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March 27, 2006 Issue

Cover art by: Cover art by Brian Stauffer, cover design by Gene Case & Stephen Kling/Avenging Angels

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  • Features

    The Bolton Archipelago

    John Bolton's grandstanding vote today opposing the establishment of a UN Human Rights Council might please hard-core isolationists. But no one else.

    Ian Williams

  • Bloggers Join Fray on Political Ads

    As the House considers two bills to regulate political speech on the Internet, the liberal Daily Kos and conservative Red State blogs are bedfellows, supporting a flawed GOP-sponsored bill that opens the door for soft money to buy political ads online.

    Celia Viggo Wexler

  • Lap Dogs of the Press

    During the run-up to the Iraq War, the nation's leading print and broadcast media could have saved lives if they questioned the Administration's pronouncements. Instead, they were an echo chamber for the White House.

    Helen Thomas

  • Typecast as a Terrorist

    The detainment of two actors from The Road to Guantánamo reveals a legal apparatus that is no longer able to distinguish between real and invented threats.

    Adam Federman

  • Can You Say ‘Permanent Bases’?

    Despite recent press visits, the building of bases in Iraq has not come under much scrutiny. If Congress and opposition Democrats continue to ignore the issue, there will be no withdrawal from Iraq.

    Tom Engelhardt

  • The Democrats: Still Ducking

    Eight months ahead of the 2006 midterm vote, Democrats are either ignoring Iraq or supporting the war while criticizing Bush's prosecution of it. But it's not too late to mount a strong opposition.

    Ari Berman

  • Afghanistan: The Other War

    Despite Bush's feel-good rhetoric, the United States has done little to help Afghanistan, leaving the impression of abandonment. Meanwhile, European troops work hard to build bridges to the locals.

    Christian Parenti

  • War Is Personal: Tomas Young/Age 26/Kansas City, Missouri

    In the first installment of a new series called Photo Nation, a young soldier from Missouri recounts the ambush of his unit in Iraq.

    Eugene Richards

  • Editorials

    Three Years and Counting

    The American public acknowledges the failure of US ground forces in Iraq. With civil war imminent, when will our "leaders" in Washington accept the same conclusion?

    the Editors

  • A Peculiar Politician

    Senator Russell Feingold should be praised for calling on the Senate to censure the President for breaking the law and lying about his domestic spying program. Instead, he's mocked by the media and abandoned by many of his own party.

    William Greider

  • Leaking Bubble

    The US housing market has been responsible for about half the economy's recent growth, but increasing dependence on home-equity credit could create a financial disaster.

    Doug Henwood

  • ‘Nation’ Notes

    PHOTO NATION. With this issue, we begin a new series, Photo Nation. The first photo essay and accompanying text are by Eugene Richards, a photojournalist and filmmaker, is the author of Stepping Through the Ashes (Aperture) and The Fat Baby (Phaidon). Richards is a fellow at The Nation Institute. Research support was provided by the Investigative Fund of The Nation Institute.

    PRIZES. We're looking for thoughtful, provocative student voices to tell us what issue most concerns their generation. Essays shouldn't exceed 800 words and should be previously unpublished work that demonstrates fresh, clear thinking and superior craftsmanship. The winning entry will be published in The Nation, and the winner will receive $500. Five finalists will be published at Deadline: March 31. Send entries to: (for more information go to

    AWARDS. Bryan Farrell has won the Gertrude Blumenthal Kasbekar Fellowship for his web article on NASA climatologist James Hansen's refusal to let the Bush Administration mute his work on global warming. The award is given to Nation interns who conduct research on science and healthcare issues.

    ON THE WEB. The Notion, The Nation's new blog, features Richard Kim's comments on the uproar that greeted a Harper's article by an AIDS denier. Marking International Women's Day, Cynthia Enloe reports on protests by antiwar feminists against the increasing militarization of American society and the attendant cult of masculinity.

    the Editors

  • Helping China’s Censors

    The Global Online Freedom Act should be the beginning of a conversation about what needs to be done to prevent US Internet and technology firms from contradicting American values.

