOP has only a two-seat majority in the Senate, making it tough to get a super-majority there.
"Our biggest hurdle is here inside the beltway," said Aaron Johnson, Musgrave's chief of staff.
In contrast, another hotly debated Constitutional change, the Equal Rights Amendment sailed through Congress in 1972 on a wave of the modern feminist movement but stalled in state legislatures and ultimately failed. ...
Only one successful amendment, the 18th, which banned manufacture or use of alcohol after its ratification in 1919, but was rescinded in 1933, set limits on citizens' rights, scholars said. In contrast, limits on voting rights for blacks and women that were in the original Constitution were removed through the amendment process.
Given their own party's opposition, Republican advocates of the marriage amendment are unlikely to succeed in bringing the issue to a vote in Congress before the November election. The measure's ultimate success could hinge on the timing because politics and national events can have such a crucial effect on attitudes.
For example, giving 18-year-olds the vote had been proposed 11 times since the early 1940s without success. But after languishing for almost three decades, the proposal sailed through Congress in 1971, the midst of the Vietnam War, when 18-year-olds were eligible for an unpopular draft, and was quickly ratified as the 26th amendment the same year.
Adam LeBor, writing in the Times (London) (Feb. 25, 2004)
Slobodan Milosevic spends his free time at the United Nations detention centre in The Hague reading John Grisham thrillers and listening to Frank Sinatra. His choice of music is appropriate.
During the two years of his trial at the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, the former Serbian President has been doing things his way.
He refuses to recognise the tribunal's legitimacy or to appoint a defence counsel, although he is aided by legal teams in The Hague and in Belgrade. From the dock of the heavily protected Court No 1, he has personally cross-examined most of the 298 witnesses produced by the prosecution: survivors of massacres, former paramilitaries, historians, diplomats, journalists, politicians and some who have testified in closed session to protect their identities.
Now, with the prosecution about to complete its case, observers believe that he might escape conviction on the most serious charge of genocide.
In another blow for a trial already well behind schedule, Richard May, the presiding judge, has announced his resignation on health grounds from May 31, around the time that Mr Milosevic is likely to begin his defence. His replacement will have to be briefed on thousands of pages of evidence and testimony. That, and inevitable attempts by Mr Milosevic to secure a retrial, could delay the process for several more months....
...In court he has proved combative and pugnacious, although generally respectful to the judges who have the power to turn his microphone off when he launches into harangues about the broad sweep of Balkan history.
He has relished his duels with high-profile witnesses, including Lord Owen, the European Union's former envoy to Yugoslavia, Wesley Clark, the former Nato commander, and Lord Ashdown of Norton-sub-Hamdon, the international community's High Representative in Bosnia. Nevertheless, for all his grandstanding, Mr Milosevic remains a prisoner, the first head of state to be charged with genocide.
In an interview with The Times, Tim McFadden, head of the UN detention unit, said that the man once known as the"Butcher of Belgrade" spends each evening with his lawyer, preparing for the next day."They go over the evidence. He takes some exercise and has a sleep. He sometimes works until midnight."
The prosecution must prove that the former President of Serbia and Yugoslavia had command responsibility for the Serb forces that committed atrocities and ethnic cleansing: that he planned or ordered these events, or knew about them and failed to stop them; or that he failed to punish those responsible.
Most informed opinion holds that Mr Milosevic is likely to be found guilty of crimes against humanity in Kosovo, Croatia and Bosnia....
...High-level insider witnesses have laid out in detail the connections between Belgrade and the battlefield, and the prosecution has produced extremely incriminating telephone intercepts.
Yet repeated attempts to link Mr Milosevic directly to the Srebrenica massacre of more than 7,000 Muslim men and boys, Europe's worst postwar atrocity, have floundered for lack of concrete evidence. General Clark testified that Mr Milosevic had foreknowledge of the plans by General Ratko Mladic, the Bosnian Serb commander, to slaughter the Muslims. Mr Milosevic dismissed General Clark's testimony as"a blatant lie".
