Media's Take on the News 9-2-03 to 9-30-03





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Fred Barnes: Bush Isn't in Trouble (posted 9-30-03)

Fred Barnes, writing in the Wall Street Journal (Sept. 30, 2003):

The media's new word for President Bush is "vulnerable." A Gallup Poll last week found he trails Democrats Wesley Clark (49% to 46%) and John Kerry (48% to 47%) in presidential race match-ups. His job approval rating dipped to 49% in a Wall Street Journal/NBC News survey. The consensus in the press is that President Bush is in deep political trouble, and many Democrats and some Republicans share that view.

A more accurate word for President Bush's political condition is "normal." Mr. Bush has slumped in his third year in office just as most recent presidents have. A slump is the rule, not the exception. For President Bush, the glow from enacting his major initiatives (tax cuts, education reform) has faded. The economy is soft. His foreign policy, especially in postwar Iraq, has become controversial. And complaints about his presidency from Capitol Hill, even from Republicans, have grown.

Still, there's far more reason than not to expect him to recover and win re-election, perhaps easily. His slump, assuming it's hit bottom, has been milder than the slumps other presidents faced and his prospects are brighter. President Bush is lucky on the economy. His recession came early, giving the economy time to revive before his re-election campaign in 2004. And his foreign policy crisis is hardly as threatening as Vietnam was for Presidents Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon. The economy is almost certain to look better in 2004 than today and chances are Iraq will too.

The media's problem in assessing a president's future is invariably seeing the future as a straight-line projection of the present. It rarely works out that way. When President Ronald Reagan moved into his third year in 1983, Lou Cannon of the Washington Post referred to his "embattled presidency." His administration's "opportunities," Cannon wrote, "were severely limited by the failure of the economy to respond to Reagan's remedies." Even conservatives were grousing. President Reagan's approval rating fell to 47%, but in 1984 he won in a landslide. The same was true for President Nixon, whose approval sank to 49% in 1971, only to be followed by an overwhelming re-election victory a year later.

President Clinton was driven into retreat by the Republican blowout in the 1994 midterm election. There were doubts about his "relevance" as a leader. In August 1996 his job rating was 44% and he dropped behind Bob Dole (48% to 42%) and Colin Powell (47% to 37%). Yet Mr. Clinton won re-election comfortably the next year.

It's true that two presidents, Johnson and Carter, failed to pull themselves out of their third-year slumps. Johnson was bedeviled by the national anxiety over the war in Vietnam. President Carter was beset by a stagnant economy and sky-high inflation and appeared helpless to solve the Iranian hostage crisis.

President Bush's decline doesn't match that of his father, George H.W. Bush. The elder Bush's case was anomalous. After winning the Iraq war, he was riding high well into his third year, 1991. But, again, the future turned out unexpectedly. Though the economy was growing, President George H.W. Bush slumped in his fourth year and lost.

So President Bush's situation is different from his father's, and there's not much chance he will suffer the fate of Johnson or Mr. Carter either. Iraq is not Vietnam. In 1967, 10,000 Americans were killed in Vietnam and victory was nowhere in sight. Johnson abandoned his re-election bid in March 1968. America's enemy then was a powerful military of well over one million troops -- not only Viet Cong guerrillas but a North Vietnamese army backed by the Soviet Union.

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On the Differences Between the Marshall Plan and Bush's Plan for Iraq (posted 9-27-03)

David Firestone, writing in the NYT (Sept. 27, 2003):

The Bush administration says its plan to rebuild Iraq is modeled on the farsighted spirit of the Marshall Plan. But lawmakers and historians are increasingly finding flaws in the postwar analogy, many of which are at the heart of the debate over the administration's $87 billion spending request, which includes a modest amount for Afghanistan.

The Marshall Plan, they say, required a much larger contribution from its European beneficiaries after World War II than the administration is asking of Iraq.

European countries were required by the Truman administration to match every dollar of American aid, and 10 percent of the Marshall Plan's $13 billion was made up of loans. By contrast, the $20.3 billion reconstruction grant for Iraq is not contingent on any contribution from that country's future revenues.

L. Paul Bremer III, the American administrator in Iraq, told senators this week that Iraq might eventually be able to share a large part of the costs with its oil revenues, but he said the country was too burdened with debt to take on another large loan now. ...

"A stable, peaceful, economically productive Iraq will serve American interests by making Americans safer," Mr. Bremer told the Senate Armed Services Committee this week as part of a weeklong marathon of Congressional testimony.

But Larry I. Bland, the editor of Gen. George C. Marshall's papers, said the primary purpose of the European reconstruction program was not a guarantee of safety or pure altruism but rather American and global economic needs.

"The primary emphasis of the Marshall Plan was on restimulating trade," said Mr. Bland, who has produced four volumes of the former secretary of state's papers for the Marshall Foundation at the Virginia Military Institute.

"The countries of Europe already knew how to build bridges and phone systems," he said. "But they had no money to buy anything from us, so trade was dead. The idea was to stimulate their economy so they could buy goods again."

Some Republicans, like Senator John W. Warner of Virginia, chairman of the Armed Services Committee, said the comparison to the previous plan was apt, predicting that the reconstruction of Iraq would eventually pay for itself many times over. Senator Jim Talent, Republican of Missouri, said it would be harder to ask allies to help pay for Iraq's rebuilding if the United States was only willing to advance a loan.

Measured in today's dollars, the Marshall Plan cost the United States about $90 billion to $100 billion, far more than the administration is now proposing to spend on Iraq's reconstruction.

But Democrats note with bitterness that current Republican leaders are allotting only a few weeks of debate on the Iraq plan, compared with the months of Congressional debate and testimony that took place in 1947 and 1948.

"To say this is a Marshall Plan couldn't be further from the truth," said Senator Tom Daschle, the Democratic leader. "We're having only a few hearings, and the president hasn't even presented us with a real plan. The president expects the taxpayers of America to shoulder virtually all of the cost of this effort in human lives and tax dollars, and that's too much to ask the American people."

The first phase of the Marshall Plan passed Congress overwhelmingly in the spring of 1948, but not without vocal opposition from many Republicans.

Mr. Bland said that the isolationist Taft wing of the Republican Party fought the plan as a "budget buster and a big-government giveaway," but that Marshall, then the secretary of state, eventually persuaded large majorities of the danger of isolationism and of the economic benefits to the nation.

In contrast to the Iraq plan, Marshall had to promise that his plan would be administered by an agency independent of the White House, would be limited to four years, and that its priorities would be determined by Europeans, not Americans.

"It would be neither fitting nor efficacious for this government to undertake to draw up unilaterally a program designed to place Europe on its feet economically," Marshall said in a speech on June 5, 1947. "This is the business of the Europeans. The initiative, I think, must come from Europe."

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General Clark's Enthusastic Backing for Bush, Cheney and Rice in May 2001 (posted 9-26-03)

Editorial in the Wall Street Journal (Sept. 26, 2003):

If you're an active Republican, there's a good chance you've attended a Lincoln Day dinner, a staple on GOP community calendars. So it is in Little Rock, Arkansas, where the Pulaski County Republican Party invited hometown hero Wesley Clark to address its members on May 11, 2001. Anyone wondering where the Democratic candidate for President stands on a range of issues is sure to find the speech illuminating.

Lincoln Day dinners are partisan political events, and it was entirely in keeping with the spirit of the evening for the keynote speaker to voice his admiration of Republican leaders. In Mr. Clark's words, Ronald Reagan was "truly a great American leader," who "helped our country win the Cold War." His successor, George Bush, demonstrated "courage" and "vision" in postwar Europe, exercising "tremendous leadership and statesmanship."

The general also sang the praises of the current GOP leadership in Washington: "I'm very glad we've got the great team in office, men like Colin Powell, Don Rumsfeld, Dick Cheney, Condoleezza Rice, Paul O'Neill--people I know very well--our president, George W. Bush. We need them there, because we've got some tough challenges ahead in Europe."

The speech also provides a look at the general's thinking on the foreign-policy and national-security challenges facing the country. Mr. Clark offered "a small prediction" that by the time his book came out "it may be World War III." He expressed the view that "we're going to be active; we're going to be forward engaged. But if you look around the world, there's a lot of work to be done."

Mr. Clark was asked about those remarks at yesterday's Democratic debate, and he replied that the country had made "an incredible journey" since September 2001 and that Mr. Bush had "recklessly cut taxes" and "recklessly took us into Iraq." We'd say the retired general has made a rather astonishing journey himself, and the public will have to judge the sincerity of his conversion.

Click here to read the text of the speech in full.

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Asia Is Awakening (posted 9-25-03)

Martin Wolf, writing in the London Financial Times (Sept. 22, 2003):

Asia's rise is the economic event of our age. Should it proceed as it has over the last few decades, it will bring the two centuries of global domination by Europe and, subsequently, its giant North American offshoot to an end. Japan was but the harbinger of an Asian future. The country has proved too small and inward-looking to transform the world. What follows it-China, above all - will prove neither.

Asia is a European idea: it was invented by the ancient Greeks as a name for the non-European part of Eurasia. Historically, this vast mass of territory was divided into four zones: the west, for almost 1,400 years the domain of Islam; the north, the world of the nomads; the south, the region of Hindu civilisation; and the east, dominated culturally and politically by China. To these must be added the islands off its southern and eastern coasts, the most important of which are now contained within Japan, Indonesia and the Philippines.

Today, the economic impact of west Asia comes only from its oil. Russia and the shards of its collapsed empire make up north Asia. It is in Asia's populous east and, to a lesser degree, its south that a world-transforming change has begun. By 2002, these countries generated 24 per cent of global gross domestic product at market prices, and a third measured at purchasing power parity (PPP) (see below). But they also contained 56 per cent of humanity. Their potential remains huge.

In 1820, according to Angus Maddison, the economic historian, Asia (east, south and west) contained 68 per cent of the world's population and generated 59 per cent of GDP, at PPP. But it succumbed in the 18th and 19th centuries to economic stagnation, foreign intervention and outright conquest. By 1950, Asia's combined share of world GDP had fallen to just 18 per cent, even though its share of population was still 55 per cent (see chart).

Asia is waking up. Japan roused first, in the second half of the 19th century. After its defeat in 1945, it achieved a stunning ascent to developed status. Hong Kong, Taiwan, South Korea and Singapore followed in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s. Suharto's Indonesia pursued a similar course from 1966, with some success. But the two giants, China and India, traumatised by foreign intervention, used their regained independence to pursue socialist autarky.

Finally, in the 1980s and 1990s, most of the countries of east and south Asia, including the two giants, chose market-led economies, oriented towards world markets, under the tutelage of interventionist governments. Between the first oil shock in 1973 and the Asian financial crisis in 1998 the GDP per head of the resurgent developing countries of east and south Asia rose at a compound rate of 4.2 per cent a year, which meant a 2.8-fold increase in incomes per head.

This was the only region of the world whose growth after 1973 was far faster than before that watershed. Its countries are, in Mr Maddison's words, "replicating (in various degrees of intensity) the big leap forward achieved by Japan in the golden age" of the 1950s and 1960s. Growth is accelerating: in the 1970s, according to the World Bank, real GDP per head of Asian developing countries rose at 3 per cent a year. In the 1980s, this jumped to 4.9 per cent. In the 1990s, it reached 5.4 per cent.

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Donald Rumsfeld: Iraq Is Doing Well Compared with Germany in WW II at the Same Stage (posted 9-25-03)

Donald Rumsfeld, writing in the Washington Post (Sept. 25, 2003):

Two weeks into Operation Iraqi Freedom, a number of newspapers and many airwaves were filled with prognosticators declaring the war plan a failure. The United States, they said, did not do enough to build international support, did not properly anticipate the level of resistance by Iraqis, and failed to send enough forces to do the job.

Then coalition forces took Baghdad in 21 days. Today Gen. Tom Franks's innovative and flexible war plan, which so many dismissed as a failure, is being studied by military historians and taught in war colleges.

Today in Iraq, an innovative plan is also being implemented in our effort to win the peace. And it should come as no surprise that we are again hearing suggestions as to why the postwar effort is on the brink of failure.

It will take longer than 21 days, but I believe that the plan to win the peace in Iraq will succeed -- just as the plan to win the war succeeded....

We have made solid progress: Within two months, all major Iraqi cities and most towns had municipal councils -- something that took eight months in postwar Germany. Within four months the Iraqi Governing Council had appointed a cabinet -- something that took 14 months in Germany. An independent Iraqi Central Bank was established and a new currency announced in just two months -- accomplishments that took three years in postwar Germany. Within two months a new Iraqi police force was conducting joint patrols with coalition forces. Within three months, we had begun training a new Iraqi army -- and today some 56,000 are participating in the defense of their country. By contrast, it took 14 months to establish a police force in Germany and 10 years to begin training a new German army. ...

This is not to underestimate the challenges in Iraq today. Terrorists and regime remnants want to roll back our successes and stop the Iraqi people's transition to democracy and self-government. We can expect they will continue to attack our successes, and the brave Iraqis who work with us, for some time. But coalition forces are dealing with the threat. And the security situation is improving.

Indeed, we may find that the biggest threat in Iraq comes not from terrorists and regime remnants but from the physical and psychological effects of three decades of Stalinist oppression. But Iraq also has a number of advantages -- oil wealth, water and an elaborate system of irrigation canals, vast wheat and barley fields, biblical sites and the potential for tourism, and an educated, urban population.

But to help Iraqis succeed, we must proceed with some humility. American forces can do many remarkable things, but they cannot provide permanent stability or create an Iraqi democracy. That will be up to the Iraqi people.

Why is enlisting Iraqis in security and governance so important?

Because it is their country. We are not in Iraq to engage in nation-building -- our mission is to help Iraqis so that they can build their own nation. That is an important distinction....

This is not to underestimate the challenges in Iraq today. Terrorists and regime remnants want to roll back our successes and stop the Iraqi people's transition to democracy and self-government. We can expect they will continue to attack our successes, and the brave Iraqis who work with us, for some time. But coalition forces are dealing with the threat. And the security situation is improving.

Indeed, we may find that the biggest threat in Iraq comes not from terrorists and regime remnants but from the physical and psychological effects of three decades of Stalinist oppression. But Iraq also has a number of advantages -- oil wealth, water and an elaborate system of irrigation canals, vast wheat and barley fields, biblical sites and the potential for tourism, and an educated, urban population.

But to help Iraqis succeed, we must proceed with some humility. American forces can do many remarkable things, but they cannot provide permanent stability or create an Iraqi democracy. That will be up to the Iraqi people.

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Is Arafat a Terrorist or Friend of Peace? (posted 9-25-03)

Abraham Rabinovich, writing in the Australian (Sept. 25, 2003):<>

Virtually the only Israeli public figure to come to Arafat's defence has been former prime minister Shimon Peres, who shared the Nobel Peace Prize with Arafat and the late Yitzhak Rabin after the Oslo agreement. "Arafat deserved the Nobel prize," Peres said this week. "He declared publicly that he recognises the state of Israel."

However, Israelis have not forgotten comments Arafat made in 1970, in an interview with Italian journalist Oriana Fallaci: "We shall never stop until we can go back home and Israel is destroyed. Peace for us means Israel's destruction and nothing else."

This rhetoric changed in 1988 when Arafat began speaking of the possibility of "a peace of the brave" with Israel.

But most Israelis do not believe the Palestinian leader's vision has changed. Historian Efraim Karsh calls the return of Arafat and his followers to the Palestinian territories under the Oslo Accords "the worst blunder in Israel's political history" and the introduction of a trojan horse into Israel's midst.

"From the moment of his arrival in Gaza (in 1994), Arafat set out to build up an extensive terrorist infrastructure," says Karsh.

A senior Israeli military intelligence officer, Brigadier General Yossi Kuperwasser, said that until last year, Arafat had been able to deny any connection with terrorist acts. "Until the army confiscated Arafat's documents during Operation Defensive Shield (last year's raid on the West Bank) and showed Arafat had authorised payments to terrorists, it was difficult for us to convince outsiders that Arafat is to be blamed for these attacks," he said.

That evidence reportedly helped persuade US President George W. Bush to sever ties with Arafat last year.

