Eunomia · February 2005

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Until the October 2004 issue [of First Things], the last time [Fr. John] Neuhaus addressed Iraq was August-September 2003. Even after American soldiers had stood by as Baghdad was looted, he wrote:

Leading up to the invasion and even after its rapid military success, critics were predicting a quagmire, a Somalia-like debacle, a rising of the Arab “street” that would be “a storm from hell,” and, of course, another Vietnam. With reference to civilian casualties, some protesters spoke about a “Middle East holocaust.” None of that happened. In view of the hundreds of thousands of Iraqis killed by Saddam’s murderous regime, the war probably saved innumerable lives. So the critics were abysmally wrong on almost every point. That must be clearly established on the public record.

I will point to several such statements by Neuhaus and Weigel. The point is not to play “gotcha.” I remain an admirer of their work. Yet it is precisely as a theologian and a reader-and more broadly as a citizen-that I want answers to questions raised by the arguments Weigel and Neuhaus made in support of the preemptive war in Iraq. Those arguments were made in the public square that First Things, especially in light of last month’s presidential election, has done so much to open up to religious language. What I am most concerned with can be reduced to four points. First, Neuhaus and Weigel, like the administration they support, failed in the summer of 2003 to see that the war was far from over. Second, their faith in the competency of the Bush administration, and their contempt for religious leaders who disagreed with them, can now more easily be recognized for what it was: an attachment to a particular brand of neoconservatism overwhelming their attachment to the just-war tradition. Third, their scant attention to how the war was actually conducted (jus in bello), and their disdain for those who pushed questions about noncombatant deaths and proportionality, suggest the need for a reappraisal of the value they placed on the just causes (ad bellum) of the war. Finally, I would argue that their silence since the fall of Baghdad is more disturbing than their mistakes before and during “major combat operations.” The issue is not only, or not simply, that they were wrong. Perhaps they think they were right. The issue, especially in light of President George W. Bush’s re-election, is their current “moral muteness in a time of war.” ~Peter Dula, Commonweal

I hesitate to add many comments to this, not least because Mr. Dula does such a fine job of exposing the flaws of Neuhaus and Weigel as theologians, particularly regarding their general silence about questions of ius in bello. These flaws emerge because policy advocacy and partisan attachment have come to unbalance the moral equilibrium and conscience of these gentlemen, which is all the more tragic when they seem unwilling to perceive how much the war they endorse feeds off of the culture of death that they otherwise deplore and denounce. The reason I am hesitant to say more is that I had seen the particular remark made by Neuhaus, cited above, when it was first published, and I was already far from “mute.”
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Secondly, it is necessary to distinguish between a sudden proliferation of fascist tendencies and an imminent danger. There may be, among some neocons and some more populist right-wingers, unmistakable antidemocratic tendencies. But America hasn’t yet experienced organized street violence against dissenters or a state that is willing—in an unambiguous fashion—to jail its critics. The administration certainly has its far Right ideologues—the Washington Post’s recent profile of Alberto Gonzales, whose memos are literally written for him by Cheney aide David Addington, provides striking evidence. But the Bush administration still seems more embarrassed than proud of its most authoritarian aspects. Gonzales takes some pains to present himself as an opponent of torture; hypocrisy in this realm is perhaps preferable to open contempt for international law and the Bill of Rights.

And yet the very fact that the f-word can be seriously raised in an American context is evidence enough that we have moved into a new period. The invasion of Iraq has put the possibility of the end to American democracy on the table and has empowered groups on the Right that would acquiesce to and in some cases welcome the suppression of core American freedoms. ~Scott McConnell

Mr. McConnell’s article is an interesting synthesis of the developing near-consensus on the antiwar Right that, when it comes to neoconservatism and the modern Republican Party, the dark spectre of militarism and hegemonism is coming to resemble certain elements of European fascism more and more. Where this synthesis goes awry, I believe, is the rather optimistic assumption that democracy and fascism are really opposites in some sense, where the ‘rise’ of fascism means the ‘end’ of democracy. It does mean the end to legality, to real liberty and to humane civilisation (though no less than communism or social democracy did), but it seems to me that all its evils are a product of an age of mass politics in which the banaustic concerns of the mob become the driving issues of politics and the illiterate and vulgar opinions of mediocre men and their uninspired leaders rule. One of the most perceptive observations of a series of profound observations on 20th century politics made by Erik von Kuehnelt-Leddihn in his Leftism Revisisted and Liberty or Equality? was that the interwar years saw the triumph of the Common Man in power, and this was not something to be desired from any remotely civilised perspective.

If the discourse and ideas of fascism and other mass political movements are trash, it is because they must be hawked to a mob just as in any elective democracy, and so are of a particularly low and degraded character. The popular character of fascist regimes, which we fail to perceive because we are deluded by the illusion that elective government is necessarily the most democratic or that the mass enthusiasms for a dictatorship are somehow less democratic, shows us the real and terrible results of mobilising masses of people to be ‘involved’. So the development of fascism cannot be seen so much as the ’suicide’ of democracy as its graduation to a new, uglier level of degeneracy. Obviously, this is not to challenge any of the warnings Mr. McConnell or others have made about these trends, but to highlight that fascists and democrats are not very different and whatever occasions of hostility there have been between them is as much the squabbling between siblings as the rivalry between diametrically opposed foes. This will help to clarify what those of us in the opposition are opposing and what we mean to defend.
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As the administration deliberates options, analysts warn of potential dangers in confronting Damascus. “If our objective is to free Lebanon from Syria’s grip, then we have to understand that Syria has a vital interest in Lebanon and will act accordingly,” said Martin Indyk, former State Department and National Security Council staff member now at the Brookings Institution.

“The last time we had a vital interest in Lebanon we sent U.S. Marines — and lost 241 of them,” he said, referring to the 1983 bombing in Beirut. “Are we ready to have people die for the sake of Lebanon’s freedom from Syria?”

