Cover of April 8, 2013 Issue

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April 8, 2013 Issue

Cover art by: Illustration by Steve Brodner, design by Milton Glaser Incorporated

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Max Strasser reports on the Robin Hood Tax in the UK and Andrew Bard Epstein on the Two Row Wampum Renewal Campaign, and the editors

LA’s Homeless Vets

It seems unbelievable, but land dedicated to the VA for housing veterans has been denied to them—and LA has more homeless vets than any city in America.



Exchange: Does America Stand for Drones?

London   When I was a child at the end of World War II, I was told the good guys won. Reading David Cole’s remarks on drones [“Remote Control Killing,” March 4], I wonder. He writes, “We should not confuse [drones] with assassinations and torture.” Why not? The concept of the “rule of law” he invokes is meaningless as long as the authority to kill without due process is public policy; worse when that authority resides in one man. What profiteth a nation to win a war against fascism only to adopt its policies?   JEFFRY KAPLOW Kansas City, Mo. What has happened to The Nation? I wait for some discussion of the fascist takeover of our country and the world. When it was Bush, you covered crimes. Now with Obama, it’s just a slap on the wrist. David Cole, your legal affairs correspondent, says of drones, “We cannot forswear their use.” Yes, we must. Thanks to Katha Pollitt in the same issue, who writes more about the immorality of drones and kill lists.  ELIZABETH SMITH New York City David Cole is right that there is something very wrong with the Obama administration’s “targeted killing” program. It is shrouded in unnecessary secrecy, but publicly available information makes clear that the CIA and the military’s Joint Special Operations Command have killed hundreds of people without knowing very much about who they are, what they’ve done or whether they present a direct threat to the United States. The administration’s former ambassador to Pakistan, who helped implement the targeted killing program there, has complained that the CIA regards “any male between the ages of 20 and 40” as a lawful target. The British-based Bureau of Investigative Journalism, which tracks drone strikes, estimates that as many as 4,300 people have lost their lives to US drone strikes in Pakistan, Somalia and Yemen. Lindsey Graham, a senior member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, says the number of dead is even higher. This is not only a human rights travesty; it is unwise and unlawful. Few things are more certain to swell the ranks of terrorist organizations than the perception that the United States is indifferent to the loss of innocent life. And international law is unambiguous: outside actual battlefields, lethal force may be used only against threats that are truly imminent, and then only as a last resort. The Justice Department white paper recently leaked to the press confirms that the administration’s targeted killing program does not observe these limits. For moral, strategic and legal reasons, the program should be made more discriminating and more transparent. As Cole says, it should also be subject to judicial review—which should take place in federal courts, not in a new security tribunal set up specifically to issue death warrants. The federal courts are accustomed to evaluating the government’s use of lethal force in a domestic law enforcement context. They have also become accustomed to evaluating the lawfulness of national security detentions. They could certainly review the lawfulness of targeted killings. Indeed, as the ACLU and the Center for Constitutional Rights are arguing in a case pending before a district judge in Washington, the Constitution requires the courts to do so. There is no need for a new “kill court,” and the creation of such a court would be more likely to normalize the targeted killing program than to narrow it. JAMEEL JAFFER, deputy legal director American Civil Liberties Union New York City As David Cole rightly notes, targeted killing can be lawful when the United States is in an armed conflict. It can also be lawful if the United States is acting within constitutional and international law recognizing the right of national self-defense. We have faced wars and imminent attacks in the past; we will face them again. We need to have a clear process governing how targeting decisions are made and how those rules are enforced when we do. The US armed forces have such a process. The international law of war—embodied in treaties we have ratified, implemented through domestic regulations applicable force-wide—requires armed forces to establish systems of rules, training and