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Liberty & Power Archive 8-18-03 to 9-30-03

Blog Archives




IVAN ELAND: SHORT COMMENT ON"AMERICA'S SPLENDID LITTLE WARS," BY PETER HUCHTHAUSEN, 9-30-03

I recently read"America's Splendid Little Wars: A Short History of U.S. Military Engagements: 1975-2000." The book was authored by Peter Huchthausen and published by Viking in 2003. Although the book gives good concise summaries of the many"little wars" the United States has fought from the Ford through the Clinton administrations, it seems to accept at face value the reasons each administration gave for particular interventions, particularly those of Republican administrations.

In addition, the book gives a short history leading up to each intervention but in many cases avoids telling us what happened after the intervention. Did conditions in the country go back to the way they were before the intervention--e.g., as they did in the U.S. interventions in Somalia and Lebanon. And so the author does not give us his overall assessment of the success of the intervention in political terms, but only in military terms. But for a quick summary of the facts in recent U.S. invasions and nation-building, the book is probably worth picking up as a reference book.

Posted by Ivan Eland at 1:30 pm EST

DAVID T. BEITO:"KRAUTS,” “GOOKS,” AND NOW “HAJJIS,” 09-30-03

Jay Price at the News and Observer reports, “World War II had its “krauts,” Vietnam had its “gooks,” and now, the War on Terrorism has its own dehumanizing name: “hajji.”....

Iraqis, friend or foe, are called hajjis. Kuwaitis are called hajjis. Even people brought in by civilian contractors to work in mess halls or drive buses are hajjis – despite the fact they might be from India, the Philippines or Pakistan, and might be Hindu or Christian.”

Posted by David T. Beito at 9:24 a.m. EST

KEITH HALDERMAN; DECEPTIVE TERMINOLOGY 09-29-03

The term “war on drugs “ is used on a daily basis in a plethora of venues. The federal government spends a billion dollars a month fighting it. However, it is an inherently deceptive term. I prefer the phrase “war on people who use certain kinds of drugs” because, after all, if the police find drugs in someone’s home they put that person in jail not the drugs. Also, as the New York Daily News reported yesterday the sales of legal antidepressants increased 73% from 1998 to 2002, while the sales of legal drugs that stimulate the central nervous system increased 167% during the same time period.

Posted by Keith Halderman at 6:30 p.m. EST

DAVID T. BEITO PLAME/WILSON: REYNOLDS V. SPENCER, 09-29-03

Thomas Spencer criticizes (to put it mildly) Glenn Reynolds at Instapundit for downplaying the Plame/Wilson story while the indefatigable Radley Balko writes:

“This administration has shown an astonishing lack of accountability. To my knowledge, no one was fired after September 11. No one was fired when the Nigerian uranium story made it into the State of Union. Now one has yet been fired for the bad intelligence about Iraq’s alleged WMDs.

If this story proves as alarming as it sounds, and no one gets fired, perhaps it's time to follow the buck to the top of the chain of command.”

Posted by David T. Beito at 9:11 a.m. EST

DAVID T. BEITO: CRONY CAPITALISM IN IRAQ 09-27-03

Radley Balko in the Agitator discusses the dangers of crony capitalism among American contractors in Iraq reconstruction.

Posted by David T. Beito at 11:32 a.m. EST

DAVID T. BEITO: FIRE FILES SUIT, CAL POLY IN SPIN MODE 09-26-03

The Steve Hinkle case is heating up with news that the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education has filed suit to defend his free speech rights.

Hinkle is a student at Cal Poly, who was hauled before a campus Star Chamber for posting flyers advertising a black conservative speaker. The charge against him was “disruption.”

For the latest update, including the utterly transparent efforts of Cal Poly to spin the facts, see Erin O’Connor.

Posted by David T. Beito at 3:27 p.m. EST

SHELDON RICHMAN: EDWARD SAID, R.I.P. 09-26-03

I sadly note the passing the other day of Edward Said, the Columbia University professor and eloquent champion of the rights of wronged Palestinians. (See Blaming the Victims.) Said himself was a Palestinian who wrote prodigiously about the injustices committed against his people. I had philosophical, political, economic, and cultural disagreements with Professor Said, who was a contributor to that late great libertarian magazine, Inquiry, with which I was once associated. But I always admired his reasoned, scholarly, yet passionate devotion to justice.

Posted by Sheldon Richman at 8:45 a.m. CDT

WESLEY CLARK: NEOCON? 09-26-03

Wesley Clark’s speech at a Republican fundraiser in 2001, “Politics Has to Stop at the Water’s Edge,” is so hawkish and Wilsonian that it could easily have been delivered by Donald Rumsfeld or William Kristol.

Posted by David T. Beito at 9:37 a.m. EST

IVAN ELAND: MY NEW PIECE ON THE HUSSEIN/SEPT. 11 LINK, 9-25-03

I recently wrote a piece on Bush's admission that no evidence existed linking Saddam Hussein to the 9/11 attacks. It is really the last pillar that the administration has to support its justification for war. Now that it has fallen, more people will question why U.S. military personnel have been put in harms way in Iraq. The article is entitled, U.S. Iraq Policy: The Day the Roof Caved In

Posted by Ivan Eland at 4:20 p.m. EST

PRIVATIZING THE GREEK SYSTEM, 09-25-03

President Robert Witt and other officials of the University of Alabama received much praise earlier this year when Gamma Phi Beta, a traditionally white sorority at the University of Alabama, admitted its first black member. Now, another member alleges that the admission rules were rigged as part of a Byzantine scheme.