Arafat's brother, Fathi Arafat, denied on Israel Radio this week that his brother was the villain being depicted by Israel. "He opposes terror," said the physician, honorary president of the Palestinian Red Crescent. "He wants to live in peace with Israel."

Israeli journalist Danny Rubinstein, who has written a biography of Arafat, said the man's strength as a leader lay in the fact he epitomised Palestinian public sentiment. "Arafat always took care not to deviate from the consensus," Rubinstein says.

Opinion polls show Palestinian public opinion favours all forms of attacks on Israel, including suicide bombings.

Arafat has on rare but noteworthy occasions defied the Palestinian consensus -- such as when he declared readiness to relinquish Palestinian claims on the land within Israel itself. But unless he can stop the violence, the 74-year-old leader's chances of presiding over an independent Palestinian state do not seem high.

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Rush Limbaugh: Clark's Similarities to Civil War General McClellan (posted 9-25-03)

Rush Limbaugh, writing in the Wall Street Journal (Sept. 25, 2003):

In Gen. Clark, the Democrats have a credentialed warrior who graduated first in his class at West Point, fought in Vietnam, received a fourth star and led NATO forces against Slobodan Milosevic. Now, that's quite a résumé. But let there be no mistake. It doesn't take much to realize that Gen. Clark is no Dwight Eisenhower, an image Democrats desperately hope his candidacy invokes. He's more like another aspiring officer, Union Civil War general George McClellan.

Gen. McClellan graduated from West Point, second in his class. Also a trained engineer, he was decorated for his "zeal, gallantry, and ability" in constructing roads and bridges over routes for the marching army during the Mexican War. McClellan had much charisma. He was considered a great administrator who reorganized the Union army into a mighty fighting machine.
But, you say, McClellan was an indecisive general who feared using his forces. As NATO chief, Gen. Clark, on the other hand, urged his Pentagon bosses to let him introduce ground troops into the war against Serbia, and he even was willing to use military force to stop the Russians from occupying an airport at Pristina, Kosovo.

But Gen. Clark was badly wrong on both counts. If he had not been overruled by his superior, there would have been unnecessary casualties resulting from the deployment of ground troops. And if his subordinate, British Gen. Sir Michael Jackson, had not refused Gen. Clark's order to confront the Russian troops--who wound up cooperating with NATO peacekeeping efforts--the outcome could have been disastrous.

And Gen. Clark is, in fact, indecisive. As a CNN commentator, he was a harsh critic of the war against Iraq. More recently, he has joined the chorus of liberals accusing the president of misleading America about Iraq's "imminent" use of weapons of mass destruction--even though the president never said such a thing. Yet in response to a question last week, Gen. Clark said he likely would have voted for the October 2002 joint congressional resolution authorizing military force against Iraq. In another twist, the next day he said he would have voted against it.

Gen. Clark also can't decide if ending genocide is a legitimate basis for U.S. military intervention. In 1994, while nearly one million Rwandans were being slaughtered, Gen. Clark advised President Clinton against America's intervention, despite the U.N.'s unwillingness to stop the holocaust. But Gen. Clark speaks glowingly of NATO's success in stopping Milosevic's ethnic cleansing, for which Mr. Clinton awarded him the Presidential Medal of Freedom. And now, he dismisses the liberation of nearly 25 million Iraqis from Saddam Hussein's murderous rule as a Bush foreign-policy failure.

McClellan's big ego won him the nickname "The Young Napoleon." After he was relieved of duty, he decided to run for president. In 1864, he was the Democrat nominee against Abraham Lincoln. Gen. Clark also does not suffer from low self-esteem. Newsweek reports that when his entreaties to Bush presidential adviser Karl Rove went unanswered, Gen. Clark decided to become both a Democrat and a presidential aspirant.

McClellan was also spiteful of his military and civilian leaders. He actively worked to undermine the Union's top general, Winfield Scott, eventually replacing him. He also was disrespectful of civilian leadership. In some ways, Gen. Clark was no different. He reportedly circumvented both Secretary of Defense William Cohen and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Henry Shelton on numerous occasions in speaking directly to the media and the president. In fact, the situation got so bad that Gen. Clark was relieved of his NATO position several months before his term ended, and in a major snub, neither Mr. Cohen nor Gen. Shelton attended his retirement ceremony.

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Is Clark Anti-War? (posted 9-25-03)

Norman Solomon, writing in his column, Media Beat (Sept. 25, 2003):

Here’s the real-life plot: A famous documentary filmmaker puts out a letter to a retired four-star general urging him to run for president. The essay quickly zooms through cyberspace and causes a big stir.

For Michael Moore, the reaction is gratifying. Three days later, he thanks readers “for the astounding response to the Wesley Clark letter” and “for your kind comments to me.” But some of the reactions are more apoplectic than kind.

Quite a few progressive activists are stunned, even infuriated, perhaps most of all by four words in Moore’s open letter to Gen. Clark: “And you oppose war.”

The next sentence tries to back up the assertion: “You have said that war should always be the ‘last resort’ and that it is military men such as yourself who are the most for peace because it is YOU and your soldiers who have to do the dying.”

But for some people who’ve greatly appreciated the insightful director of “Bowling for Columbine,” the claim is a real jaw-dropper. It could easily be refuted by mentioning a long list of names such as Colin Powell, Alexander Haig and William Westmoreland, along with John McCain and other militarists who won high elective office after ballyhooed service in the armed forces.

Other flashbacks make Moore’s statement seem not only simplistic but also gullible: After all, many presidents have touted war as a “last resort” -- even while the Pentagon killed people in Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Panama, Afghanistan, Iraq ... and, oh yes, Yugoslavia.

Moore’s Sept. 12 open letter doesn’t mention the 1999 war on Yugoslavia -- which included more than two months of relentless bombing under the supervision of Wesley Clark, the Supreme Allied Commander in Europe at the time.

A second letter, dated Sept. 23, does refer to that bloodshed. Moore recalls his own opposition to the war while summarizing news reports that Clark wanted to utilize ground troops, a move that might have reduced the number of civilian deaths. But the followup letter doesn’t mention the huge quantities of depleted uranium used in Yugoslavia under Clark’s authority. Or the large number of cluster bombs that were dropped under his command.

When each 1,000-pound “combined effects munition” exploded, a couple of hundred “bomblets” shot out in all directions. Little parachutes aided in dispersal of the bomblets to hit what the manufacturer called “soft targets.” Beforehand, though, each bomblet broke into about 300 pieces of jagged steel shrapnel.

Midway through the war, five springs ago, BBC correspondent John Simpson reported from Belgrade in the Sunday Telegraph: “In Novi Sad and Nis, and several other places across Serbia and Kosovo where there are no foreign journalists, heavier bombing has brought more accidents.” He noted that cluster bombs “explode in the air and hurl shards of shrapnel over a wide radius.” And he added: “Used against human beings, cluster bombs are some of the most savage weapons of modern warfare.”

I agree with much of what Moore wrote in his Sept. 23 essay. Certainly, “we need to unite with each other to keep our eyes on the prize: Bush Removal in ’04.” But with our eyes on the prize, we should not stumble into the classic trap of candidate flackery while applying political cosmetics.

Clark has yet to repudiate his own actions in 1999. And this year, his espoused positions about the war on Iraq have blended criticism with ambivalence, equivocation and even triumphalism.

Many news outlets don’t seem very interested in contradictory details. So, the Sept. 29 edition of Time magazine says in big type: “Wes Clark has launched a presidential bid that has a four-star luster. But is the antiwar general prepared for this kind of battle?”

But if Wesley Clark is “antiwar,” then antiwar is a pliable term that doesn’t mean much as it morphs into a codeword for tactical objections rather than principled opposition.

“Nothing is more American, nothing is more patriotic than speaking out, questioning authority and holding your leaders accountable,” Gen. Clark said in a Sept. 24 speech. That’s a key point -- and it must always apply to how we deal with all politicians, including Wesley Clark.

Overall, a strong case can be made that Clark would amount to a major improvement over the current president. But those who recognize the importance of ousting the Bush team from the White House should resist the temptation to pretty up any Democratic challenger.

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Francis Boyle: In Neo-Con Hell (posted 9-24-03)

Francis Boyle (Sept 13, 2003):

It is now a matter of public record that immediately after the terrible tragedy of 11 September 2001, U.S. Secretary of War Donald Rumsfeld and his pro-Israeli"Neoconservative" Deputy Paul Wolfowitz began to plot, plan, scheme and conspire to wage a war of aggression against Iraq by manipulating the tragic events of September 11th in order to provide a pretext for doing so.(1) Of course Iraq had nothing at all to do with September 11th or supporting Al-Qaeda. But that made no difference to Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, their Undersecretary of War Douglas Feith, Undersecretary of State John Bolton, and the numerous other pro-Israeli Neo-Cons inhabiting the Bush Jr. administration.

These pro-Israeli Neo-Cons had been schooled in the Machiavellian/Nietzschean theories of Professor Leo Strauss who taught political philosophy at the University of Chicago in its Department of Political Science. The best exposé of Strauss's pernicious theories on law, politics, government, for elitism, and against democracy can be found in two scholarly books by the Canadian Professor of Political Philosophy Shadia B. Drury.(2) I entered the University of Chicago in September of 1968 shortly after Strauss had retired. But I was trained in Chicago's Political Science Department by Strauss's foremost protégé, co-author, and later literary executor Joseph Cropsey. Based upon my personal experience as an alumnus of Chicago's Political Science Department (A.B., 1971, in Political Science), I concur completely with Professor Drury's devastating critique of Strauss. I also agree with her penetrating analysis of the degradation of the American political process that has been inflicted by Chicago's Straussian Neo-Con cabal. (3)

The University of Chicago routinely trained me and innumerable other students to become ruthless and unprincipled Machiavellians. That is precisely why so many neophyte Neo-Con students gravitated towards the University of Chicago or towards Chicago Alumni at other universities. Years later, the University of Chicago became the"brains" behind the Bush Jr. Empire and his Ashcroft Police State. Attorney General John Ashcroft received his law degree from the University of Chicago in 1967. Many of his lawyers at the Bush Jr. Department of Injustice are members of the right-wing, racist, bigoted, reactionary, and totalitarian Federalist Society (aka"Feddies"), (4) which originated in part at the University of Chicago. Feddies wrote the USA Patriot Act (USAPA) I and the draft for USAPA II, which constitute the blueprint for establishing an American Police State. (5) Meanwhile, the Department of Injustice's own F.B.I. is still covering up the U.S. governmental origins of the post 11 September 2001 anthrax attack on Washington D.C. that enabled Ashcroft and his Feddies to stampede the U.S. Congress into passing USAPA I into law. (6)

Integrally related to and overlapping with the Feddies are members of the University of Chicago"School" of Law-and-Kick-Them-in-the-Groin-Economics (e.g., Richard Posner, Frank Easterbrook, Richard Epstein,etc.), which in turn was founded upon the Market Fundamentalism of Milton Friedman, now retired but long-time Professor of Economics at the University of Chicago. Friedman and his"Chicago Boys" have raped, robbed, looted, plundered, and pillaged economies and their respective peoples all over the developing world. (7) This Chicago gang of academic con-artists and charlatans are proponents of the Nazi Doctrine of"useless eaters." Pursuant to Friedman's philosophy of Market Fundamentalism, the"privatization" of Iraq and its Oil Industry are already underway for the primary benefit of the U.S. energy companies (e.g., Halliburton, formerly under Vice President Dick Cheney) that had already interpenetrated the Bush Jr. administration as well as the Bush Family itself. Enron.

Although miseducated (8) at Yale and Harvard Business School, the"Ivies" proved to be too liberal for Bush Jr. and his fundamentalist Christian supporters, whose pointman and spearcarrier in the Bush Jr. administration was Ashcroft, a Fundie himself. The Neo-Cons and the Fundies contracted an"unholy alliance" in support of Bush Jr. For their own different reasons, both gangs also worked hand-in-hand to support Israel's genocidal Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, an internationally acknowledged war criminal. (9)

According to his own public estimate and boast before the American Enterprise Institute, President Bush Jr. hired about 20 Straussians to occupy key positions in his administration, intentionally taking offices where they could push American foreign policy in favor of Israel and against its chosen enemies such as Iraq, Iran, Syria, and the Palestinians. (10) Most of the Straussian Neo-Cons in the Bush Jr. administration and elsewhere are Israel-firsters: What is"good" for Israel is by definition"good" for the United States. Dual loyalties indeed. (11)

In addition, it was the Chicago Straussian cabal of pro-Israeli Neo-Cons who set up a special"intelligence" unit within the Pentagon that was responsible for manufacturing many of the bald-faced lies, deceptions, half-truths, and sheer propaganda that the Bush Jr. administration then disseminated to the lap-dog U.S. news media (12) in order to generate public support for a war of aggression against Iraq for the benefit of Israel and in order to steal Iraq's oil. (13) To paraphrase advice Machiavelli once rendered to his Prince in Chapter XVIII of that book: Those who want to deceive will always find those willing to be deceived. (14) As I can attest from my personal experience as an alumnus of the University of Chicago Department of Political Science, the Bible of Chicago's Neo-Con Straussian cabal is Machiavelli's The Prince. We students had to know our Machiavelli by heart and rote at the University of Chicago.

As for the University of Chicago overall, its biblical Gospel is Allan Bloom's The Closing of the American Mind (1987). (15) Of course Bloom was another protégé of Strauss, as well as a mentor to Wolfowitz. In his Bloom-biographical novel Ravelstein (2000) Saul Bellow, formerly on the University of Chicago Faculty, outed his self-styled friend Bloom as a hedonist, pederast, and most promiscuous homosexual who died of AIDS. All this was common knowledge at the University of Chicago, where Bloom is still worshiped and his elitist screed against American higher-education still revered on a pedestal.

In Ravelstein Wolfowitz appeared as Bloom's protégé Philip Gorman, leaking national security secrets to his mentor during the Bush Sr. war against Iraq. Strauss hovered around the novel as Bloom's mentor and guru Professor Davarr. Strauss/Davarr is really the éminence grise of Ravelstein. With friends like Bellow, Bloom did not need enemies. On the basis of Ravelstein alone, Wolfowitz warrants investigation by the F.B.I.

Just recently the University of Chicago officially celebrated its Bush Jr. Straussian Neo-Con cabal, highlighting Wolfowitz Ph.D. '72, Ahmad Chalabi, Ph.D. '69 (the CIA's Iraqi puppet), Abram Shulsky, A.M. '68, Ph.D. '72 (head of the Pentagon's special"intelligence" unit), Zalmay Khalilzad, Ph.D. '79 (Bush Jr's roving pro-consul for Afghanistan and then Iraq), as well as faculty members Bellow, X '39, and Bloom, A.B. '49, A.M. '53, Ph.D. '55, together with Strauss. According to the University of Chicago Magazine, Bloom's rant"helped popularize Straussian ideals of democracy." (16) It is correct to assert that Bloom's book helped to popularize Straussian"ideas," but they were blatantly anti-democratic, Machiavellian, Nietzschean, and elitist to begin with. Only the University of Chicago would have the unmitigated Orwellian gall to publicly assert that Strauss and Bloom cared one whit about democracy, let alone comprehended the"ideals of democracy."

Does anyone seriously believe that a pro-Israeli Chicago/Strauss/Bloom product such as Wolfowitz could care less about democracy in Iraq? Or for that matter anyone in the Bush Jr. administration? After they stole the 2000 presidential election from the American People in Florida and before the Republican-controlled U.S. Supreme Court, some of whom were Feddies? (17) Justice Clarence Thomas is a Straussian to boot. (18)

At the behest of its Straussian Neo-Con Political Science Department, in 1979 the entire University of Chicago went out of its way to grant the"first Albert Pick Jr. Award for Outstanding Contributions to International Understanding" to Robert"Mad Bomber" McNamara. (19) In other words, the University of Chicago itself maliciously strove to rehabilitate one of the greatest international war criminals in the post-World War II era. (20) Do not send your children to the University of Chicago where they will grow up to become warmongers like Wolfowitz or totalitarians like Ashcroft! The University of Chicago is an intellectual and moral cesspool.