discipline to make sure that targeting operations are conducted lawfully. The US military’s targeting doctrine, including its practices for how targets are chosen and checked, is designed to comply with this law and is available in a joint forces publication online. Members of the armed forces who violate orders within this system may be punished according to, among other things, the rules set forth by statute in the Uniform Code of Military Justice. Civilians, at least in Afghanistan, who wrongfully suffer damage from attacks (including the families of those killed) can seek amends through various US compensation programs there. The military system is imperfect. Training requirements should be enhanced. Remedies for the wrongfully injured should be made more robust—including through the availability of civil remedies in US federal courts. But the current conflict has stretched the definition of what counts as an armed conflict, and who within it may be targeted; it is thus a policy-level responsibility to make clear and public which rules are applied. Still, there is a deep infrastructure not only of rules and regulations, but also of professional norms and culture here on which to build. In substantial contrast, the CIA’s targeting authority is not limited by the statute passed by Congress authorizing the use of force against Al Qaeda and associates. The CIA, from what can be intuited from its rare public statements, does not necessarily consider itself legally bound by the law of war. According to some reports, the CIA has its own “kill lists,” based on its own criteria, which are publicly unknown. How CIA targeting personnel are trained to comply with what rules there are, what measures of discipline they may be subject to if they do not, what kinds of compensation may be made available to those who wrongfully suffer a misdirected attack—all of these are unknown. It may be possible to develop an elaborate parallel system of rules, training and accountability mechanisms to ensure that the CIA complies at least to the same extent as the military with US and international law. Or there is another approach: relieve the CIA of its targeting mission. What do we lose? Not capacity—over the past decade, the CIA and the military have come to work closely in joint operations, and intelligence and force capabilities can be shared while keeping operations under military legal authority. Neither need we lose secrecy—the military has proven itself able to operate in a remarkably clandestine fashion. What of deniability—the fiction that if the CIA is doing it, the government is not officially, diplomatically responsible? There are circumstances in which that may matter. But today, there is no one in the world who doubts that the United States is responsible for the ongoing drone operations in, for example, the tribal areas in Pakistan. For the price of shedding this fig leaf of denial, we could begin to reclaim the mantle of law. DEBORAH PEARLSTEIN Cardozo School of Law Cole Replies Washington, D.C. Jeffry Kaplow and Elizabeth Smith equate targeted killing with fascism. That would make every country that has ever gone to war, even in self-defense, a fascist regime. There is plenty to be concerned about regarding Obama’s drone policy, but killing is a part of war and not in itself unlawful.  Notably, both Jameel Jaffer and Deborah Pearlstein—one at the ACLU and the other formerly with Human Rights First—agree with me that targeted killing, unlike torture, is sometimes permissible. The issue is how broadly the administration is employing this power, and subject to what checks and balances. I agree that the administration’s program remains unacceptably shrouded in secrecy, that it goes too far in extending beyond the battlefield to situations that do not pose an immediate threat, and that the CIA, which lacks the structure, experience and rules of the military, should not be conducting strikes. I’m skeptical that the administration believes it can target “any male between the ages of 20 and 40.” If that is really the case, why the reportedly extensive internal wrangling over who should or should not be on a “kill list”? They’re not spending all that time debating their targets’ ages. But there are serious unanswered questions about the scope of the administration’s “signature strikes,” which target people based not on individualized intelligence, but on patterns of activity. What should be clear—and what is uniting not only human rights activists and civil libertarians, but also voices on the right such as Rand Paul—is that the executive branch cannot be allowed the authority to kill in secret, far beyond the battlefield, without clear rules and public accountability. DAVID COLE Read More



