Media's Take on the News: 3-12-03 to 4-24-03

Media's Take on the News

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When Mao Tse-tung swam the Yangtze at the age of 73, observers were amazed at the speed he was travelling.

He was known for swimming the river but the film footage showed him cutting through the water at remarkable pace for a man of his age. Photos from the same day also raised suspicion as they appeared to show a detached head bobbing on the water.

There were enough witnesses to authenticate it was the Chinese leader but there is still debate among historians today about whether the video was altered to make him swim faster or whether the government had frogmen in wetsuits and flippers underneath towing him along.

The art of deception has been widely used to prop up ageing statesmen who want to appear virile and has helped numerous leaders who were ill -- even dead -- give the impression they were still in command.

The Iraqi government's media campaign over the past two weeks has attempted to show Saddam Hussein is alive despite American attacks on his bunkers, government buildings and palaces. Saddam has appeared a number of times on state television delivering speeches to the nation and meeting with senior aides and his two sons, Uday and Qusay. In images shown yesterday of the 65-year-old dictator, he is dressed in military uniform and is smiling and laughing.

Intelligence sources told CNN yesterday the government now believes all of the footage of Saddam was taped before the war. Saddam is also known for using doubles and the U.S. government has only confirmed it was genuinely Saddam in one of his recent appearances.

The use of doubles and altered images dates back to ancient China. When Qin Shihuang, the founding emperor of China, died there was concern that word would leak out to the people, so one of his ministers placed his body in the state carriage and continued to transport him through the streets, according to Chinese historians. When his decomposing body began to smell, the minister arranged to have another carriage of rotting fish placed behind the emperor and told the people their leader had requested the smelly fish.

In 1556, when Humayun, a Mughal emperor in India fell down the stairs in his library and broke his skull, it placed the empire in a very difficult position, with demands that he be seen periodically. In order to allow enough time to crown his child, who was to succeed him, officials placed a double of the emperor in his cloak and hat, placed him at the top of the library and had him wave to the people below.

One of the most famous wartime deceptions involved British General Bernard Montgomery. In the run up to the Allies' invasion of Normandy in 1944, a double of General Montgomery was used to throw off the Germans.

Joseph Stalin and Sir Winston Churchill were also known for using doubles, often for security reasons.

In other cases, images have been altered to create certain impressions, particularly during wartime. When Stalin gave his famous speech about resisting the Nazis after Hitler invaded the Soviet Union, he was shown in Red Square delivering his address. It was only later it was discovered he was actually in a studio -- the image had been artificially altered.

When the Germans attacked, Stalin was taken by surprise and disappeared for about six weeks; He had been admitted to a clinic because of a breakdown.

Even after Hitler committed suicide, rumours circulated for many years after the war about what had happened to the Nazi leader.

John Ferris, professor of history at the University of Calgary, said governments have often withheld information about a leader's health. Sir Winston had a stroke, which was kept quiet, and John F. Kennedy was also much sicker than Americans were led to believe.

TV Coverage of the War Lacks Context (posted 4-4-03)

Jack Fuller, president of Tribune Publishing Co, wiriting in the Chicago Tribune (March 31, 2003):

It is often said that nations always fight the last war as they take on the next. Perhaps a little of that happened in this case, perhaps not. I remember President Bush saying before the attack began that this one promised to be hard.

But television coverage, and probably some newspaper coverage as well, seems to view success as winning as quickly and with as few casualties as in the first Gulf war (which was quite a special case in the history of warfare). Anything less is seen as failure.

What is lacking in so much of the instantaneous coverage is verification and historical context, the things that turn coverage into reporting. By my reckoning, coalition casualties (while always tragic) were rather light during the first week of fighting compared with similar invasions in most previous modern wars. They were, for example, light compared with the weekly toll during most of the Vietnam War. But the first Gulf war reset popular expectations of what war constitutes.

The rate of accidental deaths likewise compares with what I recall during the Vietnam War. War is risky not only because the other side has weapons, but because your side does, too, and so a small miscommunication can be fatal. It is risky because obstacles have to be exploded, because weapons systems misfire, because rivers sometimes have to be crossed without the benefit of bridges, because some soldiers go crazy and kill other soldiers or officers.

In the absence of context, the story of the war that reaches us seems less the story of battle than of a political campaign: the manipulation of expectation and images by all sides; the speculation on how these created expectations and images will affect the course of battle, as if it were an election.

Why Iraq's Historic Sites Are in Danger (posted 4-4-03)

From the Guardian (April 2, 2003):

This week, B52s were circling the holy city of Najaf, emptying, we are told, their payloads on to the Medina division of the Republican guard. They know all about slaughter in this city of half a million people now surrounded by the tanks of the US Seventh Cavalry, Custer's old devil-may-care outfit.

Ali, the charismatic son-in-law of the Prophet - who occupies a place in the Shi'ite pantheon of similar significance to Christ - was murdered at the gates of Najaf. His tomb has been one of the most sacred Shi'ite shrines since.

Up the road at Kerbala (pronounced Herbala, despite what the BBC says), Ali's son Hussein, his family and followers were massacred by the Sunnis in 680AD in a"turkey-shoot" of a battle that divides Islam to this day. Hussein's mausoleum is like the Vatican, Gethsemane and the Wailing Wall rolled into one. It is at Kerbala where Saddam, like his namesake, seems to have decided to stand and fight. ...

On Iraq's pancake-flat southern plain, archeological sites are the only raised features, the only cover and, therefore, key military positions."Some are 30 metres high and extend over kilometres," Postgate says."With modern machinery, an entire 6,000-year-old village can be recycled into a defensive earthwork in a day or two, and even old-fashioned trenches, which were much used in the last hostilities, can do irreparable damage."

American bulldozers razed the ruins of Tell al-Lahm, south of Ur, during the last Gulf war. What might a squadron of B52s be able to do? From the air, archaeological trenches are easily mistaken for military emplacements, and therefore fair game for a pummelling. But it's not just the direct hits that wreck. In 1991, the great arch of Ctesphion, still the widest unsupported brick arch in the world, was cracked by the rumble of American carpet bombing.

The Iraqis themselves, of course, are adept at recycling ancient defences. There is evidence that tanks were parked around ancient sites during the last war, and the Americans are quick to point to the Iraqi airbase that sits in the shadow of the great ziggurat of Ur. With an administration stuffed full of biblical literalists - Christian and Zionist fundamentalists - it is easy to understand their anger at the Iraqis' use of the city of Abraham as a shield. But what few in the Pentagon seem to realise is that the Ur airbase was built by the British in the days of its colonial mandate, when the RAF first demonstrated the civilising capabilities of bombing civilians from the air.

John Curtis, the keeper of the department of the ancient near east at the British Museum, visited Ur last spring and has little doubt the Americans strafed the ziggurat - a great, stepped pyramid - with heavy machine-gun fire the last time they passed that way."Whether this was an accident, I couldn't say," he says. A fair amount of what he drily calls"bayonet archaeology" had also gone on, presumably by passing GIs.

Has the U.S. Always Stood by Canada? (posted 4-2-03)

Thomas Walkom, writing in the Toronto Star (March 27, 2003):

When U.S. Ambassador Paul Cellucci accused Canada of disloyalty for its refusal to back the United States' invasion of Iraq he was telling only half the story.

For the history and reality of Canada-U.S. relations are far more complex than his simple storyline, one in which good friends are always willing to cover one another's back.

"There is no security threat to Canada that the United States would not be ready, willing and able to help with," Cellucci told a business audience Tuesday. "There would be no debate; there would be no hesitation. We would be there for Canada, part of our family."

Cellucci's words will resonate strongly with the roughly 40 per cent of Canadians who do support joining the war and who do believe that Prime Minister Jean Chretien's position is one of ingratitude to an old and valued friend.

But the truth is that the United States has never gone to war on Canada's behalf without debate or hesitation. Quite the contrary.

In World War I, the United States waited three years. In World War II, it waited two, joining the battle against Adolf Hitler only after Germany (following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor) declared war on it.

Yet, at the same time, the United States has never been indifferent to Canada's fate. Military historian C.P. Stacey once recalled visiting a New York newsreel cinema in 1939, shortly after Canada declared war on Germany.

"The present writer," he noted, "was astonished when a dull shot of troops mobilizing in Canada drew warm applause from the audience (I had never noticed any other American audience to show the slightest interest in Canada before or since).

"But Americans had no intention of getting into the war themselves. The New Yorker put it succinctly at the moment of the outbreak: 'Our people dislike Hitler and want him soundly beaten by a couple of other fellows.'"

Still, as in 1914, Washington was also willing to offer Canada more material support - as long as it could do so without offending the U.S. public's distaste for war.

From 1939 to 1941, U.S. President Franklin Roosevelt walked a line so fine it seems almost Chretienesque - supporting his allies in tangible forms but refusing to commit his country whole-heartedly.

"I was terribly shocked and surprised when I learned that Roosevelt had told the press this morning that the U.S. ought to be able to keep out of the European war," then-prime minister Mackenzie King confided to his diary in September, 1939.

Wisely, King kept this shock and surprise to himself. Over the next two years, Roosevelt - while careful to maintain formal U.S. neutrality - aided the Canadian war effort in numerous back-door ways.

After 1945, the roles were reversed. The United States developed a new interest in sending its troops into conflicts around the globe. Meanwhile, Canada took on the part of reluctant ally.

In 1950, in large part because Canadian policymakers had bought the U.S. argument about the need to contain international communism, then prime minister Louis St. Laurent agreed to commit Canadian troops to battle in Korea.

But he did so without enthusiasm; Canada's contribution remained small.

