The Nation

The Wall Comes Tumbling Down

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 agencies…

Students vs. Sweatshops (Again)

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.

Several more sit-ins on this issue are expected before the end of the school year, according to Zack Knorr of United Students Against Sweatshops, unless the universities in question decide to avoid the bad publicity by doing the right thing.

Re-Occupying the Occupation

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.

Wong went on a number of foot patrols with US and Kurdish soldiers throughout the city. Here's what he found:

What struck me was that a lot of the tactics that they were doing now were tried back in 2003 and in early 2004.

I mean, back then, you couldn't go anywhere in Baghdad without encountering American convoys, without seeing American soldiers on the corners. They were everywhere throughout the city. It definitely felt like an occupied city at that point.

Then, the American military started pulling back into these big bases, and that was when sectarian violence really exploded. And now they're trying to get back out into the neighborhoods again.

So I watched these American soldiers talking to families, trying to go into living rooms, gather intelligence from the families. And in many cases, it seemed a little bit awkward to me. There was this disconnect, I think, partly because of language, partly because the soldiers walked in with so many weapons and so much armor.

And here you have these Iraqi families there who were finishing dinner or trying to settle in for the night. These soldiers come in. They asked them about activity in the neighborhoods. And then the families looked a little nervous, and then the soldiers would leave.

Doesn't sound like a recipe for success.

What's Right with Maryland

Justice Louis Brandeis once said, "It is one of the happy accidents of the federal system that a single courageous state may, if its citizens choose, serve as a laboratory, and try novel social and economic experiments without risk to the rest of the country." The Maryland General Assembly has taken advantage of this "happy accident" to pass a National Popular Vote bill and is expected to pass a Living Wage bill today as well.

Maryland State Senator and Nation contributor Jamie Raskin told me, "We passed the National Popular Vote bill in the General Assembly by mobilizing the essential democratic principles: the person with the most votes for president should win the office and every citizen's vote should count equally regardless of geography or time zone…. And with the Living Wage bill we have said that the state government should not be a neutral umpire in the economy but an active instrument for lifting people out of grinding poverty into at least the modestly secure working class. The gap between the minimum wage and the actual living wage is an index of shame, which we are about to close in Maryland."

The National Popular Vote bill calls for awarding Maryland's 10 electoral votes to the winner of the national popular vote instead of the winner of the state vote. It only takes effect when states representing a majority of votes in the Electoral College agree to join a binding National Popular Vote compact. The movement is being led by the National Popular Vote campaign and it has over 300 sponsoring legislators in 47 states. Other organizations involved in the effort include: FairVote, Progressive States Network, Asian American Action Fund, National Black Caucus of State Legislators, National Latino Congreso, Common Cause, and such former Members of Congress as Republicans Tom Campbell and Jake Garn, independent John Anderson, and Democrat Birch Bayh.

According to Rob Richie and Ryan O'Donnell of FairVote, "Under the Constitution, states have exclusive power – indeed have responsibility – to award their electors to reflect the interests of their people." Like Maryland, Hawaii also passed its National Popular Vote bill and so have single chambers in Arkansas and Colorado. Last year, California passed its own version but it was vetoed by The Terminator. Richie reports that establishing a national popular vote is supported by 70 percent of the public according to polls. "This should be no surprise," Richie and O'Donnell write. "The current system makes most Americans irrelevant in electing their most powerful elected office."

"[Maryland], like the two-thirds of all states consigned to the safe red or blue column, has been reduced to ‘spectator' status in presidential elections," Raskin said. "… I believe that Maryland and now Hawaii can kick off an insurrection of the spectator states to demand a truly national presidential campaign instead of this debased division and polarization of red and blue states, a process which depresses turnout and participation."

Richie points out that in 2004, voter turnout was 8 percent higher in battleground states than non-battlegrounds and "fully 17 percent higher among young adults – a division only to grow in future elections with presidential campaign activity limited to battlegrounds…." And Richie and O'Donnell note, "The presidential campaigns and their allies spent more money on ads in Florida in the final month of the campaign than their combined spending in 46 other states." Raskin adds, "In the last two [presidential] elections, 99 percent of campaign dollars and candidate visits were spent in 16 battleground states and two-thirds of the money and appearances in just five key ones like Ohio and Florida."