The dangers, Indyk said, are partly from Hezbollah, an Islamic party whose militant wing was linked to attacks on U.S. diplomatic and military facilities and American hostage-taking in Lebanon in the 1980s. The United States needs to be “clear-headed about the stakes and the risks,” especially the prospect of turmoil pushing Lebanon into chaos again, he added. ~The Washington Post

As Justin Raimondo explained quite well yesterday, the interest in the Hariri assassination, the Syrian “occupation” of Lebanon and Syria more generally expressed by Washington is purely and simply a function of the administration carrying water for Israel…again. There is nothing remotely of value to the United States in getting the Syrians out of Lebanon, just as there are no American interests at stake in who rules in Damascus. I have not yet reached the point where I believe something to be false simply because the government claims it has proof for that thing, but its claims against Syria, or Iran, are so tired, overdone and, what is more important, irrelevant to American interests that even if there is any truth to any part of them it should not make any difference to the sort of policy we adopt.

Though I doubt it very much, not least because it has become conventional wisdom in government and media circles, Syrian intelligence might have had Hariri assassinated. Washington wasted no time in opportunistically calling for Syrian withdrawal from Lebanon. Then again, given the outright lies we have encountered in the Western press regarding the alleged “poisoning” of Viktor Yushchenko (supposedly while he sat down to eat with the head of Ukrainian intelligence!), I have no confidence in this prevailing official opinion. Cui bono? Answering that will tell us much more about who was responsible for the Hariri assassination and who desires Lebanon and Syria to be turned into battlefields once again. Let’s remember that the assassination of Bashir Gemayel, whoever was responsible, created the atmosphere that was so brutally exploited by Ariel Sharon and the Falangist militias in the Palestinian refugee massacres of the same year. We can observe already who wants to exploit this situation to perpetuate more violence and cause greater disorder, and they are predictably the same people who have wanted to expand the war into Syria and who pushed to get us into Iraq in the first place.
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It is with unspeakable regret that I have to report the death of my friend and colleague Sam Francis. In any age, he would have been a remarkable man for the penetration of his mind, his unflinching pursuit of truth—regardless of current cant or personal consequences—and the gravity of his style. In our age, he is peerless, and his death represents an irreplaceable loss.

Sam and I were friends and allies for over 25 years, and although we had an occasional falling-out—once for many months—I never ceased admiring his work and his character. A gentleman of a school so old we can no longer recognize its existence, Sam never talked of his “feelings” and if one spoke of loyalty or friendship, he was sure to make an ironic quip. Nonetheless, I learned early on that he was loyal to his friends even (especially) when it entailed a threat to his own interest. In so many ways, he was the opposite of most conservatives. He rarely talked a good game, but he always played one.

Sam’s deep sense of loyalty became very apparent during the struggle over M.E. Bradford’s proposed nomination as head of the National Endowment for the Humanities. This was the first occasion on which the neoconservatives showed their hand, and none of Mel’s friends—least of all Sam—has ever forgotten the dirty part played by Irving Kristol, George Will, and the head of a leading conservative think-tank. As an assistant to Sen. John East, Sam worked tirelessly, both on the Hill and among conservatives, to support his friend’s nomination, but to no avail. Too many true-blue “Reagan” conservatives either did not care or simply looked the other way. This was the first of many defeats in which Sam showed himself an American Cato.

Sam Francis was a skeptic about most things, including religion. Some of his resentment against what he saw as the liberal influence of Christianity had been abating, however, and I have good reason to believe he met his end as a Christian. ~Thomas Fleming

There is not much that I can add to Dr. Fleming’s fine tribute to his late friend that would be fitting or worthy of this very sad occasion. I would like to say that, while I did not personally know Dr. Francis, his writings were among the most lucid and perceptive of contemporary writers. His conviction and integrity, so well-attested by those who knew him, have been an inspiration to me, and I pray that God may make his memory eternal.

To put this in perspective, I voted for George W. Bush twice. Given an alternative similar to those presented in 2000 and 2004 I would do so again in a heartbeat. During the past campaign, I wrote many articles supporting the President’s reelection and highlighting the obvious shortcomings of the junior senator from my home state.

I can think of any number of situations where America would be fully justified in the application of force. I also believe we are in the midst of a world war against a foe which is every bit as toxic as fascism or communism.

I remain convinced that the United States was right to go into Iraq in 2003 to remove Saddam Hussein–whether or not weapons of mass destruction are ever found. (Whether America should still be in Iraq, almost two years and more than 1,400 American lives latter, is another matter.) I believe our intervention in Afghanistan was equally justified.

Is it America’s role in the world to liberate the oppressed? Does tyranny always endanger our security? Does democracy foster peace? Does despotism invariably lead to cross-borders conflict?

The theme of Mr. Bush’s Second Inaugural Address was unexpected. It was assumed the President would take the opportunity to defend his policy in Iraq and in the war on terrorism generally. Instead he offered a vision of breathtaking scope — an American mission for the new century.

In the course of his address, the President said the following:

“We are led, by events and common sense, to one conclusion: The survival of liberty in our land increasingly depends on the success of liberty in other lands. The best hope for peace in our world is the expansion of freedom in all the world.”

Really? In 1787, did our liberty depend on the success of liberty in other lands? But 218 years ago we were alone in raising the standard of popular sovereignty. Still, our republic prospered. American liberty survived World War II. However, a case could be made that by the end of that decade there was less liberty abroad than before (especially with the Soviet conquest of Eastern Europe and the triumph of Maoism in China). In and of itself, did this regression make America less secure?

The President also observed: “America’s vital interests and our deepest beliefs are now one. From the day of our founding, we have proclaimed that every man and woman on this earth has rights and dignity, and matchless value … . Advancing these ideals is the mission [there’s that word again] that created our nation. It is the honorable achievement of our fathers. Now it is the urgent requirement of our nation’s security, and the calling of our time.”

Silly me, I always thought the honorable achievement of the Founders was throwing off the yoke of a capricious monarchy and giving America a constitutional government with civil liberties and limits on state power–not launching America on an international crusade for human dignity and a recognition of the “matchless value” of every individual. ~Don Feder

It has been striking how many people who did not cavil or hesitate to endorse the unprovoked invasion of another country in complete breach of our national traditions now falter in their near-lockstep conformity when it comes to the absurd ideological assumptions that now supposedly inform and motivate administration policy because…they are in complete breach of our national traditions.
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The Bush propaganda campaign against Iran is under way. At the moment, it lacks one Iranian leader who we can learn to hate, but you can be assured one will be identified soon. Already we’re being told that Iran is stubbornly pursuing its nuclear energy program, in spite of our wishes to the contrary.

