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When a leading Turkish novelist said earlier this year that 1 million Armenians were murdered in his country during World War I, he broke a deep taboo.
Three lawsuits were filed against Orhan Pamuk, accusing him of damaging the state. “He shouldn’t be allowed to breathe,” roared one nationalist group. In Istanbul, a school collected his books from students to return to him. On a news Web site, the vote ran 4-1 against him.
Turkey’s mass expulsion of Armenians during World War I - which Armenians say was part of a genocide that claimed 1.5 million lives - is a dark chapter rarely discussed in Turkey or taught in its schools.
But slowly the veil is being lifted. One reason is that Turkey is more open and democratic today, another is its ambition of joining the European Union; French President Jacques Chirac has said Turkey must first acknowledge the killings.
Turkey is also eager to counter Armenian diaspora groups that are pushing European governments and the United States to declare the killings genocide. And the approach of April 24, the 90th anniversary of the date Armenians mark as the start of the killings, is focusing attention on the issue. ~Louis Meixler, AP (courtesy of MyWay.com)
On Sunday Armenians will commemorate the 90th anniversary of the genocide of their people, an atrocity of which most Americans are at best only dimly aware if at all. It is high time that Washington called the genocide what it is and that Ankara acknowledged the crimes of the Ottoman and republican governments.
The occupation is worse than an economic tsunami: it managed to plunge Iraq - once a beacon of development in the Arab world - into Sub-Saharan poverty. There’s less electricity each day than in 2003 or even 2004. Without electricity, the whole country is paralyzed: nothing - communications, industry, the healthcare system, the educational system - works properly. All water plants “reconstructed” by Bechtel and co are breaking down. With weekly, sometimes daily attacks on pipelines, oil production is pitiful, still inferior to Saddam-era, pre-war levels. Sixty percent of the total population survives on food stamps.
Baghdad is a hellish labyrinth of concrete walls and barbed wire, where a BMW is “the kidnappers’ car”, 4X4s are favored by candidates for suicide attacks and there’s no safe place to hide. Reuters staff survive barricaded behind sandbags and concrete walls; the only one able to venture out to collect images by motorbike is Abu Ali, a kind of local hero. Gas lines are endless. The resistance is relentless. The al-Batawiyyin district has become a Dantesque hell of criminal gangs, drug trafficking, prostitution and trafficking of human organs. Western Iraq is totally out of US control. Mosul is infiltrated by the Iraqi resistance. Ramadi, the resistance capital of the Sunni triangle, is controlled by - who else - the resistance. ~Pepe Escobar, Asia Times
As a new poll claims that 53% of Americans believe the war not to be worth the cost, and we can see that Iraqis are objectively worse off in most practical ways, can we admit that this war has been an unmitigated failure, moral abomination and waste of lives? More to the point, if a majority of Americans do not support this war and the administration cannot even fall back on the myth of “progress” in Iraq, why are we not withdrawing at once? How can anyone justify compelling our soldiers to pay a price a majority now sees as unacceptable, especially when the latest reason for their being there is revealed to be yet another sham? Our continued presence cannot improve things over time, as our presence has demonstrably worsened conditions. The right thing to do, I daresay even the humanitarian thing, and the best course of action in the interests of the United States is to leave Iraq. Congress must demand withdrawal now, and those members that continue to support this appalling waste should be targeted for defeat in 2006.
“The church decided to close itself off more, and to focus on its European roots” in choosing Cardinal Ratzinger, said Hussein al-Shobokshy, a Saudi columnist for the Pan-Arab daily Al Sharq al Awsat. “The neocons should be happy with this election. He is someone they can do business with.” ~International Herald-Tribune
One Saudi columnist does not represent a trend for the entire region, but it makes me wonder what in the world this columnist thinks a neocon is. It is hard to imagine someone more hateful to the neocons than a traditionalist German Catholic who, as it happens, also loves peace, and it is difficult to imagine any brand of ideology less congenial to a man who has chosen the name of the “peace pope” Benedict XV. First, he is German (Bavarian, no less!), and neocons, forever obsessed with WWII, reflexively hate Germans as a people and culture, and if that weren’t bad enough he is a Christian who has the strange idea that the Prince of Peace actually desires peace and love on earth. No one is worse suited for “doing business” with the neocons than such a Pope, if one could ever imagine a Pope friendly to the interests of such villains.
Not surprisingly, the Near Eastern world is not familiar with Pope Benedict’s rejection of so-called preventive war during the Iraq ‘crisis’ (speaking of neocons, I suspect that George Weigel was aware, but considered himself a better theologian than the new Pope), but one would have thought that remotely informed people in the Near East would know how close personally, intellectually and theologically Pope Benedict was to the late Pope John Paul as a Cardinal. Surely most people in the Near East were aware of the Vatican’s objections to the Iraq invasion (which were bolstered by then-Cardinal Ratzinger’s blunt, honest comments on the matter), or am I assuming too much?
At work here, though, is a far more bizarre assumption that frequently plagues political and cultural commentators: this is the idea that to define and vigorously defend one’s own heritage and one’s own part of the world, one is therefore an extremist bent on meddling in the affairs of others or keen on oppressing others, as Mr. Al-Shobokshy reasonably sees neocons doing. Thus, because Pope Benedict has spoken in the past of Europe’s Christian cultural identity, which as a matter of history is something so obvious even a neocon could see it if he wanted to, he must also want to conquer the Near East or cheer on those who are conquering it (if he had said that “the Near East should be Christian,” this might make a bit more sense).
In fact, one can show with great precision, or as much precision as the study of history allows, that those who are indifferent to the heritage of their land or civilisation are most keen to go to other lands to devastate their traditions just as they hope to eliminate the traditions back home. Nothing should be more reassuring to Near Eastern peoples, or more infuriating to the neocons, than the presence of a pacific traditionalist in the Vatican.
How much weight John Paul II’s successor will give to unity with the Orthodox remains to be seen. If the new Pope comes from Africa or Latin America he may put little or no weight on this question. Indeed the Orthodox may find that John Paul II was their best opportunity for unity; when they had the chance they refused to take it. History rarely offers a second chance. ~Paul Weyrich
Mr. Weyrich is not a theologian or a student of theology, so I did not expect him to understand why the schism has occurred and, more importantly, why it has persisted. It is a bit disappointing to find the Orthodox Church blamed for “refusing” to take the opportunity for unity, as if the Orthodox are the ones who have been the losers thereby. Schism is lamentable and a scandal, but it will persist as long as Rome holds to the two great stumbling-blocks that have ever prevented union in faith and truth: papal primacy, with its added difficulty of the claim of infallibility, and the addition of the filioque. The initiative always remains with the innovating party to renounce innovation, even if it is centuries old. Orthodox efforts to seek unity with Western confessions without regard to truth has caused the deeply painful upheavals within the Orthodox Church of the last 80 years, but even now it is not we, the Orthodox, who have failed to embrace union with non-Orthodox, but all others who have failed to embrace God’s revelation in Orthodoxy in all its fullness, which we can find securely only in the Orthodox Church.
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With much of the church having succumbed to the heresy of modernism, it needs an Athanasius. ~Pat Buchanan, April 8
With the selection of Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI, the hopes of traditionalist Catholics the world over, expressed by Mr. Buchanan’s article over a week ago, were realised as fully as they could have been. He asked for an Athanasios, and, while I suspect Pope Benedict would not presume to compare himself to the great patriarch and saint, Catholics have received someone who does fit the mould in many respects. The election of someone who is especially a theologian by training as Pope, fairly described as dogmatic (and what else should a bishop be but dogmatic, since his is a teaching office?), is encouraging for the general quality of theology in the Western world and in Western confessions. Without wanting to ignore the very important pastoral or liturgical work of a bishop, ours is surely an age in which there cannot be too much sound doctrine.
Naturally, I would not agree with Pope Benedict on everything, because we do not confess the same creed or belong to the same church, but I am profoundly encouraged by the fact that there is a Pope in Rome who is willing to express boldly that same view about meaningful, real distinctions and divisions between Christian confessions and who is also able to explain the reasons for it. The sharp, clear lines of division that do exist must first be seen and understood if they are ever to be removed some day. After the increasing muddle of Christian ecumenism over the past forty years especially, though I do not expect immediate or radical changes, some clarity will be greatly appreciated by this outside observer of the Catholic church.
Politically, Pope Benedict’s firm Catholic orthodoxy has already infuriated everyone for whom the Catholic church is a grand social project that must be guided in a “progressive” way (and this includes both the predictable Marxists and the neocon warmongers) and not a body of worshipping Christians seeking salvation. Pope Benedict XVI does represent the last practical hope of western Christendom in Europe for this generation: it may succumb to the flood of Muslim immigrants, the self-hating, enervating suicidal tendencies of leftism and the hollow, anti-Christian Europeanism of Brussels, or it may hold the line and slowly recover. The general Germanophobic, Christophobic reaction of many of the major European dailies to the Pope’s election shows he has quite a struggle, and one far more difficult than awakening people to seeing the spiritual and physical death inherent in communism. He has to confront a culture of death that assumes many pleasant shapes and hides under the masks of supposed human freedom and dignity.
Oddly enough, Andrew Sullivan’s representative comments of the absurd left (which is what Sullivan represents) could not have summed up better why I am encouraged by Pope Benedict’s election: “This new Pope has no pastoral experience as such. He is a creature of theological discourse, a man of books and treatises and arguments. He proclaims his version of the truth as God-given and therefore unalterable and undebatable.” Again, without denigrating pastoral work, it is high time that there was a Pope who is a man of books and treatises (provided they are the right kind, of course), because this reflects a mind interested in upholding Tradition, at least as his church understands it, and that is surely the most important kind of continuity Catholics could have hoped to have. This is not to say that others before him were unlearned, necessarily bad theologians as such or exactly “untraditional,” but someone who has particularly dedicated his life to upholding right doctrine views the lies of “progress” and modernism with special understanding and clarity and understands the importance of language and how it can be used to edify or destroy in ways that relatively few people can.
Already, the neoconservative Wall Street Journal has put its nail file between his shoulder blades and urged the GOP to abandon him. While the GOP caucus seems to be holding firm, DeLay has few vocal defenders.
Of what does he stand accused? He put his wife and daughter on his campaign staff, for pay. But, so what? Robert F. Kennedy ran JFK’s campaign, a practice common in politics.
It is said that trips abroad by DeLay and his family were paid for by nonprofit organizations. But this, too, is common practice. Junket is a synonym for “co-del,” which is short-hand for congressional delegations traveling overseas on “fact-finding” trips that tend to occur in batches at Christmas, Easter and any other time Congress takes a break from its Herculean labors.