Stacy Sullivan, The Hague bureau chief for the Institute of War and Peace Reporting, said:"The prosecution may not succeed with the charge of genocide. But it has proved a connection between Milosevic and the Bosnian Serb leadership and the paramilitaries who carried out the ethnic cleansing. It has undermined his defence that he had no authority over Bosnian Serbs."
Once the prosecution has finished, the court will adjourn for three months. Six weeks before his defence starts, Mr Milosevic is required to submit his list of witnesses.
He has said already that he will call Tony Blair, Bill Clinton and General Clark to the stand. This scenario could prove highly embarrassing for Western leaders who courted the Serbian leader while he was in power. The trial could stretch well into 2006, with a verdict as late as 2007.
In the meantime, according to Mr McFadden, Mr Milosevic is a"stabilising influence" on the Serb, Croat and Muslim prisoners being held at the UN's detention centre. The three groups proved incapable of sharing a country, but, within the confines of the centre in the Netherlands, ethnic tension is extremely rare.
Detainees are held in comparative comfort in single cells. The centre has a gym and kitchen and receives cable television from Belgrade, Zagreb and Sarajevo, as well as international channels.
"He does not give us any trouble," Mr McFadden said."He is an intelligent man and he understands our role in the judicial process -that we are a remand centre." However, Mr Milosevic has been hit hard by the absence of his wife and lifetime love, Mira Markovic. The had been together since the 1950s. He has not seen her for more than a year, since she fled, probably to Moscow, after Serbian police tried to interview her in connection with the murder in 2000 of Ivan Stambolic, once Mr Milosevic's best friend and mentor....
David Aaronovitch, writing for the Guardian (Feb. 24, 2004)
I know it's true that, as an old friend in Australia pointed out to me in an email last week,"It doesn't really matter very much if you were wrong or I was wrong. One hundred years from now, some very clever historians with access to material we all know nothing about may prove the point conclusively, one way or another. What matters is what happens now."
Now, nearly a year after the beginning of the coalition invasion of Iraq, something is beginning to be created, and it doesn't look like anything that anybody quite anticipated. It is more complex, more difficult, more beset by difficulties and tragedies than anyone who supported the invasion ever allowed before the war.
Judging from those relatively few reports that do not deal with the security situation, it seems that parts of the national infrastructure of Iraq, such as electricity and water supply, have taken far longer to repair or construct than expected. Many hospitals still suffer terrible shortages. Unemployment is over 50%. Crime and fear of crime are very high in some places, with many abductions and murders. There is widespread disappointment at the gulf between the material promises and the reality of post-Saddam Iraq.
And, of course, there are the bombings and ambushes, aimed at the Iraqi police, NGO offices, CNN journalists, Shi'a clerics, communists and soon, doubtless, as those targets protect themselves, at buses and markets. The security failure above all has helped to create the other failures. Attempts by coalition forces to contain such attacks have had the inevitable effect of alienating sections of the population whose houses have been raided or who have been subject to rough treatment by occupying forces.
I bundle these negatives together because we are now four months away from the handover of power from the coalition authority to the new sovereign Iraqi entity; an entity whose shape and origin we are still not sure of. And because, between them, they constitute a major reason why the influential organisation, Human Rights Watch, made the judgment a few weeks ago that the invasion of Iraq could not be justified on humanitarian grounds, the grounds that people like me have specifically used to justify it."The difficulty of establishing stable institutions in Iraq," wrote HRW,"is making the country an increasingly unlikely staging ground for promoting democracy in the Middle East."...
...And here we come to it. Three weeks ago, a few days after the devastating bombs in the Kurdish city of Erbil, a representative of the Kurdish PUK, Barham Salih, addressed a meeting of the council of the Socialist International in Madrid."Friends," he told them,"our nightmare of the Saddam Hussein fascist tyranny is over. The world should have acted sooner to end the killing fields and stop mass graves in Iraq. Good social democrats should be making the moral argument that the war of liberation in Iraq came too late for so many innocent victims of Saddam's fascist tyranny. And the lesson for the international community should be (that) it must be prepared to act in time and pre-empt terrible tragedies from happening again anywhere else in the world."