If true, this story underlines once again the waste and downright silliness of the UA’s continuing unholy entanglement with the Greek system. Currently, the sororities and fraternities get massive subsidies (mostly in the form of low rents) and are subject to equally massive regulations from the central administration. What then is the solution?

The way out of this mess is for the Board of Trustees to implement the proposal of the Alabama Scholars Association to fully privatize the Greek system. Privatization will end the regulations and subsidies and thus create opportunities to cut, and reform, the bloated campus administration.

In a time of budget pressure and rampant grade distortion at UA it is an exercise in futility to continue this time-consuming and expensive entanglement. Even if full integregation occurs, the quagmire will only deepen as future social engineers in the administration and faculty senate inevitably attempt to micromanage other membership restrictions of the Greeks (black and white) related to class, dress, and family connections.

Posted by David T. Beito at 11:07 a.m. EST

SHELDON RICHMAN: WHO'S THE OBSTACLE TO PEACE? 09-25-03

"The real obstacle to peace between Israel and the Palestinians is Ariel Sharon, not Yasser Arafat." So writes Avi Shlaim in Wednesday's International Herald Tribune. Shlaim is a professor of international relations at St. Antony's College, Oxford. More important, he's the author of The Politics of Partition, which documents that the leaders of the soon-to-be state of Israel and Jordan (then known as Transjordan) colluded to deprive the Palestinians of the state they were supposed to get under the 1947 UN partition plan. The book debunks the claim that there was universal Arab hostility to the fledging Jewish state. Shlaim was born in Baghdad and was raised in Israel, where he lived until 1966. He is one of Israel's"New Historians," who, using Israeli archives, have revised the flawed official David-and-Goliath story of Israel's founding and early relations with the Palestinians and neighboring Arab states. (For more see this letter to Foreign Policy.)

Posted by Sheldon Richman at 9:55 a.m. CDT

HUNT TOOLEY: SHOW ME THE WEAPONS! 09/24/03

WMD UPDATE: STILL no weapons of mass destruction. For a year, the administration has kept the ball in the air by a simple strategy of announcing, or having announced, that a big revelation is just around the corner, that the smoking gun has been found, that insider administration officials, as Rush Limbaugh put it time and again, had the evidence of various weapons of mass destruction and were just waiting for the right psychological moment to lay it all out.

Who can forget the performance of Colin Powell in describing evidence of WMDs, known in the international press to be thoroughly discredited at that time, and called so by none other than International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) chief Mohamed ElBaradei? And Hans Blix said a month ago that U.S. officials had attempted to intimidate him before the war, urging him to"discover" WMDs, whether the evidence was there or not.

But that's OK. Now it seems that it never WAS the WMDs. (Though some of the readers of a piece I wrote last week for Mises.org wrote me to say that they STILL believe in the WMD hoax. I have since sold these individuals some very valuable cross-river real estate in a prominent northeastern city). So what WAS the cause of the war (alright, casus belli to the old-fashioned among you)? Well, it wasn’t terrorism, according to Rumsfeld. It wasn’t WMDs, according to the White House. It wasn’t The Spreading of Democracy, because, as much as we’d like to, you know, who could do THAT, really? It wasn’t last month’s tentative War Against Chaos, since it is pretty self-evident to anyone who reads the newspaper that we are the ones who have brought Chaos to that country (what else can you call gunning down our own Iraqi policemen, tanks firing on alocal hospitals, etc.?) Indeed, aren't nasty dicators like Sadaam Hussein known for Order? Anyway, from the latest pronouncements, it's hard to tell whether the current explanation of the origins of our war against Iraq was the goal of eradicating"those who celebrate suicide" or of improving Iraqi schools. At this point, it could go either way.

I'm beginning to feel like one of those Sovietologists in olden times. Did Brezhnev totter while dismounting the reviewing stand? Were the blinds left open at the Kremlin? Did the Moscow Philharmonic change its scheduled program? Do all three signs together mean that Production Quotas will be raised?

What to do now? Well, that is a big question. And the first step, one hinted at yesterday at Liberty & Power by Sheldon Richman, is a measure that is apparently beyond all the fabulous equippage and capabilities of the War Party:

Tell the Truth.

Posted by Hunt Tooley at 1:57 p.m. CDT

IVAN ELAND: MY NEW PIECE ON THE HUSSEIN/SEPT. 11 LINK, 9-25-03

I recently wrote a piece on Bush's admission that no evidence existed linking Saddam Hussein to the 9/11 attacks. It is really the last pillar that the administration has to support its justification for war. Now that it has fallen, more people will question why U.S. military personnel have been put in harms way in Iraq. The article is entitled, U.S. Iraq Policy: The Day the Roof Caved In

Posted by Ivan Eland at 4:20 p.m. EST

PRIVATIZING THE GREEK SYSTEM, 09-25-03

President Robert Witt and other officials of the University of Alabama received much praise earlier this year when Gamma Phi Beta, a traditionally white sorority at the University of Alabama, admitted its first black member. Now, another member alleges that the admission rules were rigged as part of a Byzantine scheme.