No, the Left is after DeLay because – on tax cuts, right-to-life and reigning in renegade jurists – he is relentless. He is not an old-school Republican who votes right, then heads for the first tee at Burning Tree. And when it comes to raising cash from lobbyists and fat cats for the GOP to wage war against the Democratic Party, few have it down to a science like “the Hammer.” Like Gen. Grant, the Hammer has a reputation for inflicting heavy causalities, which is why the left wants him gone. ~Pat Buchanan
Someone might wonder why Mr. Buchanan has bothered to take up the cause of Tom DeLay, until he considers that Mr. DeLay has been the most vocal figure condemning judicial activism, particularly in relation to what he and Mr. Buchanan believe was judicial activism in the Terri Schiavo case. (That it was not judicial activism, and that this case of non-activism has been the first time DeLay has bothered to speak out so forcefully on the issue in recent memory is ironic, but not to the point.) Nonetheless, the crucial point is that Mr. DeLay, even to the extent that he is the principled champion he is made out to be here, fights for “GOP principles, as he understands them.” No one would question that he is a loyal party man. Undoubtedly he fights for those GOP principles (whatever he imagines them to be), and perhaps Republicans should care about that, but why should real conservatives watching from outside the GOP have any reaction, except perhaps a little satisfaction, about Mr. DeLay’s ethical woes? Surely it cannot be helpful to the cause of judicial restraint that its loudest advocate in Washington is a man in danger of being indicted in a bribery investigation and who has been chastised by his fellow members for poor ethical conduct.
And there is the rub. Mr. DeLay’s ethics imbroglio has not been limited to junkets for his family. We might roll our eyes at such junkets, but Mr. Buchanan is right when he says they are nothing exceptional for congressmen. What has helped make this latest matter even remotely credible is that it reinforces the impression that the House Ethics Committee has already given us about DeLay when it admonished him on two occasions for his conduct in three incidents. The impression is that he bends the rules and transgresses boundaries of ethical behaviour for personal and party advantage, and integrity be damned. When he pushes for rule changes that would allow indicted House members to retain their leadership posts, he confirms the suspicions that his indictment is far more likely than he claims. If that is the sort of leader the GOP wants as its majority leader, it will contribute to the sense that the Congressional leadership has become as arrogant and self-serving as the leadership that was kicked out 11 years ago. If the GOP is leaving DeLay to the wolves, it is because he has damaged them in a serious way–this is not another case of abandoning a Trent Lott to villainous calumny.
Real conservatives should not waste an ounce of energy defending Mr. DeLay. He has done virtually nothing for us, and his sudden discovery of judicial activism as a burning issue seems more than a little cynical and designed to rally the party to his side given his limited concern with it before now.
Alyaa said she was the first woman in her neighborhood to sign up to work with the U.S. government after Saddam Hussein fell.
She used to stand shoulder to shoulder with an American soldier in front of the U.S. military’s Camp Scania in the Rashid section of Baghdad. As a translator, Alyaa, 24, talked to Iraqis who lined up at the entrance seeking compensation for dead relatives and destroyed homes.
Now, because of that work, her life is in danger and in limbo.
Alyaa, who asked that her last name be withheld out of fear for her safety, fled to Jordan with her cousin Shaimaa after insurgents killed an uncle and kidnapped Shaimaa and another cousin. Alyaa hoped to find a haven in the United States but discovered the State Department isn’t resettling refugees from Iraq. She’s lost her faith in the country she once loved.
“We gave them our friendship,” Alyaa said during a recent interview at an Amman restaurant, wearing jeans and smoking cigarettes. “We gave them our hard work. And they don’t even help us to have a new life.” Is it so hard, she asked, “for America to give a visa to Iraqis to have a new life that they took from them?”
Refugee aid workers and U.S. and U.N. officials said the United States had turned away Iraqi refugees because it was trying instead to create a democratic society from which no one had to flee, and was sacrificing plenty of American lives in the process. To succeed, it needs the talents of the very people who want to leave. ~Knight-Ridder Newspapers
It is hard not to feel sympathy for the disenchanted Iraqis who made the mistake of trusting in their hopes of what American “liberation” would mean. Any honourable imperialist would accept colonials seeking access to the home country, and under any other imperial regime the “metropole” might do just that. But while Washington is perfectly willing to let in every illegal immigrant to this country for various other reasons, it has no interest in an influx of people from its quasi-colonies. It is not simply ingratitude, though there may be some of that. It is necessary for maintaining the fiction that America is not an empire and that it has not just conquered Iraq to make it into its satellite: Iraqis shouldn’t want to become Americans, because Iraq is supposedly a sovereign country that needs their talents. There is supposedly no political bond connecting the two states, and so no privileged place for Iraqis who aided the occupation, but our government’s claim to determine the political future of Iraq makes a mockery of this. (Of course, there ought not be any political bond, as we properly have nothing to do with this country, but it is the height of arrogance and villainy for the hegemonists to destroy someone’s country, co-opt them into the new, imposed regime and then abandon them.)
Unlike European colonialism, there has never been any question of settling Americans in our colonies, which are really therefore not technically colonies but satellites and dependencies. Perhaps one day we will regularise the relationship with Iraq as we once did with Puerto Rico (the Commonwealth of Mesopotamia?)! Until then, Alyaa and others like her will suffer from the bitter legacy of the most perverse kind of imperialism, which seems to have as its goal not expanded commercial exchange, settlement, conversion, security or even simple access to resources, as all empires have sought before it, but for the most naked and cynical reasons of a grand strategy that has nothing to do with the national interests of the home country. It is an imperialism unlike any other, and it will generate a uniquely bitter resistance.
Since the U.S. invasion in 2003, at least 1,546 troops have died in Iraq, including at least 1,176 who died as a result of hostile action, according to the Defense Department. The figures include four military civilians.
Those numbers have dropped precipitously since national elections at the end of January, but deaths are still being reported at an average of about one a day.
The Iraqi election brought the nation’s Shiites and Kurds out in droves, but the minority Sunni population mainly stayed home, heightening sectarian tensions. The Sunni heartland provinces in the center of the nation - such as Anbar, Baghdad, Ninawa and Diyala - continue to be insurgency hotbeds.
As the number of Americans killed has dropped, violence targeting Iraqi security forces and civilians has increased. Militias roam neighborhoods, exacting justice with the barrel of an AK-47, often along sectarian lines. ~The Philadelphia Inquirer (courtesy of Military.com)
The slowing of the American death toll, with Iraqi civilians now receiving more of the attention of insurgents, has brought it back to its mid-2003 levels. At that time, losing a soldier a day had become a steady drain on public support for the war and the costs of this apparently interminable mission seemed to be mounting to no purpose. It is only by comparison with the more calamitous events of 2004 that things seem to have become relatively peaceful and improved.
For those of us, such as myself, for whom even one American death for Iraqi “liberation” was too high a price, it is scarce consolation that we have returned to losing one American a day. Every day we are paying an unacceptable price, and it will not become more acceptable even if all the President’s pie-in-the-sky fantasies for Iraq come true. American soldiers do not become soldiers and daily risk their lives so that Arabs, or anyone else, except perhaps other Americans, can vote and establish their own broken-down welfare state. Americans ought to demand a return of their soldiers for the end of this year, if not sooner.
We have wasted enough lives, resources, reputation and goodwill on a country that has properly literally nothing to do with us, our people or our security. No people has ever resented its occupiers for leaving, so we should cease pretending that our departure will be a ‘betrayal’ or anything other than the good common sense that it is. If our prestige and reputation take further damage from such a withdrawal, that is a better price to pay than gradually damaging and wrecking our armed forces to no purpose. And let us affix the blame for any loss of face squarely where it belongs: with the same people who ruined our national reputation by starting the war. We would not be in this position but for these dishonourable men, and we and our soldiers should not be held hostage to their mistake any longer.
It was slightly earlier than this time last year that the stand-off with Fallujah began and the Sadrist rebellion broke out, so if things are presently quiet one might assume, not knowing any better, that the problems of Fallujah and Sadr have been “solved” in some way. Instead, Sunni alienation and hostility seethes as much as ever, and Sadr has taken to the less immediately threatening but politically much more potent method of encouraging, for the moment, protest rather than violence. In short, for all the sacrifices made by hundreds of American soldiers in the last year, the same two fundamental problems that were flaring up last year remain. They have become quiescent or are not presently in conflict with American forces, but it is difficult to see what, if anything, has really been changed that justifies the loss of American lives.
There is now an Iraqi government, and from the rather self-absorbed American hegemonist perspective a slower American death rate proves the elections have been a “success” (i.e., they have made the hegemonists’ lives easier and deflected the mounting criticism), but it seems clear enough that overall security has not improved much at all as the worst bomb attack in post-war Iraq, which occurred after the elections, and the latest attack (link above) remind us. If our continued presence remains pointlessly linked to the quality of the security situation in Iraq, this shows that there has been scant progress in securing Iraq and thus no progress towards ending the mission in Iraq.
Montana’s role in this movement is significant because it’s the only state in the continental United States, west of the Mississippi River, that has passed a formal resolution adamantly opposing provisions of the USA PATRIOT Act, which citizens and legislators believe subverts civil rights granted by the U.S. Constitution.
Montana is a red state which voted by a 3-2 margin to re-elect George W. Bush. Paul Edwards, a citizen leader of the Red State Rebellion from Helena said, “Here we are in this sea of red and we’re saying ‘No’ to the Bush Administration’s USA PATRIOT Act.”
Montana Resolution 19, passed the State House (87-12) and State Senate (40-10) by resounding margins in both parties. The Resolution, regarded as the toughest passed anywhere to date, made its way through the entire legislative process without amendment.
Members of the Montana House and Senate who voted against the Resolution were described by Paul Edwards as those who favor Bush mandates over federal and state Constitutional rights. Edwards characterized opponents as, “sold-out, valueless politicians with mindless, unswerving loyalty to the Bush regime.” ~Karyn Strickler
Congratulations to the legislators of Montana who have joined the burgeoning movement to reject those most heinous and intrusive parts of the PATRIOT Act. Occasions such as this briefly encourage me to think that, at least in some parts of “conservative” America, there might still be more than a few people truly committed to our Constitution and the traditions of this country. It would have been rather more inspiring, though, if the resolution had not been organised by a county vice chairman of the Democratic Party. Still, the measure passed by huge margins, drawing support from the local GOP as well, and that has to be slightly encouraging for all friends of ordered liberty and disheartening for the forces of consolidation, hegemony and hubris.
It may be just about the most inspiring sight imaginable: hundreds of thousands of people gathered in the main square of some capital city, demanding democratic self-rule. “They’re doing it in many different corners of the world,” Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said last week, “places as varied as Ukraine and Kyrgyzstan and, on the other hand, Lebanon, and rumblings in other parts of the world as well. And so this is a hopeful time.”
It is a process in which the United States claims more than an observer’s role. The business of America, says President Bush, is spreading democracy. “The leaders of governments with long habits of control need to know: To serve your people, you must learn to trust them,” Bush said in his inaugural address this January. “Start on this journey of progress and justice and America will walk at your side.”
Unless, of course, you’re Mexican. ~Harold Meyerson,The American Prospect
Mr. Meyerson’s credulous comments about the Ukraine aside, his criticism joins an increasing number of commentaries observing that the one part of the world where some kind of genuine democratic-cum-populist instinct is flourishing, Latin America, is the last place Washington wants it. This hesitancy might derive from some delayed reality-check, as Washington recognises that democracy may have adverse consequences for the national interest, but what it really shows is the fraudulence and hypocrisy of the democratist rhetoric. Mobs are useful when they topple hostile or indifferent rulers, and our government and media will invent charming stories about “people power” on their behalf–provided they are far, far away.
