Tuesday, November 29, 2005


Why It Is Important to Lie About Sex,
Norman Horowitz,CBS, Huffington Post. 11/29/05

Having lied myself about sex, I still find it incredible that our nation was torn apart because the president lied about sex. Should he have lied? Of course not, but he did and it was, as they say, “no harm, no foul.”

As an entertainment executive, I have noticed that many people lie whenever the opportunity presents itself. The lies were told in situations that the liar believed that he was gaining something or many times just because he could.

I worked for such a man. When I once caught him in a whopper, I so lost it that in front of a restaurant and a bunch of people, I screamed at him, “The problem I have with you is that lying is so ingrained in whom you are that you are not even aware that you are doing it.”

Scout’s honor, his reply was “Yes, but let me explain why I lied.”

I believe that one of the things that happen to people who have significant power is that they lie about small things in the beginning, and as no one calls them on it, the lies grow in significance and complexity.

I listen carefully to many of the cable news networks (except Fox). I am chagrined when almost everyone is asked: “Did the president or vice president lie about events leading up to the war?” It seems that everyone gives a “worm” answer instead of just saying, “Yes they did.” It appears that the broadcast media is still so intimidated by the president and vice president that I have not seen one use of the reasonable expression “Yes, they LIED.”

I believe that the president and vice president continue to lie because they are allowed to get away with it.

How many times can the president suggest that the Congress knew as much as the administration concerning events leading up to the war?

How many times can he say, “ We are pursuing a noble cause?”

How many times can he just say, “Stay the course”?

How many times can he say, “We cannot cut and run”?

If I ever had the chance, I would ask the three broadcast network anchorpersons, “Would it be possible for you to call the president or the vice president a liar during your news broadcast? If you did, do you think that you would be fired?”

It was more then 20 years ago that I asked Eric Severeid about his CBS commentaries, and he maintained that he had only been criticized by his management four times for what he had said. He was very upset when I suggested the possibility that he played by the unwritten rules at the network News Division, and if he did not he would have been gone.

Bill Moyers, formerly of PBS "Now" program, tells what happened and why he is now "outa there"

(also see the web site: Media Matters)

Moyers Has His Say
By John Eggerton
Broadcasting & Cable

Monday 28 November 2005

Former NOW host, Bill Moyers, on media bias and his feud with former CPB Chairman Ken Tomlinson.

Bill Moyers became the central figure in absentia in the controversy surrounding former Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB) Chairman Kenneth Tomlinson. It was Tomlinson who pointed to Moyers' NOW newscast on PBS as a chief reason for his efforts to bring "balance" to public broadcasting by adding conservative shows. Moyers has since left NOW and is currently president of the Schumann Center for Media & Democracy. He spoke with B&C's John Eggerton in the wake of a CPB Inspector General report concluding Tomlinson had violated the law by dealing directly with a programmer during the creation of a show to balance Moyers' program.

You are the exemplar of liberal PBS bias, according to Ken Tomlinson. Was your show liberally biased?

Right-wing partisans like Tomlinson have always attacked aggressive reporting as liberal.

We were biased, all right - in favor of uncovering the news that powerful people wanted to keep hidden: conflicts of interest at the Department of Interior, secret meetings between Vice President Cheney and the oil industry, backdoor shenanigans by lobbyists at the FCC, corruption in Congress, neglect of wounded veterans returning from Iraq, Pentagon cost overruns, the manipulation of intelligence leading to the invasion of Iraq.

We were way ahead of the news curve on these stories, and the administration turned its hit men loose on us.

Tomlinson actually told The Washington Post that he was irate over one of our documentary reports from a small town in Pennsylvania hard-hit by outsourcing.

If reporting on what's happening to ordinary people thrown overboard by circumstances beyond their control and betrayed by Washington officials is liberalism, I stand convicted.

It is an old canard of right-wing ideologues like Tomlinson to equate tough journalism with liberalism. They hope to distract people from the message by trying to discredit the messenger.

NOW threw the fear of God into Tomlinson's crowd because they couldn't dispute the accuracy of our reporting.

And when we weren't reporting the truth behind the news, we were interviewing a wide variety of people: Ralph Reed and Ralph Nader; Cal Thomas and Molly Ivins; Robert Bartley, editor of the Wall Street Journal; Katrina Vandenheuval, editor of The Nation; The Conservative Union's David Keene; Dorothy Rabinowitz (also of the Wall Street Journal); Charles Lewis of the Center for Public Integrity; the Club for Growth's Stephen Moore; historian Howard Zinn; and Indian activist Arundhati Roy. And on and on.

Did you get any direct pressure from Tomlinson or CPB to change the content of your show?

The people at PBS told me they were getting excruciating pressure because of our reporting, including threats to de-fund public television unless "Moyers is dealt with." They never identified the source of that pressure.

We know now it was Tomlinson. [Tomlinson] even told some people [we have confirmed it with two people who were present] that "Moyers is a coward because he doesn't want to talk to people who disagree with him."

Hello? See the above list of all the conservatives who appeared on the show.

What happened to the debate idea between you two?

I asked him repeatedly. He refused. He didn't even respond. But when all this started to unfold early last year, I asked three times to meet with the CPB board and try to find out what was going on.

I thought we could reason together and maybe agree on how to cooperate to protect Public Broadcasting's independence. I mean, I not only read the Public Broadcasting Act of 1967, I helped to create it. CPB's job was to be a firewall between guys like them and the producers, journalists, and content of public broadcasting.

I thought at the time that I was dealing with people who cared about this institution. I didn't realize they had gone over to the dark side.

What prompted your departure from NOW?

I needed a break, and I also sensed that we were up against serial abusers and that I could fight back more effectively if I weren't on the air.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Woodward's Hypocrisy: "Woodwardism" --A Letter to Washington Post Ombudsman.

Letter to Deborah Howell,
Ombudsman at the Washington Post
November 21, 2005

"There ought to be clear rules. . ". For God's sake there are, and please do not pretend otherwise.

Woodward's concealment and hypocrisy
(there is no other word suitable, we should say unconscionable hypocrisy, since he is a reporter and supposedly an epitome of good journalism and supposedly a model for others), is, in fact,
a disaster
for the reputation of journalism,.
depending as it does on an expectation
of objective reporting,
by which people, the people,
the ordinary people,
have the RIGHT to the truth.
This is especially true in our current context
when we have the Bush White House
paying reporters to slant the news, and
the sad example of the New York Times
and Judith Miller, in bed with and seduced by power.

Let us say it more clearly:
Woodward has become, by his unconsionable hypocrisy (continued public criticism of the case in which he was intimately involved)
has become a
an unbelievable disaster
for the reputation of journalism.

Scolding editorials, hand-slapping
are simply not enough.
You are all still entranced by
his aura and fame, and that he
is One of Yours.

Let me put it in moral terms,
since it is a moral issue:
There is no greater mortal sin
than what Woodward has done.

He has used his reputation to
conceal, judge and even to smear
via his critical remarks about Fitzgerald.

Let history assess his career
ultimately. The Post must do what is
right for the reputation and respectability
not only of itself but for

The honor of journalism is at stake here.

Please accept your responsibility. If you do not, this case, in the culture of corporate take over of media, and broadcast infortainment, can become a stake in the
heart of Journalism.

"Woodwardism:" Neologism: when your fame is broad, even if you are a journalist, you are entitled to excuse yourself from honesty and to publicly comment on a case in which you are secretly involved.

Context: A step in the year of 2005 in the decay of objective journalism under the Bush White House, when elite journalists, allowed to work without accountability, demonstated the corruption of public trust by their own complicit seduction and beholding to political power.
This lack of accountabity at every level accelerated the loss of public trust
in journalism.

Paschal Baute
Lexington, Ky
www.paschalbaute.com/writing/ see appropriate blog
Old Salty Dog: Politics, Morals and Culture.

Why John Murtha is Right, Opinion by Larry Johnson.

Why John Murtha Is Right!
By Larry Johnson
Booman Tribune

Friday 18 November 2005

John Murtha's courageous call for American troops to leave Iraq is the right policy at the right time. The Bush chickenhawks already are impugning Murtha's patriotism, but when you have a purple heart and a silver star compared to a President with a spotty attendance record with the National Guard and a Vice President with five deferments, that dog don't hunt.

The situation in Iraq is clear. The United States does not have enough troops on the ground to contain and destroy the insurgency. The Iraqi insurgency consists of at least 26 different groups and draws upon as many as 250,000 supporters. These groups represent a spectrum of beliefs ranging from secular nationalists to hard core jihadists. The only thing they agree on is that they hate the invader; which is us.

To defeat the insurgency we will need at least 400,000 troops on the ground. At the present time, the United States does not have sufficient troop strength to ramp up to that level. Our choice is simple - either we come up with the additional forces and commit ourselves to an effort that will stretch on for at least five years with 400,000 plus soldiers and marines in theatre or we withdraw

How do we get 400,000 troops on the ground? That will require a draft or a commitment by NATO forces and other countries to provide forces. Even if we start a draft tomorrow, we will not be able to field combat capable divisions for at least two years. Basic training requires 10 weeks. Advance infantry training adds an additional six months. Once the troops are trained they need to train as units. The unit training, starting with companies and working up to division level exercises, will require at least 18 months (and that is an optimistic scenario).