Books & the Arts


Our brick houses had one floor, storm windows to install in October, heavy brass doorknockers, screened-in patios, lawn jockeys, and front porches with wrought iron railings. The rusty bicycles flopped on the driveways, the smell of peat moss in wheelbarrows, the hum of fans from Sears Roebuck, sidewalks turning the color of grocery bags when wet. The luck of a clover with one appended leaf. We had board games like Monopoly shared by three families, the little green hotels disappearing just like the old market and the Bargain Center. The braided oaks with crooked tree houses, the burnt leaves, black fish swimming in air. And on an unseasonably sunny day in late October, I found my mother's floral umbrella and went strolling into the breeze under its spinning canopy, sucking a lemon. Read More

Shelf Life

On February 20, 1656, Queen Christina of Sweden, having abdicated her throne, fled the country and also renounced her religion. Before long, she paid a visit to Gian Lorenzo Bernini, one of the most renowned men in her newly adopted city of Rome. To him had been entrusted such tasks as embellishing the Porta del Popolo, through which the celebrated convert made her entrance to the papal metropole, refurbishing her short-term lodgings at the Vatican, and designing a luxurious coach to be presented to her as a gift from Pope Alexander VII. But when Christina went to pay a call on the great sculptor, architect, painter and amateur playwright, he greeted her without ceremony, dressed only in his work clothes. “To those who had advised him to change his clothing,” reports his son and biographer, Domenico, “the artist replied that ‘he had no attire more appropriate with which to receive a queen wishing to visit an artist, than this coarse, rough garb, which was indeed proper to that talent that had elevated him to the status of artist in the estimation of the world.’” Christina, the royal bluestocking, was quick to 
catch his drift: “The sublime mind of that great lady was able to penetrate the significance of this gesture on Bernini’s part.” To penetrate the significance of a gesture is the key to appreciating the art of a man who, in the queen’s eyes, was to remain “the greatest and most illustrious of his profession of all time.” Two centuries later, the eminent Victorian John Ruskin would differ, thundering that it “seems impossible for false taste and base feeling to sink lower” than with Bernini. Since then, the pendulum of taste has swung back in the artist’s favor: we recognize him as the premier Italian sculptor after Michelangelo, and the architect and planner who gave Rome much of its present visual character; his paintings, distinguished by an inwardness and sobriety at odds with the high theatricality of much of his other work, are less familiar but deeply admired by those who know them. It’s telling that the paintings are absent from the latest in a spate of recent publications on Bernini and the most thorough examination to date of his scenographic illusionism, Genevieve Warwick’s Bernini: Art as Theatre (Yale; $55). To bring such a protean figure to life would take an author of great gifts. It’s no fault of Franco Mormando, the author of Bernini: His Life and His Rome (Chicago; $35), that his abilities are not quite so wide-ranging. The Bernini who emerges from his book is above all the “general contractor” and sometimes friend to a whole series of popes (and other well-heeled patrons). Bernini could never have achieved all he did had he not been a consummate courtier. But getting the job is one thing; getting the job done is another. Mormando has less to say than he should about how Bernini’s large and multifarious studio operation functioned—at times he seems to have had every sculptor in Rome in his employ—and not much more about the extraordinary expressiveness of so much of the work Bernini made, or had made to his design. And what about Bernini the man? He’s hard to know, for as Mormando points out, dissimulation was “one of the defining characteristics of the Baroque ‘mentality,’” as well as indispensable to surviving the treacherous politics of the Vatican. (Strange that Bernini’s 
portrait sculpture—and his painted self-
portraits, too—give such a vivid illusion of direct contact.) One has to look carefully through the documents to find gestures that ring with truth. At least once, the gesture was so violent that it remains shocking: in 1638, upon discovering that his brother and collaborator Luigi was having an affair with his mistress, Costanza Piccolomini (the wife of another sculptor in his studio, Matteo Bonarelli), Bernini flew into a rage, chasing Luigi through St. Peter’s and beating him with an iron rod, breaking two ribs. More coldly, he sent a servant to Costanza’s house to slash her face with a razor. It’s as if he conceived of this crime just as he’d have formulated a design for one of his assistants to carve in marble. Please support our journalism. Get a digital subscription for just $9.50! The great artist survived the scandal unpunished, thanks to the intercession of Pope Urban VIII; and strange to say, both Bonarelli and, after a suitable interval, Luigi continued as his employees. The astonishing portrait bust that Bernini had earlier carved of Costanza—could it be the first marble sculpture made for entirely personal 
reasons?—was given away, and Bernini married, specifying that his wife would need to “prove capable of tolerating his nature, which is neither easy nor ordinary.” Costanza flits like a dark shadow across Mormando’s narrative. Luckily, an impressive study by Sarah McPhee, Bernini’s Beloved: A Portrait of Costanza Piccolomini (Yale; $45), tells a far richer story of a woman who turns out to have been as strong and complex in life as she remains in sculpted stone. Finally, though, it is the artist rather than the enterprising businessman or tormented lover who one really wants to understand more deeply—though both the sensuality of the latter and calculation of the former are part and parcel of the artist, too. Few books offer more insight into Bernini’s working methods than Bernini: Sculpting in Clay, by C.D. Dickerson III, Anthony Sigel and Ian Wardropper (Metropolitan Museum of Art; $65), the catalog of a remarkable little exhibition that opened at the Met last fall and is now at the Kimbell Art Museum in Fort Worth (February 3–April 14). Here, in these bozzetti (experimental models made not for display but as part of Bernini’s thought process), one senses the artist in his “coarse, rough” work apparel, “molding the model,” as a contemporary put it, “with the quickness and variety of movements of a harp player.” But for all the vivacity and spontaneity of Bernini’s gestures, these quicksilver movements were always at the service of an idea to be worked out. More than sculpting, this was thinking in clay. In 2008, Arthur C. Danto surveyed the art of Nicholas Poussin. Read More

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