The closer one gets to the United States in the world, less enthusiasm one finds among American officials for expressions of popular sentiments, as popular sentiments invariably favour those forces and individuals our government loathes: Hugo Chavez in Venezuela, Evo Morales in Bolivia and now Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, the mayor of Mexico City and leading opposition figure to George “Dobleve” Bush’s chum and fellow immigration enabler, Vicente Fox. One of the real lessons to be drawn from this is that Washington is perfectly capable of acknowleding that the internal politics of other countries is their own business. Another is that Washington seems to prefer stage-managed populist uprisings that empower oligarchs and former government figures–keep power within the established political class seems to be the guiding rule–while at the same time subverting the rule of law and binding the countries involved to fruitless military alliances. The goal in the future will be to instill the idea that another country’s politics should not have to be aligned with those of our ruling class to be left alone.
Isn’t it about time we got a little angrier and a little more scandalised? On 5 May we will troop up to the polling booths having endured four weeks of unfathomably banal soundbites, platitudinous drivel and vapid party political broadcasts — and we will do so because we believe it is our duty and because we have faith in the process. General elections and the whole notion of parliamentary democracy is as British as steak-and-kidney pie. We have it and many others do not, much to their disfavour. We trust it and we have implicit trust in ourselves not to abuse it. ‘Vote early, vote often’ is nothing more than a little joke, isn’t it? — unless you’re speaking from Harare or Chittagong or Kiev.
Well, not this time, maybe. This time around we will be participating in an election which, simply put, has been loaded in favour of the government. Not just because it will take many thousands more voters to elect a Conservative MP than a Labour MP, of which more later. Almost without question, there will be frauds committed and again, almost without question, the overwhelming majority of these frauds will favour the Labour party. We all know this, the government knows this and has even accepted as much by signing up to legislation to make postal voting more secure — but only after the election has taken place. In other words, it will benefit from the fraud and only then maybe change the law. Isn’t that scandalous?
Labour is treating the British ballot box with the kind of holiness and reverence one might expect of a bunch of Zanu-PF officials in some fly-blown corner of Matabeleland. If Robert Mugabe wanted to score an instant and hilarious propaganda coup against the ‘homosexual gangsters’ of the Blair government, he could do no better than to dispatch a team of election monitors to Britain to cover this election, and their first stop should be the Midlands. ~Rod Liddle, The Spectator
Most of us, when emerging from intellectual childhood into intellectual adolescence, pass through a phase of earnest search for certainty about the world. For instance, George W. Bush recently read a book (by a Mr. Sharansky, we are told) and enjoyed a revelation. He discovered, as he informed us in his Inaugural Address, that he is a Menshevik, with Zionist leanings. This is not too surprising. Verbiage about magical crusades for humanity has a powerful appeal for adolescents. The verbiage discovered by Bush Jr. is in the air we breathe and has been ever since Marx, taking his cue from the Gettysburg Address, conflated the Declaration of Independence of the free American states with the power-friendly Declaration of the Rights of Man.
Objectively considered, without superstitious awe of his office or sentimentalism about “good intentions,” Bush is a liar and a criminal. Nothing surprising about that either. That is commonplace for heads of government. What is unusual in this case is that the head of government is an ignorant fool and a spoiled brat. We have entered into the stage of imperial decadence in which a clueless inheritor of the throne is a tool of his courtiers, though, like all courtiers, they must occasionally endure an outbreak of petulant self-assertion or manage a tangent of eccentricity by their lord.
The Framers and ratifiers of the federal Constitution were hardly conversant with the concept of “personality,” but they were highly conversant with the histories of empires and monarchies and how rulers’ defects of character had introduced distortions into the state. But about the only consideration of character that came into their view in regard to the president was that he might become too ambitious and employ his considerable powers to the detriment of the public. This was not too worrisome since it could hardly be thought that the man who would emerge from the electoral process could be other than one long and widely known for integrity, patriotism, and exceptional services to his country. The Union would not be held hostage to accidents of birth.
The Founders’ assumption held true until 1836, when Martin Van Buren demonstrated that one could become president merely by being a politician, by working the system and cultivating the support of his popular predecessor. Expansion of the patronage and the electorate had brought the methods of Aaron Burr’s Tammany Hall to national politics. Lincoln nailed down the point with a vengeance by becoming president with 39 percent of the vote and hardly any record of public service at all. Presidents have since occasionally been men of distinction and service, but the general trend has been downhill. ~Clyde Wilson, The Old Republic
Dr. Wilson is correct in his comments on the people’s worship of the president as a celebrity and on the adolescent mind of the current president. It will be of interest that Prof. Lukacs also observed and decried both in Democracy and Populism, even seeing the same puerility and unserious character in Reagan that he sees in Mr. Bush. That accusation of superficiality and immaturity would surely anger Dr. Wilson’s Reagan follower even more that Dr. Wilson’s thoughtful remarks about the emptiness of Mr. Reagan’s “legacy” and the need to abandon such “legacies,” but they are all part of the same problem: celebrity politicians cannot help but be shallow and immature to some extent, as they are here to entertain us and it is by the surface appearance and style that celebrities are judged.
As long as we need to have politicians we venerate and can be enthusiastic about, as if we were a throng of cult devotees or screaming groupies rather than sober, rational people, we will have the most vacuous, insipid and superficial rulers whose chief duty is to please the crowd and assuage fears. The therapeutic state is here, and politicians have become the equivalent of glorified “self-help” gurus (the last thing they would counsel, of course, is any sort of self-reliance, since this would make them redundant).
Simply put, democracy is and has been degenerating into a brutish populism most often in the form of nationalism. The Modern Age has ended, and something very different and terrible is being born before our very eyes. This is the general theme of John Lukacs’ new book, Democracy and Populism: Fear and Hatred, and in the course of fleshing out this argument he interprets and discusses the history of modern ideologies and the “misreadings” of that history by later generations. He attacks a number of shibboleths of political discourse, and likely has something to infuriate someone of every political persuasion. Sometimes exaggerated, sometimes profound, only occasionally falling into the convenient conceptual stereotype, his book is always interesting and engrossing..
It was fortunate that I delayed the ‘publication’ of my review of John Lukacs’ latest book, as I opened my American Conservative today to find a very smart, insightful and concise review by Dr. Paul Gottfried, who managed to say many of the things I had been thinking and expressing less effectively than I would have liked. Dr. Gottfried answered the many inaccurate or distorted images of the past American and contemporary European Right that Prof. Lukacs presented, and addressed Prof. Lukacs’ rather sanguine view of Bolshevism and his consequent undue contempt for anti-Communists of all kinds with the criticism that it required, so I will not cover this ground yet again, except where I might add a comment or two. Prof. Lukacs’ professional preoccupation with the study of Hitler has led him to the false impression that Hitler dominates the minds of modern populists and nationalists, which Dr. Gottfried notes is certainly not true here and scarcely true anywhere in Europe.
For the latter-day constitutionalist and the young civics student alike, Lukacs has the perfectly obvious but largely unacknowledged observation: mixed government as a reality has ended. Observing that Tocqueville once wrote admiringly of the American judiciary and lawyers, because of their restraining influences on democracy, Prof. Lukacs now notes that these no longer fulfill the same functions. “Democracy has become unlimited, untrammeled, universal.” This is certainly the plague of our age, and one that thoughtful observers ought to regard with great alarm. The ideal of mixed government was to provide balance between competing interests and to prevent concentrations of power in any one part of the body politic. With this now at an end the dangerous concentrations of power appear to have no remedy and contemporary political theorists, if we may call them that, are at a loss to speak in any language other than that of increased democracy and more rights.
Prof. Lukacs reminds us that the terms conservative and liberal have ceased to have any meaning in Western societies, and the terms Right and Left are only slightly more useful. Of the Right he notes that historically it has not been populist, but it now most certainly is, “which is perhaps a main argument of this book.” For most who would consider themselves Rightists today (whether they would actually fit Chilton Williamson’s excellent definition of the same is another question), the accusation of populism is not really an insult. What Prof. Lukacs’ book explains to his audience, in a sense, is that the charge of populism very much ought to be taken as an insult by Rightists. It is certainly a contradiction and a subversion of their own principles.
But if one part of the book is about the degeneration of democracy (of which Prof. Lukacs is clearly not much of an admirer in its unmediated form) into rude populism, the other is the collapse of those motivated by fear under the pressures of those motivated by hatred. It is also fair to say that the book is an homage to Tocqueville’s insight and genius, and an attempt in a new work to continue, in a brief but sweeping and often profound way, the sort of political and cultural analysis in which Tocqueville excelled.
The statement that the “diverse combinations of nationalism and socialism marked most of the history of the twentieth century” is undeniably true, with certain qualifications, and as true for America as it is for every other part of the world. In America, he notes, Republicans have been the predominantly nationalistic party (and, I might add, scarcely more so than today) and Democrats the predominantly socialistic party, but as American political observers are only too aware the convergence between the two positions and parties is common. Lukacs speculates that the Democrats may have been declining over the past fifty years as much as they have because of their dearth of nationalism in our age of rising nationalism.
Though the book does not address the problems of the export of populism and nationalism to the non-Western world in the wake of decolonisation and again today, Lukacs’ book would be perfectly accompanied by George McCarthy’s brilliant review of Hotel Rwanda in the April 2005 issue of Chronicles. Having viewed the film just last night, I can attest that Mr. McCarthy’s review was one of the most accurate and insightful I have ever read. Seeing the way in which mass media, in this case RTLN “Hutu Power Radio,” fed the populist insanity of the Rwandan genocide demonstrates in graphic fashion Prof. Lukacs’ concern for the pervasive effects of mass media on our politics and culture.
One of the most valuable points in the book is the attention to non-material historical causes, and its general challenge to the bias towards privileging material causes in historical scholarship. He focuses particularly on “the accumulation of opinions”: “But it is the accumulation of opinions that governs the history of states and of nations and of democracies as well as dictatorships in the age of popular sovereignty. It is the main ingredient of nationalisms, the cause of wars, and of the majority support of fanatical speakers like Hitler, or of the less enthusiastic but majoritarian support of less than mediocre presidents.” Naturally, those who accumulate, disseminate and shape those opinions are the real power-brokers.
For Lukacs, nationalism is aggressive and self-centered, and by this last term he means it very specifically as the love of oneself or those like oneself. His explanation of the problem with this generalised, abstracted form of a natural affinity for one’s people will not be satisfying to many who regard themselves as non-nationalist patriots (who in turn place love of their own people ahead of and against abstract national identity): “The love for one’s people is natural, but it also categorical; it is less charitable and less deeply human than the love for one’s country, a love that flows from traditions, at least akin to a love of one’s family.” Lukacs’ interpretation is intellectually tempting, but somehow fails finally to convince. How is the love of family more akin to the love of country than to that of one’s people? Surely, at some level, filial love is the most basic and instinctive–thus the least ‘deeply human’, to work from Lukacs’ definition–of all forms of love.
Herein lies what is one of the central disagreements I have, not just with Prof. Lukacs’ interpretation here, but with the entire ‘attitude’, if you will, of two Rightists of European origin, Lukacs and the late von Kuehnelt-Leddihn, who have found volkisch and ethnic things terribly disturbing. Boden, yes, Blut, no; Kultur, maybe (but presumably not in some volkisch sense!). There is a constant desire to find some way to align attachment to country with a cosmopolitan outlook–one might be tempted to say that breadth, not depth, is the cultural ideal of these men. This is, in a way, an admirable desire to return to the way that Europe was before 1914 or, really, before 1870, but just as one need not loathe another landscape to love one’s own as one’s own so one need not loathe or exclude other nationalities to love one’s own people–it is a deficient and weak love of one’s own people that causes men to lash out against foreigners in hatred and violence in the sense decried by Lukacs. It is political populism that makes love of one’s people conformist and monolithic, not the love of one’s people that makes populism into the drive for brutal and crude homogeneity. What is more, it is fluid social boundaries, which disrupt ethnic communities, that exacerbate and encourage hostility to foreigners. I fear that Prof. Lukacs, usually so careful about causality, has gotten the order here precisely backwards, and has mistaken the effect of populism for the essential character of a love for one’s own people.