If true, this story underlines once again the waste and downright silliness of the UA’s continuing unholy entanglement with the Greek system. Currently, the sororities and fraternities get massive subsidies (mostly in the form of low rents) and are subject to equally massive regulations from the central administration. What then is the solution?

The way out of this mess is for the Board of Trustees to implement the proposal of the Alabama Scholars Association to fully privatize the Greek system. Privatization will end the regulations and subsidies and thus create opportunities to cut, and reform, the bloated campus administration.

In a time of budget pressure and rampant grade distortion at UA it is an exercise in futility to continue this time-consuming and expensive entanglement. Even if full integregation occurs, the quagmire will only deepen as future social engineers in the administration and faculty senate inevitably attempt to micromanage other membership restrictions of the Greeks (black and white) related to class, dress, and family connections.

Posted by David T. Beito at 11:07 a.m. EST

SHELDON RICHMAN: WHO'S THE OBSTACLE TO PEACE? 09-25-03

"The real obstacle to peace between Israel and the Palestinians is Ariel Sharon, not Yasser Arafat." So writes Avi Shlaim in Wednesday's International Herald Tribune. Shlaim is a professor of international relations at St. Antony's College, Oxford. More important, he's the author of The Politics of Partition, which documents that the leaders of the soon-to-be state of Israel and Jordan (then known as Transjordan) colluded to deprive the Palestinians of the state they were supposed to get under the 1947 UN partition plan. The book debunks the claim that there was universal Arab hostility to the fledging Jewish state. Shlaim was born in Baghdad and was raised in Israel, where he lived until 1966. He is one of Israel's"New Historians," who, using Israeli archives, have revised the flawed official David-and-Goliath story of Israel's founding and early relations with the Palestinians and neighboring Arab states. (For more see this letter to Foreign Policy.)

Posted by Sheldon Richman at 9:55 a.m. CDT

HUNT TOOLEY: SHOW ME THE WEAPONS! 09/24/03

WMD UPDATE: STILL no weapons of mass destruction. For a year, the administration has kept the ball in the air by a simple strategy of announcing, or having announced, that a big revelation is just around the corner, that the smoking gun has been found, that insider administration officials, as Rush Limbaugh put it time and again, had the evidence of various weapons of mass destruction and were just waiting for the right psychological moment to lay it all out.

Who can forget the performance of Colin Powell in describing evidence of WMDs, known in the international press to be thoroughly discredited at that time, and called so by none other than International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) chief Mohamed ElBaradei? And Hans Blix said a month ago that U.S. officials had attempted to intimidate him before the war, urging him to"discover" WMDs, whether the evidence was there or not.

But that's OK. Now it seems that it never WAS the WMDs. (Though some of the readers of a piece I wrote last week for Mises.org wrote me to say that they STILL believe in the WMD hoax. I have since sold these individuals some very valuable cross-river real estate in a prominent northeastern city). So what WAS the cause of the war (alright, casus belli to the old-fashioned among you)? Well, it wasn’t terrorism, according to Rumsfeld. It wasn’t WMDs, according to the White House. It wasn’t The Spreading of Democracy, because, as much as we’d like to, you know, who could do THAT, really? It wasn’t last month’s tentative War Against Chaos, since it is pretty self-evident to anyone who reads the newspaper that we are the ones who have brought Chaos to that country (what else can you call gunning down our own Iraqi policemen, tanks firing on alocal hospitals, etc.?) Indeed, aren't nasty dicators like Sadaam Hussein known for Order? Anyway, from the latest pronouncements, it's hard to tell whether the current explanation of the origins of our war against Iraq was the goal of eradicating"those who celebrate suicide" or of improving Iraqi schools. At this point, it could go either way.

I'm beginning to feel like one of those Sovietologists in olden times. Did Brezhnev totter while dismounting the reviewing stand? Were the blinds left open at the Kremlin? Did the Moscow Philharmonic change its scheduled program? Do all three signs together mean that Production Quotas will be raised?

What to do now? Well, that is a big question. And the first step, one hinted at yesterday at Liberty & Power by Sheldon Richman, is a measure that is apparently beyond all the fabulous equippage and capabilities of the War Party:

Tell the Truth.

Posted by Hunt Tooley at 1:57 p.m. CDT

DAVID T. BEITO: BLACK MARKET CIGARETTES IN NEW YORK CITY, 09-24-03

Via Karen De Coster, we get the following elementary lesson in underground economics and the unintended consequences of paternalistic government intervention. Because of high tobacco taxes and bans on smoking in bars and restaurants, former drug dealers in Harlem who “who were selling pot or heroin are now selling cigarettes.”

Posted by David T. Beito at 9:24 a.m. EST

DAVID T. BEITO: VICTORY FOR CAMPUS FREE SPEECH IN ALABAMA, 09-23-03

The Student Life Committee of the University of Alabama has backpedaled from a proposal pushed by elements in the administration to ban all window displays in residential housing at the University of Alabama.

Defenders of free speech showed up to fill the meeting room. They included students from the residence halls, members of the Alabama Scholars Association, and others who brought a variety of flags, including the U.S., Israeli, Italian, and Christian. The demonstration effectively showed the absurdity of the ban and illustrated the general threat that it posed to free speech.