The American press, compliant to the end, will dutifully spread the Bushies’ propaganda. The liberals in the media, fearful of being called unpatriotic, or worse, liberal, will give the Bushies the slant they crave. The conservatives in the media will cheerfully continue on their flag-waving, apple-polishing way. They’ll parade their red, white and blue “patriotism” much like a hooker with a cross around her neck parades her virtue. ~Harley Sorensen

There is a negative attitude of the public to demonstrating some real solidarity with the soldiers, in terms of making sacrifices here at home, finds its corollary in the insistent, imperative nature of the superficial solidarity we see displayed all around us: bumper stickers that no longer express support, but demand it. “Support Our Troops,” these stupid, yellow magnets bark at us, with the assumption being that we are not doing so, or not doing so sufficiently. What it betrays, I suspect, is a nagging feeling among the people who put these stupid magnets on their cars that they have done nothing to “support the troops” and that the antiwar people, for instance, whom they despise have actually made more of a commitment, in their way, to the welfare of the soldiers than most of these people have ever done. It is also the only thing they have left to say about a war they started and cannot finish, because there is nothing else they could say that would not cause people to run them off the road. Above all, it is a sign of guilt and the means for the brief atonement of the fast-food mentality, costing them less than a burger and requiring even less deliberation. It announces to the world, “Yes, I have done nothing for the soldiers, even though I was all for the war and will always support it, but look at my nice little ribbon-magnet. That makes everything OK.” ~Daniel Larison

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Given the start of the Lenten season, it is particularly appropriate to discuess the virtue of sacrifice. And thinking of that virtue, I could not help but to consider the current national situation in its light. It seems to me that one of the the reasons that the masses of people have been so bamboozled into supporting our war effort is precisely because Bush — practically and rhetorically — has never asked the average citizen to sacrifice anything to the cause. It seems to me that sacrifice has been an aspect of every previous war effort we have undertaken, and that sacrifice has helped the average person become involved in the war, to suffer, a little, it’s necessary evil (though never on the level that our soldiers have suffered, to be sure). This time around, with the exception of the soldiers and their families, the average person has not been asked to take any of this burden of war onto their own shoulders. There have been no repercussions for the average citizen. Bush and his administration has taken particular care, it seems, to indulge this –the rhetoric has always remained, since post-9/11, “Go about your business, we’re only at war.” I find this fact odious, as it widens the already yawning gulf between the average citizen and the center of power. It’s the government that wages war with a handful of the nation’s citizens, it’s not really the nation at war. There is no investment by the masses. They even balk when faced with images of the war. Working at the newspaper [The Roanoke Times], I can tell you that the letters to the editor are constantly decrying the publishing of images of the wounded, of destruction, of the dead. “You never show the good parts of the war!” they say. It seems to me that during a war wherein the average person doesn’t have to ration his food or fuel, doesn’t have to pay a higher task bill, isn’t asked to conserve or cut back in any way, the least amount of resonsibility the citizens can take upon themselves is to come face to face with the decisions that they made, or allowed to be made by the representatives they voted for. This unwillingness to be faced with the consequences of their votes, and the administration’s unwillingness to ask any sacrifice of the nation, is troubling. It would seem to indicate a further entrenchment of the power center as being unrelated to and unconcerned for the governed, as well as illustrating the populations complaceny in getting away with it. So long as the masses are not asked to give anything up, they are happy with letting the government do anything it says is right, as long as it uses the right rhetoric.

In summary, I wonder what kind of reception this war for democracy and
freedom would receive if the government could not finance it with
deficit spending? If your average person had to pay for it out of
their weekly paycheck, would they be so concered about freedom in
Iraq, or anywhere else for that matter? ~Jeremy Holmes

This was an impromptu message sent to me by one of my good friends. I found it thoughtful and incisive enough to let it stand largely on its own. I will simply say that I believe he has gone somewhat deeper into the predicament of a war without sacrifice or any meaningful change on the “home front” than the usual critiques of the administration’s failures in this area, redirecting our gaze back to all of us in the public who, whether by our consent as supporters, our indifference or our failures as opponents, are in many ways the real culprits in allowing the moral horror of this war to continue.

Conversely, the Iraqi secular democrats backed most strongly by the Bush administration lost big. During his State of the Union address last year, Bush invited Adnan Pachachi, a longtime Sunni politician and then-president of the Iraqi Governing Council, to sit with first lady Laura Bush. Pachachi’s party fared so poorly in the election that it won no seats in the national assembly.

And current Prime Minister Ayad Allawi, backed by the CIA during his years in exile and handpicked by U.S. and U.N. officials to lead the interim government, came in third. He addressed a joint session of Congress in September, a rare honor reserved for heads of state of the closest U.S. allies. But now, U.S. hopes that Allawi will tally enough votes to vie as a compromise candidate and continue his leadership are unrealistic, analysts say.

“The big losers in this election are the liberals,” said Stanford University’s Larry Diamond, who was an adviser to the U.S. occupation government. “The fact that three-quarters of the national assembly seats have gone to just two [out of 111] slates is a worrisome trend. Unless the ruling coalition reaches out to broaden itself to include all groups, the insurgency will continue — and may gain ground.” ~The Washington Post

Mr. Diamond’s comment is accurate, as far as it goes, except that the defeat of the “liberals,” whether we mean to define this in the sense of One World globalist, managerial liberals or those who actually desire some form of constitutional, “rational” government, has been a foregone conclusion in any country where mass democracy prevails. It is customary in histories of late nineteenth century Europe to encounter a similar ‘lament’ for the failure of liberalism, except that this usually ignores the fact that liberalism’s claims to greater ‘rationality’ and superior political morality had no meaning for the vast majority of newly enfranchised people (and were often simply tendentious nonsense), for whom liberalism generally meant social and economic distress and the cultural antagonism of a presumptuous, ‘reforming’ elite.

Besides, in Iraq, where have these liberals and secular democrats been for the last decade? They were hiding in Britain or the United States, receiving comfy stipends from their real masters, while the leaders of the victorious Shi’i and Talabani Kurdish slates were there in Iraq, at the very least experiencing some of the same risks, if not as many of the deficiencies, of their followers. Iraqi voters, to the extent that they were even behaving like individual voters and not responding to social imperatives of kinship, sect and faith, have attached themselves to those to whom they have natural affinities, against which the pathetic claim of liberalism of any kind has no power. Liberalism triumphs only where people are uprooted, disconnected from their past and kin and educated in a manner that encouraged self-hatred about one’s own identity, and there are no more fiercely anti-liberal and illiberal people (and I do not mean this as a criticism) than those who have retained those connections and identity.
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In an answer to a question from the floor, she told her audience that in 1947 Greece and Turkey had suffered through civil wars. Greece, yes, but Turkey?