As he says later, “Patriotism is always more than merely biological–because charitable love is human and not merely “natural.”” This last line is most telling–the presumption, no doubt shaped by extensive study of twentieth-century European ideology, that love of one’s people is “merely biological” or the prejudice that an affinity for the “merely biological” is less than virtuous. (Is love for one’s parents less admirable, less virtuous or less human simply because it is based more in biological similarity than, say, love for one’s wife or friends?) First, ethnic and national identities are obviously not “merely” or even entirely “biological,” though they are rooted in the reality and perception of biological similarity.
The biological bond is vital because it is the means by which the generations are linked so that the culture of a people can be transmitted and reproduced, and because the specific content of one’s culture will often be shaped by the experience of one’s biological ancestors. Their history and the customs we receive from them cannot be separated, nor can the fact that we would probably not have received them if we were not their descendants. (That there are descendants who remain in ignorance of their ancestors’ ways is lamentable, but does not disprove the vital importance of the biological link–it only shows that biology is necessary, but not sufficient for cultural reproduction.) However, as natural as these affinities are to a certain extent, a sense of veneration for and duty towards the habits and customs of one’s ancestors–the method by which the “merely biological” and the cultural unite to convey the full heritage of one’s people–is something that is taught through cultural means: language, symbols and practices.
“Populism is folkish, patriotism is not. One can be a patriot and a cosmopolitan (certainly culturally so). But a populist is inevitably a nationalist of sorts. Patriotism is less racist than is populism.” This is undoubtedly shaped by his experience and interpretations of central European history. It is not obvious that the love for one’s own people should be so easily collapsed into the term ‘populism’, of which I believe it is usually a perverse distortion. In other words, patriotism and love of one’s people are not necessarily premised on entirely different things–populism and patriotism are. The frequent confusion of love for one’s own people with populism and/or nationalism in the middle of his book have created a number of problems that need not have existed.
I will return to one area that Dr. Gottfried covered, because it was the least convincing and least satisfying element of the book for me and requires further comment. Lukacs makes a dismissive remark about Robert Taft in a footnote, which really seems neither worthwhile or apropos, but which symbolises, in a way, one of the messages of the book: the Communist threat has always been exaggerated, and the real threat everywhere is nationalism. “In December 1941, three days before Pearl Harbor, Senator Robert A. Taft proclaimed that while “Fascism” appealed to only a few, Communism was a much greater danger because it appealed to many. (This when Hitler’s armies stood a dozen miles from Moscow.)” The irrelevant mention of Pearl Harbor is a not-so-subtle dig at the non-interventionist Taft’s foreign policy views, as if his lesser concern about the threat of fascism was somehow proven even more wrong by the attack at Pearl Harbor (which would be to see Imperial Japan as fascist, which is really stretching things quite a bit.) Where Hitler’s armies were was, as Taft might have said, beside the point: the political idea (one of those non-material causes) motivating Hitler’s armies could only be carried forward by conquest, and was defined in some measure by domination, while communism had the potential to be adopted in various climes and nations without the support of foreign armies with the same equally devastating and disastrous results. Historically, Taft was right: fascism has appealed only to a few nations in very specific circumstances and died in 1945 never to return, while communism, or at least the trappings of communism, was adopted as the banner of revolution and/or independence in over a dozen countries with effects far more lasting and extensive in Asia than any form of fascism ever had anywhere. Officially, communism still lives and its heirs continue to degrade and oppress hundreds of millions of people. Even if some anti-Communists have been nationalist populists of the worst kind, this does not diminish in any way the gravity of what communism represented. And fascism does have limited appeal. Nationalism in any given country may have perennial, significant power, but at the same time its very nationalism serves to limit the potential effects of any one nationalist movement.
Nonetheless, as much as Prof. Lukacs is a careful scholar very much concerned with the integrity and proper use of language, he will sometimes fall into what I regarded as lazy stereotypes and categorisations of individuals in their political alignments. Thus Huey “Share Our Wealth” Long and Fr. Coughlin are listed in the same sentence with Col. Lindbergh as men of the Right in the time of Roosevelt. Perhaps this is because he has elsewhere identified Long as a Populist rather than a Progressive, which puts him in the nationalist, and unfortunately somehow inevitably Rightist, category of this interpretation of twentieth century American history? Regardless of how it happened, it is blatantly wrong. In my view, these two men shared little more than a common antipathy to certain policies of the Roosevelt administration: they were both opposition men, but they were attacking from entirely different sides and were concerned with very different things. One might as well make Wallace and Thurmond fellow travelers.
The conclusions are hard to ignore: there is no undoing of the Democratic Age, much as we might hope for it, and faith in constitutions and parliaments is also increasingly useless. The internal contradictions of populist “conservatism” are simply inaugurating another stage of nationalist frenzy, of which the needless, gratuitous and aggressive attack on Iraq might serve as a convenient symbol. (Prof. Lukacs clearly abhors the Iraq war and the reason for it that he sees–it was a war for popularity, he says–but the war itself and its direct relation to his theme are not subjects that he covers.) The cult of celebrity and its corrosive effects on our society, also discussed today by Clyde Wilson in a slightly different context, has taken hold of the public through the mass media. This cult has, as I would put it, induced a spirit of servility and adoration that might only be comparable in the past to enthusiasms for favourite charioteers in the Circus. That people used to fawning over famous nonentities should then elect one president and virtually worship him is also not very surprising.
There are a some final statements that I’d like to add in response to one of the more bizarre and inexplicable comments towards the end of the book that touch on Orthodoxy. Their importance should not be exaggerated–it is only a few sentences on one page–but they simply make no sense. Regardless of his few complimentary asides about Vladimir Putin, Prof. Lukacs demonstrates a strange lack of understanding of the state of modern Orthodox nations and their history. He would hardly be the first to misunderstand the Christian East, and hardly the first historian or serious writer to ascribe something like “Constantinism” to the character of Orthodoxy, but I believe his observations here are quite mistaken and in need of correction. Add to this the rather bizarre remarks about the ‘good’ that came from the Russian Revolution (it prevented Tsarist Russia from dominating a post-WWI Allied victory), which I tried to take in the spirit of an historian’s counterfactual imaginings rather than as any serious statement that the creation of the USSR was preferable to a Tsarist-dominated eastern Europe, and one can certainly see some flawed elements in the work. Of course, I may be biased on this question: I am both Russian Orthodox and a student of Byzantine history. But I am also an admirer of Prof. Lukacs’ work and his reputation as an historian, which these odd remarks do not advance.
“Constantinism” is an invention of the Reformation and Enlightenment. It has nothing to do with the Orthodox world (and whatever might be comparable in Byzantine history, it was not invented by Constantine I). When it has existed, it has been an attempt by Westerners to imitate a Byzantine church-state arrangement they never understood. “Constantinism” is at best the conscious institution of a pseudo-Byzantine arrangement between church and state in England and the German principalities (which, in the great ironies of history, was eventually transferred to Greece when the Bavarian monarchy took control of that country in the 1830s) that bears no real relation to the imperial relationship to the Orthodox Church in Byzantium. At worst it is simply the scurrilous liberal libel against Byzantium for its erstwhile “Caesaropapism” and the Church’s supposed identification with the empire to some compromise of Her integrity. This is a scandalous falsehood, and anyone remotely familiar with the late Byzantine period in particular ought to know how ludicrous it is. It is even less convincing for the less enduring Balkan dynasties, and only slightly more credible in the Russian case. There have been moments in history when modern nationalism has corrupted and divided Orthodox peoples, but these have been, on the whole, relatively few.
“Among the Eastern, Greek and Russian, Orthodox churches of eastern Europe the nationalist and populist characters of the different national churches remain largely what they have been for almost one thousand years.” This statement is unacceptable and untrue. There was no nationalism properly so called in the middle ages, as Prof. Lukacs surely must know, as there were no self-conscious nations organised on that basis, but on the basis of dynastic rulers. There was scarcely any nationalism in the Orthodox lands in the sense that he means it until the late 18th century with the introduction of Enlightenment ideas. Bishop Germanos raising the Cross together with the Greek revolutionaries was historically the exception, not the rule.
Nor is it more acceptable to say this: “That was, and remains, the consequence of what we may call Constantinism (since it began with Constantine the Great): the willingness of churches, and of their peoples, to accept and even to venerate and worship (and on occasion sanctify) the authority of monarchs, dictators, imperial rulers, when these invite their churches to assist them at their maintenance of law and order.” Of course, it was not in the East among the Byzantines that the churches stepped in to help maintain law and order, but in many areas of the medieval west in the absence of any secular authority to do the job. In the late seventh and then again in the early tenth centuries certain elements of canon law were incorporated into secular law. Earlier, the two were clearly distinct, but one would have thought that the greater Christianisation of the law would not have been objectionable. Surely the only real, Christian objections to a “Constantinist” arrangement is that it somehow compromises or sullies the Church by making some disreputable deal with the powerful. When disreputable manipulations of the Church did occur, then some element within the Church would react against it and gradually triumph. What he describes does not apply to St. Constantine’s reign, nor to that of any other Byzantine ruler, even the most obnoxious and interventionist ones: no Christian prelate or Church Father from the entire Byzantine period ever told other Christians to “worship” the authority of their rulers–they worshiped God. In an age of mass populism, I should also have thought that veneration of authority was not something of which one ought to be ashamed.
I have some doubts that Prof. Lukacs inquired that deeply into the circumstances of the Orthodox churches in eastern Europe over the past 1000 years. Had he done so, he would have been aware of the vast complexity and diversity of conditions that prevailed in the Orthodox world at various times. He would not be satisfied if someone made gross over-generalisations about European history or the very technical political distinctions that he made in this book, and neither should he be satisfied to make such gross oversimplifications about an entire area of the European and Christian world. His judgement about Orthodox churches vis-a-vis “Constantinism” might hold true for post-Petrine Russia–but once again the relative subjugation of the Church followed Westernising reforms–but even here it is misleading, because then what we are speaking of is not “Constantinism” but “Petrism” or, more accurately, Westernisation.
Still more curious was Tony Blair’s immediate determination to go to Rome. No prime minister has ever attended a papal funeral before, and with good reason. Britain is not a Roman Catholic country — though admittedly anyone who has read the British newspapers over the past few days might be forgiven for supposing that it was. The papacy stands for autocratic and hierarchical principles and attachments to ancient dogmas that are alien to the British state.