Some 15 years later, another prime minister, Lester Pearson, made a different decision when the United States was once again fighting what it saw as international communism, this time in Vietnam.

Then, as now, Washington was furious at Canada's perceived disloyalty. When Pearson had the temerity to suggest that the United States interrupt its bombing of North Vietnam, an angry U.S. President Lyndon Johnson upbraided him furiously, grabbing him by his lapels and castigating him for "pissing on my rug."

War Casualties Put in Perspective (posted 4-2-03)

Todd Purdum, writing in the NYT (March 27, 2003):

In the climactic four-week Battle of the Bulge in World War II, 19,000 Americans were killed. On a single day, Sept. 17, 1862, at least 3,650 Confederate and Union soldiers died in the Battle of Antietam. At the height of the Vietnam War, roughly 200 Americans were killed each week.

In the first seven days of the war in Iraq, two dozen Americans have died.

Modest as the latest losses are by historical standards of combat, they have already prompted sharp shifts in public perceptions about how well the campaign against Saddam Hussein is going, though they have not, according to polls so far, reduced overall support for the war.

But as coalition forces face unexpected complexities on their march to Baghdad, the Bush administration faces the political challenge of preparing a public lulled by the relatively low losses in Afghanistan and the first Persian Gulf war for a conflict that could be costlier than some optimists predicted.

What level of casualties does the White House think the American public will tolerate?

"I'm not going there, because I don't know," the White House communications director, Dan Bartlett, said today, in a sign of the sensitivity of the issue."

The first gulf war clearly influenced public views about probable casualties in this conflict. In Gallup polls conducted in 1991, 30 percent of the respondents expected that several thousand American troops would be killed and wounded, while one in 10 expected fewer than 100 casualties. In Gallup surveys taken this month, just 5 percent of respondents expected casualties of several thousand, while 4 in 10 expected fewer than 100 American casualties.

After the 1991 war, the Pentagon acknowledged that it had anticipated at least 10,000 allied casualties. (In fact, there were just over 600 American casualties, 146 killed in action and 467 wounded). The government's official post-mortem on the war also disclosed that its commander, Gen. H. Norman Schwarzkopf, had been given, among his "operational imperatives," an order to "accept losses no greater than the equivalent of three companies per coalition brigade."

That would have translated to about 10 percent of the 100,000 allied ground troops in the field. This time, senior White House and Pentagon officials say there has been no discussion of similar limits....

Allan J. Lichtman, a historian at American University here, said President Bush had so far succeeded in persuading the public that this is a war for Americans' safety,"and to the extent that people still believe that, then I think the tolerance for casualties will be high. How high is hard to say.""But," Mr. Lichtman added,"to the extent that belief in that wavers and this becomes less like World War II and more like Somalia, then in fact tolerance of casualties will sharply decline. I think they've done a very bad job of selling the sacrifices of this war. The president has talked in bland terms about it perhaps being longer and more costly, but he's never really issued a clarion call for sacrifice on the part of the American people."

Weather Affects History (Again) (posted 4-2-03)

Alan Attwood, writing in the Age (Australia) (March 28, 2003):

Nobody is winning this war. The sand is winning the war. Sand and grit and dust and wind; elemental stuff that can render the most modern equipment useless. Iraqis reportedly see something deeply symbolic about the huge sandstorm that has slowed the invading forces, though sandstorms in the Gulf region are not surprising. The surprise is that the generals and Pentagon people seem not to have included sand in their battle plans.

Haven't they read the military histories?

It wasn't the English archers who carried the day at Agincourt in 1415 so much as rain and mud; a deadly combination for the heavily armoured French knights. In 1812, Napoleon's ambitious advance into Russia was turned into a debacle by snow and an elusive enemy.

In one account of the Russian campaign there are eerie parallels with what has been happening in Iraq. "We are on the eve of great events," wrote Napoleon to his empress- sounding rather like George W. Bush, who, unlike the emperor, stays well away from the gunfire.

But the French leader couldn't find an enemy to engage. As a historian puts it: "Napoleon had won his victories over professional armies, but in Russia he found himself opposed by a force far more formidable because it was far less tangible - the hostility of a whole nation defending its fatherland." Sound familiar?

Short of food and with winter setting in, Napoleon's huge force had to retreat.

Snow began shrouding all his men. The forced march has been called "an epic of misery: no food, shelter or fuel except for what could be scraped together on a bare countryside by weary and famished men; icy gales that froze them; snowdrifts that blotted out the landscape." You might imagine that, two centuries later, warfare has become more sophisticated.

But a US marine said this about a sandstorm in Iraq: "It's unbelievable - you can't see your hand in front of you.

Now I know what hell is like." And it's not just sand. Rain has been falling in Iraq, turning the ground to mud under the advancing forces, now advancing much slower than they expected.

The Dangers of Urban Fighting (posted 4-2-03)

Michael Remez, writing in the Hartfod Courant (March 28, 2003):

The United States may have the most powerful military in the world, but its commanders will do all they can in the days ahead to avoid all-out urban warfare in Baghdad.


They know the deadly history of street-to-street fighting. They remember the horrific skirmish in Mogadishu, Somalia, in 1993, that left 18 American soldiers and many more Somalis dead. And they watched, later in the 1990s, as the Russians twice mishandled urban combat in the Chechen city of Grozny, first losing the city to a small, irregular force, and then using excessive force to take it back.

For the United States, this could be the first large-scale assault to take an enemy city since the battle of Hue in Vietnam in 1968.

Military planners know that urban combat has a harsh way of leveling the playing field between powerful armies and local adversaries. They hope they can oust Saddam Hussein and his regime without a full-scale attack on Baghdad.

"Historically, attempts to take over a defended city have been enormously expensive in terms of casualties," said Ray Callahan, a military historian at the University of Delaware. "If you have defenders who will fight house to house and floor to floor within houses -- even in the most hopeless situations -- an attacking army can pay a very, very high price."...

"One lesson of Mogadishu is that helicopters are vulnerable," Press said. The battle was re-created in the book and the movie, "Black Hawk Down."

In that case, Somalis took down hovering American helicopters with shoulder-fired, rocket-propelled grenades. The Iraqis are thought to have heat-seeking surface-to-air missiles, which would pose a greater danger to helicopters flying overhead.

The American troops had undertaken the raid that started the Mogadishu mission without tank support at the start. Analysts say the outcome demonstrated the importance of combining the two.

Why Haven't the Shiites in Iraq Risen Up in Revolt? (posted 4-2-03)

Peter Ford, writing in the Christian Science Monitor about th surprising reluctance of Shiites to join the United States in the overthrow of Saddam Hussein (March 27, 2003):

Shiite Muslims who rose up in revolt in the wake of the 1991 Gulf War were brutally repressed by government forces when coalition troops stood aside after President Bush encouraged Iraqis to"take matters into their own hands." That experience, seen as a betrayal,"has left deep scars" on local residents, says Cliff Beal, editor of Jane's Defence Weekly. Both in southern Iraq and elsewhere,"there will be a strong element of prudence among a large part of the population," predicts Charles Tripp, a historian of Iraq at the School of Oriental and African Studies in London."If you combine the feeling among much of the opposition that this is an American and British show with the understandable caution of people after 35 years of Baathist dictatorship - these are huge inhibitors," Dr. Tripp adds. That is especially true when even towns that the allied troops claim to have secured turn out to have been seeded with irregular fedayeen militiamen, who are beginning to fight a guerrilla war, often dressed in civilian clothes.

Why Iraq's Oil Supplies Are a Burden (posted 4-1-03)

John B. Judis, writing in the New Republic (March 31, 2003):

Ask pessimists why Iraq will never be a democracy, and they most often cite its ethnic and religious divisions. A post-Saddam Hussein Iraq, they warn, could devolve into an Arab Yugoslavia, with open warfare between the Sunnis, Shia, and Kurds, and with Iran, Turkey, and Saudi Arabia taking sides. Optimists like The New Republic's Lawrence F. Kaplan respond that a federation could manage these divisions. Except that federations don't work well in countries where mineral wealth is concentrated in potentially secessionist regions, as the experiences of Nigeria, Sierra Leone, and the former Belgian Congo attest. And most of Iraq's oil lies away from Baghdad, near the Kurdish North and in the Shia South.

But there's another--potentially greater--obstacle to democracy that gets much less attention, perhaps because American policymakers mistakenly see it as an advantage rather than a serious problem. And that is oil itself. As Vice President Dick Cheney put it last weekend, "This is not a nation without resources, and, when it comes time to rebuild and to make the kinds of investments that are going to be required to give them a shot at achieving a truly representative government, ... Iraq starts with significant advantages." On its face, Cheney's statement simply echoes Seymour Martin Lipset's famous adage: "The more well-to-do a nation, the greater its chances to sustain democracy." But, according to political scientists and economic historians, oil states are the exception that prove Lipset's rule: Oil wealth actually hinders, rather than helps, a country's transition to democracy. Newsweek columnist Fareed Zakaria makes this argument in his important new book, The Future of Freedom. If he and the academics are correct, American postwar planners are naive in thinking that oil will facilitate democracy in Iraq. Rather, they will have to figure out how to avoid the authoritarian fate that has befallen almost every other nation that has become dependent on oil.

Democracy is based, above all, on the separation of civil society from the state. It depends on the existence of an independent realm of social and economic power, protected from arbitrary state power by the rule of law. The components of civil society include what Tocqueville called "civil and political associations"--social clubs, churches, charitable organizations, and political parties--but the most important are private businesses and unions organized in a competitive, capitalist marketplace. It is these institutions--not the formal apparatus of elections--that guarantee popular self-rule by erecting a barrier against lawless government. Without these underpinnings, individuals and groups are absorbed into the all-powerful state, as they were under communist and fascist rule, and still are under many of today's authoritarian regimes. Elections become merely staged rituals.

