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SOURCE: Christian Science Monitor ()
But in fact, the book is about the 1970s and how these challenges - along with many others - reshaped America's political, economic and social landscape in ways that continue to affect us today.
Edward Berkowitz, a professor of history and public policy at The George Washington University, has written a concise and highly readable summary of an era that has, so far, been widely overlooked.
He makes a strong case that the 70s deserve far more attention than they have received because they marked "the end of the postwar (World War II) consensus that had applied to how America was governed and its economy managed." The beliefs that professional expertise could help solve social problems and that government would always do the right thing were undermined, if not destroyed.
In turn, these changing views about the competence of government helped produce the current environment, which often starts with an assumption that government action is likely to be undesirable or counterproductive.
At the same time, the 70s witnessed "a genuine rights revolution" that increased economic opportunities, legal rights, and social acceptance for women, gays, and people with disabilities.
This revolution was modeled on and borrowed the tools of the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s. And while for the most part the rights revolution of the 70s lacked the drama and visibility of the earlier effort, it was a broader revolution that continues to have an enormous impact.
"History," the French philosopher Julien Benda once remarked, "is made from shreds of justice that the intellectual has torn from the politician." This contention may overestimate the power of the former and underestimate the power of the latter. But it does point to a tension between intellectuals and government officials that has existed at crucial historical junctures--for example, in late nineteenth century France (where the term "intellectual was first coined in connection with the Dreyfus affair) and in the late twentieth century Soviet Union (where intellectuals provided the major source of dissent).
This tension is well-illustrated by David Schalk's excellent study, War and the Ivory Tower, an examination of intellectual engagement during France's war in Algeria (1954 to 1962) and America's war in Vietnam (1964 to 1975). Originally published in 1991 and reissued in 2005, this book has new prefaces by Benjamin Stora (a French historian, born in Algeria) and George Herring (a U.S. diplomatic historian), as well as a new introduction by Schalk (a specialist on European intellectual history).
Schalk defines intellectuals by what he calls "their more abstract and distantiated social role which sharply contrasts with almost all others in a modern society. Their function involves a certain kind of creativity, usually through the written word and dealing with ideas in some fashion, often applying ideas in an ethical way that may question the legitimacy of the established authorities." Thus, "a significant percentage of the professoriate and some journalists" can be classified as intellectuals, as can "a substantial portion of the artistic community . . . who theorize in print about their creativity." In his view, "there was, and perhaps remains, a symbiotic relationship between the intellectual and engagement," a French term meaning "critical dissent."
Schalk argues convincingly that there were remarkable similarities between the Algerian and Vietnam wars. These include: the use of torture; the looming precedent of the Nuremberg trials; anti-colonial revolt; the undermining of democracy; the murky style of diplomacy; the racist views of Western troops; the unjustified optimism and arrogance of military and political leaders; the forced relocation of civilian populations; and the transformation of the two nations' countrysides into vast "free fire zones," in which the military sought to destroy everything that moved.
There were also important differences, he notes, among them the relative absence of Marxism within Algeria's National Liberation Front (FLN); the large French settler population in Algeria; and the presence in France of some 300,000 Algerian workers, whose monthly remittances to the FLN and its government in exile paid a significant portion of the costs of the Algerian independence struggle.
Albert Camus has often been cited as an example of French intellectual resistance to the Algerian war. But, as Schalk reveals, Camus was conflicted about the struggle in Algeria, and at times fell silent about it. "A far more relevant model," Schalk notes, is provided by the French Catholic intelligentsia, especially the left-leaning intellectuals gathered around the monthly Esprit. From 1954 and 1962, that journal published 211 articles on the Algerian war, 42 of them by its co-director (and later director) Jean-Marie Domenach. The responsibility of intellectuals, argued Domenach, was to show that "between the frivolous word and the recourse to arms there exists a path"--the path, he eventually concluded, of nonviolent resistance and peaceful protest. The French Left, he believed, had to be awakened from its paralyzing sense of impotence so that it would no longer "cultivate a despair that is the secret weapon of tyranny."
As Schalk notes, Esprit's prominence in resistance to the war did not mean that the French Catholic intelligentsia solidly opposed French policy. Indeed, some conservative Catholic intellectuals were keen supporters of France's war in Algeria. Denouncing conscientious objectors, Monseigneur Jean Rodhain declared in 1960, contemptuously, that if they would not fight for France, they should "go and live in another country."
Jean-Paul Sartre and writers connected with his journal, Les Temps modernes, also played key roles in the resistance to the Algerian war. Once the full significance of that conflict became apparent to Sartre, Simone de Beauvoir, and their associates, they dealt with it extensively in that journal. Schalk remarks that, as "the guiding spirit" behind Les Temps modernes, "Sartre channeled much of his amazing energy and intellectual power into the struggle to end the war." His articles dealt "unsparingly with issues of collective guilt and thus the historical parallel with the Nazi years, torture, war crimes, and the danger of fascism." He also published a report on the first clandestine congress of the Young Resistance, a group of draft resisters, with the mission of helping deserters and those who refused induction to leave France and locate employment elsewhere.
In the fall of 1960, Sartre and others created a sensation by circulating what became known as the Manifesto of the 121, the "Declaration on the Right of Insubordination in the Algerian War." Banned by the government and consequently unpublished (e.g. the pages of Les Temps modernes where it was to appear remained conspicuously blank), it sharply denounced the Algerian war, noting that "French militarism . . . has managed to restore torture and to make it once again practically an institution in Europe." The signers declared that they "respect and deem justified the refusal to take up arms against the Algerian people," as well as the "conduct of Frenchmen who . . . supply aid and protection to Algerians who are oppressed in the name of the French people." They concluded that "the cause of the Algerian people, who are contributing in a decisive manner to destroying the colonial system, is the cause of all free men."
The most dramatic and controversial act of resistance by French intellectuals was organized by Francis Jeansen, a philosopher and former protégé of Sartre's. In a powerful statement published in Esprit in May 1957, he pointed to French war crimes in Algeria, observing that "this politique is ours, these horrors are imputable to us." In Jeansen's view, the terrible responsibility borne by the French for their disgraceful behavior in Algeria necessitated extraordinary action. Consequently, he and his students began transporting suitcases filled with money from Algerian workers in France across the border to Swiss banks. From there the money was funneled toward the purchase of weapons for the Algerian independence struggle. Although some of Jeansen's associates were arrested and tried, he was never caught by the French secret police, despite the fact that he surfaced briefly in Paris for a clandestine press conference.
