It's one thing when former high-ranking members of your own Administration come out against your war. It's another thing when two-thirds of the country calls the invasion and occupation a mistake. It's really something when your own church issues a statement urging you to pull out the troops now.
Last week, the United Methodist Church Board of Church and Society--the social action committee of the church that both President Bush and Vice President Cheney belong to--resoundingly passed a resolution calling for withdrawal with only two 'no' votes and one abstention.
"As people of faith, we raise our voice in protest against the tragedy of the unjust war in Iraq," the statement read. "Thousands of lives have been lost and hundreds of billions of dollars wasted in a war the United States initiated and should never have fought.... We grieve for all those whose lives have been lost or destroyed in this needless and avoidable tragedy. Military families have suffered undue hardship from prolonged troop rotations in Iraq and loss of loved ones. It is time to bring them home."
The board also issued a strong statement against torture, urging Congress to create an independent, bipartisan commission to investigate detention and interrogation practices at Guantanamo, Iraq and Afghanistan.
"It is my hope and prayer that our statement against the war in Iraq will be heard loud and clear by our fellow United Methodists, President Bush and Vice President Cheney," said Jim Winkler, General Secretary of the UMC's Board of Church and Society. "Conservative and liberal board members worked together to craft a strong statement calling for the troops to come home and for those responsible for leading us into this disastrous war to be held accountable."
With its bold stands against the Administration, the UMC is fulfilling the words of Martin Luther King Jr., who called for the church to be "not merely a thermometer that recorded the ideas and principles of popular opinion" but "a thermostat that transformed the mores of society."
Bush has asserted that he entered Iraq on a direct order from God. Now, he has a direct order from his own church to leave. Is he listening?
We also want to hear from you. Please let us know if you have a sweet victory you think we should cover by e-mailing email@example.com.
Co-written by Sam Graham-Felsen, a freelance journalist, documentary filmmaker and blogger (www.boldprint.net) living in Brooklyn.
In 1776, the Continental Congress awarded the first Congressional Gold Medal of Honor to General George Washington, a bold and determined man who had the courage to lead his country into battle for its freedom but who lacked the wisdom to recognize that the promise of the American Revolution would never be fully realized for so long as African Americans were second-class citizens.
In 1999, two hundred and twenty three years after Washington was recognized by the Continental Congress, its successor, the 106th Congress, voted overwhelmingly to award the same Congressional Gold Medal of Honor that had once been given to the man know as The Father of His Country to the woman who will forever be known as the Mother of the Civil Rights Movement.
With her December 5, 1955, refusal to give up her seat on a Montgomery, Alabama, city bus to a white passenger, Rosa Parks triggered a boycott by African Americans of the municipal bus system that lasted more than a year and inspired the movement that forced the end of the officially-sanctioned segregation that had created an apartheid system in the American south.For that, and for her resolute commitment to carry on the struggle for social and economic justice throughout a long life of fighting discrimination based on race, class, sex and sexuality, Parks received many awards, all of them richly deserved.
But Parks, who died Monday at age 92, never needed those honors as much as America needed to bestow them.
And no recognition of Parks was more necessary than the awarding of that Congressional Gold Medal of Honor in 1999.
The American Revolution was not an event but rather a promise of freedom. That promise may have been made by a Virginia plantation owner and his white male compatriots. But it was realized by an African American seamstress from Montgomery, Alabama, who refused to believe that that promise did not apply to her.
President William Jefferson Clinton, who was named for the greatest of Washington's comrades in that struggle for freedom, and who presented the medal to Parks on June 15, 1999, gave voice to that reality when he explained to the crowd that gathered in the Capitol Rotunda to celebrate the honor that, "In so many ways Rosa Parks brought America home to our founders' dream."
It was not merely appropriate that Rosa Parks receive the same recognition as George Washington had been accorded. It was essential, for without Parks and those who joined her in forging the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s, Washington's promise of freedom would have remained forever constricted by the overt chains of slavery and the covert chains of segregation.
Big news. The New York Times is reporting that notes taken by Scooter Libby show that he learned of Valerie Wilson's employment at the CIA from his boss, Dick Cheney. These notes contradict Libby's testimony to the grand jury that he had first heard of Valerie Wilson from journalists. The paper that brought us Judy Miller reports:
WASHINGTON, Oct. 24 -- I. Lewis Libby Jr., Vice President Dick Cheney's chief of staff, first learned about the C.I.A. officer at the heart of the leak investigation in a conversation with Mr. Cheney weeks before her identity became public in 2003, lawyers involved in the case said Monday.