“It was a glaring mistake,” said Guillaume Parmentier, director of the French Center on the United States, an independent research organization at the French Institute of International Relations. “She’s smart, yes, but I don’t think she is as knowledgeable as one would expect with a career like hers.”

She shocked at least some of her guests by branding Iran a “totalitarian state,” said four of those who took part. She added that the free world was wrong to accept the Soviet Union on its terms during the cold war and must not make the same mistake now with Iran, they added.

A number of guests challenged her assertion, but Ms. Rice is not the type to back down. She called her characterization of Iran deliberate. A year ago, she said, she would have called Iran’s Islamic Republic authoritarian. But after flawed parliamentary elections last spring that produced a conservative majority, she said, it moved toward totalitarian, a term that historians tend to use restrictively to define violently absolutist regimes that govern through terror.

“I tried to explain that Iran was not like the Soviet Union, that the mullahs were deeply unpopular but unlike their predecessors over the last 150 years they were not in the hands of the British or the Russians or the Americans,” said François Heisbourg, director of the Foundation for Strategic Research in Paris. “She gave no proof that Iran was totalitarian, because she didn’t have any. It was scary. Unless there is some give on the American side we are heading for a real crisis.”

“I told her that it is my sense that public opinion in Europe, and maybe even elected officials, are ready to accept the idea that Iran may have some kind of nuclear weapons capability with some limitations,” said Nicole Bacharan, an expert on the United States at the Institute of Political Studies. “She was startled. She wasn’t quite aware of what she is up against.”

While most of the discussion focused on Iran, Ms. Rice was much more willing to absolve Pakistan’s military-led government of any tyrannical tendencies. When Mr. Parmentier called Pakistan “the most dangerous country there is,” Ms. Rice acknowledged that the country was dangerous but said it was “on the right track” and “improving,” participants said. ~The New York Times

Secretary Rice’s legendary (and it may indeed be nothing more than a legend) intelligence seems to have done her little good on her European visit. She seems to have been coddled, to the extent that she was welcomed at all, because of insubstantial matters of style and personality (and probably not a little because she is a minority woman), and on substance she not only failed to convince but demonstrated more evidence that she is simply unfit, both in her rhetoric and her knowledge, for her post. The liability of having an old Soviet hand at the helm of State is that she seems surprisingly uninformed about the history and politics of any other part of the world. If she was “startled” that Europeans would be willing to tolerate an Iranian nuclear weapons program, then she needs to read a newspaper or watch some news that is not owned by DowJones or NewsCorp.

I am an amateur at foreign affairs and modern European history, but I knew that Turkey had not had a civil war in the ’40s (or at any other time since the very earliest days of Ataturk, and even then not much of one) and I was certain that Iran was not what any normal person could call “totalitarian.” How does such a clumsy and uninformed person become the Secretary of State of the United States?
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Are the Iranians pursuing a nuclear weapon? I don’t know. They say they are not. But they are more or less surrounded by nuclear powers – the United States, Israel, India and Pakistan. Their reasoning for pursuing nuclear plants is feasible. They know their main export, oil, will run out one day, so by using nuclear fuel to produce internal power, they can extend the life of their most profitable export. They are certainly wise to disperse their facilities, given the fact that the Israelis bombed Iraq’s only nuclear reactor in the 1980s.

But let’s assume Iran does develop a nuclear weapon. I don’t care. I’ve lived most of my life 30 minutes from total destruction by tens of thousands of the Soviet Union’s nuclear warheads. The Bush administration’s claim that nuclear deterrence, which worked against a superpower, will not work against a smaller and poorer country is bunk. Israel alone has enough nuclear warheads to pulverize Iran.

Oh, the administration says the Iranians will hand over a nuclear weapon to a terrorist organization. Well, where is any evidence of that? The evidence does show that once countries develop nuclear weapons, they keep pretty tight control over them.

But more to the point, if we don’t want Iran to develop a nuclear weapon, why not negotiate? Why keep threatening the Iranians? It doesn’t make any sense. If I were an Iranian, I would assume that President Bush intends eventually to attack the country. That would be stupid, but if you look at the stupidity of the Iraqi mess, you can’t rule it out. Never believe that Bush won’t do something just because it’s dumb. ~Charley Reese

The scaremongering over Iran seems to be unending these days. Victor Davis Hanson has resumed his traditional role as the loudspeaker of jingoism, this time with his latest tiresome, tendentious invective over Iran’s nuclear program, published in today’s Chicago Tribune (sorry, no link). Coming on the heels of North Korea’s claim or ‘admission’ of possessing nuclear weapons already, the continued zeal to ‘do something’ about putative Iranian nuclear plans is more than a little bizarre. It recalls the buffoonish logic of Mr. Bush in 2003: we must avoid any confrontation with the state that apparently has the nuclear weapons, and is therefore immediately much more dangerous, at least to neighbouring countries, and attack the one country everyone can be fairly sure has no nuclear program worth mentioning. Nonetheless, Mr. Hanson wants us to press ahead, because “the very worst alternative” would be for Iran to acquire nuclear technology. Practically every reason he offers for why this is so is either specious in itself or works from the obnoxious assumption that Iran’s energy and security policies are the concern of the United States. Let’s review them briefly.

First, there is the fear of an arms race being started, and the related concern that proliferation is already too dangerous. It is apparently unimportant to Mr. Hanson that all the other regional powers that might acquire nuclear weapons are either reliant on our subsidies or have been traditional allies of the United States for some decades–it is axiomatic for a neocon, or any hard-boiled American militarist, that Arabs must never have nuclear weapons. That would be destabilising, you see, unlike invading other countries or toppling their governments, which is not. The laughable claim that “third-rate states” are more reckless than “traditional world powers” is simply untrue; perhaps Mr. Hanson should stick to ancient Greek history, since he seems completely at sea in modern history: all the great conflagrations of the modern age have been the product of the “traditional world powers.” Almost by definition, “third-rate states” tend to avoid wars because they are so strapped for resources; they are far more prone to internal instability than aggression against other states. Exceptions seem to crop up when U.S.-backed regimes try to play at national greatness, such as the last ill-fated expedition to destroy the Iranian revolutionary regime or the foolish Greek colonels overthrew the Cypriot government and provoked the awful Turkish invasion. It is, of course, the great powers that can afford excessive risks that come with reckless and hasty decisions–no “third-rate state” could have invaded another country as whimsically and carelessly as we have done, nor could it have been as militarily dominant or financially immune from passing on real costs of war to the general population.