These activities, led by prominent French intellectuals, fed into accelerating displays of public resistance. A silent protest against the war took place in Paris in June 1957. Banned by the government, it nevertheless drew some 500 to 600 people, including Sartre and Francois Mauriac; 49 of them were arrested for this "crime." In December 1961, 50,000 people turned out for a march in Paris to protest OAS terrorism. This march also was banned by the government and was broken up by police, with more than a hundred participants hospitalized as a result of police brutality. In February 1962, when the authorities finally granted legal authorization for a peace demonstration, a crowd of half a million surged through Paris.
As this account suggests, resistance to the war occurred against the backdrop of significant verbal and physical assault. Addressing French veterans' groups, Robert LaCoste, France's Resident Minister in Algeria, accused "the exhibitionists of the heart and the intellect who have mounted the campaign against torture" of being "responsible for the resurgence of terrorism. . . . I present them to you for your scorn." Esprit's increasingly critical stand led to arrests, fines, and seizures of issues of the journal by the government. On two occasions, the OAS bombed the headquarters of Esprit with plastic explosives. Sartre's apartment and the offices of Les Temps modernes were also bombed with plastic explosives, and pro-war militants marched through the streets of Paris calling for his assassination.
Despite the obstacles erected by the government and colonialist fanatics, however, by the end of the war French intellectuals were in a state of revolt, with the vast majority of them denouncing France's role in Algeria.
Similarly, notes Schalk, among American intellectuals--and particularly those affiliated with elite educational institutions and those who constituted the country's most famous novelists, essayists, artists, and poets--opposition to the U.S. war effort in Vietnam became "overwhelming." In October 1969, for example, the Harvard faculty voted 255 to 81 against U.S. military involvement in Vietnam, and 391 to 16 in support of the upcoming Moratorium Day against the war. An endless stream of antiwar petitions appeared in the New York Times and elsewhere, signed by faculty at top universities and by other intellectual luminaries.
The most influential of these petitions--inspired by the Manifesto of the 121--was the "Call to Resist Illegitimate Authority," which appeared in the October 12, 1967, issue of the New York Review of Books. Signed by Philip Berrigan, Noam Chomsky, Paul Goodman, Denise Levertov, Dwight Macdonald, Herbert Marcuse, Linus Pauling, Susan Sontag, and others, the "Call" argued that the kinds of actions taken by U.S. troops in Vietnam--the destruction of villages, the internment of civilian populations in concentration camps, and summary executions of civilians--were those that America and its World War II allies "declared to be crimes against humanity . . . and for which Germans were sentenced at Nuremberg." Everyone "must choose the course of resistance dictated by his conscience and circumstances," they argued, but resistance to military service in Vietnam is "courageous and justified." Addressing "all men of good will," they asked them to join "in this confrontation with immoral authority. . . . Now is the time to resist."
The New York Review, the nation's leading intellectual journal, devoted enormous attention to the Vietnam War, publishing 262 articles on the subject between 1964 and 1975. The most famous of them, Schalk notes, was Noam Chomsky's "The Responsibility of Intellectuals," which appeared in February 1967. In numerous ways, it set the tone for the "Call to Resist Illegitimate Authority," and represented the shift of American intellectuals from educational efforts to calls for extralegal action. "It is the responsibility of intellectuals to speak the truth and to expose lies," Chomsky wrote. But he contrasted this obligation with the practices of establishment intellectuals, who lied and dissembled to serve power. The moral was clear: in the circumstances of the Vietnam War, the only appropriate response was resistance.
In later writings, Chomsky admitted that he felt "uncomfortable about proposing draft refusal publicly, since it is a rather cheap proposal from someone my age." But he did advocate tax resistance, "both because it symbolizes a refusal to make a voluntary contribution to the war machine and also because it indicates a willingness . . . to take illegal measures to oppose an indecent government." In addition, Chomsky participated in antiwar demonstrations and was arrested during the October 1967 march on the Pentagon. Like almost all other American and French intellectuals, though, Chomsky consistently rejected violent protest. He wrote: "Continued mass actions, patient explanation, principled resistance can be boring, depressing. But those who program the B-52 attacks and the `pacification' exercises are not bored, and as long as they continue in their work, so must we."
Other key U.S. intellectuals also became engagé, including Hans Morgenthau, Robert Lowell, Elizabeth Hardwick, Joseph Heller, Mary McCarthy, Norman Mailer, Muriel Rukeyser, Eric Bentley, Ann Sexton, William Styron, Anais Nin, Henry Steele Commager, and Robert Penn Warren. Draft counseling, teach-ins against the war, and antiwar commencement ceremonies preoccupied some of America's most illustrious minds. "For many intellectuals," observes Schalk, "the Vietnam episode lay in a special category. It stood outside the normal realm of debate." As Martin Bernal put it, in yet another article in the New York Review, the Vietnam War could be categorized with "Nazi concentration camps." Reflecting their bitterness, Susan Sontag wrote in 1967: "America has become a criminal, sinister country--swollen with priggishness, numbed by affluence, bemused by the monstrous conceit that she has the mandate to dispose of the destiny of the world, of life itself, in terms of her own interests and jargon."
The powerful, of course, were enraged by the engagement of the intellectuals. Officials in the Johnson and Nixon administrations denounced them, launched investigations of them, placed them on "enemies" lists, attempted to disrupt their activities, and prosecuted them. In 1968, Benjamin Spock, William Sloane Coffin Jr., Mitchell Goodman, Marcus Raskin, and Michael Ferber were indicted for counseling, aiding, and abetting draft registrants to "fail, refuse, and evade" service in the U.S. armed forces; among the "overt acts" cited in the indictment was the "Call to Resist Illegitimate Authority." Father Daniel Berrigan, after indictment for the destruction of draft records, declared himself a "fugitive from injustice" and went underground, from which he somehow granted interviews and made public appearances. Other prominent intellectual critics of the war, such as Staughton Lynd, had their academic employment challenged or terminated.
