Thursday, August 31, 2006

Why the WAR ON TERROR cannot work. . Blinded by Bush's concept?

Blinded by a Concept
By George Soros
The Boston Globe

Thursday 31 August 2006

The failure of Israel to subdue Hezbollah demonstrates the many weaknesses of the war-on-terror concept. One of those weaknesses is that even if the targets are terrorists, the victims are often innocent civilians, and their suffering reinforces the terrorist cause.

In response to Hezbollah's attacks, Israel was justified in attacking Hezbollah to protect itself against the threat of missiles on its border. However, Israel should have taken greater care to minimize collateral damage. The civilian casualties and material damage inflicted on Lebanon inflamed Muslims and world opinion against Israel and converted ?ezbollah from aggressors to heroes of resistance for many. Weakening Lebanon has also made it more difficult to rein in Hezbollah.

Another weakness of the war-on-terror concept is that it relies on military action and rules out political approaches. Israel previously withdrew from Lebanon and then from Gaza unilaterally, rather than negotiating political settlements with the Lebanese government and the Palestinian authority. The strengthening of Hezbollah and Hamas was a direct consequence of that approach. The war-on-terror concept stands in the way of recognizing this fact because it separates ``us" from ``them" and denies that our actions help shape their behavior.

A third weakness is that the war-on-terror concept lumps together different political movements that use terrorist tactics. It fails to distinguish among Hamas, Hezbollah, Al Qaeda, or the Sunni insurrection and the Mahdi militia in Iraq. Yet all these terrorist manifestations, being different, require different responses. Neither Hamas nor Hezbollah can be treated merely as targets in the war on terror because both have deep roots in their societies; yet there are profound differences between them.

Looking back, it is easy to see where Israeli policy went wrong. When Mahmoud Abbas was elected president of the Palestinian Authority, Israel should have gone out of its way to strengthen him and his reformist team. When Israel withdrew from Gaza, the former head of the World Bank, James Wolfensohn, negotiated a six-point plan on behalf of the Quartet for the Middle East (Russia, the United States, the European Union, and the United Nations). It included opening crossings between Gaza and the West Bank, allowing an airport and seaport in Gaza, opening the border with Egypt; and transferring the greenhouses abandoned by Israeli settlers into Arab hands. None of the six points was implemented. This contributed to Hamas's electoral victory. The Bush administration, having pushed Israel to allow the Palestinians to hold elections, then backed Israel's refusal to deal with a Hamas government. The effect was to impose further hardship on the Palestinians.

Nevertheless, Abbas was able to forge an agreement with the political arm of Hamas for the formation of a unity government. It was to foil this agreement that the military branch of Hamas, run from Damascus, engaged in the provocation that brought a heavy-handed response from Israel - which in turn incited Hezbollah to further provocation, opening a second front.

That is how extremists play off against each other to destroy any chance of political progress.

Israel has been a participant in this game, and President Bush bought into this flawed policy, uncritically supporting Israel. Events have shown that this policy leads to the escalation of violence. The process has advanced to the point where Israel's unquestioned military superiority is no longer sufficient to overcome the negative consequences of its policy. Israel is now more endangered in its existence than it was at the time of the Oslo Agreement on peace.

Similarly, the United States has become less safe since Bush declared war on terror.

The time has come to realize that the present policies are counterproductive. There will be no end to the vicious circle of escalating violence without a political settlement of the Palestine question. In fact, the prospects for engaging in negotiations are better now than they were a few months ago. The Israelis must realize that a military deterrent is not sufficient on its own. And Arabs, having redeemed themselves on the battlefield, may be more willing to entertain a compromise.

There are strong voices arguing that Israel must never negotiate from a position of weakness. They are wrong. Israel's position is liable to become weaker the longer it persists on its present course. Similarly Hezbollah, having tasted the sense but not the reality of victory (and egged on by Syria and Iran) may prove recalcitrant. But that is where the difference between Hezbollah and Hamas comes into play. The ?alestinian people yearn for peace and relief from suffering. The political - as distinct from the military - wing of Hamas must be responsive to their desires. It is not too late for Israel to encourage and deal with an Abbas-led Palestinian unity government as the first step toward a better-balanced approach.

Given how strong the US-Israeli relationship is, it would help Israel to achieve its own legitimate aims if the US government were not blinded by the war-on-terror concept.


George Soros, a financier and philanthropist, is author of The Age of Fallibility: Consequences of the War on Terror.


Wednesday, August 30, 2006

The Media pays more attention to Adultery in the White House than the Constitution.

Impeachment Not on Media's Radar: Adultery was serious; this is just the Constitution

By Dave Lindorff

There is a growing grassroots campaign demanding the impeachment of George W. Bush. Across the nation, towns and cities have been passing pro-impeachment resolutions. Websites promoting impeachment keep springing up. In several states, bills have been introduced in state legislatures that, if passed, would become formal bills of impeachment in the U.S. House of Representatives, requiring initiation of impeachment hearings under congressional rules dating back to the early 19th century.

Starting last fall, several polls (Zogby, 10/29/05, 1/9-12/06; Ipsos,10/6-9/05) reported that a majority of Americans thought Bush should be impeached if he lied the country into war in Iraq or if he authorized warrantless spying on Americans. Those poll results were reported all over the Internet, but they barely made it into any mainstream corporate news reports. Indeed, impeachment itself is getting short shrift in the media, despite all this impeachment organizing activity.

When the House Judiciary Committee's ranking minority member, Rep. John Conyers (D.-Mich.), introduced a bill in December calling for creation of a select committee to investigate "possible impeachable crimes" by Bush, the dramatic move received virtually no mainstream coverage beyond an AP wire item (12/21/05). Even as the number of Democratic House members co-sponsoring that bill rose from an initial handful to 39, it has received scant attention. The first time impeachment made the front page of the Washington Post was March 25, 2006, when that paper finally ran a story on the wave of town government resolutions across the country.

Interestingly, though, the Post did provide Conyers space on the op-ed page for a column explaining that he would not immediately push for impeachment should he become chair of the House Judiciary Committee ("No Rush to Impeachment," 5/18/06).

Similarly, when Sen. Russ Feingold (D.-Wisc.) introduced a censure measure in the Senate Judiciary Committee, the New York Times tucked it away on page A17 (3/13/06). But days later, when Republicans tried to sideline the measure by claiming that such a move would help them in November by "energizing" their conservative base, the Times perversely played that classic "reaction" story on Page 1 (3/16/06).

In part, the media downplaying of impeachment may reflect a now-longstanding fear on the part of editors of frontally challenging the Bush administration. It may, however, also reflect the affinity of many in the higher echelons of the corporate news media for the timid and conservative Democratic Party leadership, which has made no bones about its fear and loathing of impeachment and of other more confrontational stances of the party's progressive wing.

Certainly the corporate media's approach to calls for Bush's impeachment contrasts markedly with the same outlets' coverage of the Clinton impeachment effort in the late 1990s. Though public support for Clinton's impeachment never got above about 36 percent, even at the height of congressional impeachment proceedings, many media outlets responded to the prospect of impeachment by calling on Clinton to resign. According to the Columbia Journalism Review (11=12/98), by September 1998, 181 newspapers (roughly one in 10 papers in the country) had called for his resignation--including major papers like USA Today (9/14/98) and the Philadelphia Inquirer (9/12/98). Other news organizations, among them Business Week (9/28/98) and the Houston Chronicle (9/10/98), were calling for censure.

Yet Clinton's offense was simply lying under oath about an adulterous affair.

Bush, in contrast, has admitted to ordering the National Security Agency to monitor Americans' telecommunications without a warrant, in clear violation of the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (New York Times, 12/16/05). Beyond that, documents show he okayed torture of captives in the Afghanistan and Iraq wars, contravening the Third Geneva Accord on treatment of prisoners of war, an international accord that was long ago adopted as U.S. law (Human Rights Watch, "Background Paper on Geneva Conventions and Persons Held by U.S. Forces," 1/29/02).

He has blatantly subverted the Constitution by claiming the right to ignore (so far) 750 acts [now over 800] duly passed by Congress (Boston Globe, 4/30/06). He has defied the courts in revoking the most basic rights of citizenship - the right to be charged and tried in a court of law (Guardian, 12/5/02). And the evidence is overwhelming that he knowingly lied about the threat posed by Saddam Hussein, and about Hussein's alleged link to Al-Qaeda, in order to win public and Congressional approval for his invasion of Iraq (Center for American Progress: "Claims vs. Facts: Iraq/Al-Qaeda Links").

These and other Bush offenses pose direct threats to the Constitution and to the survival of the Republic, and yet, despite widespread concern and outrage among the public about many of these actions, not one major corporate news organization has called for Bush's resignation, the initiation of impeachment proceedings, or even for censure --even those that made such fervent appeals for Clinton's removal or resignation over a transgression that at worst was an embarrassment to the nation.

"The media have been acting drastically differently this time around than they did with Clinton," says David Swanson, co-founder of the organization, which has been helping to organize an impeachment movement, and to make impeachment part of the 2006 off-year Congressional election campaign. "Under Clinton, the media were gung-ho for impeachment or for resignation, and the public refused to cooperate. Now the public wants impeachment and the media won¹t cooperate."

Swanson argues that the media's avoidance of the impeachment story is akin to their ducking of responsibility during the build-up to and in the aftermath of the Iraq invasion. "Just as they¹ve been afraid to publish each new piece of evidence about the lies that led to war," he says, "they've been afraid to expose the president's impeachable crimes. I think it's because in both cases they've been complicit in those lies and crimes. It's not so much loyalty to Bush over Clinton as it is fear of investigations. With congressional investigations, people would start asking, `Why didn¹t we know any of this stuff before?'"

There are signs that the impeachment story may go mainstream, however. Pelosi and Senate minority leader Harry Reid (D.-Nev.) are both still trying to downplay the notion that the Democrats would move to impeach Bush if they succeeded in capturing the House in November. But as the prospects for such a shift continue to grow (only 15 seats need to change hands), and as Bush's support (as low as 29 percent in current polls) continues to tank, the realization that an impeachment bill will likely be filed after election day, whether by some state legislature or by a newly elected or re-elected Democratic representative, is starting to sink in in newsrooms.