In the United States, democracy arose largely through the spread of entrepreneurial capitalism in the early nineteenth century, the product of the small farmers and urban craftsmen whom Thomas Jefferson and Andrew Jackson celebrated. In Great Britain, democracy grew out of the millennial struggles among the king, landed aristocracy, business, and, finally, labor--from the Magna Carta to the Glorious Revolution to the electoral-reform laws of the nineteenth and early twentieth century. The struggle for liberty, as Zakaria puts it, preceded democracy. In continental Europe, labor's rise spurred an initial move toward democracy, but it took World War II to sever the link between big business and the state and military that had made fascism possible. In countries such as South Korea and Taiwan today, independent labor, business, and professional organizations are allowing democracy to emerge tentatively from what were once command economies.

It is no coincidence that this transition has not happened in countries with massive oil wealth. Today, Norway is the only full-fledged democracy that depends primarily on oil for its export income. But Norway was already a democracy with an independent civil society when it found oil in the North Sea in the 1960s. The rest of the world's oil nations had authoritarian regimes before they struck black gold.

The Last Times Washington Felt Similarly Under Seige Was in the Civil War(posted 4-1-03)

Elisabeth Bumiller, writing in the NYT (March 31, 2003):

Historians say that the last time Washington felt such a sense of siege — and excitement — was during the Civil War, when the capital risked attack by Confederate forces and President Abraham Lincoln feared there might have to be a mass evacuation. Washington at that time was a filthy, disease-ridden city, crowded with soldiers, ringed by forts and filled with hospitals. The dying flooded in after the bloodiest battles.

"It was grim at a time like Chancellorsville or Fredericksburg, when huge numbers of wounded were brought into the hospitals," Shelby Foote, the Civil War historian, said in a recent interview. "But people had a strong sense of living in an exciting and dangerous time. A wartime capital, whether it's London or Paris or Washington, is always an exciting place."

James M. McPherson, the Civil War historian who wrote "Battle Cry of Freedom," said in an interview last week that what most struck him about the similarities between Washington then and now was the sense of unease.

"The most apt comparison would be a kind of edginess, and a lack of calm and repose," said Mr. McPherson, a Princeton professor who visited Washington during the build-up to war in February. "Up until 1861, Washington had been a fairly sleepy place except when Congress was in session. During the Civil War, it was the opposite of sleepy."

The city back then, Mr. McPherson said, was thick with prostitutes and Confederate spies. "I would say that probably three quarters of the information that existed in Washington was rumor and disinformation," he said. News was exchanged at Willard's Bar, a favorite hangout of Union officers, in what is still the Willard Hotel, a few blocks from the White House.

There was also plenty of entertainment, said Harold Holzer, who has written and edited 21 books on Lincoln and the Civil War.

"In the midst of all of this militarism and fear and suspicion and disease, there was this incredible night life," said Mr. Holzer, who is the spokesman for the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. "There was Ford's Theater and the National Theater and bordellos on the other side of Pennsylvania Avenue."

The underlying sense of dread was shouldered most heavily by Lincoln, historians say, particularly in early 1861, when he was most worried about a Confederate attack on the capital.

"He was petrified that Washington would be overrun," Mr. Holzer said.

Lincoln had sent north to New York and Philadelphia for Union troops to defend the city, but the men were slow in arriving. In one of the better-known moments of his presidency, Lincoln stood and looked out a window of the White House and exclaimed: "Why don't they come? Why don't they come?"

How NYC Responded in the 50s to Fears of Atomic Attack (posted April 24, 2003)

Tom Vanderbilt, author of Survival City: Adventures Among the Ruins of Atomic America, writing in the NYT (April 24, 2003):

Outsiders may wonder why New Yorkers, while living with the awareness that a devastating attack is quite possible, continue to immerse themselves in urban life. But New Yorkers of the 1950's — when the threat was arguably greater, more ultimately devastating — whistled past their atomic graveyard with similar chutzpah. Indeed, the New York skyline today defiantly attests that its residents faced danger not by hunkering down but by building up.

Despite drills like Operation Alert [a drill conducted in 1954 which envisioned a nuclear attack on Brooklyn], federal civil defense officials in the 1950's essentially wrote off the city as an inevitable atomic fatality. Its residents were too concentrated, its departure routes too congested, its adequate shelters too few. "The sad fact is," Consumer Reports observed, "that there isn't much that can be done for the vulnerable central cores of our cities." Prophets of anti-urbanism said that the future lay in far-flung "linear cities," away from metropolitan centers.

To guard against nuclear attack, one urban planner, Tracy Augur, suggested that Americans leave the cities, calling them "obsolete" and "economically unsound and dangerous." Those who couldn't be persuaded to evacuate were expected to live under an austere set of aesthetic guidelines. "Unlike the new U.N. building," civil defense officials advised, "atom-resistant structures should have a minimum of glass and decorative stone slabs to limit the dangers from flying debris." If New York had followed these rules, the buildings of the 1950's and 1960's would all have resembled the AT&T switching center in Lower Manhattan, a looming, nearly windowless obelisk of flame-treated granite.

Instead, the city responded with a glass shield, fragile crystal towers that offered little shelter from a nuclear blast but provided a glittering, transparent rebuke to cold-war darkness and secrecy. New York at mid-century saw the reign of the glass-curtain wall of high modernism, expressed in such monuments as the United Nations, the Seagram Building and Lever House, which Lewis Mumford called "a laughing refutation of imperialist warmongering."

In standing their ground, New Yorkers may have been calling the lie on civil defense, the idea that nuclear war was survivable. Or they may have been saying, grimly, stoically, that life without cities was not worth living. Perhaps being a prime target increased, however mordantly, civic pride. It was Mumford who observed that "the riches of cities — material, social, cultural — have long made them a visible object for collective aggression." Their strategic weaknesses are their very strengths. That these riches are at risk increases their value.


Lord Elgin's Solution (posted April 22, 2003)

John Tierney, writing in the NYT about the challenge of protecting historic treasures (April 20, 2003):

Archaeologists say the solution in Iraq and elsewhere is more money for museums and for legal excavations. But countries rich in antiquities are often poor in cash. Foreign donors can provide help to a ministry, but it often doesn't reach the field, or at least not enough of it to match bribes from looters.

There is, however, another way to pay for the preservation of antiquities — you might call it the Lord Elgin approach, although no one today would advocate his precise methods.

Long before Iraq's current troubles, the Parthenon also suffered from indifferent soldiers and larcenous civilians. In the 17th century, Venetians blew up an ammunition depot placed by Turkish troops inside the temple, turning it into a ruin that became something of a Home Depot for local builders during the next century. Marble pieces were ground down for lime and broken into pieces to make cottages.

During fighting in the 1820's, hundreds of the marble blocks were turned into defenses and dismantled so that their lead clamps could be turned into bullets. But by that time the soldiers couldn't damage the Parthenon's most exquisite pieces. The best marbles had been removed two decades earlier by Lord Elgin for his private collection in England. His methods were crude by modern standards, but with his interest in history, he was a dedicated preservationist compared with the officials and soldiers in 19th-century Athens and modern Baghdad.

Private collectors like Lord Elgin used to finance much of world's archaeological work, but today they would be criminals. The great collections of Iraqi materials sitting far from looters, in museums in London, Paris, Chicago and Philadelphia, would be illegal to create today. Like many other countries, Iraq has banned the export of antiquities and made each new discovery the property of the government. Besides appealing to national pride, these restrictions are popular with archaeologists who want to keep artifacts away from private collectors.

"We don't support a legal trade in antiquities, period," said Jane Waldbaum, president of the Archaeological Institute of America. "Big money from collectors drives the looting of sites and the desecration of monuments."

But collectors' money might instead pay for scholarly excavations if an alternative to the black market existed. If artifacts found on private property didn't automatically belong to the government, the landowners would presumably have an incentive to keep out looters. They and their customers could pay archaeologists to excavate and authenticate the artifacts, making them more valuable than black-market goods of uncertain provenance. Buyers could be required to register their properties, let scholars analyze them and allow museums to display them.

How Nation Building in the Congo Went Wrong (posted April 22, 2003)

Adam Hochschild, author of King Leopold's Ghost, writing in the NYT aboput the current Congo crisis (April 20, 2003):

Congo's current disorder grows directly out of a long, unhappy history. Ethnic groups speaking more than 200 different languages live in the territory. For centuries, it served as raiding grounds for the Atlantic slave trade and the equally deadly slave trade from the east coast of Africa to the Islamic world.


When the colonial era began, the land became the privately owned colony of King Leopold II of Belgium. His army turned much of the male population into forced laborers, working many to death. First the laborers gathered ivory — Joseph Conrad gave an unforgettable image of this in "Heart of Darkness" — and then a still more lucrative crop, wild rubber.

During Leopold's rule and its immediate aftermath, the territory's population was slashed roughly in half. Belgian state colonialism followed; it was less brutal and more orderly, but still the profits flowed overseas.

In 1965, five years after independence, Joseph Mobutu seized power in a military coup, encouraged by Washington. He renamed himself Mobutu Sese Seko and his country Zaire, and ruled as a dictator for 32 years, receiving more than $1 billion in American aid and repeatedly being welcomed at the White House. Meanwhile he looted the national treasury of an estimated $4 billion. Small wonder that his ravaged country has been having a hard time ever since. It has not helped that in the 1990's the United States supplied more than $100 million in arms and military training to six of the seven African countries that have been involved in the fighting of the Congo war.