Notes of the previously undisclosed conversation between Mr. Libby and Mr. Cheney on June 12, 2003, appear to differ from Mr. Libby's testimony to a federal grand jury that he initially learned about the C.I.A. officer, Valerie Wilson, from journalists, the lawyers said.
The notes, taken by Mr. Libby during the conversation, for the first time place Mr. Cheney in the middle of an effort by the White House to learn about Ms. Wilson's husband, Joseph C. Wilson IV, who was questioning the administration's handling of intelligence about Iraq's nuclear program to justify the war.
Lawyers said the notes show that Mr. Cheney knew that Ms. Wilson worked at the C.I.A. more than a month before her identity was made public and her undercover status was disclosed in a syndicated column by Robert D. Novak on July 14, 2003.
Mr. Libby's notes indicate that Mr. Cheney had gotten his information about Ms. Wilson from George J. Tenet, the director of central intelligence, in response to questions from the vice president about Mr. Wilson. But they contain no suggestion that either Mr. Cheney or Mr. Libby knew at the time of Ms. Wilson's undercover status or that her identity was classified. Disclosing a covert agent's identity can be a crime, but only if the person who discloses it knows the agent's undercover status.
It would not be illegal for either Mr. Cheney or Mr. Libby, both of whom are presumably cleared to know the government's deepest secrets, to discuss a C.I.A. officer or her link to a critic of the administration. But any effort by Mr. Libby to steer investigators away from his conversation with Mr. Cheney could be considered by Patrick J. Fitzgerald, the special counsel in the case, to be an illegal effort to impede the inquiry.
No wonder Libby may be in a mess of trouble. It's not only that his testimony might not have lined up with that of Judy Miller or that he might have encouraged her to testify in a manner to absolve him. He may have not come clean with Fitzgerald in an attempt to protect Cheney and to keep the veep out of the line of fire. If this is the case, did Cheney--or anyone else at the White House (Bush included)--know that Libby was not testifying truthfully to the grand jury to save Cheney? Would that knowledge imply consent? Conspiracy? This scandal just got uglier and even more threatening for Cheney.
A reader has sent me this query:
One thing that the Times misses is that, if Libby covered up this conversation with Cheney is it not likely that Cheney did as well when he gave sworn testimony to Fitzgerald? These two guys are smart enough to try to get their story straight if they are going to lie. If so, it appears that Cheney would be in equal jeopardy of a perjury or obstruction charge. No?
Cheney did talk to Fitzgerald in the summer of 2004, but this was not sworn testimony. Still, one critical question is whether Cheney told Fitzgerald the truth and acknowledged that he had learned of Valerie Wilson and her CIA employment (apparently from the CIA) and then passed the information to Libby. If Cheney purposefully did not tell Fitzgerald the truth--even if he was not under oath--he might be vulnerable to an obstruction of justice charge or perhaps other charges. (I am no lawyer.) But this new development raises the possibility of an orchestrated cover-up that reaches the vice president. Remember the "unindicted coconspirators" of the Watergate days? Who would believe the waiting-for-indictments period could become more intense?
Now that he's published a book about his Guantanamo ordeal, it's time to revisit the story of former Army chaplain James Yee. (I published a column about Yee in 2004 but much has happened since then and Yee's compelling narrative fills in many of the blanks.)
His book For God And Country is one decent person's account of his inhumane treatment by US military authorities. In short, the story happened like this: Yee was the only Muslim chaplain at Guantanamo's prison base, and he incurred his commanders' wrath when he told his superiors that Muslim prisoners were being abused and having their rights violated.
Prior to his arrest on bogus charges of sedition, mutiny and espionage, Yee, ironically, had received glowing commendations in reviews from his superiors. Nonetheless, armed with an arrest warrant from Guantanamo's second-in-command--but as we later found out, hardly a shred of evidence--the military put Yee in solitary confinement for 76 days. It dragged his name through the mud as officials leaked information to the media charging that Yee was a member of a Guantanamo spy ring that sympathized with Al Qaeda.
The charges were totally without merit and the case against Yee quickly crumbled, but the military's next step was vindictive in the extreme: It decided to continue the smear job by charging Yee with unrelated crimes like the commission of adultery. These charges were also eventually dropped, and Yee, in the end, received an honorable discharge.