At some point, the public's concerns about presidential abuses of power--and about administration incompetence, which has reached the level of criminal negligence in cases like the Katrina response or the failure to plan for the post-war occupation of Iraq--will compel more honest and forthright coverage of the constitutionally provided remedy for such crimes: impeachment.

Dave Lindorff, a regular contributor to Extra!, is the co-author of The Case for Impeachment: The Legal Argument for Removing President George W. Bush from Office (St. Martin¹s Press).


Monday, August 28, 2006

War's Reckoning, August 28, 2006.

Published on Monday, August 28, 2006 by the Boston Globe
War's Reckoning
by James Carroll

The Israeli war against Hezbollah was reckoned a failure as soon as the fighting stopped, and so is the American war against Iraq, though the fighting continues. Even responsible parties understand this now. ``Pentagon studying its war errors," read one headline not long ago. A second headline on the same front page read, "In Israel, critics condemn strategy behind war." In each case, the war has created conditions that threaten even more grievous catastrophe to follow. Hezbollah is intact, and the Lebanese people, having been so savagely bombed by Israeli warplanes, have reason to embrace it. Iran and Syria are emboldened. The international peace keeping force is anemic. The elimination of the Jewish state is on the agenda.

In Iraq, as brutal sectarian violence flares, the debate about whether and when to ``withdraw" the American forces is being superseded by an urgent worry about how US soldiers can be evacuated from the crossfire? Iraq as a national entity has already been destroyed. The question now is what comes of its ruin? A regional war over oil? A world center of terrorism? A new tyrant to restore order?

Neither the United States nor Israel is in control of what comes next, but whether these disastrous scenarios are played out in the future depends on how American and Israeli failures of the recent past are understood.
If the Pentagon focuses on tactical mistakes, like troop levels or intelligence errors, the larger question will be not be asked. Likewise with Israel. The decision to wage an air war against Lebanese infrastructure clearly backfired, and was taken as if the futility of such a strategy, not to mention the inhumanity of it, had not been repeatedly demonstrated in past wars. But was that the first and most basic mistake?

It remains true that the path of negotiations with rejectionist Hezbollah, and Hamas for that matter, was not open to Israel during the provocations of July. It is also the case that Israel was confronted with a sharp new level of irrational antagonism tied to the broader inflaming of the region by America's war in Iraq. The very existence of the Jewish state had, startlingly, come to be at issue again. Thus, even the peace movement in Israel saw the point of firmness, especially once missiles began to fall in the north. But firmness can be combined with restraint, and force can be exercised judiciously. Many of those who love Israel longed for such responses.

Israeli leaders, acting more out of anger than wisdom, demonstrated in their move to an overwhelming military assault against targets across Lebanon that they had learned nothing from the American misadventure in Iraq. The fact that Israel, unlike Hezbollah, was not aiming to kill civilians ceased to matter as civilian casualties mounted. This grievous moral wound, certain to cause Israel much trouble, was self-inflicted. Israel responded to Hezbollah's cynical strategy of hiding its missile batteries among the innocents exactly as Hezbollah wished, and even then Israel was unable to stop the missiles from flying. The result is that Israel is more vulnerable than ever, especially now that the myth of its invincibility has been punctured.

Both the United States and Israel have been at the mercy of the same illusion, that the hammer of military force is the tool to use against every threat. To oppose the rush to war is not to deny that threats are real, but only to insist that war is as likely to exacerbate the threat as to eliminate it. In the age of weapons of mass destruction, especially, the old dichotomy between "realists" and "idealists" is a false one. Now the argument against war starts not from a moralizing pacifism, but from a profoundly realistic assessment of what actually happens when violence takes over. When mass destruction and pain are inflicted to no purpose, the old lesson of ethics reverses itself: If the ends don't justify the means, nothing does.

This is the kind of reckoning that should be going on in America and Israel today. The failures are not of tactics or strategy, but of insight and history. Across the last 60 years, wars have been waged to no purpose. Millions of civilians have been killed. Enemies have been empowered, not defeated. That history is denied with every national budget drawn to give primacy to weapons, at the expense of humane investments that attack structures of violence at the source. The only justification for these terrible wars today will be if they lead to new thinking tomorrow.

James Carroll's column appears regularly in the Globe.

© Copyright 2006 Boston Globe

Bush and Katrina: return to the scene of the crime, op ed. Frank Rich, NY Times

Bush & Katrina: Return to the Scene of the Crime
by Frank Rich

President Bush travels to the Gulf Coast this week, ostensibly to mark the first anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. Everyone knows his real mission: to try to make us forget the first anniversary of the downfall of his presidency.

As they used to say in the French Quarter, bonne chance! The ineptitude bared by the storm — no planning for a widely predicted catastrophe, no attempt to secure a city besieged by looting, no strategy for anything except spin — is indelible. New Orleans was Iraq redux with an all-American cast. The discrepancy between Mr. Bush’s “heckuva job” shtick and the reality on the ground induced a Cronkite-in-Vietnam epiphany for news anchors. At long last they and the country demanded answers to the questions about the administration's competence that had been soft-pedaled two years earlier when the war first went south.

What's amazing on Katrina's first anniversary is how little Mr. Bush seems aware of this change in the political weather. He’s still in a bubble. At last week's White House press conference, he sounded as petulant as Tom Cruise on the "Today" show when Matt Lauer challenged him about his boorish criticism of Brooke Shields. Asked what Iraq had to do with the attack on the World Trade Center, Mr. Bush testily responded, "Nothing," adding that "nobody has ever suggested in this administration that Saddam Hussein ordered the attacks." Like the emasculated movie star, the president is still so infatuated with his own myth that he believes the public will buy such nonsense.

As the rest of the world knows, the White House connived 24/7 to pound in the suggestion that Saddam ordered the attacks on 9/11. "The Bush administration had repeatedly tied the Iraq war to Sept. 11,” Thomas Kean and Lee Hamilton write in “Without Precedent," their new account of their stewardship of the 9/11 commission. The nonexistent Qaeda-Saddam tie-in was as much a selling point for the war as the nonexistent W.M.D. The salesmanship was so merciless that half the country was brainwashed into believing that the 9/11 hijackers had been Iraqis.

To achieve this feat, Dick Cheney spent two years publicly hyping a "pretty well confirmed" (translation: unconfirmed) pre-9/11 meeting in Prague between Mohamed Atta and a Saddam intelligence officer, continuing to do so long after this specious theory had been discredited. Mr. Bush’s strategy was to histrionically stir 9/11 and Iraq into the same sentence whenever possible, before the invasion and after. Typical was his May 1, 2003, oration declaring the end of "major combat operations.
After noting that “the battle of Iraq is one victory in a war on terror that began on September 11th, 2001,” he added: "With those attacks, the terrorists and their supporters declared war on the United States. And war is what they got." To paraphrase the former counterterrorism czar Richard Clarke, this was tantamount to saying that the Japanese attacked us on Dec. 7, 1941, and war with Mexico is what they got.

Were it not so tragic, Mr. Bush's claim that he had never suggested a connection between the 9/11 attacks and Iraq would be as ludicrous as Bill Clinton's doomed effort to draw a distinction between sex and oral sex. The tragedy is that the country ever believed Mr. Bush, particularly those Americans who were moved to enlist because of 9/11 and instead ended up fighting a war that the president now concedes had "nothing" to do with the 9/11 attacks.

A representative and poignant example, brought to light by The Los Angeles Times, is Patrick R. McCaffrey, a Silicon Valley auto-body-shop manager with two children who joined the California National Guard one month after 9/11. He was eager to do his bit for homeland security by helping protect the Shasta Dam or Golden Gate Bridge. Instead he was sent to Iraq, where he was killed in 2004. In a replay of the Pentagon subterfuge surrounding the friendly-fire death of Pat Tillman, another post-9/11 enlistee betrayed by his country, Mr. McCaffrey’s death was at first officially attributed to an ambush by insurgents. Only after two years of investigation did the Army finally concede that his killers were actually the Iraqi security forces he was helping to train.

"He said we had no business in Iraq and should not be there," his mother, Nadia McCaffrey, told the paper. Last week’s belated presidential admission that Iraq had nothing to do with the attacks on America that inspired Patrick McCaffrey’s service was implicitly an admission that he and many like him died in Iraq for nothing as well.

Mr. Bush's press-conference disavowalof his habitual efforts to connect 9/11 to Saddam will be rolled back by the White House soon enough. When the fifth anniversary of 9/11 arrives in two weeks, you can bet that the president will once again invoke the Qaeda attacks to justify the Iraq war, especially now that we are adding troops (through the involuntary call-up of reservists) rather than subtracting any. The new propaganda strategy will be right out of Lewis Carroll: If we leave the country that had nothing to do with 9/11, then 9/11 will happen again.

But before we get to that White House P.R. offensive, there is next week’s Katrina show. It has its work cut out for it. A year after the storm, the reconstruction of New Orleans echoes our reconstruction of Baghdad. A "truth squad"of House Democrats has cataloged the waste, fraud, abuse or mismanagement" in $8.75 billion worth of contracts, most of which were awarded noncompetitively. Only 60 percent of the city has electricity. Half of the hospitals and three-quarters of the child-care centers remain closed. Violent crime is on the rise. Less than half of the population has returned.

How do you pretty up this picture? As an opening act, Mr. Bush met on Wednesday with Rockey Vaccarella, a Katrina survivor who with much publicity drove a "replica" of a FEMA trailer from New Orleans to Washington to seek an audience with the president. No Cindy Sheehan bum’s rush for him. Mr. Bush granted his wish and paraded him before the press. That was enough to distract the visitor from his professed message to dramatize the unfinished job on the Gulf. Instead Mr. Vaccarella effusively thanked the president for "the millions of FEMA trailers" complete with air-conditioning and TV. "You know, I wish you had another four years, man,” he said. “If we had this president for another four years, I think we’d be great.”