 

Endnotes

1.    See, e.g., Rahul Mahajan, Full Spectrum Dominance 108 (2003).

2.    Shadia B. Drury, The Political Ideas of Leo Strauss (1988); Leo Strauss and the American Right (1999). See also Alain Frachon & Daniel Vernet, The Strategist and the Philosopher: Leo Strauss and Albert Wohlstetter, Le Monde, April 16, 2003, translated into English by Norman Madarasz on Counterpunch.org., June 2, 2003.

3.    See also David Brock, Blinded by the Right (2002).

4.    George E. Curry & Trevor W. Coleman, Hijacking Justice, Emerge, October 1999, at 42; Jerry M. Landay, The Conservative Cabal That's Transforming American Law, Washington Monthly, March 2000, at 19; People for the American Way, The Federalist Society (August 2001); Institute for Democracy Studies, The Federalist Society and the Challenge to a Democratic Jurisprudence (January 2001).

5.    Francis A. Boyle, Bush's Banana Republic, Counterpunch.org, Oct. 11, 2002.

6.    Francis A. Boyle, Biowarfare, Terror Weapons and the U.S.: Home Brew?, Counterpunch.org, April 25, 2002.

7.    See Greg Palast, The Best Democracy Money Can Buy (2003), at 5 et seq.

8.    See Chomsky on Miseducation (Donald Macedo ed. 2000).

9.    Francis A. Boyle, Take Sharon to The Hague, Counterpunch.org, June 6, 2002.

10.    White House Press Release, President Discusses the Future of Iraq, Washington Hilton Hotel, Feb. 26, 2003.

11.    Nasser H. Aruri, Dishonest Broker, 193-216 (2003). See also Tanya Reinhart, Israel/Palestine (2002); Cheryl A. Rubenberg, The Palestinians (2003).

12.    Norman Solomon, The Habits of Highly Deceptive Media (1999); Noam Chomsky, Media Control (1997).

13.    Seymour M. Hersh, Selective Intelligence, New Yorker, May 8, 2003; Michael Lind, The Weird Men Behind George W. Bush's War, New Statesman - London, April 7, 2003; Julian Borger, The Spies Who Pushed for War, The Guardian, July 17, 2003.

14.    Machiavelli, The Prince 147 (M. Musa trans. & ed. 1964):". . . and men are so simple-minded and so dominated by their present needs that one who deceives will always find one who will allow himself to be deceived." This Bilingual Edition of The Prince by Mark Musa was the one preferred by Joseph Cropsey to teach us students.

15.    But see Lawrence W. Levine, The Opening of the American Mind (1996).

16.    Between the Lines, University of Chicago Magazine, June 2003, at 54

17.    Vincent Bugliosi, The Betrayal of America (2001); Greg Palast, The Best Democracy Money Can Buy 11-81 (2003).

18.    Gerhard Sporl, The Leo-Conservatives, Der Spiegel, Aug. 4, 2003.

19.    McNamara Receives Pick Award Amid Protests, University of Chicago Magazine, Summer 1979, at 4.

20.    Noam Chomsky, Rethinking Camelot (1993); Robert S. McNamara, In Retrospect (1995).

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Why It's So Peaceful in Canada (posted 9-24-03)

Clifford Krauss, wriing in the NYT (September 24th, 2003):

Gay marriage is the most contentious issue to emerge on the Canadian political scene since Quebec threatened to secede in 1995. Opinion polls show it cuts a fissure across class, age, regions, gender and religious lines -- a recipe for sharp discord in most societies, rich or poor. But this is Canada, a country that has never suffered a revolution or civil war, where compromise, consensus and civility are the most cherished political values.

Even Quebec has quieted down, with the federalist Liberals easily defeating the separatist Parti Quebecois in a provincial election last spring.

Some social scientists believe Canada is merely going through a serene pause, pointing to loud debates in the 1970's, 80's and 90's over Quebec sovereignty and free trade with the United States. But most historians say the current calm is more the rule and the preceding sometimes noisy period the exception. They note that while America's founding documents are based on the principle of "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness," Canada's Constitution celebrates "peace, order and good government."

While the modern nations of the New World were mostly born out of revolution, Canada was born out of a fear of revolution. Modern Canada is built on a series of deals negotiated by lawyers in the 19th and 20th centuries to build a consensus among disparate provinces to join in a confederation loosely governed by a weak central government.

The root of Canada's consensual ways, historians note, is the long uneasy relationship between French-speaking and Catholic Quebec and the rest of Canada, which is predominantly English-speaking and Protestant.

When Britain conquered New France in the mid-18th century, the colonial authorities decided against an oppressive occupation mostly because the French-speaking population was so large. Instead they chose co-optation, giving the Roman Catholic Church wide latitude over social affairs and condoning the continued flourishing of a French society.

Thus was Canada's uneasy biculturalism born, and with it the foundations for multicultural policies that have encouraged millions of new immigrants to stream into Canadian cities over the last 30 years and coexist with little tension. Immigrants are encouraged to retain their cultures, just like the Quebecois, and assimilation is glacial.

The peaceful result is just fine with most Canadians.

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More Than Ever, We Need the U.N. (posted 9-24-03)

Stephen Schlesinger, writing in the Los Angeles Times (September 24th, 2003):

"Four times in the modern age," English historian John Keegan has written,"men have sat down to reorder the world -- at the Peace of Westphalia in 1648 after the Thirty Years War, at the Congress of Vienna in 1815 after the Napoleonic Wars, in Paris in 1919 after World War I and in San Francisco in 1945 after World War II." Such is the march of human history that all of these events -- except for the most recent one -- collapsed in disagreements that eventually led to renewed war.

The ultimate outcome of the San Francisco Conference is still not known. However, what happened there that produced the last of these grand compacts, the United Nations, has already had an enormous impact over the last six decades. Indeed, the founding of the U.N. in the age of nuclear weaponry -- far more sinister circumstances than any faced by those earlier meetings -- is affecting the survival or demise of humanity....

Today, after half a century of the U.N., few of us are unaware that this aging experiment in global society exists and has given some modicum of hope to the world -- despite a dearth of financial resources and the brickbats tossed at it by American politicians. It has become the world's geopolitical emergency room. The question is whether it can survive.

Right-wing demagogues in our land have so unremittingly denigrated the organization for so long -- calling it bloated, anti-American, a body that wastes time on speechmaking, abdicates its responsibilities and remains out of touch -- that leading members of the Senate now routinely dismiss its importance and argue that it unnecessarily limits our sovereignty.

Furthermore, unilateralism is back in fashion. The Bush administration, after the attacks of Sept. 11, has promulgated a doctrine of preventive war that allows the United States to go into battle whenever it decides against whomever it wishes, regardless of whether there is a legitimate provocation. Recently one of Bush's hard-line appointees, Richard Perle, publicly derided the U.N. as being as ineffectual as the League of Nations. And last spring, the U.S. brazenly bypassed the U.N. Security Council to invade Iraq, relying on its preemptive doctrine. Tuesday, U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan said this crisis was a"fork in the road" for the organization, as decisive as the U.N.'s founding.

The sad fact is that our country would probably not pass the same U.N. Charter today that the U.S. Senate ratified by an overwhelming vote, 89 to 2, in 1945. Even putting aside its lone-cowboy maneuvers, if Washington had wanted to reinvent the U.N. it would have been virtually impossible to convince the 191 nations of the world again to draft a charter for the security of the Earth because of the sheer number of countries and the profusion of political differences. (Originally, the organization had 50 members.)

As we look back on the U.N.'s creation, we should realize how fortunate we were to get it in the first place. It took a grand vision, formidable planning and brilliant political leadership from two American presidents -- Franklin Roosevelt and Harry Truman -- to turn the organization into reality. Having endured the most calamitous war in history, this World War II generation extracted from the human propensity for devastation the right lesson for our time....

Instead of taking on international ventures alone, we are able to share the burdens of the work to stop bloodshed, reconstruct societies, police conflicts, train armies, provide legal frameworks, uphold governance standards and promote human rights. The creation of the U. N. is as timely now as it was 58 years ago.

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E.J. Dionne: Is General Clark's Political Inexperience a Handicap in the Campaign? (posted 9-23-03)

E.J. Dionne, writing in the Washington Post (Sept. 21, 2003:

[T]he truth is that Americans are opportunistic, fickle and capricious on the subject of experience in politics -- which also means that we are practical and sensible. There are times when the voters are looking for a plumber, mechanic or doctor. The idea is to hire someone with a long track record who can fix problems and keep an eye on things. There are other moments when voters yearn for a preacher, an actor, a general -- even a wrestler -- who might lift their spirits by offering vision, or just by being different.

Retired Army Gen. Wesley Clark, who announced his presidential candidacy last week, hopes this will be one of those moments. If elective office is the only relevant "experience" for the White House, Clark is a sure loser. As Ron Fournier of the Associated Press pointed out, Clark never even ran for student council. But for many Americans, that might be one of his strongest qualifications....

In truth, experience has always been a slippery concept in American politics. For one thing, experience is no substitute for ability. When Republican Party bosses picked Sen. Warren G. Harding of Ohio as their presidential nominee on the 10th ballot in 1920, they were nominating an amiable cipher. "Harding had no qualification for being president except that he looked like one," wrote historian William E. Leuchtenburg, even though Harding had held several public offices. Democrat William McAdoo memorably said that Harding's speeches "leave the impression of an army of pompous phrases moving over the landscape in search of an idea; sometimes these meandering words would actually capture a straggling thought and bear it triumphantly, a prisoner in their midst, until it died of servitude and overwork."

But this was Harding's greatest asset. Americans had just had plenty of ideas and experience from Woodrow Wilson, including World War I and its disappointing aftermath. Harding gave Americans little to be against, promised "normalcy," and that was enough to win him a landslide.

In 1960, Richard M. Nixon based much of his campaign against John F. Kennedy on the experience issue. Both men had been elected to Congress in the same year, but Nixon was an exceptionally high-profile vice president and was seen as having lots of know-how in foreign policy. Kennedy had not made much of a mark on the Senate.

Nonetheless, Kennedy was a Democrat in what was still a New Deal country. He offered verve and drive and vision galore, even if the vision was a bit gauzy. Nixon tried to get past the party labels and glitz by being safe, sound -- and, well, experienced. "Because Experience Counts" became one of his main slogans. The 1960 result was one of the closest in U.S. history -- a virtual tie between experience and its competitor.

The big difference between 1960 and now is that the country has gone through one merciless anti-Washington campaign after another. Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and now Howard Dean -- all, in one way or another, tried to turn Washington experience into a form of leprosy.

It's enough to make a grown member of Congress cry -- and protest.

Here's Rep. Richard A. Gephardt, the Democratic presidential candidate, who was first elected to Congress in 1976: "I'm not going to say what's fashionable in our politics -- that I'm a Washington outsider, that I couldn't find the nation's capital on a map, that I have no experience in the highest levels of government," said the former House Democratic leader in announcing his presidential candidacy. "I do, and I think experience matters. It's what our nation needs right now."

Yet what, exactly, constitutes "experience"? You can think of certain candidates -- among them Gephardt, Joseph Lieberman, John Kerry, Bob Graham, John Edwards, Howard Dean, Carol Mosley Braun and Dennis Kucinich -- who say elective office is an asset. That would seem to leave out a general like Clark. Generals are used to having people follow orders, which could make matters dicey with, say, Congress and the voters. Clark has no professional experience with domestic issues, and acknowledged to reporters on Thursday that he had few specific policy ideas to offer at the moment. More experience might have prevented his embarrassing flip-flop last week -- first he said he probably would have voted for the congressional resolution authorizing President Bush to go to war in Iraq, then he reversed himself the next day.

Yet if the presidency is in part about command, who better than a former general? George Washington, Andrew Jackson and Dwight D. Eisenhower were no slouches. How many senators have ever run things? In the wake of 9/11, which "experience" is more relevant -- Clark's in foreign policy and war, Howard Dean's as a chief executive, albeit of a small state, or the extensive legislative experience of most of the rest of the field? (Senator Graham, former governor of Florida, can claim both executive and legislative experience, but it hasn't helped him in the polls so far.)

The fact that "experience" is itself a mushy concept becomes even clearer if you consider this question: Was George W. Bush's six years' experience as a governor sufficient to prepare him for the presidency? Ask any dozen people and I bet you an old Nixon button that their answers break down almost entirely along party lines -- proving that experience can have little to do with our view of "experience."

That we are terribly ambivalent about experience is brought home by our vacillation between the Cincinnatus and Richard J. Daley models of leadership. Our hearts regularly go to the proud and independent person who has never been soiled by politics or compromise and comes to our rescue out of nowhere. This sort of character (Jesse Ventura played him on TV) appeals to our mistrust of politics and our desire to escape it.

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Jonathan Mirsky (posted 9-23-03)

Jonathan Mirsky, wrting in the Montreal Gazette (Sept. 20, 2003):

The identity of the next Dalai Lama - and by extension the legitimacy of Chinese rule over Tibet - may depend on a 20-year-old Tibetan-Chinese woman. Nothing makes China more internationally unpopular than its occupation of Tibet, and none of Beijing's enemies are as universally admired as the Dalai Lama. But as the Chinese are quick to point out, no government denies China's right to administer Tibet, and all capitals, under pressure from China, receive the Dalai Lama not as a political leader, but as a religious figure.

Beijing, in short, seems to hold all the high cards when it comes to Tibet. But there is one wild card that may still slip from Beijing's hand. This is the virtually unknown Yabshi Pan Rinzinwangmu, known as Rinzin - a pretty third-year student at American University in Washington D.C., who has been educated in the United States for almost 10 years. Last week she was in Oxford for a scholarly conference on Tibet.

Rinzin is important for Beijing because her father was the 10th Panchen Lama, who died in 1989. Her mother is Chinese. Panchen Lamas are second only to Dalai Lamas in the eyes of Tibetans, who regard them as divine beings. When a Dalai Lama dies, the Panchen identifies his incarnation. Rinzin's approval of her father's successor is vital to Tibetans accepting Chinese rule. Beijing, therefore, knowing of her rapturous receptions in the Autonomous Region, treats her with unique deference. She encourages this by explaining that in her person, Tibet and China are tuanjie, linked.

After the Dalai Lama fled into Indian exile in 1959, the 10th Panchen became the highest-ranking religious figure inside Tibet, with his traditional monastery, the Tashilhumpo, at Shigatse, a day's drive from Lhasa. But he was forced to live in Beijing where he appeared an abject semi-prisoner of the Chinese who occasionally visited Tibet. But in 1962 the Panchen wrote a confidential 70,000-character petition to China's leaders.

He charged that while some worthwhile reforms had occurred since the Chinese invasion of 1949-50, the disaster was "the elimination of Buddhism . . . which transmitted teachings and enlightenment. This is something which I and more than 90 per cent of Tibetans cannot endure."

In addition, he wrote, China's economic policies had caused a famine so severe that the Tibetan population was "sinking into a state close to death." The petition remained secret for 34 years but the Panchen was immediately accused of "reactionary arrogance."

In 1964, the Panchen made a dangerously public move. At a religious festival in Lhasa he departed from his approved text to insist, before thousands of Tibetans, that the Dalai Lama, denounced as a "criminal splittist" by Beijing, would return to his Golden Throne in Lhasa, adding " Long live his Holiness." He was soon put under house arrest. In 1966 he was manhandled and tortured by Red Guards; his ordeal is recorded in photographs. Released in 1977 when he was 39, the Panchen married Li Jie, the beautiful granddaughter of one of Chiang Kai-shek's generals. One of the few foreigners who has met Li Jie, the journalist Isabel Hilton, describes her as a woman living in grandeur in Beijing where she insists on deference from those around her. Li Jie claims she may be descended from the 7th century Tang Princess Wen-Ch'eng, married off by the emperor to a Tibetan king who was menacing China's borders. There are Tibetans and some Chinese who call Li Jie "Princess Wen-Ch'eng."