Not merely that, but Rome is emphatic that the Church of England, where the Prime Minister is at any rate nominally a communicant, is heretical. As far as the Vatican is concerned, the Anglican settlement is illegitimate and has no merit. Pope Leo XIII made this plain in his papal bull, Apostolicae Curae, of September 1896, which declared that Anglican orders ‘have been and are completely null and void’. This means that so far as the papacy is concerned, the Archbishop of Canterbury is no more than an old man in a skirt, though no Roman cardinal or bishop would be rude enough to express such a view. This is what made it such an audacious decision by the British Prime Minister to decide at once to abandon his duties to the British Crown and travel to the Vatican instead. ~Peter Oborne
Even as someone who fondly remembers our scarcely lamented Loyalist cousins and was well-versed as a child in the Protestant mythology of England and America, still invoked even today by Mr. Oborne, I often forget that there are a few (although admittedly very, very few) who still believe that the British monarchy means something and that the Church of England actually bears some relationship to the identity of the people of the United Kingdom. These few must truly be the oldest of the old guard, and I don’t write this really to ridicule them, but to marvel at how they can possibly maintain their commitment to institutions that have become something so very different from what they were or were supposed to be.
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The notion that an all-powerful, centralized state should provide monolithic solutions to the ethical dilemmas of our times is not only misguided, but also contrary to our Constitution. Remember, federalism was established to allow decentralized, local decision making by states. Yet modern America seeks a federal solution for every perceived societal ill, ignoring constitutional limits on government. The result is a federal state that increasingly makes all-or-nothing decisions that alienate large segments of the population.
This federalization of social issues, often championed by conservatives, has not created a pro-life culture, however. It simply has prevented the 50 states from enacting laws that more closely reflect the views of their citizens. Once we accepted the federalization of abortion law under the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision, we lost the ability to apply local community standards to ethical issues. It is much more difficult for pro-life advocates to win politically at the federal level. Those who seek a pro-life culture must accept that we will never persuade 300 million Americans to agree with us. Our focus should be on overturning Roe and getting the federal government completely out of the business of regulating state matters. A pro-life culture can be built only from the ground up, person by person. For too long we have viewed the battle as purely political, but no political victory can change a degraded culture. A pro-life culture must arise from each of us as individuals, not by the edict of an amoral federal government. ~Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX)
Social problems kept in check during the authoritarian era of former president Askar Akayev are already surfacing in Kyrgyzstan, three weeks after he was removed from office by protesters angry at election results, grinding poverty and corruption by the ruling family.
On 7 April, tension was raised when people began to seize land on the southern outskirts of the capital Bishkek, demanding that they be granted legal title that they say they were deprived of under the former regime. They say they are part of a 14,000-strong movement demanding access to lucrative real estate close to the capital.
Protest leaders established headquarters in traditional dome-shaped yurt tents on the edge of the city, while others roped off land plots they said corrupt Akayev-era officials had prevented them from buying.
But the protest has attracted a number of opportunists eager to exploit the current lack of substantive authority in the country, like Muratbek, a poor southerner who came north to the capital to seek a better life. When he heard rumours of the land grab, he was quick to join in.
“This is the land of people and everybody has a right to it. Moreover, we overthrew Akayev and we are entitled to be rewarded for that,” Muratbek told IRIN, pointing out the plot he says he now owns, delineated by string from that of a neighbour’s. ~Reuters
For those uninterested in such legal niceties as property rights or the lawful transfers of title, I’m sure the Bishkek land grab seems wonderful. But it is yet another example of the lawlessness and disorder that has attended the Kyrgyz coup from the beginning. The difference between the land seizures in Kyrgyzstan and those in Zimbabwe seems mainly to be that the Kyrgyz coup leaders are not openly encouraging this activity, but remain, as they have been since the beginning, utterly powerless to stop it. They have ridden a wave of discontent and now find themselves helpless to stem the tide as it now threatens their rule. Either the Kyrgyz coup leaders will follow the methods of the 1848 revolutionaries in Vienna and suppress their poorer fellow revolutionaries, or they may find themselves unseated by those more willing to “reward” the people. Practicing demagogy and then failing to keep control of the people who have been incited simply becomes open lawlessness. This is the face of “people power” in action.
Vladimir Putin has stepped into an acrimonious debate over who will succeed him by publicly suggesting for the first time that he could run for a third term as President.
Speaking on a visit to Germany, Mr Putin ruled out changing the Constitution to run for a third consecutive term in 2008, but said that he could, in theory, stand at the next election in 2012. ~Timesonline.co.uk
Barring a president from seeking more than two consecutive terms is an effective check on an incumbent using the advantages of office and prestige as president. For someone once in presidential office to leave and then recapture the office four years later is politically very difficult. Only someone confident in his democratic appeal and political message could reasonably expect to succeed; authoritarians bent on extinguishing free expression, as Mr. Putin has been caricatured, do not risk giving up power voluntarily.
The reason to prevent a president from running for a third consecutive term is, as it was here, to prevent any chance of an individual so successfully manipulating the machinery of government that he can no longer be ousted by any challenger in an election. What does this story tell us about Mr. Putin? If there is any truth in it, it means that Mr. Putin respects the letter of the Russian constitution, he does not intend to use his pliant majority in the Duma to increase his power indefinitely into the future (which he could probably easily do), and he entertains the possibility of allowing the Russian public to re-elect him at a later date with the very real possibility that, viewed from hindsight, the public will find that his tenure as president does not merit another opportunity. That the predictable leftists (Khakamada) and Western lackeys (the Yabloko party) find fault with this statement reveals their own impotence and irrelevance.
The opposition should be thrilled that Putin has given them any opportunity to revive at all. They carp and belittle his statements because they are perfectly well aware that neither Khakamada nor Yabloko’s representative could carry better than 10% of the vote in a real contest. All of this underscores that there will be a contested Russian presidental election in 2008. If Putin’s successor has significant advantages in institutional support, political leverage and popularity, then that is a mark of Putin’s success as a politician and power-broker.
The Netherlands will reject the European Union constitutional treaty in a national referendum on June 1 unless government and business can mobilise support rapidly, Dutch politicians are warning.
The outcome could prove academic if opinion polls prove accurate and the French reject the treaty three days earlier on May 29. Growing Dutch scepticism, however, could feed anti-EU sentiment in France, and vice-versa, making the Yes campaigns more difficult.
Regardless of the French outcome, which recent polls predict will lead to a rejection of the treaty, the Dutch referendum will go ahead.
However, should France back the constitution, the Netherlands - a founding member of the EU - could bury it. ~The Financial Times
Instead of emulating the policies of pre-World War I Britain toward Germany, the United States should take a page from another chapter in British history. In the late 1800s, although not without tension, the British peacefully allowed the fledging United States to rise as a great power, knowing both countries were protected by the expanse of the Atlantic Ocean that separated them. Taking advantage of that same kind separation by a major ocean, the United States could also safely allow China to obtain respect as a great power, with a sphere of influence to match. If China went beyond obtaining a reasonable sphere of influence into an Imperial Japanese-style expansion, the United States could very well need to mount a challenge. However, at present, little evidence exists of Chinese intent for such expansion, which would run counter to recent Chinese history. Therefore, a U.S. policy of coexistence, rather than neo-containment, might avoid a future catastrophic war or even a nuclear conflagration. ~Ivan Eland
Mr. Eland’s parallel with pre-1914 British policy towards Germany is very perceptive. In the pre-Dreadnought era, British supremacy was so unquestioned that Germany could never have realistically challenged it, yet in transforming its military and adopting a confrontational posture with Berlin Britain managed to create at once a threat and a nemesis that had not existed before. The problem of Taiwan, and the perceived need to develop a navy capable of retaking it, even if America supports Taiwan, has spurred the development of what might become the first really formidable Chinese navy since the Ming dynasty. The unnecessary external pressure from America, and the encouragement this instills into Taiwanese independence politics, is helping to make China look to naval power for practically the first time in the modern era. We are in the process of provoking a threat and a real adversary in the Pacific that need not have existed.
Mr. Eland’s observation is just the sort that only non-interventionists seem able to make. Just as it is part of the interventionist narrative of the 20th century that the Central Powers were the villains and their “autocracy” had to be combated, the same idea of defending free Taiwan from the admittedly far worse, more oppressive (than the 1914 German government, that is) Chinese goverment is accepted as a sort of obvious moral commitment.
In the same way that Irving Kristol argued that we have an obligation to any “democracy” anywhere because of “shared values,” because we are supposedly an “ideological nation,” the pro-Taiwan lobby (many of whom are among the most belligerent interventionists elsewhere) somehow sees extending yet another disastrous guarantee to yet another East Asian country against its exceedingly nationalist-communist neighbours as a natural extension of the idea that, as Mr. Bush foolishly said in his Inaugural Address, “America’s vital interests and our deepest beliefs are now one.” (Question: have we ever come out better for any of our East Asian adventures, or have they all been mistakes with unacceptable costs?) The case of Taiwan shows better than anything that this statement is not simply a mistake or a delusion but a deliberate falsehood. Anyone who believes our vital interests include nuclear war, or even the risk of nuclear war, for Taiwan possibly belongs in a sanitarium, but he should not be making foreign policy for this country.
Pope John Paul II will be remembered as the Pope who helped spark the carnage and killing and displacement of the Balkan conflicts. By recognizing Croatia, he started the ball rolling that resulted in the deaths of thousands of innocent people. It was his act of recklessly and arrogantly recognizing Croatia that was partly to blame for the violent break-up of Yugoslavia. He could have chosen the path of negotiation, rapprochement and reconciliation that many world leaders were counseling at the time. Instead, he chose confrontation and conflict. He chose something that he must have known would lead to war.
Diplomatic recognition is a matter appropriate to the political. The Pope should have focused on religion, not politics. Like Alojze Stepinac before him, he chose politics and Croatian nationalism over religion. He contributed greatly to the wars that destroyed and dismembered Yugoslavia in the 1990s.
In the West, of course, the Pope will be remembered as the man who brought down Communism, while traveling relentlessly and providing interfaith outreach on a scale not seen by any previous pope. But his legacy will be remembered differently in the Balkans. He failed to acknowledge the Roman Catholic role in the Ustasha genocide of World War II. He failed to take a stand on the continuing and ongoing genocide of Orthodox Christians in Kosovo-Metohija. He had an opportunity to use his enormous stature and respect in the eyes of the world to make a difference for peace, but he chose not to do so. In the end, he only exacerbated the historic conflict between Catholicism and Orthodoxy. He made matters worse. In the Balkans at least, his legacy will be one of failure. ~Carl Savich, Balkanalysis.com
Mr. Savich’s impassioned and serious article is an important balance to the endless streams of praise for the Pope’s specifically political activities. In fairness to the Vatican and Pope John Paul, recognition of Croatia by Rome alone could not have unleashed all of the evils of the Balkan wars, but it did materially contribute to the drive for recognition of the secessionist states by Germany, then governed by the heavily Catholic Christian Democratic Union government of Helmut Kohl.
It is important to qualify Mr. Savich’s account by noting that had Rome refused to recognise Croatia it is very likely that Germany, with its own connections to its former satellite, would have done so for the continuation of its own Ostpolitik. In the end, it was Germany, and the European Community and US along with it, that made the destruction of Yugoslavia possible. The Vatican did, however, lend its moral authority to encouraging this tragic and unnecessary war, and the late Pope was responsible for that.
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The Vatican is preparing to sever diplomatic ties with Taiwan as part of an historic fence-mending exercise with Beijing that could allow Chinese Roman Catholics to practise freely for the first time in 50 years.