"By strengthening the voting power of all Americans and treating all voters equally," Richie says, "the National Popular Vote plan is based on two of the key pillars of lasting reform: equality and universality."

Maryland's Living Wage Bill will have a lasting impact as well. "It's going to lift tens of thousands of Marylanders out of poverty," Delegate Tom Hucker told the Washington Post. "It makes Maryland a leader in ensuring that our tax dollars are helping build the middle class rather than perpetuating poverty."

And it's not just Democrats who are doing the work of small-d democrats. Florida's Republican Governor, Charlie Crist, has fulfilled his campaign promise to work towards restoring voting rights for convicted felons in his state despite the fact that it will add "tens of thousands of Democratic voters to the rolls -- possibly pushing a House seat or two into the blue column" and helping any Democratic presidential nominee. (Maryland's General Assembly has also acted to secure voting rights for more people with felony convictions and Governor Martin O'Malley is leaning towards signing the bill. Richie says that O'Malley – the only challenger to defeat an incumbent governor in last year's elections – has been instrumental in spurring progressive change by promising to sign such legislation as this.)

These actions by the Maryland General Assembly and the action of a Republican Governor serve as reminders that what Nation article John Nichols wrote in a 2003 still holds true: "… some of the most important fights – for affordable healthcare, education, environmental protection and clean politics – are taking place beyond the Beltway. Often there is far more space for debate on these issues, and more opportunities for victory, in statehouses… Thus, while it is essential to battle Bush and his minions in Washington, it is equally essential to understand that the road to renewal may well run through the states."

Bush's Absurdist Imperialism

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?

Mind you, on September 11, 2001, as those towers went down, that arc of instability wasn't exactly a paragon of… well, instability. Yes, on one end was Somalia, a failed state, and on the other, impoverished, rubble-strewn Afghanistan, largely Taliban-ruled (and al-Qaeda encamped); while in-between Saddam Hussein's Iraq was a severely weakened nation with a suffering populace, but the "arc" was wracked by no great wars, no huge surges of refugees, no striking levels of destruction. Not particularly pleasant autocracies, some of a fundamentalist religious nature, were the rule of the day. Oil flowed (at about $23 a barrel); the Israeli-Palestinian conflict simmered uncomfortably; and, all in all, it wasn't a pretty picture, nor a particularly democratic one, nor one in which, if you were an inhabitant of most of these lands, you could expect a fair share of justice or a stunningly good life.

Still, the arc of instability, as a name, was then more prediction than reality. And it was a prediction--soon enough to become self-fulfilling prophesy--on which George Bush, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, and all those neocons in the Pentagon readily staked careers and reputations. As a crew, already dazzled by American military power and its potential uses, such a bet undoubtedly looked like a sure winner, like betting with the house in a three-card monte scheme. They would just give the arc what it needed--a few intense doses of cruise-missile and B-1 bomber medicine, and some "regime-change"-style injections of further instability. It was to be, as Andrew Bacevich has written, "an experiment in creative destruction."

First Afghanistan, then Iraq. Both pushovers. How could the mightiest force on the planet lose to such puny powers? As a start, you would wage a swift air-war/proxy-war/Special-Forces war/dollar-war in one of the most backward places on the planet. Your campaign would be against an ill-organized, ill-armed, ragtag enemy. You would follow that by thrusting into the soft, military underbelly of the Middle East and taking out the hollow armed forces of Saddam Hussein in a "cakewalk."

Next, with your bases set up in Afghanistan and Iraq on either side of Iran--and Pakistan, also bordering Iran, in hand--what would it take to run some increasingly unpopular mullahs out of Tehran? Meanwhile, Syria, another weakened, wobbly state divided against itself, now hemmed by militarily powerful Israel and American-occupied Iraq would be a pushover. In each of these lands, you would end up with an American-friendly government, run by some figure like the Pentagon's favorite Iraqi exile Ahmed Chalabi; and, voilà! (okay, they wouldn't have used French), a Middle East made safe for Israel and for American domination. You would, in short, have your allies in Europe and Japan as well as your possible future enemies, Russia and China, by the throat in an increasingly energy-starved world.