Posted by David T. Beito at 10:09 a.m. EST

SHELDON RICHMAN: WHEN WORDS COME BACK TO HAUNT, 09-23-03

The Bush administration and its horde of empire cheerleaders pooh-pooh the Iraqi-WMD skeptics by claiming that until recently everybody conceded that Saddam Hussein had resumed development of the nasty weapons after the UN inspectors were"thrown out" in 1998. (Actually, they weren't thrown out. The UN pulled them out in anticipation of Bill Clinton's bombing for lack of Iraqi cooperation.) But it's not true that everyone conceded the existence of the weapons. John Pilger points out that early in 2001 both Secretary of State Colin Powell and National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice said Hussein had been disarmed and remained so. Pilger writes:"In Cairo, on February 24 2001, Powell said: 'He (Saddam Hussein) has not developed any significant capability with respect to weapons of mass destruction. He is unable to project conventional power against his neighbours.' …On May 15 2001, Powell went further and said that Saddam Hussein had not been able to 'build his military back up or to develop weapons of mass destruction' for 'the last 10 years'." And:"Two months later, Condoleezza Rice also described a weak, divided and militarily defenceless Iraq. 'Saddam does not control the northern part of the country,' she said. 'We are able to keep his arms from him. His military forces have not been rebuilt.'"

When were they lying, then or last week?

Posted by Sheldon Richman at 8:10 a.m. CDT

WENDY McELROY: '70 PHREAKERS ONLINE 09-23-03

Yippie phreaks from the '70s are now online, courtesy of Blackened Flag. The site states,"The Youth International Party Line or YIPL, later known as TAP for Technological American Party or Technological Assistance Program, was the pioneer phreaker magazine started by Yippie founder Abbie Hoffman of the 'Chicago 7' and 'Al Bell', a phreaker from Long Island." First published in June 1971, the 'zine was also a voice of anti-Vietnam War activism. Only issues #1-10 are currently available but additional ones up to #82 will be posted in the future. What is a phreaking?"/freek'ing/ n. [from `phone phreak'] 1. The art and science of cracking the phone network (so as, for example, to make free long-distance calls)." In the '70s, phreaking was considered avante garde in left radical circles because of their widespread disrespect for the phone company and other corporations. TAP became legendary as a semi-underground connection between hackers and phreakers and student radicals.

Posted by Wendy McElroy at 5:00 a.m. EST. For more commentary, please visit McBlog

WENDY McELROY: JETBLUE"EAT FLAMES!" 09-22-03

As a staunch privacy advocate, I was horrified that the NY-based JetBlue Airways provided 5 million passenger itineraries -- along with names, phone numbers, addresses, and credit card numbers -- to a defense contractor in Sept. '02 for a proof-of-concept test on a Pentagon project which was intended to identify"high risk" airline passengers; the defense contractor, Torch Concepts, was/is working with the Transportation Security Administration. Torch then augmented the data with Social Security numbers and other sensitive personal information, including income level, to develop what looks to be a study of whether passenger-profiling systems such as CAPPS II are feasible. Of course, in a September 15th 2003 interview with Wired, TSA spokesman Brian Turmail said that, to date, CAPPS II had been tested only on fake passenger data.

JetBlue's action violated its own stated privacy policy which, arguably, is an implied contract with ticket purchasers. I was relieved at the huge backlash of disapproval erupting from its customers, so huge that JetBlue took the unusual step of sending email apologies to them, claiming that the data JetBlue provided was not shared with any government agency and that Torch has destroyed the passenger records. (Yeah...as tho' Torch would have hesitated to share data with the agency that hired it or be candid about the records now that the word"lawyer" has entered the dialogue."At least one of JetBlue's customers has already spoken to lawyers and privacy groups to discuss a possible lawsuit against JetBlue." And what about that earlier bald lie from TSA Brian Turmail?) The Internet played a pivotal role in bringing this privacy and probable rights violation to light; privacy activist Bill Scannell broke the story on his Web site Don't Spy on Us.

Many people are arriving at the same conclusion as Bob Smith in his recommended blog"No Force, No Fraud": September 19th entry, entitled "Scratch one air traveller." Welcome aboard the airline boycott Bob...but what took you so long? On 08/13/02, my website McBlog declared, The result?"My husband and I will not fly whenever a viable alternative exists, even if the alternative adds a day onto each side of travelling, there and back. Or is more expensive. Our civil liberties are worth it. Our self-respect demands it. We are part of a silent, spreading boycott of air travel that is not motivated by fear of terrorism but anger at being man-handled, humiliated, and treated like criminals by airport personnel who function like the dull-eyed, unthinking lackeys of a police state. The boycott is not organized. Rather, it is grassroot...one by one, in every corner of North America, individuals are deciding for themselves that enough is enough. We are customers, not criminals." But, like I said, welcome aboard! And forgive the bloggish one-up(wo)manship. ;-)

Posted by Wendy McElroy at 5:00 p.m. EST. For more commentary, please visit McBlog

DAVID T. BEITO: IS CHRISTINE HEYRMAN ANOTHER BELLESILES? 09-21-03

HNN blogger Ralph Luker, continues to generate blog buzz because of his well-researched expose of possible academic misconduct by Christine Heyrman. Interestingly, Heyrman directed the dissertation committee of disgraced historian Michael Bellesiles, who went down in flames last year on similar charges.