The deal, discussed by a senior cardinal as Pope John Paul II was on his deathbed, would pave the way for an estimated eight million Roman Catholics to resume official ties with the Vatican and hold services without fear of persecution. ~The Daily Telegraph
If the deal goes through this is undoubtedly very bad news for Taiwan, as it is a prominent and serious blow, however symbolic, to its very limited diplomatic leverage in the world. My initial response was a momentary one of wanting to criticise the decision, but I then reminded myself that the proper responsibility of the Papacy is obviously the welfare of Catholics and not the vindication of some general principle of anticommunism or the defense of so-called “liberal democracy”.
But I am curious how this deal, evidently one of the final policy decisions of the pontificate of John Paul II, will be greeted by many of the late Pope’s well-wishers. Those who could not stop praising the man for his role in undermining communism in Europe will surely be disappointed, if not bewildered, and one wonders how long it will take the neocons to accuse the late Pope of lacking “moral clarity”. The normalisation of the status of Chinese Catholics, and their freedom from persecution, will also remove one of the major driving forces behind American anti-Chinese politics. It is this that will probably outrage the anti-China lobby more than anything.
But Rothbard himself granted that his course was not wise, if what he sought was professional advancement. As he explained in a letter to Robert Kephart:
“Bob, old and wiser … heads have been giving me similar advice all my life, and I’m sure all that advice was right. … When I was a young libertarian starting out, I was advised by Leonard Read: ‘Only be critical of bad measures, not of the people advocating them.’ It’s OK to criticize government regulation, but not the people advocating them. One big trouble with that is that then people remain ignorant of the ruling class, and the fact that Business often pushes regulatory measures to cartelize the system, so I went ahead and named names….
“Then, when I became an anarchist, I was advised, similarly: ‘Forget this anarchist stuff. It will injure your career, and ruin your scholarly image as a laissez-faire Austrian.’ I of course didn’t follow that perfectly accurate advice. Then, come the late 1950s, I was advised by friends: ‘For god’s-sakes, forget this peace crap. Stick to economics, that’s your scholarly area anyway. Everybody is against this peace stuff, and it will kill your scholarly image, and ruin you with the conservative movement.’ Which of course is exactly what happened. And then: ‘Don’t attack Friedman directly. Just push Austrianism.’ And ‘don’t push Austrianism too hard, so you can be part of one big free-market economics family.’
“So you see, Bob, my deviation from proper attention to my career image is lifelong, and it is too late to correct at this point. I’m sure that if, in Ralph [Raico]’s phrase, I had been ‘careful,’ and followed wise advice, I would now be basking in lots of money, prestige, and ambiance. … Why did I take the wrong course?… If there had been lots of libertarians who were anarchists, lots who were antiwar, lots who named names of the ruling elite, lots attacking Hoover, Friedman, etc., I might not have made all these choices, figuring that these important tasks were being well taken care of anyway, so I may as well concentrate on my own ‘positioning.’ But at each step I looked around and saw indeed that nobody else was doing it. So then it was up to me.” ~Lew Rockwell, Mises.org
Mr. Rockwell’s article, which is a review of Justin Raimondo’s Rothbard: An Enemy of the State, does a fine job recapitulating the career of Murray Rothbard and explaining the virtues of Mr. Raimondo’s book. I must confess that, having never read any Rothbard, I am just the sort of person who needs to read An Enemy of the State, and I have been very much encouraged to do so by this review. I am all the more compelled to learn more from Rothbard as I see that his views, though perhaps a tad too libertarian in certain respects, were usually the expressions of the same principles I have held and defended, and he readily embraced the consequences of holding fast to his convictions in a truly admirable manner. In addition to his prodigious intellectual output, Murray Rothbard also bequeathed his example of steadfast conviction as part of his legacy. What a pity that, even if they preferred access and power to integrity and truth, his “conservative” enemies could not at least honour him for that–but then that would require a sense of honour, which the crowd at NR and like organisations have shown again and again that they lack.
The article’s reference to the tenth anniversary of Rothbard’s death in January reminds me of a story my father had told me, which constitutes, alas, my main connection to the influence of Rothbard, but it is worth noting all the same. My introduction to conservatism came through my father for the first eight or ten years that I was really aware of politics, so his repudiation of National Review in 1995, following the hateful obituary of Murray Rothbard written by William Buckley (some of the errors of which Rockwell points out), resonated with me and gave me my first hint that NR had become apostate, so to speak. The earlier causes of the war between Rothbard and Buckley were not known to me then, but in this episode I was made aware of the sharp divisions in the American Right (of course, I did not think of it quite like this at the time) and saw clearly who had been on the right side of those divisions.
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Sicuani, a market town of about 30,000 people 150km south-east of the tourist resort of Cusco, is rarely mentioned during the day-to-day circus of Peruvian politics. In a sense, that makes it a perfect setting for a revolution.
Tomorrow the town is to host the launch of the Peruvian version of Bolivia’s Movement to Socialism (MAS), the radical anti-globalisation party headed by Evo Morales, the indigenous coca-growers’ leader whose militant rhetoric sends shivers down the spines of many in Washington. Mr Morales will be guest of honour.
Carlos Cusihuamán Orconi, a leftwing leader in Sicuani who is one of the main organisers, says the presence of Mr Morales and up to 10 MAS parliamentarians at the launch is merely symbolic. “We will be a socialist, independent regional movement. We have invited Evo Morales because he is a social fighter.”
But in less guarded moments, Mr Morales has struck a different tone. In an interview with the Chilean daily El Mercurio, he spoke of “internationalising the MAS” by promoting “pro-sovereignty movements based on the social movements of Latin America, to curb the arrogance of imperialism”.
That Mr Morales is looking beyond Bolivia should alarm the US State Department, which considers him a protege of Hugo Chávez, the Venezuelan president it views as the region’s troublemaker-in-chief.
It also feeds into concerns among some US hawks who have urged stronger intervention in the Andean region. Michael Radu, of the Foreign Policy Research Institute, a conservative think-tank in Philadelphia, has written recently of Washington’s “paralysis” in the face of “the increased radicalisation of Indians in [the] Andean region”.
Although Peru has a bigger indigenous population than its neighbours Bolivia and Ecuador - and an indigenous president - it has traditionally been largely unrepresented, politically invisible and less mobilised. ~The Financial Times
Washington’s “paralysis” is explicable more in terms of the impossibility of endorsing its democratist nonsense without empowering political forces in Latin America, among them Hugo Chavez’s supporters, whose politics make them adamantly and unreservedly anti-American, in the sense that they want no part of the “benevolent hegemony” offered by pro-Washington politicians. The reason there is no coherent Latin American policy is that the geniuses who currently guide our foreign policy cannot seem to grasp that Hugo Chavez is a perfect representative of what democracy and elections produce in Latin America (it is for this reason that Washington briefly and rightly welcomed the very brief coup against Chavez): how does this demagogic dictator fit into the mythical story of democracy bringing endless good tidings?
Because Venezuela, now Bolivia and soon Peru cannot fit into the ideologues’ narrow, pitiful vision, the entire continent has been neglected and ignored because the ideologues have nothing to offer but platitudes and uniform, simplistic approaches to the variety of human experiences. Latin America remains a sterling example of how populist democracy is strangling the countries in which it flourishes, just as populist Peronism strangled the once wealthy Argentina, and how encouraging such democracy there, which will inevitably take on the features of populist upheaval, must lead to the fall of governments hospitable to legitimate American interests.
It is a core noninterventionist view that the business of the Latin American republics is their own, so if they embrace self-defeating socialism, if they think it will preserve their independence, they are welcome to it. But it is also impossible to ignore the ruinous effects populist and democratic politics have had on Latin America in the last 20 years, and not only in the poorest, socialist-prone countries. Panamanian democracy is a colossal, bad joke, a rule of oligarchs as corrupt as Berezovsky, and the only places in which the democratic experience has not been an unmitigated failure for the nations involved has been in Brazil and some of the smaller Central American states. While comparable nations in Asia have grown and advanced in that period, Latin America remains scarcely better off today than when the wave of democratisation swept over it. That is what the future holds for a democratised Near East at best, if the region should somehow ever experience such a thing.
We sat there watching like we were a part of another world, in another galaxy. I’ve always sensed from reading various websites that American mainstream news is far-removed from reality — I just didn’t realize how far. Everything is so tame and simplified. Everyone is so sincere.
What’s more, I don’t understand the American fascination with reality shows like Survivor, The Bachelor, Faking It, The Contender … it’s endless. Is life so boring that people need to watch the conjured up lives of others? ~Riverbend, Alternet.org
For some time I have been aware of the uniformity of the American media, but only recently have the traits Riverbend mentioned been so clear. The tameness, indeed bloodlessness, of most American news broadcasts helps explain, in part, the obsession with “reality” television (the more outrageous the better), as well as the interest in the screaming, bloodlust-filled ranting of cable television pundits and talk radio hosts. To answer Riverbend’s question, it isn’t that life here is so boring, but that there are so many people who are afflicted with spiritual boredom because they have become numb to the real world. This is in no small part because the real world is delivered to them in crisp, little packages of emptiness. One might say that this intellectually vacuous, spiritually dead view of life is the heart of the mentalite of the American empire. War, domination, torture all become in some way more readily acceptable because they are all mediated through the bland, lifeless news, and our new colony will receive this same disconnected, alienated view of the world as the empire’s gift.
The real events of the world are mediated and sanitised for the American audience so much that they are starved of any sense of reality, and the fake dispassion with which that news is reported starves the public of their need for rhetoric, however crass or debased that rhetoric might be. Think of it as people who want to learn church history and theology and have as their only options the writings of Harnack on the one hand and The DaVinci Code and Left Behind on the other. Not only do they end up being badly informed, leading them to draw ridiculous conclusions about any number of things, but their minds are consequently quite unbalanced on account of the entirely lopsided and absurd view of their sources.
First there was Georgia, and then Ukraine, followed by Lebanon, and now Kyrgyzstan. Add to that the election in Iraq, and we had no choice but to agree that George W. Bush’s call for spreading political freedom had been winning the hearts and minds of democracy enthusiasts everywhere, including in Kyrgyzstan. The “Democracy Narrative” that dominated media chatter for at least a few hours was creating the impression that the “Good Guys” were winning.
In fact, there are actually a few American experts on Kyrgyzstan and several Western journalists even traveled to Bishkek, and after a day or two they succeeded in getting their message across, and we discovered that – as the New York Times concluded – the uprising looks now less like a democratic revolution and more “like a garden-variety coup, with a handful of seasoned politicians vying for the spoils of the ousted government,” that is, “a plain old coup.”
The ousted Mr. Akayev is now being described as one of the more progressive political figures in Central Asia, while its opponents are depicted as members of the political and economic elite, mostly politicians from the country’s southern and northern provinces, trying to overturn the results of the last parliamentary elections and inciting mobs to commit acts of vandalism.
What many Americans fail to understand is that the collapse of centralized authoritarian governments in Kyrgyzstan, like in many parts of the world, including Central Asia and the Middle East, is propelled quite often by tribal, ethnic, religious, and nationalist forces. ~Leon Hadar
It is gratifying to see someone of Mr. Hadar’s expertise come to the same assessment that I did when the coup first occurred. Also of interest related to this article is the discussion of it now ongoing at Chronicles. My assumption of direct Western intervention was slightly overblown, but only slightly: Freedom House and Soros’ minions were very, very active in subverting the Akayev presidency. If the forged memo, allegedly written by the U.S. Ambassador in Bishkek, tells us anything, it accurately reflects the groups in Kyrgyzstan that pro-Akayev forces perceived as their enemies: the National Democratic Institute, the International Republican Institute, Freedom House, Internews Network and the Eurasia Foundation.
