Saturday, July 30, 2005

American Taliban

BROWN: Do you think there's a right to privacy in the Constitution?

SANTORUM: No -- well, not the right to privacy as created under Roe v. Wade and all...

BROWN: Do you think there's a right to privacy in the Constitution?

SANTORUM: I think there's a right to unreasonable -- to unreasonable search and seizure...

BROWN: For example, if you'd been a Supreme Court judge in Griswold versus Connecticut, the famous birth control case came up, which centered around whether there was a right to privacy. Do you believe that was correctly decided?

SANTORUM: No, I don't. I write about it in the book. I don't.

BROWN: The state of Connecticut had the right to ban birth control for a married couple.

SANTORUM: I think they were wrong. It was a bad law.

BROWN: But they had the right.

SANTORUM: They had the right. They had the right...

BROWN: Why would a conservative argue that government should interfere with that most personal decision?

SANTORUM: I didn't. I said it was a bad law. And...

BROWN: But they had the right to make.

SANTORUM: They had the right to make it. Look, legislatures have the right to make mistakes and do really stupid things...


SANTORUM: ... but we don't have to create constitutional rights because we have a stupid legislature. And that's the problem here, is the court feels like they have a responsibility to right every wrong. When they do that, unlike a Congress, that if we make a really stupid mistake and we do something wrong, we go back next year or next month and change it, and we've done that. Courts don't do that. They only get cases that come before them and they have to make broad, sweeping decisions that have huge impact down the road. That's what happened in Griswold. It was a bad law. The court felt, we can't let this bad law stand in place. It's wrong. It was. But they made a -- they created out of whole cloth a right that now has gone far, far from Griswold versus Connecticut.

I know I'm a week behind on this and you've probably already read the transcript on one of the fine blogs listed to my right.

But let me just say that for the record, this is truly frightening stuff. You should be alarmed.

No, it's not anything new, from our friends on the right.

Santorum, Dobson, Brownback and the rest will object vehemently that they are in any way like the Taliban. But you know if they had greater authority, if past Supreme Court decisions hadn't intruded on the right's right to intrude, they'd be arguing that American Constitutional jurisprudence should follow Biblically mandated statutes. The subordination of women, no right to privacy, no women's rights, and capital punishment for transgressing Biblical law.

What's that you say? You say they're already arguing that?

Christian Reconstruction is a call to the Church to awaken to its biblical responsibility to revival and the reformation of society. While holding to the priority of individual salvation, Christian Reconstruction also holds that cultural renewal is to be the necessary and expected outworking of the gospel as it progressively finds success in the lives and hearts of men. Christian Reconstruction therefore looks for and works for the rebuilding of the institutions of society according to a biblical blueprint.

Christian Reconstruction is also an attempt to answer the unprecedented threat facing the Church of Jesus Christ in the 20th century resurgence of secular humanism and parallel rise of statism.


There are two fatal errors facing the Church as it is being called upon to respond to this threat.

Fatal Error #1: Retreat

Retreat is failing to apply the Word of God to society and culture. It seems as though many Christians are guided more by Plato in some aspects of their thinking than by Christ. They tend to deny the application of scripture to the secular. They fail to recognize that every sphere is spiritual and subject to the Word of God.

This shows up in a studied indifference to biblical teaching on civil law, economics, government and other cultural applications. It is pietism as opposed to true piety. There was, for example, little response to the abortion holocaust from the evangelical Church for over 10 years after the 1973 Supreme Court ruling.

And just what is it that the Bible teaches about civil law?

Book of Numbers

15:32 And while the children of Israel were in the wilderness, they found a man that gathered sticks upon the sabbath day.

15:33 And they that found him gathering sticks brought him unto Moses and Aaron, and unto all the congregation.

15:34 And they put him in ward, because it was not declared what should be done to him.

15:35 And the LORD said unto Moses, The man shall be surely put to death: all the congregation shall stone him with stones without the camp.

15:36 And all the congregation brought him without the camp, and stoned him with stones, and he died; as the LORD commanded Moses.


25:6 And, behold, one of the children of Israel came and brought unto his brethren a Midianitish woman in the sight of Moses, and in the sight of all the congregation of the children of Israel, who were weeping before the door of the tabernacle of the congregation.

25:7 And when Phinehas, the son of Eleazar, the son of Aaron the priest, saw it, he rose up from among the congregation, and took a javelin in his hand;

25:8 And he went after the man of Israel into the tent, and thrust both of them through, the man of Israel, and the woman through her belly. So the plague was stayed from the children of Israel.

25:9 And those that died in the plague were twenty and four thousand.

25:10 And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying,

25:11 Phinehas, the son of Eleazar, the son of Aaron the priest, hath turned my wrath away from the children of Israel, while he was zealous for my sake among them, that I consumed not the children of Israel in my jealousy.

25:12 Wherefore say, Behold, I give unto him my covenant of peace:

25:13 And he shall have it, and his seed after him, even the covenant of an everlasting priesthood; because he was zealous for his God, and made an atonement for the children of Israel.


31:1 And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying,

31:2 Avenge the children of Israel of the Midianites: afterward shalt thou be gathered unto thy people.

31:3 And Moses spake unto the people, saying, Arm some of yourselves unto the war, and let them go against the Midianites, and avenge the LORD of Midian.

31:4 Of every tribe a thousand, throughout all the tribes of Israel, shall ye send to the war.

31:5 So there were delivered out of the thousands of Israel, a thousand of every tribe, twelve thousand armed for war.

31:6 And Moses sent them to the war, a thousand of every tribe, them and Phinehas the son of Eleazar the priest, to the war, with the holy instruments, and the trumpets to blow in his hand.

31:7 And they warred against the Midianites, as the LORD commanded Moses; and they slew all the males.

31:8 And they slew the kings of Midian, beside the rest of them that were slain; namely, Evi, and Rekem, and Zur, and Hur, and Reba, five kings of Midian: Balaam also the son of Beor they slew with the sword.

31:9 And the children of Israel took all the women of Midian captives, and their little ones, and took the spoil of all their cattle, and all their flocks, and all their goods. They took the women and children captives, and burnt all their cities.

31:10 And they burnt all their cities wherein they dwelt, and all their goodly castles, with fire.

31:11 And they took all the spoil, and all the prey, both of men and of beasts.

31:12 And they brought the captives, and the prey, and the spoil, unto Moses, and Eleazar the priest, and unto the congregation of the children of Israel, unto the camp at the plains of Moab, which are by Jordan near Jericho.

31:13 And Moses, and Eleazar the priest, and all the princes of the congregation, went forth to meet them without the camp.

31:14 And Moses was wroth with the officers of the host, with the captains over thousands, and captains over hundreds, which came from the battle.

31:15 And Moses said unto them, Have ye saved all the women alive?

31:16 Behold, these caused the children of Israel, through the counsel of Balaam, to commit trespass against the LORD in the matter of Peor, and there was a plague among the congregation of the LORD.

31:17 Now therefore kill every male among the little ones, and kill every woman that hath known man by lying with him.

Meanwhile, right-wing radio shock jock, Michael Graham, just back from Baghdad's Green Zone things only Islam is violent:

"The problem is not extremism," Graham said, according to both CAIR and the station. "The problem is Islam." He also said, "We are at war with a terrorist organization named Islam."