Posted by David T. Beito at 9:50 a.m. EST

SHELDON RICHMAN: WHO CAME UP WITH THAT IDEA? 09-21-03

From the Associated Press:"In an apparent search for pointers on how to police a hostile population, the U.S. military that's trying to bring security to Iraq is showing interest in Israeli software instructing soldiers on how to behave in the West Bank and Gaza, an Israeli military official said Thursday." Considering how things are in the Occupied Territories, some might see Israel as a dubious model. As the AP notes,"Israeli troops have frequently faced criticism from Palestinian and human rights groups. Two weeks ago, Amnesty International said in a report that Israeli military checkpoints and curfews violate Palestinians' human rights."

Posted by Sheldon Richman at 2:15 p.m. CDT

SHELDON RICHMAN: BACKING DOWN FURTHER ON WMD 09-21-03

The Miami Herald reports that chief Iraq WMD searcher David Kay will soon issue a report that focuses"on Iraq's manufacture and use of chemical and biological agents before the [1991] Gulf War and its ability to reconstitute its weapons programs later in so-called 'dual-use' facilities, ones capable of making weapons as well as pesticides and other legitimate products." This is quite a back-down from what the Bush people and their boosters have been predicting. Next they'll tell us that the employment of chemistry and biology professors at the University of Baghdad constitutes proof of Saddam Hussein's determination to build those menacing weapons.

Posted by Sheldon Richman at 10:50 a.m. CDT

DAVID T. BEITO: INSTAPUNDIT AND LETTERS TO HOME FROM IRAQ 09-20-03

Glenn Reynolds at InstaPundit (no permalink yet), a reliable supporter of the Iraq war and occupation, has often quoted soldiers who share this perspective.

Not all soldiers agree with Reynolds, of course. Tim Predmore, who is on active duty in Mosul, calls the occupation a failure and supports bringing home the troops. Which perspective better represents the majority of soldiers on the front lines? I don’t know but I don’t think Reynolds does either.

In fairness, Reynolds sensibly concedes the pitfalls of anecdotal evidence. Instead of leaving it at that, however, he indulges himself in a rather odd comparison. He juxtaposes the views of a pro-war returning soldier with those of an equally pro-war “musician” and “ Federal judge.” The point of this escapes me.

Posted by David T. Beito at 10:20 a.m. EST

DAVID T. BEITO: WALKER VS. HOROWITZ 09-19-03

According to Jesse Walker, the chief problem with Horowitz’s proposal is not that it promotes ideological quotas but that it would impose a stifling academic fairness doctrine. See here and here.

Posted by David T. Beito at 1:20 p.m. EST

DAVID T. BEITO: A BUM RAP FOR DAVID HOROWITZ? 09-19-03

I have often disagreed with David Horowitz but apparently he is getting a bum rap on the charge that he favors ideological special preferences in academic hiring. As readers of Liberty and Power know, I have criticized proposed schemes on this type.

If this article in the Rocky Mountain News is accurate, Horowitz’s recent proposals do not do this and, in fact, would serve to enhance academic freedom across the board, rather than diminish it.

Posted by David T. Beito at 9:55 a.m. EST

SHELDON RICHMAN: CONFIDENCE OR JEALOUSY? 09-19-03

Attorney General John Ashcroft is trying to reassure the American people about the USA Patriot Act (ugh, that name) by pointing out that the government has never used its power to inquire into what library books we are borrowing. Even if true (and apparently it's not), that's not the point. It could use the power anytime. When a government official asks for faith in the state's honor, that's the time to worry. As Thomas Jefferson wrote in his Resolutions Relative to the Alien and Sedition Acts (1798):"it would be a dangerous delusion were a confidence in the men of our choice to silence our fears for the safety of our rights: that confidence is everywhere the parent of despotism—free government is founded in jealousy, and not in confidence; it is jealousy and not confidence which prescribes limited constitutions, to bind down those whom we are obliged to trust with power."

Posted by Sheldon Richman at 6:40 a.m. CDT

DAVID T. BEITO: MORE ON GRADE AND MONETARY INFLATION, 9-18-03

Charles Nuckolls' comparison of monetary and grade inflation is sparking lively discussion at SCSU Scholars. It was Charles who coined the term "grade distortion" to characterize the twin problems of grade inflation over time and current grade disparities between academic divisions.

Posted by David T. Beito at 2:08 p.m. EST EST

SHELDON RICHMAN: YOU FIGURE IT OUT, 09-18-03

Yesterday President Bush said,"We've had no evidence that Saddam Hussein was involved in Sept. 11." But in May when he declared victory in Iraq, he said,"terrorists declared war on the United States [on Sept. 11], and war is what they got." I'll leave it to someone more cynical than I to sort this out.

Posted by Sheldon Richman at 9:20 a.m. CDT

DAVID T. BEITO: PROTEST MANDATORY DIVERSITY TRAINING AT UVA! 9-18-03

All University of Virginia students and faculty who believe in the first amendment should sign the online petition of the Individual Rights Coalition. The petition protests a plan by the Board of Vistors and the Administration to impose mandatory diversity training at the University of Virginia for undergraduates. As Alan Kors has pointed out, mandatory diversity training represents a modern example of thought reform. It is a far greater violation of individual rights to conscience than the old requirement that students attend mandatory chapel at public universities.