Even in a magical world where great powers always had good intentions, no outside intervention — whether by American, European, African or United Nations forces — would be likely to solve Congo's problems. "Nation building" by outsiders is inherently arrogant and risky, and there are few success stories. More than 28,000 NATO-led troops are currently keeping the peace in Kosovo; Congo's population is more than 25 times as large as Kosovo's, and its land area more than 200 times bigger.


Fundamentalists Misconstrue the Musim Golden Age (posted April 22, 2003)

Peter Watson, a journalist, writing in the NYT (April 21, 2003):

Fundamentalist Muslims are fond of referring back to Baghdad's "golden age," when its civilization shone more brightly than any other, when its philosophers, mathematicians and doctors led the way intellectually. Sometimes wistfully, often angrily, but without really thinking it can ever happen, they yearn for a return to the golden age. Without it, we are invited to believe, the disparity between the West and Islam can lead only to, well, we all know where....


The reality of Islam's golden age was very different from the fundamentalist ideal. These differences show that any move toward that ideal is likely to thwart an Arab renaissance, which is probably the greatest guarantee of enduring peace.

Take paper. It was a Chinese invention of the first century A.D. Whether or not you accept the traditional Western view — that it reached the Middle East via the Battle of Talas (near Tashkent) in 751, when some Chinese paper makers were captured — or if you believe it had arrived via the Silk Route much earlier, the fact remains that it was the Arabs who raised paper making to new heights. And their achievement was not just technological; the sheer abundance of paper helped create a new raft of educated people. In some Middle Eastern schools in the ninth century, the paper was free.

So too in many other areas of life Baghdad became the Tokyo of its day. Many of the ideas it snapped up were foreign. Yet the Arabs adapted them brilliantly. The hospital was a Persian idea from as early as the sixth century, under the name "bimaristan." But in Baghdad the institution became much more sophisticated, with special wards for internal diseases, contagious cases and psychiatric patients. Field hospitals accompanying Arab armies were also introduced.

The pattern was repeated in mathematics. In the late eighth century, an Indian merchant brought to Baghdad two seminal mathematical works. One was the Brahmasphuta Siddhanta, known to Arabs as the Sindhind, the work of the great seventh-century Indian mathematician Brahmagupta. This contained early ideas about al-jabr, to give algebra its Arabic name. It was this work that Muhammad ibn-Musa al-Khwarizmi in the ninth century was to expand on so successfully. Khwarizmi became known as "the father of algebra" and gave his name to algorithms....

The point of this history is to show how the golden age that Arab fundamentalists refer to was achieved only because Baghdad was wide open to foreign influences, much as the United States at its birth imported ideas of the Enlightenment from Europe and made more of them than did the Old World....

In other words, there is no need for the Arab world to fear the West — or to despise it, for that matter. If Arab history is any guide, more prosperity comes from openness, receptivity and curiosity than from the closed, self-referential world of fundamentalist religions. One of the reasons the golden age happened was that the natural sciences and the so-called Islamic sciences (or religious study) were kept separate in the colleges of the day. It seems no coincidence that only when the religious authorities started to interfere with the natural sciences, starting in the 11th century, did the golden age lose its glitter.

Historically, the place we now call Iraq has always been the most secular of Arab states. That is a precious asset. Whatever government follows Saddam Hussein, it must continue to turn its face against fundamentalism. The acrimony last week between imams and secular Iraqis at meetings on the shape of the new Iraq was worrisome, if not surprising. Unless the next Arab generation, in Iraq and elsewhere, embraces the intellectual openness that so characterized the Baghdad of the 9th and 10th centuries, a second Arab miracle is unthinkable.

My Support for the War Ended When the Looting Began (posted April 22, 2003)

Philip Hensher, writing in the Independent (London) (April 22, 2003):

I thought this war justified, until this evidence that it was being conducted in an improper and uncaring way. It would not have been hard to foresee that law and order would have been difficult to maintain in the wake of the collapse of the Iraqi regime, and it would have been quite proper for American troops to have shot looters in these circumstances. That is what war consists of, and it would have saved a culture from this catastrophe.

Not everyone accepts this, and my colleague Johann Hari the other day put the case for looting in celebratory tones. "The war took three weeks and the anarchy will last a fortnight at most. Weigh that against a certainly far longer period under Saddam and his deranged sons, and I think the choice is a no-brainer... Much of what we have been seeing is a spontaneous redistribution of wealth from the disgusting, corrupt élite who thrived under Saddam towards the wider population."

True, he lamented the "unjustifiable and senseless acts" which took place in "Baghdad's hospitals and museums", but he then argued that "arresting the suspicious and firing guns to protect property rights" was an understandable mistake caused by the "praiseworthy wish of the Allied forces to avoid being seen as oppressive."

That, with respect, is nonsense, and even if it were true, it would hardly address the point that what a fortnight of anarchy can achieve is the destruction of a very large slice of Iraq's culture and history. It is just not true to present this as a necessary "choice", as if the burning of the national archives were an inevitable stage to be gone through before freedom could be attained. It is simply something that the American troops allowed to happen; and the entire Muslim world will be asking why, and producing a simple and incontrovertible answer: they hate Islam; they hold Islamic history and life in complete contempt; they don't believe that there is anything much worth preserving from the country they have "liberated"; and now these ignorant and thuggish new rulers are asking for respect. Well, after that fortnight of listlessly observed anarchy, they will find it very difficult to command. From the point of view of the Muslim world, no-brainer is exactly the word.

There is nothing to be done about the libraries, which are gone, though their destruction will not quickly be forgotten. The contents of the museum, however, may not be permanently lost, though it will be extremely difficult to reconstruct the collection in anything like its previous substance. It seems likely that some of the most important pieces were stolen to order – there are pieces in the museum that could hardly have been removed by any other means than a forklift truck; and the curators believed that a lot of the most valuable objects were safe in heavily secured basements, which in the event were accessed and ransacked. Some of those pieces may have disappeared for a good long time into private palaces, and though not permanently lost, they may take decades to resurface.

Many pieces, however, may have been lifted in an opportunistic way, to be quickly sold in the region's markets, and a concerted effort now could conceivably do something to repair this gigantic disaster.

Above all, though one shrinks from the proposal, at this point the authorities ought to be working with dealers and collectors of the shadiest variety, trying to track down what can be rescued of the museum's treasures. A lot of it has been destroyed: but a good deal has simply been stolen, and for the moment it still exists.

There is no prospect whatever of restoring the museum's collection to its previous state, and I don't believe that it is in anyone's power to recover more than a tiny proportion of the treasures. The rest of it has quite simply vanished for good. But what we are talking about here is a gesture by the US to show that, despite all previous evidence to the contrary, it does hold Middle Eastern culture in some kind of respect, and is prepared to do something to maintain it. Without that, relations will be defined by the burning of libraries and the looting of museums, and remain beyond repair.


We Should Borrow a Page from the De-Nazification of Germany (posted April 22, 2003)

Daniel Johnson, editorial writer for London's Daily Telegraph; in the Wall Street Journal (April 22, 2003):

How, in a country where most people were at least complicit with the ruling party, could the Allies distinguish between those who could be trusted with public responsibility and those who could not? As Noel Annan, one of the British "satraps," put it many years later: "Democracy in Germany could not be born unless it was delivered with the forceps of de-Nazification: but it was also important not to crush the infant."

In the end, despite criticism at the time and ever since, both the Americans and the British made a pretty good job of de-Nazification. Their chosen instrument was the notorious "Fragebogen" (questionnaire), which obliged virtually everyone under the military government to answer 131 questions about their political activities under the Nazis. This simple method was surprisingly effective, because failure to answer truthfully and in full meant automatic loss of ration cards and work permits. Character references might be offered in the form of an affidavit, but tribunals would investigate those they thought suspect and Germans who had suffered under the Nazis were not always ready to oblige with a "Persil token" (or whitewash). The philosopher Martin Heidegger requested one from his fellow existentialist Karl Jaspers, only to be reminded that his conduct as the Nazi rector of Freiburg University had been too notorious to be airbrushed out of history. Heidegger, like many other Nazi professors, was banned from teaching for several years.

In the U.S. zone, where de-Nazification was pursued most vigorously, three million out of 13 million who filled out the form were followed up. Former Nazis were divided into four categories, ranging from senior officials with a high degree of culpability to mere fellow-travelers. Punishments ranged from prison or labor camp (to which 9,000 were sentenced) to confiscation of property (25,000), exclusion from public office (22,000) or fines (over 500,000). By 1948, when de-Nazification was phased out except for about 30,000 senior Nazis, the Americans had prosecuted nearly a million Germans, of whom over 600,000 were penalized. In the British zone, only about two million were investigated, of whom 350,000 were excluded from positions of responsibility.

The ultimate penalty, capital punishment, was reserved for the most serious cases of war crimes and crimes against humanity: in all, 481 were executed by military tribunals, most famously at Nuremberg. In the Soviet zone, where de-Nazification was often a euphemism for class warfare, much larger numbers perished as the Nazi concentration camps were repopulated with the German upper and middle classes.

Some senior Nazis made themselves so useful in the Cold War that they were rapidly rehabilitated. The Federal Republic's chief architect, Konrad Adenauer, promoted a number of the ablest former Nazis. Two decades after the war one of these, Kurt-Georg Kiesinger, even became chancellor. Many Germans and Americans disapproved of Kiesinger, but he was proof that the experiment of de-Nazification had succeeded: it was indeed possible to turn Nazis into democrats.