Schalk places this chronicle of escalating engagement in France and the United States within three stages: a pedagogical stage, in which intellectuals critiqued official justifications for their country's wars; a moral stage, in which they challenged the ethical basis of their country's behavior; and a counter-legal stage, in which they promoted civil disobedience. This model proposed by Schalk nicely fits the trend of resistance in both countries.
Indeed, Schalk has written a masterly work, which has stood up extraordinarily well in the years from its initial publication to this new edition, which appeared in late 2005. His careful style, thorough research, and judicious conclusions make this an excellent study of intellectual engagement. Its relevance goes beyond the crises of conscience in France and the United States over their governments' brutal wars in the Third World to the role of intellectuals in modern society.
In this broader framework, Schalk speculates on whether intellectual engagement is a phenomenon solely of the past, and concludes that it probably is not. But "to elicit a profound moral reaction from its intellectual elites," he maintains, "a government in power has to do something stupid and evil enough." Furthermore, "the external historical situation . . . must not appear totally hopeless and impermeable to change."
George Herring, in his preface to the book, takes up this issue and applies it to American intellectuals and the current U.S. war in Iraq. "The insurgency that began in Iraq after the . . . spring 2003 U.S. invasion bears a marked resemblance to the wars in Algeria and Vietnam," he observes. "The Abu Ghraib scandal calls forth memories of French torture in Algeria and the notorious tiger cages at Con Son in South Vietnam. Indeed, the sometimes-bewildered looks on the faces of American soldiers in Iraqi cities are reminiscent of the expressions of those who fought earlier wars in Algeria and Vietnam." And, yet, he notes, intellectual dissent has been relatively muted. "Where is the outrage against government lies and blundering? Where is the call to resist illegitimate authority?"
There are signs, though, that a storm has been gathering, and that the intellectuals, now restive, will once again lead the way in fearlessly exposing the lies and mendacity of the powerful, as they did so effectively during the Algerian and Vietnam wars. And if they do plunge once more into public debate and resistance, they will surely build upon the exemplary stance of their predecessors, chronicled so brilliantly in War and the Ivory Tower.
Years ago, with his characteristic pessimism, Chomsky wondered gloomily what would happen to historical consciousness of the Vietnam War "as the custodians of history set to work." But, as David Schalk shows us, a sensitive and forthright historian can illuminate the darkened terrain of the past and of the present.
Even Gandhi believed that people need the qualities that warriors once possessed, but soldiering, once a constructive rite of passage, has given up most of the glory it once held. Weapons of mass destruction have ruined war. Machine guns, planes, and nuclear weapons so alter the conduct and effects of war that it degrades much more than it enhances combatants. In this remarkable book, psychotherapist and M.D. Edward Tick, author of previous books on the Vietnam War and on dreams in healing, surveys the history and mythology of war in general and its psychological consequences in particular.
His chapter titles include "The Soul in Slaughter," Eros and Aesthetics in Hell," "Relations with the Missing and the Dead" and "The Healing Power of Storytelling." A straightforward and eloquent writer, he conveys caring and passion concisely, with the authority of an involved witness. Tick, a therapist who has worked with veterans for 25 years, views standard approaches to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) skeptically. He became a student of war in historical and cross-cultural perspective. The American Civil war marked the emergence of modern military conflict with the devastating effects of weapons that blasted from a distance. World War I soon eclipsed that, and a generation later a wider, more devastating conflict ended with atomic weaponry.
"In war, chaos overwhelms compassion, violence replaces cooperation, instinct replaces rationality, and gut dominates mind. When drenched in these conditions, the soul is disfigured…" (16) In war, "Horror is married to boredom, fascination to putrescence…. Everything is rendered ultimate, just as it is in myth. The tiniest event can be charged with intensity so overwhelming that it literally reprograms the central nervous system."
At the tribal and national level, war represents divine will, participation in which requires subordination of individual will coupled with elevation of the warrior to heroic status. War used to be a disciplined rite of passage: in some "primitive" societies combat ended with the first casualty. War functioned as a kind of extreme sport, a proof of manhood; now it undoes men, families, even nations that have come to depend on it. Inhibitions must die in order to create killers. War becomes a reality show only mimicked in video games, never to be shown on television, where recruitments ads beckon: "Be all you can be."
The author points out that up through the Civil War, senior officers led their troops into battle. Now the "brass" take their positions safely to the rear. This transforms battle from a mentored rite of passage to something quite different. With destruction at a distance, often indiscriminate (civilians), survival trumps heroism as a goal. Even that survival is weighed down with shame and guilt. The ancient values of maturation, heroism, and sanctity have faded away.
Tick quotes relevant sources from Heraclitus to Chris Hedges (War is a Force that Gives us Meaning, 2003), including psychiatrist Robert Jay Lifton, psychologist James Hillman, war biographies, poets, movies, and his patients, People idealize war, he writes, because they need its awesome mythology, its ready connection to the divine, its simplifying ideology. They cannot weigh its real costs, including PTSD, once known as "soldiers heart" or "nostalgia." The old, soulful terms imply a return to normal, to wholeness that was damaged, not just by "shell shock" but also by killing—an inversion of moral values. Soldiers dehumanize other people in order to kill them, but later, with survivor guilt, veterans question their very souls, as victims inhabit memory rehumanized. Conventional therapy for PTSD, which emphasizes medication and avoids moral and spiritual issues (like "soul") fall short, even as the incidence of the syndrome rises in the current war in Iraq.
Tick also cites the fact that homeless veterans number some 270,000, most from the Vietnam War, and that suicides now outnumber fatal casualties from that war. He reasons that PTSD afflicts not only the individual soul, but also that of a nation that once basked in the assurance of its goodness and now finds evidence of evil within. Tick asserts that PTSD is an identity disorder that requires healing of a wounded soul. His method connects suffering with the healing power of myth, including reconciliation with the dead and, ironically, attaining the character values of a true warrior. The last four chapters explain this journey: purification and cleansing, the healing power of storytelling, restitution in the family and the nation, and initiation as a warrior.
When it comes to making war and going to war, this book is required reading for those who would do it with informed consent, or would refrain for good reason.