Many thanks to Erin O’Connor at Critical Mass for publicizing this case. As the Alabama Scholars Association discovered last year, mandatory diversity training can be defeated if enough people protest.

Posted by David T. Beito at 10:03 a.m. EST

IVAN ELAND: THE BEST ALTERNATIVE IN IRAQ 9-17-03

In The Best Alternative in Iraq, I just wrote a piece exploring U.S. options in a post-war Iraq. Unfortunately, the Bush administration has dug itself into such a deep hole that none of its options are very good.

A decision to insert more U.S. troops to quell the chaos could be explosive at home. Like the Tet offensive in Vietnam, it could expose the lie that the U.S. is winning the war. Even if the United States gets another U.N. resolution, administration officials admit that they can probably get a maximum of 15,000 foreign troops to help them out.

With an anemic economic recovery, if U.S. forces remain in Iraq next year, to win reelection (not necessarily a desirable outcome), Bush will have to succeed in quelling the violence. As noted above, he has no good means to do achieve that outcome. To save his presidency, he should be smart enough to declare victory, withdraw U.S. forces and let the Iraqis run their own country as soon as possible.

The United States might have to accept a less friendly government in Iraq, a loose confederation of cantons, or even three or more separate states based on the model of the new states of the former Soviet Union. My own view is that a withdrawal now will mean a loss of prestige for the United States. But like Vietnam, the prestige loss from an early withdrawal is better than a larger loss of face in the face of a full blown quagmire. This is especially true for George W. Bush since that horrendous loss of prestige could come next year during the election.

Posted by Ivan Iland at 12:40 p.m. EST

SHELDON RICHMAN: Blowback, 09-17-03

It's funny how governments have a way of creating their own mortal enemies. The U.S. government's roles in creating the cult of Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan and Saddam Hussein in Iraq are well-known. Less well-known is the Israeli government's role in creating Hamas. Israel was looking for a way to break the secular Yasser Arafat's hold on the allegiance of the Palestinians, so it nurtured the development of a religious rival. As James Bovard writes in his new book, Terrorism and Tyranny,"Perhaps the single largest mistake in the history of the Israeli government's long war on terrorism was its covert financing, cosseting, and arming of Hamas, the Islamic resistance movement…. Beginning in the 1970s Israel began pouring money into Islamic organizations—especially the Moslem Brotherhood—hoping that religion would distract the Palestinians from political activism and the radical left-wing Palestinian Liberation Organization. Hamas was a late offspring of the Moslem Brotherhood." Bovard amply documents this account, as he does everything else in his compelling book.

The CIA has a word for it when a government is hoist by its own petard: Blowback.

Posted by Sheldon Richman at 8:30 a.m. CDT

WENDY McELROY: COLLAPSING DISTINCTION, RESERVISTS AND REGULAR ARMY 9-17-03

USA Today reports,"The chief of the U.S. Army Reserve is taking the unusual step of warning all 205,000 soldiers under his command that the Army Reserve is 'on a war footing' and will need to take tough measures to meet commitments in Iraq and Afghanistan." The"warning" -- and that's a good word for it -- comes on the heels of the Pentagon's announcement that thousands of reservists already in Iraq will have to extend their tours abroad to 12 months. With typical delicacy, the Army alerted the media before informing reservists' families so that parents, spouses, and children found out about the extension through news broadcasts. When packaged together with necessary preparation and demobilization afterward -- time which doesn't seem to be counted as part of the"tour" -- the extension means that some"part-time" soldiers will be away from home for 15 months...or more. The distinction between reservists and active-duty troops is collapsing. No wonder military and reservist families are now taking a prominent role in protesting the"Bring 'em on!" armchair-crowd who are dictating/rewriting the rules by which their loved ones live and, perhaps, die. BRING THEM HOME NOW! is typical of this backlash. It"is a campaign of military families, veterans, active duty personnel, reservists and others opposed to the ongoing war in Iraq and galvanized to action by George W. Bush's inane and reckless challenge to armed Iraqis resisting occupation to 'Bring 'em on.' [ Stan Goff's response to that remark is still my favorite.] Our mission is to mobilize military families, veterans, and GIs themselves to demand: an end to the occupation of Iraq and other misguided military adventures; and an immediate return of all US troops..." In constant contact with the occupying troops -- who are, after all, sons and daughters and spouses who write/email home frequently -- BringThemHomeNow.org is one of the few voices crying out about the conditions to which the troops are subjected, including their likely exposure to depleted uranium. Another good source of info on troop conditions is David H. Hackworth.