His book tells the story of one man's struggle against this outrageous smear campaign, but it also offers a useful window onto the pattern of prisoner abuses at Guantanamo and around the world under US military authorities. Yee's account makes clear that prisoner abuses are woven into the culture of Camp Delta on Guantanamo. He's persuasive on this count: The chain of command was indeed responsible. Guantanamo's zealous commander Maj. Gen. Geoffrey Miller at one point told Yee that he hated "those Muslims" who had attacked America and killed his friends on September 11. Generally, according to Yee, Miller cultivated a blatently anti-Muslim atmosphere at the base.
Yee describes how translators and detainees told him that military interrogators ordered Muslim prisoners to get into a circle and declare that, "Satan is [my] God, not Allah!" Military authorities kicked the prisoners' Korans, ripped the Muslim holy book, beat prisoners, and mocked them as they prayed.
The anti-Islam atmosphere went far beyond commanders like Gen. Miller though. In other disturbing incidents around the country, chaplains told at least one Mormon Marine that his faith was "wicked" and evangelical Christian military chaplains have tried to proselytize to non-believers at the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs. (The efforts at conversion were "systemic and pervasive," a whistleblower told the New York Times.) And you probably remember hearing about Lt. Gen. William "Jerry" Boykin, who after September 11 assured his Christian audiences that Allah was an "idol"--that "my God was bigger" than a Muslim Somali warlord's God--and that "God put[George Bush]" in the White House so Bush could lead America in the so-called war on terror.
Yee's book reveals as well that the prisoner abuse scandals are not at all explained by the Bush Administration's argument that a few bad apples were to blame. Rather, there's an anything-goes culture that has allowed the scandals to happen. As The Nation recently editorialized, the US government has been complicit in "war crimes," and the White House reeks of "moral degradation."
The situation is so out-of-control that the Republican-led Senate recently pushed and won passage of an amendment by a vote of 90 to 9 prohibiting "cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment" of prisoners, a measure that the White House has threatened to veto. (As the bill heads to conference, beware of efforts to water down the amendment to comply with White House demands.)
As a country, we need to take Yee's book to heart and begin to hold our political and military leaders accountable for their role in the prisoner abuses. Former Congresswoman Elizabeth Holtzman argued this past summer in The Nation that accountability is long overdue. We've had "no investigative commission" like the September 11 commission to reveal the extent of the prisoner abuse scandals. The public should demand, she argued, that the government release all directives issued by Bush and other senior officials explaining who knew what about the torture of prisoners and what steps leaders took to end the abuses. We need, Holtzman said, a "full inquiry."
In Yee's case, the military should do the same. Here was a US Army Captain who had become, as Yee writes, "the US military's poster child of a good Muslim." He made public appearances on behalf of the armed forces after graduating from West Point. Bright, patriotic, devout and articulate, Yee was a military asset and true American patriot who stood up for his beliefs and for the nation's commitment to religious tolerance and regard for human rights.
So now, the damage has been done to Yee's life and to America's reputation around the world. And until an "inquiry" begins, the breach cannot be repaired.
You may have missed it, but the first week of October was Lawsuit Abuse Awareness Week. Was this catchy concept created to raise awareness of people abused by negligence or malpractice who must pursue remedy through the courts?
No. It was created BY the industries who don't want to be sued for wrongdoing or negligence (and who also happen to have the resources to run ads on Fox, CNN and MSNBC) and who would rather mislead the public into believing that "greedy personal injury lawyers" are filing so many "meritless lawsuits" that win "outrageous jury awards" that the legal system has to be fundamentally changed.
This is the fallacious argument behind "tort reform." And don't be confused–it is a fallacious argument. Medical malpractice insurance is a perfect example. The insurance industry says it has to raise rates because it gets sued too much by greedy lawyers. But these charges fall flat in the face of Bush Justice Department figures released this past summer which said that the number of tort cases resolved in US District Courts fell by 79 percent between 1985 and 2003. The truth is that medical malpractice tort costs account for less than two percent of healthcare spending, according to the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office. Legal awards to patients is simply not where high health insurance costs are coming from. Want to see lower insurance rates? Regulate the industry.
The industry doesn't want to be regulated, of course, and so it has created a smokescreen. Blame victims and their lawyers. This works because so many people hate lawyers and so few people think that they will be victims. But this is a dangerous game for American citizens. What's at stake is nothing less than regular people's access to the courts.