Once he was married, the Panchen became rich from various business ventures and some property returned to him from the Tashilhumpo. On his trips to Tibet he called for economic and educational reforms, and the Dalai Lama spoke of him as a force for good. When he suddenly died on a visit to the Tashilhumpo in 1989, it was widely believed by Tibetans that the Panchen had been poisoned by the Chinese who feared his outspokenness. To counter such allegations, Tibet's party secretary, Hu Jintao, now China's new president, declared during his eulogy to the Panchen that Deng Xiaoping regarded the dead lama as "the most outstanding patriot of our country."

Now began one of the most bitter struggles for succession in the history of Tibet: who would identify the next Panchen? Would it be the exiled Dalai Lama - or China?

In 1995 the Dalai Lama, on the secret advice of the abbot of the Tashilhumpo, designated the 6-year-old Gendun Choekyi Nyima as the 11th Panchen. An enraged Beijing immediately kidnapped the boy, his parents, and the abbot who had contacted the Dalai Lama. The boy was dismissed as a "dog-drowner," and when asked for his whereabouts the official spokesmen replied that either they did not know the address of every Chinese citizen or "he is where he is supposed to be." Beijing condemned the Dalai Lama for "crimes of undermining the work related to the reincarnation of the Panchen."

In November of 1995, at an elaborate faux-Buddhist ceremony, the Chinese installed their own 11th Panchen, Gyaltsen Norbu, the son of two Party members who, according to Party rules, are forbidden to observe any religion. In an audience with then-president Jiang Zemin the boy was urged to "uphold the leadership of the party."

China's "chosen one" lives in Beijing and on his occasional visits to Shigatse is largely ignored. Insulting graffiti about him are scrawled on walls. This has alarming implications for Beijing. When the present, 14th Dalai Lama, who is approaching 70, dies, by tradition his incarnation should be designated by the Panchen. But if the Panchen is regarded as illegitimate and unworthy by Tibetans, his choice of a Dalai Lama, who Tibetans normally regard as their religious and civil leader, will be ignored and scorned.

The Dalai Lama has told me that he regards the kidnapping of the authentic Panchen Lama in 1995 as a dress rehearsal for what happens after he dies. Although the Chinese will certainly "discover" a Panchen, he said, "I have made it clear that the next Dalai Lama will be born in a free country. I think the Tibetans will accept that - and they won't accept a boy chosen by the Chinese."

Unless - and this is the unexpected element - Rinzin, daughter of the 10th Panchen, recognizes little Gyaltsen Norbu as the genuine incarnation. On her recent trips to Tibet, she told me recently in London, she was mobbed day after day by vast throngs, around 10,000 people a day, hailing her "out of love and dedication to my father."

She met the official 11th Panchen at a carefully arranged ceremony. It was intended that she should prostrate herself before him to demonstrate to witnesses and cameras that she regarded him as her father's incarnation. She declined and explains tactfully, "I just said hello. My father never made me prostrate myself to him, so I felt I didn't need to do so before this boy." Does she think he is the 11th Panchen? "I need more time to think." What about the Dalai Lama's choice? "I've never met him, so I can't say."

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General Wesley Clark's Chances (posted 9-23-03)

Brendan Miniter, assistant editor of OpinionJournal.com (Sept. 23, 2003):

Gen. Clark's supporters can cite two well-known presidents who won the White House with little political experience. But he's not the next Ulysses S. Grant or Dwight D. Eisenhower. Kosovo wasn't a world-changing event like the Civil War or World War II. The tactics developed during the Civil War dominated war-fighting strategies through World War I. World War II and the Cold War so changed history that more than a decade after Nazi Germany fell, Ike warned the nation about the "military-industrial complex."

Two other "war hero" presidents may make for more apt comparisons: Zachary Taylor and Franklin Pierce. Both won acclaim in the Mexican War and were propelled into the White House by party elders who were looking for a candidate who was above politics. In the contentious period before the Civil War, voters in the North and South alike could read what they wanted into each candidate.

The strategy worked, sort of. Taylor, elected in 1848, had never held elective office prior. As a career soldier he didn't even vote, saying he didn't want to be in the position of voting against a president he then had to serve. His tenure in office was undistinguished; three years ago he ranked 31st out of 39 in the Federalist Society/Wall Street Journal survey on the presidents, just below Jimmy Carter. He probably would have driven the country into civil war if he hadn't become sick and died a year and a half into his term. After his death, political leaders cobbled together the Compromise of 1850 and averted war for another 10 years. Taylor was the last Whig to be elected president.

Pierce had been elected to the New Hampshire House at 24 and served a decade in Congress. But by 1852, when Democratic Party elders asked him to run for president, he'd long since retired to his Granite State farm. The party settled on Pierce after first exhausting every other political alternative in 48 other ballots at the nominating convention. Pierce--the last general to be elected president as a Democrat--did even worse than Taylor in the Federalist/WSJ survey, tying with Warren Harding for the second-worst president ever. Taylor and Pierce both represent a political class that was unable to face up to the pressing national problem of the day, slavery.

Like these two presidents, Gen. Clark was propelled into the race by party elders (Bill and Hillary Clinton) and is trying to be everything to everyone. In an attempt to soften him in the eyes of angry Democrats, he has flip-flopped on Iraq. And his warrior credentials, as well as news that he thinks he remembers voting for both Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan before becoming a Democrat, are a clear attempt to soften him in the eyes of the broader electorate.

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Why Was General Wesley Clark Forced Out as Head of Nato? (posted 9-19-03)

From Sidney Blumenthal's memoir, The Clinton Wars (2003):

At the Pentagon, a graceless note was struck in July [1999] ... when General Clark was summarily retired early as SACEUR. This was a per- sonal slap at him for having insisted on ground troops [in Kosovo] against the Pentagon's recommendation and for his sharpness in pursuing that strategy. And the White House had been snookered without realizing it when it had earlier agreed to what Berger and others thought was a routine replacement process at SACEUR. But if it was held against Clark that he was a political general, it was a mistaken impression. Clark had in fact put his strategic concerns above politics and above his career.

Clark was called at night and informed of the Pentagon's decision without being given any recourse. He instantly received a call from a Washington Post reporter, who had been tipped off by the Secretary of Defense's office, to confirm the story. When the President learned what had happened, he was furious-"I'd like to kill somebody," he told me- but there was nothing to be done. Clark's enforced early retirement from the European post was a fait accompli. Secretary Cohen and General Shelton had considered Clark insubordinate. Clinton awarded Clark the Presidential Medal of Freedom, and the British gave him an honorary knighthood. But the Pentagon's treatment of Clark left a sour taste amid the triumph.

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Bush v. Gore All Over Again in California? (posted 9-18-03)

Michael Mcgough, writing in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Sept. 17, 2003):


Just when legal historians thought it was safe to regard the U.S. Supreme Court's decision in Bush vs. Gore as one-of-a-kind -- albeit a momentous one that decided the 2000 presidential election--it's back in the courts.

Bush vs. Gore and the punch-card ballots made infamous in the 2000 Florida presidential vote were prominently cited in Monday's federal appeals court ruling postponing California's Oct. 7 gubernatorial recall election.

Although the decision by a three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals may be reviewed first by a larger group of 11 appeals court judges, the Supreme Court likely will be asked to revisit its divisive 2000 decision.

In its ruling Monday, the three-judge panel said punch-card balloting was two-and-a-half times more error-prone than other methods, would disenfranchise as many as 40,000 California voters, and had been deemed "unacceptable" for future use by California's secretary of state. Its use in some counties would deprive voters of the "equal protection of the laws" guaranteed by the 14th Amendment to the Constitution, it said.

The same provision of the 14th Amendment was cited by the Supreme Court in Bush vs. Gore, although in that case the constitutional problem was that standards for a recount proposed by Gore would have varied from county to county and even within counties.

At the time, furious Democrats complained that Republican-appointed justices who usually took a narrow view of the 14th Amendment had suddenly adopted an expansive interpretation when it benefited a Republican presidential candidate Now, California Democrats -- or at least those who oppose the recall of Democratic Gov. Gray Davis -- hope a similarly expansive view will prevail and give Davis more time to campaign against a recall.

The ironies don't stop there.

In Bush vs. Gore, Democrats and some legal scholars accused the Supreme Court of trampling on Florida's prerogatives in ruling 7-2 that a recount ordered by the state Supreme Court was unconstitutional and 5-4 that there wasn't enough time remaining under federal law to organize a recount that would meet constitutional standards. It was a double whammy that assured a victory for George W. Bush in the Electoral College.

Singing a similar state's-rights tune, Republicans and conservatives have assailed the 9th Circuit -- the same court, they endlessly observe, that ruled against the Pledge of Allegiance in public schools -- for what the Traditional Values Coalition calls "judicial tyranny" over a sovereign state.

Do these parallels mean the U.S. Supreme Court must reach down and resolve the dispute in California?

Not necessarily, legal scholars warn. Ken Gormley, a professor of law at Duquesne University, said he would be surprised if the high court took the recall case. "I don't think the court is apt to go out on a limb and get involved in a partisan battle in California, given so many strong feelings even within the court" about Bush vs. Gore, Gormley said. "I don't think the justices want lightning to strike again."

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Is Bush Repeating LBJ's Guns and Butter Mistake? (posted 9-18-03)

Jonathan Weisman, writing in the Washington Post (Sept. 16, 2003):

In 1966, with spending in Vietnam on the rise, social programs growing and interest rates edging dangerously higher, Georgia's venerable Sen. Richard B. Russell Jr. asked "whether this nation, for all its wealth and resources, can fight a war . . . and carry on a broad range of domestic spending -- without a tax increase or a dangerous deficit."

"The president apparently believes that we can," the Democrat told his state's legislature. "For the sake of the country, . . . I hope and pray that he is right."

Within two years, inflation was galloping, the federal deficit was climbing, and Lyndon Baines Johnson was forced to slam on the brakes with an unpopular tax hike to finance the war and slow the economy.

In Johnson's experience, some see a cautionary tale for President Bush. Again, a president is pursuing his domestic priorities -- in this case, tax cuts -- even as he tries to finance a war that he insists will be limited and affordable. Administration officials say neither the amount of war spending nor the size of the budget deficit is enough to damage an economy they are still trying to push into high gear. But some economists and historians see enough of a parallel between the "guns and butter" debate of the 1960s and the nascent "guns and tax cuts" debate of today to raise the question of whether the administration is right.

"Right now we're in our unrealism phase," said historian Robert Dallek, author of the Johnson biography "Flawed Giant." "But they're going to have to face reality. There is the Lyndon Johnson moment coming down the road."

The economic backdrop of the Vietnam War is very different from the economy backstopping the fighting in Iraq. Back then, with unemployment at rock bottom, the economic engines were already revving hot when Vietnam spending slammed on the accelerator. Now, the engine is just coming out of idle, with plenty of room for acceleration.

Most economists say that under these conditions, the extra war spending probably will have an overall positive effect on the economy in the coming year. But whether the impact turns sour over time will depend on how long the war in Iraq lasts and how much it costs, they say.

No one knows just how much slack is in the economy or how quickly it could give way to a blown gasket.

"We almost always overheat," said Laurence H. Meyer, a former Federal Reserve Board governor who has been studying the Iraq war's potential impact on the economy for the Center for Strategic and International Studies. "It's one of the charms of the U.S. economy."

The political parallels between the Johnson era and today are striking, Dallek said. Like Bush, Johnson enacted a large tax cut as one of his first acts as president, then oversaw significant increases in federal spending.

In January 1966, Johnson proposed spending $ 10.5 billion to fight the war in Vietnam, $ 59.6 billion in today's dollars, but he assured Congress the war would be over by June 1967. The federal budget deficit would be only $ 1.8 billion, or $ 10 billion in inflation adjusted terms, he promised, hardly enough to raise interest rates or inflation.

But defense spending kept climbing, and it came on top of already enacted "Great Society" anti-poverty programs. By 1967, federal deficit forecasts for the coming year had reached $ 29 billion for fiscal year 1968, or $ 153 billion in today's dollars. The "guns and butter" debate had come to dominate Washington by then.

Jump 36 years into the future, and "this time, the butter is tax cuts," said Edward McKelvey, an economist at Goldman Sachs Group.

After three tax cuts and discretionary spending increases of 27 percent since he took office, Bush is seeking $ 87 billion more in wartime spending. The budget deficit is likely to exceed $ 500 billion in the fiscal year that begins next month.

Like Johnson in 1966, Bush has steadfastly denied any conflict between his defense spending and his tax cuts.

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Why Arafat Remains Popular with Some Groups (posted 9-16-03)

P. David Hornik, writing in frontpagemag.com (Sept. 16, 2003):

In its official statement about its vague decision to “remove” Yasser Arafat, the Israeli government referred to him as a political problem, an “obstacle” to peace, and did not emphasize the thousand dead Israelis, the thousands of bereaved, maimed, and traumatized ones. Jerusalem apparently did not think mentioning the latter aspect would impress anyone much, whereas the notion of Arafat as a diplomatic glitch might at least have some exculpatory value for the dark deed Israel was hinting at.

But “the world” jumped to Arafat’s defense anyway. Everyone—the Arabs, the Europeans, the U.S., the Israeli Labor Party—concurred that there is something necessary and desirable about having Arafat sitting and functioning in his compound a few miles north of Jerusalem, and that anything done to disrupt that state of affairs would be both unwise and reprehensible.

It’s nothing new. Someday historians will look back at our era and wonder how this baleful figure was able to pursue a career for four decades as an arch-terrorist, dictator, liar, and thief without ever being stopped or punished. The reason, they may discover, is that he meant too many things to too many people, that he fulfilled certain needs in the “civilized” world that made his presence too precious to dispense with.

For Europe, the place where he is most genuinely popular (as opposed to the Arab world), Arafat’s rise to prominence in the early 1970s relieved the discomfort of a quarter-century in which Europeans felt they had to behave well toward Jews and recognize their right to life. This was, after all, a period in which Britain and France joined Israel in a military campaign against Egypt, and France for a time was Israel’s main ally and military supplier—things that would be unthinkable today. But then, in the early 1970s, came Arafat with his headdress, stubble, and gun, proclaiming that if one was a victim of Jews it was right to kill them. He quickly became the toast of Europe. Jew-murder was no longer a base act perpetrated by brownshirts, fascists; it was now a noble, revolutionary deed performed by the downtrodden and desperate. One could now fete and honor a Jew-murderer and at the same time feel virtuous, a friend of the oppressed. No wonder most of Western Europe hasn’t gotten over its fondness or, at best, ambivalence toward Arafat to this day, as dignitaries continue to go on pilgrimage to his Ramallah compound and still proclaim him a requirement of peace. No amount of documentary evidence of Arafat’s responsibility for the terror seems to impress such people, and why should it? The whole point in the first place was that Arafat redeemed Jew-killing and made it admirable again.

For the Left in general, Arafat provided a vivid avatar of the revolutionary hero in a time when the species was getting scarce. Joe was gone and the Soviet Union had lost most of its chic; Ho, too, was gone, and it was hard to work up much enthusiasm for his successors in liberated South Vietnam; Mao died and his luster quickly dimmed. But Castro was still there—and Arafat. Here was a self-declared leader of a dark-skinned, Third World people that laid claim to being expelled, oppressed, and poverty-stricken all at once—and the victims of a Jewish colonial outpost backed up by the Great Satan itself! Marx must have held wild parties in his grave. And the more Arafat sent his righteous minions to shoot, stab, bomb, and generally butcher the colonialist-capitalist usurpers of his land, the more he became the darling of the international Left, which to this day idolizes him and sends human shields to defend his forces against the evil depredations of the Israeli army.

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Governor Reagan's Solution to the California Deficit? RAISE Taxes (posted 9-15-03)

From the NYT b(Sept. 14, 2003):

A BUDGET crisis. An actor who wants to be governor so he can cut taxes and bloated government. California has seen this script before. How did Ronald Reagan deal with the mess he inherited in 1967? First, he pronounced the problem much worse than he thought it was. Then, he raised taxes — by a lot.

In his new book, "Governor Reagan: His Rise to Power," (PublicAffairs), the journalist Lou Cannon describes the drama: "No amount of budget reductions, even if they had been politically palatable, could have balanced California's budget in 1967. The cornerstone of Governor Reagan's economic program was not the ballyhooed budget reductions but a sweeping tax package four times larger than the previous record California tax increase obtained by Governor [Pat] Brown in 1959.