The CNN White House correspondent, Ed Henry, loved it. "Hollywood couldn’t have scripted this any better, a gritty guy named Rockey slugging it out, trying to realize his dream and getting that dream realized against all odds," he said. He didn’t ask how this particular Rockey, a fast-food manager who lost everything a year ago, financed this mission or so effortlessly pulled it off. It was up to bloggers and Democrats to report shortly thereafter that Mr. Vaccarella had run as a Republican candidate for the St. Bernard Parish commission in 1999. It was up to Iris Hageney of Gretna, La., to complain on the Times-Picayune Web site that the episode was "a huge embarrassment" that would encourage Americans to "forget the numerous people who still don’t have trailers or at least one with electricity or water."

That is certainly the White House game plan as it looks toward the president’s two-day return to the scene of the crime. Just as it brought huge generators to floodlight Mr. Bush’s prime-time recovery speech in Jackson Square a year ago — and then yanked the plug as soon as he was done — so it will stop at little to bathe this anniversary in the rosiest possible glow.

Douglas Brinkley, the Tulane University historian who wrote the best-selling account of Katrina, "The Great Deluge," is worried that even now the White House is escaping questioning about what it is up to (and not) in the Gulf. “I don’t think anybody’s getting the Bush strategy,” he said when we talked last week. “The crucial point is that the inaction is deliberate — the inaction is the action.” As he sees it, the administration, tacitly abetted by New Orleans’s opportunistic mayor, Ray Nagin, is encouraging selective inertia, whether in the rebuilding of the levees (“Only Band-Aids have been put on them”), the rebuilding of the Lower Ninth Ward or the restoration of the wetlands. The destination: a smaller city, with a large portion of its former black population permanently dispersed. “Out of the Katrina debacle, Bush is making political gains,” Mr. Brinkley says incredulously. “The last blue state in the Old South is turning into a red state.”

Perhaps. But with no plan for salvaging either of the catastrophes on his watch, this president can no sooner recover his credibility by putting on an elaborate show of sermonizing and spin this week than Mr. Cruise could levitate his image by jumping up and down on Oprah’s couch. While the White House’s latest screenplay may have been conceived as “Mission Accomplished II,” what we’re likely to see play out in New Orleans won’t even be a patch on “Mission: Impossible III.”

© 2006 The New York Times

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Our Privacy is a Right We Should Defend, bya revered Jesuit theologican and former Congressman.

Privacy: A Right to Defend
by Rev. Robert F. Drinan

Sometimes, as in the case of the current domestic surveillance controversy, it's important to take the long view.

It was in 1978 that President Carter persuaded Congress to create a special secret court that would authorize wiretaps or secret surveillance on people suspected of espionage. I was one of the few members of Congress to vote against the measure.

Although little is known about the court that monitors the resulting Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, analysts generally assume that it has achieved its objectives while complying with the Fourth Amendment's requirement that a warrant be issued by a judge before every search and seizure.

After the 9/11 attacks on America in 2001, however, President Bush decided to finesse FISA and collect information from countless people suspected by the spy agencies of being involved in terrorist activities. Three years after this clandestine program was started, the press revealed its existence. Late last week, a federal judge in Detroit, Anna Diggs Taylor, said that the president's move to bypass FISA was unconstitutional. Still, the president remains adamant that the plan is essential and that it is justified by his broad inherent powers as commander in chief.

One of the central arguments that Taylor employed concerned the legislative history of how and why Congress authorized FISA. Congress at the time was responding to an urgent request from Carter and the intelligence agencies arguing that they needed new powers to safeguard the nation, and that even with them they would make every attempt to get information in ways consistent with the new law.

When the press finally revealed that the Bush administration had created a vast network to collect information on alleged terrorist organizations, the White House had to admit openly that -- contrary to the clear intent of the Congress -- it had defied the carefully constructed FISA machinery.

More than 200 years ago, the authors of the Bill of Rights, backed by the original 13 states, decided that the government must refrain from any search or seizures of letters or other personal material unless a judge grants a warrant. This safeguard, also secured in the Massachusetts Constitution, was designed to prevent the kind of searches that were carried out by the English crown on its political opponents.

Underlying the Fourth Amendment was the concept that citizens had a right not to have their mail opened and read. Even more now than in 1791, there is a deep feeling in America that some areas of life are beyond the purview of the government. The word privacy was hardly known in the 1700s, but after the experience of the Star Chamber in England the citizens of the colonies made it clear that the government could intrude into their lives only if a judge approves the action by issuing a warrant. A quarter century ago, Congress reaffirmed these concepts during the FISA debate.

What is known about the secret court created by FISA is that it has granted virtually every request of every president and the CIA to intercept electronic communications to citizens in America. FISA's judges are appointed by the chief justice with no hearing or vote.

The uncontradicted assumption since 1978 has been that FISA is a necessary evil to find out what terrorists and other enemies of the United States are saying and doing. The revelations that the Bush administration is defying FISA's strictures have shocked analysts who believe that the Fourth Amendment's protections are indispensable to human dignity.

The Bush administration fears that the threat of terrorism is so enormous that the government should be able to open and read our letters and e-mail traffic, and monitor our phone conversations, without the limited protections of the 1978 law.

Privacy is precious, and a longstanding concern. The right to be free from compulsory incrimination is contained in the works of St. Thomas Aquinas in the 13th century. The right to confidentiality is clear in Catholic teaching about secrecy in confession. (There are severe penalties for any priest who violates those guarantees.)

The Bush administration's Justice Department has already filed an appeal of Taylor's ruling. But it is in America's best interest that her decision prevail.

The Rev. Robert F. Drinan is a professor at Georgetown University Law Center and was a US congressman from Massachusetts from 1971 to 1981. P.S. He was forced to retire by the Vatican which insisted that priests could not be actively so engaged in politics. (My 25 year old memory of the event)

Monday, August 21, 2006

The Tragic Mess We are In now: FEAR FINALLY STRIKES OUT, by Frank Rich.

Five Years After 9/11, Fear Finally Strikes Out
by Frank Rich

The results are in for the White House's latest effort to exploit terrorism for political gain: the era of Americans’ fearing fear itself is over.

In each poll released since the foiling of the trans-Atlantic terror plot — Gallup, Newsweek, CBS, Zogby, Pew — George W. Bush's approval rating remains stuck in the 30’s, just as it has been with little letup in the year since Katrina stripped the last remaining fig leaf of credibility from his presidency. While the new Middle East promised by Condi Rice remains a delusion, the death rattle of the domestic political order we've lived with since 9/11 can be found everywhere: in Americans' unhysterical reaction to the terror plot, in politicians' and pundits' hysterical overreaction to Joe Lieberman's defeat in Connecticut, even in the ho-hum box-office reaction to Oliver Stone's :World Trade Center."

It;s not as if the White House didn't pull out all the stops to milk the terror plot to further its politics of fear. One self-congratulatory presidential photo op was held at the National Counterterrorism Center, a dead ringer for the set in "24." But Mr. Bush's Jack Bauer is no more persuasive than his Tom Cruise of "Top Gun." By crying wolf about terrorism way too often, usually when a distraction is needed from bad news in Iraq, he and his administration have long since become comedy fodder, and not just on "The Daily Show." June's scenario was particularly choice: as Baghdad imploded, Alberto Gonzales breathlessly unmasked a Miami terror cell plotting a "full ground war" and the destruction of the Sears Tower, even though the alleged cell had no concrete plans, no contacts with terrorist networks and no equipment, including boots.

What makes the foiled London-Pakistan plot seem more of a serious threat — though not so serious it disrupted Tony Blair's vacation — is that the British vouched for it, not Attorney General Gonzales and his Keystone Kops. This didn't stop Michael Chertoff from grabbing credit in his promotional sprint through last Sunday’s talk shows. "It was as if we had an opportunity to stop 9/11 before it actually was carried out," he said, insinuating himself into that royal we. But no matter how persistent his invocation of 9/11, our secretary of homeland security is too discredited to impress a public that has been plenty disillusioned since Karl Rove first exhibited the flag-draped remains of a World Trade Center victim in a 2004 campaign commercial. We look at Mr. Chertoff and still see the man who couldn't figure out what was happening in New Orleans when the catastrophe was being broadcast in real time on television.

No matter what the threat at hand, he can't get his story straight. When he said last weekend that the foiling of the London plot revealed a Qaeda in disarray because "it's been five years since they've been capable of putting together something of this sort," he didn't seem to realize that he was flatly contradicting the Ashcroft-Gonzales claims for the gravity of all the Qaeda plots they've boasted of stopping in those five years. As recently as last October, Mr. Bush himself announced a list of 10 grisly foiled plots, including one he later described as a Qaeda plan "already set in motion" to fly a hijacked plane "into the tallest building on the West Coast.”"

Dick Cheney's credibility is also nil: he will always be the man who told us that Iraqis would greet our troops as liberators and that the insurgency was in its last throes in May 2005. His latest and predictable effort to exploit terrorism for ele"tion-year fear-mongering — arguing that Ned Lamont's dissent on Iraq gave comfort to “Al Qaeda types" — has no traction because the public has long since untangled the administration's bogus linkage between the Iraq war and Al Qaeda. That's why, of all the poll findings last week, the most revealing was one in the CBS survey: While the percentage of Americans who chose terrorism as our "most important problem" increased in the immediate aftermath of the London plot, terrorism still came in second, at only 17 percent, to Iraq, at 28 percent.

The administration's constant refrain that Iraq is the "central front" in the war on terror is not only false but has now also backfired politically: only 9 percent in the CBS poll felt that our involvement in Iraq was helping decrease terrorism. As its fifth anniversary arrives, 9/11 itself has been dwarfed by the mayhem in Iraq, where more civilians are now killed per month than died in the attack on America. The box-office returns of “World Trade Center” are a cultural sign of just how much America has moved on. For all the debate about whether it was "too soo" for such a Hollywood movie, it did better in the Northeast, where such concerns were most prevalent, than in the rest of the country, where, like "United 93," it may have arrived too late. Despite wild acclaim from conservatives and an accompanying e-mail campaign, "World Trade Center" couldn’t outdraw "Step Up," a teen romance starring a former Abercrombie & Fitch model and playing on 500 fewer screens.

Mr. Lamont's victory in the Connecticut Democratic senatorial primary has been as overhyped as Mr. Stone’s movie. As a bellwether of national politics, one August primary in one very blue state is nearly meaningless. Mr. Lieberman's star began to wane in Connecticut well before Iraq became a defining issue. His approval rating at home, as measured by the Quinnipiac poll, had fallen from 80 percent in 2000 to 51 percent in July 2003, and that was before his kamikaze presidential bid turned "Joementum" into a national joke.