Andrea Batista Schlesinger, Executive Director of the Drum Major Institute, organized an event in New York late last month to highlight the experience of California in dramatically reducing healthcare costs through regulation. As she says, "This issue has yet to permeate the progressive consciousness, and I'm not sure why. This isn't about defending wealthy trial lawyers, or getting into the minutiae of insurance policy. This is about getting wise to the fact that the insurance industry and the White House have teamed up to boost corporate power at the expense of ordinary people's access to justice."
We better get wise fast, though. Because this is one of many issues in which the Democrats can't be counted on to defend the public, and in which the implications of the decisions made now will have a major impact on our system of justice for the foreseeable future.
"The CIA leak issue is only the tip of the iceberg," Congressman Jerry Nadler told me when I ran into him on the street near our offices on Friday afternoon. He was quick to tell me of a call--led by Congressman Maurice Hinchey (D-NY) and Nadler, along with 39 of their House colleagues--for Special Counsel Patrick Fitzgerald's investigation to be expanded to examine whether the White House--President, Vice-President, and members of the WH's Iraq War Group--conspired to deliberately deceive Congress into authorizing the war. And, as Nadler reminded me, lying to Congress is a crime under several federal statutes.
This is the first call by members of Congress for an expansion of Fitzgerald's probe, amid mounting evidence that there was a well-orchestrated effort by what former State Department aide Larry Wilkerson dubbed last week, "the Cheney-Rumsfeld axis" to hijack US foreign policy and knowingly mislead the Congress in order to get its support for an unlawful war.
"We are no longer just talking about a Republican culture of corruption and cronyism," Nadler says. "We now have reason to believe that high crimes may have been committed at the highest level, wrongdoing that may have led us to war and imperiled our national security." For more on this important call for the investigation's expansion, click here, and then click here to ask your elected reps to support these calls.
Even on the weekend, our obsession with the Plame/CIA leak scandal--and the Judy Miller sideshow--doesn't end. Here's a piece I posted on my blog at www.davidcorn.com.
The wheels of The New York Times turn slowly, but perhaps they are moving in the right direction. On Friday, executive editor Bill Keller sent out a memo in which he offered a "first cut" at the "lessons we have learned" from the Judy Miller mess. The memo was no defense of Miller and the Times.
To his credit, Keller starts with the original sin in the Miller scandal: her problematic prewar reporting on Iraq's WMD, which relied too heavily on administration and Iraqi exile sources and which, consequently (and perhaps purposefully) hyped a nonexistent threat. Keller, who was not the top editor when Miller ran amok on this story, wrote,
I wish we had dealt with the controversy over our coverage of WMD as soon as I became executive editor. At the time, we thought we had compelling reasons for kicking the issue down the road. The paper had just been through a major trauma, the Jayson Blair episode, and needed to regain its equilibrium. It felt somehow unsavory to begin a tenure by attacking our predecessors. I was trying to get my arms around a huge new job, appoint my team, get the paper fully back to normal, and I feared the WMD issue could become a crippling distraction.
So it was a year before we got around to really dealing with the controversy. At that point, we published a long editors' note acknowledging the prewar journalistic lapses, and--to my mind, at least as important--we intensified aggressive reporting aimed at exposing the way bad or manipulated intelligence had fed the drive to war. (I'm thinking of our excellent investigation of those infamous aluminum tubes, the report on how the Iraqi National Congress recruited exiles to promote Saddam's WMD threat, our close look at the military's war-planning intelligence, and the dissection, one year later, of Colin Powell's U.N. case for the war, among other examples. The fact is sometimes overlooked that a lot of the best reporting on how this intel fiasco came about appeared in the NYT.)
By waiting a year to own up to our mistakes, we allowed the anger inside and outside the paper to fester. Worse, we fear, we fostered an impression that The Times put a higher premium on protecting its reporters than on coming clean with its readers. If we had lanced the WMD boil earlier, we might have damped any suspicion that THIS time, the paper was putting the defense of a reporter above the duty to its readers.
This is a serious admission. Might Keller feel his leadership at the TImes is in jeopardy? Or is he simply being a mensch? I do wonder why there has been no disciplining of Miller for her botched coverage of the WMD issue. Keller is acknowledging these "journalistic lapses" were significant and that they had a negative impact on the newspaper. So why were the people responsible for these mistakes not held accountable? After all, they caused more harm to the paper than did Jayson Blair.