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Iran, facing mounting U.S. pressure over its nuclear program, promised yesterday a “scorching hell” for any aggressor as tens of thousands marched to mark the 26th anniversary of its Islamic revolution.

A month after President Bush warned that the United States hasn’t ruled out military action against Iran, President Mohammed Khatami responded before a crowd gathered on a snowy square in Tehran.

The U.S. accuses Iran of maintaining a nuclear-weapons program, which Iran says is for peaceful energy purposes.

“Will this nation allow the feet of an aggressor to touch this land?” Khatami asked at the crowd. “If, God forbid, it happens, Iran will turn into a scorching hell for the aggressors.”

His statements drew chants of “Death to America!” from the crowd.

Khatami is widely recognized as a leader of a moderate faction in Iran. Indeed, Khatami himself indicated in his speech that the talk of a possible U.S. invasion was pushing him into a united camp with Iran’s hard-liners against foreign meddling.

“The Iranian nation is not looking for war, violence and confrontation,” Khatami said.

“But the world should know that the Iranian nation won’t tolerate any aggression and will stand united against aggression despite differences,” he said, referring to the internal divide in Iranian politics between reformers and the more conservative clerics. ~The Seattle Times

Braving the cold, around two million people marched to several cities across Iran on Thursday, to show their support for the government against the United States over the latter’s repeated threats to attack the country.

They celebrated the victory of the 1979 Islamic Revolution that overthrew the secular monarchy of Muhammad Reza Shah Pahlevi and subsequently established the Islamic Republic of Iran.

Hundreds of thousands of Iranians from 22 districts flocked to Azadi (freedom) Square in the Iran capital of Tehran for the 26th anniversary celebration, despite heavy snowfall all day, while chanting slogans against the United States and its allies. ~The Jakarta Post

Nobody sees military action as the best way to tame Iran’s suspected nuclear weapons ambitions, but as the rhetoric heats up, mutual miscalculation could suck Tehran and Washington into an unpredictable showdown.

European-sponsored talks have yet to resolve the dispute over Iran’s nuclear enrichment programme, which could help it build a bomb. With postwar Iraq in turmoil, the world is jittery about any fresh instability in the oil-supplying Gulf region.

While U.S. President George W. Bush has emphasised diplomacy in dealing with Iran, he has not ruled out a military option and Vice President Dick Cheney has said Israel might act alone.

“There’s a 50-50 chance of an air strike,” said Ali Ansari, an Iran expert at Scotland’s St Andrew’s University.

“This not because of deliberate policy in the Pentagon or Iran, but the tensions, the sensitivities, the paranoia are so high that the potential for slip-sliding into something is very high,” he said, noting the absence of direct communication between the diplomatically estranged protagonists. ~Reuters

Iran’s denials of a nuclear weapons program are not considered credible in the United States or Europe. It has three major nuclear facilities above ground and is thought to have many smaller ones well concealed below ground. Experts estimate Iran is perhaps two years away from achieving a nuclear bomb.

But Iran is in some ways a more complicated target than Iraq. It is four times as big and has three times as many people. Most experts consider a full-scale ground invasion impossible. More likely, most regional and proliferation experts believe, would be a bombing campaign to destroy the nuclear materials.

According to Kenneth Pollack, a former National Security Council official in the Clinton administration who supported the attack on Iraq, an air campaign against Iran would have to last 30 days and would be in serious danger of not eliminating Iran’s nuclear capability because of its many sites. Such a campaign, he and other experts say, would be likely to unite the Iranian populace, now largely alienated from its government, behind its radical religious leaders and might prove counterproductive.

Other experts, such as John Pike, director of the Web site, say the administration has no choice but to bomb Iran before the end of next year. If they don’t, he says, Israel will, and that would further inflame the Middle East conflict. ~Newsday

Washington will not stop Iran pursuing nuclear technology and should not attempt a military “adventure” in the country, an influential cleric said on Friday.
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has exhorted Iran to give up what she says is a nuclear weapons program.

U.S. officials have stressed diplomacy but not ruled out an attack against atomic sites, which Iran insists are to meet booming demand for electricity.

“The Persian Gulf is not a region where they can have fireworks and Iran is not a country where they can come for an adventure,” cleric and former President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani told worshippers at Friday prayers.

“It is not acceptable that developed countries generate 70 or 80 percent of their electricity from nuclear energy and tell Iran, a great and powerful nation, that it cannot have nuclear electricity. Iran does not accept this,” he added. ~Reuters

Anyone with the slightest acquaintance with modern Iranian history (which would probably exclude most everyone in the present administration) must be aware that Iranian constitutionalist, reformist and nationalist politics have been defined in considerable measure in the past by Iranian resistance to foreign impositions on, or exploitations of, Iranian energy resources. To provoke a confrontation over the Iranian nuclear program, which Tehran publicly claims is an issue primarily of energy policy, is bound to stir up unhappy memories of Mossadeq’s fight with the British over Iranian oil resources (and even unhappier memories of our direct hand in his overthrow–so much for Iranian democracy) and the humiliating conditions of national weakness and practical division between the Great Powers under which the British stake in Iranian oil was first established. In short, such a confrontation is likely to strengthen the current government in Iran, force domestic critics of the regime to rally to the flag in a nationalist response and guarantee that, whatever Iran chooses to do with its nuclear facilities, it will regard America as an even more implacable and unreasonable adversary.

This would be a tragedy, as there is no necessary or real cause for conflict between the two nations. It has been fabricated by men of rather dubious loyalty in this country and has served only to play into the worst stereotypes of America that the Iranian regime can conjure up.

US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said on Thursday that Iran’s support of terrorism, nuclear ambitions and lack of democracy are out of step with trends in neighbouring nations, notably Pakistan.