The board members of several of those organisations might make up a nice, short list of a Who’s Who of Hegemonists, and it can scarcely be an accident that this pro-Akayev document perceived these people as his enemies, in spite of his generally balanced position favouring neither Russia nor America. That was perhaps his most serious mistake: he failed the test of what the warmongers abusively call “moral clarity” and did not clearly side with “us.” In their book, he might as well have been aiding terrorists and engaging in nuclear proliferation (unless he lives in Pakistan, in which case this is laudable and admirable behaviour).
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Conservatives are hypocrites, they charge. The Right opposes judicial activism and preaches states’ rights. But in Terri’s case, the Right clamored for judicial activism and rejected states’ rights.
But this is absurd. The judicial activist in Terri’s case is Greer, who sentenced a brain-damaged woman to death by starvation and dehydration. If this is not judicial activism, in violation of a citizen’s right to life, due process of law, and not to be subjected to cruel and unusual punishment, what is? ~Pat Buchanan
It is just this sort of antipathy to judges, even when they follow what the law (however objectionable) requires, and the hyperbolic use of words such as “execution” that put me at odds with Mr. Buchanan’s view. What happened to Mrs. Schiavo is lamentable, but whatever it was it was not an execution by the state. It was fundamentally a refusal of the state to become any further involved in this dispute, leaving Mrs. Schiavo’s fate, as we have been reminded so many times, in the hands of her legal husband. Judge Greer cannot be an activist judge, or else the meaning of activist judge does truly become “a judge who has decided something with which I disagree.” It must mean a judge who tramples on or ignores the law to substitute his own opinion, ideology or notions for the law.
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The many who blame “the judges” for the legalized medical killing of Terri Schiavo are barking up the wrong tree.
To prevent a repeat of the kind of injustice that Schiavo suffered, we need to change the faulty laws that allowed it. No matter how good the judge, he has no choice but to follow the law. Nor does it do any good to thump on Florida Gov. Jeb Bush–as some supporters of Schiavo’s parents have–who also was constrained by law. He just can’t make it up as he goes along.
In the hierarchy of things that matter in a democracy, the rule of law is right up there with the protection of the cognitively impaired and voiceless, such as Schiavo.
So, if the nation is to move on from here and to give any meaning to Schiavo’s death, our first priority now must be to change the laws that seem to presume that the medically disabled are better off dead. The law must make it clear that we start with a fundamental presumption: Everyone wants and has a right to live.
To end anyone’s life, the burden of proof must fall on whoever wants to pull the plug, and the proof must be beyond a reasonable doubt. Hearsay evidence that anyone in a “vegetative,” minimally cognitive or any other kind of impaired state does not want to “live that way” is not sufficient proof. The proof must be clear and in writing. When there is conflicting or unclear evidence, the law must require that any decision err on the side of life. ~Dennis Byrne
Surprisingly (and unusually for him), Dennis Byrne is making a great deal of sense in this article. I may not agree with some of his suggestions, or at least not entirely, but he has for once set out a thoughtful and intelligent response to this controversy that has generally eluded those on his “side.” (I am reluctant to accept the division of this debate into strict “sides,” since this has very often degenerated into calling anyone not in favour of the most extreme conclusions in support of Mrs. Schiavo’s parents advocates of “wanting Terri dead,” but without such a term it is more difficult to make sense of the different positions.)
The scattershot attacks on “the judiciary” that have come in the wake of the controversy over the late Mrs. Schiavo have entirely missed the point, and they do nothing to bring credit to efforts to change the laws in ways that would have prevented Mrs. Schiavo’s death. If “right to existence” extremists want to overthrow the rule of law when it suits them, they will not find a very sympathetic audience.
And of course John Paul is the most widely traveled pope of all time, greeting huge adoring crowds around the world until he was too feeble to do so anymore. On his first visit to Washington, he waved to a little girl in the front row of the crowd on Pennsylvania Avenue — my daughter.
Nor can we forget John Paul the avid skier. He did all sorts of things popes weren’t expected to do, with a joie de vivre not usually associated with the papacy. He has also written books of philosophy and poetry and made recordings. You never knew what this surprising pope was going to do next. He has also canonized more saints and elevated more cardinals than any previous pope.
Still, orthodox Catholics ask whether his papacy has been a success. He seems to have retained a naive Sixties faith in ecumenical “dialogue,” however fruitless it turned out to be. The maladies that have infected the Church since the Second Vatican Council (at which he was an enthusiastic participant) haven’t been remedied — liturgical corruption, low Mass attendance, poor Catholic education, errant bishops, heretical theologians.
And one of the worst scandals in Catholic history erupted on his watch: the revelation that homosexual priests had been abusing boys. This was a natural result of the homosexual domination of American (and possibly other) Catholic seminaries that had been increasing since the 1960s, well before John Paul’s papacy; but he seemed to have had no clue that it was going on and hardly to have believed it when he learned. That doesn’t speak well for his supervision.
But all in all, no man of our time has even begun to rival his stature. Whatever great means, John Paul II is what it means. ~Joe Sobran
Either way, the pope and Reagan eventually got much of what they wanted: the toppling of one Soviet client state after another.
Now, 10 months after Reagan’s death (Maggie is still with us), the pope, too, is gone. All three of these legacy-makers took their offices within 28 months of one another–and all three would richly enjoy a story that broke Sunday afternoon in, ironically, Moscow:
Askar Akayev, the strongman president who was driven out of Kyrgyzstan by a democracy-minded mob less than two weeks ago, announced that he would formally resign on Monday. That opens the way for elections he won’t be able to rig. Another irony there: It was Akayev’s alleged manipulation of parliamentary election results to give him a docile legislature that led to weeks of protests and, in late March, his ouster.
Pope John Paul, with his wry sense of humor, surely would relish the fall of one more domino so soon after his death. His native Poland emerged from Nazi domination only to suffer decades of Soviet puppetry. With Reagan and Thatcher–a clandestine trio or just three like-minded leaders–the pope leveraged the Polish people’s frustration into the fall of Gen. Wojciech Jaruzelski, the Soviets’ pet strongman.
Kyrgyzstan’s demand for democracy isn’t the novelty Poland’s was. Kyrgyzstan is a poor country of 5 million mostly Muslim citizens who, long after the fall of the Soviet empire, have yet to truly emerge from their subjugation to Moscow.
But the collapse of one more ossified regime, one more relic of Soviet oppression, is one more rebuke to Soviet leader Josef Stalin’s dismissal of one of Pope John Paul’s predecessors: “How many divisions does the pope have?”
There are no papal divisions in Georgia, Ukraine or any of the former Soviet lands that have found–or still must find–their way to freedom. But thanks to Pope John Paul and others, more of these dominos surely will fall. ~The Chicago Tribune
It is just this sort of obnoxious editorial that caused me to cancel my unfortunate subscription to this newspaper. Pope John Paul II was a great man with a profound moral and spiritual vision that did indeed help Catholics in the Soviet bloc combat the corrosive effects and enervating control of communism. Whether or not his influence was as great in other parts of the Soviet bloc as it was in Poland and Hungary is the sort of uncomfortable question that is left unasked, as it might compromise the increasingly conventional image of Pope and President as breakers of the Soviet Union, as if the internal dissension in the largely historically Orthodox lands of the Soviet bloc was just a consequence of kindly, non-Orthodox interventionists from the West.
In spite of some of the Pope’s regrettable choices regarding the Uniates in eastern Europe and ecumenism in general during his pontificate, which inevitably did so much to undermine whatever confidence he hoped to gain in the Orthodox world, he was undoubtedly a man of remarkable integrity and faith. This abuse of his largely admirable legacy to shill for the most fraudulent and ridiculous of the recent “revolutions” in post-Soviet space is pathetic, as if tying the completely meaningless changing of the apparatchiks in Bishkek to Pope John Paul’s other achievements would somehow make this farce more respectable.
For those who actually found Mr. Akayev’s rule so terrible, his replacement by Mr. Bakiyev will be as meaningful for the domestic reform of Kyrgyzstan as the succession of Andropov after Brezhnev was for the internal politics of the USSR. If the editors of the Tribune really had any respect for the late Pope, beyond the ways in which they could use him as a symbol for their deluded ideology, they would not have sullied his name by attaching it to the disorderly and pointless charade that has been the “Tulip Revolution.”
In the past several years, popular anger toward such powerful institutions has fueled a growing culture of protest, attracting tens of thousands of indigenous farmers and other disgruntled residents. The movement has gained enough clout to drive one president from office and bring a second one to the brink of resigning last month.
In 2003, protests against a plan to export fuel through neighboring Chile, considered by many to be the nation’s archrival, led to the fall of President Gonzalo Sanchez de Lozada. His successor, Carlos Mesa, has since faced an average of 40 protests a day, according to one newspaper’s count. In March, a series of roadblock demonstrations prompted Mesa to twice offer his resignation to Congress. The gesture was rejected, but in a televised plea, Mesa told the country that the protesters were causing Bolivia to commit “collective suicide.” ~The Washington Post
In the great litany of revolutions, recited almost daily by the neocons and their hangers-on in many major newspapers, the successful removal of the avowedly pro-American, neo-liberal and brutal President Sanchez de Lozada through popular protest in 2003 never receives any mention. (Note that while the “authoritarian” Akayev specifically ordered his soldiers not to fire on the Bishkek protesters, Sanchez de Lozada had no qualms about a few dead protesters on his orders.)
This is understandable: the populism of Bolivia is of the old, destructive, socialist type that used to sober up any conservative who was becoming too tipsy on the rhetoric of democracy, and the success of this populism has, as is so often the case with real populism, seriously destabilised the country and created chronic uncertainty about its markets. Above all, it ousted the wrong kind of authoritarian president, namely one that the hegemonists and multinationals were backing, and it has shown that the real face of populism, when not stage managed by oligarchs or apparatchiks in tandem with foreign support, is not an attractive one. Evo Morales, the despotic and demagogic leader of many of these protests, cannot be the poster boy of the global democratic revolution the hegemonists are selling–not because he lacks democratic credentials (compared to the criminals Yushchenko and Chalabi, he is assuredly a “man of the people,” for what truly little that is worth), but because he shows the world exactly the sorts of men who thrive on the rhetoric and upheaval of unadulterated populism.
Bolivia reveals all the limitations and flaws in placing hope in democracy and populism as the means to “reform,” when Latin American populism has been the most constant force in opposition to the sort of “reform” the hegemonists have been pushing. Bolivia’s example tells us that there may be whole swathes of the world in which popular regimes will stunt the development of the country or will wrack the country with chronic instability. The reason none of the hegemonists invokes Bolivia along with the usual examples (Georgia, Ukraine, Lebanon, etc.) is because their project is doomed to be Bolivia writ large: confused, destabilising populism ultimately rejecting their directives at the same time that it further disorders the countries affected. It is a symbol of utter failure all around.
It should surely sober up some of the enthusiasts for the invasion of Iraq to realise that one day in the distant future, if we are very lucky, Iraq may become as much of a fully functioning and balanced democratic republic as Bolivia. Now, won’t that have been worth all the destruction and death?