In the interim we would need to call upon NATO forces to deploy to Iraq and conduct a coordinated counter insurgency effort. This effort, over the next two years, will likely produce at least 10,000 fatalities and 80,000 wounded. Are we willing as a country to pay that price? I don't think so.

Meanwhile, our efforts on the ground are succeeding in killing and capturing a large number of suspected insurgents. But our kill capture effort is producing a blowback - Iraqis who are incarcerated and the surviving relatives of those killed respond to our effort by joining the insurgents. Instead of reducing the insurgency our efforts are providing a catalyst that recruits new insurgents faster than we can kill them.

There also is no doubt that our efforts are providing a recruiting poster for jihadists. Last year, for example, the number of terrorist attacks that resulted in people being killed and wounded was the highest number ever recorded since the CIA started keeping statistics in 1968. The Al Qaeda groups have reduced the planning time required for mass casualty attacks. Prior to 9-11, Al Qaeda carried out such attacks every 18 months. Now, they are able to mount operations in only three or four months. The trend line is going in the wrong direction

I see no political will on the part of the American public to accept a draft and to accept 90,000 casualties during the next four years. The elections in December will not produce a political outcome that will persuade the various insurgents to lay down their weapons and focus their energies on political debate in a legislature and in newspapers.

Our best alternative is to withdraw from Iraq and establish covert relations with the secular insurgents. Over the long run our interest as a nation is to prevent the religious jihadists from consolidating their control over Iraq and forging a closer relationship with Iran. The question is not, will there be a civil war? A civil war is already underway. Rather, the proper question is what can we do as a nation to protect our longterm interests?

We have two key long term strategic interests. First, we want to promote a secular society. The current Iraqi constitution enshrines the Quran as the law of the land and encourages sectarian strife. Second, we must enlist the support of Russia, China, Europe, and the Muslim nations in rooting out and destroying the jihadists. Most of that effort can be handled with intelligence and law enforcement work rather than military operations. The Beatles had it right - we can get by with some help from our friends.

Given these facts, John Murtha is right. We must withdraw, sooner rather than later, from Iraq. Otherwise, we will find ourselves in a quagmire reminiscent of Vietnam. Only this time, the jihadists who are carrying out urban combat operations will be equipped and trained through their experience to carry out future attacks against our interests around the world. John Murtha and Chuck Hagel are patriots who understand this dilemma. We have lit a fuse on the next generation of jihadist terrorism. We must douse the fuse with water, and put it out sooner rather than later.

Larry C. Johnson is CEO and co-founder of BERG Associates, LLC, an international business-consulting firm that helps corporations and governments manage threats posed by terrorism and money laundering. Mr. Johnson, who worked previously with the Central Intelligence Agency and US State Department's Office of Counter Terrorism (as a Deputy Director), is a recognized expert in the fields of terrorism, aviation security, crisis and risk management. Mr. Johnson has analyzed terrorist incidents for a variety of media including the Jim Lehrer News Hour, National Public Radio, ABC's Nightline, NBC's Today Show, the New York Times, CNN, Fox News, and the BBC. Mr. Johnson has authored several articles for publications, including Security Management Magazine, the New York Times, and The Los Angeles Times. He has lectured on terrorism and aviation security around the world.

Sunday, November 20, 2005


16,000 Gather at Post, Maintain Peaceful Vigil
By Harry Franklin
The Columbus Ledger-Enquirer

Sunday 20 November 2005

Note to Centeral Kentucky residents: This is the event that our sister Janice Sevre-Dusyhinska (sp?) joined previously to protest and spent several months in the Federal prison here for civil disobedience, and for which the local Peace and Justice community protested her firing from the Public School system. She visited my Midway College class earlier this fall to talk about her experience in this and her public witness to Roman Catholic hierarchy on ordination for women.

Adriana Portillo Bartow has been back to her native Guatemala 15 times since members of her family disappeared more than 20 years ago, never to be heard from again.

"My father and the other adults were tortured and killed," Bartow said. "The bodies were dumped so we would never find them. I hoped my daughters and sister were spared."

Bartow, who now lives in Chicago, was among the record 16,000 protesters who gathered Saturday near the main gate of Fort Benning to protest the U.S. Army's Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation. She said the officers responsible for her family's disappearance were trained at the former School of the Americas.

Columbus police Chief Ricky Boren said the crowd exceeded last year's assembly of 12,400 protesters.

While the focus of protesters is on working to close the institute, the 16th annual event drew protesters, vendors and media from many parts of the world, including an Italian making a documentary.

Through it all, the event remained peaceful.

"It's been quiet and orderly," said Boren as the event was winding down late Saturday afternoon. "We've had no problems, no arrests."

Protesters came to hear from leaders about many issues, from protecting Mother Earth to songs about President George W. Bush. They heard speeches about unions working to raise the wages of farm workers and boycotting U.S. corporations - including Coca-Cola - for not treating their workers well.

They heard from Bartow, a Guatemalan rights activist who shared her own Sept. 11 story.

She said the Guatemalan Army first killed her 23-year-old brother in 1981. Two months later, on Sept. 11, personnel from the national police and the army came to her father's home and his place of work in two simultaneous military operations.

"They detained my father, my stepmother, my 18-month-old sister and my two daughters. We never saw them or heard from them again," Bartow said. "They interrogated me. I don't know how long. They denied my father and daughters were at the house. For three years I couldn't do anything because I was terrified my other two daughters would be taken away from me. That was a common thing."

She ended up in the United States seeking help from the U.S. government and said officials later told her they had information but could not share it with her because of national security.

Bartow said she has met with the United Nations Truth Commission and its Committee Against Torture and even filed a lawsuit against the Guatemalan officers she said she knows gave the orders, but the lawsuit was dismissed. She said there is clear evidence the officers were trained at the former School of the Americas at Fort Benning. That's why she has joined the protest and hasn't given up on finding out what happened to them.

Matt Smucker, a volunteer and former staffer of the SOA Watch, said he came to "shed a light on an aspect of U.S. foreign policy that is really out of line with my values and the values of most Americans, the value of justice."

He said it's important to see the secret CIA detention centers that have been in the news, and the abuse at Abu Ghraib Prison in Iraq. "We're here to say zero tolerance for torture. Violation of basic human rights principles have no place in foreign policy."

Speakers included union leaders from the Unites States and Latin countries; the moderator of the Presbyterian Church, USA; a pastor and representative of the Florida Rainbow/PUSH Coalition; sweatshop protesters; a former prisoner who had been jailed for crossing into Fort Benning during previous protests; authors; and many others.

Day of Festivity

For many young people there, largely college and high school students bused in from across the country, it was a day of festivity. Many danced and sang as musicians performed onstage close to the high barricade that prevents entry onto the post.

The music was very telling.

"Going to lay down my sword and shield, Down by the riverside;... Ain't going to study war no more," one song rang out.

"Going to close the SOA, Never turning back; Going to send you peace and justice, Never turning back," one singer resounded.

Folk musician Steve Jacobs bellowed, "Who Let the Hogs Out?"

"When I grow up I want to be a war profiteer," he sang, and the audience replied, "Oink, oink, oink."

"They can't find Osama and they can't find the truth; They'll call a man a terrorist, 'cause that's what they do best," Jacobs sang, with the same audience reply. A long line of vendor tables offered books, brochures and fliers, Central American crafts such as hand-made sweaters and painted wood crafts, and foods of many kinds.

Bumper stickers and badges promoting all kinds of issues drew a lot of attention. Slogans included "Support Organic Farming," "Support Palestine," "Friends Don't Let Friends Vote Republican," "Behind Every Successful Woman Is Herself," and others.

The Puppetistas also made their showing. Protesters bearing locusts, paper maché heads of Latin political figures, flowers, emblems, and carrying flags with automatic weapons displays and other items were used to remind protesters of the deaths of Catholic nuns and others they say were slain by soldiers and officers trained at the former Fort Benning school.

Joe Rowley, 24, of St. Louis, a third-year student at Eden Theological Seminary, attended with the school's Social Justice Committee. "I'm here because at the seminary, we believe that Jesus Christ embodied justice and nonviolent resistance," he said. "We're representing our faith by working for justice."

"I'm here because I've heard about the SOA for a while," said Sara Beth Stoltzfus, 18, a student at Juniata College, Huntington, Pa. "So far, there's wonderful people to talk to. I've heard many not-so-great things about what they're doing at the Fort Benning school. I'm looking to get educated. I think there's great hope of closing it."

Sister Pat Hoffman, 74, of San Francisco, came to her second event. "I'm here to help close the SOA," she said. "We have a martyr in our group. She was killed in the Amazon, trying to help the people of the Amazon region save their houses. She was targeted as a troublemaker - Sister Dorothy Stang. We're absolutely sure soldiers from Brazil who were involved trained here... . There has to be something to it for all these people to come here for years."

Saturday, November 19, 2005

A Moral Diaster of Monumental Proportions, by Bryan Lentz, Nov 19.

The holiday spirit is clearly not alive and well in Washington, DC.

Early this morning, so-called Republican moderates showed their true colors by falling in line with Tom Delay and approving $7.8 billion in loan cuts to college students, $4.9 billion in cuts to child support enforcement, $11.4 billion in Medicaid cuts, and a $796 million reduction in food stamp funding.
Later today we can expect them to add insult to injury by approving $57 billion in new tax cuts, most of which benefit households with annual incomes of over $1 million.

The voters of my congressional district in southeast Pennsylvania should be particularly outraged because our congressman -- and my Republican opponent -- Rep. Curt Weldon, cast the deciding vote for this heartless and irresponsible measure.