"If the Boy Scouts of America had 1,000 Scout troops, and 10 of them practiced suicide bombings, then the BSA would be considered a terrorist organization. If the BSA refused to kick out those 10 troops, that would make the case even stronger. If people defending terror repeatedly turned to the Boy Scout handbook and found language that justified and defended murder --and the scoutmasters responded by saying 'Could be' -- the Boy Scouts would have been driven out of America long ago.

"Today, Islam has whole sects and huge mosques that preach terror. Its theology is openly used to give the murderers their motives. Millions of its members give these killers comfort. The question isn't how dare I call Islam a terrorist organization, but rather why more people do not."

But of course, the American Taliban want to be allowed to continue to preach hate against the undesirables they see as threatening them in here:

Canadian Christian leaders say the country is on the verge of "criminalizing" the Bible as "hate speech" after legislators recently added sexual orientation to Canada's genocide and hate crimes legislation. Last week, the House of Commons voted 143-110 in favor of the proposal by openly gay legislator Svend Robinson. If Canada's Senate adopts the bill, "gay-bashing" will be added to the hate crimes law. Canadian Christians are concerned that homosexual activists would use the law to go after pastors and ministry leaders who quote anti-gay passages from the Bible. "Canadians who are speaking out against the redefinition of marriage are already being accused of 'hate speech' by homosexual activists," Brian Rushfeldt, executive director of Canada Family Action Coalition, said. Canada has already targeted Christians for publishing ads in newspapers that quote what the Bible says about homosexuality, according to Traditional Values Coalition (TVC), headed by the Rev. Lou Sheldon.

"Canada's coming problems are a glimpse of what we [in the United States] will soon face if we do not aggressively fight the homosexual movement," TVC officials said.

Let the record show I support allowing church officials to say what they want inside and outside cathedral walls. But when they do, their intolerant statements should be seen for what they are--Islamic-like screeds against those it considers impure.

And when they and their elected servants come out against gay rights, the use of contraception, the right to privacy, and equal rights for women, compare their statements and statements from the Book they claim to revere, to the intolerant and abusive statements of certain leaders of Islam.

As the Rogue Progressive argues, we are not at war with Islam, we are at war with fundamentalism.

Fortunately, at least one Democratic member of the U.S. Senate, and potential 2008 presidential candidate, Joe Biden, seems to get this. I caught some remarks he made on C-Span earlier tonight in reference to Supreme Court nominations. Although his support for progressive economic causes stinks (i.e. bankruptcy "reform"), I believe Biden really does get it on these important civil liberties issues, and as a member of the Judicial Committee, he can speak on these issues with a good deal of stature and articulateness.

Let's hope that in upcoming elections, Democrats will take the time and exercise the courage to confront these issues and the choices we face.

Friday, July 29, 2005

Being a Christian is Hard Work, Vol. XLMV II

The other day I tuned into the Trinity Broadcasting Network's "Praise the Lord" show. TBN is a "Christian" cable station in my Comcast package. PTL is probably the most comical or disturbing show it runs of all the comical and disturbing shows in its portfolio.

This particular show had someone "interviewing" somebody who is supposedly in some "ministry" or another. Anyway, it wasn't more than two minutes before the guest went into the whole "the country's going down the tubes because its legislating immorality, kicking God out of the schools, not allowing school prayer" etc.

Now I've heard this kind of sentiment about 8 million times on this channel and other "Christian" media outlets.

Most of the audience greeted the guest's comments enthusiastically (and unquestionably since there isn't any forum for the audience to ask questions or challenge anything).

But the commentary, while being a staple of conservative "Christian" propaganda, as a valid, accurate piece of social analysis, is just bupkis.

But most offensive is the bit about school prayer. Members of the "Christian" elite that have been exploiting this social development for the last four decades are simply misrepresenting the truth of what was decided in the relevant court decisions affecting religion in schools.

It is not the fact that prayer is not allowed in school. It is the fact that organized prayer cannot be orchestrated in the school and that students cannot be coerced into praying, which happens to be an act of worship.

Yes, organized school prayer used to occur in America and probably still does in a lot of places. But the end of that policy, at least officially, has been a good thing, not something that should be regretted. And it isn't something that "Christian" elites should be misrepresenting to their flock. It's ignorant, manipulative, self-serving and irresponsible for them to continue to do so.

Staying a Christian is Hard Work, Part 536

Focus on the Family, when it isn't emailing its cogs about how a certain upcoming television show in the fall is a front for electing Hillary Clinton (in 2008!), takes the trouble on its Citizen Link to campaign for the Leave-No-Millionaire-Behind estate tax repeal.

If you want to listen to "Christian" radio, this is the kind of crap you're forced to endure. My local Christian station plays promos from FOTF all the time.

"Christians". Yeah, I'm sure. Bunch of bunko men selling snake oil. I wish some Christians would wake up.

Staying a Christian is Hard Work

When you have these yahoos saying this about that:

James Dobson's Focus on the Family, in its daily alert to supporters, said yesterday that Geena Davis's character name, Mackenzie Allen, "sounds remarkably, poetically like" Hillary Clinton, which apparently is proof that the show is conspiring to help HRC in 2008.

Mackenzie Allen = Hillary Clinton.

Good grief.

Gore Whispers

I'm a lot warmer to this idea than my head says I should be. I do think, as the Bull Moose charges, that nature and presidential campaigns abhor a vaccuum and Gore could be the one to fill it. Iraq will still be the dominant issue in 08 and a candidate seen as experienced and with an alternative view could attract a lot of attention. I also suspect that there remains a good deal of positive sentiment for Gore among Democratic voters who think he got shafted in 00.

That being said, what I said about the Iowa caucuses in the previous post would apply here. Gore would need to immerse himself in the state and present a broader range of issues and a softer touch than he has displayed previously. While a definitive, articulate stance on the war would be admirable, a candidate seen as too angry or bitter could turn off voters. I suspect caucus goers will tolerate bomb-throwing candidates (like Dean and Gore recently) up to a point, but the lesson from Iowa seems to be that voters also seek someone steady and unflappable. Gore would need to convince Iowans that he would be a stable influence in the White House and be able to ride above the partisan fray at least to a certain degree as President.

Iowa On My Mind

Yes I know, we're two and a half years away from any primary or caucus and one and a half years away from any pre-primary/caucus campaigning. Still, it won't hurt to start thinking about what potential contenders in 08 should do to garner their party's nomination, beginning with the Iowa caucuses, which traditionally start things off.

Part of this process should entail discovering what, if any, lessons can be applied from the past successes and failures of previous candidates, on the campaign trail in general, and in Iowa in particular. Because as has been the case in most years, I suspect Iowa will play a crucial role in 08, both for dark horse candidates as well as for those considered to be front-runners.

Iowa has been kind to, if you'll pardon the expression, insurgent candidates, candidates not well known prior to the campaign. Jimmy Carter comes to mind. Before his abrupt crash, Dean was leading in the state last year. More about Dean in a few.

Iowa has also been kind to candidates from neighboring states, especially those that border it. Dole in 88, Gephardt and Paul Simon in 88. As one of its Senators, Tom Harkin won the state's caucuses, largely uncontested, in 1992.

