Friday, February 18, 2005

The Trail of "Treason" and The Coming Fascism of the Political Right

Although the notion has been around ever since the country's founding, the word "treason" is increasingly being applied to opponents of the current administration's policies and the ideology of its supporters. The 9-11 attacks and the assumption of power by a Republican majority since 2000 have dramatically increased the trend whereby those who disagree with the ruling regime's ideas and actions are being labeled as traitors to the country.

Below I have included links to a snapshot of issues and persons that illustrate this trend. In some cases, the links depict a summary of right wing commentary and accusations, and in some cases, the right wing sources are clearly peripheral. In addition, it must be admitted that some opponents of the Bush administration have themselves referred to the president and his actions as traitorous. So it's important to acknowledge the necessary qualifications. At the same time, the growing frequency and intensity of the accusations of "treason" from the right represents a great cause for concern.

Below are some of the names of those accusing the "left" of treason and those being accused, which I have indicated following the link:

Michael Moore accused

Ann Coulter accuser

Eason and CNN accused

Ward Churchill accused

John Kerry accused

NY Sun - War Protestors accuser and accused

Southern Reconstructionists accuser

The UN accused

Zell Miller accuser

Washington Times and Marvin Olasky accusers

NewsMax accusers

Powerline and President Carter accuser and accused

As I said, this represents the product of only a quick google search. Maybe someone with more time and better expertise could do a more detailed and thorough investigation. But I think it's enough to show the degree to which the charge is being made against opponents of Bush and the conservative establishment.

Fascism in Nazi Germany was above all else, a hyper-violent strain of nationalism, which in addition to its goals of world domination, violently oppressed its opponents at home. Is it looking familiar here? Welcome to the new Conservative Political Correctness.

You May be a Traitor if...

You're hurting America's (or at least Powerline's) feelings.

I understand how, I just don't understand why

Maybe like me, you've been pondering the case of this administration and invasion of Iraq. Maybe like me, you're truly confounded by the administration's arrogance and seeming disregard for the aftermath of the invasion, an apparent total lack of recognition for the resistance that the U.S. military would likely face after Saddam's paper army was dispensed with in the first month of the "conflict".

Maybe like me you've wondered how a democratic government would be set up in Iraq that would simultaneously and obstensibly be responsive to the demands of the population while paying homage to its American benefactors.

Maybe like me you've wondered just what it was about Iraq that got the fires going in the bellies of the PNAC. Oil? Sure, I guess, to an extent. But I'll admit it's never satisfied me completely, this natural resources rationale.

Maybe like me you've even taking to wondering if the ambitions for the war were really as simple as the desire for greater world hegemony now that the Soviet Union was for all practicable purposes, off the stage. But hegemony for what purpose?

Maybe like me you've found yourself wondering that I understand the how, I just don't understand the why, like some Winston Smith apparation from 1984 come to life.

In recent months many of us liberal bloggerers have engaged in a much deserved revelry of disbelief and criticism of this hapless administration as it attempts to spin itself out of the trouble of insurgent numbers and attacks, indefinite forecasts of troop needs, the endless cycle of keeping National Guardsmen and other part timers on past their agreed to service periods and then not adequately providing for them or their families needs, of having the temerity to not provide the military with adequate protection and armor, and on and on the seemingly endless circus of mistakes, incompetence, and national burden continues.

And maybe like me you've started to think that after each insurgent attack or election, or hand over of sovereignty or whatever, that plans will be made to peacefully leave Iraq and leave the country and its oil to the people that live there.

But maybe like me you've regretfully come to believe that this is all a farce, that there is no end sought, that the administration had no exit plan because it didn't plan an exit. Maybe like me you've come to believe that the administration wasn't just unprepared for the insurgent response, that it didn't much care one way or the other how rebellious Iraqis responded the American occupation. Sure, we realize, American troop leaders no doubt would have preferred a less violent transition to American rule, but ultimately, the condition of ongoing Iraqi counterattacks is just immaterial to the task at hand, and that is to establish a foothold of military bases in the country and stay as long as we feel like it there and for whatever reason.