"Reagan's proposal had the distinction of being the largest tax hike ever proposed by a governor in the history of the United States. He sought tax increases on sales, personal income, banks and corporations, insurance companies, liquor and cigarettes. When Reagan unveiled the plan on March 8, it carried a price tag of $946 million. When it passed the Senate with various attachments, including a tax on services that the press dubbed the `shoeshine tax,' the total was $1 billion. And this from a governor two months in office who had campaigned on the virtues of tax reduction!"

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The Other 9-11? (posted 9-12-03)

From the"Scrapbook" in the Weekly Standard (Sept. 15, 2003):

Here's our nominee for the most unseemly and opportunistic exploitation of the second anniversary of 9/11: This week, a host of lefty performers and media outlets will commemorate the "other" September 11 attacks--that is, September 11, 1973. Not familiar with the date? That's when Chilean general Augusto Pinochet overthrew socialist president Salvadore Allende in what was widely believed to be a U.S.-backed military coup. You have our permission to raise an eyebrow: The whole affair has the feeling of a playground competition between junior high kids ("My 9/11 was worse than your 9/11!").

Still, those of you interested in commemorating "the other 9/11" have a variety of activities to choose from. If you're in the Detroit area, be sure to check out the Broken Tooth Puppet Troupe and performance artiste Uptonogood's production of "The Other 9/11: Another Hemisphere Remembers (& Other Tales)." According to its press release, the show "uses shadow puppets and painted transparencies to illustrate connections between patterns in history and our everyday lives." So be sure to bring the kids.

SCRAPBOOK readers living in the U.K. can tune into BBC4's production of "Chile: The Other 9/11," which airs at 11 P.M. the night of the anniversary. In its listings for that day, BBC4 doesn't show any programming on the 9/11/01 attacks. (Neither do any of the other BBC channels, but we can't say that comes as a surprise.)

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The Bush Administration Appears to Be Backing Indian Discrimination Against Blacks (posted 9-12-03)

Brent Staples, writing in the NYT (Sept. 12, 2003):

The historian John Hope Franklin is black to the naked eye. A boulevard named in his honor runs through Greenwood, the black section of Tulsa, Okla., where he lived as a child. The Franklins are not just black, however, but also Native American. Milley Franklin, Mr. Franklin's grandmother, was one-quarter Choctaw and was raised as Choctaw, attending Indian schools. Her children -- including John Hope Franklin's father, the lawyer B. C. Franklin -- are clearly listed on the official tribal rolls that determined who was a member of the Choctaw Nation. The rolls were important, since tribal members got land when the reservations were dissolved.

Americans are often shocked to learn that black Indians exist at all -- and that Native Americans actually held slaves. Like the white slave owners they emulated, Native Americans often fathered children by enslaved women and occasionally -- as in Milley Franklin's case -- treated those children as family. As a result, millions of black Americans are descended from black people who were either members of the tribes during slavery or adopted into them just after Emancipation.

White families have begun to acknowledge mixed-race connections after centuries of denial. But the attitudes of some Native Americans have not evolved in the same way. Both the Seminole and the Cherokee tribes have employed discriminatory policies to prevent black members from receiving tribal benefits -- and to strip them of the right to vote in tribal elections.

The Interior Department, which oversees the tribal governments through the Bureau of Indian Affairs, has historically regarded this kind of racial discrimination as a violation of 19th-century treaties that required the Indian nations to treat black members as full citizens. But the Bush administration could conceivably change course and actually validate these discriminatory policies....

The Bureau of Indian Affairs, with the support of the federal district court in Washington, refused to recognize a Seminole government that came to office while black Seminoles were barred from the polls. But Washington may yet buckle in the face of similar discrimination by the Cherokees -- who are more politically connected than the Seminoles. The federal government insists that it has not taken a "final position." But court documents suggest that the Bureau of Indian Affairs might formally endorse elections in which black Cherokees are barred from voting.

John Hope Franklin, whose family bridges the black and Indian communities, takes a dim view of the attempt to divide the two. He grew up in Oklahoma, where blacks and Indians were "very much involved with each other, not only in terms of friendship but in terms of marriage." He adds: "It is perfectly absurd to talk about dividing Indians and blacks. Any Indians who speak in exclusionary terms do not represent the historic interests or the historic relationships of Indians and blacks."

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9-11: Conspiracy Theories Run Amuck (posted 9-12-03)

David Aaronovitch, writing in the Guardian (Sept. 9, 2003):

"In a startling allegation," the Hindu of India told its many readers last Saturday, "a former British minister has said the US may have deliberately allowed the events of September 11 2001, so that it could have a pretext to attack Afghanistan and Iraq." The wires ran the story from Wellington to San Francisco. It was an "incredible piece", one happy blogger chortled, showing that conspiracy theories have "finally hit (the) mainstream media". In this case the "mainstream" was us here at the Guardian.

Made into a rough chronology of cause and effect, the argument from Michael Meacher, the minister in question, went like this:

1. The Americans (and the Brits, but not, it seems, the French or the Germans) are running out of oil and gas, and the Muslims have got lots.

2. A few years back, some neocons devised a plan to get their hands on the oil, etc, so as to be able to dominate the world.

3. Trouble was, they couldn't go ahead with the plan unless public opinion was mobilised, as it was at Pearl Harbor in 1941. Which, by the way, President Roosevelt knew all about, but decided not to stop so that he could have a war.

4. Subsequently, the Bush administration and its agencies did "little or nothing" to stop the plotters of 9/11 and - when their operation was under way - little or nothing to bring it to a halt.

5. After September 11, the Bushites forgot all about terrorism and Bin Laden and concentrated on invading places that had oil and gas.

6. So, "the 'global war on terrorism' has the hallmarks of a political myth propagated to pave the way for . . . the US goal of world hegemony, built around securing by force command over the oil supplies."

The oil and PNAC arguments in points one and two are so complex and recondite that I'll begin at about point three, in which the US may create a pretext for attacks. "There is a possible precedent for this," says Meacher, "The US national archives reveal that President Roosevelt used exactly this approach in relation to Pearl Harbor on December 7 1941. Some advance warning of the attacks was received, but the information never reached the US fleet."

US national archives "reveal" no such thing. Or rather, they reveal it to a select few people, but not to most historians. This may not be the place to talk about Japanese signals received in 1940/41 and not successfully decoded until 1946, but to state as fact that the President of the US (and former under-secretary of the navy) connived at an attack that sunk a large proportion of his own Pacific fleet, is to go well beyond the known facts. Which is where M cheerfully went.

However, armed with this non-precedent, Meacher then argues that "the 9/11 attacks allowed the US to press the 'go' button . . . which it would otherwise have been politically impossible to implement".

But how to organise the necessary casus belli ? "First, it is clear the US authorities did little or nothing to pre-empt the events of 9/11." And then, says Meacher, it was "astonishing that there was such slow reaction on September 11 itself". He goes on, "The first hijacking was suspected at not later than 8.20am, and the last hijacked aircraft crashed in Pennsylvania at 10.06am. Not a single fighter plane was scrambled to investigate from the US Andrews airforce base, just 10 miles from Washington DC, until after the third plane had hit the Pentagon at 9.38 am. Why not?"

Unfortunately, this is all rubbish. Six minutes after the notification of the first hijacking, at 8.44am, fighters were ordered to be scrambled from Otis Base in Massachusetts. Two minutes later the first plane struck the World Trade Center. Another 16 minutes on, the second plane struck. Twenty-three minutes on and the third plane was notified as having been hijacked en route from Dulles airport. Another two minutes later fighters were scrambled from Langley (not Andrews), but arrived over Washington two minutes after Flight 77 struck the Pentagon. Nor was this lateness unprecedented. A year earlier F16s had failed to intercept a Cessna light aircraft that deviated from course, and buzzed the White House.

But watch Meacher build. It's a classic of its kind. "Was this inaction," he asks, "simply the result of key people disregarding, or being ignorant of, the evidence? Or could US air security operations have been deliberately stood down on September 11? If so, why, and on whose authority?"

This is conspiracy 101. Say something is a fact which isn't. Then ask questions, rising up through incompetence, gradually to mal-intention, and then - abruptly - demand who might be behind it all. Cui Bono , my dear friends?

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Why We Now Commemorate Death (posted 9-12-03)

Mary Leonard, writing in the Boston Globe (Sept. 8, 2003):

While the official commemorations planned for [9-11] are purposely survivor-centered and less political than last year's, the death sites themselves are undergoing an unexpectedly rapid conversion into permanent memorials honoring the dead.

That trend - with families leading the charge to quickly designate killing fields as memorials to victims instead of sites of shame, is relatively new in American life. Scholars say it is a protest against the anonymity of mass death, and is fueled by intense media coverage that connects people to the victims and tells their poignant stories.

In Dallas, it took seven years for the disgraced city to erect a downtown monument to Kennedy and 25 years for a museum to open at the site where Lee Harvey Oswald allegedly aimed at the president and fired his rifle.

The USS Arizona Memorial was dedicated 21 years after the attack on Pearl Harbor, partly because the US Navy was reluctant to commemorate a defeat. Boston never marked the site of the disastrous Cocoanut Grove nightclub fire of 1942 that claimed 492 lives.

Kenneth E. Foote, a University of Colorado geographer, began to research how violence and tragedy shape the American landscape after visiting Salem and finding few mentions of the 1692 witchcraft trials and no markers at all at Gallows Hill, where 19 accused witches were hanged. He traveled across the country, finding many examples of tragic, historic sites either erased from memory or, like the Lorraine Motel in Memphis where Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was slain in 1968, embraced by a minority group and turned into a memorial or museum only decades later.

Now, Foote said, he is seeing a new trend, with sites memorialized immediately and dedicated to a positive purpose, for public healing or teaching or giving context to senseless violence. "The speed with which decisions are being made is quite remarkable," Foote said. "In New York it's almost too rushed, but because of commercial pressures at the World Trade Center site, it's not unexpected."

Memorials reflect the fears, hopes, needs, and convictions of the generation that erects them, said Edward Linenthal, whose book, "The Unfinished Bombing," examines how the stricken residents of Oklahoma City in five years built a consensus and a moving, multifaceted memorial from the ashes of what was then the worst terrorist attack on American soil, the bombing that destroyed the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building on April 19, 1995, killing 168 people.

"Largely because of the media, people everywhere become enfranchised to the survivors, entranced by their drama and heartbreak, and feel they know those who died," said Linenthal, a professor of religion and American culture at the University of Wisconsin at Oshkosh. "The immediacy and intensity of remembrance is tied up with the way people feel really, really connected to the victims and the belief that memorials can heal."

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The Analogy that Really Fits Iraq: The USSR's Invasion of Afghanistan (posted 9-12-03)

Marc Kaufman, writing in the Washington Post (Sept. 8, 2003):

Well-equipped foreign troops were under daily fire from determined if ragtag guerrillas, and casualties steadily mounted. Much of the world was opposed to the military action, and opposition was especially strong in Muslim countries. Islamic holy warriors were eventually drawn to the fight, bringing funds and increasingly extreme tactics. The occupying forces sought to modernize a traditional Muslim society and do it quickly. They never lost a battle, yet the war wouldn't end.

If this sounds like a description of the challenge facing U.S. forces in postwar Iraq, you're right. But it could just as well describe another war in the same region -- the Soviet invasion and occupation of Afghanistan during the 1980s.

As the American death count rises in Iraq and efforts to improve life for Iraqis remain limited by the lack of security, the Bush administration is working hard to convince us that we are merely witnessing the untidy death throes of Saddam Hussein's regime. National security adviser Condoleezza Rice and others have held up post-World War II Germany and Japan as models for the U.S. occupation in Iraq. The administration's detractors respond by raising the specter of Vietnam or the aborted U.S. military missions in Lebanon and Somalia.

And yet the Soviet experience in Afghanistan -- where a superpower moved in a bold and aggressive way outside its clear sphere of influence into a fractured Muslim nation -- is a more useful model, however different the occupiers' motivations and however different the outcome ultimately may be. And because the Soviets' Afghan occupation ended in disaster for both the occupier and the occupied, it offers lessons that U.S. officials would do well to remember.

I was in Afghanistan as the last Russians left in 1988, departing from their heavily guarded garrisons and quite fearful of being attacked on the way out. By then, the Soviets had managed to do just about everything wrong, having killed more than a million Afghans and turned millions more into refugees. The Soviets had become the enemies of Islam. That they spent billions to modernize Afghanistan and win over Afghans -- soldiers were still tossing candy to kids as they pulled out of Kabul -- meant nothing in the end.

The United States starts its occupation in a much stronger position. The Soviets, after all, were supporting a widely disliked communist Afghan government, while the Americans are offering democracy and reconstruction, which many Iraqis say they want. But both began their occupations convinced that the local population broadly supported them or, in the case of the Soviets, that the locals would be cowed into submission. The Soviets were proven wrong, and the Americans have learned they can't count on the support they thought they had. Top Army officials in Iraq have conceded that they have a "guerrilla war" on their hands -- and the dynamics on the ground for the two occupations begin to look increasingly similar.

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Noam Chomsky: Bush Has Made a Mess (posted 9-12-03)

Noam Chomsky, writing in the Toronto Star (Sept. 7, 2003):

[After] 9/11, the world reacted with shock and horror, and sympathy for the victims. But it is important to bear in mind that for much of the world, there was a further reaction: "Welcome to the club."

For the first time in history, a Western power was subjected to an atrocity of the kind that is all too familiar elsewhere.

Any attempt to make sense of events since then will naturally begin with an investigation of American power - how it has reacted and what course it may take.

Within a month of 9/11, Afghanistan was under attack. Those who accept elementary moral standards have some work to do to show that the United States and Britain were justified in bombing Afghans to compel them to turn over people suspected of criminal atrocities, the official reason given when the bombings began.

Then, in September, 2002, the most powerful state in history announced a new National Security Strategy, asserting that it will maintain global hegemony permanently.

Any challenge will be blocked by force, the dimension in which the United States reigns supreme.

At the same time, the war drums began to beat to mobilize the population for an invasion of Iraq.

And the campaign opened for the mid-term congressional elections, which would determine whether the administration would be able to carry out its radical international and domestic agenda.

The final days of 2002, foreign policy specialist Michael Krepon wrote, were "the most dangerous since the 1962 Cuban missile crisis," which historian Arthur Schlesinger described, reasonably, as "the most dangerous moment in human history."

Krepon's concern was nuclear proliferation in an "unstable nuclear-proliferation belt stretching from Pyongyang to Baghdad," including "Iran, Iraq, North Korea and the Indian subcontinent."

Bush administration initiatives in 2002 and 2003 have only increased the threats in and near this unstable belt.

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Japan Should Come Clean About War Crimes of WW II (posted 9-12-03)

Editorial in the LA Times (Sept. 6, 2003):

Japanese Defense Minister Shigeru Ishiba traveled to China this week in a high-level response to the recent poisoning of dozens of Chinese by mustard gas left behind by the Japanese army after World War II. How sharply that visit contrasts with Japan's refusal to own up to its germ warfare experiments on Chinese civilians more than half a century ago.

Cao Gangchuan, China's defense chief, told Ishiba on Wednesday that Japan must also clean up hundreds of thousands of other weapons Japanese invaders abandoned.

Now if only the appropriate words could be spoken so that Chinese researchers, investigating Japan's germ warfare experiments, could pry loose the secrets they are seeking from the American and Japanese governments.

Last month, a group of researchers visited Los Angeles as part of its campaign to get the United States to release documents that it says relate to the Japanese tests. That's a reasonable request that should be heeded.

The late Sheldon H. Harris, a Cal State Northridge history professor, wrote a detailed account of the experiments in his 1994 book "Factories of Death: Japanese Biological Warfare, 1932-1945, and the American Cover-Up." He also told of the difficulty of wrenching documents out of U.S. vaults decades after the war's end.