The Allied task was made easier by some distinctively German features. As the American psychologist Saul Padover observed, most records had survived because German officials preferred to burn people rather than paper. The German habit of obedience to authority enabled them to adapt rapidly in order to ingratiate themselves with the Allies. Pride in German culture had also not disappeared, even among the anti-Nazis. Within a few years something like normality had returned, with many Germans able to pick up where they had left off before Hitler.

Iraq lacks many of these advantages. The Baathists ruled for much longer than the Nazis, and it may be harder to establish the degree of their culpability. There is a certain impatience with the notion of de-Baathification on the part of the Allies. Within days of capturing Basra, the British Army was reported to be employing former Baathists as local administrators. The Iraqis are even more sensitive about being treated as an uncivilized Third World people than the Germans were. But if they want the power of Baathism to be broken, as incoming leaders like Ahmed Chalabi certainly do, they need the Allies to help them do it. In Eastern Europe after 1989, few former communists were punished and in several states they are back in power. The U.S. cannot afford to let Saddam Hussein's followers make a comeback.


Why Did Iraqis Loot Their Own Museums? (posted April 22, 2003)

Dennis B. Roddy, writing for Scripps Howard News Service (April 21, 2003):

How could the Iraqi people, in the space of a few days, demolish their own cultural legacy?

"Imagine having everything really important about the early United States in the Smithsonian and that it is gutted. What would that do to our sense of connection to our past?" said Janice Yellin, a professor of art history and an expert in Egyptian civilization at Babson College in Babson Park, Mass.

Egypt was long held as a prime example of the pillage of ancient artifacts and artwork - from the tomb robbers of the Nile Valley to Western archaeologists and collectors who emptied chambers and transported the contents wholesale to European museums.

Yet Yellin said: "I can say with certainty that nothing of this scope has happened in Egypt. Not even the pillaging of Egyptian antiquities ... compares with the scope of the destruction that has just occurred in Iraq."

From the sacking of Rome by the Visigoths to the plunder of European artwork by the Nazis, attacks on cultural legacies have usually taken two tacks.

On one level, attacking nations seek to eradicate the icons of a culture to eliminate it, much the way the Nazis attempted to destroy all evidence of Jews in Europe and Iranian mullahs urged the destruction of Bahai temples.

At another level, invaders gather up prizes for their own enrichment. Much of Venice, for instance, is built out of pieces of the Byzantine Empire brought back by invaders.

But some experts say it is unusual - possibly unprecedented - for people to turn against their own cultural legacy in the manner the Iraqis did.

"Obviously, the Iraqi people never really owned their past," suggested David Small, an archaeologist at Lehigh University in Bethlehem, Pa. "Most of the archaeological work that's been conducted in Iraq, especially the stuff that produced the world-famous pieces, has been ... by British and American and German museums. It's almost seen as not the Iraqis' own but someone else's view of Iraq."

But Small's assessment of the Iraqis as a people estranged from their cultural past, as people willing to loot and sell national treasures to escape the grinding poverty of the past two decades, is far from universal among experts.

"The museums were governmental institutions, so they were symbols of governmental power, even though people do feel an affinity with these objects," said Magnus Bernhardsson, a professor of Middle Eastern History at Hofstra University.

What experts in the field do agree on, though, is that the items lost could have been protected, and that the United States established the precedent under which cultural treasures are to be guarded in time of war.

Before the allied invasion of Europe in World War II, the U.S. government created what became known as the Monuments, Fine Arts and Archives section of the military. Its mission was to identify irreplaceable cultural sites in Europe.

The group hoped to avoid a repeat of the disastrous loss of architectural treasures that happened during the attack on the Italian town of Cassino in 1944, when allied bombers destroyed Monte Cassino, a treasured Benedictine monastery that had survived attacks by the Lombards in 589 and the Saracens in 884.

American officers were dispatched throughout Europe to locate art stolen by Nazi leader Hermann Goering and to spare cultural centers such as Heidelberg, Salzburg and Vienna from bombing.

"They succeeded in preventing a great deal of damage," said Steven Garfinkle, a Mesopotamian expert at Western Washington University in Bellingham, Wash.

David Horowitz: On UCLA's Anti-War Resolution (posted April 22, 2003)

WAR AS A TEST 0F P0LITICAL CHARACTER: Wars are a test of citizens' loyalty, commitment and political understanding; and in providing this test the end of a war can be as illuminating as its beginning. It was a striking fact of the "anti-war" demonstrations against Operation Iraqi Freedom that the left was able to mobilize more protesters in three months - from the UN deadline of November 7 to the launch of the war in March - than the new left was able to mobilize in the first six years of the war in Vietnam. (The first of these anti-Vietnam demonstrations, which I helped to organize, took place in June 1962 at the University of California, Berkeley with less than a hundred students.) The same was true of the worldwide protests against the war to topple the Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein.

Both the rapidity and size of the anti-Iraq mobilization indicate that it was not merely - and not mainly - a response to the particular war or the issues that defined it, but the expression of an attitude towards American power itself. Moreover, the same rapid growth of the protests in advance of suitable facts (e.g., the "quagmire" of the Vietnam War, the mounting loss of life without apparent result) indicates that the attitude towards American power is relatively unaffected by the uses to which the power is put. One could see this phenomenon in the demonstrations after 9/11, which mobilized tens of thousands of American college students before America lifted a finger in response. The purpose of the demonstrations was to protest any military response America might consider to the unprovoked terrorist attack.

UCLA'S "ANTI-WAR" RESOLUTION: The same attitude was manifest in an event that took place when the military phase of Operation Iraqi Freedom had been concluded, that is, after the regime in Bagdhad had been swiftly toppled with limited casualties and no significant reaction from the "Arab street." In April, 2003, less than a week after United States and British forces had liberated Iraq, and after the victors had opened Saddam's prisons, dismantled the torture chambers, shipped vast quantities of food and medicine to the Iraqi population and had begun to assemble the first Iraq regime in history that would not be a monarchy or military junta, or a fascist dictatorship and chamber of horrors - at this very moment -- the faculty senate of the University of California, Los Angeles voted to "condemn" the "United States invasion of Iraq." The extraordinary session was convened just for the purpose of expressing the condemnation. The vote was 180-7 in favor, as though in the university such an extremist view was merely conventional wisdom.

The professors also voted to "deplore the doctrine of preventive war the President has used to justify the invasion"(1) and to "oppose the establishment of the American protectorate in Iraq," even though the President actually justified Iraq's liberation under U.N. Resolution 1441 (which had called on the regime to disarm immediately) and no American "protectorate" was ever contemplated.

In other words, 95% of the faculty senate of one of America's most prestigious academic institutions are of the view - without any visible evidence to support that view -- that their own country is a dangerous, imperialistic aggressor, bent on acquiring control of a sovereign nation. They did this in the face of many contrary facts. This was a war that had already demonstrated that not even the Iraqi army or its elite Republican Guard had the will to defend its dictator and that the Iraqi people who warmly welcomed the "invading" troops, considered the Americans and the British to be their liberators.

THE VIEW BEHIND THE RESOLUTION: The co-author of the UCLA resolution, Professor Maurice Zeitlin, is a leftist I happen to have known for forty years since the moment we both arrived at the University of California to pursue graduate studies at the beginning of the Sixties. Zeitlin was a Marxist (like myself) and in 1961 published one of the first books hailing the triumph of the Communist revolution in Cuba.(2) In October 1997, Zeitlin spoke at a UCLA symposium on 20th Century utopias invoking the dead guerrilla Che Guevara, who had once attempted to incite an international civil war, calling for the creation of "Two, three, … many Vietnams." Zeitlin declared his continuing faith in the cause that Guevara symbolized: "Che [Guevara] was above all a revolutionary socialist and a leader of the first socialist revolution in this hemisphere. His legacy is embodied in the fact that Cuban revolution is alive today despite the collapse of the Soviet bloc… No social justice is possible without a vision like Che's."(3)

In other words, for forty years, the co-author of UCLA's anti-Iraq resolution has remained a small "c" communist, or -- as I prefer -- a "Neo-communist," by which I mean a political radical and a determined opponent of America and its capitalist democracy. The UCLA resolution is an expression of those commitments rather than a reaction to a particular policy or war.

Editor's Note Professor Zeitlin is a member of the Sociology department at UC Irvine. He is the co-author of an oral history of the labor struggles at the Ford Motor Company during the 1930s and 1940s and the author of The Large Corporation and Contemporary Classes.

Saudi Think Tank Features Anti-Semitic Professor Who Claims Jews Serve Pastries with Human Blood on Purim (posted April 22, 2003)

News Release from the Middle East Research Institute (April 11, 2003):

On April 9, 2003, Dr. Umayma Jalahma briefed the Arab League's "Center for Coordination and Follow-Up" and claimed that the U.S. war in Iraq was timed to coincide with the Jewish holiday Purim. Dr. Jalahma, a professor of Islamic Studies at Saudi Arabia's King Faysal University, made headlines last year when she claimed that Jews use human blood to make pastries for the Purim holiday. In an article published in the Saudi daily Al-Riyadh on March 12, 2002,Dr. Jalahma wrote about "the Jewish holiday of Purim… for this holiday, the Jewish people must obtain human blood so that their clerics can prepare the holiday pastries… that affords the Jewish vampires great delight as they carefully monitor every detail of the blood-shedding with pleasure... After this barbaric display, the Jews take the spilled blood, in the bottle set in the bottom [of the needle-studded barrel], and the Jewish cleric makes his coreligionists completely happy on their holiday when he serves them the pastries in which human blood is mixed."