Maybe like me you've come to realize the administration knew that the circumstances of ongoing war, endless battles, serve a purpose for the military and corporate elite in democratic countries as in any other country. Maybe like me you've come to believe that the administration believes in war because it serves to distract the country from more meaningful debates about Who Governs? and enables the expansionist needs of American capitalism to be served.

Maybe like me you've come to believe that whatever happens in Iraq (elections, insurgent attacks, constitution unveilings, etc) over the next several months and years will not change anything, and that besides, we don't have any real idea of knowing what's actually going on over there anyway.

Maybe like me you've reached that point where you realize that more verbage about Iraq is close to senseless and are starting to wonder what we do next.

Remember Ralph Reed?

The once chair of The Christian Coalition? Yeah, him. Well, in a little noticed news item this morning, Reed announced what had long been rumored, that he would seek the office of Lieutenant Governor of Georgia next year. Reed, if he's slipped off your radar screen for the last several years, is currently the chair of the Georgia state Republican Party.

Some of you might find this reference, and Reed, amusing. You might think it's just another example of those silly right wing Christian nuts, again, going and gettin' involved in matters that are beyond their expertise, something that will only make them and himself out to be fools.

I'm here to say that you should be concerned. Very concerned. You may not like Bush, what, with all the references to his supposed "faith" (It's practically an obstacle course to wade through all the fawning books about Bush and his "faith" when I'm at my local Christian bookstore--where much of the other material there is actually very good) and his insufferable and pandering claim in 2000 that Jesus was his favorite "political philospher", but the reality is that about most things political and most things Christian, dubya is about as connected and concerned as a wad of phlegm. Reed, on the other hand, really means that stuff about "morals" and "Christian Nation". Reed might have some dirty fingers in the financial world, too, and we might think his Christian views hypocritical, but his intentions about remaking America into his and his followers image of a Christian theocracy are real enough.

And Reed is very disarming on television. He appears sane, level headed, good natured, and intelligent (which he is).

And it won't take long for him to merge from state office to the national stage.

So don't say I didn't warn you.

This is why Democrats need to address head-on the ideology permeating beneath the cover of the Christian Nation movement (which consists of most Southern Baptists, independent megachurches, radical evangelicals, and television evangelists) and not wait until someone like Reed shows up, and its too late.

Three Card Monte

There he goes again. Krugman is still calling the administration's Social Security phase-out plan "privatization", long after the WH has let it be known that they don't like that word and that that is not what their plan does.

But Krugman goes on to link the administration's talk of invading Social Security with its invasion of Iraq. The comparison goes something like this: The administration wants to go to war with Iraq and in issuing a call to arms happens to make a reference or several references to 9-11 or Al Qaeda in the same speech. Some french-loving commentators or bloggerers on the Internets counter that there is no connection between Iraq and 9-11. The administration responds that, yes, technically, there is no connection, but then right away goes back to its "Iraq-911-Osama bin Laden-Iraq-terrorists-911-Iraq-Saddam Hussein-911-terrorists" shell game. The administration ultimately rallies the American people (or at least the gangbangers on Fox "News" and NRO) and launches an invasion of Iraq.

Now, Krugman tells us, the administration is playing the same game with Social Security. The administration says Social Security is going bankrupt, and that it wants to introduce "personal investment accounts" to help people build wealth in Social Security. But, critics of the administration's Social Security scheme say, privatizing Social Security does nothing to alleviate the system's (very) long term financing difficulties emenating from the aging and increasing longevity of the population. The administration responds that, "yes, this is technically true, privatization will not solve Social Security's long term deficit", and then returns to its "Social Security bankruptcy-personal accounts-wealth-bankruptcy-Social Security-private accounts-assets-bankruptcy-inheritance-wealth-bankrupcy" spiel.

In order to inject some much needed bipartisan spirit into these discussions, I would like to clearly state, unequivocally, and on the record, that there is not, nor has there ever been, a connection between Iraq and Social Security. The administration's conduct on Iraq and Social Security have nothing to do with each other. Nothing. There is no link between the lies on Iraq and Social Security. They are a completely different set of lies. Iraq-Social Security-Iraq-bankruptcy-weapons of mass destruction-mushroom clouds-Social Security crisis-bankruptcy-Saddam Hussein-Iraq-Social Security-privatization-Iraq-911-saving Social Security-Iraq...