Harris, who died last year, said that for years "official American sources continued to cover up" what they learned from interviewing the Japanese who conducted the experiments. He was told that documents did not exist, but then got them when he filed one of his many Freedom of Information requests. The U.S. should open as many files as it can.

Japan is no better. Last year, a Japanese court finally found that the infamous Unit 731 used bacteriological weapons in occupied China in the 1930s and '40s. Despite the court ruling, the Japanese government denies those weapons were ever used and bars access to its records.

Japan's Education Ministry also has been appropriately criticized for ordering the scrubbing of World War II atrocities from high school texts. The author of one textbook, historian Saburo Ienaga, sued the government in 1983. Fourteen years later, the Japanese Supreme Court ruled that the ministry had unconstitutionally blocked mention of Japanese wartime crimes in Ienaga's high school text. That sort of obstruction has typified the ministry.

The recalcitrance to admit past wrongdoing gives onetime enemies more ammunition to use against Japan. The leaking mustard gas canisters killed one man and sickened 42 people in northeastern China last month. Chinese protests over the incident reverberated more loudly because of Tokyo's silence.

Japan's success in building a strong postwar democracy would not be diminished by opening records of its past.

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Is Dean too Liberal for America Today? (posted 9-12-03)

James Harding, writing in the Financial Times of London (Sept. 6, 2003):

[Howard] Dean borrows ideas and language from the great American progressive programmes: Franklin Delano Roosevelt's New Deal and Lyndon B. Johnson's Great Society. His enthusiasm for civic action echoes John F. Kennedy's New Frontier. His opposition to the war aligns him with George McGovern's anti-Vietnam platform. And, with his regular stump line that he will not "believe that the politics of fear can ever defeat the politics of hope", there is even a whiff of Hubert Humphrey, the 1968 candidate whose "politics of joy" earned him the nickname the "Happy Warrior". What is not clear yet is what cocktail he has made of these ingredients.

American liberalism is not the classical neo-liberalism of negative government, a stance more associated with US conservatives. Nor is liberalism in the American context necessarily associated with the values of a European liberal; someone who might be suspicious of the Church, opposed to the death penalty and tolerant of gay and pre-marital sex. Though more or less left of centre, US liberalism is not dominated by allegiance to public ownership, or workers' control, or strong state provision. As Sidney Blumenthal, President Bill Clinton's communications' adviser, put it: "American liberalism does not mean socialism."

Rather, American liberalism is best defined in terms of FDR-style redistributionist economics, taxing the rich and spreading wealth through programmes intended to create opportunities for middle income and poor families. American liberals in the 20th century - as typified by Lyndon B. Johnson - were also the ones most closely associated with the expansion of civil rights, with all the initially negative political consequences for Democrats in the South. And, while at times demonstrating an internationalist tendency, American liberalism has much less intellectual consistency when it comes to foreign affairs. Like most political groupings, it has proved more articulate in its approach to domestic issues.

Liberalism and conservatism have alternated, as left-right politics have swung this way and that in most democracies. The liberal historian Arthur Schlesinger Jr tracked these swings and in his 1986 classic study, The Cycles of American History, he claimed to have detected a pattern which was predictive. In the 20th century, he wrote, there was a pattern of alternation between negative and affirmative government at 30-year intervals - generational swings between periods when voters put their faith in private sector solutions to national problems and periods when they look to public institutions. On the public activism side, Theodore Roosevelt and the Progressive era starting in 1901 was followed by FDR and the New Deal in 1933 and then JFK and the New Frontier in 1961. Schlesinger forecast a reversion from conservatism to liberalism - or from private to public interest - in 1992. It seemed, once more, that he was right: that was the year in which Bill Clinton won the White House, snatching it from Ronald Reagan's vice-president, George Bush Senior.

But Clinton was a different sort of liberal. He was certainly a liberal in some of his language, and tried, at first, to be one in policy. His first months in office were blighted by an ultimately futile attempt to introduce a big government programme to deal with health care. But the conservative Newt Gingrich led the Republicans to capture Congress in 1994 and Clinton became a president in the conservative tradition, at least in his economics - down-sizing government and reining in public spending. The question still convulses the Democratic Party: did the Clinton presidency set a benchmark for all future Democratic administrations? Or was it an aberration, an unnecessary obeisance before the right? And can the over-cautious Clinton period be superseded by a true liberal in the White House - one such as Howard Dean?

I called Arthur Schlesinger Jr. at his home in mid-town Manhattan to ask whether Dean was liberalism's late arrival. Schlesinger was a speechwriter for President Kennedy and remains, himself, a big L liberal: "I do not think Dean reflects that (liberal tradition). He is not a big government fellow. He was against the war and he is a fresh face, that's what it is," Schlesinger said. "There is great frustration and Dean is the beneficiary of this frustration."

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Jews Have to Die in Big Numbers to Get the World's Attention (posted 9-11-03)

P. David Hornik, writing in frontpagemag.com (Sept. 11, 2003):

By November 1947, when the United Nations voted on whether to establish a Jewish (and an Arab) state in Western Palestine, the Jewish people had recently accumulated an impressive number of death credits—about six million of them. Before the Holocaust, it was harder to make the case for a Jewish state in which Jews would not simply be at the mercy of their enemies or dependent on the goodwill and protection of host societies. One could point to massacres in the Ukraine, pogroms in Poland, vicious incitement in many places, but it wasn’t impressive enough, and with the exception of the British government for a short period after World War I, the Zionists were not able to prevail in the capitals of the world.


Six million, though, was an imposing figure, enough to play a key role in convincing two-thirds of the UN to vote in favor of creating the State of Israel on November 29, 1947. It wasn’t enough to dissuade the U.S. State Department and Defense Department from embargoing arms to the new state in its War for Independence, in the hope that it would be crushed by the Arab invaders. That fate would spare what the State Department and the Pentagon expected to be a nuisance and a headache. But on the strength of its own grit and determination, arms supply from the Soviet bloc, and the wave of international sympathy, based largely on death credits, that had led to the state’s establishment in the first place, Israel was able to survive the onslaught and set about the task of state-building.


In the last three years, during what is known as the Al-Aqsa Intifada, the death-credit syndrome has come back to haunt Israel with special intensity. The numbers, of course, are much more modest—in the dozens or hundreds rather than millions. Compared to the German fascists, the Islamofascists have harder work to do because the Jewish community they are trying to annihilate is armed. But the principle is similar. Israel absorbs blows, letting its citizens be picked off and murdered, until a particularly large and grisly attack gives it enough death credits that it believes the world—and particularly the Bush administration—will tolerate its taking military action.

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Chile's 9-11 (posted 9-11-03)

David Morris, writing on AlterNet (Sept. 9, 2003):

September 11th marks the second anniversary of the aerial attack by terrorists that killed 2,700 people and profoundly changed American society.

September 11th also marks the anniversary, in this case the thirtieth, of the aerial attack by terrorists that led to the murder of more than 3,000 people and profoundly changed Chilean society.

American commentators probably won't mention the 1973 attacks on Chile and their aftermath. They should, because in those attacks it was the U.S. government that played the role of Al Qaeda – recruiting, training, arming, financing and coordinating the terrorists.

Our involvement in this unsavory affair is now widely recognized. As Secretary of State Colin Powell himself recently acknowledged, "It is not a part of our country's history that we are proud of."

Powell's comment implies a feeling of contrition that I doubt his colleagues in this Administration share. For the ties are remarkably intimate between those who planned the attacks on Chile's White House and those in charge of responding to the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. Vice President Dick Cheney and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld worked in the Nixon cabinet. And in a most telling demonstration of continuity, President Bush appointed Henry Kissinger, the central player in the overthrow of the Chilean government, to chair the Committee investigating the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. (Kissinger withdrew in the face of ferocious worldwide criticism.)

On September 4, 1970 Salvador Allende, founder of the Socialist Party and four time presidential candidate, was elected President of Chile. That Allende was duly and uncontrovertibly elected in a country with a long and rich democratic tradition, a country whose voting turnout is double that of the United States, was irrelevant to President Nixon and his Secretary of State Henry Kissinger. "I don't see why we need to stand by and watch a country go Communist due to the irresponsibility of its own people," Kissinger declared.

"Nixon was beside himself," Kissinger later wrote. CIA Director Richard Helms remembers Nixon "wanted something done and he didn't much care how."

Initially the U.S. tried to forestall Allende's taking office by financing the kidnapping of the head of the Armed Forces, General Rene Schneider. Schneider resisted and was shot on October 22, 1970 and died three days later. The CIA reportedly paid $35,000 to the assassins.

Having failed with Plan A, Nixon and Kissinger moved to Plan B. This was, according to Nixon's CIA Director Richard Helms to "make the (Chilean) economy scream".

Plan B was successful economically. By cutting off public and private aid, encouraging U.S. corporations to stop sending replacement parts to Chilean factories and fomenting strikes and sabotage in Chile, the U.S. undermined its economy.

But Plan B failed politically. Even in the face of growing economic instability Chile maintained its democratic traditions. And the percentage voting for Allende's Popular Unity coalition continued to increase, from 36 percent in September 1970 to 44 percent in April 1972.

In June 1973 parts of the Chilean Navy attempted a coup and failed. A million people marched to the President's office and demanded arms to be able to defend the government. President Allende stood on the balcony and firmly rejected their request. To the end he was a Constitutionalist.

As were several of the leaders of the Chilean military. These were arrested in the early morning of September 11th. About 8:30AM rogue military units began bombing the Chilean White House. Allende died in his office. General Augusto Pinochet, an admirer of Adolf Hitler, seized power.

Pinochet's military dictatorship killed thousands, tortured tens of thousands and drove more than a million Chileans into exile. A society with a 150 year tradition of democracy and participation suffered under totalitarian rule.

No elections were held at any level for 15 years. Women were arrested for organizing soccer clubs. As Tina Rosenberg observed in the New York Times, "Meetings of any kind were considered subversive – in the first year after the coup, even Miss Chile was appointed."

The United States rewarded Chile by dramatically increasing both grants and loans. On June 8, 1976, at the height of Pinochet's repression, Kissinger met in private with the dictator and told him, "We are sympathetic to what you are trying to do here".

Having thwarted the possibility that Chile would become a model of democratic socialism, the United States made Chile a model of dictatorial capitalism. Under the hands-on guidance of University of Chicago economists, the Chilean economy was restructured. Unions were outlawed. Real wages plunged. Social spending was slashed. Of 507 public enterprises in l973 only l5 remained in government hands by l980. Chile privatized its social security system.

The experiment failed. Unemployment soared. Malnutrition soared. In l973 Chile had the second highest income in Latin America, next to oil rich Venezuela. By 1988, when the military relinquished the reigns of government, Chile's income had fallen behind that of many countries, including Brazil, Argentina and Uruguay.

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Why Can't Arnold Become President? (posted 9-9-03)

Tom Zeller, writing in the NYT (Sept. 7, 2003):

Testifying before a House subcommittee three years ago, Forrest McDonald, a historian at the University of Alabama and the author of"The American Presidency: An Intellectual History," recalled this bit of catechism: delegates to the American Constitutional Convention of 1787 had Poland on their minds.

Not long before the convention, Austria, Prussia and Russia had quietly rigged the election of a new monarch in Poland, subsequently dividing the hapless nation among themselves."We shall soon have the scenes of the Polish Diets and elections re-acted here," proclaimed Charles Pinckney, a delegate from South Carolina,"and in not many years the fate of Poland may be that of United America."

That fear of foreign influence ultimately yielded the constitutional requirement that American presidents be native born. But 200 years later, the rise of foreign-born politicians — former Secretaries of State Henry Kissinger and Madeleine Albright, for instance, or, should his bid for the California governorship succeed, Arnold Schwarzenegger — has generated increasing calls to eliminate the rule, including two separate measures that Congress will consider again this fall.

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Elites Can't Stomach Casualties but the Public Can (posted 9-9-03)

Lawrence F. Kaplan, writing in the New Republic (Sept. 10, 2003):

[T]he casualties generated in Iraq's "shooting gallery" rile the likes of [Howard] Dean and {Bob] Herbert more than they do the public at large. Well before the first shot was fired, a mass of polling data suggested the country's willingness to tolerate battle deaths in Iraq exceeded even the figures predicted in worst-case scenarios. In 1999, a massive opinion survey conducted by Princeton Survey Research Associates for the Triangle Institute for Security Studies (tiss) asked people to name the highest number of American military deaths they would accept in a war to "prevent Iraq from obtaining weapons of mass destruction." The mean response: 29,853. A CBS News/New York Times survey last October found that 54 percent of respondents favored military action even in the event of "substantial" American casualties. Despite the failure to locate weapons of mass destruction, the war's bloody aftermath hasn't elicited much of an outcry, either. In the face of mounting casualties, 58 percent of those questioned in a July Wall Street Journal/NBC poll said American troops should stay in Iraq "as long as necessary to complete the process, even if it takes as long as five years." Another poll in July, this one for The Washington Post and ABC, found three in four respondents expected significantly more American deaths, yet seven in ten still believed U.S. forces should remain in Iraq "until civil order is restored there, even if that means continued U.S. military casualties." The most recent Washington Post survey, taken during the second week in August, shows the number of Americans who support the U.S. presence in Iraq--seven in ten--remains unchanged. Even a Newsweek poll taken in the aftermath of last week's U.N. bombing found that 60 percent of respondents support maintaining current force levels in Iraq for more than a year, with twice as many favoring staying ten years or more as supporting immediate withdrawal.

There is a story behind these numbers. In recent years, the public's unwillingness to tolerate combat deaths has become an article of faith for America's leaders. The first President Bush justified the decision to halt the Gulf war short of Baghdad on the grounds that doing otherwise would have entailed further American losses. President Clinton imbibed the same lesson after the October 1993 slaughter of crack American troops in Somalia, subsequently offering assurances to the public that any military action would endanger as few lives as possible. Clinton-era Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Hugh Shelton even devised a "Dover Test" for the use of force: "Is the American public prepared for the sight of our most precious resource coming home in flag-draped caskets into Dover Air Force Base?" According to the tiss data, the architects of U.S. foreign policy believe the answer is no. Seventy-eight percent of officers and a nearly identical percentage of their civilian counterparts agreed with the statement: "The American public will rarely tolerate large numbers of U.S. casualties in military operations." America's foes agree as well. Prior to the first Gulf war, Saddam Hussein insisted that Americans could never tolerate "ten thousand dead in one battle." For his part, Osama bin Laden boasted that the collapse of U.S. support for the operation in Somalia "convinced us that the Americans are a paper tiger." But those who insisted the American public has no stomach for casualties were wrong then, and they are wrong now. The real challenge for America's leaders will not be convincing the public to stay the course in Iraq. It will be convincing themselves.

he public has long been less fearful of casualties than America's political and military elites assume--and, for that matter, less fearful than the elites themselves. According to polls taken by the American Institute for Public Opinion (aipo), the level of support for World War II never slipped below 75 percent, even though more than 200,000 Americans had been killed by mid-1945. World War II, of course, was the "good war." But the absence of a correlation between casualties and public support holds true even in more controversial conflicts. Survey data dating back half a century consistently shows that what determines the public's willingness to tolerate casualties has little do with casualties themselves.

Specifically, polls demonstrate that Americans will sustain battle deaths if they think the United States will emerge from a conflict triumphant, if they believe the stakes justify casualties, and if the president makes a case for suffering them. Each of these measures has important implications for the operation in Iraq. "The public is defeat-phobic, not casualty-phobic," Christopher Gelpi and Peter Feaver conclude in their forthcoming book, Choosing Your Battles: American Civil-Military Relations and the Use of Force, which culls a mountain of data to prove the point. In Korea, for example, an aipo survey found that public support for the war in August 1950 was a sturdy 66 percent--despite the death of 5,000 American soldiers in the two-month-old war. By December 1950, however, that number had plummeted to 39 percent. Because of battle deaths? Probably not. Between November 1950, when Chinese forces intervened in the conflict, and the time of that survey, the United States suffered a series of devastating battlefield defeats. A few months later, once U.S. forces halted the Chinese offensive and launched their own, public support climbed--even as the number of American deaths passed the 20,000 mark. A 1994 rand corporation study even concluded that the Korea toll "led not to cries to withdraw but to a desire to escalate."