At the same time, Iowa has given its early support to candidates considered as the front-runners when either a neighboring or surprise candidate has not run or made an impact. Gore and W Bush both won here in 2000. Kerry, the assumed 2004 front runner before the rise of Dean, ultimately came back to win these caucuses after early campaign stumbles.

So what does this history, short as it is, imply for 2008's candidates?

First, it would make sense to establish the field of candidates and categorize their candidacies. For the Democrats I believe their are three front-runners, HRC, Kerry and Edwards. I call them front runners in the sense that they will likely attract most of the media attention in the months before the caucuses (and will probably have the cash to establish broader campaigns).

There is a second tier of candidates that lag just a little behind the front-runners. You might call these the "on the bubble" candidates or something like that, the ones that are on the verge of breaking through as front-runners. I think two candidates fit this depiction: Biden and Clark. Of the non-front runners in the campaign, I think Biden would, at least on paper, represent the candidate with the most upside in terms of projected viability, especially given his foreign policy credentials. I put Clark on this list, too, partly because of his foreign policy experience and given that he ran last time, and ran well at least in a couple of states, given his late start. I'm not sure Clark is politically savy enough to last long term. But he has time to get himself together.

Finally, there are the outsider, insurgent candidates. I include on this list, Bayh, Richardson, Feingold, and Warner. None of the four have run in any previous presidential primaries and are the least known of the batch.

Nonetheless, and perhaps because of this fact, Iowa represents a huge breakout opportunity for these four. Feingold, being from a neighboring state, and Bayh, being close by and from another largely farming based state, stand to gain the most from the benefits of campaigning in Iowa and from any positive showing they might make there. I don't believe either Feingold or Bayh need to win Iowa to maintain their candidacies, but they need to finish in the top three to hope to go on.

For Kerry and Edwards, I think Iowa is a make or break state. Kerry won in 2004 and to carry on this candidacy I think would need to duplicate that effort again. Unlike last year, Kerry will not likely benefit from being perceived as the only electable candidate and would have trouble posting primary victories outside his home region if he doesn't maintain his viability in Iowa.

Edwards is in a similar position and faces equally high expectations. He ran well in Iowa last year but faired poorly in New Hampshire and went on to win only his native born state, South Carolina. As last year's second ran, Edwards would need to improve here, and the only way to to do that would be to win, to maintain his viability. Yes there are some southern and western states voting in the weeks ahead, but a loss here would diminish his standing in those states, inviting consideration of whoever won Iowa or finished unexpectedly high.

I actually don't think Hillary needs to win here, although I think anything below a third place finish, and perhaps even below second, would do her real harm.

For Warner or Richardson, a win in Iowa would be a huge boon to their candidacies, particularly since neither hails from the region.

All of this is to say that there is a lot riding on Iowa and candidates seeking to breakthrough or remain viable will need to compete hard and long here. And Iowa will probably winnow the field significantly.

Which brings us to Dean. After Dean started getting significant media attention in the summer and fall of 2003, particularly from his on-line fundraising, there was talk of whether he was "peaking too fast". In a way this premonition turned out to be correct. Although there were "outside events" that helped torpedoe his candidacy, such as the capture of Saddam Hussein, I suspect Dean may have also suffered from the syndrome of having run a national campaign before having run and won the Iowa campaign. Consider as an example the attention Dean got from his "What I want to know is" speech in Sacramento. It showed boldness and great leadership, which the party was in desperate need of. But it also symbolized the national reach of his candidacy and ironically, may have represented his campaign's weakness. Basically what I mean is, his image may have "gone national" in the minds of both his campaign as well as his webside supporters (including me), but in the process, he may have been diverted in his attention to winning Iowa. This allowed Kerry to get another look from the voters and the opportunity to come out ahead.

Candidates hoping to be successful in Iowa in 08 will need to keep this memory in mind. Focus on winning Iowa before spreading your resources and attention to other states and the nomination. Along with this, Dean's "meltdown" can partly be attributed to burn out, both the candidate's as well as the audience's. This suggests the advisability of candidates "staying on message", and staying in the state long enough to get to know the state's voters and concerns without at the same time, becoming a lightening rod of national controversy.

This is another angle that I suspect will give insurgent candidates an opportunity to exceed expectations in Iowa.

One final thing. Dean's collapse should help convince us of the left blogosphere of the limits of our influence and wishes. We can obviously help candidates we want to see succeed, but success in Iowa will most likely come from the candidate him or herself, not because of any money or moral support he or she will get from the Web.

Over the weekend I intend to re-read the section on the 1976 campaign recounted by Jimmy Carter biographer, and campaign aide, Peter Bourne. For people interested in campaigns and in Carter himself, I recommend the book heartily. In re-reading the 1976 section, I hope to uncover insights that might be useful for the next round of candidates.

Thursday, July 28, 2005

How Come I'm Not On This?

The 50 Most Beautiful People on the Hill

And what about Steph?

Success, DLC-Style

Al From, DLC founder-in-chief:

Since last year's election defeat, some have argued that Democrats should discard Clintonism, the party's most successful formula in presidential elections in six decades.

That's a novel answer to the woes of a party that has lost five of the last seven presidential elections: Blame the guy who won the other two. That's like telling Republicans to disown Ronald Reagan because he brought their party back from the political wilderness.

Clintonism led the Democratic Party out of its wilderness years with presidential victories in 1992 and 1996. Clintonism provides the model for doing that again in 2008. Democrats should embrace and build on it.

Meanwhile, statistics from the Reality-based Community

Democratic/Republican membership ratio, U.S. House of Representatives, 1983-2005

1983 269/166
1985 253/182
1987 258/177
1989 260/175
1991 267/167
1993 258/176
1995 204/230
1997 206/228
1999 211/223
2001 212/221
2003 204/229
2005- 202/232

Democratic/Republican ratio, U.S. Senate, 1983-2005

1983 46/54
1985 43/57
1987 55/45
1989 55/45
1991 56/44
1993 57/43
1995 48/52
1997 45/55
1999 45/55
2001 50/50
2003 48/51
2005 44/55

Democratic/Republican/Split ratio of Legislative Control, 1982-2005

1982 34/10/5
1984 26/11/12
1986 28/9/12
1988 29/8/12
1990 30/6/13
1992 25/8/16
1994 18/19/12
1996 20/18/11
1998 19/17/13
2000 18/17/14
2002 16/21/12
2004 17/21/11
2005 19/20/10

Democratic/Republican ratio of Governorships, 1982-2003

1982 27/23
1984 35/15
1986 34/16
1988 27/23
1990 29/21
1992 28/20
1994 29/19
1996 18/31
1998 17/32
2000 18/30
2001 19/29
2002 21/27
2003 24/26
2004 22/28
2005 22/28

I suppose a lot can be said about these conditions and trends, how did each of the candidates or state parties run their campaigns, did they result from Clinton abandoning his New Democratic stance in his first two years, weren't the trends going towards the Republicans already when Clinton assumed office, etc. So it would be hard to make any broad, sweeping generalizations about Old Democrat, New Democrat from these statistics.