The hyperbole that has greeted the Lamont victory in some quarters is far more revealing than the victory itself. In 2006, the tired Rove strategy of equating any Democratic politician’s opposition to the Iraq war with cut-and-run defeatism in the war on terror looks desperate. The Republicans are protesting too much, methinks. A former Greenwich selectman like Mr. Lamont isn’t easily slimed as a reincarnation of Abbie Hoffman or an ally of Osama bin Laden. What Republicans really see in Mr. Lieberman's loss is not a defeat in the war on terror but the specter of their own defeat. Mr. Lamont is but a passing embodiment of a fixed truth: most Americans think the war in Iraq was a mistake and want some plan for a measured withdrawal. That truth would prevail even had Mr. Lamont lost.

A similar panic can be found among the wave of pundits, some of them self-proclaimed liberals, who apoplectically fret that Mr. Lamont's victory signals the hijacking of the Democratic Party by the far left (here represented by virulent bloggers) and a prospective replay of its electoral apocalypse of 1972. Whatever their political affiliation, almost all of these commentators suffer from the same syndrome: they supported the Iraq war and, with few exceptions (mainly at The Wall Street Journal and The Weekly Standard), are now embarrassed that they did. Desperate to assert their moral superiority after misjudging a major issue of our time, they loftily declare that anyone who shares Mr. Lamont's pronounced opposition to the Iraq war is not really serious about the war against the jihadists who attacked us on 9/11.

That's just another version of the Cheney-Lieberman argument, and it's hogwash. Most of the 60 percent of Americans who oppose the war in Iraq also want to win the war against Al Qaeda and its metastasizing allies: that's one major reason they don't want America bogged down in Iraq. Mr. Lamont's public statements put him in that camp as well, which is why those smearing him resort to the cheap trick of citing his leftist great-uncle (the socialist Corliss Lamont) while failing to mention that his father was a Republican who served in the Nixon administration. (Mr. Lieberman, ever bipartisan, has accused Mr. Lamont of being both a closet Republican and a radical.)

These commentators are no more adept at reading the long-term implications of the Connecticut primary than they were at seeing through blatant White House propaganda about Saddam’s mushroom clouds. Their generalizations about the blogosphere are overheated; the shrillest left-wing voices on the Internet are no more representative of the whole than those of the far right. This country remains a country of the center, and opposition to the war in Iraq is now the center and (if you listen to Chuck Hagel and George Will, among other non-neoconservatives) even the center right.

As the election campaign quickens, genuine nightmares may well usurp the last gasps of Rovian fear-based politics. It's hard to ignore the tragic reality that American troops are caught in the cross-fire of a sectarian bloodbath escalating daily, that botched American policy has strengthened Iran and Hezbollah and undermined Israel, and that our Department of Homeland Security is as ill-equipped now to prevent explosives (liquid or otherwise) in cargo as it was on 9/11. For those who've presided over this debacle and must face the voters in November, this is far scarier stuff than a foiled terrorist cell, nasty bloggers and Ned Lamont combined.

Copyright 2006 The New York Times Company

Thursday, August 17, 2006

US Wiretapping declared ILLEGAL by Federal Judge.

A federal judge in Michigan ruled Thursday (August 17) that the Bush administration's controversial warrantless wiretapping program is unconstitutional and must immediately be stopped. The Associated Press reports that Detroit U.S. District
Judge Anna Diggs Taylor became the first judge to shoot down the National Security Agency program, and she said in a 43-page ruling that the program violates rights to free speech and privacy.

Though the ruling was a blow to the administration's program — which President Bush again defended last week by saying that threats like the recent U.K. plot to blow up planes are "why we have given our officials the tools they need to protect our people" — CNN legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin said it won't be the last word on the matter. Toobin said the ruling is unlikely to stop the wiretapping activities anytime soon.

The Justice Department is appealing the ruling, which won't take immediate effect so that Taylor can hear the department's request for a stay pending its appeal, according to AP. At a news conference in Washington, D.C., Attorney General Alberto Gonzales reiterated that the program is legal. "We're going to do everything we can do in the courts to allow this program to continue," he said. White House Press Secretary Tony Snow said the administration "couldn't disagree more with this ruling."

The American Civil Liberties Union filed the lawsuit on behalf of journalists, scholars and lawyers who say the program has made it difficult for them to do their jobs. They have said many of their overseas contacts were likely targets of the program, which involves secretly taping conversations between people in the U.S. and people in other countries, AP reported. The government has steadfastly refused to divulge any details about the program, which was described to Judge Taylor by the ACLU.

The administration had argued that the program was within the president's authority but that proving so by describing how it works would require revealing state secrets. The ACLU cast doubt on the state secrets argument, according to AP, saying the White House had already revealed enough information about the program publicly for Taylor to rule on its constitutionality.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006


Hoping for Fear
By Paul Krugman
The New York Times

Monday 14 August 2006

Just two days after 9/11, I learned from Congressional staffers that Republicans on Capitol Hill were already exploiting the atrocity, trying to use it to push through tax cuts for corporations and the wealthy. I wrote about the subject the next day, warning that "politicians who wrap themselves in the flag while relentlessly pursuing their usual partisan agenda are not true patriots."

The response from readers was furious - fury not at the politicians but at me, for suggesting that such an outrage was even possible. "How can I say that to my young son?" demanded one angry correspondent.

I wonder what he says to his son these days.

We now know that from the very beginning, the Bush administration and its allies in Congress saw the terrorist threat not as a problem to be solved, but as a political opportunity to be exploited. The story of the latest terror plot makes the administration's fecklessness and cynicism on terrorism clearer than ever.

Fecklessness: the administration has always pinched pennies when it comes to actually defending America against terrorist attacks. Now we learn that terrorism experts have known about the threat of liquid explosives for years, but that the Bush administration did nothing about that threat until now, and tried to divert funds from programs that might have helped protect us. "As the British terror plot was unfolding," reports The Associated Press, "the Bush administration quietly tried to take away $6 million that was supposed to be spent this year developing new explosives detection technology."

Cynicism: Republicans have consistently portrayed their opponents as weak on terrorism, if not actually in sympathy with the terrorists. Remember the 2002 TV ad in which Senator Max Cleland of Georgia was pictured with Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein? Now we have Dick Cheney suggesting that voters in the Democratic primary in Connecticut were lending aid and comfort to "Al Qaeda types." There they go again.

More fecklessness, and maybe more cynicism, too: NBC reports that there was a dispute between the British and the Americans over when to make arrests in the latest plot. Since the alleged plotters weren't ready to go - they hadn't purchased airline tickets, and some didn't even have passports yet - British officials wanted to watch and wait, hoping to gather more evidence. But according to NBC, the Americans insisted on early arrests.

Suspicions that the Bush administration might have had political motives in wanting the arrests made prematurely are fed by memories of events two years ago: the Department of Homeland Security declared a terror alert just after the Democratic National Convention, shifting the spotlight away from John Kerry - and, according to Pakistani intelligence officials, blowing the cover of a mole inside Al Qaeda.

But whether or not there was something fishy about the timing of the latest terror announcement, there's the question of whether the administration's scare tactics will work. If current polls are any indication, Republicans are on the verge of losing control of at least one house of Congress. And "on every issue other than terrorism and homeland security," says Newsweek about its latest poll, "the Dems win." Can a last-minute effort to make a big splash on terror stave off electoral disaster?

Many political analysts think it will. But even on terrorism, and even after the latest news, polls give Republicans at best a slight advantage. And Democrats are finally doing what they should have done long ago: calling foul on the administration's attempt to take partisan advantage of the terrorist threat.

It was significant both that President Bush felt obliged to defend himself against that accusation in his Saturday radio address, and that his standard defense - attacking a straw man by declaring that "there should be no disagreement about the dangers we face" - came off sounding so weak.

Above all, many Americans now understand the extent to which Mr. Bush abused the trust the nation placed in him after 9/11. Americans no longer believe that he is someone who will keep them safe, as many did even in 2004; the pathetic response to Hurricane Katrina and the disaster in Iraq have seen to that.

All Mr. Bush and his party can do at this point is demonize their opposition. And my guess is that the public won't go for it, that Americans are fed up with leadership that has nothing to hope for but fear itself.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Debunking Bush/Cheney Myths, by Allen Roland.

August 11, 2006


By Allen L Roland

"Bush's war on terror was a sham from the start . Its objective was never to eliminate the 'evil doers' ~ its objective was to create an Orwellian ;never ending war' which would fit nicely into a planned Cheney/Bush neo-conservative agenda and reap profits for all of Bush's corporate cronies and political donors." --Allen L Roland

The Cheney/Bush administration is in full attack, after the defeat of its lapdog Joe Lieberman, and once again resorting to its Orwellian strategy of defining failure as a success.

Leading the attack is Darth Vader himself, Dick Cheney with his familiar patriotic blather and script ~ "Lieberman's defeat is disturbing since al Qaeda types... clearly are betting on the proposition that ultimately they can break the will of the American people."

WHAT A CROCK ! When is America finally going to see through this mirage of success in Iraq and finally see the truth of this absurd neocon exercise of hubris and self deception.

But fortunately we have organizations like the Center For American Progress who are more than capable of debunking the many ongoing myths of the most corrupt administration in American history. This is a short must read report.

Allen L Roland


by Judd Legum, Faiz Shakir, Nico Pitney
Amanda Terkel and Payson Schwin / American Progress Report / August 10, 2006

The first responsibility of our government is to protect the American people. President Bush and his administration has not passed this most basic test and Americans know it. Now, panicked by the strong turnout in Connecticut and the clear evidence that most Americans want to change course, these failed policy makers have turned to their strong suit: political mudslinging.

White House officials and surrogates fanned out yesterday in a coordinated Rovian campaign to smear their opponents as "weak on security."

Press Secretary Tony Snow said that Connecticut voters who backed Ned Lamont believe America should "ignore the difficulties and walk away" from the war on terrorism, a philosophy that "led to September 11th."