    Rebecca MacKinnon

  • A Dragon Slayer Returns

    Pete McCloskey, the first Republican member of Congress to call for Nixon's impeachment and withdrawal from Vietnam, has resurfaced at 78 to challenge Richard Pombo and the Iraq War.

    Mark Hertsgaard

  • Bringing the War Home

    The antiwar messages most likely to be heard and acted upon by Congressional Democrats and wavering Republicans will come from their hometowns, where a growing number of activists are organizing with an eye toward communicating to Congress.

    John Nichols

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  • Books and the Arts

    Typecast as a Terrorist

    The detainment of two actors from The Road to Guantánamo reveals a legal apparatus that is no longer able to distinguish between real and invented threats.

    Adam Federman

  • Consuming Desires

    Thank You for Smoking praises the professional hucksters of the cigarette companies, and Duck Season is a road movie in which the scenery doesn't change.

    Stuart Klawans

  • Unborn in the USA

    In his captivating new book Absolute Convictions, Eyal Press explores the links between his hometown's post-Vietnam decline and its emergence as a battlefield in the national crusade against abortion.

    Mark Sorkin

  • The Dream Life

    In The Power of Movies, Colin McGinn asserts that films are the medium best suited to imitate the workings of the dreaming mind.

    Gilberto Perez

  • The Great Black Hope

    Taylor Branch concludes his staggering trilogy of the civil rights era with At Canaan's Edge, a relentlessly detailed narrative of Martin Luther King's desperate struggle to save the movement.

    Gerald Early

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  • Letters



    Washington, DC

    In his March 6 "Liberal Media" column, titled "The Gasbag Gap," which discusses the Sunday-morning public affairs broadcasts, Eric Alterman writes that "every week" on This Week With George Stephanopoulos, Mr. Stephanopoulos seeks the wisdom of George Will and Fareed Zakaria "with no balance whatsoever." By that, he means no liberal or progressive voice. Had Alterman done some basic research, he would have seen how false that statement was.

    It is true that Will appears almost every week and Zakaria has been on more than fifteen times in the past year (though not every week). Both provide keen insight for our viewers. However, it is not true, as Alterman suggests, that Sam Donaldson no longer appears on the roundtable. In fact, he appeared eleven times over the past year. Alterman also fails to note, perhaps because he failed to check, that the following liberals and progressives have also appeared on the roundtable over the past year: E.J. Dionne (four times), Robert Reich (two times), Donna Brazile (six times), Kweise Mfume (two times), Mario Cuomo, Paul Begala, Paul Krugman, Howell Raines, Cynthia Tucker, Walter Dellinger, and last--but certainly not least--Nation editor and publisher Katrina vanden Heuvel (three times).

    KATHERINE O'HEARN Executive Producer, This Week With George Stephanopoulos


    New York City

    "Basic research" or no, Katherine O'Hearn's critique strikes me as a kind of bait-and-switch operation. I never said liberals are unrepresented on This Week. I said, based on the careful research of Media Matters for America, that they are consistently overmatched. And they are. The study, which offered an extremely generous definition of "progressive," found that during Clinton's second term, Republicans and conservatives outmatched Democrats and progressives on the show by a margin of 45 percent to 39 percent. During the first Bush term, the figures were 40 percent Republican/conservative and just 28 percent Democratic/liberal. With progressive journalists, as opposed to officials, the figures are more heavily weighted toward the right; 54 to 33 during the second Clinton term and 36 to 17 during the first Bush term (with the rest coded as "neutral," again extremely generously).