About the only thing that can be said with any certainty is that the Clinton era and its aftermath have not been associated with any Democratic ascendancy for which the DLC should be claiming credit or asking us to bask in the worship of.

About all that can be claimed is that Clinton succeeded in getting himself re-elected. But beyond this, neither he nor his DLC-welfare-"reform" approach did the party any favors, nor is there any significant progressive piece of legislation or change for which Clinton/DLC can be applauded. About all we can take solace in is that Clinton was in office to nominate justices Ginsburg and Breyer or we might all be consigned to Focus on the Family re-education camps by now.

That Clinton was elected and re-elected shouldn't be seen as some monumental pairing of events, given the Republican Party's domination of the White House since the Eisenhower era. Some Democrat was bound to win, and will ultimately do so again, with or without a DLC. The question is, what will be the long term consequences of Democratic governance for progressive ideals and American democracy the next time around? Let's hope its better for progressives than the last twelve years have been.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

More Warrior Than Thou

Democrats ought to insist on a major expansion of the military, by as many as 100,000 troops. Some of these troops should be channeled into the post-conflict and nation-building specialties that we have been chronically short of in Iraq: linguists, special forces, psychological operations, civil affairs, and economic reconstruction. Rather than add to Bush's budget deficits, however, Democrats should insist on paying for a larger force by rolling back the administration's unconscionable wartime tax cuts. This would neatly frame the real choice facing patriotic Americans: a stronger military versus tax cuts for the privileged.

Will Marshall, Democratic Leadership Council

Where to start?

The military isn't meeting its present recruitment goals as it is, nor is it adequately funding or supplying those already elisted and serving overseas. In what universe would 100,000 more join up? Does Marshall think Drew Rosenhaus will show up to negotiate multi-million dollar signing bonuses?

If they did sign up, what would they do and where would they go? Iraq? Do we know 100,000 more U.S. troops in Iraq would help? Or would it only contribute to the resistance to the U.S. occupation? Is the cause of the chaos in Iraq insufficient American troop numbers or the troops very presence itself?

Or does Marshall think they should be used to invade Iran? Or Syria? Or some other country on the Project for a New American Century's hitlist?

This is just a stupid, poorly thought out, politically motivated policy recommendation.

But the DLC thinks we should do more than draft 100,000 more troops.

They think progressives should be nicer to ROTC groups on college campuses.

Americans are justly proud of their Armed Forces. Along with the flag and the English language, the U.S. military is an honored emblem of national identity and unity. This is especially true in the heartland battleground states, where Democrats must do better if they hope to recapture the White House and Congress. Unfortunately, the Armed Forces have long been estranged from Democrats in general and liberal elites in particular. So another key task for progressive patriotism is to close the cultural gap between Democrats and the military.


Conversely, the military is not always held in high esteem in what might be called the European wing of the Democratic party -- secular liberal elites in the deep-blue Northeast and West Coast.


How can Democrats start healing this breach? For starters, they can speak out against colleges that ban military recruiters or the Reserved Officers' Training Corps (ROTC) from their campuses. Thirty years after the Vietnam War ended, such Ivy League campuses as Columbia, Harvard, Yale, Brown, and Dartmouth continue to ban ROTC. The message this sends is an offensive amalgam of class bias and anti-military prejudice: Service in the Armed Forces might be OK for dumb-ass Southerners or small-town kids with limited prospects, but it's not a smart career move for our best and brightest. Democrats should demand an end to this disgraceful legacy of the Vietnam protest era, by denying public funding to schools that deny the Armed Forces access to their campuses (see sidebar).

If you didn't already know these comments came from an allegedly Democratic website, where would you think they had originated? Did you guess Republican Party? If so, your thoughts were similar to mine.

Anyway, so the DLC wants us to make our already over-militarized society even more so.

But would such policy changes be used to better secure our country or would it be turned to more international misadventures, or worse, turned against its citizens at home?

Freedom is free, and the military not only is one of the elements threatening our freedom in the US, but was never intended to protect our freedom in the first place.


There is no provision in the Constitution for a permanent, standing army – to the contrary, the framers considered a standing army a constant threat to liberty.

Why? First, a standing army requires support via taxation. As we have seen recently; as Eisenhower warned when leaving office; and as General Smedley Butler revealed a generation before Eisenhower: If you start with a standing military, replete with high-ranking officers anxious to further their careers; add a presidential administration and a few hundred Congressmen eager for bloc support, campaign contributions, and cushy jobs after leaving office; then add a few dozen large corporations armed with lobbyists and poised to make huge profits from war; you get wars.

Note that children of Congressmen, military officers, and corporate executives rarely are killed in these wars. This is the worst transfer of wealth imaginable – the lives of the poor and young are snuffed out to line the pockets of the rich and conscienceless. Each time there is a war, elected officials raise your taxes, and most of the additional money confiscated from you goes to the corporations who provide the planes, bombs, and tanks that kill innocents abroad and destroy their property and infrastructures. The latter, of course, are rebuilt later with more of your tax money.


At the time of our founding, the role of the military (such as there was) was to defend our borders. Since then, the military has been used primarily as an enforcement arm of the foreign policy goals of the White House and Congress.

The biggest threat to our freedom isn’t foreign invasion anyway. The biggest threat is Washington itself – the presidential administration, Congress, and the Supreme Court. We have lost privacy and civil liberties precipitously since 9/11, and our military can do nothing to stop that. The military forces never were intended to protect us from our own government, nor have they ever been in any nation.

Brad Edmonds,

While the DLC claims to want Democrats to scream louder and support the War on Terror more vehemently than the Republicans, it should be obvious that war and its instruments are both a limited means of achieving peace and security, particularly against a non-state enemy, as well as a potential threat to the sponsoring nation's liberty as well. That war also serves to mobilize nationalistic tendencies such as the kinds that drove the most barberous regimes of the 20th century should also not be easily swept under the carpet as inconsequential.

Moral Clarity

If it weren't already obvious that liberals should be leading exponents of the war on terror , rather than only its sharpest critics, then the London terror attacks should have had a clarifying effect.


If only we could hear such moral clarity from our own party's left!


My liberal friends are quick to point out that the left's chief grievance is with the war in Iraq, not the war on terror. But what does it do for the image of the Democratic Party, not to mention the thinking of rank and file Democrats, when some of our most skilled commentators use a moment of unambiguous terror to first find fault with an American policy (unseating Saddam Hussein) rather than first condemning the terrorists? It's both morally wrong and politically dumb.

Peter Ross Range, Democratic Leadership Council, July 22, 2005


How many Iraqis have died in our war in their country? Is there a better symbol of how the war for Iraq has already been lost than our ignorance about the cost of the war to Iraqis?

"Cost of the war": a clich̩ to normalize the carnage, like the anaesthetizing term "collateral damage" and that new semantic horror, "torture lite." And yet the "cost of the war" report, by now a hackneyed convention of American journalism, includes only American casualtiesno Iraqis Рitself a violation of the American mainstream media's own professed commitment to "objectivity."

Three years of "anniversary" articles in the American media adding up the so-called "cost of the war" in Iraq have focused exclusively on Americans killed, American dollars spent, American hardware destroyed, with barely a mention of the Iraqi dead as part of that "cost."