Vice President Cheney said the defeat of a major Iraq war supporter was "disturbing" since "al Qaeda types...are clearly are betting on the proposition that ultimately they can break the will of the American people." This administration excels at sloganeering about the war -- their latest attacks have already seeped into mainstream media analysis. But sloganeering about war is much easier than conducting it.

The White House should stop analyzing primary results and start figuring out how to stop the civil war in Baghdad. The Progress Report busts the White House myths:

DEBUNKING THE 'EXTREMIST TAKEOVER' MYTH: The most common attack yesterday was that Lieberman's loss demonstrates a political takeover by the radical left wing. "[I]f you disagree with the extreme left," Tony Snow said, "they're going to come after you."

But rejection of the Bush administration's dangerous "stay the course" approach isn't a view held just by "left-wing" liberals.

Fifty percent of Americans disapprove of President Bush's efforts against terrorism (vs. 47 percent approval) and 62 percent disapprove of his handling of Iraq (vs. 36 percent approval).

As the New York Times noted, "Mr. Lieberman's supporters have tried to depict Mr. Lamont and his backers as wild-eyed radicals who want to punish the senator for working with Republicans and to force the Democratic Party into a disastrous turn toward extremism. ... The rebellion against Mr. Lieberman was actually an uprising by that rare phenomenon, irate moderates."

DEBUNKING THE 'CUT AND RUN' MYTH: Former Rove deputy Ken Mehlman said yesterday, "Do we adapt policy to win, or alternatively, do we cut and run, which would give the terrorists a major victory and weaken America?"

The media have picked this line up. Remarking on politicians who didn't support Lamont in the primary, New York Times reporter Anne Kornblut suggested they had "made the calculation that it would be more dangerous to take the cut and run position."

The truth is that no prominent critic of the president's Iraq strategy favors an immediate withdrawal. Lamont does not. Sens. Carl Levin (D-MI) and Jack Reed (D-RI), who proposed the United States Policy for Iraq Act, do not. Sens. John Kerry (D-MA) and Russ Feingold (D-WI), who proposed a another Iraq plan, do not. Rep. Jack Murtha (D-PA) does not. Rep. John Duncan (R-TN) does not.

This suggestion is a fabrication, a blatant falsehood. Moreover, as Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-NE) has said, the Iraq war "should be taken more seriously than to simply retreat into focus-group tested buzz words and phrases like 'cut and run,' catchy political slogans that debase the seriousness of war."

DEBUNKING THE 'SOFT ON TERROR' MYTH: Tony Snow lamented yesterday that "one of the problems that often besets democracies, which is impatience in hard times, in fact serves as a motivation for terror groups."

Instead of accusing people who don't support their policies of motivating terrorists, the Bush administration should look at its own record.

"Today, al-Qaida has not only regrouped, but it is on the march," Bruce Hoffman, a terrorism expert at the RAND Corp, testified last month. "Al Qaeda is now functioning exactly as its founder and leader, Osama bin Laden, envisioned it."

Terrorist attacks worldwide have nearly quadrupled since President Bush took office, and the war in Iraq has become a safe haven for terrorists and attracted a "foreign fighter pipeline" linked to terrorist plots, cells and attacks throughout the world, according to a State Department report last April.

Meanwhile, the administration's efforts to adapt to the "post-9/11 world" are a bust. Its homeland security apparatus was exposed most tragically by Hurricane Katrina, where "the same mistakes made on 9/11 were made over again, in some cases worse," according to former 9/11 Commission chairman Thomas Kean.

The most recent "report card" by the former 9/11 Commission members said both Congress and the President had failed to implement the reforms necessary to prevent and prepare for a future terrorist attack. The grades were dismal: five F's, 12 D's, nine C's, and only one A-minus. "Despite more than four years of legislation, executive orders and presidential directives," a Government Accountability Office report concluded, the Bush administration has "yet to comprehensively improve sharing of counterterrorism information."

And the federal anti-terrorism database today lists Indiana as the most target-rich state in the U.S., with "50 percent more listed sites than New York," and includes potential "targets" like Old MacDonald's Petting Zoo, the Amish Country Popcorn factory, and an unspecified "Beach at End of a Street."

DEBUNKING THE 'IRAQ DISUNITY' MYTH: Some pundits and political analysts continue to charge that there is no consensus on an alternative to "stay the course."

The New York Times reported yesterday that "the accepted wisdom in political circles" was that progressives were "still struggling to arrive at a unified position about the war." But just a few days prior, the Times observed that prominent opponents of Bush's Iraq strategy "had unified around a position [on Iraq] -- and presented it so forcefully" that it suggested "the politics surrounding the war are changing."

Indeed, Iraq war critics of various political stripes -- from Rep. Murtha to Sen. Joe Biden (D-DE) -- signed a "unified statement" to President Bush on July 31 stating that "a phased redeployment of U.S. forces from Iraq should begin before the end of 2006."

(American Progress has laid out a detailed plan for Strategic Redeployment.)

Authors Website:

Authors Bio: Allen L Roland is a practicing psychotherapist, author and lecturer who also shares a daily political and social commentary on his weblog and website He also guest hosts a monthly national radio show TRUTHTALK on Conscious talk radio

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Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Oligarchy vs Democrats: Lieberman vs Lamont, by Rick Jacobs, Common Dreams.

John Jay Hooker, who has run for nearly every office as a Democrat in Tennessee and never once won, recites a simple, elegant truism. “There are two kinds of people in politics: those that run and those who don’t. And the difference between ‘em is that those who run, run and those who don’t, don’t.” It sounds silly, but it’s the essence of America.

Standing in the ballroom tonight here in Meriden, Connecticut as Ned Lamont reflected and enhanced the energy that the crowd gave to him and to itself, John Jay was never more right.

When I first met Ned Lamont in February, he had zero name recognition in Connecticut. The public polls showed Lieberman would trounce an unnamed opponent with over 70% of The the vote. Fifteen percent said they’d vote for Ned, but that really meant that 15% would vote for anyone but Lieberman. In the face of such odds, most of us would say, "it’s not time. Joe’s the incumbent. I don’t agree with him, but I can’t beat him. Besides, we have to keep our MINORITY in the Senate. We can’t afford a fight."

Fortunately, Ned Lamont did not know much about such grim conventional wisdom, the same grey, overbearing clouds that depress not just would be candidates, but most voters. Just as candidates are unwilling to give it a go, voters increasingly think that their votes don’t matter. The incumbents with their institutional backers and back scratching friends always win. And increasingly, the voters lose.

But Ned Lamont did not believe that story. And neither did his campaign manager, a very scrappy, experienced Connecticut grassroots organizer named Tom Swan. Ned had many choices, including selecting a D.C. insider to run his race. True to his instincts that the status quo can’t sustain a nation built on revolution and entrepreneurship, Ned selected Tom because Tom belongs to his state and vice versa. Tom single handedly pushed through a clean money bill in Connecticut. Tom is the best of campaign consultants because he cares about his state and his candidate, not about his cut from the media buy. What a delightful breath of fresh air compared with the stultifying insider mentality that dominates – and for years has decimated – the Democratic Party.

In May, when we at Brave New Films delivered the DVD that introduced Ned to the Democratic convention and to voters in Connecticut, the tide had begun to turn, but ever so slowly. Bucking the odds, Ned won 35% of the Democratic convention vote, thereby landing comfortably on the ballot, well above the 15% he needed. For anyone who understands how state parties work, this was more than an omen. State parties are usually well controlled by their Chair and a few other insiders. The party apparatus is an incumbency protection machine. They rarely give the nod to anything or anyone outside of the club. Parties exist to control the electorate, not vice versa.

By late July, when the polls started to show that Lieberman sagged as he had been doing for years, the national media began to focus on this race, determined that it’s a fight between the new, left anti-war nut jobs and the rest of the Democratic Party. That’d be a fairly easy conclusion to draw, since seemingly every Democrat (in name) in the country paraded through Connecticut as if Joe Lieberman were their long lost brother. Lost he was. Someday, someone will explain how Barbara Boxer suddenly decided that Joe Lieberman had become her east coast clone, especially since our very own Maxine Waters virtually moved to Connecticut to help assure that Ned won.

Tonight, the political world quaked.
An outsider with a team of outsiders proved that by saying “I’ll run” and by standing up for character and pluck, for being willing to say no to the president who will go down in history (although painfully slowly) as the most destructive ever, won. He won without the consultant class fluffing him and supping at the trough. He won without conventional wisdom at his back. He won without Bill Clinton, Joe Biden, Barbara Boxer, Barack Obama or anyone else anointing. He won without asking permission of the establishment. He won without looking at the polls and without living in focus groups. He won the way Americans have stopped imagining people can win. He won by trying, by saying I will and then saying we did.

Joe Lieberman has every right to run as independent. Those are the rules. And we as donors and grassroots leaders and patriots have every right to say to any and all Democrats, “you will support the nominee. If you do not, do not ever again ask for a dime for the DSCC or the DCCC or the DNC or for yourself. We cannot give money to institutions that carry the name Democrat but act as oligarchs.”

This race is not just about Connecticut. It is about every Democrat this year standing up and demanding change, demanding leadership. This race is not just about the war, it is about believing again in an America that "can do."

Nancy Reagan had it half right. To the club of the elite, just say no. To the Democrats who are truly democrats, proudly and defiantly say yes.

Paschal: Much will be made and inferred of this political victory. Republicans wanted Lieberman to win and will probably support his independent candidacy as it will split the vote and enable a Republican to win the Senate seat.

This event, IMO, will not be the death of the Democratic party as Cokie Roberts predeicted on Meet the Press. Lieberman did not lose simply because of the war, and the Democrats running ths fall will not run or win because they are anti-war.

Both the media and the politicians (particularly all the elite insiders in D.C.) have NOT been listening to the American People, and that is what this victory is all about.

The Lamont win is certainly going to make the Congressional races this fall very interesting ad potentially shape-shifting of the political landscape.

August 9, 2006

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

/Times Call for New Pentagon Papers,, by Ellsberg.

Times Call for New Pentagon Papers
by Daniel Ellsberg
August 8, Philadelphia Inquirer.

According to recent opinion polls, most Iraqis don't believe that we're making things better or safer in their country. What does that say about the legitimacy of prolonged occupation, much less permanent American bases in Iraq? What does it mean for continued American patrols such as the one last November in Haditha, which, we now learn, led to the deaths of a Marine and 24 unarmed civilians?