Following MEMRI's release of a translation of this article, Vice President Dick Cheney, National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice, and White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer, criticized the Saudi government and press. Subsequently, Dr. Jalahma was prevented from writing for Al-Riyadh, but began writing for Al-Watan, another Saudi daily.

The "Zayed Center for Coordination and Follow-Up" was established by the Arab League in 1999. Notable speakers at the Center include former vice president Al Gore, former secretary of state James Baker, Professor Shibley Telhami of the University of Maryland, former president of Austria and former UN secretary-general Kurt Waldheim, President of the Arab-American Institute James Zogby, former U.S. president Jimmy Carter, former assistant secretary of state for the Middle East Richard Murphy, President of the Middle East Institute Edward Walker, and Lyndon Larouche. Recent events at the Center include a lecture by French intellectual Theirry Meyssan, author of "The Appalling Fraud," in which he accused the U.S. military of involvement in the September 11 terrorist attacks; the Saudi Gazette quoted Meyssan as stating at the event, "...[Those] who masterminded the operations and led them were American terrorists."

Former UN weapons inspector Scott Ritter also lectured at the Center and, according to the Zayed Center's summary of the event, which took place on February 8, 2003, Ritter "concluded his lecture, saying that what is happening now in the United Sates [i.e. the planning of the war in Iraq] is due to the fact that this country [the U.S.] is administered by extremists, after the elections of 2000, describing this as a kind of coup d'etat against the American values and principles."

Pentagon Memo: Troops Were Told to Guard Museum (posted April 22, 2003)

Paul Martin, writing in the Washington Times (April 20, 2003):


In a memo sent two weeks before the fall of Baghdad, the Pentagon office charged with rebuilding Iraq urged top commanders of U.S. ground forces to protect the Iraqi National Museum and other cultural sites from looters.

"Coalition forces must secure these facilities in order to prevent looting and the resulting irreparable loss of cultural treasures," says the March 26 memo, a copy of which was obtained by The Washington Times.

The Pentagon's Office of Reconstruction and Humanitarian Assistance (ORHA), led by retired Lt. Gen. Jay Garner, sent the five-page memo to senior commanders at the Coalition Forces Land Component Command (CFLCC).

Two weeks later, American forces pulled down the giant statue of Saddam Hussein in Baghdad to cheering crowds, and in the days that followed, looters pillaged Baghdad.

The museum was No. 2 on a list of 16 sites that ORHA deemed crucial to protect. Financial institutions topped the list, including the Iraqi Central Bank, which is now a burned-out shell filled with twisted metal beams from the collapse of the roof and all nine floors under it.

"We asked for just a few soldiers at each building, or if they feared snipers, then just one or two tanks," said an angry ORHA official, one of several who spoke to The Times on the condition of anonymity.

A spokesman for CFLCC, the Kuwait-based branch of Central Command that is in charge of coalition ground forces, was not familiar with the memo. He agreed to pass a request for comment up the chain of command.

U.S. officials characterized the initial days of looting, in which Iraqi government buildings were ransacked and burned, as acts of revenge against a despised regime.

A few days later, however, looters targeted the National Museum.

Much of the ORHA memo, titled "Guidance for CFLCC's Priorities for Securing Key Baghdad Institutions" is devoted to the Iraqi Ministry of Culture.

"Among other assets, it controls Iraq's museums and archeological sites, which contain many priceless art treasures and antiquities of world importance," the memo says.

The memo expresses particular concern for the National Museum located in central Baghdad:

"It contains literally thousands of priceless historical objects, many of them gold, silver, and precious stones, as well as priceless works of art.

"Its collections cover over 5,000 years of recorded history and represent the fruits of 200 years of scientific investigation by both Western and Iraqi archaeologists.

"It will be a prime target for looters," the memo says.

America's Short Memory: The Terrorist Group Invited to Help Rebuild Iraq (posted April 21, 2003)

An exchange on CNN's"Larry King Live" (April 16, 2003):

ROBIN WRIGHT (Los Angeles Times): Look, an awful lot will depend, really, on what happens in Iraq and how well it goes for the United States and whether you see a mutation and a regeneration of the kind of extremism we’ve seen, really, over the past 20 years. It began in Lebanon with the suicide bombs and hostage-takings. And you know, this could play out in groups that are purely Iraqi. Remember, one of the groups, interestingly enough, that met with the United States yesterday in Nasiriyah was a group called al-Dawa, which means “the call” in Arabic. And it was a group that 20 years ago, exactly, bombed the American embassy in Kuwait. And so there are...

BOB WOODWARD: What was considered one of the most serious terrorist organizations...

LARRY KING: And now they’re in meetings to form...

WRIGHT: That’s right, and are going to be a player in the next government. It will — it has strong support, believed to be very popular among Shi’ite Iraqis.

Japan's Not a Model, but India Is (posted April 21, 2003)

Stanley Kurtz, writing in the Wall Street Journal (April 121, 2003):

The democratizers' model for transforming Iraq is America's post-World War II occupation of Japan. There, they say, we entered a country as alien and antidemocratic as any Middle Eastern dictatorship, militarily imposed a liberal constitution, and brought the public around to democracy almost overnight, chiefly by encouraging and supervising elections.
The truth is very different. In embracing democracy under American occupation, the Japanese drew on a long, if imperfect, democratic tradition. Within a generation of Commodore Matthew Perry's 1853 arrival in Uraga Bay, opening the country to the outside world for the first time in 250 years, Japan's leaders had enacted an ambitious series of reforms, amounting to a social and political revolution. Known as the Meiji Restoration, this revolution from above greatly limited the power of the Meiji emperor, giving Japan a modern central government, new civil and criminal codes and, from 1889 on, an authentic constitutional system. Though initially just the wealthiest 1% elected the new parliament, by the 1920s all adult males had the vote.

Encouraging the Meiji Restoration's reforms was the "liberty and popular rights" movement--a remarkable efflorescence of the liberal spirit that deeply and enduringly changed Japanese society. As early as the 1870s, this intellectual movement had disseminated such Western thinkers as Mill and Rousseau to the farthest corners of Japan, where their influence inspired the Japanese to demand democracy. The movement sparked the growth of hundreds of vibrant political associations, some developing into authentic national parties. Western political concepts like that of a "loyal opposition" became part of the nation's political culture.

Even after the Meiji rulers imposed military rule in the 1930s, belief in democracy endured for many Japanese. In liberalizing Japan during the occupation, the U.S. merely had to shove the Japanese back onto the democratic road they had been voluntarily roaring down for nearly a century....

If Iraq currently lacks a modernizing, democratizing class, like Japan's samurai bureaucrats, might it not be possible to create a sector of Iraqi society that embraces liberal principles--a new, modern bureaucratic class that could then spark a liberalization of the larger society and the government, just as the samurai did in Japan?
In fact, there is a good historical precedent for just such a development: That is precisely what happened when the British ruled India. British rule in the subcontinent, let it be said at once, is a highly imperfect model of democratization. The Raj was often cruel and exploitative. And though a few British thinkers and bureaucrats may have understood the Raj's 150-year imperium as the midwife of Indian self-rule, for the most part the British brought democracy to the Indians more or less by accident, in fits and starts. But by educating and training--and employing--English-speaking Indians to assist them in administering the empire, the British ended up forging a liberal-minded indigenous class that eventually could run a modern nation on its own.

A pivotal figure in this development is Ram Mohan Roy (1772-1833), the so-called father of modern India. Broadly educated in Indian languages, he went on to master English and work for the British East India Company, where he developed ideas that led to the first modernizing movement within Hinduism--a crucial stage on India's path to modern democracy.

Roy shows how it is possible to take an ancient, nonmodern tradition (like Islam, say) and--without seeming to violate it, and indeed while cherishing much that is valuable in it--to transform it substantially and adapt it to the modern condition. Roy used the philosophical ideas found in the earliest Hindu scriptures to criticize the polytheism and some of the practices of popular Hinduism, such as sati--widow burning. Yet he indignantly rejected the disdain for Hinduism that Christian missionaries and British liberals so casually showed. Immersed in Hinduism's rich philosophical tradition, Roy defended Hindu pride against British prejudice and simultaneously argued for liberalizing change within the Hindu tradition. The surest route to modern life for Muslim societies may be just such an internal reformation of their Islamic tradition rather than a forcible extirpation of it. If democracy is to succeed in the Middle East, an Islamic Roy may have to arise....

The great British historian and administrator Thomas Babington Macaulay dramatically accelerated the modernization that Roy began. In 1835, shortly after Roy's death, Macaulay penned a powerful memorandum, "Macaulay's Minute," that persuaded the British to introduce a comprehensive system of English-language education in India. The primary goal, said Macaulay, was to create a class of Indians sufficiently versed in English to help the British rule. But beyond that, Macaulay sought to fashion an Indian class "English in taste, in opinions, in morals, and in intellect"--a modernizing class imprinted with British cultural values, in other words. The British devised an educational program that made the study of English literature and the British humanistic classics the core of the curriculum. Long after the British had disappeared from the subcontinent, Macaulay prophesied, an Indian elite educated in this program would embody an "imperishable empire" of British values. While Indian cultural values remain strong in India, Macaulay in a sense got his way, as well. "Macaulay's Minute" began the process of relative Anglicization and accelerated the cultural transformation that Roy had begun, a transformation that pushed India into the modern world.

