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With all the bizarre behavior in Washington, it is easy to forget about the over-the-top antics of state officials around the country. But, sometimes, a governor outdoes himself.
Consider the case of Nevada Governor Jim Gibbons, a former Republican congressman who was elected to his current job last November. Gibbons, who was the subject of an inquiry into whether he assaulted a woman during the gubernatorial race, is now reportedly the target of an Federal Bureau of Investigation inquiry into whether he steered federal contracts to a Nevada defense contractor who allegedly made secret payments to the then congressman.
The newspaper that broke the story of the Gibbons scandal was The Wall Street Journal, which is generally seen as the most political conservative and Republican friendly of America's nationally-circulated newspapers. While there is no question that the Journal's editorial page bends hard to the right, it's news pages have a good reputation for reporting responsibly on national affairs -- which should come as no surprise, as titans of industry and Wall Street traders do not like to be lied to.
[ Part 1 of "Six Crises in Search of an Author, How the Bush Administration Destabilized the Arc of Instability"-- "Bush's Absurdist Imperialism" -- appeared yesterday. Here is part 2:]
Sweeping across the region from East to West, let's briefly note the six festering or clamoring crisis spots, any one of which could end up with the major role in the epic drama George Bush and his neocons supporters thought they were writing back in their Global War on Terror glory days.
Pakistan: The Pakistani government was America's main partner, along with the Saudis, in funding, arming, and running the anti-Soviet struggle of the mujahedeen, including Osama bin Laden, in Afghanistan back in the 1980s; and Pakistan's intelligence agency, the ISI, was the godfather of the Taliban (and remains, it seems, a supporter to this day). In September 2001, the Bush administration gave the country's coup-installed military ruler, General Pervez Musharraf, the basic you're-either-with-us-or-against-us choice. He chose the "with" and in the course of these last years, under constant American pressure, has lost almost complete control over Pakistan's tribal regions along the Afghan border to various tribal groups, the Taliban, al-Qaeda, and other foreign jihadis, who have established bases there. Now, significant parts of the country are experiencing unrest in what looks increasingly like a countdown to chaos in a nuclear-armed nation.
Want to know what happens when the wall between church and state comes tumbling down? When -- as Ted Koppel recently said -- "ideological loyalty... is allowed to substitute for competence"? Check out this take by Boston Globe reporter Charlie Savage on the recent Attorneygate scandal and the goings-on at the Bush DOJ and other agenciesâ€¦
This afternoon, students at University of Southern California began occupying their administration's offices. The action is part of a likely wave of sit-ins on the nation's campuses, as students are escalating a campaign for basic human rights for the workers, mostly young women, who make clothing bearing school logos. Seven years ago, a similar wave helped establish the Worker Rights Consortium (WRC), the oversight group that students established, in cooperation with workers' advocates here and in the developing world, as an alternative to monitors controlled by the apparel industry. (I covered those protests for the Nation, and later in a book.)
Students at USC have been trying for eight years to get their school to affiliate with the WRC. 168 colleges and universities have done this, making USC quite a holdout on this issue. The USC students are also demanding that their university adopt the Designated Suppliers Program (DSP), a sensible system established by the Worker Rights Consortium to determine that collegiate clothing is made under decent conditions. The USC president, Steven Sample, has refused to meet with the students. "As students we learn in the classroom about global problems," says junior Carlo Catteneo Adorno. "It's disappointing that President Sample refuses to tackle such problems in the real world."
Students at University of Michigan -- my alma mater, so I'm proud of them-- occupied their president's office last week, also demanding that the University adopt the DSP. The students began this protest after several years of attempted "dialogue" with the administration on this issue. Instead of taking action to ensure that U-M clothing is not made under sweatshop conditions, President Mary Sue Coleman had the students arrested and forcibly removed from the building. Being a huge football school, U-M is obviously a significant player in the collegiate clothing industry, and it would make a big difference if its administration would finally embrace the DSP.
Supporters of the war in Iraq, like Senator John McCain, say the "surge" is making progress. That we must give General David Petraeus, a man who can seemingly do no wrong, time to make his plan work. But are additional troops really helping? Or is Baghdad simply becoming reoccupied--with disastrous results?
The NewsHour's Margaret Warner recently posed these questions to New York Times Iraq correspondent Ed Wong, who's analyzed the escalation. His answers were illuminating.
"There's no clear picture right now on what's going on with the surge," Wong said. "Basically, the picture is still one of massive violence throughout large parts of Iraq." Overall Iraqi casualties have not dropped. And casualties for US troops in Baghdad have doubled since the operation began seven weeks ago.
One night when I was in my teens, I found myself at a production of Pirandello's Six Characters in Search of an Author. I had never heard of the playwright or the play, nor had I seen a play performed in the round. The actors were dramatically entering and exiting in the aisles when, suddenly, a man stood up in the audience, proclaimed himself a seventh character in search of an author, and demanded the same attention as the other six. At the time, I assumed the unruly "seventh character" was just part of the play, even after he was summarily ejected from the theater.
Now, bear with me a moment here. Back in 2002-2003, officials in the Bush administration, their neocon supporters, and allied media pundits, basking in all their Global War on Terror glory, were eager to talk about the region extending from North Africa through the Middle East, Iran, Afghanistan, and Pakistan right up to the Chinese border as an "arc of instability." That arc coincided with the energy heartlands of the planet and what was needed to "stabilize" it, to keep those energy supplies flowing freely (and in the right directions), was clear enough to them. The "last superpower," the greatest military force in history, would simply have to put its foot down and so bring to heel the "rogue" powers of the region. The geopolitical nerve would have to be mustered to stamp a massive "footprint"--to use a Pentagon term of the time--in the middle of that vast, valuable region. Also needed was the nerve not just to lob a few cruise missiles in the direction of Baghdad, but to offer such an imposing demonstration of American shock-and-awe power that those "rogues"--Iraq, Syria, Iran (Hezbollah, Hamas)--would be cowed into submission, along with uppity U.S. allies like oil-rich Saudi Arabia.
It would, in fact, be necessary--in another of those bluntly descriptive words of the era--to "decapitate" resistant regimes. This would be the first order of business for the planet's lone "hyperpower," now that it had been psychologically mobilized by the attacks of September 11, 2001. After all, what other power on Earth was capable of keeping the uncivilized parts of the planet from descending into failed-state, all-against-all warfare and dragging us (and our energy supplies) down with them?
In his New York Times article about why US troops will (and should) remain in Iraq beyond 2008, NYU law professor Noah Feldman provides a common mischaracterization of American public opinion.
He concedes that Iraqis and Americans agree "that US troops don't belong in Iraq." But he goes on to write that Americans feel a "deep ambivalence" about exiting Iraq and that "leaving too fast is seen as undesirable as well." To buttress his claim, he cites a poll by CNN showing that only 21 percent of Americans want to bring all the troops home now.
Feldman, like many former and current war advocates, is misreading public opinion to support his own views about Iraq. Americans may be ambivalent about leaving, but they are remarkably clear about the need to go, sooner rather than later. According to the latest USA Today/Gallup poll, sixty percent of Americans favor "setting a timetable for withdrawing all US troops from Iraq no later than the fall of 2008."