Make no mistake about it. This plan isn't moderate. It isn't mainstream. It isn't even conservative. It's radical, it's selfish, and it's cruel.

Because of the Republican budget plan, 295,000 people, many of them working poor, will lose their access to food stamps, millionaires will get yet another tax break from the Republican Congress, and the federal budget deficit will increase by anywhere between $7 billion and $35 billion, depending on the final outcome of the budget reconciliation process.

Perversely, one of the prime targets of this so-called austerity package is children. Remember that in families living below the poverty line, child support accounts for 25 percent of total household income. The Republican budget plan will enable deadbeat parents to avoid child care payments estimated at $21 billion and will literally prevent thousands of kids from getting the minimum food, shelter and clothing they need to survive.

The Republican budget reconciliation plan also allows states to cut diagnostic and preventative care for upwards of 6 million kids nationwide; it cuts $577 million in foster care assistance; and it slashes $732 million in supplementary assistance to the elderly and disabled.

The National Council of Churches has blasted the Republican budget cuts as "a moral disaster of monumental proportions." The National Advocacy Center of the Sisters of the Good Shepherd has warned Congress that private charity cannot "substitute for the critical role of the government in providing for the general welfare."

Religious leaders and community activists understand that our child poverty rate -- one of every six children -- is a crime. The Republicans just don't seem to get it.

This week's shameful budget vote brings into sharp relief the urgent need for change.

Please join me in working to overturn the reckless and extremist polices of the Republican Congress. Together, we can give America the responsible government it deserves.

I am running for Congress in Pennsylvania. See my blog at

Friday, November 18, 2005

Guest speaker Rabbi Jack Moline, Interfaith Alliance annual dinner, Nov 7, 2005, Lexington, KY

Guest Speaker:
Rabbi Jack Moline, Agudas Achin Congregation of Northern Virginia, Email jmoline@usa.com
Talk at the annual convention of the Interfaith Alliance, Bluegrass, Christ Church Episcopal, Novermber 17, 2005, Lexington, KY.

I am just so pleased and honored to be speaking with you tonight. I have my own congregation in Virginia, so I am never without an audience for my thoughts, but the chance to speak on behalfal of The Interfaith Alliance is a special pleasure. The work we do, the work you do, is nothing less than essential to an America that preserves the integrity of both the Constitution and the multitude of religious communities that make up our one nation of many faiths. On behalf of the national organization, I applaud your work here in bluegrass country, part of the very heart of America. I hope every one of you has joined the local chapter of The Interfaith Alliance. I hope also that you have answered the invitation of Welton Gaddy and Walter Cronkite and, well Jack Moline, to become members of The Interfaith Alliance nationally. You can imagine the pride you will feel on January 15 when Air America Radio premieres its weekly hour-long program on progressive religion and public policy, produced by TIA and hosted by Dr. Gaddy.

I had a choice to make tonight. Should I speak to the victories we have achieved and make you feel good about the grass-roots and national efforts in our campaign, victories especially significant as we celebrate the Roman Catholic Church’s magnificent self-reflection, Nostra Aetate, on its 40th anniversary? Or should I speak to the excesses of those hard to our right who would pollute the autonomy of both the Constitution and faith? The answer is neither. You don’t need a cheerleader and you don’t need a fear-monger. I think what we need – all of us – is a chance to reflect on why we do what we do.

So my goal tonight is to talk for too long about religion and politics and how your faith should inform your politics. I want to do so by illustrating how my faith informs my politics. It’s not about policies, it is about perspective. It is not about policies, it is about process. It is not about policies, it is about purpose – the very purpose of being an American of faith, whatever that faith may be.

So I want to begin by sharing a piece of Talmud with you. For the unfamiliar, the Talmud is a collection of teachings from the rabbis who were the architects of the Judaism we practice today. They lived over the course of six centuries and left a treasure trove of legal rulings, axioms for life and, most important for our purpose tonight, midrash– homilies and interpretive commentaries.

This particular midrash discusses the Oven of Akhnai. The story itself concerns an oven that was constructed out of removable tiles. We don’t know if it was a style of oven called the Akhnai or if it was invented by a guy named Akhnai or if it was manufactured by the Akhnai Oven Company. But because it was something new to the rabbis in the first century of the common era, they debated about whether or not such an oven was clean or unclean.

Now, understand that clean and unclean – or in Hebrew, tahor and tamei – were not hygienic categories. The question instead was about ritual categories. Rabbi Eliezer ben Hyrcanus, the head of the academy, declared that the oven fit the category of tahor, clean. The rest of the sages – both his colleagues and his students – declared the oven tamei, unclean. And having reported that argument, the Talmud continues with this story (BM 59b):

On that day R. Eliezer brought forward every imaginable argument, but they did not accept them. He said to them: 'If the law agrees with me, let this carob tree prove it!' With that, the carob tree jumped a hundred cubits out of its place -- others affirm, four hundred cubits. 'No proof can be brought from a carob tree,' they retorted.

Again he said to them: 'If the law agrees with me, let the stream of water prove it!'
Whereupon, the stream of water flowed backwards. 'No proof can be brought from a
stream of water' they rejoined.

Again he urged: if the law agrees with me, let the walls of the study hall prove it;' with that, the walls inclined to fall.

But R. Joshua rebuked them, saying: 'When scholars are engaged in a legal dispute, how do you presume to interfere?' Hence they did not fall in honor of R. Joshua, nor did they resume the upright, in honor of R. Eliezer; and they are still standing thus inclined

Again, he said to them: 'If the law agrees with me, let it be proved from Heaven!' With that, a Heavenly Voice cried out: 'Why do you dispute with R. Eliezer, seeing that in all matters the law agrees with him!' But R. Joshua arose and exclaimed: 'It is not in heaven.'

What did he mean by this? Said R. Jeremiah: That the Torah had already been given at Mount Sinai; we pay no attention to a Heavenly Voice, because You [, God,] have long since written in the Torah at Mount Sinai: After the majority must one incline.

I often teach this midrash as an illustration of the power that is vested in us as lovers of God’s word and students of God’s word. And I often sum it up by saying what many people consider revolutionary, but what I think is the essence of Jewish tradition: Torah says what we say Torah says.

But in preparing for these remarks, I have come to view this story in a slightly different light. Jewish tradition places a great premium on giving credit where credit is due, and I want to give credit to a scholar most of you never heard of – Professor Menachem Kellner of Haifa, previously of St. Louis. He illustrated this midrash in this way: taking two Styrofoam cups, he wrote tahor on one and tamei on the other. He then asked those of us at his lecture the status of the two cups. Any number of us hesitated. So he offered a second example.

An unmarried man and an unmarried woman have sexual relations in the morning. That same woman marries another man in the afternoon. That same night, the original unmarried man has relations with the now-married woman. What is the difference between the two examples of intimacy? Without hesitation, we answered that the second instance was adulterous. And Professor Kellner asked us what changed – that is, if the same two people are involved in the same action on the same day, how can one instance carry no penalty and the other make them liable for execution?

Now, those of you with a background in philosophy are light years ahead of me on this question. And those of you without such backgrounds are ready for a little nap. When you wake up, near the end of this keynote, I will give you the answer to the question. In the meantime, let’s talk about something else.

I don’t know about you, but I am scared to death of fundamentalist Muslims. I am sure that statement is politically incorrect, but I have to say it if I am going to be honest. How do I talk to people who organize the world into believers and infidels if I am not willing to cop to either category? It’s not just a difference of opinion, mind you. These folks believe that the world was created to become Muslim. They emphasize that the word “Islam” means “submission,” and that the proper role of any human being is to submit to the will of God, of Allah, as revealed in the sacred scripture, the Qur’an, and the explanatory life and teachings of the prophet Muhammed, peace be upon him. They selectively quote sacred writings to the end of excusing violence against those who would dare disagree.

I don’t know about you, but I think fundamentalist Christians are scary in the same way. I may joke about them when they talk about diverting hurricanes with the power of prayer or ascribe a touchdown or a home run to having Jesus on their side, but the extension of that same belief system gives some of them a sense of permission to physically wipe evil people – that is, non-believers – off the face of the earth. Ten years ago, my cousin Gary Romalis was fixing himself breakfast in his kitchen in Vancouver. Gary was a respected ob-gyn who helped thousands of women have the babies they wanted and hundreds of women terminate unwanted pregnancies. A Christian fundamentalist with a high-powered rifle was hiding in the alley behind his home, waiting for an opportunity. Thank God all he managed to do was shatter his leg. Unfortunately for Gary, four years later he was stabbed in the back as he entered his medical office, making him the first such doctor to survive two nearly fatal attacks.

Is every fundamentalist Muslim a terrorist? Is every fundamentalist Christian an assassin? Of course not. Most of them are just gently, quietly bigoted; perhaps they even feel compassion for those who do not share their certainty, quoting a doctrine of inclusive love to justify a practice of exclusivity and exclusion.

What draws people to such extreme beliefs? What enables them to justify actions that most people, religious and otherwise, understand to be crimes by any definition? What makes them so sure of their doctrine that they will violate it to uphold it?

Sociologically, you will probably get a variety of answers, most of them boiling down to an uncomfortably common phenomenon of human behavior. We do not like to be insecure. It may be the spirit of innovation and invention that drives history forward, but change drives people crazy. I know we like to point the finger at poverty and poor education and oppression, but the fact is that uncertainty is far more the culprit. People like things to be dependable, recognizable, consistent and therefore comforting.