Certainly, many of the top officials of the Bush administration and their neocon allies, dreaming of just such an orderly, American-dominated "Greater Middle East," were ready to settle for a little chaos in the process. If a weakened Iraq broke into several parts; or, say, the oil-rich Shiite areas of Saudi Arabia happened to fall off that country, well, too bad. They'd deal.

Little did they know.

The Tin Touch

Here's the remarkable thing: All the Bush administration had to do was meddle in any country in that arc of instability (and which one didn't it meddle in?), for actual instability, often chaos, sometimes outright disaster to set in. It's been quite a record, the very opposite of an imperial golden touch.

And, on any given day, you can see the evidence of this on a case by case basis in your local paper or on the TV news. But what you never see is all those crises and potential crises discussed in one place--without which the magnitude of the present disaster and the dangers in our future are hard to grasp.

Few in the mainstream world have even tried to put them all together since the Bush administration rolled back the media, essentially demobilizing it in 2001-2002, at which point its journalists and pundits simply stopped connecting the dots. Give the Bush administration credit: Its top officials took in the world as a whole and at an imperial glance. They regularly connected the dots as they saw them. The post-9/11 strike at Afghanistan was never simply a strike at al-Qaeda (or the Taliban who hosted them). It was always a prelude to war against Saddam Hussein's Iraq. And the invasion of Iraq was never meant to end in Baghdad (as indicated in the neocon pre-war quip, "Everyone wants to go to Baghdad. Real men want to go to Tehran"). Nor was Tehran to be the end of the line.

Under the rubric of the "Global War on Terror," they were considering dozens of countries as potential future targets. Dick Cheney put the matter bluntly back in August 2002 as the public drumbeat for an invasion of Iraq was just revving up:

"The war in Afghanistan is only the beginning of a lengthy campaign, Cheney noted. 'Were we to stop now, any sense of security we might have would be false and temporary… There is a terrorist underworld out there spread among more than 60 countries.'"

Almost immediately after the 9/11 attacks, they began stitching together the arc of instability in their minds with an eye not so much to Arabs, or South Asians, or even Israelis, but to playing their version of what the British imperialists used to call "the Great Game." They had the rollback of energy-giant Russia in mind as well as the containment or rollback of potential future imperial power, China, already visibly desperate for Iraqi, Iranian, and other energy supplies. In the year before the invasion of Iraq, they were remarkably blunt about this. They proudly published that seminal document of the Bush era, the National Security Strategy of the United States of America, 2002, which called for the U.S. to "build and maintain" its military power on the planet "beyond challenge."

Think about that for a moment. A single power on Earth "beyond challenge." This was a dream of planetary dominion that once would have been left to madmen. But in what looked like a world with only one Great Power, it was easy enough to imagine a Great Game with only one great player, an arms race with only one swift runner.

The Bush administration was essentially calling for a world in which no superpower, or bloc of powers, would ever be allowed to challenge this country's supremacy. As the President put it in an address at West Point in 2002, "America has, and intends to keep, military strengths beyond challenge, thereby making the destabilizing arms races of other eras pointless, and limiting rivalries to trade and other pursuits of peace." The National Security Strategy put the same thought this way: "Our forces will be strong enough to dissuade potential adversaries from pursuing a military build-up in hopes of surpassing, or equaling, the power of the United States." That's anywhere on the planet. Ever. And the President and his followers promptly began to hike the Pentagon budget to suit their oversized, military fantasies of what an American "footprint" should be.

With this in mind, the arc of instability, which, in energy-flow terms, was quite literally the planet's heartland, seemed the place to control. And yet, you're unlikely to find a single piece in your daily paper that takes in that arc. To take but one obvious example, the rise of Iran (and a possible "Shiite crescent"), Iran's influence or interference in Iraq, Iran's nuclear program, and Iran's off-the-wall president have been near obsessions in our media; and yet, you would be hard-pressed to find a piece even pointing out that the Bush administration's two invasions and occupations--Iraq and Afghanistan--which left both those countries bristling with vast American bases and sprawling American-controlled prison systems, took place on either side of Iran. Add in the fact that the Bush administration, probably through the CIA, is essentially running terror raids into Iran through Pakistan and you have a remarkably different vision of Iran's geostrategic situation than even an informed American media consumer would normally see.