Keller does not write about Miller's lead role in the WMD fiasco. But he does criticize her--and himself--for actions taken (and not taken) during the leak investigation. Keller notes that he was negligent by not fully examining Miller's involvement in the leak story and that he missed "significant alarm bells." He also says that Miller was not forthcoming with the paper and that she even misled an editor:
Until Fitzgerald came after her, I didn't know that Judy had been one of the reporters on the receiving end of the anti-Wilson whisper campaign. I should have wondered why I was learning this from the special counsel, a year after the fact. (In November of 2003 [Washington bureau chief] Phil Taubman tried to ascertain whether any of our correspondents had been offered similar leaks. As we reported last Sunday, Judy seems to have misled Phil Taubman about the extent of her involvement.) This alone should have been enough to make me probe deeper.
Indeed. He should have probed deeper. But what will Keller do, if anything, about Miller misleading Taubman? He doesn't say. And he insists that fighting Fitzgerald in court was still necessary, with this caveat:
if I had known the details of Judy's entanglement with [Scooter] Libby, I'd have been more careful in how the paper articulated its defense, and perhaps more willing than I had been to support efforts aimed at exploring compromises.
And Keller seconds an email sent by Richard Stevenson, a Washington correspondent for the newspaper, who wrote:
I think there is, or should be, a contract between the paper and its reporters. The contract holds that the paper will go to the mat to back them up institutionally--but only to the degree that the reporter has lived up to his or her end of the bargain, specifically to have conducted him or herself in a way consistent with our legal, ethical and journalistic standards, to have been open and candid with the paper about sources, mistakes, conflicts and the like, and generally to deserve having the reputations of all of us put behind him or her.
The implication here, of course, is that Miller did not hold up her end of that bargain. And Keller seems to be agreeing with that. So what might be her future at the paper? Keller provides no hint, and he notes that he and the top editors of the Times will continue to wrestle with the remaining issues "in the coming weeks."
For anyone rooting for the Times to remedy the Miller problem, Keller's memo was more encouraging than the articles the paper published a week ago. But, curiously, Keller did not address one of the key credibility issues created by the Miller controversy. In her first-person account--which ran last weekend and which her attorney, Robert Bennett, now says the Times forced her to publish against his advice to her--Miller noted that she agreed to Libby's request to be identified as an anonymous "former Hill staffer" when he was passing her negative information on former Ambassador Joseph Wilson. That is, Miller colluded with a senior White House official--Dick Cheney's chief of staff--to camouflage a White House attack on Wilson, a critic of the administration. This violated the Times' rules for anonymous sourcing. (Reporters are supposed to identify an anonymous source with as much information as possible so readers can determine if the source is pushing an agenda.) Put aside Miller's sloppy and misleading mission-driven WMD coverage, her inability to remember which source told her about "Valerie Flame," her suspicious discovery of a notebook referencing a conversation with Libby she had not originally told the special prosecutor about, and the gap between her absolutist, fighting-for-a-principle rhetoric about her imprisonment and the fact that she had tried to negotiate a compromise to avoid going to jail, the episode in which she offered to mislead her readers about a White House source to facilitate an administration assault on a policy critic, is the most clear-cut example of Miller's bad behavior. Yet, as far as I can tell, Keller and the Times have not acknowledged this piece of the Miller mess.
Still, Keller's memo is evidence that he finally comprehends what a jam Miller created for the newspaper and that he understands the troubles began before Fitzgerald came knocking. This is progress. And it's no accident that the day after Keller circulated his memo, The Washington Post ran a piece by Howard Kurtz--headlined, "A Split The Times & Miller"--that quoted Bennett, Miller's lawyer, bitching about the Times. The article notes that Miller would not cooperate with the Times reporters working on the paper's account of the Miller case until 24 hours before the deadline for the story. And Bennett downplayed the significance of Miller's inability to remember the first conversation she had with Libby about Joseph Wilson (in which Libby may have mentioned Wilson's wife, the undercover CIA official, weeks before she was outed in a July 14, 2003 Bob Novak column.) The fact that Bennett (and apparently Miller, too) felt it was necessary for Bennett to defend Miller after Keller had disseminated his memo is a sign that the kinship Keller and Miller displayed in public when they were presenting her as a Joan of Arc for modern-day journalism has deteriorated. (And see Maureen Dowd's acerbic slam at Miller in Saturday's Times, in which she opines that if Miller returns to the newspaper after her book leave is done untold damage will ensue.) Perhaps this will allow Keller to remedy further the problems that Miller has caused for his paper. Perhaps denial has transformed into acceptance, and Keller and the paper are ready for hard work of recovery.