Even Vietnam, where the myth of a risk-averse public was born, proves nothing of the kind. There, too, the public's sensitivity to casualties depended on its faith in the eventual success of the mission. And, prior to the Tet Offensive in 1968, that faith remained substantially intact. Despite the more than 10,000 Americans killed by then, numerous opinion polls taken on the eve of Tet found a clear majority favored either continuing or escalating the war. According to a Harris Poll, 31 percent of those surveyed in mid-1967 cited American casualties as the most disturbing feature of the war. But, in the aftermath of Tet, which the media portrayed as a major defeat, "the impact of casualties on support tripled in size," according to Gelpi and Feaver. Within a month, the percentage of those most troubled by American losses rose to 44 percent. Even so, those favoring a withdrawal from Vietnam never comprised a majority before the Nixon administration's decision to "Vietnamize" the war, when withdrawal became official policy.

Moreover, victory isn't the only source of public resolve in the face of battle losses--a fact that has become fairly obvious throughout the past decade. "[W]hen important interests and principles have been at stake, the public has been willing to tolerate rather high casualties," Eric Larson writes in his 1996 book, Casualties and Consensus: The Historical Role of Casualties in Domestic Support for U.S. Military Operations. "In short, when we take into account the importance of the perceived benefits, the evidence of a recent decline in the willingness of the public to tolerate casualties appears rather thin."

The paramount example of this tolerance was the 1991 Gulf war. As John Mueller's book Policy and Opinion in the Gulf War shows, American casualty estimates prior to Operation Desert Storm ranged into the tens of thousands. The public was well aware of these figures. A poll taken by the Vietnam Veterans of America Foundation on the eve of the ground war found that 67 percent knew about a Pentagon estimate forecasting 30,000 American deaths. Far from prompting a collapse in support, a Gallup Poll taken during the same period reported that a majority felt the Gulf crisis was worth going to war over, even if that meant up to 40,000 American deaths. Looking back at the polls, Larson details how the public's willingness to incur casualties derived from the promotion of a "number of foreign policy goals or principles in the Gulf that majorities of the public generally thought were very important"--among them, to deter further aggression by Iraq, to prevent Saddam from developing weapons of mass destruction, and to reverse Iraq's occupation of Kuwait.

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Do Candidates with a Military Background Always Do Well in Politics? (posted 9-9-03)

Anne Kornblut, writing on Boston.com (Sept. 7, 2003):

George Washington started the trend -- riding his military experience into the presidency in 1789. A few years later, however, John Adams started the countertrend. With no military experience, he occupied the White House from 1797 to 1801, even overseeing the development of the first Department of the Navy. Does military service matter in electoral politics? More to the point today: Will Senator John F. Kerry of Massachusetts gain any advantage by harking back to his Vietnam days? The historical record is divided almost evenly.

While a total of 21 presidents have been elected after some kind of military service -- and in more than a dozen instances, both major party candidates have been veterans of some sort -- there are numerous instances when civilians have beaten veterans.

Bill Clinton, who didn't serve in Vietnam, beat two respected veterans in back-to-back elections. Senator John S. McCain of Arizona, a decorated former Vietnam POW, lost the 2000 Republican primary to George W. Bush, who spent a brief period in the Texas Air National Guard. Bush then beat Al Gore, who had volunteered for Vietnam as a military journalist.

Seventeen of the 43 US presidents never served in the armed forces, according to data compiled by historian Henry E. Mattox for the University of North Carolina. "A direct relationship between a heroic military reputation and election at the highest national level can be demonstrated explicitly in only a half-dozen cases over the past two centuries," Mattox wrote.

At times of war or national crisis in the past, voters have turned to respected military leaders -- most obviously Dwight D. Eisenhower, who had commanded Allied forces in World War II.

"When Dwight Eisenhower ran, [military service] was terribly important because we were locked in this Korean War that people were terribly frustrated by," historian Robert Dallek said. "Just the hint that Eisenhower was going to get us out of the war by saying he would travel to Korea was enough to give him an additional boost in the polls."

Civil War General Ulysses S. Grant also parlayed his military success into electoral prowess.

Eight other generals besides Grant and Eisenhower have become president, according to Mattox. In the 20th century, Theodore Roosevelt, John F. Kennedy, Richard M. Nixon, Gerald Ford, and George H. W. Bush all used their military service as a political asset.

Another historical footnote: Almost every major US war to date has produced a future American president, according to Mattox's study. The central exception is Vietnam -- a gap that Kerry now hopes to fill.

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The Left Was also Responsible for Allende's Death (posted 9-9-03)

Roberto Ampuero, a member of the Chilean Communist Students Organization in 1973, is now seeking a Ph.D. in literature at the University of Iowa, writing in the Washington Post (Sept. 8, 2003):

"I raise my glass to your excellency, the president of the republic, and to the armed forces' loyalty to your government." Gen. Augusto Pinochet spoke these words to Salvador Allende at the Military Club in Santiago, Chile, in August 1973 -- just days before Pinochet led the coup that toppled Allende's elected leftist government and resulted in a 17-year military dictatorship in Chile.

The image of the traitorous Pinochet fits neatly into the popular interpretations of that time, which rightly condemn not only the Chilean Right but also the U.S. government for its role in the coup. But it also obscures a painful truth: The Chilean Left shares responsibility for the tragic end of the Allende government. Thirty years later, the refusal of many on the Left to acknowledge this continues to retard not only historical understanding, but also a full renewal of left-wing politics in Latin America.

During the Allende years, the Chilean Left's principal failing was to have mentally cast aside our democratic system in order to try to replace it with a system which, by any reasonable measure, had already failed in Eastern Europe, Asia and in Fidel Castro's Cuba. Even before Allende's Popular Unity (UP) coalition -- which included Chile's Communist and Socialist parties and several smaller, leftist parties that became extremist -- took control of the government in 1970, many elements of the left, captivated by then-fashionable ideological interpretations of reality, had declared Chilean democracy defunct.

These elements were proposing the Leninist demolition of the "bourgeois" state and its replacement by a "proletarian" one, either by peaceful means or through armed struggle. (The exception, ironically, was the Chilean Communist Party, which, following the cautious Moscow line at the time, advocated a reformist path.) The amazing thing about this is that although UP controlled the executive branch and a substantial part of the legislative branch, this did not cause leftists generally to acknowledge the space for social transformation that the Chilean system did offer in 1970.

Instead of advancing gradually with economic reforms and social benefits for the lower and middle classes, as the UP government had proposed during the campaign, the ultra-left parties within UP played at overtaking Allende on the left, promoting the arbitrary and massive expropriation of factories and farms, demanding the establishment of a unitary single state educational system, of "popular" justice and a "democratic" army. They paraded armed militias that would later prove to be capable only of scaring rightists, not actually fighting; they demanded the renunciation of the country's international financial obligations; they unfurled the banners of Cuba and North Vietnam and the image of Che Guevara.

All of this helped damage the economy, frighten the middle class and provoke the Right and Chile's creditors. In sum, it helped create a suffocating atmosphere in the country and deprived the UP of the majority support it required to approve and consolidate change in a democratic way. Leftist leaders, in a kind of anti-Allende conspiracy of their own, called those who remained loyal to the gradualist program "Mensheviks" and "traitors to the people."

At the same time, they ignored the workings of the democratic system, on the basis of which Allende had established his revolution of "meat pies and red wine," as we called it. It was based on that system that members of parliament of the Left and center had elected Allende president even though he had received only 36.6 percent of the popular vote. And it should not be forgotten that on August 22, 1973, in the middle of extreme shortages of basic goods, acute political violence and economic crisis, the Chilean Chamber of Deputies declared the Popular Unity government illegal.

Allende entered into immortality by committing suicide as Pinochet's forces encircled La Moneda, the great gray presidential palace in Santiago -- a suicide for which not only Pinochet, the Right and the United States are to blame, but also Allende's allies, who left him to fend for himself. His sacrifice, orphaned as he was by the UP leaders who fled into exile rather than resist at La Moneda, symbolizes dramatically the abandonment, isolation and betrayal to which Allende was subjected by far left-wing leaders who flirted with the armed struggle but who, when the bullets began to fly, largely vanished into thin air. Today they are mostly neoliberals or center-leftists. What Pinochet did in 1973 was simply to deliver the final blow to a democratic and republican order in Chile that many sectors of the left had already abandoned after the 1970 election.

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Editorial: Museums Must Return Indian Relics Now (posted 9-9-03)

Editorial in the Denver Post (Sept. 9, 2003):

There's still work to be done righting a serious historical wrong.
Nationwide, respected museums are finding, to their chagrin, that their collections include sacred objects and even bodies stolen from American Indian graves and religious sites in decades past.

In 1990, Congress passed the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act at the urging of Indian groups such as the Native American Rights Fund in Boulder and newspapers like The Denver Post.

The law says museums in the United States must inventory their collections to see if they contain sacred or burial objects. If so, those items must be returned to the tribes that orginally owned them.

Recently, the issue resurfaced because some museums are only now completing the required inventories. Some found thousands of artifacts that must be returned to the tribes, as reported Sept. 2 in The Post.

The results indicate that some of America's most respected museums were involved in what amounted to looting and grave robbing. Such museums owe American Indians an apology.

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Amend the Constitution to Save Congress in the Event of a Terrorist Attack (posted 9-9-03)

John Cornyn, chairman of the Senate Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Property Rights, in the Wall Street Journal (Sept. 9, 2003):

After the Sept. 11 attacks, Congress responded swiftly in appropriating funds to bolster national security, stabilize our economy and provide for victims' families. But while legislation was enacted to secure our airports and borders as well as authorize the use of military force, Congress has yet to act on one critical protection: Keeping the legislature functioning in the wake of a future terrorist attack.

Two years is too long. So today I will chair the first in a series of hearings to examine weaknesses in our government--and do something about it. We will consider what measures are necessary to guarantee continuity of Congress.

Congress cannot constitutionally act without a majority. [Article I, section V: "a majority of each [house of Congress] shall constitute a quorum to do business."] Our Constitution is explicit on this point, because our Founders believed it fundamental to our representative form of government. As Alexander Hamilton noted in Federalist 59, the Constitution empowers states to shut down Congress by refusing to send representatives. In fact, during the first Congress, neither the House nor the Senate was able to operate for an entire month, because a majority of representatives and senators failed to appear for duty. Both chambers waited for "a quorum, consisting of a majority of the whole number."
This vulnerability was deliberate. As one Constitutional Convention delegate urged, "in this extended Country, embracing so great a diversity of interests, it would be dangerous to the distant parts to allow a small number of members of the two Houses to make laws."

Congressional power exercised by just a handful of members thus not only is constitutionally dubious; it raises serious questions of democratic legitimacy as well. The Founders properly rejected the notion that a small body of members from one region might enact national legislation or confirm federal officials to govern the entire country.

This commitment to federalism and national representation has a cost, however: Under the majority quorum requirement, terrorists could shut Congress down by killing or incapacitating a sufficient number of representatives or senators.

Our ability to ensure Congress would be able to continue to function under the current constitutional restrictions is woefully limited. States have power to allow their governors to appoint senators in cases of vacancies, and 48 states have elected to do so. But the Constitution provides no immediate mechanism for filling vacancies in the House, nor for redressing the problem of large numbers of members in either chamber being incapacitated.

Vacancies in the House can be filled only by special election. That takes months to conduct, for reasons of mechanical feasibility, democratic integrity, and the rights of military and other absentee voters.

What's more, it is impossible to address the problem of incapacitated members. If 50 senators were in the hospital and unable either to perform their duties or resign, they could not be replaced. The Senate could be unable to operate for up to four years.

Accordingly, the Continuity of Government Commission, a bipartisan panel of former congressional leaders and government officials from across the political spectrum, unanimously endorsed a constitutional amendment to fix this problem in cases of catastrophic attack. Just as the 25th Amendment ensures continuity of the presidency, the proposed amendment would ensure continued congressional operations.

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Iraq's History of Violence (posted 9-5-03)

Fareed Zakaria, writing in Newsweek (Sept. 8, 2003):

IRAQ HAS ONE of the most violent histories of any country on the globe. In comparison even with other states in the Middle East, Iraq’s modern history has been marked by turmoil, coups, bloodshed and mayhem. Consider the fate of its rulers:

  • Faisal I: Installed by the British in the wake of a violent revolt, he ruled for 10 years and was one of a handful of Iraqi leaders to die of natural causes, in 1933.
  • Ghazi I: Faisal’s son, he witnessed a coup against his prime minister three years after being installed and then, in 1939, died mysteriously. The official explanation was that he drove his car into a lamppost.
  • Faisal II: The young king, his regent and almost the entire royal family and entourage were killed in a bloody coup in 1958.
  • Abdul Karim Qassem: Qassem came to power in the coup of 1958. In 1963 he was killed in a coup himself.
  • Abdul Salam Arif: Arif came to power in the 1963 coup, which unleashed a wave of massacres across the country. Three years later he died mysteriously in a helicopter accident.
  • Abdul Rahman Arif: Brother of the above, he lasted about as long. In July 1968 he was ousted in the Baathist coup and exiled to Istanbul.
  • Ahmed Hasan-al-Bakr: Became president after the 1968 coup and stayed in power until 1979, when he stepped down for reasons of “ill health” in favor of his deputy, Saddam Hussein.

    And this has been the history of violence among only the Sunni of Iraq, who have always been able to rule over the Shiites, Kurds, Turkomans and others using brutal means. Saddam, who took brutality to an entirely different level, destroyed whole villages of Kurds and Shiites during his reign. The memories of most Iraqis are filled with stories of terror, torture and murder. If score-settling among these groups begins, that would mark a new phase in Iraq’s blood-soaked story—potentially one that will prove even more destructive.

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Call It Hubris (posted 9-5-03)

Stansfield Turner, writing in the Christian Science Monitor (Sept. 4, 2003):

The Greeks have a word for it - hubris.

Thucydides, the Greek historian, reminds us that in the 5th century BC the Athenian Greeks learned a lesson about having too much hubris - arrogance. The citizens went to the agora and voted to send a military expedition to what in those days was a distant Sicily. There the Syracusans were harassing a small nation-state that was something of an ally of Athens. On the day the expedition rowed away in 134 triremes - warships with three banks of oarsmen on each side - most of the populace of Athens came down to the harbor at Piraeus to cheer and send them off.

There was no reason to doubt victory. Syracuse was no more than a backward, uncultured nation-state on the outskirts of civilization. When the Athenians arrived, however, the military of Syracuse tried some new tactics that confounded the Athenian generals sufficiently that victory did not come quickly, as anticipated. Instead, the Athenians had to send home for reinforcements. After two years of war, the Athenian force in Sicily was so decimated that few managed to return home. This was only the beginning of problems for Athens, however. In another nine years the Athenians had lost their empire abroad and their democracy at home. The hubris that had carried them to Sicily had started them on the road to their downfall.

Is it not time for us to recognize that there was a good deal of hubris behind our decision to invade Iraq? It impelled Congress to pass a resolution in support of an attack, the president to decide to invade, and the American public to give wide support to his doing so. The initial fighting went well, but the enemy's tactics since have not been what we anticipated.

In fact, most of the assumptions behind our invasion have been proven wrong: The intelligence did not support the imminence of a threat, the Iraqis have not broadly welcomed us as liberators, the idea that we could manage this action almost unilaterally is giving way to pleas for troops and money from other nations, the aversion to giving the UN a meaningful role is eroding daily, and the reluctance to get involved in nation building is being supplanted by just that.

Despite these reversals of course, our current policy appears to be to "stay the course." The problem with not acknowledging that we are changing course is that it makes us do so begrudgingly. The longer we hesitate to increase our troop strength in Iraq; to pour billions of dollars of our own money into reconstruction; and to invite the UN to play a substantive, decisionmaking role, the more the chance of failure increases.

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The West Is Weak in the Face of Terrorism (posted 9-5-03)

Yehezkel Dror, professor of political science at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, writing in the Jerusalem Post (August 31, 2003):

It is time to face the fact that the West is not doing enough to cope with the existential challenges posed by mass-murdering terrorism. What is needed is a grand strategy, one that takes into account historic processes as well as the magnitude of the danger.