Maybe that is why people who live in circumstances we would consider deprived will often claim to be happy. They do not deny their misery, but they feel that the really important things – community, family, home – mitigate their suffering. And perhaps that is why people who become suddenly wealthy or famous turn out to be unhappy. They have everything they think they ever wanted, except that their circumstances have changed to be alien and they have no grounding in community, family or home.

When insecurity threatens to overwhelm an individual or a group, the desire is to remove the source of the insecurity. And I suspect that the more structured and recognizable the social environment is, the more passionately is that sense of security defended. When the threat comes from inside, it must be expelled. When the threat comes from outside, it must be eliminated.

If you accept my analysis, don’t be too judgmental. We all have the same impulses; we just deal with them differently. You may remember, those of you old enough, a Sam Peckinpah movie called “Straw Dogs,” which starred Dustin Hoffman. It was released in 1971 at the height of the unrest in this country over matters of war and peace. Hoffman played a pacifist academic who moved from the United States to the English countryside because of the culture of violence he found objectionable in the USA. Taunted and tortured in his house by hostile neighbors, he responds with a barrage of inventive homemade weapons, screaming, “I will not have violence done to my home!”

We yearn to be secure, but we never are. There is always something, someone challenging the dependability of the world we have constructed for ourselves. It doesn’t matter if it is a natural phenomenon or a new idea, a stranger bent on havoc or a seductive friend, a rebellious child or a possessive parent. And if it isn’t any of those things, then it is our own restless hearts. From the beginning of time this has been our dilemma. That’s why our very first moment in human history involves eating from the forbidden tree and being expelled from Eden.

Religion – good religion – acknowledges this continuing tension between our desire for security and the fact that we never have it. Religion – good religion – gives us the tools to live well with shifting circumstances by living righteously, by striving to do the right thing in the right way. That is religion’s essential question: how do we tie all of this together properly, how do we live rightly?

Religion – bad religion – creates a false sense of security by denying that there is and should be change in the world, change in our lives. Religion – bad religion – sets up false absolutes and justifies everything in defense of those absolutes. It flees from religion’s essential question: how do we tie all of this together properly, how do we live rightly?

By the way, it is not just religion in the classical use of the term. The same is true of any ideology, including political ideologies. We all know that the goal of Communism was world domination, and that the imposition of its absolute – the State – justified all excesses against anyone and anything deemed a security risk. The regimentation of National Socialism in Germany appealed to an insecure German public and resulted in the most horrifying atrocities ever perpetrated against my people. Totalitarian dictators – Idi Amin, Augusto Pinochet, Saddam Hussein, to name just a few – create a standard of absolute obedience that justifies the worst abuses of human dignity and human rights in the name of their leadership. They all rise to power on the wings of insecurity by promising to address that most dominant of human concerns. Their strongest weapon is fear.

Yet we also know that those ideologies are not always evil. Communism in its purest form produced the kibbutz movement in Israel. The combination of regimentation and folk religion produced the disciplined Samurai who served honorably in their country. The second Temple would never have stood had it not been for Cyrus, sovereign king of Persia, who proclaimed – it’s in the Bible! -- “God has given me power over all the nations on earth!” and then charged the Jewish exiles to return to Jerusalem. And if you want a contemporary example, look only to King Abdallah II of Jordan, who believes he has absolute authority by divine right as a descendant of the prophet Muhammed, peace be upon him, who seeks what is best for his people and a reconciliation among the many nations in the Middle East.

It is neither religion nor ideology that is inherently the problem. It is when people confuse the means with the ends. We are no less guilty of that mistake as Americans than anyone else. Our founding fathers articulated a sense of government that affirmed the dignity and rights of all human beings and created a culture that could be self-critical and self-correcting as it pursued the path that has attracted citizens from around the world who want nothing more than to share in the American dream. Your forebears, my forebears came to these shores because of the promise of that founding vision. Yet, we have in the past and continue in the present to produce citizens, even leaders, who exploit the fears of our citizenry about security to justify violations of our own principles. When the threat comes from inside, it must be expelled. When the threat comes from outside, it must be eliminated.

I am a Jew and not a Muslim, not a Christian, not a Buddhist and not an atheist. In my prideful moments, I like to claim that I am a Jew precisely because I adhere to values and principles that I cannot find in those other systems of belief. I am not a submissive servant, but a partner in creation. I meet no litmus test of faith, but a standard of righteous behavior. I do not deny the value of the material world, but seek to live in balance with it. I am not alone in the world, but a part of eternal consciousness.

But I need to be more honest than prideful. Being Jewish does not mean being more than human. And if that’s the case, then I must acknowledge my insecurity as well. We have produced Jews, sometimes Jewish leaders, sometimes me who demand submission to the mandates of Jewish law as if they had meaning independent of the people who observe them. We have produced Jews, sometimes Jewish leaders, sometimes me who expect an articulation of belief and obedience to a certain image of God, as if righteous living were not enough. We have produced Jews, sometimes Jewish leaders, sometimes me who have devalued the material world by living not in harmony with it, but as if it were of no consequence at all. We have produced Jews, sometimes Jewish leaders, sometimes me who have arrogated a sense of certainty as if the only consciousness in the world that matters is mine alone.

You know, someone quoted Barry Goldwater to me a few weeks ago in justifying what I found to be a position that flirted with racism. The familiar quotation is “extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice!” Goldwater, as you may recall, was half Jewish. That wasn’t the half. Extremism in defense of anything is a vice because it establishes the goal itself as an absolute, whether it is liberty or Jewish law or peace or personal enlightenment. For the extremist, when the threat comes from inside, it must be expelled. When the threat comes from outside, it must be eliminated. Only God is absolute in Jewish tradition, and God does not need our defense.

But in researching the quotation, I found the other half of it from the half of Barry Goldwater that was Jewish. In the next breath he said, “and let me remind you also that moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue!” That paraphrase of the Torah puts our pursuits in context; the only context in which to pursue justice is a just context, and you may extrapolate from there if you like.

All honest attempts to help human beings cope with insecurity can lead to right and righteous living – Muslim, Christian, Buddhist, humanist, you name it. All honest attempts to tie together a community to its collective benefit can lead to right and righteous living, be it democracy or any of the other forms of government that are second best. But all those that try to mask the inherent insecurity of human life with exclusionary and exclusive practices and pronouncements put their proponents in the same jeopardy they claim to resolve.

Okay, those of you who have nodded off and want to hear the answer to the earlier question – it’s time to wake up. What is the difference between the intimacy in the morning when the woman was single and the intimacy in the evening, after she had married anther man? From the point of view of the behaviors, absolutely nothing. What has changed is not the nature of the two individuals nor the nature of the act they perform. What has changed is the meaning that we as a community have given to the ritual of marriage. It is the same with the example of the two Styrofoam cups; what has changed is the meaning we have given to those cups. There is no tahor and tamei except as we say there is tahor and tamei. To put it in precisely the terms used by Prof. Kellner, the distinctions of ritual categories are not ontological, they are not existential, they are not inherent. Only those who subscribe to them believe in them. That, by the way, is why Jews believe that non-Jews may eat pork to their hearts’ content without sanction or disapproval, and why they are under no obligation to observe Shabbat. We don’t believe in the “cootie theory” of Jewish law.

Because if it is otherwise, if there is an objective reality to these systems of understanding we hold sacred as Jews, then there can only be right and wrong in the world, and never a shade of gray. If the purpose of the religious endeavor is to uncover only a revealed truth, then we value not the scholar, but the prophet. In fact, if all that Jewish legal studies seek to do is affirm an antecedent reality, that is, to affirm the original intent of our constitutional document, the Torah, then scholarship is completely irrelevant. We don’t want the wisdom, just divination.

This tension is played out in Jewish thought by Yehudah haLevi, who believed in ongoing prophecy, and Moses Maimonides, who believed in the rational process of deliberation. If you were to ground this in Greek philosophy, you would see the conflict between Plato, whose universe was filled with absolute truths and forms, and Aristotle, whose universe was spare and waiting to be filled with human deliberation. If you were to look for this conflict on the American political scene, you would find those who insist that their faith reflects an objective reality and those who insist – as I expect you do along with me – that faith helps to frame reality. The former group includes people who believe that school board elections are referenda on God, and the latter group includes people who are astonished at the former group.

It is the blessing and curse of human existence to live with insecurity. It is the nature of the human experience to try to minimize that insecurity; it is inevitable that we will fail. I wish I could tell you why God put us on this roller coaster, but I cannot. But at least one source in my tradition gives us a certain encouragement to find meaning in the ride.

When Rabbi Eliezer resorted to prophecy to prove that the oven of Akhnai was clean, Rabbi Joshua rebuked the revelation from heaven with these words:

“It is not in heaven.”

The midrash continues:

What did he mean by this? Said R. Jeremiah: That the Torah had already been given at Mount Sinai; we pay no attention to a Heavenly Voice, because You have long since written in the Torah at Mount Sinai: After the majority must one incline.

R. Nathan met Elijah and asked him: What did the Holy One of blessed name do in that hour? -- God cried (with joy), he replied, saying, “My children have triumphed, My children have triumphed.”