TRUSTING LIBBY. Thanks to Michael Isikoff for the shout-out. On HuffingtonPost.com, he writes,
Forget the aspens turning in clusters--or, for at least the next couple of days, the prospect of indictments. (Nothing, it now seems, until next week.) The real story of last weekend's Judy Miller revelations is not what Scooter Libby may have told her about Joe Wilson's wife. It is how Libby clearly, and unequivocally, misrepresented the contents of the classified National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) about Iraqi WMD. Save for the estimable David Corn of the Nation, nobody has picked up on this. But it's huge. At a time when questions about the Bush administration's case for war were beginning to mount, Libby assured Miller: Don't worry, there's still secret stuff out there that will prove we were right all along. As a Washington reporter who frequently writes about intelligence matters, I can assure you, this is the way it always works: "Trust me," the high level government official will tell you, "if you knew what I knew--if you could read the top secret reports I've read--you'd know why we're doing this." Only in this case, we know what Libby told Miller at their two hour breakfast at the Ritz Carleton Hotel on July 8, 2003, wasn't true.
For Isikoff's full examination of how Libby tried to mislead Miller (who seems to have been rather willing to be misled) about the prewar intelligence, see his "Terror Watch" column (written with Mark Hosenball) here.
George Bush, who once criticized Ronald Reagan's approach to terrorism, is now making a desperate grab for the former president's coattails.
In August, Bush said that, because of Reagan's decision to withdraw U.S. troops from Lebanon after the 1983 bombing of a Maine barracks in Beirut killed 241 Americans, "[Terrorists] concluded that free societies lack the courage and character to defend themselves against a determined enemy."
But two months later, with his poll ratings dropping to levels Reagan never saw, and with public support for the Iraq occupation collapsing, Bush traveled to a the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum, where he declared with a straight face that, "we are answering history's call with confidence and a comprehensive strategy."
Comparing himself with Reagan, Bush said of the former president: "He recognized that freedom was opposed by dangerous enemies. And he understood that America has always prevailed by standing firmly on principals - and never backing down in the face of evil."
Returning again and again to his "stay-the-course" theme, Bush announced that, "The key to victory lay in our resolve to stay in the fight till the fight was won."
He did not, of course, announce a strategy for pulling anything akin to victory out of a quagmire that former Secretary of Defense Melvin Laird, a Republican stalwart, compares with the Vietnam imbroglio in an article penned for the forthcoming edition of Foreign Affairs magazine. Connecting Bush with another former president, Laird suggests that the current commander-in-chief is repeating the mistakes of Richard Nixon by keeping U.S. troops in a fight where there appears to be no obvious benchmark for defining victory and no plan for bringing U.S. troops home. Some kind of exit strategy is needed, contends Laird, because, "Our presence is what feeds the insurgency (in Iraq), and our gradual withdrawal would feed the confidence and the ability of average Iraqis to stand up to the insurgency."Bush and his supporters has repeatedly dismissed calls for an exit strategy, suggesting that any announced plan for withdrawing U.S. troops would make Iraq more chaotic and make America more vulnerable.
But Ronald Reagan, the man Bush was trying so hard to associate himself with during his visit to California Thursday, took a different view. And even some Republicans are beginning to make that point. In a remarkable October 7 speech delivered on the House floor, Representative Ron Paul, a maverick Republican from Texas who has long been critical of Bush's misguided approach to fighting terrorism, invoked Reagan's legacy as part of a call for withdrawal.
Supporters of the war in Iraq, as well as some non-supporters, warn of the dangers if we leave. But isn't it quite possible that these dangers are simply a consequence of having gone into Iraq in the first place, rather than a consequence of leaving? Isn't it possible that staying only makes the situation worse? If chaos results after our departure, it's because we occupied Iraq, not because we left.
The original reasons for our pre-emptive strike are long forgotten, having been based on false assumptions. The justification given now is that we must persist in this war or else dishonor those who already have died or been wounded. We're also told civil strife likely will engulf all of Iraq.
But what is the logic of perpetuating a flawed policy where more Americans die just because others have suffered? More Americans deaths cannot possibly help those who already have been injured or killed.
Civil strife, if not civil war, already exists in Iraq-- and despite the infighting, all factions oppose our occupation. The insistence on using our militarily to occupy and run Iraq provides convincing evidence to our detractors inside and outside Iraq that we have no intention of leaving. Building permanent military bases and a huge embassy confirms these fears. We deny the importance of oil and Israel's influence on our policy, yet we fail to convince the Arab/Muslim world that our intentions are purely humanitarian.