After September 11, 2001, but based on the sort of pre-2001 thinking you could find well represented at the neocon website Project for the New American Century, the Bush administration's top officials wrote their own drama for the arc of instability. They were, of course, the main characters in it, along with the U.S. military, some Afghan and Iraqi exiles who would play their necessary roles in the "liberation" of their countries, and a few evil ogres like Saddam Hussein.

Today, not six years after they raised the curtain on what was to be their grand imperial drama, they find themselves in a dark theater with at least six crises in search of an author, all clamoring for attention--and every possibility that a seventh (not to say a seventeenth) "character" in that rowdy, still gathering, audience may soon rise to insist on a part in the horrific farce that has actually taken place.

[Note: This is the first of three parts. Tomorrow: The Six Crises.]

Which US Attorneys Did Rove's Bidding?

The real story of the U.S. Attorneys scandal that has so endangered the tenure of Attorney General Alberto Gonzales is not that of the eight fired prosecutors. It is that of the 85 U.S. Attorneys around the country who were not let go.

There is mounting evidence that the Bush administration was pressuring U.S. attorneys to politicize their prosecutions prior to the 2006 elections, on the apparent theory that stirring up trouble for Democrats in battleground states might ease concerns about abuses by White House aides, former House Majority Leader Tom Delay, former California Congressman Duke Cunningham and the various and sundry GOP solons who had been linked to no-longer-so-super lobbyist Jack Abramoff.

And it certainly looks as if some of the U.S. Attorneys who refused to bow to the pressure to mount prosecutions that might embarrass Democrats were removed from their positions because of their regard for the rule of law.

But what about the U.S. Attorneys who were not fired?

Did they agree to mount political prosecutions in order to keep their jobs? Were they reliably partisan enough to secure White House political czar Karl Rove approval?

Did they act on that partisanship in their official duties?

These are the question of the moment in a number of states, most notably Wisconsin.

Wisconsin is the ultimate battleground state in presidential politics, an almost evenly-divided jurisdiction where the Bush-Gore race of 2000 was decided by barely 5,000 votes and the Bush-Kerry race of 2004 was decided by only a little more than 10,000. Gearing up for 2008, Republicans wanted very much to replace Democratic Governor Jim Doyle, whose control of the state's top job, it was thought, had helped Kerry secure his narrow victory in 2004.

As the 2006 gubernatorial election approached, Doyle appeared to be in solid shape. Then he was linked to a nasty pay-to-play politics scandal. Steven Biskupic, the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Wisconsin, aggressively pursued an investigation of whether political considerations had influenced the awarding of a state travel contract to a Doyle donor.

As the election approached, Biskupic secured the conviction of state employee Georgia Thompson, who was charged with steering the contract to the donor's firm. More prosecutions were reportedly in the offering. Republicans had a field day. They mounted an expensive television ad campaign linking Doyle to the "scandal."

When Democrats criticized Biskupic for pressing what appeared to be a shaky case against Thompson on a schedule that paralleled that of the 2006 gubernatorial race, their arguments were dismissed as nothing more than political spin. Yes, of course, Biskupic was a Republican, with family ties to the state party and friendly relations with the Bush White House. Yes, he had investigated supposed "vote fraud" cases pushed by the state and national GOP, even though the investigations came to nothing. But few independent observers could believe that a career prosecutor would abuse his position for political purposes.

After Doyle was easily reelected in what turned out to be a strong Democratic year, Georgia Thompson was whisked off to a federal prison in Illinois. Biskupic's actions pre-election prosecution of the woman, while suspect to some, was generally accepted as an accident of timing.

Now, however, the complaints about Biskupic's election-season execution of a case involving a Democratic governor in a battleground state are being seen in a new light.

Last week, a three-judge panel of the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit ruled that Thompson, a former state purchasing supervisor, had been wrongly convicted of making sure a state travel contract went to a firm linked to Doyle's re-election campaign.

The judges declared that Thompson was innocent.

They ordered her immediate release from prison.

And they went out of their way to criticize Biskupic's case against the state employee, with Federal Judge Diane Wood saying "the evidence is beyond thin."