BTW...I am asked why I do not write about the conditions and suffering of the Iraqis...which is a fair question. The answer: on a personal level, I find it too disheartening and depressing -- somewhile ago I found myself emotionally unable to look at the photo of one more maimed child; intellectually, there are too many confusing accounts and my background in Islamic/regional politics is not deep enough for me to understand all the schisms, shifts, and subtleties; on a practical basis, I see no prospect of changing anything for the better EXCEPT by getting the troops out, by"bringing 'em home"...not only for the sake of Americans but also for the Iraqis. Nevertheless, I may be addressing specific Iraqi concerns now that Al-Jazeera has officially launched its English-version site. Al-Jazeera is the most popular Arabic news broadcaster and the English-language website has been in development since early 2002. I don't intend to endorse any of the Al-Jazeera stories, any more than I endorse those from the New York Times, but it will be interesting to report its slant on major events and sort through how its accounts differ from those presented in the US media.

Posted by Wendy McElroy at 6:00 a.m. EST Please visit McBlog for more commentary.

IVAN ILAND: ANDREW BACEVICH’S THE IMPERIAL TENSE: PROSPECTS AND PROBLEMS OF AMERICAN EMPIRE, 9-16-03

I recently read this volume, which is a collection of essays, from various perspectives, on the American Empire. The volume was published by Ivan R. Dee publishers in 2003. As in most collected works, the essays are of uneven quality, but the book is well worth reading. Bacevich himself is a first rate scholar of international relations and had written another good book entitled, American Empire: The Realities and Consequences of U.S. Diplomacy published by Harvard U. Press in 2002. So Bacevich has very good credentials to edit new volume.

The most remarkable essay in The Imperial Tense is by Victor Davis Hanson, who is the only author in the volume to dispute that the United States currently has an empire while, at the same time, exalting U.S. foreign policy. He essentially admits that in strict cost-benefit terms, the costs of American foreign policy outweigh the financial benefits--that's why he believes that it is not an empire. But many empires of the past were not cost-effective either.

We can bicker about whether or not the United States is an empire (I would argue that it is), but Hanson's admission--from a pro-interventionist--that the costs of U.S. foreign policy outweigh the benefits is significant. Hanson gets so wrapped up in the question of whether the United States is an empire that he fails to ask the most important question: If the costs of the global, interventionist U.S. foreign policy outweigh the benefits, then why shouldn't we change the policy to one of military restraint?

Posted by Ivan Iland at 6:40 p.m. EST

HUNT TOOLEY: DISHONESTY, IRAQI WMDs AND THE CREATION OF TERRORISTS/I> 09/16/03

Joseph Wilson, an American diplomat with inside knowledge of both Gulf wars, has written an important piece in the San Jose Mercury News about his part in the WMD investigations. Along the way, his assessment gives much support to idea already brought up repeatedly on the Liberty & Power Blog: that among other disastrous consequences of this war is the creation of a whole new layer of terrorists.

Posted by Hunt Tooley at 1:08 p.m. CDT

DAVID T. BEITO: IRAQ COSTS: THEN AND NOW, 9-16-03

Via The Agitator, Radley Balko provides the following eye-opening quotations:

Then: “We’re dealing with a country that can really finance its own reconstruction, and relatively soon.” -- Paul Wolfowitz to Congress, last March.

Now: “87 Billion may not be enough.” Dick Cheney

Posted by David T. Beito at 9:55 a.m. EST

WENDY McELROY: IN OVER THEIR HEADS IN IRAQ, 09-16-03

The lead story on the antiwar.com site today is "Iraqi police ready to turn guns on US troops." The article from the London Times opens,"Iraqi policemen declared themselves holy warriors yesterday and vowed to take revenge for the deaths of their comrades in the town where ten police and a security guard were killed on Friday in the worst"friendly fire" incident of the Iraq conflict." The establishment of a"native" police force has been one of the very few positive developments in Iraq to which the Bush administration has been able to point; now that achievement may become a source of regret, embarrassment, and casualties. The Americans in Iraq are in over their heads. I am not merely or even primarily referring to the ongoing guerilla warfare that they are woefully ill-equipped to fight -- approx. 15 attacks against troops each day, with 449 dead and 1478 wounded since the beginning of the invasion. The troops are in over their heads because too many of them are reservists who were never meant to function as replacements for regular army, let alone to pull down duties that take them away from their families and lives for as long as 16 months. And, yet, in the past two years, more than 212,000 reservists and National Guard troops have been mobilized both for overseas and domestic duty. The New York Times has a revealing story of one such reservist,"Mike Gorski thought he was done with active military duty when he left the Marines for civilian life more than a decade ago and signed on with the National Guard a few years later. A banker with a new wife, Kim, and a new house here, Mr. Gorski, 33, knew that he would have to spend one weekend a month in training and two weeks a year on active duty. There was always the possibility of being called up for perhaps one six-month deployment. But since the 9/11 attacks, Mr. Gorski, a staff sergeant with the 870th Military Police Company of the California National Guard, has spent 16 months away from home, first at an Army base in Tacoma, Wash., and most recently in the southern Iraqi city of Karbala. He is likely to spend eight more months in Iraq, and he has decided to leave the National Guard as soon as he can." The story about Gorski is revealing because he is leaving the National Guard, as I believe a large number of returning troops will do. Who can blame him/them? His family is probably living on savings in order to pay the mortgage. He signed up for a 6-month duty, at most, but he won't be home for over two years -- perhaps longer if his stay is abruptly, unilaterally extended once more. The bitter reality for many returning soldiers will be that their families have fallen apart during and due to those years of absence: many marriages will not survive the extraordinary stress and demands. Even for those soldiers who can walk back into arms held open...parents will have died, children will not know them, houses and cars may have been repossessed, savings depleted, careers ruined... The human devastation being wrought by the"Bring 'em on!" crowd is terrible. Recruitment into the National Guard must be at an all-time low. If so, what will happen when all the Gorskis in Iraq come home and there are no volunteers to throw back into that God-forsaken desert of a nation? That's the point at which the US will either be backing out of Iraq or instituting a draft. The only"upside" of the latter option is that I don't believe Bush could possibly win a second term if he introduced conscription before next November.

