The sterile term "collateral damage" justifiably brings to mind the human tragedy of war. But the devastating and wanton damage inflicted on the ancient city of Babylon by US-led military forces gives another meaning to the term. In this case, we are witnessing violence against one of the world's greatest cultural treasures.Â Babylon's destruction, according to The Guardian, "must rank as one of the most reckless acts of cultural vandalism in recent memory."Â When Camp Babylon was established by US-led international forces in April 2003,Â leading archeologists and international experts on ancient civilizations warned of potential peril and damage. It was "tantamount to establishing a military camp around the Great Pyramid in Egypt or around Stonehenge in Britain,"Â according to a damning report issued in January by the British Museum.
The report, drafted by Dr. John Curtis--one of the world's leading archeologists--documents that the military base, built and overseen by Kellog, Brown and Root, a subsidiary of Halliburton,Â jeopardized what is often referred to as the "mother of all archeological sites." Helicopter landing places and parking lots for heavy vehicles caused substantial damage to the Ishtar Gate, one of the most famous monuments from antiquity. US military vehicles crushedÂ 2,600 year old brick pavement, archeological fragments were scattered across the site, trenches were driven into ancient deposits and military earth-moving projects contaminated the site for future generations of scientists. As several eminent archeologists have pointed out, while the looting of the Iraqi Museum in the first days of the war was horrifying, theÂ destruction of ancient sites has even more dire consequences for those trying to piece together the history of civilization.Â Making matters worse, the base has created a tempting target for insurgent attacks in recent months.Â As Yaseen Madhloom al-Rubai reports in the valuable Iraq Crisis Report (No. 117), "It was one of the seven wonders of the world, but ancient Babylon attracts more insurgents than tourists these days."
"Turning Babylon into a military site was a fatal mistake," the Iraqi culture Minister told Iraq Crisis Report. "It has witnessed much destruction and many terrorist attacks since it was occupied by Coalition Forces. We cannot determine the scale of destruction now. As a first step, we have completely closed the sites, before calling in international experts to evaluate the damage done to the [ancient] city and the compensation the ministry should ask Coalition forces to pay. We will run a campaign to save the city."
When appearing before the House Government Reform Committee last week, Mark McGwire didn't want to talk about his past. It was an appropriate place to develop historical amnesia. Over the last four years the Committee hasn't tried to investigate, let alone reform, any government scandals whatsoever. Steroids in baseball--yes, but falsified WMD evidence, Halliburton no-bid contracts, the outing of a CIA operative--no.
But the real 'roids outrage of the week was the Republicans' decision to violate conservative ideals about state rights, limited government, and the sanctity of marriage by muscling into the Terri Schiavo tragedy. Never let it be said that Republicans let their principles get in the way of their politics. (The last time they interfered withÂ the Florida judiciary was Bush v. Gore.)
Like McGwire and other ex-baseballers looking to save face, Tom DeLay wants to change the subject from his far more insidious and scandal-ridden past. He was front and center in this weekend's cable news-ready, theater of Â the absurd performance. But to be fair, perhaps he does feel a certainÂ degree of empathy for Schiavo. As the fund-raising and junket scandals continue to deprive him of the two sources of sustenance for politicians (credibility and cash), it seems only a matter of time before his colleagues pull the plug on his political life.
The speed with which the Congress leapt to intervene in the Florida right-to-die case of Terry Schiavo might create the impression that the US House of Representatives is a functioning legislative chamber. But nothing could be further from the truth. While House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, R-Texas, can get the wheels spinning to satisfy the demands of the social conservative voting blocs on which his party relies for support, this Congress has ceased to function as a serious legislative body.
This is not a complaint merely about Republicans in the House and Senate -- whose unwavering allegiance to even their president's maddest schemes mirrors that of Sancho Panza to Don Quixote. The Democrats are just about as bad, as was illustrated by their vote last week on the administration's demand for another $81.4 billion to maintain the US occupation of Iraq. The emergency appropriation vote provided a rare opportunity for the House to debate the wisdom of the war, the occupation and the president's approach to foreign affairs. But few members chose to seize that opportunity.
Rather, they voted by a lopsided 388-43 margin in favor of giving the administration another blank check. Predictably, the Republicans split 226-3 in favor of the proposal. The short list of GOP dissenters included two longtime critics of the war, Texan Ron Paul and Tennesseean John Duncan, as well as North Carolinian Howard Coble, a close ally of the White House, who surprised more than a few of his colleagues by announcing that he is "fed up with picking up the newspaper and reading that we've lost another five or 10 of our young men and women in Iraq."
For all the talk of left-wing bias in academia, little notice has been given to the right's growing influence on America's college campuses. As part of the conservative message machine's decades-long project to spread its ideology, the right currently pumps over $35 million a year into college campuses, funding speakers, backing conservative papers, and pampering young leaders with internships and job opportunities.