If most Americans remember William Jennings Bryan at all it is because of “Inherit the Wind,” the once- famous play and film about the Scopes Monkey Trial set in southern fundamentalist land. They emphasized what Christian Science Monitor reviewer [Feb. 14, 2006] Christopher Capozzola --he teaches American history at MIT-- called H.L. Mencken’s “snide disdain” and also transformed the “Great Commoner” into a religiously fanatical clown.
Michael Kazin's biography of Bryan paints a very different picture. He was “not a fundamentalist” but instead “burned only and always to see religion heal the world.” A perennial loser in three presidential races, he nonetheless appealed to ordinary people and thus helped to change a Democratic Party dominated by corrupt city bosses, Southern racists and wealthy patrons. “When reform comes to this country,” said Bryan, “it starts with the masses” and not “the brains of scholars.”
While praising the book (“ a richly textured narrative”), Capozzola considers that Kazin, “hoping to recover a hero for liberal Christianity…lets Bryan get away with a lot.” All the same, Capozzola writes, “in an age of Enron and empire, at a time when matters of religious faith are debased by political controversies over Sponge Bob’s Square Pants, Kazin’s longing for a prophetic voice is understandable. But in Bryan’s case, that voice too often crossed the line from prophecy to melodrama.”
A slightly different view is to be found in Alan Wolfe’s review [Washington Post Book World, Feb. 5, 2006]. Wolfe, who directs the Boisi Center for Religion and American Life at Boston College, calls the book “splendid...an intensely political biography.” He praises Kazin’s comparison of Bryan to many of today’s political leaders, “who are either religious but lack a passion for social justice or who identify with reform but fail to speak with Bryan’s prophetic sincerity.”
Indeed, Wolfe says Kazin’s portrait “is anything but a whitewash.” And though Bryan supported racial segregation, Kazin argues that otherwise he was a positive force in political life.
Says Wolfe: Kazin’s Bryan “not only stands up well against the right but also has something to teach the left…In a society as religious as the United States, leftists commit political suicide by turning their backs on what Bryan tried to accomplish.” Bryan’s complex legacy, says Kazin, was a direct link to the Democratic progressivism of the New Deal and after but also to today’s Bush-Rove Republicans. In the end, Wolfe concludes “it would be difficult to imagine a biography of any early 20th Century political leader more relevant to the early 21st century than this one.”
SOURCE: Weekly Standard ()
BECAUSE OF HISTORICAL FORCES and cultural norms, in America Jews have been a remarkably urban people.
In 1878, 71 percent lived in the 26 metropolitan areas that boasted at least a thousand Jewish inhabitants, whereas over half of the general population did not live in cities until 1920. With the increased influx of Jews from Eastern Europe, and particularly Russia, from 1881 to the 1920s, the number and proportion of Jews in American cities rose ever higher. And yet a tiny but important segment chose to move into the American hinterland, where they exerted disproportionate influence on civic and cultural uplift in towns and smaller cities. Downtown business clusters made it appear that Jews dominated retail trade. Jews also created their own community life and institutions.
Lee Shai Weissbach, professor of history at the University of Louisville, has studied the lives of Jews who lived in these communities with Jewish populations between 100 and 1,000 during what he calls their "classic era," roughly 1887 to 1927. The period marks both the rise and decline (in isolation as well as number) of such communities. Having published several scholarly articles on the subject, this seminal volume incorporates 15 years of research.
Weissbach maintains that, while broad similarities exist between Jewish experiences throughout the country, local environments--whether they be small towns, or commercial or industrial metropolises--exerted tremendous influence over patterns of adjustment. In the cities, Jews participated in a greater diversity of occupations, and a substantial working class was employed in the textile industry. Thus, labor union membership and socialist inclinations marked participation in city life for many East European Jewish immigrants.
Few of those drawn to small towns served as industrial workers, and almost all rose quickly into the middle class through retail trade. For those so inclined, socialism became an intellectual exercise rather than a class-conscious activity, and unionism was almost unheard of. The Depression probably had a lesser impact on small-town Jews because of the independent economic niche they filled. A result of close kinship ties in an environment where they knew everyone, small-town Jews "never felt alone or anonymous," as some might have felt in cities. Still, with fewer potential spouses available because of smaller populations, Jews in small towns were more likely to intermarry than their urbanized brethren.
The contrasts seem endless. Jews found greater acceptance and integration in small towns than in cities, although they still felt the barbs of anti-Semitism and insensitivity, and were virtually always viewed as separate and distinctive. With populations only capable of supporting one or two congregations, and while some conflict existed between Central and East European, Reform and Orthodox, cooperation and accommodation were more the norm than in large metropolises with numerous, competing synagogues and community institutions. For small-town Jews, synagogues served as all-purpose centers of social as well as religious life; but erecting buildings and obtaining the services of rabbis, and keeping them beyond a few years, posed real challenges.
Weissbach persuasively argues that the Jewish encounter in what he calls "triple-digit" communities deserves independent study, even beyond what it reflects in contrast to city life.
Immigrant Jews were drawn to these locations because transportation and natural resources made them market centers. Kin and landsleit networks often defined the movement of people to specific locations, and eased adjustment. Many started with little capital as peddlers, obtaining goods from Jewish wholesalers, while others, after first having accumulated capital elsewhere in America, began as shopkeepers. Friends and relatives served as clerks and opened satellite stores. From the Civil War to well into the 20th century, the road to department stores and success in a variety of businesses, and ultimately the professions, beckoned. Mobility in and out of towns as an area's opportunity came and went was as typical as economic mobility.
During the 19th century, Jews from central Europe started congregations and burial and benevolent societies, a pattern replicated during the era of mass migration by Jews from Eastern Europe. In fact, contrary to the image of "German" Jewish town formation, most of these communities were established by "Russian" Jews. Even where earlier Jewish communities existed, the newcomers usually exerted substantial influence because of their larger numbers. In "vibrant Jewish enclaves," writes Weissbach, these traditionalists created "miniature version[s] of the quasi-mythical 'Lower East Side' of New York City."
Yiddish culture, Zionism, and ethnic businesses and consciousness flourished. Nonetheless, these Jews underwent a similar process of acculturation as their predecessors, and by the time of World War II, traditional practices and observances had eroded. Conservative and Reform congregations took the place of most Orthodox shuls, and the Americanization of East European Jewish culture was more complete in small towns than in cities.