Questions very much like these nagged at my conscience at the height of the Vietnam War, and led, eventually, to the publication of the Pentagon Papers in the summer of 1971, 35 years ago.

As a former Marine commander and defense analyst in 1970, I had exclusive access to highly classified defense documents for research purposes. They constituted a 47-volume, top-secret Defense Department history of American involvement in Vietnam titled U.S. Decision-making in Vietnam, 1945-68. The Pentagon Papers made it very clear that I, like the rest of the American public, had been misled about the origins and purposes of the war I had participated in. Today's troops in Iraq have also been misled, as 85 percent of them believed, according to a Zogby poll from March, that Saddam Hussein was responsible for 9/11 and that he was allied with al-Qaeda.

That period had several other similarities to this one.

Americans saw the color photographs of the My Lai massacre; now we are seeing photographs eerily similar to those from Haditha: women, children, old men and babies, all shot at short range.

Congress was debating the withdrawal of U.S. armed forces from Indochina while President Richard Nixon was making secret plans to expand, rather than exit from, the ongoing war in Southeast Asia - including a major air offensive against North Vietnam, possibly using nuclear weapons. Today, the Bush administration's threats to wage war against Iran are explicit, with reports indicating that officials regularly reiterate that the nuclear "option" is "on the table."

What prompted me to begin copying 7,000 pages of highly classified documents - an act that I fully expected would send me to prison for life? I came to the conclusion that the system I had been part of as a Marine, a Pentagon official and a State Department officer in Vietnam lied reflexively, at every level, from sergeant to commander in chief, about murder. And I had the evidence to prove it.

The papers showed very clearly how we had become engaged in a reckless war of choice in someone else's country - a country that had not attacked us - for our own domestic and external purposes. It became clear to me that the justifications that had been given for our involvement were false. And if the war itself was unjust, then all the victims of our firepower were being killed without justification.

That's murder.

Today, there must be, at the very least, hundreds of civilian and military officials in the Pentagon, CIA, State Department, National Security Agency and White House who have in their safes and computers comparable documentation of intense internal debates - so far carefully concealed from Congress and the public - about prospective or actual war crimes, reckless policies and domestic crimes: the Pentagon Papers of Iraq, Iran or the ongoing war on U.S. liberties. Some of those officials, I hope, will choose to accept the personal risks of revealing the truth - earlier than I did - before more lives are lost or a new war is launched.

Haditha holds a mirror up not just to American troops in the field, but to our whole society. Not just to the liars in government but to those who believe them too easily. And to all of us in the public, in the administration, in Congress and the media who dissent so far ineffectively or who stand by as murder is being done and do nothing to stop it or expose it.

Americans must summon the courage to face what is being done in their name and to refuse to be accomplices. The Voters' Pledge (www.VotersForPeace.US) is one way to do this. This project comprises many of the major organizations in the antiwar movement - United for Peace and Justice, Peace Action, Gold Star Families for Peace, Code Pink, and Democracy Rising - as well as groups such as the National Organization for Women, Progressive Democrats in America and The coalition's goal is to build a base of antiwar voters that cannot be ignored by anyone running for office in the United States.

Voters in Connecticut will make their voices heard in today's primary election for U.S. senator. We want millions of other voters, including you, to sign the pledge and say no to pro-war candidates when you next go to the polls.

Daniel Ellsberg, an antiwar activist, is a former U.S. military analyst who released the Pentagon Papers to American newspapers. Contact Daniel Ellsberg at

© 2006 Philadelphia Inquirer

We Ourselves are now Ground Zero. . .

The Nagasaki Principle
by James Carroll

Today is the anniversary of what did not happen. Sixty-one years ago yesterday, the atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima. The scale of nuclear devastation was apparent at once. The next day, no decision was made to call off the bombing of Nagasaki. Why? Historians debate the justification of the Hiroshima attack, but there is consensus that Nagasaki, coming less than three days later, was tragically unnecessary. President Harry Truman's one order to use the atomic bomb, given on July 25, established a momentum that was not stopped.

``The 509 Composite Group, 20th Air Force, will deliver its first special bomb," the order read, "as soon as weather will permit visual bombing after about 3 August 1945 on one of the targets: Hiroshima, Kokura, Niigata, and Nagasaki." The order instructed the Air Force to deliver "additional bombs . . . as soon as made ready by the project staff." The second bomb was the only other one ready, and because it was ready, it was used. If others had been ready, pity Kokura and Niigata. Truman's order was written by the project director, General Leslie Groves, who compared the new president here to a man jumping on a toboggan that was already speeding downhill. Watch out!

It is commonly said that war operates by the law of unintended consequences, but another, less-noted law operates as well. War creates momentum that barrels through normally restraining barriers of moral and practical choice. Decision makers begin wars, whether aggressively or defensively, in contexts that are well understood, and with purposes that seem proportionate and able to be accomplished. When destruction and hurt follow the outbreak of violence, however, and then when that destruction and hurt become extreme, the context within which war is begun changes radically. First assumptions no longer apply, and original purposes can become impossible. When that happens, what began as destruction for a goal becomes destruction for its own sake. War generates its own force in which everyone loses. This might be called the Nagasaki principle.

The Nagasaki principle comes in two parts. It can operate at the level of close combat, driving fighters to commit atrocities that, in normal conditions, they would abhor. It operates equally at the level of the commanders, leading them to order strikes out of desperation, frustration, or merely for the sake of "doing something." Such strikes draw equivalent responses from the other side until the destruction is complete. After the fact, massive carnage can seem to have been an act for which no one is responsible, like the result of a natural disaster.

That's when a second aspect of the Nagasaki principle comes into play -- the refusal to undertake a moral reckoning with what has been done.

Across the decades, the United States has had a case of what the historian Marc Trachtenberg calls "nuclear amnesia," a profound forgetfulness about the context and consequences of the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The context included the prior destruction of dozens of Japanese cities, most notably Tokyo, that relativized the damage done at the two atomic sites. The consequences included the mutation in human consciousness that now foresaw the end not merely of individual life, but of civilization itself. Shame and dread defined the deepest part of the American psyche, even if no explicit confrontation with these feelings was ever undertaken.

Thus, what I am calling the Nagasaki principle consists in momentum, which obfuscates responsibility before the fact, and denial, which prevents a necessary moral reckoning afterward.

This may seem like airy theorizing, but the psychologically unfinished business of the Nuclear Age, dating to the day after Hiroshima, defined the American response to the trauma of Sept. 11, 2001. The nation had lived for two generations with the subliminal but powerfully felt dread of a coming nuclear war.

Unconsciously ashamed of our own action in using the bomb, we were waiting for pay-back, and on that beautiful morning it seemed to come. The smoke rising up from the twin towers hit us like a mushroom cloud, and we instantly dubbed the ruined site as Ground Zero, when, as historian John Dower observes, the only true Ground Zeros are the two in Japan.

Our unconscious shame was superseded by an overt sense of victimhood. We launched a war whose momentum has carried the world into the unwilled and unforeseen catastrophe that unfolds today. Our denial of nuclear responsibility, meanwhile, embodied in our permanent nuclear arsenal, licenses other nations that aim to match us -- notably Iran. Momentum and denial combined to destroy Nagasaki, which was, alas, not the end, but the beginning.
Paschal: Our entire country we have fashioned to be Ground Zero for the many we have stirred to hate us. We have reason to fear the future.

James Carroll's column appears regularly in the Globe. His most recent book is "Crusade: Chronicles of an Unjust War."

© 2006 Boston Globe

Monday, August 07, 2006

"Let's have the Debate," Ned Lamont to Senator Lieberman

"Let's have the debate," Lamont announced in a speech that spelled out the differences between the three-term incumbent and a progressive challenger who promises he won't be "complicit" with this White House.

Lamont's declaration of candidacy was blunt and aggressive in its critique of Lieberman, signaling that this will not be a tepid challenge to a Democratic incumbent who has broken faith with the progressive base of the Democratic party.

Here's an excerpt from Lamont's announcement speech.

Let's have the debate.

Three years ago politicians with years of political experience rushed our troops off to war; they told us the war would be easy; we'd be greeted as liberators.

Now three years later, America is no safer, Israel is no safer, the Middle East is even less stable, Iran is on the prowl, Osama Bid Laden is on the prowl, and we have 130,000 valiant troops stuck in the middle of a violent civil war in the heart of Iraq.

Those who got us into this mess should be held accountable.

In Washington they give you a medal; in my world they say: "You're fired."

I say it is time for the Iraqis to take control of their own destiny and we're just getting in the way.

Let's have the debate.

The $250 million a day we are spending in Iraq is better spent on pre-school and healthcare, public transit and veterans benefits.

Let's have the debate.

I would have lead the opposition to the nomination of Judge Alito? Next year the Supreme Court will hear the South Dakota law which outlaws a woman's right to choose, even in the case of rape and incest.

Let's have the debate.

I believe that President George Bush's illegal wiretaps, his reckless fiscal and environmental policies are weakening America and leaving too many hardworking citizens behind.

I doubt that anybody will call me "George Bush's favorite Democrat."

Do you remember that Bridge to Nowhere in Alaska? Part of the 6,371 earmarks, which are multi million dollar pork ridden special favors for special congressmen, added to a bill at the last moment, under the cloak of darkness. And it's all legal, the big easy for career politicians.

If you are not shouting from the rafters that this is wrong, then you are complicit and part of the problem.

I am not a shouter, but I come to this race as someone who is obviously not afraid of a challenge. I am ready challenge business as usual, I am ready to fight for our Democratic values and I will tell the Bush administration to put their haughty arrogance in their back pocket and deal with the rest of the world with respect. That's how America will start winning again in a post 9-11 world.

As I travel the state I have heard from thousands of you - students and elderly, veterans and teachers, small business and labor, even a few courageous political leaders: let's have a primary, let's have the debate: how did we get into this mess and how do we get out?

Sure, there are some that have not been quite so encouraging: Ned, don't jeopardize a safe seat.

I tell them, Connecticut is a progressive state. You're not losing a Senator, you're gaining a Democrat.

They tell me, Ned, don't rock the boat.