Before the new indigenous elite arose, however, at least one early-19th-century British modernizing effort failed disastrously, proving that it is not enough to blow up existing social structures and assume that, when the dust settles, the fragments will re-form into something recognizably modern. Liberal British administrators wanted to shatter the power of traditional village landlord elites and give individual farmers control over their own land. Like famed Peruvian economist Hernando de Soto today, they believed that once the right property relations were in place, an explosion of free enterprise and productivity would follow. It didn't happen. The British destroyed the traditional Indian system of village rule and created a market in land, but the Indians showed no signs of developing a liberal, capitalist ethos. Private ownership by itself was insufficient to bring deeper cultural change. So British administrators had to step in, at great and ultimately unsupportable expense to the British treasury.


A New Dark Age? (posted April 21, 2003)

Ben Okri, the Booker prize-winning author of The Famished Road, writing in the Guardian (April 19, 2003):

We are now at the epicentre of a shift in the history of the world. The war against Iraq has unleashed unsuspected forces. The first signs are twofold. The need of the Americans to protect oil fields, but not hospitals, museums and libraries. This is a catastrophic failure of imagination and a signal absence of a sense of the true values of civilisation. It does not bode well for the future.

The second sign is in the Iraqi people. We ask why have they turned on themselves, looted their own museums, and burnt their priceless National Library. The answer is simple. Some have been dehumanised. They have been broken by sanctions, crushed by tyranny and annihilated by the doctrine of overwhelming force.

The Aztecs never recovered when Hernan Cortez and the conquistadores broke the faith of that ancient civilisation. Persia never recovered after its destruction by Alexander the Great.

The war against Iraq was won in the wrong way. There is a way to win that does not destroy the ancient mythic pathways of a people. And there is a way to win that destroys the meaning and value of their past. The worst way to win is when a defeated people turn on their ancient gods, and tear them down, when a people turn on their past and burn it. And they don't know why and yet they do. If the past had power and value why has it brought us to this, is what their actions say. The past has made us powerless. We need a new kind of power, so that we too can stand proud and with dignity under the sun. In this the war alliance failed them.

It turns out that we didn't believe truly in the values of civilisation either, or else we would have found a wiser way to win. A way in which we all were winners. Now, with the looting of the museums, and the burning of the National Library, with its inestimable manuscripts and books, the whole of humanity is the loser. We have lost great swathes of our past.

This is why more than ever the value of existing museums is raised to the highest pitch. The importance of the work being done at the British Museum is more urgent and luminous than ever. We may well be on the verge of a new dark age, when even the so-called highly civilised nations no longer know what the most enduring things are. And stand by and watch as darkness creeps upon us, unsuspected.

The real war always has been to keep alive the light of civilisation everywhere. It is to keep culture and art at the forefront of our national and international endeavours.

The end of the world begins not with the barbarians at the gate, but with the barbarians at the highest levels of the state. All the states in the world.

We need a new kind of sustained and passionate and enlightened action in the world of the arts and the spirit.

A Country that Really Isn't One (posted April 21, 2003)

Jonathan Raban, writing in the Guardian (April 19, 2003):

When the British cobbled together Iraq out of three provinces of the collapsed Ottoman empire, they were deliberately fractionalising and diluting two of the three main demographic groups. It made good colonial sense to split up the ever-troublesome Kurds (Sunni Muslims, but not Arabs) between Syria, Turkey, Persia, and Iraq. Equally, the Shias had to be prevented from dominating the new state. In her letters home, Gertrude Bell, an archaeologist and official of the British administration in Baghdad after the first world war, described the Shias as, variously, "grimly devout", "violent and intractable", "extremist", "fanatical and conservative". By contrast, the Baghdad Sunnis were seen as generally docile, forward-looking and pro-British. A representative democracy was out of the question, because the majority Shias would promptly hijack it. Bell wrote: "I don't for a moment doubt that the final authority must be in the hands of the Sunnis, in spite of their numerical inferiority, otherwise you'll have a mujtahid-run, theocratic state, which is the very devil." ([Paul] Wolfowitz, please note. Out of the lawless turmoil of liberated Iraq there emerged one image of placid civil order: a photo, taken last week and published in the New York Times, showing some 700 Basra Shias seated in neatly serried rows outside their damaged mosque, listening to a sermon. This in a city otherwise given over to riot, looting and murder. The contrast between the power of the occupiers and the power of the ayatollahs could not have been more forcefully stated.)

Bell and her colleagues sent for Faisal - son of the emir of Mecca - who had already had a go at being king of Syria before the French deposed him. As a member of the Hashemite family, direct descendants of the prophet, Faisal, though a Sunni, was acceptable to the Shias. So the perils of democracy were neatly circumvented.

Bell again: "Lord! They do talk tosh. One of the subjects that even the best of [the Arabs] are fond of expatiating upon is the crying need for democracy in Iraq - al damokratiyah, you find it on every page. I let them run on, knowing full well that Faisal intends to be king in fact, not merely in name, and he is quite right."

From the start, the unwieldy assemblage of Iraq needed not a government but a ruler. When monarchy failed, tyranny of a peculiarly Middle Eastern kind took over. [Lawrence Rosen, author of The Culture of Islam,] interestingly asserts that the idea of "state", in the western sense of a complex machinery of government independent of the person of the ruler, barely exists in the Arab world, because an entity as abstract and impersonal as a state cannot be credited with those "bonds of obligation" that define and constitute the Islamic self. This is borne out by fundamentalist websites that warn their followers not to vote in western elections for fear of committing the sin of shirk, or blasphemy: to show allegiance to a secular state, instead of to the Ummah and to Allah, is to worship a false god. The typical Arab ruler is likely to echo Louis XIV: the state, such as it is, is him - a warlord-like figure on a grand scale, with an army and a secret police at his disposal, like Nasser, Hafez al-Assad, King Saud, or Saddam Hussein. For the individual strong man is compatible with strict Islamist teaching in a way that a strong state is definitely not.

In the case of Iraq, arrogant colonial mapmaking happened to conspire with Islamic tradition to create a state that would permanently tremble on the verge of anarchy, or at least of violent partition into a Kurdistan to the north, a Shi'ite theocracy to the south, and a Sunni-led secular statelet in the middle with Baghdad as its capital. That Iraq still conforms - just - to its 1921 borders is a tribute to the extraordinary power and brutality of Saddam. Yet Wolfowitz has singled out this state-that-never-should-have-been for his breathtakingly bold experiment in enforced American-style democracy. On April 6 he went the rounds of the Sunday-morning talk-shows to "warn" the nation that it might take "more than six months" to get Iraqi democracy up and running. He should be so lucky. What seems to be happening now is that, as American troops take full possession of Iraq, they are beginning to find out - in Baghdad, Ur, Mosul - that the country they invaded has effectively ceased to exist.

The March on Baghdad Isn't as Original as It Seems (posted 3-31-03)

Bob Davis, Glenn R. Simpson, and Yaroslav Trofimov, writing in the Wall Street Journal (March 28, 2003):

The U.S. Army's current sprint across miles of open terrain, bypassing population centers, has several successful antecedents in American military history, from Confederate Gen. Stonewall Jackson's campaign through the Shenandoah Valley in the Civil War to Gen. George Patton's dash across France and Belgium in World War II. But another characteristic of the current campaign -- moving out so quickly that resupply lines are stretched tight -- has brought trouble, and occasionally disaster, in other campaigns. In World War II, Adolf Hitler sent three million soldiers -- roughly 70% of his forces -- into Russia in a "lightning war" that was shattered by crumbling logistics and harassment of supply lines by small Russian units.

Even the high-tech "shock and awe" bombing campaign is tethered to a controversial past. Military strategist Harlan Ullman, who helped coin the shock-and-awe phrase in the mid-1990s, traces the roots of the strategy, in part, to the two nuclear bombs the U.S. dropped on Japan to hasten the end of World War II.

Mr. Ullman says that the U.S. now possesses the capacity to break an enemy's will to fight by massively attacking targets from land, sea, air and even cyberspace. But so far, the shock-and-awe aspect of the war against Iraq has been mostly a large-scale bombing assault on Baghdad, he says. And the lessons there -- from Germany in World War II and Vietnam during the 1960s -- is that by itself, heavy bombing often stiffens resistance, rather than breaking it. ...

Long supply lines have often been a problem, even for powerful armies. History's main cautionary tale may be Hitler's drive into Russia. At the end of a severely protracted supply line, German troops ran into trouble. They battled their way into Stalingrad and then got pinned down in a vicious, house-to-house battle lasting 66 days. In the end, Hitler's forces found themselves surrounded and starving in the dead of winter. In February 1943, an entire German army group surrendered: 23 generals, 2,000 officers and at least 130,000 troops. Historians consider the Battle of Stalingrad the turning point of World War II.

The vulnerability of supply lines, and the strategy of attacking them instead of an army's main force, have been facets of warfare since at least the days of the Roman Empire. Both Hannibal of Carthage and Julius Caesar of Rome grappled with huge supply-line problems, and sought to disrupt the lines of their opponents.

Some American generals have proved themselves more adept at handling ambitious assaults with long and sometimes even nonexistent supply lines. After occupying Atlanta in September 1864, Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman marched some 62,000 men to the seaport of Savannah, Ga. Enroute, Gen. Sherman's troops were cut off from other Union forces and lived off the land. Meanwhile, they burned crops, destroyed railroads and factories and reached Savannah with 25,000 bales of captured cotton.

The guerrilla tactics Iraqi forces have employed -- hitting behind forward lines and using fighters in civilian clothes -- remind many Americans of the tactics the Viet Cong used in the Vietnam War. But Iraqis may be following a different precedent from closer to home: tactics used for decades by the Palestinians and Lebanese in Israeli-occupied territories. Those guerrilla campaigns have long occupied prime time on Iraqi television and were glorified in official propaganda and textbooks for millions of children.