Although some of the small towns rose into medium or even large-sized cities after 1945, most either declined, stagnated, or came under the shadow of larger metropolises. They became "places of memory." Where and when economic opportunity lessened, Jews moved out. Yet university towns and recreation/retirement havens witnessed the revitalization of Jewish communities during the last decades of the 20th century, and into the present. The processes of community life, death, and mobility continue unabated as Jews adapt and fill ever-changing niches.
Weissbach presents statistics for 490 small towns, although he focuses on 12. The statistics--even his multiple examples intended to humanize the story are data-heavy--and discussions of prior demographic studies and the use of sources are important for researchers, especially for comparative purposes. But they make for arduous reading, particularly in the early chapters. Weissbach uses primary sources quite creatively. Congregational dues and the makeup of local Industrial Removal Organization committees show that Jews in small towns tended to be neither rich nor poor but thoroughly middle class. Jewish Publication Society membership lists illustrate ties with larger Jewish communities and a cosmopolitan outlook. Student rabbis, along with circuit-riding rabbis and non ordained "ministers," conducted services in the absence of sustained rabbinical leadership, and their reports bring these "triple-digit communities" to life.
Much of American Jewish history has been written as New York Jewish history writ large. But because of the large size and concentration of the New York Jewish population, its story is really unique and distinctive. Professor Weissbach reminds us that the story of American Jewry is truly national in scope.
Providing strong arguments against distinctions based on region, Jewish Life in Small-Town America is a masterful, nuanced work that offers a standard for future histories of individual communities, and fascinating insights into the variety of both American Jewish experiences and small-town American cultures. Regardless of distinctions based on adaptation to local environments, it emphasizes the strength of old-world religion and culture in assisting immigrant Jews to find a home in America, even while maintaining group identity and culture.
SOURCE: TomDispatch.com & the NY Review of Books ()
The challenges posed to American democracy by secrecy and by unchecked presidential power are the two great themes running through the history of the Iraq war. How long the war will last, who will "win," and what it will do to the political landscape of the Middle East will not be obvious for years to come, but the answers to those questions cannot alter the character of what happened at the outset. Put plainly, the President decided to attack Iraq, he brushed caution and objection aside, and Congress, the press, and the people, with very few exceptions, stepped back out of the way and let him do it.
Explaining this fact is not going to be easy. Commentators often now refer to President Bush's decision to invade Iraq as "a war of choice," which means that it was not provoked. The usual word for an unprovoked attack is aggression. Why did Americans -- elected representatives and plain citizens alike -- accede so readily to this act of aggression, and why did they question the President's arguments for war so feebly? The whole business is painfully awkward to consider, but it will not go away. If the Constitution forbids a president anything it forbids war on his say-so, and if it insists on anything it insists that presidents are not above the law. In plain terms this means that presidents cannot enact laws on their own, or ignore laws that have been enacted by Congress.
The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978 is such a law; it was enacted to end years of routine wiretapping of American citizens who had attracted official attention by opposing the war in Vietnam. The express purpose of the act was to limit what presidents could ask intelligence organizations to do. But for limits on presidential power to have meaning Congress and the courts must have the fortitude to say no when they think no is the answer.
In public life as in kindergarten, the all-important word is no. We are living with the consequences of the inability to say no to the President's war of choice with Iraq, and we shall soon see how the Congress and the courts will respond to the latest challenge from the White House -- the claim by President Bush that he has the right to ignore FISA's prohibition of government intrusion on the private communications of Americans without a court order, and his repeated statements that he intends to go right on doing it.
Nobody was supposed to know that FISA had been brushed aside. The fact that the National Security Agency (NSA), America's largest intelligence organization, had been turned loose to intercept the faxes, e-mails, and phone conversations of Americans with blanket permission by the President remained secret until the New York Times reporters James Risen and Eric Lichtblau learned over a year ago that it was happening. An early version of the story was apparently submitted to the Times' editors in October 2004, when it might have affected the outcome of the presidential election. But the Times, for reasons it has not clearly explained, withheld the story until mid-December 2005 when the newspaper's publisher and executive editor -- Arthur Sulzberger Jr. and Bill Keller -- met with President Bush in the Oval Office to hear his objections before going ahead. Even then certain details were withheld.
What James Risen learned in the course of his reporting can be found in his newly published book State of War: The Secret History of the CIA and the Bush Administration, a wide-ranging investigation of the role of intelligence in the origins and the conduct of the war in Iraq. Risen contributes much new material to our knowledge of recent intelligence history. He reports in detail, for example, on claims that CIA analysts quit fighting over exaggerated reports of Iraqi weapons of mass destruction as word spread in the corridors at Langley that the President had decided to go to war no matter what the evidence said; that the Saudi government seized and then got rid of tell-tale bank records of Abu Zubaydah, the most important al-Qaeda figure to be captured since September 11; and that "a handful of the most important al Qaeda detainees" have been sent for interrogation to a secret prison codenamed "Bright Light." One CIA specialist in counterterror operations told Risen, "The word is that once you get sent to Bright Light, you never come back."
Digging out intelligence history is a slow process, resisted by officials at every step of the way, and Risen's work will be often quoted in future accounts of the Iraq war. But nothing else in Risen's book rivals the NSA story in importance, revealing that the President not only authorized the NSA to eavesdrop on Americans without seeking court orders, but to listen in a new way, by intercepting a large volume of communications among categories of people, and then analyzing or "mining" the data in those calls for suspicious patterns that might offer "potential evidence of terrorist activity."
"This is the biggest secret I know about," one official told Risen. The eavesdropping effort is technically known as a "special access program" (SAP), which means that its existence and the information it collects are both tightly held. Within the government, Risen tells us, witting officials referred to it simply as "the program," and even the legal opinions justifying it are classified. Risen traces the origins of the program back to the brief war that overthrew the Taliban government in Afghanistan and resulted in the capture of many al-Qaeda suspects along with their cell phones and computers. These suspects had been calling and e-mailing people throughout the world, many of whom, inevitably, were in the United States, raising understandable fears of new terrorist attacks. But according to Risen, the NSA does not limit itself to monitoring numbers provided by the CIA from captured al-Qaeda phone books, targets for which there is some degree of "probable cause" to think they might be terrorist-connected. Those phone numbers provide only the jumping-off point for the program. The NSA has since broadened its effort by establishing "its own internal checklist" to pinpoint phone numbers and addresses of interest, and it is likely that the items on the list are checked off by a computer program in a nanosecond, not by analysts exercising deliberate judgment.