In the past month, however, two promising organizations have emerged to aggressively counter the right's operations and promote progressive values on campuses and beyond.
The Center for American Progress officially launched its Campus Progress initiative in February, and has already created significant media buzz with its "Name Ann Coulter's Next Book" contest (the winning submission was "Roosevelt: Wheelchair-Riding, America-Hating Terrorist"). Campus Progress currently provides funding to fourteen progressive college papers nationwide, sponsors film screenings and lectures by CAP fellows and progressive leaders, and in July, will host a national student conference in Washington. (In addition to providing speakers to the lecture circuit, The Nation will be co-sponsoring the student conference.)
Last week we featured a series of of antiwar events being planned by Nation readers in the Lehigh Valley of Pennsylvania and in Memphis, Tennessee to mark this weekend's second anniversary of Bush's invasion of Iraq.
Continuing our countdown to March 19 and the nationwide series of rallies, marches, nonviolent civil disobedience and creative expressions of antiwar sentiment that are expected to meet the occasion, we wanted to highlight another day of events being organized by a Nation reader--Tom Moss--in Hunstville, Alabama.
Sponsored by the North Alabama Peace Network, Veterans For Peace AlabamaChapter, and Pax Christi Huntsville, the coalition asks people to join them from 3:00 to 10:00pm on March 19 at the Flying Monkey Arts Center in Huntsville. Activities will include a Children's Playtime, an Artists' Market, musical performances, photography exhibits, food, poetry and other entertainment. (For more info, email to firstname.lastname@example.org or call 256-468-5314.)
You must withdraw, since nations can't
Install their troops in other places
To change regimes that they don't like.
Except, of course, in certain cases.
"Andy Stern is not shy about speaking his mind," veteran labor reporter David Moberg wrote in our recent cover story, Can't Workers of the Word Unite? In these last months, Stern has been anything but shy about triggering the most far-reaching strategic debate in labor in more than a generation.
But while Stern's call for dramatic structural change, his openness to remake labor's traditional ties to the Democratic Party and create new institutions and alliances for working people, and his sense of urgency, even desperation, about the future of labor is admirable and welcome, much of SEIU's argument about what is to be done is less persuasive. (For more on Stern and the recently dissolved New Unity Partnership's (NUP) reform proposals--and my take on the arguments--see below.)
The insistence on the need for change at almost any cost was at the heart of Stern's talk to a packed early Monday session at the Harvard Club--organized by the Drum Major Institute and its indefatigable Executive Director Andrea Batista Schlesinger. The charismatic 54-year old leader of SEIU, the AFL's fastest growing affiliate, acknowledged that if his (and NUP's) candidate--John Wilhelm of UNITE HERE--isn't elected (and John Sweeney ousted) at the AFL's quadrennial convention this July, it's the endgame.
Excerpt from DMI "Marketplace of Ideas" Series with SEIU President Andy Stern. March 14, 2005. New York City, New York.
Hon. Carl McCall: President Stern I have a practical question. One of the things you've done is that you've challenged the leadership of the AFL-CIO and you've suggested to them that they adopt some of the very interesting ideas that you've presented today. I was just wondering if you could comment on what is the end aim. Is (it) to extract from John Sweeney certain commitments to move in the direction you've suggested, or do you plan to run a candidate to oppose him?
Andy Stern: I think in any situation there are always two ingredients to change, one is what we're trying to talk about, "What do you believe in?" and then "who are the leaders that actually believe in what you believe in?" Because we have lots of people who say we're all for the same thing and then they get there and we're not sure what the same thing we all were for is. So I'd say the key, the first discussion is what do we all believe in. I'm not sure we're ever going to reach an agreement, so we may never get to the second question, which is "who is a leader that embraces what we agree in?" We made a decision rightly or wrongly that we will either be part of or partners with the AFL-CIO, but we don't want to be part of a labor movement that isn't willing to make changes that give workers a chance. We believe, as I said earlier, that we have fake unity not real unity, maybe what Democrats have. We're all Democrats but you can vote for the bankruptcy bill, you can vote against minimum wage and we're all Democrats. So, to us it's either time to change the AFL or build something stronger. A lot of building something stronger isn't building another labor movement, it is answering some of these questions of how do we relate to community organization, how do we build a progressive infrastructure, how do we build relationships with other membership organizations? Whether they be all the groups that work together in America Votes. How do we build the Working Families Party or other institutions that represent a differentâ€¦so for us building something stronger isn't necessarily building a parallel labor movement. It's about joining with people that share a common set of values and trying to figure out what we should do regardless of what happens. How we work together to win for working people, to see work rewarded, to have a country that has a little more tolerance, a little more belief in science and progress and democracy, in the good sense of the word, more than we have today. So for us we want to make the change, if we make the change it needs a leader that embraces the change but at the same time we all have to build something stronger because we're losing. None of us, no progressive institution, no party, no labor movement, at this moment in history is strong enough on their own.