And I tell them, baby, it's high time we "rock the boat."

We are running for the heart and soul of the Democratic party; we're showing the country that we can win as proud Democrats fueled by your grassroots support and energy and passion; and on August 9 the pundits will be shaking their heads and noting: here come the Democrats.

quoted in The Nation

Justice Kennedy: the Jury is out on American Democracy.

Kennedy: Jury's Out on US Democracy
By Mark Niesse
The Associated Press

Sunday 06 August 2006

Honolulu - The United States is not making the case for freedom, democracy and Western law to the rest of the world, Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy said Saturday.

"Make no mistake, there's a jury that's out. In half the world, the verdict is not yet in. The commitment to accept the Western idea of democracy has not yet been made, and they are waiting for you to make the case," Kennedy said in an address to the American Bar Association.

Kennedy, 70, said he fears many parts of the world are not yet convinced that the American form of government as designed by the framers of the Constitution guarantees a better way of life.

"Our best security, our only security, is in the world of ideas, and I sense a slight foreboding," he said.

Kennedy, a moderate justice who has become a key swing vote on the Supreme Court, argued that the meaning of the phrase "rule of law" must be made clear in order to spread the cause of freedom to other countries. He avoided singling out specific nations.

He said the rule of law has three parts: it must be binding on all government officials, it must respect the dignity, equality and human rights of every person, and it must guarantee people the right to enforce the law without fear of retaliation.

"Americans must understand that if the rules of law have meaning, such as hope and inspiration for the rest of the world, it must be coupled with the opportunity to improve human existence," Kennedy said.

The United States' quest to spread freedom will only succeed if people in other countries accept the promises made by a democratic government, he said.

"For us, law is a liberating force. It's a promise, it's a covenant that says you can hope, you can dream, you can dare, you can plan," he said. "We must explain to a doubting world where the verdict is still out."

Kennedy, who has served on the Supreme Court since 1988, urged the attorneys in the audience to do their part to work for the preservation of basic rights and uphold the principles of the American justice system.

American Bar Association President Michael Greco discussed some of the same themes as he introduced Kennedy.

"Any threat to liberties and human rights in one country is a threat to the citizens of all nations," Greco said. "The most fundamental responsibility of members of the legal profession is to ensure that the law is used as an instrument to advance the basic principles of justice, fairness and equality."

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Mel Gibson's True Passion?

Mel Gibson's True Passion
Gibson's vulgar, anti-Semitic rant upon his arrest for drunk driving should prompt reexamination of The Passion of the Christ.

by Francis Engler and Mark Engler

On July 28th a long-running debate about Mel Gibson came to an end with an alcohol-induced anti-Semitic rant recorded by Los Angeles county sheriffs deputies. As the actor and director spouted lines like, "F***ing Jews... The Jews are responsible for all the wars in the world," Gibson evinced a profound and hostile anti-Semitism.

If Gibson were just a movie star, this statement would be a gossip item published next to Tom Cruise's embarrassing stab at psychiatry. But Mel Gibson is more than a movie star. After his movie The Passion of the Christ became the biggest religious blockbuster of all time, Gibson advanced as a major international religious figure. He has been embraced by a wide array of Christian leaders, from Ted Haggard, President of the National Association of Evangelicals, to Paul Crouch Jr. of the Trinity Broadcasting Network, who declared in his broadcast that, "Every Christian MUST go see this movie and hold Mr. Gibson up in prayer."

Like Mel Gibson, we are Catholics. We come from a large Midwestern Catholic family. Our father was a diocesan priest and our mother was a Franciscan nun who left their positions in the clergy to get married and have children. Two of our uncles are priests and a third attended seminary before pursuing another career. Our younger brother now runs a religious center for the working poor.

When the controversy around The Passion of the Christ began almost three years ago, we were alarmed by the Anti-Defamation League's warning that the film "portray[ed] Jews as blood-thirsty, sadistic, and money-hungry enemies of Jesus." Other critics charged that Gibson's father had made statements denying the Holocaust and that Mel Gibson himself had made some disturbing off-the-cuff remarks. But, at the time, a wide-ranging group of people defended Gibson.

Beyond evangelical Christians, mainstream Catholic groups like the Knights of Columbus came to Gibson's aid. Even Jewish film critic Michael Medved decried the "crucifying" of Gibson and "the reckless maneuvering of real-life Jewish leaders whose arrogance and short-sightedness has led them into a tragic, needless, no-win public relations war."

Now we have to face the truth. Many religious scholars have expressed concern that the movie tells the story of the final hours of Jesus' life in a way that focuses the blame for his death on Jews instead of the Roman authorities. Others say that the movie fills in many details about the events of Jesus' death in ways that reflect anti-Semitic medieval Catholic folklore rather than actual biblical scholarship. During the release of the movie, there was a real question about whether the decisions that Gibson made in making the film were mere expressions of personal spirituality or whether they reflected a latent hostility toward Judaism. Now that Gibson had broadcast such hostility to the world, the Christian community needs to rethink its embrace of The Passion as a tool for evangelism.

One can find an instructive parallel between the controversy surrounding Gibson and his landmark film and D.W. Griffith's 1915 civil war epic, The Birth of a Nation, the first blockbuster in American cinema. Griffith's film, which was adapted from the racist play The Clansman, by Thomas Dixon, also caused a national uproar when it was released. Groups like the newly formed NAACP decried the negative portrayal of African Americans in the film and the positive historical light in which it cast the Ku Klux Klan, but their call for the removal of objectionable scenes in the film met with little to no success.

Like Gibson, Griffith objected vehemently to accusations that he or his film were racist in any way, and he was largely supported by both the film community and the viewing public. The problem is that Birth of a Nation is an obviously bigoted movie, and film historians today cringe at the thought that America ever embraced it.

Let's hope that, with Gibson's anti-Semitism now on overt display, it will not take decades for us to come to similar reevaluation of The Passion.

Francis Engler is a union organizer based in Oceanside, California. Mark Engler, a writer based in New York City, is an analyst with Foreign Policy In Focus. They can be reached via the web site The authors thank Allison De Fren for her contributions to this article.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Is Conservatism Dying in U.S. Politics?

Curtains for Conservatism
By E.J. Dionne Jr.

The Washington Post

Friday 04 August 2006

Is conservatism finished?

What might have seemed an absurd question less than two years ago is now one of the most important issues in American politics. The question is being asked - mostly quietly but occasionally publicly - by conservatives themselves as they survey the wreckage of their hopes, and as their champions in the Republican Party use any means necessary to survive this fall's elections.

Conservatism is an honorable disposition that, in its modern form, is inspired by the philosophy developed by Edmund Burke in the 18th century. But as a contemporary American movement, conservatism is rooted intellectually in the 1950s and the circles around William F. Buckley Jr. and National Review magazine. It rose politically with Barry Goldwater's campaign in 1964.

Conservatism was always a delicate balancing act between small- government economic libertarians and social traditionalists who revered family, faith and old values. The two wings were often held together by a common enemy, modern liberalism certainly, but even more so by communism until the early 1990s and now by what some conservatives call "Islamofascism."

President Bush, his defenders say, has pioneered a new philosophical approach, sometimes known as "big government conservatism." The most articulate defender of this position, the journalist Fred Barnes, argues that Bush's view is "Hamiltonian" as in Alexander, Thomas Jefferson's rival in the early republic. Bush's strategy, Barnes says, "is to use government as a means to achieve conservative ends."

Kudos to Barnes for trying bravely to make sense of what to so many others - including some in conservative ranks - seems an incoherent approach. But I would argue that this is the week in which conservatism, Hamiltonian or not, reached the point of collapse.

The most obvious, outrageous and unprincipled spasm occurred Thursday night when the Senate voted on a bill that would have simultaneously raised the minimum wage and slashed taxes on inherited wealth.

Rarely has our system produced a more naked exercise in opportunism. Most conservatives oppose the minimum wage on principle as a form of government meddling in the marketplace. But moderate Republicans in jeopardy this fall desperately wanted an increase in the minimum wage.

So the seemingly ingenious Republican leadership, which dearly wants deep cuts in the estate tax, proposed offering nickels and dimes to the working class to secure billions for the rich. Fortunately, though not surprisingly, the bill failed.

The episode was significant because it meant Republicans were acknowledging that they would not hold congressional power without the help of moderates. That is because there is nothing close to a conservative majority in the United States.

Yet their way of admitting this was to put on display the central goal of the currently dominant forces of politics: give away as much as possible to the truly wealthy. You wonder what those blue-collar conservatives once known as Reagan Democrats made of all this.

Thursday's shenanigans were merely a symptom. Consider other profound fissures within the right. There is an increasingly bitter debate over whether it made any sense to wage war in Iraq in the hopes of transforming that country into a democracy. Conservatives with excellent philosophical credentials, including my colleague George F. Will and Bill Buckley himself, see the enterprise as profoundly un-conservative.

On immigration, the big-business right and culturally optimistic conservatives square off against cultural pessimists and conservatives who see porous borders as a major security threat. On stem cell research, libertarians battle conservatives who have serious moral and religious doubts about the practice - and even some staunch opponents of abortion break with the right-to-life movement on the issue.

On spending ... well, on spending incoherence and big deficits are the order of the day. Writing last May in National Review, conservatives Kate O'Beirne and Rich Lowry had one word to describe the Republican Congress' approach to the matter: "Incontinence." In that important essay, O'Beirne and Lowry argued that the relevant question for conservatives may not be "Can this Congress be saved?" but, "Is it worth saving?"

Political movements lose power when they lose their self-confidence and sense of mission. Liberalism went into a long decline after 1968 when liberals clawed at each other more than they battled conservatives - and when they began to wonder whether their project was worth salvaging.

Between now and November, conservative leaders will dutifully try to rally the troops to stave off a Democratic victory. But their hearts won't be in the fight. The decline of conservatism leaves a vacuum in American politics. An unhappy electorate is waiting to see who will fill it.

Friday, August 04, 2006

Media with no guts and no grace, Molly Irvins.

Media With No Guts, No Grace
by Molly Ivins

San Francisco — Do you think the Bush administration is going after the press? The San Francisco Chronicle said on the front page, "Cameraman Jailed for Not Yielding Tape," whereas The New York Times reported, "U.S. Wins Access to Reporter Phone Records." I’m feeling like a bunny trying to outrun a pack of wolfhounds.