How big is the target list? At any given moment, Risen believes, the NSA may be "eavesdropping on as many as five hundred people in the United States...." But his number of five hundred should not be interpreted as an outer limit. The actual volume of intercepted calls is almost certainly a very great deal larger, going beyond communications between known, named persons. Modern eavesdropping seldom mirrors the classic wiretap of yesteryear when FBI agents with earphones might record hundreds of hours of a Mafia chief chatting with his underboss in New York's Little Italy. The idea now is to see if anyone on the phone in New York or New Jersey sounds in any way like a Mafia chief. A dinner of linguine with clams in a known Mafia hangout could be enough to warrant a further look. The al-Qaeda phone book numbers were the crack in the door; follow-up targets are simply numbers or e-mail addresses, leading to other numbers and e-mail addresses, all plucked from the torrents of traffic transmitted by the switching systems of the major American telecommunications companies, which daily handle two billion phone calls and perhaps ten times as many e-mail messages. What Risen discovered, in short, was a program best described as "big."
Under existing law the NSA should have sought permission from the secret FISA court in Washington before listening in on the communications of any "US persons" -- basically, American corporations, citizens, and others lawfully inside the United States -- who had turned up in al-Qaeda phone books and directories. The law makes provision for emergencies: if investigators feel they don't have time for legal rigmarole they can act first and then seek permission within the following three days. This was not done. President Bush insisted on New Year's Day that "This is a limited program... it's limited to calls from outside the United States to calls within the United States. But they are of known -- numbers of known al-Qaeda members or affiliates." But it seems clear that the NSA program quickly spilled beyond its original limits; the real reason for ignoring the FISA courts is probably a savvy guess that the courts would not approve what the administration wants to do.
Listening to specific persons was only part of it, and not the greater part. What Risen learned, which has been backed up by other press accounts in recent weeks, is that the counterterror investigators from the beginning wanted to cast the net wide -- to listen to all the people in the al-Qaeda phone books, and then broaden their search to the still wider circle of people the phone book names were in touch with, and go on to check out all their contacts as well. If the first generation of targets numbered a hundred, let's say, and each of them had been talking to a hundred people in a second generation of targets, then even a third generation search could easily sweep up a million people. You can see why investigators desperate to prevent any repetition of the attacks of September 11 would have favored this rapid and wide casting of the net, but that sort of industrial-scale fishing expedition is exactly what the FISA courts were established to prevent.
In the days after the Risen–Lichtblau story first appeared President Bush, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, the head of the NSA at the beginning of the program, General Michael Hayden, and others all defended the program as urgent, successful, justified by acts of Congress and the President's powers under the constitution, sharply limited in scope, approved by members of Congress who had been briefed on the program, and carefully managed to protect the civil liberties and other rights of Americans.
"The whole key here is agility," said General Hayden.
"What we're trying to do is learn of communications, back and forth, from within the United States to overseas members of al-Qaeda," said Gonzales. "That's what this program is about. This is not about wiretapping everybody. This is about a very concentrated, very limited program focused on gaining information about our enemy."
"Dealing with al-Qaeda is not simply a matter of law enforcement," President Bush said in a press conference on December 19.
"It requires defending the country against an enemy that declared war against the United States.... So, consistent with US law and the Constitution, I authorized the interception of international communications of people with known links to al-Qaeda and related terrorist organizations.... Leaders in the United States Congress have been briefed more than a dozen times on this program.... I've reauthorized this program more than 30 times since the September the 11th attacks, and I intend to do so for so long as... the nation faces the continuing threat...."
The President's carefully worded statement casts a troubling new light on his insistence that we are fighting a "war on terror" and that he is a "wartime president." Constitutional lawyers have long argued about the limits of presidential or executive power, but all agree that the limits are more elastic in wartime, and it is increasingly evident that the Bush administration has treated this distinction as a barn door. The shock caused by the revelation of the NSA program is not centered on concern for the civil liberties of al-Qaeda terrorists but on the scale, still unknown, of the eavesdropping authorized by the President; on his refusal to use the courts or seek any change in the governing laws; and on his blanket claim that Article Two of the Constitution gives him, as president and commander in chief of the armed forces, both the responsibility for defending the country and "the authority necessary to fulfill it."
Even some Republican leaders find this broad claim troubling. Senator Arlen Specter, chairman of the Senate's Judiciary Committee, has announced that he will hold hearings on the NSA program. "I am skeptical of the attorney general's citation of authority, but I am prepared to listen," he said in December. "You can't have the administration and a select number of members [of Congress, those briefed by the White House] alter the law. It can't be done."
In an interview with Fox News on January 19, Vice President Dick Cheney said such briefings "have occurred at least a dozen times. I presided over most of them." One of those briefings, possibly the first, was held in Vice President Cheney's office on July 17, 2003, four months after the American invasion of Iraq and a year after the NSA program began. Present were Representatives Jane Harman and Porter Goss, now the director of the CIA; and Senators Pat Roberts and John D. Rockefeller. Briefing them were Goss's predecessor at the CIA, George Tenet, and General Hayden of the NSA. There has been no published account of what the members of Congress were told about the nature, rationale, justification, and scale of the program. They were neither permitted to take notes nor to discuss what they heard with any other persons. Far from feeling that the administration had fulfilled its obligations under existing law, Senator Rockefeller handwrote a brief letter to Cheney the same day
"to reiterate my concern regarding the sensitive intelligence issues we discussed today.... Clearly, the activities we discussed raise profound oversight issues.... Given the security restrictions associated with this information, and my inability to consult staff or counsel on my own, I feel unable to fully evaluate, much less endorse these activities. As I reflected on the meeting today, and the future we face, John Poindexter's TIA project sprung to mind, exacerbating my concern...."