I hope this has cleared that up.

Meanwhile, those hoping for some bipartisan resolution to the crisis that is the administration's plan for getting rid of Social Security suffered yet another stinging defeat yesterday when House Majority leader Tom Delay announced his objections to suggestions to raise Social Security's taxable maximum amount (currently $90,000) that President Bush, in a moment of candor, admitted might be worthy of consideration if Social Security's 75 year financing estimates are to be strengthened. But The Hammer objected (and will soon, I suspect, see to it that the WH gets the memo on no taxable maximum increase on the TPS reports). That would be a tax increase, said Mr. Delay, and this Congress didn't come here to raise taxes. OK. But does Delay realize that the taxable maximum amount increases every year anyway? It does. It's increased each year by the growth in the average wage index. Does Delay consider this indexing a "tax increase", too?

Now, as for the bipartisanship the Republican Party and media suddenly want Democrats to embrace on Social Security (and everything else), what is it that the Republican Party is willing to compromise on? If there is nothing, then our votes are not needed and nor will they be offered. If Republicans are not willing to compromise on anything, does that mean that they are the "obstructionists"?

Just checking.

Thursday, February 17, 2005

Making an Impact

While we're only 5 days into Howard Dean's DNC-ship, we can already see his presence is having the intended effect of driving conservative columnist Robert Novak around the bend.

For example, as he ponders Dean, Novak suddenly discovers the virtues of "nuance" in foreign policy discussion:

On those Sunday programs, Dean will be asked what to do about Iraq. He will not imitate Joe Biden's nuanced analysis, but instead will serve up red meat. It is unlikely Dean would or could adjust to the new atmosphere observed by sophisticated Democratic strategists since the Iraqi elections. Bashing George W. Bush and his war policy, Dean's specialty, no longer seems so suitable.

Meanwhile, he also graces us with a disparaging quote about Dean from one of those treasures, "a Democratic veteran": ''Dean will have a circus on Sunday, and we'll clean up the elephant droppings on Monday,'' a Democratic veteran told me.

All together now: "Some people say...."

Finally, Novak offers us his analysis as to why Dean won: The grassroots? Nah. Nary a friendly word about Kos or any of the rest of the progressive bloggership that outted competitors Roemer and Frost as pseudo-Democrats and that deluged DNC members with emails supportive of the former Vermont governor. Instead:

Dean's accession to the chairmanship does not represent a conscious decision by prominent Democrats, but rather drift and inaction...Dean won because he was the only candidate who pestered DNC members with repeated phone calls. He did not go to all this trouble to be a potted plant. The party, therefore, is stuck with somebody who believes that the fiercer the rhetoric the better, and there is ''fat chance'' that he will change.

I don't know if anyone is counting, but this has got to be Novak's fourth or fifth column about Dean in the past month. Me thinks he's worried Dean's penchant for bomb-throwing will make life uneasy for Republicans. Let's hope.

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

The Sleeper Issue of '08

The Separation of Church and State.

Among the many issues that Republicans have managed to put back on the agenda, half a century after it appeared to have been settled in a manner favorable to the cause of individual liberties, is whether the state or the country should enforce religious adherence or worship.

Julie at Sisyphus Shrugged and Steve from No More Mister Nice Blog clue us in to the beliefs of one of the judges Bush has renominated. Like Alan Keyes in this past summer's Illinois U.S. Senate campaign, Janice Rogers Brown thinks the states should have the authority to have a state religion and require religious tests or oathes. This is on the heels of very public and emphatic efforts by radical evangelicals to get the "wall" between church and state torn down (see my earlier posts on D. James Kennedy and Rod Parsley, televangelists extraordinaire). The position of these advocates of theocracy is that the Wall between church and state is a fiction, that the First Amendment restrictions on government intervention in religious affairs as interpreted by "liberal" jurists have been distorted, and that policymakers should return us to the glory days when America was a "Christian Nation" (Left2Right has had some very good posts on this).

To his credit, but probably because he didn't have much choice, Bush addressed the matter of his faith during the last presidential debate and clearly stated his recognition that the government shouldn't and can't compel religious belief or devotion on the part of its citizens, and that the people were free to worship God or not as they so chose. But this is a view that is dying out among most Republicans or is one that they disagree with, if their many other public and private comments are any indication of their preferences. Remember U.S. Senate candidate Liddy Dole remarking that the "freedom of religion doesn't mean freedom from religion".