Unfortunately, the West lacks what is necessary to develop and implement such a grand strategy. Arnold Toynbee (1889-1975), perhaps the greatest modern historian, throughout his work addressed this lack as causing the decline of civilizations.

Even more salient is the thesis of the medieval Islamic historian Ibn Khaldun (1332-1406), who noted that when civilization confronts "nomads," the latter are more likely to win thanks to their collective solidarity and intense religious beliefs as against the weakening self- assurance and lack of determination of long-established societies.

A study of the vast literature on the rise and decline of states, empires and civilizations reveals a singular factor as especially crucial. In confrontations with barbarism, civilization needs nerve and verve. It must show persistent strength of will and a readiness to kill and be killed when lesser means are inadequate.

It is the West's inner weakness that makes terrorist attacks at least partly effective. The fanatical threats and aggression by countries such as North Korea find the West unable to protect itself and humanity. Only a willingness to use its superior power will allow the West to confront and eliminate modern barbarism.

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History Suggstes Bush Will Win in 2004 (posted 9-5-03)

Tim Hames, writing in the London Times (September 1, 2003):

In the past 100 years only four elected Presidents have missed a second term

Washington is a city built on a swamp, land kindly donated by the State of Maryland, which had no idea what else to do with it. In August the heat and humidity are often insufferable. This may explain why every four years, 15 months in advance of a presidential election, the political class of the American capital lose their collective senses. The prospects of the sitting Presidents are spectacularly misread, the opportunities available for outsider candidates are massively overstated and the implausible possibility of new contenders entering and seizing control of the contest are spoken of as if a certainty. Whatever the cause, call it "the August syndrome".

The 2003 version of this strange disease, astutely reported by Roland Watson in this space on Saturday, runs as follows. George W. Bush is today deemed to be "in trouble" due to economic uncertainty and the Iraq quagmire. One or two scenarios therefore become viable. The first is that Howard Dean, the anti-war "insurgent" former Governor of Vermont, will end up in the White House. Dr Dean took his campaign bus on a national tour last week and the crowds were so large that his first words on observing them were "Holy cow". This must make him the first Batman fan to seek to assume George Washington's mantle. The second thesis is that more established figures - Al Gore, Senator Hillary Clinton or General Wesley Clark - will sniff the air, sense victory and allow themselves to be dragged to the hustings like Cincinnatus from the plough. Wounded President, outsider on a roll, white knight waiting in the wings. Lights, camera, action.

Alas for those of us sad enough to be interested in this race 429 days before polling day, the script lacks originality. In the words of an American baseball coach, Yogi Berra, it is "deja vu all over again". In August 1999, the word was that Mr Gore did not stand the slightest chance of becoming President and that Bill Bradley would beat him to the Democratic nomination. Six months later Senator John McCain was poised to deny Mr Bush his party's colours. That Bradley McCain battle somehow never happened.

In August 1995, Bill Clinton was "in trouble". Marginalised by the new Republican Congress, he was quaking in his boots as General Colin Powell was poised to run against him. And when this event inexplicably failed to materialise, it was Steve Forbes, the billionaire "outsider" with his flat-tax plan, not dull old Robert Dole, who would surely be his challenger.

Four years before that, in August 1991, George Bush Sr was not in trouble but was certain to win by a landslide. When that prognosis had to be reassessed, it was assumed that Governor Mario Cuomo of New York would stand. After he declined, Ross Perot, not Mr Clinton, who was already damaged goods, became the smart bet of the moment.

If you really wanted to, and I do not recommend it, you could take this process back for several more Augusts. Vice-President George Bush was a hopeless loser in 1987 (Newsweek ran a front cover of him then under the headline "Fighting the Wimp Factor"), while Democrats were expecting Lee Iacocca, the chairman of Chrysler, to enter the electoral arena. Ronald Reagan was in hot water in 1983 with Senator John Glenn set to vanquish him, and when he failed to take off it was Senator Gary Hart, an outsider, who would produce the competition. Jimmy Carter in 1979 was destined to lose not to Mr Reagan (a "right-wing nut") but Senator Edward Kennedy.

Senator Hubert Humphrey was to beat Gerald Ford in 1975; Senator Edmund Muskie to dismiss Richard Nixon in 1971. The Washington pundits of 1803 probably concluded that Thomas Jefferson was in a hopeless position.

All of which should, to put it mildly, counsel a little caution this summer. It might even inspire some respect for what are the three basic rules of presidential politics. The first is that it is very hard to deny an elected President re-election. In the past 100 years only four such men - William Taft, Herbert Hoover, Mr Carter and Mr Bush Sr - have not acquired a second term.

Each of them suffered from a sharp economic downturn in election year and serious divisions within their political party. The present President, by contrast, can expect the US economy to expand by at least 3 to 4 per cent in 2004 and will face no internal opposition next year. This alone would lead the historian to put their mortgage on him.

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The Flawed Analogy with Germany After World War II (posted 9-5-03)

Maura Reynolds, writing in the LA Times (Sept. 1, 2003):

In a recent interview, Rice compared the United States' commitment to rebuilding Iraq to the Marshall Plan, which helped turn not only West Germany but other parts of a devastated, war-ridden Europe into one of the world's most stable and prosperous regions.

But such a comparison is likely to make a deficit watcher break out in a cold sweat. In today's dollars, the Marshall Plan would cost about $88 billion. But as a proportion of GDP, it was even more pricey -- between 2.5% and 5% of the U.S. national economy each year. One scholar has estimated that such a commitment would amount to $200 billion a year today.

Ivo Daalder of the Brookings Institution, a frequent administration critic, sees a "huge disconnect between the stakes that are implied by the analogy and the commitment this administration is making to bring the transformation about."

If the administration were serious about transforming the Middle East, it would have planned better for the war's aftermath and would be asking Americans for more substantial sacrifices, Daalder said. "Now, we're cutting taxes, asking nothing of the American people," he said.

Historians see other problems with the analogy. Gerhard Weinberg, an eminent German historian who is retired from the University of North Carolina, said the devastation of Germany after the war went far beyond the current situation in Iraq -- cities flattened by carpet bombing, more than 25% of homes destroyed, most able-bodied men dead, injured or captured, millions of refugees, roads and bridges blasted by retreating Nazis.

"You have a very much simpler problem in many ways in Iraq, but handled with nothing like the care, planning and resources of postwar Germany," Weinberg said.

Lee Edwards of the conservative Heritage Foundation points out that while the Marshall Plan is now widely considered a success, it was hotly debated at the time of its inception. Congress took a full year to deliberate before passing it, and that was during a period of congressional bipartisanship on foreign policy.

"Any big, full-fledged Marshall Plan-style plan is probably not possible today," Edwards said. "But something smaller-scale, with international cooperation and semi-administration with the U.N. would encourage and convince the American people that this was a good idea."

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Newspaper Editorial Boards Are Making the Same Mistake They Made in the 1960s Concerning Vietnam(posted 9-3-03)

Norman Solomon, in his newsletter (September 4, 2003):

“Quagmire” is a word made famous during the Vietnam War. The current conflict in Iraq comes out of a very different history, but there are some chilling parallels. One of them has scarcely been mentioned: These days, the editorial positions of major U.S. newspapers have an echo like a dirge.

Of course, the nation’s mainstream press does not speak with a monolithic editorial voice. At one end of the limited spectrum, the strident and influential Wall Street Journal cannot abide any doubts. Its editorials explain, tirelessly, that the war was Good and the occupation is Good -- and those who doubt are fools and knaves. (LBJ called such dissenters “Nervous Nellies.”)

The Journal editorial writers fervently promote what used to be called the domino theory. The day after the U.N. headquarters in Baghdad blew up last month, the paper closed its gung-ho editorial by touting a quote from Centcom commander Gen. John Abizaid: “If we can’t be successful here, then we won’t be successful in the global war on terror. It is going to be hard. It is going to be long and sometimes bloody, but we just have to stick with it.”

As the summer of 2003 nears its end, most newspaper editorials are decidedly less complacent about the occupation of Iraq. Some lambast the Bush administration for deceptive spin, poor planning and go-it-alone arrogance. A big worry is that the U.S. government now faces a quagmire.

During the late 1960s, that kind of concern grew at powerful media institutions. After several years of assurances from the Johnson administration about the Vietnam War, rosy scenarios for military success were in disrepute.

But here’s a revealing fact: In early 1968, the Boston Globe conducted a survey of 39 major U.S. daily newspapers and found that not a single one had editorialized in favor of U.S. withdrawal from Vietnam. While millions of Americans were demanding an immediate pullout, such a concept was still viewed as extremely unrealistic by the editorial boards of big daily papers -- including the liberal New York Times and Washington Post.

Yes, some editorials fretted about a quagmire. But the emphasis was on developing a winnable strategy -- not ending the war. Pull out the U.S. troops? The idea was unthinkable.

And so it is today. Consider the lead editorial that appeared in The New York Times on the same day that The Wall Street Journal was giving Gen. Abizaid the last word. “The Bush administration has to commit sufficient additional resources, and, if necessary, additional troops,” the Times editorialized. The newspaper went on to describe efforts in Iraq as “now the most important American foreign policy endeavor.” In other words, the occupation that resulted from an entirely illegitimate war should be seen as entirely legitimate.

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The Smithsonian Should Exhibit Wreckage from the Failed Space Missions (posted 9-3-03)

Editorial for the Scripps Treasure Coast newspapers (September 3, 2003):

The Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum is debating whether an exhibit it is contemplating on the space shuttles should include wreckage from the Columbia and the Challenger.

It should. Historical accuracy demands it, as does the need to remember the 14 astronauts aboard the doomed ships.

Understandably and perhaps inevitably, the air and space museum, the nation's most popular museum, tends to present aviation as 100 years of unbroken progress, from the Wright Brothers to the moon.

But the history of flight has had disastrous detours and setbacks.

The first commercial passenger jet was not American but British, the Comet, which went into service in 1952. After three fatal midair breakups in less than a year the Comet was withdrawn from service to remedy a structural flaw. The delay allowed the Boeing 707 to take an insurmountable lead in jet travel when it went into service in 1958.

In the 1930s, huge dirigibles appeared to be the future of long distance air travel until the massive zeppelin Hindenburg caught fire and crashed at Lakehurst, N.J. The horrific footage and dramatic radio broadcast of the accident effectively ended that era even though, as is little remembered, most of the passengers and crew, 62 of 97, survived.

Whatever one thinks of the space program, the shuttles are a remarkable technical achievement. The first of them, the Enterprise, will be displayed at the air and space museum's annex at Dulles International Airport when it opens later this year. And the space program's remarkable safety record — three fatal accidents, the third being the three astronauts killed in 1967 in the Apollo 1 fire — has perhaps lulled us into complacency about what is, after all, a terribly risky undertaking.

The investigations of the two shuttle accidents and the partial reconstruction of the wreckage was no small technical feat and one that deserves some kind of recognition.

The date for a display is several years from now. If the reconstructed wreckage is mounted, the museum can be counted on to be both instructive and commemorative without being macabre. And it would be a sobering reminder that progress in aviation and aerospace has demanded both courage and sacrifice.

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Arabs and American Blacks: Parallels (posted 9-3-03)

Rami G. Khouri, executive editor of the Daily Star (September 3, 2003):

The high water mark of the American civil rights movement occurred 40 years ago, when a quarter of a million people gathered in Washington and heard Martin Luther King Jr. deliver his powerful “I have a dream” speech.

We in the Arab world can learn much from the American civil rights movement’s compelling example of how subjugated, marginalized, weak, and abused people can aspire to a more normal and just life through their own political action.

I am struck today by the close parallels between African-American anxieties in the early 1960s and the grievances that ordinary people around the Arab world express, which fall into three broad categories: popular sentiments, legal structures and power flows. The most important parallel, popular sentiments, reflects an agitated, distressed citizenry that has much to complain about and demands change. African-Americans then and many Arabs today feel helpless before the ruling powers of their society. The great work of African-American literature, Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man, portrayed a black man in Harlem who felt he was invisible to the surrounding white society. Invisible people feel degraded because their rights are not provided for, their concerns are not taken into account, their basic needs are often not met, and their voices are neither heard nor have any impact even if they are heard.

Many Arabs feel like invisible people in their own societies; they complain about abuse of power by the elite, not being able to impact on decisions that affect their lives, always being vulnerable to policies made by others (including other countries) and not having equal opportunities to achieve their full human potential because they don’t have the right connections and will always be denied opportunities open to others.

Even more striking are some of the parallel complaints about the legal and security systems. African-Americans decades ago and many ordinary Arabs today complain about being subjected to routine abuses by the police and legal systems, for example, laws and constitutions are ink on paper that do not apply to them, they cannot expect to get a fair hearing in court, they are often abused physically and politically by the security and police services and they are subjected to legal abuses that are not suffered by the rich and powerful in their society.

The third common parallel is how African-Americans then and ordinary Arabs today see their societies as deeply split into two very different worlds: The lowest strata get on with their hard daily lives as best they can, while society’s elite enjoy endless wealth, privileges and exemptions from the rule of law and the sufferings of the poor. Note, for example, what people say in Amman about which parts of town get more municipal water than others, and what people say in Beirut and Damascus about which parts of town get more electricity than others, and what people say in Rabat and Cairo about which parts of town get more green spaces, street cleaning services, and nice sidewalks.

The enjoyment of socioeconomic privilege reflects the exercise of political power, and the abuse and denial of political power are precisely the evils that the civil rights movement confronted in the United States decades ago.

That movement, and the wider American political system, challenged and ultimately overcame many legitimate grievances, through three main modes of action that we Arabs should study well.

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A Very Brief History of Najaf (posted 9-2-03)

Lisa Hoffman, writing for KnoxNews.com (August 29, 2003):

A car bombing Friday in Najaf - at one of the most sacred spots for Shiia Muslims - marks another sad chapter in what has been hundreds of years of history as rife with bloodshed as they have been with religious piety and scholastic renown.

The target Friday, as it has often been since it was erected in 977 A.D., was the tomb and shrine to Imam Ali Bin Abi Talib, a gilded complex that ranks with Jerusalem, Calvary and Mecca as the holiest of locations in the Middle East.

Within the tomb lie the remains of Imam Ali, the son-in-law of the Prophet Mohammed. A luminous golden dome, guarded by two minarets, rises over the mausoleum, bedecked with a tiled mosaic of gold, white and blue.

Dozens of mosques and Islamic libraries today dot the city of 200,000, located about 100 miles south of Baghdad. Abutting Najaf is the world's largest Muslim cemetery, and second biggest overall in the world. There, the graves of the Bible's Adam and Noah are believed to lie amidst the thousands of others buried over the centuries. For the 210 million Shiia Muslims around the globe, there is no finer final resting place.

Najaf also has shined through the ages as a cultural center of scientific, literary and theological studies. Seminary students and pilgrims by the thousands have come to Najaf. One of its most famous residents was Iran's Ayatollah Khomeini, who lived there in exile for 14 years before presiding over Iran's Islamic revolution in 1979.

Almost from the start, the tomb and Najaf as a whole have been conquered, plundered and burned by a succession of combatants and overlords. Over the centuries, rival Sunni and Wahabi Muslim, Arab, Persian, Ottoman and British leaders have claimed the city or fought against it. Imam Ali's tomb has been sacked and rebuilt at least three times.

The latest to ransack the town and tomb were the forces of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein. During the Shiia revolt after the 1991 Persian Gulf War, Saddam's soldiers looted and burned many of Najaf's treasures, and tanks blasted holes in the shrine's gilded dome. In March, U.S. troops skirted the city, but Saddam's fighters tried unsuccessfully to draw U.S. bombs to the cemetery by parking a MiG warplane there.

Since Saddam fell in April, the city has been a powder keg. Rival Shiia groups are jockeying for power, with one Shiia cleric hacked to death inside the shrine the day after Saddam was ousted, two prominent clerics assassinated in April and another hurt last week when an explosion rocked his home. Angry mobs have threatened U.S. troops several times.


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