TIA stands for Total Information Awareness, an intelligence program conceived in the Pentagon's Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) in the year following the attacks of September 11. It was designed to collect and exploit digital records of all kinds from private and public compilers of information -- phone records, bank records, credit card records, police records, medical records, travel records -- basically everything that is recorded about individuals. Running the program was John Poindexter, a former Navy admiral and national security advisor under President Reagan who had been indicted and convicted on seven felony charges during the Iran-contra investigation in the early 1990s, convictions later overturned on appeal. When the New York Times first published a description of TIA in December 2002, the fact that Poindexter was running it proved a fatal debility, and in September 2003 Congress killed funding for the Pentagon's Information Awareness Office.
But Poindexter's retirement and the end of the IAO did not extinguish official hopes for "data-mining," a computer-intensive approach to finding meaning in apparently random patterns. This, in fact, is basically what the NSA has always done -- collect communications from targets of interest and attack them with "tools," which are basically computer programs that seek patterns in apparently random letter and number groups. Data-mining seeks patterns in random actions -- buying, selling, check-writing, getting on planes, and so on -- rather than in the numbers and letters that make up codes. Data-mining is not a way to find out what persons of interest have been up to; it is a way to identify persons of interest among the general population -- persons, in short, who have not been detected doing anything that might convince a judge on the FISA court to issue a warrant for surveillance. Checking out US persons contacted by al-Qaeda would have raised no red flags with FISA judges; the larger and more significant part of the program uncovered by James Risen -- the part which the administration did not want to describe to the FISA court or to members of Congress who could have amended the law; the part, in fact, which the administration still hopes to keep secret and continue -- is the use of data-mining techniques by the NSA to do what Congress refused to allow Poindexter and the Pentagon to do. And that is to generate large numbers of names -- not dozens, thousands -- for the FBI to investigate.
John Poindexter and Total Information Awareness were one bell that rang loudly in the mind of Senator Rockefeller after his briefing in Cheney's office. It is probable that another has rung since -- the testimony of John Bolton during his confirmation hearings last summer to be U.S. ambassador to the UN, when he said that on ten occasions he had formally asked the NSA to identify the "U.S. persons" who had been party to, or perhaps only mentioned in, communications intercepted by the agency and included in reports distributed to others in the government. The fight over the administration's refusal to identify the nineteen persons who aroused Bolton's curiosity in those ten communications was one reason President Bush abandoned efforts to force a Senate vote and instead made an interim appointment of Bolton to the UN post while Congress was in recess. But the argument while it continued jarred loose additional information about the scale of NSA activity -- for example, the State Department's admission that Bolton's colleagues had made over four hundred requests for the identities of U.S. persons in NSA reports; that the NSA had been asked as many as 3,500 times by other agencies to fill in the names of U.S. persons, and that the total number of names provided to other agencies was greater than 10,000.
Who are these people? Some of them were probably included in a database of 1,519 "suspicious incidents" compiled by the Pentagon's Counterintelligence Field Activity, an office charged with defending military bases, according to a report broadcast by NBC a few days before the original New York Times story on the NSA program. On examination, the Pentagon's "suspicious incidents" were simply public protests of the sort watched, photographed, investigated, and wiretapped during the Vietnam War under the program that led to the enactment of FISA twenty-five years ago. At that time the Pentagon's database had ballooned to 18,000 names.
Of the numerous questions facing investigators for the Judiciary Committee the easy ones will concern the legality of the program. It was patently illegal under FISA and the only argument for letting the President get away with ignoring FISA is that he is prepared to make a fight of it. No committee headed by Republicans will do more than chide him on the law. The questions hardest to answer will be what the NSA actually did, and whether it served any useful purpose. A recent New York Times story contradicts the President's claim that the NSA program was "limited... to known al-Qaeda members or affiliates." Citing anonymous FBI officials, the Times claimed that the NSA flooded the bureau with "thousands" of names per month to check out for possible terrorist connections. Far from being a "vital tool," as described by President Bush, the program was a distracting time waster that sent harried FBI agents down an endless series of blind alleys chasing will-o'-the-wisp terrorists who turned out to be schoolteachers. And far from saving "thousands of lives," as claimed by Vice President Dick Cheney in December 2005, the NSA program never led investigators to a genuine terrorist not already under suspicion, nor did it help them to expose any dangerous plots. So why did the administration continue this lumbering effort for three years? Outsiders sometimes find it tempting to dismiss such wheel-spinning as bureaucratic silliness, but I believe that the Judiciary Committee will find, if it is willing to persist, that within the large pointless program there exists a small, sharply focused program that delivers something the White House really wants. This it will never confess willingly.
Over the next few months the White House will be fighting a two-front war to preserve its secrets -- one against the Judiciary Committee, as just described, and a second against the Senate Intelligence Committee, which has committed itself to a renewed effort to investigate the administration's drum-beating for war with Iraq by citing scary reports of Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction -- reports that were virtually all wrong, and in some cases were little short of fabricated.
The committee's chairman, Senator Pat Roberts, promised before the 2004 presidential election that "phase two" of its investigation would address the administration's actual use of the intelligence it received, flawed as it was. This was something of a minefield. On their face, many statements by Bush, Cheney, National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice, and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld appeared to go well beyond even the exaggerated claims made by the CIA. After Bush won a second term the Republican Roberts not surprisingly dropped "phase two," saying he no longer saw the point. But in November Senator Harry Reid, a Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, revived phase two when he invoked a rarely used parliamentary rule to call for a secret session of the Senate to discuss new evidence suggesting that substantial doubts about WMD intelligence had been suppressed before the war.
Risen found evidence of that, too. Included in his book is a new account of a pre-war CIA program conceived by the agency's assistant director for intelligence collection, Charles Allen, to send Iraqi-Americans to Baghdad to ask scientist-relatives about WMDs. A chief target of the new program was Iraq's effort to develop nuclear weapons, the subject of intense ongoing scrutiny after a son-in-law of Saddam Hussein defected in mid-1995 to Amman, Jordan, where he described WMD programs to UN officials. Sawsan Alhaddad, a woman doctor working and living in Cleveland, was one of about thirty Iraqis dispatched to Baghdad under this program in late summer 2002. When she returned in September she told CIA debriefers in a Virginia hotel room that her brother, an electrical engineer who had joined the Iraqi nuclear program in the early 1980s, had insisted the nuclear weapons program was dead, shut down years earlier. The other Iraqis all said the same thing only months before the US invasion of Iraq in March 2003, but their reports were bottled up in the CIA.