    That O'Hearn can name a few progressives who have appeared with Will in no way contradicts anything I wrote; nor do the few appearances of liberal journalists like E.J. Dionne (who, I noted, was the only exception in the study) and my boss, Katrina vanden Heuvel. Will's appearances probably number in the four figures over the past twenty years, and he is frequently offered the last word or one-on-one interviews with public figures. If we round down that estimate to 800 for argument's sake, is ABC News asking us to believe that Will is 400 times as perspicacious as E.J., or 800 times as thoughtful as Krugman? Obviously not. But it is saying that it is wholly comfortable inviting a right-wing pundit to be a central player, and equally forceful liberals need not apply. (If O'Hearn is going to count appearances by liberals who came after the study concluded and after my column appeared, I guess we're going to have to throw in yet another powwow with "Mr. Straight Talk," John McCain, occurring as I write this.)

    Moreover, This Week has a rather expansive definition of "liberal." For instance, even with Donaldson and (the then-liberal) Stephanopoulos as regulars, I recall no unapologetic defenses of Clinton during the impeachment debacle, nor any full-throated critics of Ken Starr, even though a majority of Americans supported the President and pronounced themselves appalled at Starr's behavior. For that matter, I'm having a little trouble remembering many opponents of Bush's war. But I'm a liberal, so what do I know?



    Colorado Springs

    James Dobson is hardly a close ally of disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff, despite the insinuations Max Blumenthal lays on Nation readers ["Abramoff's Evangelical Soldiers," Feb. 20]. Abramoff's personal e-mails have led some people to believe that Dobson helped him defeat a tribal casino in Louisiana, but it's an empty boast--like a rooster taking credit for the sunrise. Dobson didn't do anyone's bidding.

    The fact is, gambling has been mentioned as a destructive force to families roughly 200 times on Focus on the Family radio broadcasts during the organization's twenty-nine-year history. So when we took action against Louisiana gambling expansion in 2002, it was a continuation of a long-established pattern. We used our own money, and Dobson had no contact with Abramoff and no knowledge of his activities.

    Focus on the Family is getting mentioned in the sad Abramoff story only because we quite coincidentally fought the same casino at the same time. Dobson needs no one's pressure to oppose gambling in all its forms, because he's motivated by only one thing: the desire to safeguard families from the crime, bankruptcy, corruption and divorce that proliferate whenever a casino comes to town. We did it because gambling destroys families. Why, or how, Jack Abramoff did it is a story we have no connection to.

    Focus on the Family


    Washington, DC

    Tom Minnery omits any mention of the man who prompted and coordinated Focus's involvement in Abramoff's schemes--Ralph Reed, Abramoff's go-between with Dobson and the Christian right, whom he then rewarded with $4 million in casino money. As documented in the e-mail exchanges among Reed, Abramoff and Abramoff's business partner, Michael Scanlon--subpoenaed by the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs--they delighted in manipulating Dobson like a puppet on a string.

    In February 2002, when Abramoff learned that the Jena Choctaws, a tribal competitor to one of his casino clients, had contracted the lobbying services of DC super-lawyer and current Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour, Reed asked Dobson to attack Barbour on his radio show. In a February 6, 2002, e-mail Abramoff tells Reed, "Let me know when Dobson hits him [Barbour]. I want to savor it." That same day, in an e-mail titled "Ralph and Dobson," Abramoff tells Scanlon that Reed "got to Dobson who is going to...get on the radio!" On February 19 Reed got a direct request from Abramoff. "Can we get Dobson on the air?" Reed responded that day in an e-mail, "yes. We're negotiating that now." In an e-mail later that day, Reed told Abramoff, "called Dobson this a.m."

    The next day Abramoff wrote to Scanlon: Reed "wants a budget for radio in the state. I'm inclined to say yes, so we can get this Dobson ad up. He asked for $150K. We'll play it in WH [the White House] and Interior." Later that day Abramoff was jubilant. Reed "may have finally scored for us!" he wrote to Scanlon. "Dobson goes up on the radio next week." On February 26 Abramoff asked Reed, "where are we with Falwell, Robertson, Dobson, etc.? we need to see some action in D.C. That's what I sold them for $100K." Doesn't James Dobson know that lies make baby Jesus cry?