The question that arises, at a point when the U.S. House and U.S. Senate judiciary committees are investigating efforts by the Bush administration, Republican members of Congress and GOP operatives to get U.S. attorneys around the country to engage in political prosecutions designed to harm Democrats as the election approached, is whether Biskupic aggressively pursued a case built on evidence that was "beyond thin" in order to assist Republican electoral prospects.

The circumstances surrounding the Thompson prosecution, when seen in the context of the known pressures on U.S. attorneys to conduct political prosecutions, require nothing less. And it happens that Wisconsin's senators, both of whom serve on the Judiciary Committee, are in a position to press the matter. But it should not fall only to Russ Feingold and Herb Kohl to question members of the Bush administration about any and all contacts with Biskupic, and make similar inquiries regarding efforts by current and former Republican Party officials in Wisconsin and nationally to pressure the U.S. Attorney's office.

And the questioning ought not end at the Wisconsin line. As the New York Times noted April 9, in an editorial, "Another Layer of Scandal": "Ms. Thompson's case is not the only one raising questions about whether prosecutors tried last year to tilt close elections toward the Republicans. New Jersey's federal prosecutor conducted an investigation of weak-looking allegations against Senator Robert Menendez that was used in Republican ads."

The bottom line should be clear: The investigation into the politicization of prosecutions by the Bush administration needs to expand dramatically. As this happens, there is good reason to believe that the firings of the eight U.S. Attorneys that have to now been so much in the news may turn out to be the lesser scandals brought to light by an inquiry that could yet be the most damning of Bush's presidency.


John Nichols' new book is THE GENIUS OF IMPEACHMENT: The Founders' Cure forRoyalism. Rolling Stone's Tim Dickinson hails it as a "nervy, acerbic, passionately argued history-cum-polemic [that] combines a rich examination of the parliamentary roots and past use ofthe 'heroic medicine' that is impeachment with a call for Democraticleaders to 'reclaim and reuse the most vital tool handed to us by thefounders for the defense of our most basic liberties.'"

Neocon Godmother Considered Iraq War a Mistake

From the grave, Jeane Kirkpatrick, the godmother of the neoconservative movement, speaks: the Iraq war was something of a mistake.

Kirkpatrick, best known as the combative UN ambassador during the Reagan administration who argued that the United States should be kind to authoritarian regimes that were partners in the crusade against communism, died last December. She had just completed a book entitled Making War To Keep Peace, which is being published next month. In the book, she reports--apparently for the first time--that she had "grave reservations" about George W. Bush's invasion of Iraq. She notes that at the time, "I was privately critical of the Bush administration's argument for the use of military force for preemptive self-defense." She does not say where and to whom she voiced her misgivings--if she did. Most strikingly, she argues that the war--with respect to bringing democracy to Iraqis--did more harm than good.

It's stunning criticism from a hawk who for over two decades has been a guiding light for the neocons who cheerleaded the nation to war in Iraq. In her book, she contends that the invasion has so far been counterproductive:

On a personal note, I have dedicated much of my professional life to reconciling what I consider the twin goals of American foreign policy, and that is why President George W. Bush's decision to go to war has troubled me deeply.

These twin goals of our foreign policy are, first, ensuring our security and, second, promoting democracy and human rights. An appropriate balance between the two must exist, and that balance must be determined within the unique circumstances of any situation. Yet, for democracy to take hold in a given region, it must be preceded by institutions that are receptive and willing to support democracy--because democracy requires security as a prerequisite. That is why, throughout history, if the single force of political stability in a region is removed without critical institutions in place to fill the resulting vacuum of power, the security of societies and their budding institutions will be precarious at best.

Unfortunately, what we face in Iraq today is a vacuum of power, a lack of stable institutions needed to govern, and the problem that the promise of democracy for which our nation stands may be lost in the essential scramble for safety and stability in the streets. This is one of the reasons I am uneasy about the war we have made here--for we have helped to create the chaos that has overtaken the country, and we may have reduced rather than promoted the pace of democratic reform.

Kirkpatrick suggests the Bush administration and her neocon colleagues rushed into the war irresponsibly:

Iraq presented a very different set of circumstances from Afghanistan, however. These are things we ought to have known and taken into account when weighing our decision to invade in 2003.