In truth, our determined presence in Iraq actually increases the odds of regional chaos, inciting Iran and Syria while aiding Osama bin Laden in his recruiting efforts. Leaving Iraq would do the opposite-- though not without some dangers that rightfully should be blamed on our unwise invasion rather than our exit.Many experts believe bin Laden welcomed our invasion and occupation of two Muslim countries. It bolsters his claim that the U.S. intended to occupy and control the Middle East all along. This has galvanized radical Muslim fundamentalists against us. Osama bin Laden's campaign surely would suffer if we left.
We should remember that losing a war to China over control of North Korea ultimately did not enhance communism in China, as she now has accepted many capitalist principles. In fact, China today outproduces us in many ways-- as reflected by our negative trade balance with her.
We lost a war in Vietnam, and the domino theory that communism would spread throughout southeast Asia was proven wrong. Today, Vietnam accepts American investment dollars and technology. We maintain a trade relationship with Vietnam that the war never achieved.
We contained the USSR and her thousands of nuclear warheads without military confrontation, leading to the collapse and disintegration of a powerful Soviet empire. Today we trade with Russia and her neighbors, as the market economy spreads throughout the world without the use of arms.
We should heed the words of Ronald Reagan about his experience with a needless and mistaken military occupation of Lebanon. Sending troops into Lebanon seemed like a good idea in 1983, but in 1990 President Reagan said this in his memoirs: "…we did not appreciate fully enough the depth of the hatred and complexity of the problems that made the Middle East such a jungle… In the weeks immediately after the bombing, I believed the last thing we should do was turn tail and leave… yet, the irrationality of Middle Eastern politics forced us to rethink our policy there."
During the occupation of Lebanon by American, French, and Israeli troops between 1982 and 1986, there were 41 suicide terrorist attacks in that country. One horrific attack killed 241 U.S. Marines. Yet once these foreign troops were removed, the suicide attacks literally stopped. Today we should once again rethink our policy in this region.
It's amazing what ending military intervention in the affairs of others can achieve. Setting an example of how a free market economy works does wonders.
We should have confidence in how well freedom works, rather than relying on blind faith in the use of military force to spread our message. Setting an example and using persuasion is always superior to military force in showing how others might live. Force and war are tools of authoritarians; they are never tools of champions of liberty and justice. Force and war inevitably lead to dangerous unintended consequences.
While George Bush and his neoconservative allies connive to use Ronald Reagan's legacy as the latest justification for maintaining the deadly, dangerous and unnecessary occupation of a distant land, it has fallen to a more historically-savvy and genuinely-conservative Republican, Ron Paul, to honor that legacy with the suggestion that it might indeed be time to bring the troops home.
John Nichols's book, Against the Beast: A Documentary History of American Opposition to Empire (Nation Books) examines Democratic and Republican, liberal and conservative traditions of challenging U.S. wars of entanglement, expansion and empire. Howard Zinn says, "At exactly the when we need it most, John Nichols gives us a special gift--a collection of writings, speeches, poems and songs from thoughout American history--that reminds us that our revulsion to war and empire has a long and noble tradition in this country." Frances Moore Lappe calls Against the Beast, "Brilliant! A perfect book for an empire in denial." Against the Beast can be found at independent bookstores nationwide and can be obtained online by tapping the above reference or at www.amazon.com
The situation in Pakistan is so bad that the United Nations today urged NATO countries to stage a huge and immediate airlift to get life-saving supplies to earthquake victims. Tens of thousands of people are still trapped in the earthquake zone almost two weeks since the quake. If we are to save them, UN Emergency Relief Coordinator Jan Egeland said, an airlift equivalent to that in Berlin in 1949 is required.
Egeland's call came as UN Secretary-General, Kofi Annan warned that earthquake survivors would be engulfed in a "wave of death" unless there was an "immediate and exceptional escalation" in the international aid effort. (UNICEF, the UN children's organization, officially estimates that at the present rate of the relief efforts, 10,000 children will die within weeks.)
Although the official death count remains at 49,739, local authorities released "unofficial" figures putting casualties at almost 80,000, which one UN expert described yesterday as "credible." Despite these stunning numbers--close to last year's tsunami and far more lethal than what Hurricane Katrina wrought in the US--global relief aid has been exceedingly sluggish: Less than fourteen percent of the UN's emergency appeal of $410 million has been donated to date.