I respect HRW, but there is, in Salih's words, a reproach and a demand, neither of which can be ignored."Most Iraqis," Salih went on,"see the moral and political imperative for the war of liberation as overwhelming." The Guardian's own Salam Pax put it in his different way, two weeks ago."Saddam is gone, thanks to you. Was it worth it? Be assured it was. We all know that it got to a point where we would have never been rid of Saddam without foreign intervention; I just wish it would have been a bit better planned."
Meanwhile many good things have been happening. The Free Prisoners Association, for victims of the old regime, now has 17 offices throughout Iraq. There are 200 newspapers and Iraqis can debate and watch and listen freely. There is, for the first time in the country's history, a woman police officer, and women's organisations are active and demonstrating for equal rights. The Iraqi Governing Council (IGC) has recognised the Iraqi Federation of Trades Unions as"the legitimate and legal representatives of the labour movement in Iraq", despite an unexplained American raid on the IFTU's HQ in December. The UN is back in Iraq and helping to prepare the ground for elections in the next 18 months. The green shoots of civic society are pressing through what Salih has called the"broken clay" of the Iraqi state. This is despite the killing and bombing of organisations associated with this new Iraq...
...You could, as Tariq Ali and John Pilger have suggested, desire victory for the Iraqi"resistance" despite its massacres of the innocent, on the basis that, as Ali has put it,"Occupations are usually ugly. How, then, can resistance be pretty?" Or, in Pilger's words,"While we abhor and condemn the continuing loss of innocent life in Iraq, we have no choice now but to support the resistance, for if the resistance fails, the 'Bush gang' will attack another country. If they succeed, a grievous blow will be suffered by the Bush gang."
Or you could decide to heed Salih."I call upon you to help Iraqi democrats in this critical juncture of the history of the Middle East. To help us transform our country from the land of mass graves and aggression to the land of peace, justice and democracy. I can see an Iraq that is democratic, that is an anchor for peace in this troubled part of the world and a partner to civilised nations in pursuit of the universal values of human rights and justice. Thank you."
Craig Gordon, in Newsday (Feb. 22, 2004):
They gathered in a Detroit motor lodge in early 1971, veterans calling on brother veterans to speak of the unspeakable - war crimes and atrocities they had committed in Vietnam in the name of America .
The so-called Winter Soldier meetings were controversial even then, and a young John Kerry made their most horrific testimony the opening paragraphs of his own address to a Senate panel three months later, an appearance that catapulted him to a leading role in the anti-war movement.
Kerry told senators that more than 150 veterans testified in Detroit that they or fellow soldiers had raped Vietnamese women, cut off ears and heads, used electrical torture, cut off limbs, "razed villages in a fashion reminiscent of Genghis Khan, shot cattle and dogs for fun, poisoned food stocks, and generally ravaged the countryside of South Vietnam . . ."
Since then, Kerry has sought to downplay his own involvement with the three-day Winter Soldier meetings. His campaign said Friday that Kerry "did not speak" at the event - and that he did not testify to his own personal experiences in Vietnam - but was there only as an observer and to record what was happening.
Yet a transcript of the meetings in the Congressional Record shows Kerry did have a role at Winter Soldier that he has not generally acknowledged - that of a "moderator" on one of the panels of veterans who testified, a role organizers now say was to question the veterans and draw out the most remarkable aspects of their testimony.
Douglas Brinkley, a historian who wrote a book on Kerry's experiences in Vietnam and in the anti-war movement, said his research also showed that Kerry had acted as a moderator.
"Kerry participated in Winter Soldier in the sense that for the Vietnam veterans that came there, there were moderators, and there were eyewitnesses. And Kerry was a moderator or questioner. He was there asking questions of all these guys - without revealing what he did over there," Brinkley said in an interview.
Brinkley sees Kerry's role in observing the testimony in Detroit as similar to what he did while tape-recording oral histories while in Vietnam . "He was really trying to get an indictment going against the U.S. government - for misadventures in Vietnam , or, one might say, war crimes."