Iraq lacked practically all the requirements for a democratic government: rule of law, an elite with a shared commitment to democratic procedures, a sense of citizenship, and habits of trust and cooperation. The administration's failure involved several issues, but the core concern is that they did not seem to have methodically completed the due diligence required for reasoned policy-making because they failed to address the aftermath of the invasion. This, of course, is reflected by the violence, sectarian unrest, ethnic vengeance and bloodshed we see in Iraq today.

No "due diligence." Kirkpatrick is politely charging that George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz, Condoleezza Rice, Colin Powell and other top administration aides invaded a nation recklessly. Can there be a more damning indictment?

In the book, Kirkpatrick does not engage in self-criticism. Before the invasion, she was part of the commentariat that helped create the context for the war. Three weeks after September 11, she suggested that Saddam Hussein was behind the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. Appearing on The Oprah Winfrey Show, Kirkpatrick declared, "Many people believe that it is likely that the hijackers had the support of Iraq. We know that Saddam Hussein has always said that we did not defeat him [in] the Gulf War, that it was just one battle, and that there would be more."

In a June 2002 interview with the Financial Times, Kirkpatrick said that she had "some questions" about whether it would be "prudent" to launch a preemptive strike on Saddam's regime, noting such an attack could "win recruits for the most radical Islamists." But on October 9, 2002--the day after Bush made a nationally televised speech asserting that Iraq posed a direct threat to the United States because it was loaded with weapons of mass of destruction and in league with al Qaeda--Kirkpatrick appeared on PBS's Newshour and praised the president for presenting an "effective and clear explanation of the US case...against Iraq." She voiced no reservations about a preemptive war with Iraq. And when Bush two weeks later said the United States could live with Saddam's regime if it met "all the conditions" of a United Nations disarmament resolution, Kirkpatrick called this gesture a mistake.

Shortly before Bush launched the invasion of Iraq in March 2003, he asked Kirkpatrick to head the US delegation to the UN Human Rights Commission in Geneva. She took the job, and her primary mission soon became preventing the commission from passing a resolution condemning the Iraq invasion as illegal. Despite being "privately critical" of Bush's decision to invade, Kirkpatrick, according to her new book, believed the invasion was legal under international law, mainly because it was not a new war but a response to Saddam's failure to abide by the cease-fire terms of the first Gulf War. Thus, she writes, she was able to be a forceful advocate of Bush's right to invade Iraq, "even though I did not agree with the president's choices." A week after the invasion, Kirkpatrick beat back a resolution at the Human Rights Commission that challenged the legitimacy of the war.

Whatever her private concerns, she publicly defended the war. In a speech at the American Enterprise Institute on June 13, 2003, Kirkpatrick derided critics of the war. She singled out an editorial that had appeared in the International Herald Tribune. The paper had argued, "we did not like [Bush's] combative doctrine [of preemptive force] when it was formally unveiled...because it seemed to walk away from America's historical inclination to work with other nations to preserve the peace and to rely on force only when its security was directly threatened." Kirkpatrick called this "one of the silliest arguments" made against the war. In a September 30, 2003 speech at Georgetown University, she appeared to endorse the war and Bush's use of preemptive military action. Yet in her book, Kirkpatrick recounts that she did not support the "Bush administration's assertion of its right to preemptive action in self-defense." Now when it is too late--she is gone, the war is still here--Kirkpatrick says that Bush's primary rationale for the war was misguided and that the administration acted negligently by attacking Iraq without adequate preparation.

Kirkpatrick is the latest in a parade of Bush aides and associates who have expressed disappointment and dismay with Bush and his war. Matthew Dowd, the chief campaign strategist for Bush's 2004 reelection effort, recently told The New York Times that he had lost faith in Bush and believed US troops should be withdrawn from Iraq. Dowd indicated he felt the need to do penance for having enabled Bush to win reelection. Kirkpatrick offers no apologies for her own complicity, and only a small slice of the book concerns Iraq. Yet those few passages--each written in a dispassionate manner--show that as Kirkpatrick neared death she was troubled by the most important and consequential endeavor of the neoconservative movement, which she had inspired and led for decades. This is no deathbed confession. But it is a sharp parting shot: a mother's rebuke.