It is the blessing and curse of human existence to live with insecurity. It is the nature of the human experience to try to minimize that insecurity; it is inevitable that we will fail. But as long as we do not surrender the effort to ideologues and triumphalists with their false promises of success, as long as we choose to struggle with past and present to build a future, as long as we gather by consensus to acknowledge our shortcomings and renew our efforts, then and only then do we do God’s will

As I said at the beginning of these remarks (some time last week), it is not about policies, it is about perspective. It is not about policies, it is about process. It is not about policies, it is about purpose. And for you, members of The Interfaith Alliance of the Bluegrass, and all of us nationwide, our perspective is interfaith, our process is collaboration, and our purpose is nothing less than to secure the blessings of liberty to us and our posterity.

May God bless the work of our hands.
Note: this is posted with permission of the speaker, Rabbi Jack Moline.

Monday, November 14, 2005

War blurs the line between good and evil.

War Blurs Lines Between Good, Evil
by Andrew Greeley

They have rededicated the Lady Church (Frauenkirche) in Dresden. This baroque gem from the 1700s was destroyed -- along with much of the city and 130,000 lives -- by Royal Air Force bombers in February 1945, two months before the end of the war. This rededication comes as Germans ask whether they do not have the right to mourn their losses during the war -- 600,000 civilians killed by the planes of Air Marshal Arthur "Bomber" Harris, also called "Butcher" by his RAF colleagues.

I fail to see how anyone can deny them that right, especially since research after the war demonstrated that the mass firebombing of German cities had no impact on the final outcome. The Germans started the war, it has been argued, and therefore they were to blame for what happened to them. The children who were killed in Dresden or in the fire storms in Hamburg were guilty? Or in the American fire raids in Japan?

I'm sorry, I can't buy that kind of moral reasoning. Collective guilt is a murky and messy concept, satisfying as rhetoric but dangerous in practice. The same logic would argue that, because Israel took land from Palestinians, suicide bombers are morally justified in indiscriminate murder of Israeli citizens.

The raid on Dresden was unconscionable. There were no military targets there worth the destruction of the city. Winston Churchill is alleged to have approved the raid because of pressure from Stalin. He certainly approved of Bomber Harris' systematic obliteration of German cities. Both of them should have been subject to war crime trials at the end of the war, just as were the German leaders. That the latter were far more evil in their deeds does not excuse the former. However, only the victors try the criminals, and they leave to history any judgments about themselves.

The lesson of raids on places such as Lubeck and Dresden is that even in just wars, the side that has justice on its side is likely to do many evil things. War sucks everyone and everything into its vortex of wickedness. The wars against Japan and Germany were obviously necessary wars and yet the victors (including the United States) emerged with bloody hands.

Moreover, wars are almost always longer than those who start them think they will be. In 1914, the German general staff predicted victory in 90 days after mobilization. The Confederacy thought that a few military victories would cause the Union to give up the fight. The British thought they could restore order in the rebellious colonies in a couple of months. Napoleon and Hitler both were confident they could knock over Russia in a single campaign. President Bush celebrated "Mission Accomplished" after a few weeks. Now the majority of Americans believe that he does not tell them the truth.

When good does evil to fight evil, it becomes -- in T.S. Eliot's words -- indistinguishable from the evil it is fighting. War blurs the lines between good and evil so they are hard to recognize and traps those who launch them in Big Muddies of self-destruction.

Yet humankind still enters wars with bursts of patriotism, self-confidence and desire for vengeance that blind populations to the risks they are taking and cause leaders to indulge in deception and -- perhaps worse -- self-deception about the terrible risks they are taking.

How could the leadership of this country not realize that an ineffectual war in Iraq would, instead of advancing the "war against terror," actually generate new generations of suicide bombers eager for, as the film title says, ''paradise now''?

How could so many members of Congress and American voters be so influenced by the pseudo-patriotism stirred up in the wake of the World Trade Center attack that they would eagerly and enthusiastically rush into another Big Muddy? Even though "regime change" in Iraq might itself have been a good cause, why were there so many who did not realize the lesson of history that the war would be long and costly and ultimately pointless? And worse still lead the country down the path to torture and murder, which go against all the nation's ideals?

Why were there so few who said, "Hey, wait a minute! What are the risks? How long will it last?"

© 2005 Chicago Sun Times

History is repeating Vietnam catastrope in Iraq, by Daniel Ellsberg.

Published on Sunday, November 13, 2005 by The Daily Record
(Parsippany, New Jersey)
Pentagon Papers' Ellsberg Sees a New War, Same Lies
Critic of Vietnam conflict, 1971 whistleblower says
'history is repeating itself' in Iraq

by Sarah N. Lynch

MAPLEWOOD -- For 74-year-old Daniel Ellsberg, who is best known for his leading role in leaking the Pentagon Papers to The New York Times in 1971, the war in Iraq, the workings of the Bush administration and
the Valerie Plame leak all feel like déjà vu.

The Bush administration is possibly 'the worst administration in our history,' Daniel Ellsberg, source of the PentagonPapers, told NJ Peace Action at a luncheon at Columbia High School in Maplewood on Saturday. (Danielle Austen/Daily Record)

"History is repeating itself to an extent," he told a packed audience of NJ Peace Action members during the organization's annual soup luncheon at Columbia High School on Saturday.

Ellsberg cited numerous parallels between the war in Iraq and the war in Vietnam and also urged Americans to stand up against an administration that he deems to be possibly "the worst administration in our history."

At times, his observations on the incidents drew gasps from the audience and at other moments laughter -- particularly when he accidentally said the name of Scooter "Libby" instead of G. Gordon "Liddy."

He then corrected himself, but he implied with a laugh that his mistake is really not that far off the mark.

In both an exclusive interview with the Daily Record and during his speech on Saturday, Ellsberg recalled his first day and night at the Pentagon in 1964 --the day of the United States' first air raids against the North Vietnamese.

The raids were in response to an alleged attack by the Vietnamese against U.S. destroyers in the Tonkin Gulf. That attack prompted Congress to delegate its constitutional power of war and peace to the president.

But the Tonkin Gulf attack never really occurred, he said, just as Joseph Wilson never discovered yellowcake uranium in Africa.

"The bottom line is we were lied into this war as much as we were lied into Vietnam in very similar ways," Ellsberg said. "In fact, it's becoming apparent that the documents on which they based their claim that there were WMDs in Iraq were actually forged."

"In short, in both cases, the administration took indications that were very ambiguous and uncertain and lied about them by saying they were unequivocal and precise, and they misled the Congress and misled the American people."

The Pentagon Papers revealed to the American people that the war in Vietnam was basically un-winnable. Ellsberg sat on this secret for quite a number of years until one day, he decided he was going to photocopy the entire 7,000-page report and give it to Congress. When Congress did nothing with it, he distributed it in 1971 to The New York Times and other newspapers -- leaking a secret that the Nixon administration wanted to keep under wraps.

The next day the Nixon administration put an injunction on the Times and began making plans to go after Ellsberg for his actions.

Smear campaign

To counter the Ellsberg leak, the Nixon administration set out to leak information about Ellsberg to embarrass him in the press, he said. The CIA broke into his psychoanalyst's office searching for information about him.

At this point in his speech, Ellsberg drew laughter from the audience as he imitated the voices of former President Richard M. Nixon and former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger recorded onto the infamous White House tapes. The conversations he imitated for the audience were predominantly conversations that Nixon actually had with aides about Ellsberg at the time.

"Don't you agree we have to pursue the Ellsberg case now?"
Ellsberg said in Nixon's gruff, scratchy voice. "Let's get that (expletive) into jail."

"We've got to get him ... We must destroy him in the press."

What is currently happening to Joseph Wilson and his wife, former CIA operative Plame, are mirror images of his situation, Ellsberg said.

Also like the war in Vietnam, Ellsberg said Iraq too is an
un-winnable war, but with a lack of Democratic leadership and with the workings of the Bush administration, there does not appear to be an end in

"I think it will be a long time before we get out of Iraq, very long, with Democrats or Republicans. The democratic base would be glad to see us out, as I would ... That does not mean we are going to get democratic leaders who are going to give up those bases in Iraq in the midst of the oil fields," Ellsberg said. He later criticized U.S. Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y., for advocating to send more troops there.

Many in the audience said they agreed.

"We cannot win this type of battle with well-trained, highly technical troops," said Norma Elliott of Warren.

"You can compare it to the Revolutionary War. The Redcoats were marching with bright red uniforms. They had cannons and the best guns, and we won because we had an insurgency. We were hiding -- shooting from the trees."

While the House is predominantly made up of Republicans, making impeachment for Bush virtually impossible, Ellsberg urged the audience not to give up. Democrats in the Senate must call for investigations into everything from prewar intelligence to the questions surrounding Bush's election victory in Ohio last year, he said.

He also laid out a list of what be believes are Bush's plans for the remaining three years of his term -- plans that could become successful should the United States sustain another terrorist attack.

"If there's a terrorist attack, I think the president will get what he wants, and here's what I think he wants. This is my belief. I believe that what he wants is a new Patriot Act that's already been drafted, I feel sure, that will make this Patriot Act look like the Bill of Rights," said Ellsberg, who lives in California and spends his time lecturing and writing about his experiences.

Militarism threat

Other possible goals that Ellsberg believes are in the minds of the administration also could include resorting to military rule on our own soil, imposing a draft on men and women and launching attacks on Syria and Iran.

"This may be the first public revelation to date that there is an ominous cloud approaching, meaning a metamorphosis in our democracy," said Alex Lemski of Hanover.