In the 1992 election, the media reacted scornfully to the vengeful "culture war" speeches during the Republican convention and afterwards proclaimed that the influence of evangelicals had hurt the GOP's chances. After the Republican triumph of 1994, that perception changed, and conservative evangelicalism was reported to be "Back". But four years later, Democratic pickups in 1998 during the impeachment battle were used by some commentators to suggest that Republican conservatives had overplayed their hand and done more to help Clinton than to hurt him. Now, after the elections of 2000 and 2004, the pendulum has swung again back to the evangelicals' side and Democrats are being challenged to reach out more to socially conservative voters.

Democratic officials and liberal bloggers should make sure this issue does not get swept under the carpet in the months ahead.


Jerome has an interesting post and internets poll results for potential Republican candidates in '08.

My take:

I doubt Rice's juice will last. She doesn't hold up well under the glare of unfriendly questions and attention. And she's got three years to go before the administration's foreign policy positions will have to stand up to opponent's attacks, something that could be especially difficult if troops are still in Iraq and the administration is making noice about invading Syria or Iran, if it hasn't already done so.

I can't see either Guiliani or McCain getting the nomination.

I don't see anybody else on the R side having the electoral upside of Jeb! He's a governor. And while much has been made of the difficult electoral college Democrats face, the fact is Republicans have to win Ohio and Florida to win the EC. As the current governor of FL, Jeb! gives them the best chance to do that. But then again there is likely to be some Bush-name fatigue which if Jeb! gets the nomination, could help us.

Overall, I have a hard time seeing anybody but Jeb! getting the R nomination in '08.


Mark Warner and Evan Bayh have gotten some play. I've heard Biden's name out there. Edwards has launched a poverty center at UNC and already made a trip to NH to keep his name in the mix.

I doubt Kerry will run. He has a better record in the Senate than his campaign chose to amplify, but even though he finished well for someone challenging an incumbent, he didn't inspire much confidence other than his supposed ability to win. Gore's name hasn't been out there much. While the common feeling maybe that Gore had his chance, his spirited denunctiations of Bush's policies last year makes him an intriguing choice should he throw his hat in the ring.

I have a hard time seeing Hilary making the run. And I have a hard time imagining her not running. I'd accept her, of course, if she ran and won the nomination, but I don't favor her. While Republicans will attempt to crucify whoever the Dem nominee is, Hilary would give them a lot more amunition than anyone else, and although I appreciate Bill Clinton's contributions to the party, I'd prefer to see a non-Clinton get the nomination and thus give the party a different face and set of policy approaches. If there is another Bush-Clinton election I think I'd go crazy.

2 More Cents

On the Ward Churchill issue. Then I'll drop it. I swear.

We don't have to like or agree with Churchill's comments or essay, but I think we should all recognize the severity of the threat posed to the right of freedom of expression, especially on campus and by academicians, that the right wing's babble machine is mustering over this issue, as they attempt to further suppress dissent towards the current gang of thugs regime hanging out in the WH and Congress and their attempts to force the rest of us to conform--at least outwardly--to their idealized vision of an innocent, glorious America, that can broker no questioning, criticism or demands for accountability.

This militant, hyper-nationalism on the part of the rightwing is the scarriest aspect of the changes during the past decade in American politics. And as I attempted to point out in an earlier post, it is highly ironic and Orwellian to the nth degree that wingnut ideology demands the framing of issues as being choices between "right and wrong", yet refuses to consider the moral implications of its arrogant and abusive policies, both domestic and foreign, and responds angrily and vindictively when it is challenged to do so.

An aside: I recently came across the minutes from the meeting in which former Florida congressman turned cable TV screecher Joe Scarborough pitched his idea of a new shoutfest show to MSNBC executives. Let's listen in.

MSNBC executive: So, Joe, what's this idea for a show you wanted to talk to us about?

Scarborough: It's a show about nothin'.

MSNBC executive: A show about nothin'? What does that mean?

Scarborough: I mean it's a show about nothin'.

MSNBC executive: what happens on the show? what would you talk about?