Brinkley agrees that Kerry did not play a central role in Winter Soldier, but said, "I don't think that's fair to say, he didn't speak at all, that he was mute in the corner. . . [he was] playing more a reporter role than a spokesperson, more of a questioner, questioning these guys."
Late yesterday, Kerry campaign spokesman David Wade acknowledged that Kerry did play a role in the Winter Soldier hearings but said it was far less formalized than the title of "moderator" would suggest - because, Wade said, the event itself was relatively informal, with small groups of veterans gathering throughout the day to offer their stories. Kerry did not know he was listed as a "moderator" in the Congressional Record but viewed his role as a "quasi-journalist" gathering information he later compiled into a book....
The historical record shows that atrocities did occur in Vietnam, as in the My Lai massacre or the so-called Tiger Force activities that were recently uncovered, but Kerry's emphasis on them in 1971 infuriated many veterans, even some of his former crewmates.
Republicans already have signaled that they plan to use the other part of Kerry's Vietnam experience against him as fodder for television ads, including his decision to speak at an anti-war rally with Jane Fonda, who bankrolled the Winter Soldier meetings.
Fonda later became a deeply divisive figure for her 1972 trips to North Vietnam . An anti-Kerry veterans site has posted a photo of the two in the audience at a September 1970 rally at Valley Forge , Pa. , with Kerry several rows behind Fonda. A flier on the rally also lists Kerry and Fonda as speakers, but Fonda recently said, "I don't even think we shook hands."
Kerry's testimony before the Senate panel in April 1971 wasn't the only time he had addressed the question of atrocities. On "Meet the Press" in 1971, Kerry said he believes he himself had committed "atrocities" simply by engaging in some of the tactics common among U.S. forces in Vietnam - firing into free-fire zones, where anything that moved was a target.
Yet on the campaign trail now, Kerry offers a somewhat selective recitation of his post-war days. He rarely mentions the most dramatic moment of a weeklong protest he organized in Washington - when hundreds of veterans tossed away medals, ribbons and other items in protest. It was revealed years later that he had thrown his ribbons but not his own medals, instead tossing the medals two veterans who couldn't attend had given him.
Kerry's campaign has not highlighted the Winter Soldier part of his Senate testimony, but instead has noted another famous line from the speech - "How do you ask a man to be the last man to die for a mistake?"
Kerry denies charges that his Senate testimony insulted veterans. "If you read what I said, it is very clearly an indictment of leadership. ... And it's the leaders who are responsible, not the soldiers," Kerry said last week. "The fact is if we want to re-debate the war on Vietnam in 2004, I'm ready for that. It was a mistake, and I'm proud of having stood up and shared with America my perceptions of what was happening."
Wade said Kerry has chosen to highlight his other anti-war activities instead of Winter Soldier because he had a much greater role in those - conceiving and organizing the Dewey Canyon event, giving speeches and publishing a book.
In the Congressional Record, the transcript does not delineate between what Kerry and fellow moderator Jan Crumb said on the panel that day, attributing all quotes simply to "moderator." Crumb, who now goes by the name Jan Barry, said in an interview he couldn't recall but concurred that Kerry did not play a central role in the event.
Yet the three days of gripping testimony made a deep impression on Kerry, who said the Winter Soldiers described not "isolated incidents but crimes committed on a day-to-day basis with the full awareness of officers at all levels of command."
Even among some who testified at Winter Soldier, there was a bit of surprise that Kerry chose to highlight the most graphic charges made during the three-day hearing - charges they feared would cement the image of Vietnam vets as "baby killers."
"I was surprised when he gave his speech in Washington that he referred to the things like raping women, shooting dogs," said Dennis McQuade, a Wisconsin social worker who said he testified at Winter Soldier under his former name, Dennis Butts. "It grabs attention, but again, not all the testimony was about that kind of thing."