The agency, it turns out, had heard the same thing from many sources, including Hussein's defector son-in-law, General Hussein Kamal, who was fool enough to return to Baghdad, where he was executed. But before leaving, Kamal told the UN that Iraq's WMD program, larger and more advanced than the CIA had believed before the first Gulf War in 1991, had been closed down
"after visits of [UN] inspection teams. You have important role in Iraq with this. You should not underestimate yourself. You are very effective in Iraq.... All chemical weapons were destroyed. I ordered destruction of all chemical weapons. All weapons -- biological, chemical, missile, nuclear were destroyed.... In the nuclear area, there were no weapons. Missile and chemical weapons were real weapons. Our main worry was Iran and they were [intended for use] against them."
Kamal's report, like Sawsan Alhaddad's and many others, were never cited in the October 2002 National Intelligence Estimate used to convince Congress to vote for war. The pattern is clear; evidence of Iraqi WMDs, however flimsy, was treated like scripture while information contradicting that evidence, however clear, was bottled up and never left the building. On three separate occasions, for example, in mid-2001, mid-2002, and January 2003, just before the war, the CIA asked the French for their evaluation of the now-infamous reports that Iraq was trying to buy "yellowcake" uranium ore from Niger. According to the Los Angeles Times of December 11, 2005, the French intelligence chief at the time, Alain Chouet, said that the answer was the same in each instance -- nothing to it.
The French were in a position to know; uranium ore in Niger was all mined by French companies. In mid-2002 the French even told the CIA that the Italian documents reporting the purchase were forgeries, something the CIA did not even attempt to examine on its own for another year; and a few months later, "at about the same time as the State of the Union address" when the President cited the yellowcake as alarming evidence of Saddam Hussein's nuclear ambitions, the Italians also told the Americans that the documents were forgeries. In similar fashion, claims that Iraq was providing al-Qaeda with training in the use of poison gases, cited by Secretary of State Colin Powell at the UN in February 2003, were also contradicted by reports the CIA had but chose to ignore.
In public debate it is customary at this point to ask, in a voice of amazed horror: How could this have happened? Are these intelligence professionals all community college dropouts? Have they forgotten everything they learned in spy school? My own view is that inconvenient evidence that angers policymakers and threatens careers cannot be pushed under the rug by intelligence officers unless they are fully aware of each step in the series -- they know it is evidence, they know it is inconvenient, they know it will anger policymakers, they know their careers will be threatened, and they know they are pushing evidence in the direction of a rug.
James Risen is not willing to go so far. His book is filled with evidence supporting this interpretation, but he seems reluctant to embrace it. "[Paul] Wolfowitz personally complained to Tenet about the CIA's analytical work on Iraq and al-Qaeda," Risen says in discussing the use of intelligence to justify the war. Can we be in doubt why Wolfowitz complained, or why the agency assured Powell that Iraq was training al-Qaeda, scout's honor? When CIA officers told Tenet the war would be a mistake, Risen notes, "he would just come back from the White House and say they are going to do it." Risen sums up Tenet's attitude thus: "War with Iraq was inevitable, and it was time for the CIA to do its part." That seems clear enough; surely Risen means that the agency's part was to help beat the drum for war. But then Risen swings back, like a man facing snakes on one side and alligators on the other. Why was the information reported by Sawsan Alhaddad and the other Iraqis bottled up at the agency? "Petty turf battles and tunnel vision of the agency's officials" is Risen's first answer. In the next sentence he braces up, then wilts again:
"...Doubts were stifled because of the enormous pressure that officials at the CIA...felt to support the administration. CIA director George Tenet and his senior lieutenants became so...fearful of creating a rift with the White House, that they created a climate within the CIA in which warnings that the available evidence on Iraqi WMD was weak were either ignored or censored. Tenet and his senior aides may not have meant to foster that sort of work environment -- and perhaps did not even realize they were doing it...."
What can Risen be thinking? How could they not realize they were doing it? They were running the place.
Paul Wolfowitz, the undersecretary of defense, was not the only official to let the CIA know what he wanted to hear. Rumsfeld set up a special office in the Pentagon to "re-look" the intelligence on Iraqi WMDs and then urged Tenet to listen to its findings. Vice President Cheney crossed the Potomac more than once to ask questions -- the same questions, over and over. John Bolton tried to fire resistant analysts in the State Department's intelligence shop and at the CIA; they kept their jobs, but who could fail to get the message? Robert Hutchings, a former chief of the National Intelligence Council, the group that wrote the October 2002 NIE, described Bolton's way of mining intelligence reports to come up with the administration's version of the world. "He took isolated facts and made much more to build a case than the intelligence warranted," he said. "It was a sort of cherry-picking of little factoids and little isolated bits that were drawn out to present the starkest-possible case."
These were not intellectual exercises; Bolton needed custom-built intelligence to support the administration's policies. "When policy officials came back repeatedly to push the same kind of judgments, and push the intelligence community to confirm a particular set of judgments," Hutchings said, "it does have the effect of politicizing intelligence, because the so-called ‘correct answer' becomes all too clear." Has the Senate Intelligence Committee got the fortitude to accept the implications of these facts and many others just like them?
The systematic exaggeration of intelligence before the invasion of Iraq and the flouting of FISA both required, and got, a degree of resolution in the White House that has few precedents in American history. The President has gotten away with it so far because he leaves no middle ground -- cut him some slack, or prepare to fight to the death. The fact that he enjoys a Republican majority in both houses of Congress gives him a margin of comfort, but I suspect that Democratic majorities would be just as reluctant, in the end, to call him on either count. Americans were ready enough to believe that one president might lie about a sexual affair; but they balk at concluding that his successor would pressure others to lie, and even would utter a few whoppers himself, so he could take the country to war.
Risen helps to explain how it was done, but lets it go at that. In his Fox News interview Vice President Cheney did not give an inch on the necessity of the NSA spying or of the war itself. "When we look back on this, ten years hence," he insisted, "we will [see that we] have fundamentally changed the course of history in that part of the world." A decade down the road we'll know if Cheney is right or wrong, and if the change is the one we wanted. The question now is whether the President could do it all again -- take the country to war, and scrap restraints on spying, just as he pleases. The answer is yes, unless Congress and the courts can say no.