Scarborough: Nothin'.

MSNBC executive: than why am I watching the show?

Scarborough: because it's on TV.

MSNBC executive: not yet....

Scarborough: listen, this is the show, and I'm not changin' it. Now if you just want to go ahead and keep doing the same old thing that everybody else is doing, then go ahead. But I refuse to sacrifice my artistic integrity....

MSNBC executive: a show about nothin', huh?

Scarborough: that's right.

MSNBC executive: I think you may have something here.

Next: Bill O'Reilly, Shepherd Smith, and Cal Thomas pitch their ideas for shows to Roger Ailes (the bad one).

About Last Night

So last night I tuned into Law and Order: Criminal Intent, for no particular reason; not anything else on worth watching. Turns out it's an episode about "secret prisoners" being housed in a NY prison, all part and parcel of the war on terra. In the course of pursuing your regular seemingly run of the mill murder, the LAO investigators turn up evidence of mysterious goings on in one of the nearby prisons. The show shines the spotlight on terrorism suspects being held secretly, indefinitely, and brutally. Surprisingly, the episode was pretty good, hard hitting. To tell you the truth, I had almost forgotten about all of this.

Which reminded me of a post from Alt Hippo the other day, lamenting the "issue of the day" approach employed by most bloggers. Something exciting happens. We write about it. Then we forget it and go on to the Next Big Thing. There are some exceptions to this: Josh Marshall's unrelenting focus on Social Security Privatization; The Demagogue's attention to the crisis in Sudan. But for the most part, we're a flighty, short attention span bunch, usually content to respond to issues as they emerge. Now of course, most of us are doing this on the side to our regular employment so we aren't putting the time or effort into researching or journalisming any one issue as some of our blogging colleagues get to do. Still fewer of us have any expectation of changing the world. But there's something to be said for FOCUS and PERSISTENCY. We, and our elected representatives, shouldn't let up on the efforts of this administration to detain people unlawfully for the obstensible purpose of fighting a so-called war on terrorism (and I'm not particularly interested in the distinction between citizens and non-citizens of the U.S. being rounded up: while the thought that citizens are being deprived of their constitutional rights should be and is chilling, it wouldn't offer much more consolation to me to know that the "only" people having their natural rights abused were "other people"). It's not a large leap to get from persecuting non citizens to persecuting citizens, as it seems abundantly clear is happening anyway.

Ironically, while I was watching LAO:CI, I also happened to be reading Amartya Sen's book, Development as Freedom, for a class on the political economy of development I'm taking at the UMD-College Park. And I was further ironically in the part of the book that highlights the benefits of democracy as preventing official corruption and stemming the effects of natural disasters and famines, due to the accountability supplied on governing officials by a free press and oppositional parties. Hmmmm, I wondered. (If we only had a free press and oppositional parties).

But isn't it interesting that the issue of the administration's detainment policies has kinda slipped off the front page and television leads? What is being done to follow up on past reports and to ensure that detainees are given proper access to their lawyers and families, as well as being treated humainly?

So thanks to Hollywood and the producers and cast of LAO:CI for drawing our attention back to this problem and to the actions of the current regime that we still need to change even as the electoral mechanism was turned aside last November. We still have a job to do in our democracy of holding our representatives to account.

Special Feature: When one of the CI cast makes a reference in the course of the episode to the Patriot Act, the Chris Noth character replies that he read the Patriot Act in its original version--(the book) 1984. Priceless.

Tuesday, February 15, 2005


Left2Right has a post calling the conservative's "strict constructionist" view of the Constitution what it is--bupkes.

Don Herzog goes on to explain in a scholarly way what I've long believed is the basis for this conservative mantra, the self interest of conservatives and the needs of the powers they wish to protect, not the dis-interested, objective conclusions required of careful jurisprudence. This topic will be chapter 423 of my forthcoming book, Why I am not a Conservative.

Chapter 89 will cover the perplexing state of affairs that has conservatives claiming to be about and for "less government", but adamantly opposed to the Right to Privacy.

As Jesse Taylor point out last week, conservatives are not actually against big government, or activist judges, they're just against liberalism.