Kerry critics, like Mackubin Thomas Owens, a Marine platoon leader in Vietnam who now teaches at the Naval War College , accused Kerry of helping "slander a generation of soldiers who had done their duty with honor and restraint." One professor, Guenter Lewy, wrote a 1978 book that attacked the credibility of the Winter Soldier hearings, saying a Navy investigation found some coached or bogus testimony.
Editorial in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Feb. 23, 2004):
For both sides [in the gay marriage debate], the Constitution is more than what the word literally means: a system for "constituting" the federal government. Especially after the addition of the Bill of Rights and post-Civil War amendments designed to protect recently freed slaves and their descendants, the Constitution is at least semi-sacred, and not lightly to be changed.
It isn't just that amending the Constitution requires super majorities -- two-thirds of both houses of Congress and three-fourths of the states. There is a popular conception that the Constitution and what the late Supreme Court Justice William Brennan called its "majestic generalities" encode timeless truths. It follows that the document should be amended only on rare occasions -- even if such a cautious approach locks in unfortunate interpretations of the Constitution by the courts.
Seventeen years ago I participated in a sort of mini-constitutional convention sponsored by the American Assembly. Participants -- judges, constitutional lawyers, political scientists, historians , journalists -- were given a blank check to revise the Constitution, perhaps undertaking radical revisions like a move toward a British-style parliamentary system. When the oratorical dust cleared, we had concluded anti-climactically that the structure of the Constitution "has, in general, proved sound, given the Civil War amendments and other adjustments. There is no fundamental reason to believe that it will not work as well in the closing years of this century and into the next."
This sense of caution also helps to explain the moribund state of the proposed Equal Rights Amendment. True, some feminists still agitate for adoption of the amendment declaring that "equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex." Yet the effort has stalled. That is partly because some of the legal victories the ERA was to have produced have been secured under the current Constitution, such as the Supreme Court's 1996 decision requiring that women be admitted to the Virginia Military Institute. But it also probably reflects a preference for new rights to be discerned by courts in the Constitution as it is.
This attitude is not new. In his book "A Machine That Would Go of Itself: The Constitution in American Culture," Michael Kammen cites the results of a Roper poll taken in 1939 and again in 1946. Respondents were asked:
Which of the following most nearly represents your opinion of the American form of government?
1) Our form of government, based on the Constitution, is as near-perfect as it can be and no important change should be made in it.
2) The Constitution has served its purpose well, but it has not kept up with the times and should be thoroughly revised to make it fit for present-day needs.
Kammen notes that "a strong preference for the first option persisted."
The notion that the Constitution is "near-perfect as it is" (or as it has been interpreted by the courts) may be the best check against not only a marriage amendment but two others that are waiting in the wings. One is the much-introduced amendment to overturn Supreme Court decisions protecting the right to burn the American flag as a political protest. The other is a "religious freedom amendment," newly fine-tuned by its author, Rep. Ernest Istook of Oklahoma .
John Tierney, in the NYT (Feb. 22, 2004):
[John] Edwards has been criticized for not having enough government experience, but a pleasant disposition can overcome a lot of handicaps. Intellectuals made fun of Eisenhower's mangled syntax, but they were outnumbered by voters wearing"I Like Ike" buttons. Gary Hart's candidacy in 1988 was ended by his sexual indiscretion, but Bill Clinton survived his, thanks in no small part to his charm. Al Gore may have been a better debater than George W. Bush, but the audience was put off by his supercilious manner.
"A majority of Americans disagreed with Ronald Reagan's policies in 1984, but he won because they liked him personally," said Mr. Luntz, who has advised Republican candidates."People look at presidential candidates in a special way because they can't get away from the president. They can ignore a senator or governor, but a president will be in their living rooms for four years. At a minimum they have to like him."
Michael Deaver, the crafter of Mr. Reagan's image, said that in his cheerfulness Mr. Edwards reminded him of Mr. Reagan, as did Mr. Edwards's response to criticisms by Mr. Kerry.
"Edwards responded to Kerry's negative statement by saying, 'Well, I wouldn't put it that way. I would say it this way,'" Mr. Deaver recalled."That was exactly the way Reagan would rephrase a negative question and put a positive twist on it."