Sometimes the press enjoys scaring itself or pretending it is about to be made into a bunch of martyrs. This is not one of those times. We are under full attack now, and it is time to fight. I am not infuriated by the performance of the press so far, but I am disgusted. Bob Novak is the most notable traitor, but others are leaping for political favors as they rush to insist The New York Times shouldn’t print the news (and occasionally, quite old news at that). I fail to see how Fox News and other right-wing outlets have so little imagination they cannot picture themselves in the same corner come a Democratic administration. What goes around comes around and all that good stuff, but to set it up so that payback is hell for yourself is tragically, deeply dumb. I have watched the D.C. press corps play courtier to Bush since he openly insulted Helen Thomas, who is not only a first-rate journalist but a lady as well. Shame on you all. No principle, no guts, no grace.

On another topic, I was talking to a guy named Andy the other night when he observed that unlike President Bush, he had learned firsthand that diplomacy works with skunks. He was speaking of the striped, tail-up-bad-sign kind, but they seem a perfect metaphor for the rest of what he laughingly calls Bush's diplomatic strategery—at which point the proper response is to ask, "What diplomatic strategery?" Has anyone seen a foreign policy lately? Does anyone still know what containment means? These are, after all, the people who were against arms control because Bill Clinton was for it.

One feels like Casey Stengel looking at the early Mets: "Doesn’t anybody here know how to play this game?" In the most contemptible act of irresponsibility imaginable, the neocons who pulled together to start this war now reject any responsibility for it. Mr. Wolfowitz is busy running the World Bank; it's no longer his business.

The rest of this crew of moral pygmies is too frightened of Dick Cheney to point out that this entire war is a disaster, or a fiasco, as Thomas E. Ricks, author of the new book "Fiasco," puts it. I think the Bush foreign policy—when in doubt, send Condi Rice home—is a public relations ploy to keep the Israeli-Lebanese war going long enough so that Americans won't notice Iraq has completely collapsed in the meantime. And it has collapsed. I suggest our military figure out how to get out of there before it loses an entire effing army on the way.

In Washington, the sophomore wienies who now staff the administration are far too terrified of Cheney to speak up, even if they had enough sense to notice it’s going rather badly. Oh, for heaven's sake—send Cheney back to south Texas so he can shoot at caged birds there. The Wizard of Oz had more credibility.

I think they’re running around the Middle East looking for a red heifer. (For those of you who don’t read your news straight from the Book of Revelations, a red heifer is needed to set off the Rapture. We’re working on it.)

Well, if you can't get any global action from this outfit, how about some plain old legislation? Nope. The Republicans’ latest effort was to pass a callous imitation of a minimum wage increase ($2.10 an hour over two years) after 10 years with no raise. They may fall over in gratitude. And, in the same bill, mind you, this crew of crazed philanthropists insisted on another multibillion-dollar cut in the estate tax. For really, really rich people. Rep. Zach Wamp gloatingly told the Democrats, "We have outfoxed you." Outfoxed? A tiny increase in the minimum wage and a huge tax cut for multimillionaires. Does this make any sense? Does this even make politics?

In a splendid display of incompetence, the Republicans went on to make hay of pension reform plans.

Meanwhile, I have yet another complaint to lodge against George W. Bush. "The man is a moron!" is not political debate. Not helpful. Not even prudent, as his old man would say. But that is precisely what he leaves us saying: "But, he is a complete moron." Someone needs to pick up this discussion and point out that at least he’s our moron and say something encouraging like someday maybe he'll learn to pronounce nuclear. We can count on him not to change his mind about stem cell research no matter what people learn. And, the only foreign leader he's necked with is female.

To find out more about Molly Ivins and see works by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website,

© 2006 Truthdig, L.L.C

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Mel Gibson's Jewish fetish, by BH. Wolfe

August 2, 2006
The Origin of Mel Gibson's Jew Fetish and His Crucifixion Story
By Burton H. Wolfe

If Mel Gibson had not produced "The Passion of the Christ" and represented it to be an authentic reenactment of the crucifixion story, his run-in with a police officer entailing a tirade against Jews might not have engendered much publicity. But he is stamped for the rest of his days on earth as the man who brought to life the scriptural account of the crucifixion of "Jesus Christ" (Joshua the messiah when transliterated and translated correctly from the original languages used for the New Testament scriptures). And, since there is the accusation in his film that "the Jews" were responsible for the crucifixion, his attitude toward Jews will always be subject to scrutiny. To that end, it is helpful to know the origin of his obsession with Jews and the origin of his crucifixion story - his because "The Passion of the Christ" is strictly Mel Gibson's story, and not that of the scribes who wrote the New Testament scriptures.

In the event you missed it, on the evening of February 16, 2004, Diane Sawyer interviewed Gibson on the ABC television network for the basic purpose (but not the only purpose) of learning what motivated him to produce "The Passion of the Christ." [Note: "Christ," which should never be capitalized, is a translation into English from transliterations of Hebrew and Greek words meaning "messiah", or more technically "anointed one."] Gibson explained that 13 years before the interview he experienced a life crisis. Suddenly he realized that all the money, fame, and material gratifications in his life were eventually to go for naught if the end of life is eternal obliteration of self. In an effort to escape from the terrible depression that then enveloped him, he turned for succor to the New Testament scriptures and accepted all of the stories in them as established fact.

When Sawyer pointed out that scriptures are not historical fact (they are nothing more than the propaganda of a given religion sect), Gibson shrugged off that consideration and replied that he "had to believe" because "I want to live" and the scriptures provided "hope," otherwise not available, that his mortal death would not be the end of life. Consequently, Gibson continued, he treats the stories in the New Testament as documented facts, he considers the story of God's creation of everything in six days as true, he views Jesus and Mary Magdalene as "real persons," he has no doubt that there really is a Holy Ghost, God and the Holy Ghost guided him to produce "The Passion of the Christ," and the Holy Ghost "is looking favorably on this film." [All of this is from notes that I took while watching the interview.]

Gibson's Teacher: A Jew-Hating Nun

In the part of Sawyer's interview concerning Gibson's possible ill feeling toward Jews, Gibson denied that but admitted he "got the idea" for his film from a Jew-hating nun who gave him an amulet which he continues to carry with him. Though professing to believe that Jesus "died for all of us," Gibson added that he believes it is "easier" for Christians "to get into the Kingdom of Heaven" than it is for Jews. [If Gibson has actually read the New Testament in its entirety as he claims, then he ignored the scriptural rendition of what Jesus said on this subject: "Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God" (Matthew 19:24). No gentile wrote that. Neither did any Christian write it, because at the time it was written there was no such person as a Christian. Neither was it written by anybody named Matthew. It was written by an ancient Hebrew scribe, whose name will never be known and who was the member of an Israelite or a Judaist or Hebrew sect, espousing belief in the coming end of the world to be offset by a messiah, and revolting against the rich Hebrews (or Jews) of the Roman Empire and the high priests of the Jerusalem Temple.]

Now the issues are more than the question of whether or not Gibson's tirade was the release of his innermost beliefs under the influence of alcohol that uncorks true attitudes otherwise inhibited by social pressures. There is the issue of Gibson's presenting "The Passion of the Christ" as a realistic reenactment of the crucifixion story in a deliberate effort to engender hatred of or at least prejudice against Jews; and there is the issue of the presentation as based on Gibson's abysmal ignorance.

The Crucifixion Story as Christian Hogwash

Regardless of whether you construe the New Testament scriptures as fiction or purported fact, the crucifixion story is claptrap. The gentiles of the Roman Empire executed offenders by piercing their bodies on a stake. The Jews of the Roman Empire executed criminals or sinners by hanging them on a tree. The authors of the Peter section of the New Testament scriptures claim that the executioners of Jesus "put him to death by hanging him on a tree" (1 Peter 2:24), and that occurred so that human sin could be redeemed and the spirit of Jesus could reach human souls (Acts 10:41-43, 1 Peter 2:24-25, 3:18-21). The author of one of the Paul sections of the scriptures calls the crucifixion on a cross story a fraud. "Who has bewitched you," the writer asks, "before whose eyes Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified?"(Galatians 3:13). The truth, states the writer, is that Jesus was hanged on a tree to redeem humanity from the curse of the law set forth in the Old Testament that "a hanged man is accursed by God" (Deuteronomy 21:23).

The story of Jews and others nailed to crosses is fiction of the kind presented in the Spartacus film starring Kirk Douglas. The cross was a religious symbol long before Christians adopted it. To crucify means to martyr, not to nail somebody to a cross. The image of Jesus nailed to a cross stems from prior legends such as that of the martyrdom of Prometheus, the savior of humanity in classic Greco-Roman mythology: he is nailed by the hands and feet, with arms extended, to the rock of Mount Caucasus. Ancient tales of the Phrygian god Attis and the Syrian deity Tammuz, both viewed by their worshippers as saviors of humanity, have them martyred, after which they arise from their tombs. Long before the era ascribed to Jesus and the Apostles, worshipers of the god Osiris celebrated him on days called "Resurrection of Osiris" or "Passion of Osiris." He was one of numerous deities who, long before Jesus, arrived on earth through virgin birth.

After studying ancient crucifixion stories paralleling the tale of Jesus's crucifixion, Professor James H. Charlesworth wrote, in his book Jesus Within Judaism: "According to a popular celebration of his [Jesus's] life, he was...trapped in the Jews' Sanhedrin, and murdered following diabolical outcries for his blood from the Jewish leaders and their followers in the Holy Land...he was exalted above the earth on a cross...this account does not derive from ancient history; it is medieval - even modern - fiction."

Mel Gibson generated such belief in Christian hogwash through the combination of his celebrity status, ignorance, and hatred of Jews. For that reason, no matter what he says now about his drunken tirade against Jews, he comes across as an evil human being.

Authors Website:

Authors Bio: Burton H. Wolfe is frequently credited with touching off the Alternative Press with his 1960s periodical The Californian. He is the author of The Hippies, Hitler and the Nazis, Pileup on Death Row,and Lucifer's Dictionary of the American Language. Wolfe maintains a web site,, and a web log called "Wolfebites":