The dead are counted. But they are Americans. The names are named. But they are Americans. The names and numbers of the dead are intoned aloud or their photographs papered on media "walls" and they are always only American.

Publishing or pronouncing the names of the American dead every day without ever mentioning the names of the Iraqi dead offers a powerful message that only American dying matters. In Indochina, during the years I covered that war, we counted but didn't name Americans. That wasn't done until after the war was over. We never counted and never named the Vietnamese, Cambodian, and Lao dead. Still today, though the estimates run into the millions, there is no reliable count of how many Indochinese died or were hurt in our war there. Not to mention El Salvador, Nicaragua, Panama, Haiti, and the first Gulf War.

But there's no way to count, protest American journalists. What they mean is that the Pentagon doesn't count for them, "We don't do counts," was the way General Tommy Franks put the matter during our Afghan war. But Iraq Body Count (IBC) counts as does the Brookings Institute among others.

As of July 13, IBC estimated Iraqi civilian casualties to be between 22,838 and 25,869, an extremely conservative number. (The range between the two figures represents occasional discrepancies in the number of civilian casualties reported by different media sources about the same incident). So what journalists really mean is that only Pentagon counting counts and that the prosecutor of the war is the only "reliable" source on the magnitude of its own killing. Pentagon casualty figures are rarely questioned. When anyone else counts, these figures are given short shrift.

The alternative media, bloggers included, have seized on Gen. Franks' words with outrage. But the fact is the Pentagon does count. It just doesn't care to add those dead bodies up, let alone tell the American public or the rest of the world how many dead Iraqis there have been or how many more are being killed at this very moment. In Iraq, as in Vietnam and the first Gulf War, every unit of the American military must file "after action" reports about any "contact" with the enemy. Most of these include injuries and deaths to civilians (even if these are often counted as enemy-soldier deaths to cover them up, a practice the media eventually exposed in Vietnam, but has not yet explored in Iraq). Also, any injury or death of a suspected civilian is supposed to be reported in a separate "incident" report. "We do keep records of innocent civilians who are killed accidentally by coalition force soldiers," Brig. Gen. Mark Hertling, assistant commander for the First Armored Division,
told New York Times reporter Jeffrey Gettleman last year. "And, in fact, in every one of those innocent death situations, we conduct internal investigations to determine what happened."

Judith Coburn,


...although the flow of U.S. body bags is starting to hit home, Americans are still numb to the far greater agony the war has unleashed on the Iraqi people.


At least American soldiers stationed in Iraq have been seen, heard, and shown fleetingly in combat on the news, and had their travails witnessed in print by exemplary reporters such as Ellen Knickmeyer of The Washington Post. On Thanksgiving and Christmas, the cable newsers make a big heart-shaped fuss over holiday greetings exchanged through video linkups from troops in the field and the families gathered in the living room back home.

But of the liberated, occupied, afflicted, battered-to-despair Iraqi people, Americans see and hear and, worst of all, care almost nothing. The Iraqis might as well be digitized extras in a Hollywood epic, scurrying in the wide-screen background and being massacred en masse as some tanned specimen of all-American man-steak is heroically positioned in the foreground, giving orders to the lesser-paid stars in his squad as if he had just teleported in from the Battle of Thermopylae. Apart from an occasional dispatch (such as a CNN report on May 13), the ongoing agony of the Iraqi people is the huge, tragic unmentionable in the televised war coverage.


When someone addresses the war with candor and outrage, it seems to violate the Geneva Conventions of the mind of which George Orwell wrote. On May 17, George Galloway, British member of Parliament and a ferocious opponent of Tony Blair and the Iraq war, used the witness chair at Senator Norm Coleman's subcommittee investigating the oil-for-food scandal to turn the tables and hold in contempt Coleman, Rumsfeld, and the Beltway's war-hawk lobby. He railed with such eloquent, unrelenting, unwavering, concentrated, righteous magnum force that the senators were reduced to ashen figures by his flesh-and-blood intensity. So unprepared and unaccustomed were they to hearing a hot serving of unadulterated disrespect and mocking irony that they didn't know how to respond other than to sit there and hope their heads didn't fall off.

Even more fascinating than the post-electroshock daze on the senators' mugs was the discomfort of our demure press corps afterward. It seemed to make them queasy, hearing the safety lock taken off the truth. On Charlie Rose that evening, Warren Hoge of The New York Times sensed misgivings among the Americans with whom he had watched the show over Galloway's bite and vitriol. Hoge's gauzy manner made it evident that these were qualms he shared. "There is a certain tradition in American politics and also with the American press, where we are very polite to public figures. And here was a guy, George Galloway, insulting a U.S. senator."

I'm trying to recall how tactfully polite the press was to Bill Clinton and am drawing a blank, so it must be a fairly recent tradition. Praise Allah that we have Mr. Media around to hush those with the poor taste to raise their voices over a war fought under false pretenses—lest they cry bloody murder.

James Wolcott

Ah, yes, moral clarity, indeed. Would that we had more of it.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Exporting Propaganda

From Democracy Now!

Some are calling it Latin America's al Jazeera. This weekend, a coalition of leftist governments, media outlets and movements, led by Venezuela, officially launched Telesur - a new Latin America-wide satellite TV network.

Just after noon on Sunday, Telesur began broadcasting a pilot service from studios in Caracas with a team of 25 journalists in nine regional bureaus presenting news "from a Latin American perspective".

The channel's first news program began with a critical report on the failure of the humanitarian mission in Haiti followed by a story on the plight of refugees in Colombia.

The station is being launched with help from other Latin American governments including Argentina, Cuba and Uruguay. The driving force has been Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, whose government has contributed 70 percent of Telesur's financing and owns 51 percent of the channel. The channel's board members include a group of international supporters including the actor Danny Glover, the writer Tariq Ali and Nobel Peace Prize winner Adolfo Perez Esquivel.

But even before its launch, Telesur was being attacked in Washington. Last week the House passed an amendment calling for the U.S. to begin broadcasting its own channel into the region to counter Telesur.

Chavez responded by saying, "we will take measures to neutralize the attempt, and what we will have is a kind of electronic warfare."


The flimsy justification for force-feeding U.S. government and CIA propaganda onto the airwaves which is used for Cuba – that the government does not allow opposing views in the media – should be laughable to anyone who has spent one day in Venezuela.

Newsstands and television stations overflow with big-budget anti-Chavista media. Not a single journalist has been jailed or censured under Hugo Chávez’s presidency, while government censorship was rampant under several previous rightwing administrations.


Mack’s bizarro-world version of the media reality in Venezuela is reminiscent of other proposals recently passed in the house related to the war on drugs.


And imagine, for a moment, the reaction in the U.S. if the Venezuelan government started beaming its own state broadcasts into the United States, with no license, interfering with domestic airwaves and essentially stealing pieces of the radio spectrum so prized by the commercial interests that now run the FCC. The FCC does not tolerate such antics from even small local community radio stations, let along foreign governments.

The Narcosphere


Dear U.S. Congress: Thanks a bunch, guys. This is just great work. Really good government. We've already been linked to the failed military-corporate coup against Venezuela's democratically elected president. And now we're on record as trying to impose our technology and point of view on it and its neighbors. That's just swell. This at the time we're already botching our empire expansion project in Iraq. Any other bright ideas you're working on that we should know about?