"History is repeating itself due to the ambition of power. That's the bottom line."

Toward the end, Ellsberg credited people like Richard Clarke for going to the press to reveal secrets, but he also criticized both those whistleblowers and himself for waiting until it was too late.

"Don't do what I did," he said. "Don't wait until another war has been started against Iran and Syria."

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Sunday, November 13, 2005

THEY KNEW (despite the whitewash. . .)

They Knew...
Despite the whitewash, we now know that the Bush administration was warned before the war that its Iraq claims were weak

By David Sirota and Christy Harvey August 3, 2004

If desperation is ugly, then Washington, D.C. today is downright hideous.

As the 9/11 Commission recently reported, there was “no credible evidence” of a collaborative relationship between Iraq and al Qaeda. Similarly, no weapons of mass destruction have been found in Iraq. With U.S. casualties mounting in an election year, the White House is grasping at straws to avoid being held accountable for its dishonesty.

The whitewash already has started: In July, Republicans on the Senate Intelligence Committee released a controversial report blaming the CIA for the mess. The panel conveniently refuses to evaluate what the White House did with the information it was given or how the White House set up its own special team of Pentagon political appointees (called the Office of Special Plans) to circumvent well-established intelligence channels. And Vice President Dick Cheney continues to say without a shred of proof that there is “overwhelming evidence” justifying the administration’s pre-war charges.

But as author Flannery O’Conner noted, “Truth does not change according to our ability to stomach it.” That means no matter how much defensive spin spews from the White House, the Bush administration cannot escape the documented fact that it was clearly warned before the war that its rationale for invading Iraq was weak.

Top administration officials repeatedly ignored warnings that their assertions about Iraq’s supposed Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) and connections to al Qaeda were overstated. In some cases, they were told their claims were wholly without merit, yet they went ahead and made them anyway. Even the Senate report admits that the White House “misrepresented” classified intelligence by eliminating references to contradictory assertions.

In short, they knew they were misleading America.

And they did not care.
They knew Iraq posed no nuclear threat

There is no doubt even though there was no proof of Iraq’s complicity, the White House was focused on Iraq within hours of the 9/11 attacks. As CBS News reported, “barely five hours after American Airlines Flight 77 plowed into the Pentagon, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld was telling his aides to come up with plans for striking Iraq.” Former Bush counterterrorism czar Richard Clarke recounted vividly how, just after the attack, President Bush pressured him to find an Iraqi connection. In many ways, this was no surprise—as former Treasury Secretary Paul O’Neill and another administration official confirmed, the White House was actually looking for a way to invade Iraq well before the terrorist attacks.

But such an unprovoked invasion of a sovereign country required a public rationale. And so the Bush administration struck fear into the hearts of Americans about Saddam Hussein’s supposed WMD, starting with nuclear arms. In his first major address on the “Iraqi threat” in October 2002, President Bush invoked fiery images of mushroom clouds and mayhem, saying, “Iraq is reconstituting its nuclear weapons program.”

Yet, before that speech, the White House had intelligence calling this assertion into question. A 1997 report by the U.N.’s International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)—the agency whose purpose is to prevent nuclear proliferation—stated there was no indication Iraq ever achieved nuclear capability or had any physical capacity for producing weapons-grade nuclear material in the near future.

In February 2001, the CIA delivered a report to the White House that said: “We do not have any direct evidence that Iraq has used the period since Desert Fox to reconstitute its weapons of mass destruction programs.” The report was so definitive that Secretary of State Colin Powell said in a subsequent press conference, Saddam Hussein “has not developed any significant capability with respect to weapons of mass destruction.”

Ten months before the president’s speech, an intelligence review by CIA Director George Tenet contained not a single mention of an imminent nuclear threat—or capability—from Iraq. The CIA was backed up by Bush’s own State Department: Around the time Bush gave his speech, the department’s intelligence bureau said that evidence did not “add up to a compelling case that Iraq is currently pursuing what [we] consider to be an integrated and comprehensive approach to acquiring nuclear weapons.”

Nonetheless, the administration continued to push forward. In March 2003, Cheney went on national television days before the war and claimed Iraq “has reconstituted nuclear weapons.” He was echoed by State Department spokesman Richard Boucher, who told reporters of supposedly grave “concerns about Iraq’s potential nuclear programs.”

Even after the invasion, when troops failed to uncover any evidence of nuclear weapons, the White House refused to admit the truth. In July 2003, Condoleezza Rice told PBS’s Gwen Ifill that the administration’s nuclear assertions were “absolutely supportable.” That same month, White House spokesman Scott McClellan insisted: “There’s a lot of evidence showing that Iraq was reconstituting its nuclear weapons program.”
They knew the aluminum tubes were not for nuclear weapons

To back up claims that Iraq was actively trying to build nuclear weapons, the administration referred to Iraq’s importation of aluminum tubes, which Bush officials said were for enriching uranium. In December 2002, Powell said, “Iraq has tried to obtain high-strength aluminum tubes which can be used to enrich uranium in centrifuges for a nuclear weapons program.” Similarly, in his 2003 State of the Union address, Bush said Iraq “has attempted to purchase high-strength aluminum tubes suitable for nuclear weapons production.”

But, in October 2002, well before these and other administration officials made this claim, two key agencies told the White House exactly the opposite. The State Department affirmed reports from Energy Department experts who concluded those tubes were ill-suited for any kind of uranium enrichment. And according to memos released by the Senate Intelligence Committee, the State Department also warned Powell not to use the aluminum tubes hypothesis in the days before his February 2003 U.N. speech. He refused and used the aluminum tubes claim anyway.

The State Department’s warnings were soon validated by the IAEA. In March 2003, the agency’s director stated, “Iraq’s efforts to import these aluminum tubes were not likely to be related” to nuclear weapons deployment.

Yet, this evidence did not stop the White House either. Pretending the administration never received any warnings at all, Rice claimed in July 2003 that “the consensus view” in the intelligence community was that the tubes “were suitable for use in centrifuges to spin material for nuclear weapons.”

Today, experts agree the administration’s aluminum tube claims were wholly without merit.
They knew the Iraq-uranium claims were not supported

In one of the most famous statements about Iraq’s supposed nuclear arsenals, Bush said in his 2003 State of the Union address, “The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa.” The careful phrasing of this statement highlights how dishonest it was. By attributing the claim to an allied government, the White House made a powerful charge yet protected itself against any consequences should it be proved false. In fact, the president invoked the British because his own intelligence experts had earlier warned the White House not to make the claim at all.

In the fall of 2002, the CIA told administration officials not to include this uranium assertion in presidential speeches. Specifically, the agency sent two memos to the White House and Tenet personally called top national security officials imploring them not to use the claim. While the warnings forced the White House to remove a uranium reference from an October 2002 presidential address, they did not stop the charge from being included in the 2003 State of the Union.

Not surprisingly, evidence soon emerged that forced the White House to admit the deception. In March 2003, IAEA Director Mohammed El Baradei said there was no proof Iraq had nuclear weapons and added “documents which formed the basis for [the White House’s assertion] of recent uranium transactions between Iraq and Niger are in fact not authentic.” But when Cheney was asked about this a week later, he said, “Mr. El Baradei frankly is wrong.”

Bush and Rice both tried to blame the CIA for the failure, saying the assertion “was cleared by the intelligence services.” When the intelligence agency produced the memos it had sent to the White House on the subject, Rice didn’t miss a beat, telling Meet The Press “it is quite possible that I didn’t” read the memos at all—as if they were “optional” reading for the nation’s top national security official on the eve of war. At about this time, some high-level administration official or officials leaked to the press that Ambassador Joseph Wilson’s wife was an undercover CIA agent—a move widely seen as an attempt by the administration to punish Wilson for his July 6, 2003 New York Times op-ed that stated he had found no evidence of an Iraqi effort to purchase uranium from Niger.

In recent weeks, right-wing pundits have pointed to new evidence showing the Iraq uranium charge may have flirted with the truth at some point in the distant past. These White House hatchet men say the administration did not manipulate or cherry-pick intelligence. They also tout the recent British report (a.k.a. The Butler Report) as defending the president’s uranium claim. Yet, if the White House did not cherry-pick or manipulate intelligence, why did the president trumpet U.S. intelligence from a foreign government while ignoring explicit warnings not to do so from his own? The record shows U.S. intelligence officials explicitly warned the White House that “the Brits have exaggerated this issue.” Yet, the administration refused to listen. Even The Butler Report itself acknowledges the evidence is cloudy. As nonproliferation expert Joseph Cirincione of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace recently pointed out, “The claim appears shaky at best—hardly the stuff that should make up presidential decisions.”

But now, instead of contrition, Republicans are insisting the White House’s uranium charge was accurate. Indeed, these apologists have no option but to try to distract public attention from the simple truth that not a shred of solid evidence exists to substantiate this key charge that fueled the push for war.
They knew there was no hard evidence of chemical or biological weapons

In September 2002, President Bush said Iraq “could launch a biological or chemical attack in as little as 45 minutes after the order is given.” The next month, he delivered a major speech to “outline the Iraqi threat,” just two days before a critical U.N. vote. In his address, he claimed without doubt that Iraq “possesses and produces chemical and biological weapons.” He said that “Iraq has a growing fleet of manned and unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) that could be used to disperse chemical or biological weapons” and that the government was “concerned Iraq is exploring ways of using these UAVs for missions targeting the United States.”