Posted by Wendy McElroy at 8:00 a.m. EST. Please visit McBlog for more commentary.

HUNT TOOLEY: MORE ON OPEN RANGE 09/15/03

David Beito has commented briefly on the movie Open Range, and there is still more that can be said. I won't ruin the plot for anyone, but there is a short speech delivered (actually, part of it was in the previews) by Robert Duvall which goes a long way as a declaration of individual autonomy and the natural right to self-defense. Indeed, there is in the action an almost Lockean sense of carrying out all the functions of justice--that is, every man his own judge, jury, and executioner--in the state of nature. And I think that Locke would agree that whatever contractual"government" had existed in the context of the movie had long since been dissolved.

But I don't want to overintellectualize it. David Beito is right: this is a good movie. In fact, although I have just seen it once, I will call it a great movie.

Let the critics judge it how they will!

Actually, they have tended to be merciless to Costner in spite of his politics, but his movies have generally been better than the reviews, again, in spite of his politics. In this film, Costner really does a wonderful job of both acting and directing. Robert Duvall is...well, Robert Duvall. And Annette Bening plays a nuanced and independent-minded woman which is one of the best things about the movie.

Actually, it has an interesting texture in that its darkness is reminiscent of movies like Shane or The Searchers, but it has a bright side too. Some of the characterizations remind me of the real-life attitudes of Jeff Milton, the subject of J. Evetts Haley's wonderful biography, Jeff Milton: A Good Man With a Gun (published in 1948 and still a fantastic read).

And David is right: the attitude toward guns and self-defense is, at the very least, robust.

Posted by Hunt Tooley at 10:38 p.m. CDT

SHELDON RICHMAN: CREATING TERRORISTS, 09-15-03

“Israel, having ceased to care about the children of the Palestinians, should not be surprised when they come washed in hatred and blow themselves up in the centres of Israeli escapism. They consign themselves to Allah in our places of recreation, because their own lives are torture. They spill their own blood in our restaurants in order to ruin our appetites, because they have children and parents at home who are hungry and humiliated.”

This was not written by Yasser Arafat or a leader of Hamas. It was written by Avraham Burg, a recent speaker of the Israeli Knesset and a former chairman of the Jewish Agency for Israel. He adds, “We could kill a thousand ringleaders a day and nothing will be solved, because the leaders come up from below—from the wells of hatred and anger, from the 'infrastructures' of injustice and moral corruption.”

Posted by Sheldon Richman at 11:10 a.m. CDT

WENDY McELROY; THE WORLD ACCORDING TO HALLIBURTON, 09-15-03

David Firestone writes in the New York Times,"When President Bush informed the nation last Sunday night that remaining in Iraq next year will cost another $87 billion [on top of the $79 billion Congress already approved], many of those who will actually pay that bill were unable to watch. They had already been put to bed by their parents." (BTW, the passing of massive debt onto the shoulders of today's children is also the theme of Scott Carlson's latest cartoon"The Fantasy and the Reality.") So far, Afghanistan and Iraq have cost the US $166 billion -- and this is only the _unhidden_ cost, not the subtle ones like dislocation of the workforce now serving in Iraq and the impoverishment of their familiess, the loss of jobs domestically due to rising taxes and ensuing business bankruptcies... Today's children are being burdened with staggering debt, mind you, not in order to rebuild the crumbling infrastructure of their own nation but to rebuild Iraq, with companies like Halliburton (Cheney's-former-corp.) receiving sweetheart contracts for which no competitive bids are taken, including a US Army Corps of Engineers contract worth nearly $950-million to rehabilitate Iraq's oil fields. At last count, Halliburton's"expenses" were up to $2 billion. For a broader perpective on how much Halliburton is swilling at the public trough, see Mother Jones' fascinating "The World According to Halliburton" which allows you to click on a globe to see precisely where Halliburton is spending tax money. Cheney claims that he severed all financial ties with Halliburton when he became VP but, according to the Guardian,"Halliburton...is still making annual payments to its former chief executive, the vice-president Dick Cheney. The payments, which appear on Mr Cheney's 2001 financial disclosure statement, are in the form of"deferred compensation" of up to $1m (£600,000) a year."

Posted by Wendy McElroy at 11:45 a.m. EST. Please visit McBlog for more commentary.

DAVID T. BEITO: IMPERIAL OVER-STRETCH: U.S. DEMANDS ON JAPAN, 9-15-03

“The United States is demanding Japan send its troops to Iraq early to help rebuild the war-torn country.... See here for more.

Posted by David T. Beito at 10:32 a.m. EST

DAVID T. BEITO:"OPEN RANGE," GUNS, AND THE TRAGEDY OF THE COMMONS, 9-15-03

“Open Range


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