Rice, speaking to reporters after meeting with EU officials, said Pakistan has moved toward internal reforms, better ties with India and has joined the fight against terrorism. “If one looks at where Pakistan was 3 1/2 years ago, (then) those trends are moving Pakistan away from extremism, toward a policy that recognises … that extremism and modernisation in Pakistan cannot exist side-by-side,” Rice said. ~The News (Pakistan)

Let’s all be clear about a few things: the only remotely good reasons why Pakistan should still be our ally is that it has marginally helped in the war in Afghanistan and would make for a much worse active enemy. But this should not confuse us into believing that it is anything other than a much greater sponsor of terrorism and practitioner of nuclear proliferation than Iran has ever been. Gen. Musharraf’s pleasant remarks about opposing fundamentalism aside, and the entirely unintended arrest of A.Q. Khan, master proliferator, his regime has been premised on stirring up Kashmiri militants, encouraging what the Indians properly call “cross-border terrorism” and tolerating the continued support of Taliban and al-Qaeda members inside Pakistan from elements of his security services and the army.

It is, at best, a transparent diplomatic lie on the part of Secretary Rice to claim to see improvement in Pakistani policies, and at worst it is simply a refusal to face the reality of the situation out of reflexive, Cold War attachments to an outdated, pointless hostility to Indian interests. Democracy as a guide to foreign affairs is overrated, but democratic India is manifestly a more trustworthy nation and our legitimate interests in the coming century, if they lie with any country in Asia, lie with them.
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The latest such urging was released here Thursday by the Iran Policy Committee (IPC), a group headed by a former National Security Council staffer Ray Tanter, several retired senior military officers, and a former ambassador to Saudi Arabia.

The 30-page document, “U.S. Policy Options for Iran” by former Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) officer Clare Lopez, appears to reflect the views of the administration’s most radical hawks among the Pentagon’s civilian leadership and in the office of Vice President Dick Cheney.

The IPC [Iran Policy Committee] now wants the State Department to take the MEK [Mujahedin e-Khalq] off the terrorist list, a position backed by several dozen members of Congress who have been actively courted by the group and believe that a confrontation with Iran is inevitable.

“Removing the terrorist designation from the MEK could serve as the most tangible signal to the Iranian regime, as well as to the Iranian people, that a new option is now on the table,” according to the report.

“Removal might also have the effect of supporting President Bush’s assertion [in his State of the Union address] that America stands with the people of Iran in their struggle to liberate themselves.”

But most Iran specialists, both inside and outside the government, who agree that the regime is deeply unpopular, also insist that Washington’s endorsement of the MEK will actually bolster the regime in Tehran.

“Everybody I’ve ever talked to in Iran or who have gone to Iran tell me without exception that these people are despised,” said Gary Sick, who handled Iranian policy for the National Security Council under former President Jimmy Carter.

When they invaded Iran from Iraq in the last year of the Iran-Iraq war, according to Sick, who teaches at Columbia University, they had expected to march straight to Tehran gathering support all along the way.

“But they never got beyond a little border town before running into stiff resistance. It was a very ugly incident. They had a chance to show what they can do, and the bottom line was nothing very much. I’ve seen nothing since then to change my estimate,” he said. ~Jim Lobe

It is not so surprising that neocons and their policy allies, men of dubious loyalty at best, would be so eager to take the side of a Marxist revolutionary group that fought against their own country in a war of aggression: the disloyal seek their own kind. If the administration were to make the fatal error of attacking Iran, allying with MEK would be just about the worst thing it could do to convince patriotic Iranians that we intended anything other than their country’s ruin and subjugation. It is yet another indication of how morally warped those in this administration have become that they would conceivably prefer a bizarre cult of Marxists and assassins to the stable and legitimate, albeit unpleasant, government of Iran. Then again, they probably have more in common with the administraton after Mr. Bush’s strange, neo-anarchist inaugural address that promises to consume the world in flames.

The liberal cliche of the time was that Third World people care more about food than about freedom. This kind of contempt for the political and spiritual dignity of people who live in different circumstances never goes away. It simply gets applied serially to different sets of patronized foreigners. Today we are assured with confidence that Arabs, consumed by tribe or religion or whatever, don’t really care about freedom either.

On Jan. 30 millions of Iraqis said otherwise. They really do care about the right to speak freely and to vote secretly, the ordinary elements of democratic citizenship. ~Charles Krauthammer

Fervent Bush supporters act as though it’s a miracle to be able to get voters to the polls amid so much unrest. In fact, there are plenty of cases where elections attracted lots of voters despite the bombs and bullets flying around them–El Salvador in 1982, Uruguay in 1971, even Russia during the 1917 revolution. Having a well-attended election, as the Russians can attest, doesn’t guarantee a happy outcome.

It’s also wishful thinking to suppose that the Iraqis who voted share President Bush’s shining vision of a free democracy friendly to the United States. A poll in August found that 70 percent of Iraqis want an Islamic state.

As for the prevailing attitude toward America, the leader of the Shiite coalition that finished first in the election said afterward, “No one welcomes foreign troops in Iraq.” Writes Juan Cole, a Middle East specialist at the University of Michigan, “Most Shiites who voted on Sunday [Jan. 30] thought they were voting for an end to U.S. hegemony in their country.”

The people who are the real problem in Iraq, of course, are the insurgents, who are not about to be appeased by the chance to vote. On the contrary, the bloodshed has surged in recent days. As of Wednesday, 15 American soldiers and 153 Iraqis have died in attacks since the elections.

The election was inspiring, but an assessment of its effect on the fate of Iraq will have to wait. The self-congratulation should wait as well. ~Steve Chapman

It was interesting that Mr. Krauthammer should mention cliches, since his column was rife with them: there was the “biased liberal media” cliche (this from someone who works for the Post and advised on that most liberal of inaugural addresses this year), the “Arabs want freedom” cliche (beloved of neocons for its impressive power to express their chauvinism in cosmopolitan tones) and, of course, the cliche that an election justifies the Bush Doctrine–we heard that one in November as well. Since Mr. Bush’s own re-election was not directly related to an endorsement of that deformed ‘doctrine’, it is difficult to see how an Iraqi election could endorse the foreign policy of another country’s government.