Furthermore, according to Australia's Sydney Morning Herald, despite repeated and increasingly desperate requests, the world's armies have so far between them mustered only 68 helicopters--vital for lifting tents, food and medical supplies to the inaccessible mountains of Pakistani-administered Kashmir. (Helicopters are the only means of getting quickly deep into the Himalayan foothills of Pakistani Kashmir and North West Frontier Province where, according to Reuters, 51,000 people are known to have died.)
Moreover, crucial needs extend beyond rescuing survivors. As Somini Sengupta reports in today's New York Times, there's a "pressing need to shelter up to three million Pakistani earthquake survivors before the harsh Himalayan winter sets in." She adds that this is one of "the most difficult relief operations the world has ever faced."
What to do? For one thing, it can't hurt to click here to contact your elected representatives and demand that they press for increased emergency funding for our allies in Pakistan. Besides being the right thing to do, it couldn't hurt our seriously compromised standing in the world community if we could come through on this one.
There are also a number of good options for individual donations that will make a difference. The World Food Program has been on the ground in Pakistan since well before the October 8 earthquake and is well placed to deliver life-saving aid that will give survivors the strength and energy to rebuild.
The progressive coalition, Mercy Corps, has deployed a mobile medical unit in the hard-hit Sirin Valley, where it has already treated 1,600 injured victims. A second unit is being opened this weekend. Click here to help MC roll out more medical help in the coming weeks and months.
The UK-based Disaster Emergency Committee is also doing valiant work on the ground. (And if you happen to live in or be visiting Scotland, you can take part in a terrific DEC-sponsored program called 'Curries for Kashmir,' a fundraising initiative in which Asian restaurants in Scotland are donating a portion of each customer's bill to disaster relief. This deserves emulating. How about it, London? New York?)
Finally, we wanted to encourage donations to the Eqbal Ahmad Foundation, which is collecting earthquake relief funds. This group, named after the former political science professor, activist and Nation contributor, is led by Pakistani physics professor Pervez Hoodbhoy (Ahmad's son-in-law) and is mobilizing local volunteers to transport supplies, mostly food and tents, to the most affected regions. Click here to donate to the foundation and for more info about its activities.
Aid workers in the region say the most urgent need is tents, otherwise people will soon start dying of exposure. As Hoodbhoy recently wrote, "In barely two months from now, the mountains will get their first snowfall and temperatures will plummet below zero. There are simply not enough tents, blankets, and warm clothes to go around. Hundreds of tent clusters have come up, but thousands of families remain out under the skies, facing rain and hail....These families have lost everything but the tattered clothes on their backs. Some even lost the land they had lived upon for generations – the top soil simply slid away, leaving behind hard rock and rubble. Those without shelter will die."
So please be as generous as you can manage.
Months ago, we celebrated the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics' impressive drive to eliminate toxic ingredients from beauty products. Due to an FDA loophole, which exempts personal care product manufacturers from government oversight, many of the cosmetics on shelves today may contain known or probable carcinogens (see Mark Schapiro's "A Makeover for the Cosmetics Industry.")
But by last Mother's Day, the campaign had successfully encouraged more than a hundred companies to sign a compact banning ingredients that are known or strongly suspected of causing cancer, genetic mutation or birth defects from their products.
Recently, the campaign scored an even bigger victory for consumer rights--this one on the legislative front. On October 8th, despite vigorous opposition from the cosmetics and chemical industries, the California Safe Cosmetics Bill was signed into law. The bill--which requires manufacturers to disclose to the California'sDepartment of Health Services any product ingredients linked to cancer, mutations, or birth defects--is the first of its kind in America. After two years of coordinated efforts by the Breast Cancer Fund, Breast Cancer Action and the National Environmental Trust (NET), California residents will finally have the right to know what's behind their beauty products.
According to Stacey Malkan of the Environmental Working Group, the Cosmetics, Toiletries and Fragrance Association (CTFA) fought tooth and nail against the bill, lobbying heavily and shelling out more than $600,000 in a vain attempt to defeat it. "The cosmetics industry opposed this bill as though it were a peasant revolt rather than a right to know bill," said Andy Igrejas, Environmental Health Director of NET. "Now we'll find out what they were so afraid of."
Once the ugly face of the cosmetics industry is revealed, the hope is that companies will finally make the switch to safe ingredients, not only in California but nationwide. A beautiful future indeed!
We also want to hear from you. Please let us know if you have a sweet victory you think we should cover by e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Co-written by Sam Graham-Felsen, a freelance journalist, documentary filmmaker and blogger (www.boldprint.net) living in Brooklyn.