Ruthless People

July 19:

A member of the conservative Federalist Society that is influential on Bush's judicial picks, Roberts is a widely respected lawyer. President Bush called him "one of best legal minds of his generation."

July 21:

Everyone knows that, like all good Republican lawyers, John G. Roberts Jr. is a member of the Federalist Society, the conservative law and public policy organization where right-of-center types meet to denounce liberalism and angle for jobs in the Bush administration.

And practically everyone -- CNN, the Los Angeles Times, Legal Times and, just yesterday, The Washington Post -- has reported Roberts's membership as a fact. One liberal group opposed to Roberts's nomination, the Alliance for Justice, has noted it on its Web site.

But they are wrong. John Roberts is not, in fact, a member of the Federalist Society, and he says he never has been.

"He has no recollection of ever being a member," said Dana Perino, a White House spokeswoman who contacted reporters to correct the mistake yesterday.

She said that Roberts recalls speaking at Federalist Society forums (as have lawyers and legal scholars of various political stripes). But he has apparently never paid the $50 annual fee that would make him a full-fledged member. His disclosure forms submitted in connection with his 2003 nomination to the D.C. Circuit make no mention of it.

How this urban legend got started is not clear. The issue probably got clouded in part because the Federalist Society's membership is confidential; individual members must decide whether or not to acknowledge their affiliation.

Even some conservatives found the story plausible.

"I'm shocked that he is not," said Richard A. Samp, chief counsel of the right-of-center Washington Legal Foundation.

July 26:

As the TV ad war continues, the Roberts story has taken a new twist. There is growing focus today on an organization that Roberts claims he cannot remember if he joined or not: the Federalist Society. Roberts and the White House say the nominee has no recollection about his possible membership.

But yesterday, the Washington Post reported that it had obtained a 1997-98 Federalist Society leadership directory listing Roberts, then a partner in a private law firm, as being a steering committee member in the group's Washington chapter.

On Monday, Roberts declined to say why he was listed in the directory when asked by a reporter about the discrepancy during a morning get-acquainted meeting with Sen. Dianne Feinstein.

White House spokesperson Scott McClellan was asked about Roberts and the Federalist Society at the
daily press briefing:

Q It was reported, as you know, that he was in the Federalist Society, which is an important legal group in the conservative -- on the conservative side. Then the White House said, no, it was not the case. And now it appears that he was part of the leadership group. What is the real story here?

MR. McCLELLAN: He has no memory of ever joining or paying dues to the Federalist Society. He has no recollection of that. He has participated in events and panel discussions. He's given speeches at Federalist Society forums. But he doesn't have any recollection of ever paying dues or joining the organization.

Q Isn't that kind of a simple thing to nail down, prior to now?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, David, he's answered this over the last few years the issue has come up, and he certainly has participated in some of the events that they've sponsored or that they've hosted. But he just doesn't have any memory of ever paying any dues to the organization.


So, just what is the Federalist Society and why is the administration and its nominee so circumspect [lying, spreading falsehoods,] about identifying with it?

It's an association of lawyers founded in 1982 that claims to be non-partisan, unbiased, and unpositioned on matters of policy. But a quick perusal of its
website reflects its conservative orientation. It has special sections, subgroups, and publications committed to "watching" the American Bar Association (ABA) and non-governmental organizations (NGO). The latter is a pretty big task, which is why the Fed Society has joined hands with the equally "unbiased", "non-partisan" conservative organization, The American Enterprise Institute. It also sponsors a wide array of "practice groups" dedicated to studying and one would assume influencing certain specific legal and policy issues.

Fine. The executive branch and congressional branches or our government are conservative entities, dually elected by the people. So what's the big deal? Why wouldn't Roberts just admit to being a part of the group? Federal Society members are peppered throughout the administration, including the current nominee to be the Deputy Assistant Attorney General.

Perhaps because the organizations positions and activism are decidedly regressive and may not reflect the interests of everybody who helped elect their sponsors to positions of power. According to the
Institute for Democratic Studies, the Federalist Society's

...literature has contained arguments for abolishing the Security and Exchange Commission, severely limiting the regulatory role of the Environmental Protection Agency, and rolling back gender equity provisions, voting rights law, and other foundations of federal civil rights law. In addition to presenting challenges to standard "wage-gap" statistics, Federalist Society publications have included articles criticizing the teaching of evolution and aspects of the foundational principle of separation of church and state.

Federalist Society associates were also heavily involved in torpedoing the nomination of Bill Lann Lee as Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights during the Clinton Administration. Their Civil Rights News bulletin quoted Clint Bolick as providing detailed information and source quesetions to the Senate Judicial Committee's Orin Hatch that proved critical in defeating Lee's nomination.

If the name Clint Bolick sounds familiar, it should. He dogged Clinton's administration and in particular its judicial nominations beginning with Lani Guinier, whom Bolick labeled a
"quota queen."

And if any of this agenda or set of tactics sounds at all like any of the Constitution in Exile theology that's been surfacing at Republican legal and political gong shows, than you probably wouldn't be far off the mark. And one other thing. Robert Bork was instrumental in the Federalist Society's founding and is now affiliated with the Ava Marie School of Law in Michigan, which was established by conservative underworld financier and former Domino's Pizza mogul Tom Monaghan.

Conservatives have expended a lot of effort to try to tar Democrats with the liberal label and Democratic activists and supporters, Michael Moore and, who's positions and activities are far more mainstream and pluralistic than the Constitition in Exile band of regressives represented at the Federalist Society and by its corporate and religious elitist sponsors.

Considering the scope of their agenda, their role in the administration and conservative thought generally, and given the administration's apparent trepidation about the group, it's high past time for Democrats to bring the Federalist Society and its radically regressive agenda and bedmates out of the closet.

Under Seige, Republican DLC Calls for Unilateral Disarmament

Forbid him not: for he that is not against us is for us. Luke 9:49.

We've got to repudiate, you know, the most strident and insulting anti-American voices out there sometimes on our party's left... We can't have our party identified by Michael Moore and Hollywood as our cultural values.

Al From,CEO, Democratic Leadership Council

You know, let's let Hollywood and the Cannes Film Festival fawn all over Michael Moore. We ought to make it pretty clear that he sure doesn't speak for us when it comes to standing up for our country.

Will Marshall, President of the Progressive Policy Institute, the think-tank of the DLC

"You've got to reject Michael Moore and the MoveOn crowd," DLC CEO Al From said in an interview about how the Democratic Party should rebuild after 2004. From argued that the anti-war Moore and MoveOn have hurt the party on national security, the issue which he says the party needs to make "central to our cause." Rank-and-file Democrats "are more like us than MoveOn," which From called a group of "elites, people who sit in their basements all the time and play on their computers."


If only we could hear such moral clarity from our own party's left! Instead, we heard from Daily Kos, the ur-liberal ur-blogger, whose blog included a cheer for, among others, outcast Labourite George Galloway, who blamed the attacks on Blair's Iraq policy -- and was roundly denounced by virtually all British politicians. "See, Democrats? That's how it's done," lectured the blogger ignorantly. Likewise, Matt Yglesias, an articulate liberal voice at The American Prospect, who belittled Marshall Wittmann's call for moral clarity as a phrase never used "unironically" anymore. No wonder Democrats are perceived to have a values problem.