If Prof. Cole is correct (and he has a much better record on describing Iraqi realities than Krauthammer), the election was no referendum on American policy, except in the way that it very specifically relates to the occupation of Iraq (and then only negatively). Mr. Bush should be grateful that the poll was not a referendum on his policies–he would have lost any such vote in almost any other country in the world.
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However, on foreign policy the libertarian, with some exceptions, is an isolationist, fundamentally opposed to foreign involvements and interventions. Let international relations also be free, the libertarians say, which means free trade and commerce, and freedom for other countries to do whatever they want with their people. Not our business.

On this, the libertarians are blinded by their desire for freedom, not realizing that everything, including freedom demands contextual qualification (should those with a dangerous infectious disease remain free, when they could spread it far and wide, killing maybe hundreds with it?). By their isolationism, libertarians are making the world safe for the gangs of thugs (called dictatorships) that murder, torture, and oppress a people, and rule by fear.

Not our business, the libertarian still will say, although his fundamental belief in freedom is being violated in the most horrible ways. By implication, his isolationism is declaring that since it’s some body else that’s suffering, not me, my loved ones, or my friends, it’s okay. But besides this basic human me and mine, it is also a blindness to his own welfare. For in an age of readily transportable biological weapons, such as anthrax, and nuclear weapons, no longer can a country like the U.S. sit back and ignore what goes on elsewhere in the production and deliverability of such weapons. In the hands of those who hate the democracies and their libertarian values, democracies have too much vulnerability to attack. Now, involvement and intervention in the rapacious affairs of thug regimes is of necessity a protection of democracies, not to mention advancing human rights and the freedom libertarians praise. Quite simply, no thug regimes can be trusted with either the possession or the capability of producing such weapons.

So, then what am I? Why, a freedomist (ist is a suffix meaning a follower or believer in certain beliefs, such as is a socialist or feminist). This is a belief not only in freedom at home, but unlike the libertarian, democratic freedom abroad. This is not only for the sake of advancing freedom for others, but also to protect our own freedom. ~R.J. Rummel

One does not know where to begin with this pell-mell of confused concepts and lazy thinking. If his remarks seem unexceptional, it is because we have been so saturated with this sort of tired politics that we can scarcely step outdoors without being assaulted by some cult member chanting, “Freedomdemocracyfreedomdemocracy” at us, as if it will induce a state of enlightenment if repeated often enough.
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One has to be pretty far on the left not to see the media as biased against freeing Iraqi from tyranny. The bad news is generally highlighted, and the good news ignored; U.S. killed is the headline of the day, while the hundreds of terrorist eliminated for once and for all seems to never happen. Obviously, this is an attempt to repeat the glory days of the Vietnam War when the media turned military victory into defeat, and was the Democrat’s backbone in forcing a cowardly withdrawal, leaving millions of South Vietnamese and Cambodians to their own Holocaust.

But, what to do? When Americans are being shot at and killed in the line of duty; when they knowingly put themselves at risk to free a people from tyranny; when the country is at war; and when in the long run ALL Americans are at risk from biological, chemical, and nuclear weapons terrorists and their state supporters might use against us; we cannot afford to have the media freely providing aid and comfort to the enemy. The stakes are too high.

Often, it as though the media does not know which side it is on. They argue that they are “objectively reporting the news” and therefore should not be for one side or another. Thus, you read not about “terrorists” cutting off heads of their hostages, blowing up innocent civilians (and violating the most fundamental clauses of the Geneva Conventions), but “insurgents,” “radicals,” or the latest, “militants” killing hostages. “Killing,” not murdering. Killing is what enemy soldiers do to each other in battle. Murder is the intentional killing of an unarmed civilian. But, have you ever read of the terrorists murdering someone? Not strange that you do not. Why, this would be partisan reporting.

This is war. If the media has its way and we withdraw immediately from Iraq, or even begin staged withdrawals now with a timetable, the terrorists win. With the support of Syria, this is assured. Then, the resulting democide by the victorious terrorists may well come close to that in South Vietnam after we withdrew. And, so heartened by our lack of will, the terrorists throughout the world could only get more state support, including even possible help on nukes from North Korea or China (somehow, it has been forgotten that China is still ruled by its Communist Party, and our enemy). ~R.J. Rummel, Democratic Peace blog

Mr. Rummel, once known for his tabulation of the numbers slaughtered by centralised states in his book, Death by Government, has now descended into the nether regions of the perpetual war crowd. Leave it to someone who once understood the horrifying coercive and destructive power of government to call for such solidarity with the monster state as to demand news censorship, even as it throttles a foreign nation and bombards it into freedom.

Naturally, the comparisons with the world wars are ludicrous and not worth commenting on, except to say that these wars coincided with some of the most tyrannical periods of American history. Why anyone who supposedly values liberty (one must be profoundly skeptical of anyone who calls himself a ‘freedomist‘ as being a real friend of liberty) would want to imitate such ugly periods is really beyond me. It is a safe bet that almost anytime someone attaches the suffix -ist to any concept or name, or when he creates something ending in -ism, his ideas bear very little relation either to those principles he purportedly values most highly and they also bear little relation to the real world.

But Mr. Rummel does not simply err in his demands for state control of information (put in those terms, it doesn’t sound very pleasant, does it?), which would be shameful enough on its own, but manages to work in the unchanging whine of the corrupt and decadent ‘conservative’ media that “the media” has been yearning for American defeat in Iraq and elsewhere. Evidently, Mr. Rummel must be referring to an entirely different set of media outlets than those represented by the regular daily newspapers, television networks, cable news channels and even NPR, as all of these have shown a cowardice and lack of integrity in challenging official government accounts of events that would have shamed real journalists.

If the media were truly subversive in the way that Mr. Rummel supposes, they would not have breathlessly anticipated the Iraqi election with any kind of slant. It would have received no coverage whatever, and columnists prattling on about “purple fingers” would have been barred from publication. Instead, we have experienced just the opposite–the supposedly skeptical media once again increasingly jumping on the government’s bandwagon, gushing about the wonders of the election and scrutinising the poll results as if they meant anything.
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The PATRIOT Act and executive-branch decrees have put paid to habeas corpus. The government can pick up anyone it wishes and hold them as long as it wishes without evidence or trial. The government can torture those so detained if it wishes, or murder them and say it was a suicide. Saddam Hussein may have indulged in these practices in a more thoroughgoing way than the U.S. Homeland Security State has to date, but there are no essential differences in the police-state powers.