What he did not say was that the White House had been explicitly warned that these assertions were unproved.

As the Washington Post later reported, Bush “ignored the fact that U.S. intelligence mistrusted the source” of the 45-minute claim and, therefore, omitted it from its intelligence estimates. And Bush ignored the fact that the Defense Intelligence Agency previously submitted a report to the administration finding “no reliable information” to prove Iraq was producing or stockpiling chemical weapons. According to Newsweek, the conclusion was similar to the findings of a 1998 government commission on WMD chaired by Rumsfeld.

Bush also neglected to point out that in early October 2002, the administration’s top military experts told the White House they “sharply disputed the notion that Iraq’s Unmanned Aerial Vehicles were being designed as attack weapons.” Specifically, the Air Force’s National Air and Space Intelligence Center correctly showed the drones in question were too heavy to be used to deploy chemical/biological-weapons spray devices.

Regardless, the chemical/biological weapons claims from the administration continued to escalate. Powell told the United Nations on February 5, 2003, “There can be no doubt that Saddam Hussein has biological weapons and the capability to rapidly produce more, many more.” As proof, he cited aerial images of a supposed decontamination vehicle circling a suspected weapons site.

According to newly released documents in the Senate Intelligence Committee report, Powell’s own top intelligence experts told him not to make such claims about the photographs. They said the vehicles were likely water trucks. He ignored their warnings.

On March 6, 2003, just weeks before the invasion, the president went further than Powell. He claimed, “Iraqi operatives continue to hide biological and chemical agents.”

To date, no chemical or biological weapons have been found in Iraq.
They knew Saddam and bin Laden were not collaborating

In the summer of 2002, USA Today reported White House lawyers had concluded that establishing an Iraq-al Qaeda link would provide the legal cover at the United Nations for the administration to attack Iraq. Such a connection, no doubt, also would provide political capital at home. And so, by the fall of 2002, the Iraq-al Qaeda drumbeat began.

It started on September 25, 2002, when Bush said, “you can’t distinguish between al Qaeda and Saddam.” This was news even to members of Bush’s own political party who had access to classified intelligence. Just a month before, Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.), who serves on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said, “Saddam is not in league with al Qaeda … I have not seen any intelligence that would lead me to connect Saddam Hussein to al Qaeda.

To no surprise, the day after Bush’s statement, USA Today reported several intelligence experts “expressed skepticism” about the claim, with a Pentagon official calling the president’s assertion an “exaggeration.” No matter, Bush ignored these concerns and that day described Saddam Hussein as “a man who loves to link up with al Qaeda.” Meanwhile, Rumsfeld held a press conference trumpeting “bulletproof” evidence of a connection—a sentiment echoed by Rice and White House spokesman Ari Fleischer. And while the New York Times noted, “the officials offered no details to back up the assertions,” Rumsfeld nonetheless insisted his claims were “accurate and not debatable.”

Within days, the accusations became more than just “debatable”; they were debunked. German Defense Minister Peter Stuck said the day after Rumsfeld’s press conference that his country “was not aware of any connection” between Iraq and al Qaeda’s efforts to acquire chemical weapons. The Orlando Sentinel reported that terrorism expert Peter Bergen—one of the few to actually interview Osama bin Laden—said the connection between Iraq and al Qaeda are minimal. In October 2002, Knight Ridder reported, “a growing number of military officers, intelligence professionals and diplomats in [Bush’s] own government privately have deep misgivings” about the Iraq-al Qaeda claims. The experts charged that administration hawks “exaggerated evidence.” A senior U.S. official told the Philadelphia Inquirer that intelligence analysts “contest the administration’s suggestion of a major link between Iraq and al Qaeda.”

While this evidence forced British Prime Minister Tony Blair and other allies to refrain from playing up an Iraq-al Qaeda connection, the Bush administration refused to be deterred by facts.

On November 1, 2002, President Bush claimed, “We know [Iraq has] got ties with al Qaeda.” Four days later, Europe’s top terrorism investigator Jean-Louis Bruguiere reported: “We have found no evidence of links between Iraq and al Qaeda. … If there were such links, we would have found them. But we have found no serious connections whatsoever.” British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw, whose country was helping build the case for war, admitted, “What I’m asked is if I’ve seen any evidence of [Iraq-al Qaeda connections]. And the answer is: ‘I haven’t.’ ”

Soon, an avalanche of evidence appeared indicating the White House was deliberately misleading America. In January 2003, intelligence officials told the Los Angeles Times that they were “puzzled by the administration’s new push” to create the perception of an Iraq-al Qaeda connection and said the intelligence community has “discounted—if not dismissed—information believed to point to possible links between Iraq and al Qaeda.” One intelligence official said, “There isn’t a factual basis” for the administration’s conspiracy theory about the so-called connection.

On the morning of February 5, 2003, the same day Powell delivered his U.N. speech, British intelligence leaked a comprehensive report finding no substantial links between Iraq and al Qaeda. The BBC reported that British intelligence officials maintained “any fledgling relationship [between Iraq and al Qaeda] foundered due to mistrust and incompatible ideologies.” Powell, nonetheless, stood before the United Nations and claimed there was a “sinister nexus between Iraq and the al Qaeda.” A month later, Rice backed him up, saying al Qaeda “clearly has had links to the Iraqis.” And in his March 17, 2003, speech on the eve of war, Bush justified the invasion by citing the fully discredited Iraq-al Qaeda link.

When the war commenced, the house of cards came down. In June 2003, the chairman of the U.N. group that monitors al Qaeda told reporters his team found no evidence linking the terrorist group to Iraq. In July 2003, the Los Angeles Times reported the bipartisan congressional report analyzing September 11 “undercut Bush administration claims before the war that Hussein had links to al Qaeda.” Meanwhile, the New York Times reported, “Coalition forces have not brought to light any significant evidence demonstrating the bond between Iraq and al Qaeda.” In August 2003, three former Bush administration officials came forward to admit pre-war evidence tying al Qaeda to Iraq “was tenuous, exaggerated, and often at odds with the conclusions of key intelligence agencies.”

Yet, the White House insisted on maintaining the deception. In the fall of 2003, President Bush said, “There’s no question that Saddam Hussein had al Qaeda ties.” And Cheney claimed Iraq “had an established relationship to al Qaeda.” When the media finally began demanding proof for all the allegations, Powell offered a glimmer of contrition. In January 2004, he conceded that there was no “smoking gun” to prove the claim. His admission was soon followed by a March 2004 Knight Ridder report that quoted administration officials conceding “there never was any evidence that Hussein’s secular police state and Osama bin Laden’s Islamic terror network were in league.”

But Powell’s statement was the exception, not the norm. The White House still refuses to acknowledge wrongdoing, and instead resorts to the classic two-step feint, citing sources but conveniently refusing to acknowledge those sources’ critical faults.

For instance, Cheney began pointing reporters to an article in the right-wing Weekly Standard as the “best source” of evidence backing the Saddam-al Qaeda claim, even though the Pentagon had previously discredited the story. Similarly, in June, the Republican’s media spin machine came to the aid of the White House and promoted a New York Times article about a document showing failed efforts by bin Laden to work with Iraq in the mid-’90s against Saudi Arabia. Not surprisingly, the spinners did not mention the article’s key finding—a Pentagon task force found that the document “described no formal alliance being reached between Mr. bin Laden and Iraqi intelligence.”

When the 9/11 Commission found “no credible evidence” of a collaborative relationship between Iraq and al Qaeda, the White House denials came as no surprise. Cheney defiantly claimed there was “overwhelming evidence” of a link, provided no evidence, and then berated the media and the commission for having the nerve to report the obvious. Bush did not feel the need to justify his distortions, saying after the report came out, “The reason I keep insisting that there was a relationship between Iraq and Saddam and al Qaeda is because there was a relationship between Iraq and al Qaeda.”

That was the perfect answer from an administration that never lets the factual record impinge on what it says to the American public.
They knew there was no Prague meeting

One of the key pillars of the Iraq-al Qaeda myth was a White House-backed story claiming 9/11 hijacker Mohammed Atta met with an Iraqi spy in April 2001. The tale originally came from a lone Czech informant who said he saw the terrorist in Prague at the time. White House hawks, eager to link al Qaeda with Saddam, did not wait to verify the story, and instead immediately used it to punch up arguments for a preemptive attack on Iraq. On November 14, 2001, Cheney claimed Atta was “in Prague in April of this year, as well as earlier.” On December 9, 2001, he went further, claiming without proof that the Atta meeting was “pretty well confirmed.”

Nine days later, the Czech government reported there was no evidence that Atta met with an Iraqi intelligence agent in Prague. Czech Police Chief Jiri Kolar said there were no documents showing Atta had been in Prague that entire year, and Czech officials told Newsweek that the uncorroborated witness who perpetuated the story should have been viewed with more skepticism.

By the spring of 2002, major news publications such as the Washington Post, the New York Times, Newsweek and Time were running stories calling the “Prague connection” an “embarrassing” mistake and stating that, according to European officials, the intelligence supporting the claim was “somewhere between ‘slim’ and ‘none’.” The stories also quoted administration officials and CIA and FBI analysts saying that on closer scrutiny, “there was no evidence Atta left or returned to the United State at the time he was supposed to be in Prague.” Even FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III, a Bush political appointee, admitted in April 2002, “We ran down literally hundreds of thousands of leads and checked every record we could get our hands on, from flight reservations to car rentals to bank accounts,” but found nothing.