DON"T FORGET ABOUT HUBRIS: THE INSIDE STORY OF SPIN, SCANDAL, AND THE SELLING OF THE IRAQ WAR, the best-selling book by David Corn and Michael Isikoff. Click here for information on the book. The New York Times calls Hubris "the most comprehensive account of the White House's political machinations" and "fascinating reading." The Washington Post says, "There have been many books about the Iraq war....This one, however, pulls together with unusually shocking clarity the multiple failures of process and statecraft." Tom Brokaw notes Hubris "is a bold and provocative book that will quickly become an explosive part of the national debate on how we got involved in Iraq." Hendrik Hertzberg, senior editor of The New Yorker notes, "The selling of Bush's Iraq debacle is one of the most important--and appalling--stories of the last half-century, and Michael Isikoff and David Corn have reported the hell out of it." For highlights from Hubris, click here.

Distorting Public Opinion

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."

Feldman and others can argue for staying in Iraq. But they shouldn't hide behind public opinion to make their case.

Step It Up

A new global warming report issued on April 5 by the United Nations paints a near-apocalyptic vision of Earth's future: hundreds of millions of people short of water, extreme food shortages in Africa, billions of people in Asia at risk from flooding; millions of species sentenced to extinction; rampant disease.

Despite its grim vision, the report was quickly criticized by many scientists surveyed by the Los Angeles Times, who said its findings were watered down by governments seeking to deflect calls for immediate action. Even in diluted form, the report paints a bleak picture, noting that the early signs of warming are already apparent.

The report is the second of four scheduled to be issued this year by the UN, which assembled more than 2,500 scientists worldwide to give their best predictions of the consequences of a few degrees' increase in global temperature. The 1,572-page document was endorsed by officials from more than 120 countries, including the United States. The first report, released in February, said global warming was irreversible but could be moderated by large-scale societal changes.

On Saturday, April 14, at more than 1,300 simultaneous events coast to coast, Americans of different hues and views will call for such large-scale changes by imploring Congress to enact immediate cuts in carbon emissions and pledge an 80 percent reduction by 2050.

The true expression of a viral grassroots movement, organized online through word of mouth, email outreach and the Internet community, Step it Up! is the largest day of citizen action focusing on global warming in our nation's history and the largest environmental protest of any kind since Earth Day 1970.

Conceived by writer Bill McKibben and six recent graduates of Middlebury College, the initiative has been embraced by environmental organizations, religious networks, campus groups and individuals from virtually all walks of life. The Sierra Club, the National Resources Defense Council and the National Wildlife Federation have all committed real efforts to organizing Step It Up! rallies. Student groups have been particularly enthusiastic, led by Energy Action, the PIRGs and the Campus Climate Challenge campaign, which has thrown its organizational weight and energy behind Step It Up!, as well as the evangelical student movement, which has also embraced the cause.

As McKibben writes in an open letter on the Step It Up! website, "The enormous participation in today's movement is a wake-up call to legislators from across the country. Their constituents are urgently demanding that America get on the path towards reducing carbon emissions before it is too late."

Along with lots of marches, rallies and concerts, some of the activities this Saturday will creatively highlight the dangers and losses of a rapidly warming earth. There'll be ski mountaineers in Wyoming descending the shrinking Dinwoody Glacier; hikers ascending Oregon's threatened Mt. Hood; scuba divers underwater photographing the endangered coral reefs off Key West; rock climbers hanging banners from Seneca Rocks in West Virginia; gardeners planting native trees, shrubs, grasses and flowers in the Shartel median at 33rd Street and Shartel Avenue in Oklahoma City; demonstrators painting a blue line through downtown Seattle to illustrate how far the rising seas could penetrate; activists on the levees in New Orleans' Ninth Ward and Vermonters hauling sap from a maple sugar tree that is producing much earlier than it ever has before.

Join your voice to this growing chorus of people determined to save their planet. Click here to find an April 14 event near you, help spread the word or sign up to organize an event yourself. And watch the Step it Up! YouTube video below for tips on how to make your action as successful as possible.