The Answer

Mark Schmidt is wondering where the Social Security privatization liberals are and, indirectly, why Bush doesn't seem to care about cultivating them and achieving some measure of a bipartisan consensus on reforming Social Security.

Here is my answer:

Bush only cares about Republican votes in the House and picking off a few scared, potentially vulnerable Democrats from Red States up for re-election in 2006 on the Senate side. The Rove-Norquist-Delay Strategy is intimidation, not cooperation. It worked for taxes, the war, and for establishing the union-broken Department of Homeland Security. But I don't think it will work for Social Security. Who knows, maybe it's not even intended to. From the Republican point of view, maybe it's enough that they've gotten this far with the debate.

Dear Paul

I really enjoyed your column today, but there is one problem.

The label. Moderate. Fighting Moderates. Here is what you say about the elevation of Dr. Dean to the chairmanship of the DNC:

Those words tell us what the selection of Mr. Dean means. It doesn't represent a turn to the left: Mr. Dean is squarely in the center of his party on issues like health care and national defense.

Then you go on to tell us how Dean as governor of Vermont balanced budgets even when he didn't have to, so "it was always absurd to call Mr. Dean a left-winger". Instead Dean is a "fighting moderate".

I know you mean well, and much of what I am about to contend may be more a matter of semantics than substance, but the problem is, the style of the thing, and the words we use matter. Now, when we use words like "moderate" and "centrist" and "center", we are really being cowardly, in my view. And the more we talk like this, the more Republicans continue to proudly assert their "conservatism" and the whole debate becomes a "moderate" versus "conservative" thing, and the result is, the debate and the policies and the "center" keep getting pushed further and further to the right.

Here's an idea. We are liberals. Why not say that? The truth is, yes, I want today's politics and policies to make a turn to the left. You say that Dean's ascension does not represent a turn to the left. But shouldn't it?

"Well, 'liberal' has a bad name". And why is that? Because the conservatives have made it so. We need to correct and reverse that notion. Because the reality is, liberalism is good. Liberalism works. We have a whole century of social progress to look back on that says liberalism is good and that liberalism does work.

While attempts to claim the moderate label or the center of the political debate may be smart politics today, they are bad politics for tomorrow, and for the day after that.

The problem is not just today's bad policies. The bad policies of today stem from our decision yesterday to abandon the ideals of liberalism for a short cut to the electoral promised land (and that hasn't worked either, if you've noticed). The problem is the political frame and context, including symbols, in which the political discourse occurs. This is what must change. By claiming we are moderates we are sounding reasonable, but people don't respect it, or at least people that are motivated to go to the polls don't. And I don't remember the conservative movement, in picking up the pieces after 1932 or 1964 making efforts to become "more moderate". No, they went back to their ideology's roots, and attempted to swing the culture to their point of view, rather than attempting to move themselves to fit the changing environment. Yeah, they've used soft talk and code words when they've had to, but they didn't turn away from their basic idea of a conservative heaven or apologize for opinions that were unpopular to some people. And today, as a result, we are talking about tearing down the foundation of the New Deal. This is how far the debate has shifted.

Paul, you have a valuable platform. Please recognize that the problem is not just today's policy debate. It is today's political environment, including the words we use and how we identify ourselves. If we seem apologetic about our history and our values, others will sense that, and we will continue to lose ground.

Yeah, the media and the Republicans are loudly proclaiming that Dean is a "liberal". I actually think this is a good thing. We should leave the media and the Republicans with this impression. We shouldn't be spending valuable time trying to debunk this idea by yapping about balanced budgets and NRA ratings.

Liberal. It's OK. You can say it. And we'll all be the better for it later.

Monday, February 14, 2005

My Esteemed Colleagues...

The Leftcoaster has a stunning headline and argument entitled The Coming Days of Rage.

I've been thinking a lot along these lines for some time now although I'll admit I hadn't really clued into the economic dimension as is presented at this post before. But the economic angle does suggest that there may be changes of more importance besides the aggregate indicators (unemployment rates, inflation, economic growth, etc) most pundits rely on to predict economic security and political contentment with the current regime. In short, if the wrong Americans (i.e. well educated, white) are angry, it won't matter how well the professional economists say we are doing to cause a political crisis.