    Springfield, Mo.

    In "Can Justice Be Trusted?" [Feb. 20], on the Abramoff/Guam story, Ari Berman mentions Howard Hills, the Abramoff conduit for Guam lobbying funds paid in $9,000 increments. Hills's irregular practice of law is well known to the islands. Just ask the people of Rongelap, who were exposed to US nuclear tests in the Marshalls. As a State Department lawyer, Hills led the move to dismiss their cases in the US Court of Claims. Then he offered the people of Rongelap his services as a "connected Republican lobbyist and political strategist" to restore their claims and get Congressional funding. Oh, but for a fee of more than $300,000 a year. This is not representation, this is a shakedown, like closing casinos and then offering help to reopen them--for a fee. Varmints like Hills should be exposed and brought to justice.

    TONY de BRUM


    La Jolla, Calif.

    Richard Falk's "Storm Clouds Over Iran" [Feb.13], on the dangers associated with a US aerial attack on Iran, omits the crucial fact that such an attack is likely to include the use of tactical nuclear weapons. New US nuclear weapons policies have "integrated" nuclear weapons with conventional weapons and envision their use against underground facilities and to pre-empt enemy attack with WMD. The drafters of these policies occupy the upper echelons of the current Administration.

    The B61-11 nuclear earth penetrator entered the US stockpile in late 2001. It can be launched from F-16 aircraft and causes twenty to 200 times less "collateral damage" than surface explosion. At low yield in desolated areas like the Natanz enrichment plant, it would cause few casualties and achieve US goals. The US "negative security assurance" of 1995 promising not to use nuclear weapons against nonnuclear countries explicitly excludes countries declared in "noncompliance" with the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, as Iran was in September 2005. Pentagon documents emphasize that "no customary or conventional international law prohibits nations from employing nuclear weapons in armed conflict."

    The President has sole authority to order the use of nuclear weapons. Under Article I, Section 8, Clause 14 of the Constitution, Congress could restrict this authority by legislating that its authorization is needed for the use of nuclear weapons against nonnuclear countries. Such use of nuclear weapons will set off a dangerous chain reaction, leading to many more countries acquiring nuclear weapons and heightening the risk of global nuclear war. This path should not be entered on the decision of the President alone. Congress is derelict in its responsibilities if it doesn't address this issue while there is still time.



    Louisville, Ky.

    Victor Navasky's obituary for The New Leader ["In Fact...," Feb. 13] contained an interesting comment: "Arguably it has been drifting rightward...even dined at the CIA trough," which stirred me to defend progressive groups that received CIA funds during the cold war. Accepting occasional support from the CIA in the 1950s might very well have been a mark of honor and distinction for a leftist journal like The New Leader.

    The CIA was created in 1947 by Congress to fight the cold war using covert and clandestine methods. Despite its many failures, the agency was always on "our side." We may have had "rogue" Presidents who used the CIA for rogue purposes, but we never had a rogue CIA. In fact, The New Leader's founder, the Socialist Party's Norman Thomas, was involved with a group that supported elected Latin American leftist governments, like the one that briefly ruled in the Dominican Republic, 1962-63. This group was later revealed to have received funds from CIA cash conduits. That fact does not imply that Thomas had moved "rightward," only that the US government--in this case, that of John Kennedy--wanted a means of quickly and quietly helping the reformist government of Juan Bosch without having to go through Congress.

    As a young graduate student, I was involved with the programs of this group--which ran IDES (the Institute for Economic and Social Development) in the Dominican Republic, and CIA funding was vital. (Unfortunately, the Bosch administration was overthrown by a coup in mid-1963). The CIA, with all its warts, was always on our side in the cold war. I'm not certain I could say the same for The Nation.


    Eric Alterman, Our Readers and Max Blumenthal