“The Bush brothers’ refusal to prevent Terri’s killing will do lasting political damage to them both,” writes [Jack]Wheeler. “As John Fund of the Wall Street Journal points out, if Janet Reno could override a court order and have Elian Gonzalez kidnapped at gunpoint to be returned to Communist Cuba, either Jeb or George Bush could have overridden Greer to save Terri’s life. Her death will be an ineradicable stain on GW’s presidency and Jeb’s chances for the White House.”
Wheeler then mentions a possible silver lining to the story.
“If any good is to come of this tragedy it would be to catalyze the recognition among Americans that America is no longer a democracy,” Wheeler explains. “It has become a krytocracy, a government of judges. We no longer have a government of, by and for the people. America today is ruled not by elected representatives, but unelected judges, governed not by law but by the arbitrary – and in the case of George Greer, homicidal – whims of people in black robes.” ~WorldNetDaily.com
One of the things that has bothered me about the obscene political controversy over the late Mrs. Schiavo is just this sort of confused contempt for the courts among “conservatives” and the resulting trust in “the people” (as if it were not the people’s representatives who had created the laws that they have found so inadequate). Besides being probably the exact opposite of real conservative instincts, which never trust “the people,” though they may trust in groups of people known to us, this particular reaction is seriously misguided. There are good reasons to have contempt for the federal and state judiciaries on the many occasions when they exceed their legitimate authority to engage in effective legislation, taxation or social engineering. For those of us of a very strict constructionist persuasion, the very idea of federal judicial review is an unconstitutional invention, the first judicial usurpation from which all the others sprang. When judges substitute foreign law, personal ideology, popular opinion or faddish notions for the law, then we can accuse them rightly of subverting the law. When they pretend to be the ultimate authorities in the land, we can properly accuse them of setting up an unaccoutable, unchecked oligarchy. None of these things really happened in this case, and yet the contempt for the law and the courts is immeasurably stronger because of this case than it has been for many other legitimate causes of outrage.
Though this is not the main reason to have taken a less hysterical view of Mrs. Schiavo’s plight, we should be aware that the consequences of this inordinate contempt for any court and law that “conservatives” find disagreeable will be to weaken any possibility of reducing the scope of the judiciary’s jurisdiction. The real kritokratic tendencies will be aided by this blind and senseless attack on the courts for having for once simply fulfilled their proper mandate.
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Say what you will about Bashar Assad, dictator of Syria and perhaps the dimmest eye doctor ever produced by British medical schools, but subtle he is not. Since the huge street demonstrations against his occupation of Lebanon, three terrorist bombings have occurred there, all in heavily Christian, anti-Syrian neighborhoods. Only slightly less subtle was the nearly half-million-man Beirut rally demanding Syria’s continued occupation, staged by Syria’s Lebanese client, Hezbollah, followed by the “spontaneous” demonstration Assad orchestrated for himself in Damascus.
Then there is this week’s public admission by a captured Hamas terrorist in Israel that he was trained in Syria. This is the first direct account of such active involvement by Syria, although everyone knows that the Palestinian terrorist groups Hamas and Islamic Jihad are headquartered in, and assisted by, Syria. Everyone also knows that Syria is abetting the terrorist insurgency in Iraq. ~Charles Krauthammer
It used to be that the invocation “everyone knows…” was the sign of a poorly informed mind and a weak argument. Surely, the old attitude held, if someone had better evidence than some vague general statement he would use that evidence instead. Somehow this lazy, ignorant approach to argument does not fare very well in all those institutions where there is some measure of accountability and intellectual honesty. Naturally, it flourishes in journalism and punditry, and it can be used without a second thought in columns for one of the largest newspapers in the country. In Krauthammer’s case, I suspect the original assessment of those who use this phrase in argument still holds.
It became something close to gospel truth that Iraq had “weapons of mass destruction.” Indeed, “everyone” knew this. If you contradicted what “everyone” knew, you were at best a silly or “irresponsible” (read insufficiently conformist) and at worst an apologist, or perhaps paid lackey, of Baghdad. Now “everyone” knows that Syria is aiding the insurgency in Iraq. There is, of course, not so much as a shred of evidence that the government in Damascus is doing this. This is not because Assad is virtuous or wise, but because he is not an absolute cretin and wants to stay in power and alive. He gains nothing by provoking the United States, and risks his head. He may have used inflammatory rhetoric before and during the start of the war, but it has always remained just that.
Once again, we are usually presented with the typical negative evidence that preceded the invasion of Iraq. We continually heard the claim, “If Iraq didn’t have weapons, why was the government there being so evasive? If they had nothing to hide, why not give full access?” And so on, and so on. These days, the “failure” of Syria to seal its borders with Iraq is taken to be the same as conscious, planned support for the insurgency. One might draw an unflattering comparison with what this must imply for Washington’s involvement in cross-border drug and human trafficking from Mexico. Of course, a government’s lack of action cannot be cited as positive proof of its active support for anything, and in the absence of any other evidence it is mere speculation to conclude much of anything from that inaction.
Syrian support for the insurgency makes as much sense as Baghdad’s support for al-Qaeda or Syria’s alleged involvement in the assassination of Rafik Hariri: the state interests of each are not served by these actions or alliances. Add to that that there is apparently no actual proof of either one. In the cold calculations of power, these states have nothing to gain and much to risk from such moves. Likewise, the idea that the ruling, secular Alawi Shi’i Assad clan is directly supporting the overwhelmingly Sunni and Salafist insurgency is ridiculous. This would be to empower the very sorts of people Assad’s father earned the scorn of the world for destroying in Homs two decades ago, as well as helping the Islamists whom the Baathist elite despises on account of their own ideology; support for such people contradicts the interests of every major institution in Syria. It is just the sort of lazy thinking we should expect from Krauthammer, ever keen to find a new Arab nation to despoil or humiliate. If “everyone knows” this, then “everyone” (i.e., Krauthammer and his ilk) is wrong.
The predictable call for still more pressure on Syria (which has, in fact, never done a single thing to any American, to the best of my knowledge) is the desperate ranting of a fanatic. It ought to be dismissed as the extremist notion that it is, but unfortunately Mr. Krauthammer has the ear of the President, so his lazy, poor arguments are all the more dangerous because they may be incorporated into the general anti-Syrian bias of this administration and translated into action.
That was one among many examples — cited over 692 pages in the report — of fruitless dissent on the accuracy of claims against Iraq. Up until the days before U.S. troops entered Iraqi territory that March, the intelligence community was inundated with evidence that undermined virtually all charges it had made against Iraq, the report said.
In scores of additional cases involving the country’s alleged nuclear and chemical programs and its delivery systems, the commission described a kind of echo chamber in which plausible hypotheses hardened into firm assertions of fact, eventually becoming immune to evidence.
Leading analysts accepted at face value data supporting the existence of illegal weapons, the commission said, and discounted counter-evidence as skillful Iraqi deception. ~The Washington Post
Kyrgyzstan’s interim president Kurmanbek Bakiyev got directions on democracy on Thursday from Ukraine and Georgia — two other ex-Soviet states where revolts also threw off autocratic regimes — and from the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe.
The pointers came in successive meetings with visiting OSCE Chairman Dimitrij Rupel and then the Ukrainian and Georgian foreign ministers, all of whom said they stood ready to help Kyrgyzstan in the wake of last week’s overthrow of the Soviet-era regime of Askar Akayev. Rupel, who is also Slovenia’s foreign minister, told the Kyrgyz news agency AKI-press that “the OSCE, the European Union, Russia and the United States can help Kyrgyzstan make sure law and order are respected, in particular during this period of transition.”
The OSCE chairman added: “Without outside aid, the perspective of rapid and relatively painless development appears uncertain.” Georgian Foreign Minister Salome Zourabichvili told reporters that she and Ukrainian Foreign Minister Boris Tarasyuk “have not come here to Kyrgyzstan as revolution exporters” but to offer assistance in the run-up to new presidential elections called for June 26. “Georgia and Ukraina [sic] are ready to help restore stability to Kyrgyzstan,” she said. Tarasyuk said his country “is ready to send a group of constitutional law and electoral experts if needed.” ~The News
The prominent involvement of the Ukrainian and Georgian governments, as well as the OSCE, in the immediate aftermath of the ousting of the legitimate Kyrgyz government (which, by all local legal standards, it was) appears as nothing so much as a concerted effort of a sort of democratist Comintern to direct and control “the revolution” in its newest satellite. That the Ukrainian and Georgian ministers felt compelled to deny this role should tell us that they understand what their involvement looks like. They are at pains to make it appear as anything else, perhaps because they are themselves acutely sensitive to charges that their “revolutions” were hardly native in origin.
[Ukrainian] President Viktor Yushchenko confirmed Thursday that nuclear-capable cruise missiles were illegally sold to Iran and China under Ukraine’s previous government. In an interview with NBC News, Yushchenko offered the highest-level acknowledgement that the sales, which have alarmed the U.S. intelligence community, indeed took place.
“I confirm this, though I do so with bitterness,” the president said. ~MSNBC
When I first saw the headline for this story, I had taken it to mean that Mr. Yushchenko, in spite of his evident desire to be the lackey of Washington and Brussels, was pursuing a more independent course in foreign policy than some, including myself, had considered likely or possible. In fact, this was only an official confirmation of other reports of these sales undertaken by the previous government. It is good to know that Mr. Yushchenko’s “bitterness,” even if feigned for Western benefit, reveals him yet again to be the predictable stooge of U.S. foreign policy. It is regrettable, though really not our business, that the past Ukrainian government sold these weapons to China and Iran, but I see little reason for Washington to worry when it has just finished selling F-16s to China’s closest ally and the world’s chief nuclear proliferator, Pakistan.
In a spectacular reversal of fortunes, beleaguered Macedonia has been declared a full European Union member state, effective immediately. In an unprecedented act of solidarity, the bloc voted unanimously to pass the Bucherinska Act, to reward the year’s most obedient beggar state.
“As far as we’re concerned,” stated EU Enlargement Chief Ollie Rehn, “by carrying out every decision of its foreign, domestic and economic policies precisely as we ordered, with no regard for the opinion of its public, Macedonia proved itself eminently worthy of membership in our club. Let its inspired toadying and desperate public intimidation serve as an example to other aspiring states.”
Rehn also singled out Macedonia for its determined approach to creating a viable multi-ethnic society. “The NGO sector proved very adept at utilizing our money for a wide variety of initiatives, projects, experts and programs. The word implementation was used sufficiently. All this was done in keeping with the spirit of EU norms and practices,” said the Enlargement Chief. “Macedonia has also shown that its various ethnicities can play together in the sandbox - right up there with the best kindergarteners in Europe.”
When asked how Macedonia could have so suddenly surged past more advanced candidates such as Bulgaria and Romania, not to mention aspiring candidates such as Croatia and Turkey, Rehn, EU Foreign Policy chief Javier Solana and Stability Pact chief Erhard Busek offered candid reflections.
“Turkey? Come on. We don’t need any more Muslims in Europe,” scoffed Solana. “And all our attempts to impose fiscal rationality there will continue to fail, so long as they keep drinking tea out of those tiny cups! It is very inefficient.”
Solana revealed at the same time that Kosovo will soon be paved over to make room for mega-malls and their requisite parking lots. “If the Albanians really love America as much as they claim, then they should be proud to sacrifice their homes and property for the world’s largest Wal-Mart. Besides, we can train them in democracy-building and send them off to Central Asia to finish off the revolutions we’ve started there.” ~Balkanalysis.com