But that was not good enough for the administration, which instead of letting the story go, began trying to manipulate intelligence to turn fantasy into reality. In August 2002, when FBI case officers told Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz that there was no Atta meeting, Newsweek reported Wolfowitz “vigorously challenged them.” Wolfowitz wanted the FBI to endorse claims that Atta and the Iraqi spy had met. FBI counterterrorism chief Pat D’Amuro refused.

In September 2002, the CIA handed Cheney a classified intelligence assessment that cast specific, serious doubt on whether the Atta meeting ever occurred. Yet, that same month, Richard Perle, then chairman of the Bush’s Defense Policy Board, said, “Muhammad Atta met [a secret collaborator of Saddam Hussein] prior to September 11. We have proof of that, and we are sure he wasn’t just there for a holiday.” In the same breath, Perle openly admitted, “The meeting is one of the motives for an American attack on Iraq.”

By the winter of 2002, even America’s allies were telling the administration to relent: In November, British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw said he had seen no evidence of a meeting in Prague between Atta and an Iraqi intelligence agent.

But it did not stop. In September 2003, on “Meet the Press,” Cheney dredged up the story again, saying, “With respect to 9/11, of course, we’ve had the story that’s been public out there. The Czechs alleged that Mohammed Atta, the lead attacker, met in Prague with a senior Iraqi intelligence official five months before the attack.” He provided no new evidence, opted not to mention that the Czechs long ago had withdrawn the allegations, and ignored new evidence that showed the story was likely untrue.

Even today, with all of the intelligence firmly against him, Cheney remains unrepentant. Asked in June about whether the meeting had occurred, he admitted, “That’s never been proven.” Then he added, “It’s never been refuted.” When CNBC’s Gloria Borger asked about his initial claim that the meeting was “pretty well confirmed,” Cheney snapped, “No, I never said that. I never said that. Absolutely not.”

His actual words in December 2001: “It’s been pretty well confirmed that [Atta] did go to Prague and he did meet with a senior official of the Iraqi intelligence service.”

In other words, Cheney hit a new low. He resorted not only to lying about the story, but lying about lying about the story.
Conclusion: They knew they were misleading America

In his March 17, 2003 address preparing America for the Iraq invasion, President Bush stated unequivocally that there was an Iraq-al Qaeda nexus and that there was “no doubt that the Iraq regime continues to possess and conceal some of the most lethal weapons ever devised.”

In the context of what we now know the White House knew at the time, Bush was deliberately dishonest. The intelligence community repeatedly told the White House there were many deep cracks in its case for war. The president’s willingness to ignore such warnings and make these unequivocal statements proves the administration was intentionally painting a black-and-white picture when it knew the facts merited only gray at best.

That has meant severe consequences for all Americans. Financially, U.S. taxpayers have shelled out more than $166 billion for the Iraq war, and more will soon be needed. Geopolitically, our country is more isolated from allies than ever, with anti-Americanism on the rise throughout the globe.

And we are less secure. A recent U.S. Army War College report says “the invasion of Iraq was a diversion from the more narrow focus on defeating al Qaeda.” U.N. envoy Lakhdar Brahimi put it this way: “The war in Iraq was useless, it caused more problems than it solved, and it brought in terrorism.”

These statements are borne out by the facts: The International Institute of Strategic Studies in London reports al Qaeda is now 18,000 strong, with many new recruits joining as a result of the war in Iraq. Not coincidentally, the White House recently said the American homeland faces an imminent threat of a terrorist attack from a still-active al Qaeda operation in Afghanistan. Yet, the administration actually moved special forces out of Afghanistan in 2002 to prepare for an invasion of Iraq. Because of this, we face the absurd situation whereby we have no more than 20,000 troops in Afghanistan hunting down those who directly threaten us, yet have 140,000 troops in Iraq—a country that was not a serious menace before invasion.

Of course, it is those troops who have it the worst. Our men and women in uniform are bogged down in a quagmire, forced to lay down life and limb for a lie.

To be sure, neoconservative pundits and Bush administration hawks will continue to blame anyone but the White House for these deceptions. They also will say intelligence gave a bit of credence to some of the pre-war claims, and that is certainly true.

But nothing can negate the clear proof that President Bush and other administration official officials vastly overstated the intelligence they were given. They engaged in a calculated and well-coordinated effort to turn a war of choice in Iraq into a perceived war of imminent necessity.

And we are all left paying the price.

David Sirota, who writes the “Truth & Consequences” column in In These Times, is director of strategic communications for the Center for American Progress. Christy Harvey is deputy director of strategic communications for the Center for Am

A Military Perspective: Soldiers looking back.

Soldier at a West Point Reunion Looks Back at Conflicts of the Heart
By Gordon S. Livingston
The San Francisco Chronicle

Sunday 06 November 2005

Recently, I went back to West Point for my 45th reunion. We members of the class of 1960 are 67 years old now. We have lived through a lot: the decade of the moon landing and the war in Vietnam, the end of the Cold War in which we enlisted in 1956, the advent of the Internet, and the conflicts in the desert.

We're a surprisingly varied group. Only about half of us finished 20- or 30-year careers in the Army. The rest chose civilian vocations as businessmen, engineers, lawyers, even a poet or two.

Out of the 550 of us that graduated, 82 are now dead. We lost our first classmate to an auto accident one week after graduation; our most recent death, from lung cancer, came two weeks before the reunion. In between, 12 were killed in Vietnam. We are, as expected, dying more rapidly now.

It was good to go back to that citadel of our youth and strength for the first time in many years.

It looks much the same. The Gothic granite barracks have been expanded to accommodate more cadets. The Protestant chapel still dominates on the hillside. There are new buildings and the football stadium has been improved even as the team has grown worse. On parade the Corps of Cadets still looks to be the best close-order drill unit in the world, though the sight of women marching, even leading companies and battalions, is difficult to absorb for older graduates, steeped in the monastic masculinity of outdated tradition.

The real evidence that the place has changed, however, came on Friday night when the entertainment in Eisenhower Hall consisted of Jon Stewart doing a stand-up routine in front of hundreds of cadets. They loved him.

The department of history is compiling oral histories from graduates who have served in combat, apparently in an effort to impart to the cadets of today some lessons they can use in wars of the future. This is how I came to be interviewed by an earnest young major about my experiences as the regimental surgeon of the 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment in Vietnam.

He sent me some questions ahead of time ("How can current cadets best prepare for their roles as officers in an unconventional environment?") I wanted to talk about something else: What does a soldier do when he discovers that the rationale for the war he has been sent to fight bears no relationship to what is happening on the ground?

What I found In Vietnam was that in spite of our protestations about "winning hearts and minds" we treated the Vietnamese with contempt. They were commonly referred to as "gooks" and "dinks."

As a doctor, I was required to provide medical care to wounded prisoners who were tortured during questioning. I was asked by the regimental intelligence officer if I would administer succinyl choline to temporarily paralyze the muscles of respiration of POWs as an aid to interrogation. I could not abide it and after six months I registered a public protest during a change-of-command ceremony for my commanding officer. I was arrested for "conduct unbecoming an officer" and my career in military medicine was over.

The reunion was the first time since I returned from Vietnam 36 years ago that West Point has shown an interest in what happened to me there. So into that video camera I poured everything I could say in an hour about what I had seen and done and learned.

I didn't have much advice to offer cadets. I just told my story and asked them to think about who they are and where their core identities fit with their duty as soldiers, what they stand for, and what they cannot. I have no idea whether any cadet will ever see this tape, but it was an important moment for me nonetheless, the confession of a man once faced with an irresolvable conflict between my loyalty to the Army and to my deepest convictions about what it means to be a physician, a patriotic American and a free man upon the Earth.

And through it all ran my love for West Point, which had brought me back one more time to celebrate my connection with the place that had taught me the values of honor and obligation that I tried to reify, even at the cost of all that I had aspired to be.

On the afternoon I left home for my reunion I received an e-mail from the mother of a young West Point graduate recently killed in Afghanistan. She had read a book of mine and wanted something that might comfort her in her mourning. I sent her a prayer I had composed for bereaved parents after the death of my 6-year-old son:

May we all find peace in the shared hope that our children who brought us such joy with their short lives are now a host of angels, loving us still, feeling our love for them, awaiting our coming, and knowing that they are safely locked forever in our hearts.

During our reunion we had a memorial service for our departed classmates in which each of their names was called out by someone who had been his friend. We prayed for their eternal rest and sang the alma mater. We listened to a retired general evoke their memories with cliches about honor and duty and freedom that are as inevitable as they are irrelevant to men who died in ways heroic and prosaic, with thoughts and fears likely unrelated to the mantle of patriotism in which we would now wrap their souls.

In the chapel at West Point as before the black granite wall in Washington, I remember my classmates dead in Vietnam, eternally young, immortal in my mortal mind. They will not grow old and frail like the rest of us. They will not linger on beds of pain. Perhaps, after all, they are the lucky ones. But what of the songs unsung, the children and grandchildren unborn, the peaceful pleasures of longtime love? These things they were denied.

The circle, it seems, is never closed. I fear that young men and women are still dying for reasons that 45 years from now will cause another group of old graduates to honor their memories, as did we, with devotion and regret.


Gordon S. Livingston, a psychiatrist in Columbia, Md., is the author of Too Soon Old, Too Late Smart. Contact us at insight@sfchronicle.com.