While granting an element of truth, readers may see rhetorical overstatement in these words. This is because they believe, mistakenly, that the Supreme Court reined in the government in its rulings last June 28 on permitted treatment of “enemy combatants.” However, as Harvey Silverglate has pointed out, this is not the case.

Silverglate’s analysis shows that the Supreme Court’s rulings “preserve the look and feel of liberty while sacrificing its substance.” The rulings left the government with enough flexibility to prevail. One ruling created for the government a flexible due process standard invoking, in the Court’s words, “the exigencies of the circumstances” and creating “a presumption in favor of the Government’s evidence.” Silverglate notes that this ruling overthrows a defendant’s presumption of innocence that formerly could be overcome only by evidence proving guilt beyond reasonable doubt.

Another of the Supreme Court’s rulings supported the government’s position that a U.S. citizen can be declared an enemy combatant and held without charge. Justice O’Connor found support for the demise of habeas corpus in the Authorization for the Use of Military Force passed by Congress after the Sept. 11 attacks.

Defenders of the new American police state emphasize that the government’s new powers only apply to terrorists. This is disingenuous. The government decides who is a terrorist, and it does not need to present evidence to back its decision. The person on whom the arbitrary decision falls can be held indefinitely. This is a return to the pre-Magna Carta practice of executive arrest. ~Paul Craig Roberts

Mr. Roberts is entirely correct. I will simply add that anyone who would have ever trusted in the Supreme Court to rein in federal abuses of power must also trust a pedophile with his children. That bastion of neocon deceit (I don’t use that term lightly),, picked up on the loopholes the very next day after the Supreme Court ruling, June 29:

Yes, Justice O’Connor wrote that “a state of war is not a blank check for the president when it comes to the rights of the nation’s citizens.” But she also outlined the extraordinary deference that must be given the executive branch.

“The Constitution would not be offended,” she wrote, “by a presumption in favor of the Government’s evidence, so long as that presumption remained a rebuttable one and fair opportunity for rebuttal were provided.” And “once the Government puts forward credible evidence that the habeas petitioner meets the enemy-combatant criteria, the onus could shift to the petitioner to rebut that evidence with more persuasive evidence.”

In short, the burden is on the petitioner in these cases to prove that the government’s designation is wrong. Just to be sure the ACLU gets the point, Justice O’Connor added that “the full protections that accompany challenges to detentions in other settings may prove unworkable and inappropriate in the enemy-combatant setting.”

The burden is on the petitioner! Spoken like a true statist, and backed up by one of the sorrier excuses for a Supreme Court justice of recent decades. This idea annihilates any conception that an American citizen (as it was citizens who were under discussion) is innocent until proven guilty. The Founders would have collapsed from shock to hear Americans claim that it is the citizen who has the burden to prove the government wrong. Then again, maybe they wouldn’t–they would recognise in that statement the fruition of a corrupt and decadent people who deserve to be dominated by pathetic, insipid men.
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The way many high school students see it, government censorship of newspapers may not be a bad thing, and flag burning is hardly protected free speech.

It turns out the First Amendment is a second-rate issue to many of those nearing their own adult independence, according to a study of high school attitudes released Monday.

The original amendment to the Constitution is the cornerstone of the way of life in the United States, promising citizens the freedoms of religion, speech, press and assembly.

Yet, when told of the exact text of the First Amendment, more than one in three high school students said it goes “too far” in the rights it guarantees. Only half of the students said newspapers should be allowed to publish freely without government approval of stories. ~CNN

Sadly, this doesn’t much surprise me. Naturally, students are not being taught these constitutional fundamentals, and the predominant mood in the country over the past several years has increasingly been one of government encroachments in every area of life. For the average high school student, born at the end of the 1980s, there has never been a time when he has not been bombarded with the regular doses of PC thought control, the subversion of meaning through his education and the trash entertainment he encounters, diversity codes and “celebrations” of diversity, the circulation of the idea of “hate crimes” and the standard parade of shameful events, about which the white children must feel guilty and for which they must be contrite through political conformity, that passes for teaching history in most high schools. Add to that their own parents’ probably negligible grasp of firm constitutional principles, the current hysteria over terrorism and the general willingness to shun all discourse deemed ‘extremist’, and you have a recipe for civic implosion. Of course, it cannot help that these children are not being instructed in even the most basic elements of critical thinking.
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United States officials were surprised and heartened today at the size of turnout in South Vietnam’s presidential election despite a Vietcong terrorist campaign to disrupt the voting.

According to reports from Saigon, 83 per cent of the 5.85 million registered voters cast their ballots yesterday. Many of them risked reprisals threatened by the Vietcong.

The size of the popular vote and the inability of the Vietcong to destroy the election machinery were the two salient facts in a preliminary assessment of the nation election based on the incomplete returns reaching here.

Pending more detailed reports, neither the State Department nor the White House would comment on the balloting or the victory of the military candidates, Lieut. Gen. Nguyen Van Thieu, who was running for president, and Premier Nguyen Cao Ky, the candidate for vice president.

A successful election has long been seen as the keystone in President Johnson’s policy of encouraging the growth of constitutional processes in South Vietnam. The election was the culmination of a constitutional development that began in January, 1966, to which President Johnson gave his personal commitment when he met Premier Ky and General Thieu, the chief of state, in Honolulu in February.

The purpose of the voting was to give legitimacy to the Saigon Government, which has been founded only on coups and power plays since November, 1963, when President Ngo Dinh Deim was overthrown by a military junta.

Few members of that junta are still around, most having been ousted or exiled in subsequent shifts of power.

The fact that the backing of the electorate has gone to the generals who have been ruling South Vietnam for the last two years does not, in the Administration’s view, diminish the significance of the constitutional step that has been taken. ~The New York Times, September 4, 1967

After reportedly relatively high turnout in the January 30 Iraqi elections (approx. 60%), the administration was able to claim what even most critics granted was something of a success. Of course, given the administration’s record for enjoying ‘catastrophic success’, as they call it, I am not at all sure that the relatively peaceful election day (only around 35 dead) and large turnout bode any better for Iraq’s future and our future in Iraq than the supposedly quick victory over the Iraqi military did two years ago.
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