My liberal friends are quick to point out that the left's chief grievance is with the war in Iraq, not the war on terror. But what does it do for the image of the Democratic Party -- not to mention the thinking of rank and file Democrats -- when some of our most skilled commentators use a moment of unambiguous terror to first find fault with an American policy (unseating Saddam Hussein) rather than first condemning the terrorists? It's both morally wrong and politically dumb. These musings in the left-wing blogosphere may be read regularly by only a few thousand people, but they seep into the intellectual bloodstream of the Democratic Party. They once again place Democrats on the wrong side of the ultimate issue of our time: winning the war on terror.

Peter Ross Range, DLC's Blueprint Magazine

"Now, I know the DLC has taken some shots from some within our party, and that it has returned fire too," she told the gathering in Columbus. "Well, I think it's high time for a cease-fire — time for all Democrats to work together based on the fundamental values we all share."

Hillary Clinton, new head of DLC's "American Dream Initiative", speaking at DLC gathering in Columbia, OH, July 25, 2005

Dear DLC: Michael Moore and are on OUR side. The Democrats side. They raise money for Democratic candidates. They promote and defend Democratic as well as democratic causes. They help the opposing party to oppose. When you criticize Democrats and Democratic organizations and leaders, you aren't helping. When you figure that out, let us know.

Monday, July 25, 2005

Purple Hearts are Off Limits Once More

During the 2004 Republican convention, when Republicans wanted to dispense with John Kerry, conventioneers mocked Purple Heart awards. Anybody could get them. You didn't even have to be injured. They were meaningless.

Remember this?

And this?

But now, the convention and campaign are over, and the media and veterans groups can go back to being concerned about how the Purple Heart is revered.

I'm glad we got that straightened out.

Seems I don't remember much outrage from veterans groups when the Republicans did their dishonorable routine. But a movie, ah yes, that must be confronted.

It's Piling Up Fast

Republican Senator Pat Roberts, the chairman of the Intelligence Committee, thinks exposing the identities of covert CIA agents is bad, generally, except when his party does it, and except in those cases in which the agent in question isn't on super duper double secret background covert status:

"You cannot be in the business of outing somebody" working under cover, Mr. Roberts said. He said, however, there were questions about the depth of Ms. Wilson's cover, because she had been based at the Virginia headquarters of the Central Intelligence Agency at least since 1997.

"I must say from a common-sense standpoint, driving back and forth to work to the C.I.A. headquarters, I don't know if that really qualifies as being, you know, covert," Mr. Roberts said. "But generically speaking, it is a very serious matter."

Good God.

But have no fear, ye concerned about the Plame-Rove leak. There will be an official, approved, sanctioned investigation by the government--of how the CIA protects or doesn't protect its agents that are super duper double secret background probation covert operators:

The Senate Intelligence Committee will conduct hearings on American spy agencies' use of cover to protect the identities of intelligence officers, the committee chairman said on Sunday.


Ms. Wilson's C.I.A. job was first revealed in a column by Robert D. Novak on July 14, 2003, eight days after her husband, Joseph C. Wilson IV, publicly accused the White House of twisting intelligence to exaggerate the threat from Iraq and justify war. Mr. Novak used Ms. Wilson's maiden name, Valerie Plame, and attributed his information to "two senior administration officials." A special prosecutor is investigating whether anyone illegally leaked Ms. Wilson's status or lied to cover up the leak.

Two top White House officials - Karl Rove, President Bush's top political adviser, and I. Lewis Libby Jr., Vice President Dick Cheney's chief of staff - spoke to reporters about the Wilsons in the week before the publication of Mr. Novak's column. Both men have denied being the original source of the leak.

Some Republicans have minimized the significance of the disclosure of Ms. Wilson's identity, noting not only her working at C.I.A. headquarters but also the fact that she did not have an in-depth cover story: her purported employer, a shell company created by the agency, was little more than a Boston post office box. They have also questioned whether the 1982 Intelligence Identities Protection Act applied to her, because the law applies only to officers who have served overseas under cover in the previous five years.

But agency officials apparently believe that the law does apply to Ms. Wilson, possibly because she took overseas business trips in the five years before 2003. The C.I.A. sought an investigation, and the Justice Department and Patrick J. Fitzgerald, the special prosecutor, concurred in choosing to pursue the case.

A number of Ms. Wilson's former colleagues have spoken out in recent days, saying the exposure of her cover was a serious offense.

In a letter to Congressional leaders last week, 11 former intelligence officers said that even if the law was not violated, "we believe it is appropriate for the president to move proactively to dismiss from office or administratively punish any official who participated in any way in revealing Valerie Plame's status." The letter added, "Such an act by the president would send an unambiguous message that leaks of this nature will not be tolerated."

Larry C. Johnson, a former C.I.A. analyst who organized the letter, said in an interview that "there are lives on the line" in the leak of an operative's identity, because foreigners known to have met with the operative may come under suspicion.

But another former C.I.A. officer, Reuel Marc Gerecht, called Ms. Wilson's cover "very, very soft" and said cover "is the Achilles' heel of the agency." He said cover is too often easily penetrated by foreign intelligence agencies.

Michael from AmericaBlog says, "No duh!"

It hardly needs to be penetrated by foreign intelligence when Rove leaks the info to the press.

Sunday, July 24, 2005

Russ Feingold, Progressive

Last week I talked about Evan Bayh's potential candidacy and his appearance on C-Span's Road to the Whitehouse. Although I think Bayh may offer Democrats a solid candidate in 2008, he isn't the progressive I'd prefer.

Perhaps Russ Feingold is. Over at Swing State Project, there have been a couple of good posts about Feingold along with a link to his PAC, all of which indicate of the potential 2008 field, Feingold would most likely be the strongest, if not the only real, progressive (besides Edwards) in the race. Just coming of his second divorce, Republicans will undoubtedly strive to make a big deal about his supposed character defects. And that could be a real barrier to his candidacy, although many Republicans themselves, including some who might try out in 2008 (Newt, I'm thinking of you) would also have some uncomfortable questions to answer about their marriage lives as well.

In any event, Feingold has some well-known progressive credentials; providing the only Senate vote against the Patriot Act, co-sponsoring campaign finance reform legislation, and most recently, it would appear, helping to lead what movement may exist for withdrawing troops from Iraq.

It may be modest, but it's about as good as it gets for progressives. As is the case with most of the other candidates, we will be in a better position to know who's running and how strong a contender they will be after the 2006 elections. For now, we'll stay tuned.

Note: HRC is on C-Span's Road to the White House this week.

The New American Militarism

I've been chugging through Andrew Bacevich's book. Bacevich is a self-described social conservative, and probably could be considered a traditional conservative in the sense in which one is not a revolutionary, where one seeks to conserve something, a society that one believes to be valuable.

Which is perhaps why he is critical of the new ambitious militarism typified by the war on Iraq. And as our most recent escapade, the war on Iraq is the setting for the book and serves as the effect created by the cause of militarism. But the militarism Bacevich describes is one that can't be blamed on any particular administration, and isn't limited to the most recent quagmire. Rather, it is driven by a merging of forces inside and outside the government and military.