Then add on the religious element, America's military interventions, the threat--real or imagined--presented by terrorism by The Other that can strike anywhere at any time, the anti-dissension hysteria fanned by institutions like Fox and talk radio, and we have a recipe for craziness.

Good and Evil

So I happened upon a speech by Ward Churchill playing on C-Span over the weekend, that apparently was from earlier last week.

I agreed with most, if not nearly everything, he said. Americans tell pollsters they like someone who tells it straight up, who isn't afraid to say or do what isn't popular. Conservatives blanch at "political correctness" and say they admire people who speak the "truth" even if the person saying the truth isn't very nice about it. But what if the straight up truth isn't popular and doesn't come out very polite-like? Well, that's Ward Churchill. He thinks America's been exploitive and murderous and he doesn't much care whether you like that suggestion or him very much.

Alongside the good the country has done, America has also shed much blood in a variety of open as well as hidden causes, not to mention exploited the lives and natural resources of others for the sake of profit and power. And if there is a Higher Power that ultimately judges such things, then we can expect America to face the consequences of these actions, regardless of whether the American press knows of them or reports them if they do.

But it is the course of things in the U.S. that the murkier sides of America's involvement overseas has received little or no attention, much less thoughtful analysis or debate. So understandably, most people have little sense of what Churchill and others are talking about and are for that reason, offended, and easily provoked by the right wing rabble that does or should understand the basis for Churchill's comments but would rather glamorize America's past and present for the purposes of achieving its own cultural and ideological objectives.

Furthermore, because of the harmful acts of America's military establishment and corporate empires overseas, I don't think it's a big stretch to suggest that the events of 9-11 were a payback of sorts, if not directly to the real or imagined grievances cited by Al Qaeda, then to that of a Higher Authority, who has informed us that He Will Repay. Abraham Lincoln himself mused that the elongated course of the Civil War may have served in part to repay the nation for the sin of slavery through the blood that was shed. In the same way, decades of persecuting political opponents of corporatism and militarism in Latin America, favoring profits over healing in Africa, and offhandedly supporting or opposing dictators in the Middle East based on material or ideological concerns rather than human rights will bear fruit.

That the innocent also suffered on 9-11 is no refutation of this fact. The innocent always suffere for the sins of others. It is the nature of evil. And furthermore, the notion of 9-11 as a divine rebuke was not lost on religious conservatives such as Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell in the days and weeks afterward, who while pointing to different national sins as the root of the trouble, also fingered God as at least allowing the events to take place.

Although religious conservatives like to claim the God of the Bible is on their side, the judgements of God on the nations recorded in Holy Scripture suggests something else is at work in the mind of the Almighty. Pride, violence, and the trampling of the poor play as critical role, if not more so, than sexual immorality in causing God to first warn, and then inflict punishment upon nations that will not repent. And above all else, America is a proud nation. Pride goeth before a fall, the scriptures tell us. Surely it would be folly for us to not recognize the eventual harmful effects of an exploitive and militant foreign policy?

Which leads me to another point. Conservatives frequently complain that issues should be discussed and decided on on the basis of their contribution to the struggle between Right and Wrong (rather than on some cost-benefit ratio determination--although conservatives themselves favor this efficiency approach on many business regulatory matters, but that's another post for another day). But in doing so, conservatives should recognize that in trying to move the arguing of public policy to this domain, that they also risk having the moral implications of policies turned back on themselves, particularly in matters related to social justice and when the issues involve our killing of others in foreign lands for dubious or self serving purposes.

And it also means that the terms and tones of the debates will not necessarily lend themselves to being able to fudge the differences, to claim that a strict black and white definition of a particular problem (such as the conflict between tax cuts for the rich and cuts in food stamps) doesn't apply in their pet case. They are opening a can of worms they may regret later.

And it also means that if the other side adopts the same confrontational rhetoric and tactics that they themselves practice, conservatives will find themselves enraged by and attempting to argue with a lot more Ward Churchills.

As for Ward Churchill, I hope he hangs in there and rides out the attempts to fire him. At the same time, I concede that his style is not one that encourages reasonable debate and isn't geared towards winning over opponents. But, as I've indicated, this is the fallout for conservatives from pushing a strict, no holds barred, right or wrong way of looking at the world, a debate they will not always win or be able to control.