Daniel Hill, the author of"Body of Truth," an analysis of body language, has studied the candidates' styles by tracking 23 facial expressions during televised debates. He counts, for instance, the number of"social smiles" using just the mouth,"genuine smiles" using the eyes and mouth and signs of disgust or anger.
"Dean consistently showed anger by pressing his lips together or tensely holding his mouth slightly open," Mr. Hill said."Last fall, Kerry was showing definite signs of contempt and disgust by raising his upper lip, but that's gone now. He's trying to be more likable by smiling more, but rarely can he get past the social smile to the genuine smile. Edwards gets there much more often. He conveys the most optimism, and lately he's been adding gravitas by knitting his eyebrows to show that he feels the pain of the other America."
If Mr. Edwards wins the charm contest, why is Mr. Kerry winning the primaries? Likability is not everything, especially in times of war. Richard Nixon proved that in 1968, when he defeated everyone's favorite uncle, Hubert Humphrey. Just as voters then worried about the Vietnam War and social unrest, today's voters are concerned about Iraq and terrorism, and they may prefer Mr. Kerry, a war hero, even if they don't particularly want to invite him for drinks.
When Americans were asked to describe Mr. Kerry in a national poll last week by the Pew Research Center, two of the most common words of praise were"good" and"qualified," while two criticisms were"arrogant" and"phony." The strengths of his character and experience outweighed the objections to his personality, giving him an overall favorable-to-unfavorable rating of two to one. Mr. Edwards had the same favorable rating.
Gary Younge, in the Guardian (Feb. 23, 2004):
As civil war encroaches, civil society implodes and civil political discourse evaporates, one of the few things all Haitians can agree on is their pride in Toussaint L'Ouverture, who lead the slave rebellion in Haiti that established the world's first black republic."The transformation of slaves, trembling in hundreds before a single white man, into a people able to organise themselves and defeat the most powerful European nations of their day is one of the great epics of revolutionary struggle and achievement," wrote the late Trinidadian intellectual CLR James in his book The Black Jacobins. The transformation of that achievement into a nation riven by political violence, ravaged by Aids and devastated by poverty is a tragedy of epic proportions.
The nation's 200th anniversary this year looks back on 13 coups and 19 years of American occupation, and now once again looks forward to more bloodshed and instability. The country's political class must bear their share of responsibility for where they go from here. Western powers, particularly France and the United States, must also take responsibility for how they got to this parlous place to begin with. If Haiti shows all the trappings of a failed state, then you do not have to look too hard or too far to see who has failed it....
But if the bicentennial offers a bleak backdrop for the immediate fate of the first black republic, it also offers the opportunity to place these events in some historical perspective. For ever since Haitian slaves expressed their desire to breathe freely, western powers have been attempting to strangle its desire for democracy and prosperity at birth.
"Men make their own history," wrote Karl Marx."But they do not make it just as they please; they do not make it under circumstances chosen by themselves, but under given circumstances directly encountered and inherited from the past."
From the outset Haiti inherited the wrath of the colonial powers, which knew what a disastrous example a Haitian success story would be. In the words of Napoleon Bonaparte:"The freedom of the negroes, if recognised in St Domingue [as Haiti was then known] and legalised by France, would at all times be a rallying point for freedom-seekers of the New World." He sent 22,000 soldiers (the largest force to have crossed the Atlantic at the time) to recapture the"Pearl of the Antilles".
France, backed by the US, later ordered Haiti to pay 150m francs in gold as reparations to compensate former plantation and slave owners as well as for the costs of the war in return for international recognition. At today's prices that would amount to £10bn. By the end of the 19th century, 80% of Haiti's national budget was going to pay off the loan and its interest, and the country was locked into the role of a debtor nation - where it remains today.
Any prospect of planting a stable political culture foundered on the barren soil of economic impoverishment, military siege and international isolation (for the first 58 years the US refused to even recognise Haiti's existence). In 1915, fearing that internal strife would compromise its interests, the US invaded, and remained until 1934.