Some of the outside forces Bacevich identifies as leading to a greater American militarism are the conservative evangelicals, the Norman Podhoretz-led neo-conservatives, the new breed of game theorists and other Best and the Brightest, as well as the military itself. I'll save a discussion of Bacevich's view of the neo conservatives and the Best and the Brightest for another day. For now, I'll summarize what Bacevich has to say about the contribution to militarism of the evangelical leadership.

In his chapter on evangelicals, Bacevich provides a good introduction and summary to the movement as a whole as well as its military-glorifying aspects. He gives the movement's starting point as the formation of the National Association of Evangelicals in the 1940's. According to Bacevich, the NAE started as a response to the void existing between religion and politics because of the 1925 Scopes trial. But after WWII, the Cold War and perceived threat from communism provided the movement with an extra reason to be. It was of course around this time that Billy Graham first became famous, helping to create not only a new religious experience in America, but also to begin the process of radically changing the relationship between religion and politics. Then came the 1960's and the politics of resentment flowing from the sexual revolution, the Supreme Court decisions on school prayer, and the broader loosening in society of connections to family and authority. But of equal importance according to Bacevich was the evangelical concern for the nation's military standing and public attitudes toward the military.

Evangelical concerns with the military came from two primary issues. The first is with the evangelical vision of the role America is to play in end time events and in particular, in the support for Israel that America has provided and which according to much of the Evangelical world, is a necessary prerequisite for the coming of Christ's kingdom on earth.

The second reason for the embrace of the military by evangelicals was the belief that the military, as an institution obstensibly rooted in rules and respect for authority, was the type of organization that exemplified the values that evangelicals held dear and which the new movement thought could be used to reform society, correcting the apparent abuses and licentiousness that the 1960's had spawned.

So in contrast to other religious groups and traditional denominations (some of which disdained the military not only for its relation to war and carnage but also due to its reputation for encouraging liscentious and profane behavior), evangelicals embraced the military and supported American military endeavors in Vietnam and elsewhere as being a part of God's plan. Their support for the military and political leaders that embraced that view has been critical, according to Bacevich, for creating the new American militarism.

While I appreciate Bacevich's insight about the role evangelical elites play in influencing the political elite as well as shaping the political behavior of their own constitutients, Bacevich, like a lot of other conservatives, I believe understates (actually ignores) the impact of race and civil rights issues on the changes that came with the 1960's and which I believe created so much resentment among middle and upper class whites. And the evangelical movement was itself heavily influenced and motivated by the changes in society driven by civil rights.

Beyond this religious factor, Bacevich's book provides progressives with a balanced and nuanced perpective of the factors shaping the military and what opponents of the new American militarism can do (or what steps they can at least advocate) in reversing the development. In future posts I'll summarize his treatment of the neo conservatives and give an outline of what Bacevich recommends to deal with the problems presented by the new American militarism.

What do the (suicide) terrorists want?

I wanted to respond to this op-ed placed in the NYT on Friday from someone presumably sent out by the "war on terror" guardians to damper any interest the media might have in Robert Pape's book Dying to Win. I made some comments over at Steve's No More Mister Nice Blog perch but thought I would expand on those thoughts here.

The op-eder argues that the terrorists aren't attacking us (London, U.S., Spain) because of Iraq, but because they want to destroy western civilization. How does he know this? Why, because the terrorists attacked us on 9-11 before we were in Iraq. So there.

In Dying to Win, Pape argues that, based on empirical data from the terrorist attacks and the sucide terrorist attackers, suicide terrorism is about expelling western, democratic governments from the lands the attackers are from or identify with. Pape also argues that suicide terrorism is an instrument of last and limited resort, after or because other tactics are not working or accessible. The history of suicide terrorism also indicates that when occupying democratic governments withdraw their forces from the foreign land (either as a direct or indirect response to the suicide terrorist attacks), that the suicide terrorism against that government by that group ceases. Such was the case with the terrorist group Hezbollah in Lebanon. Hezbollah "pioneered" the use of suicide terrorism in the early 1980's and other diverse (i.e. some Muslim, some non-Muslim) groups adapted the same strategy. In the case of Lebanon, a suicide attack on U.S. Marine barracks in 1983 led Ronald Reagan to withdraw U.S. troops from that country. With no U.S. military presence remaining in Lebanon after the attack, Hezbollah had no further reasons to attack U.S. representatives there.

Meanwhile, Al Qaeda began its attacks on the West during the 1990's, AFTER the U.S. had stationed troops in Saudi Arabia to guard against any military aggression by Saddam Hussein's Iraq. Al Qaeda has stated that the presence of military forces in their holy lands is one of, if not the primary basis for Al Qaeda's actions. So yes, Al Qaeda was attacking the west before Iraq, but primarily because of the U.S. military presence in that region.

So, would Al Qaeda withdraw its fatwa against the west and cease support for acts of terrorism directed at the West if the West withdrew its military? While we can't say for sure, the empirical evidence from Pape suggests that it would. Or at the least, that support for suicide terrorism would diminish.

The connection between suicide terrorism and foreign occupation that Pape makes is a critical one, for at least two reasons.

The first is that the NYT op-eder says the occupation-terrorist connection is false because terrorist plotters have been foiled in Spain since the deadly attacks in that country and after Spain has withdrawn its military from Iraq.

I'll leave it to the op-eder to provide more information on the foiled plots in Spain should he desire later, but his reference to them didn't specify whether the attacks were designed to be suicide attacks or not. From the Pape perspective this is a critical distinction. While there may be no way to eliminate all forms of terrorism, the data according to Pape suggest that suicide terrorism, being a last resort, would probably not continue in the absence of a recognized grievance. And with no military occupation, it would be difficult to enlist suicide attack participants and to maintain the community support necessary for such attacks. While its possible that Al Qaeda wannabes might continue to attack with less discretion, suicide terrorism is a strategy of obvious personal catastrophe for the participants. Without a clear purpose, suicide terrorism would be much harder to plan and less appealing for terrorist organizations.

The second point goes to what the suicide terrorists want. The NYT op-eder is vague as to what Al Qaeda's purpose is in its so-called global jihad, if it isn't removal of foreign troops from Islamic land. The closest he comes is this phrase:

They find it (their cause) in the dream of a virtual, universal ummah.

I'm not sure what this means, but again, suicide terrorism is not something one is going to take lightly or for some vague or highly unachievable goal. The "clash of civilization" terrorism theorists undoubtedly see in Al Qaeda's statements and strategies a mission to destroy the western world. But is this feasible? Does it make sense for Al Qaeda (or another terrorist group) to appeal for community support and self-sacrifice to attempt such an overwhelming task? If you consider the support needed in the community, and the continuous stream of recruits suicide terrorism requires, I would suggest that it does not.

But if the goal is smaller, more precise, such as expelling foreign troops from holy or treasured land, than support for and participation in suicide terrorism would be more attainable for the sponsoring organization.

It may be that Al Qaeda's references to U.S. military occupation of Islamic lands is a ruse, propoganda to recruit members for an anti-western jihad and global domination. But Pape's data, and a review of our history in the region would suggest that alternatives in the "war on terror" should be open for consideration.