In Lebanon during the 1980s and 1990s, the Hezbollah Shiite guerrillas concentrated on the weakest point of the Israeli military presence -- moving vehicles and convoys. They planted bombs by the roadside, attacked these vehicles with rocket-propelled grenades and made sure to record gruesome pictures whenever they managed to kill Israeli soldiers or take them prisoner. In one episode that demoralized many Israelis and pushed Israel toward a unilateral withdrawal from Lebanon in 2000, Hezbollah guerrillas posed for pictures while holding the severed head of an Israeli officer.

Another practice of Iraqi guerrillas -- hiding among the civilian population -- also seems to be borrowed from Lebanese and Palestinian militants. Palestinian groups such as Hamas and the al Aqsa Brigades have been firing into Israeli cities and launching suicide missions from densely populated towns and refugee camps. An attempt by Israel to stamp out such groups with an assault on the Jenin refugee camp last year led to heavy casualties both among the civilians and the Israeli troops, prompting a world-wide outcry.

Coalition forces also accuse the Iraqi loyalists of killing residents of the allied-controlled areas who agree to cooperate with British and U.S. authorities. That's likely to undermine both allied plans to get Iraqi oil workers back to the oil fields and a project to use the Iraqi Trade Ministry's distribution system to push through humanitarian supplies.

The first Palestinian intifadah in the 1980s offers a model for these tactics. At that time, Yasser Arafat's Fatah movement quickly took control of the Palestinian street by forcing Palestinian police and local administration officials to resign, and by killing anyone suspected of collaborating with the occupation authorities

However, historian Stanley Karnow says the Vietnam experience raises a tough question for Iraq's guerrilla fighters: How many are willing to die for their cause? In his interviews with North Vietnamese and Viet Cong commanders after the war, he says, they told him they would have been willing to sustain unlimited numbers of casualties, and fight for five or 10 years more -- anything so as not to be defeated by the Americans. If Iraqis loyal to Saddam Hussein are willing to die en masse, as the Vietnamese were, then the U.S. is in trouble, he thinks. But the tactic won't be so successful if they aren't.

The U.S. tactic of skipping ahead of enemy concentrations on the way to an ultimate target was used successfully in World War II, when Gen. Douglas MacArthur island-hopped toward Japan and simply avoided enemy strongholds. The MacArthur strategy of "leapfrogging" saved thousands of American lives by bypassing Japanese-held islands where there were heavy forces dug in for battle and then invading more lightly defended islands in their rear. Gen. MacArthur then constructed airfields to launch attacks that cut off Japanese supply lines. "Our strong points were gradually starved out," one former Japanese intelligence officer was quoted as saying in William Manchester's book "American Caesar."

In the European theater in World War II, Gen. Patton's Third Army swept across France and Belgium, consuming 350,000 gallons of fuel a day and leaving German troops in his wake. Gen. Patton kept going, sometimes ordering his men to "divert" supplies intended for other army units. At other times, the Americans ran on captured German fuel. Gen. Patton relied on U.S. airpower, then unchallenged by Germany's ravaged forces, to protect his flanks, in the same way that Gen. Franks today depends on U.S. warplanes to try to take care of Iraqi attacks behind the front lines.

In November 1944, with three days notice, Gen. Patton scrapped his battle plan, turned his units abruptly to the north and helped defeat Germany's last major armored attack of the war in the Battle of the Bulge. Sometimes he directed the traffic himself, standing in the muddy rutted road, wearing a parka with a .45 pistol strapped on his belt. "Drive like hell," he would tell his men.

Other precedents aren't so encouraging. Russian troops left in the wake of Hitler's quick drive toward Moscow helped turn the German offensive into a disaster for the Nazis.

In 1870, the Prussian army lay siege to Paris, the capital of France, conquered it and ended the Franco-Prussian war. But the idea of focusing on an enemy capital as the ultimate target, while leaving the rest of the country unconquered, also has created problems. That, some historians feel, was a big mistake of Union commanders in the early days of the Civil War, when they focused on taking the Confederate capital of Richmond. When Ulysses S. Grant took over the Union army in March 1864, he shifted the focus to taking out enemy soldiers rather than the enemy's capital, and the North's fortunes turned.

The U.S. assault on Baghdad also has a harrowing precedent. In 1916, during World War I, British Major Gen. Sir Charles Vere Ferrers Townshend led a force of thousands up the Euphrates River for what was supposed to be a quick assault on Baghdad. Employing what he called the "principle of economy of force," he figured his troops would blow past the Arab and Turkish forces in what was then known as Mesopotamia. But the British underestimated their enemy and were forced by heavy resistance to dig in at the city of Al Kut.

"Reinforcement will be pushed up to you with every possible speed," Gen. Townshend was promised by his commanding officer, but the relief never arrived. The British were surrounded, besieged and defeated.

About a year later, a different British and colonial Indian army, four times the size of Gen. Townshend's, resumed the Mesopotamia campaign and finally conquered Baghdad.

FDR Ordered the Assassination of a Leader, too (posted 3-29-03)

Dave Hirschman, writing in the Atlanta Journal and Constitution (March 22, 2003):

The president had an urgent and fateful decision to make.

Intercepted radio traffic indicated the leader of an enemy military force would be within striking distance of U.S. warplanes, but only momentarily. No other president had ever sent U.S. aircraft on what was essentially an assassination attempt --- and the results were sure to be costly.

Even if the attack succeeded, the United States would lose a valuable intelligence source.

But if the plan worked, it could demoralize U.S. enemies, avenge an earlier attack and save American soldiers by shortening an ongoing war.

These events may sound familiar to anyone following news from Iraq where President George Bush sent F-117 Nighthawk stealth fighters after Saddam Hussein at the start of the U.S.-led war to depose him.

But they also describe April 16, 1943, when President Franklin D. Roosevelt is thought to have approved a secret plan to shoot down Japanese Adm. Isoroku Yamamoto as his plane flew to a remote airfield in the Solomon Islands.

Mission accomplished

A U.S. radio listening post in Alaska had picked up Yamamoto's itinerary as he dropped in on front-line troops in the South Pacific. American code-breakers in Hawaii deciphered and translated the message, then sent it to Washington for approval. Roosevelt is widely believed to have endorsed the order, then sent it down through the chain of command to Hawaii and Guadalcanal where 18 P-38 fighters fitted with special long-range fuel tanks were hurriedly prepared.

On the morning of April 18, the U.S. pilots ambushed Yamamoto over the Solomon Islands, killing the architect and commander of the attack on Pearl Harbor 16 months earlier. The military hero's death stunned Japan, where no public mention was made of his loss for six weeks.

The attack on Yamamoto and the attempt at killing Saddam in the opening moments of the U.S.-led war against Iraq have historical parallels: Both appear to have been ordered by U.S. presidents against key individuals for the purpose of demoralizing an enemy. Both used some of the most technologically advanced aircraft of their day: the long-range P-38 Lightning and the radar-evading F-117.

Is this the American Way of War? (posted 3-29-03)

Michael Powell, writing in the Washington Post (March 25, 2003):

"Our notion of ourselves as a peace-loving republic is flawed," says Eric Foner, a professor of American history at Columbia University. "We've used military force against many, many nations, and in very few of those cases were we attacked or threatened with attack.

"We tend to frame our wars in very abstract moral language," he adds. "Even when we invade some nearby Latin country, there is a grandiose rhetoric of liberty. The nature of our political culture encourages this language."

But the mantle of empire -- and preemptive war -- rests uneasy on many Americans, and their unease is rooted in America's past. The Founders feared that a democratic republic was inherently perishable. Man's more natural state, they believed, was anarchy or empire. Unprovoked war promised a dangerous flirtation with despotism.

"American unease with openly aggressive, first-strike imperial wars comes directly from our tradition as a republic," says T.J. Jackson Lears, a Rutgers University historian who has written extensively on the transformation of American culture at the turn of the last century. "The Founding Fathers were very aware that the best-known republics all became empires.

"They looked at the monarchies of continental Europe and did everything they could to construct a system that would not suffer that fate."

Perhaps as a result, those Americans who favor a muscular expansionism tended to cull the record for insult and provocation to convince fellow Americans that war is a necessity. "There was enough anxiety present in the public consciousness that throughout our history warmakers felt they had to justify war as an act of liberation and spreading democracy," Lears says. "Those who wanted to go to war at least felt they had to trump up some facsimile of a reason."

In the 1840s, President James K. Polk wanted to buy Texas, California and pretty much everything in between from Mexico. The Mexicans, not unreasonably, declined. Polk then allowed armed American settlers to pour into Texas. When the Mexican army crossed the Rio Grande to evict them in 1846, Polk declared himself aggrieved and unfurled a war declaration written some weeks earlier.

In the 1890s, America's muscular establishment hankered to join the imperialist race for what Sen. Henry Cabot Lodge called the "waste places of the earth." They set their eyes on Cuba and Puerto Rico, and the full power of a nation's ambition and a supportive media were brought to bear.

Newspaper publisher William Randolph Hearst sent the illustrator Frederic Remington to Cuba to sketch the expected gruesome atrocities. Remington, alas, found none and asked to come home. Hearst cabled back his reply: "You supply the pictures, I'll supply the war."

A short while later, the battleship Maine exploded in Havana Harbor and Congress cried: Remember the Maine. There was likely nothing more to remember than a faulty boiler -- but American inspectors blamed a Spanish mine, and soon enough the United States was at war.

A few years after that, the Colombian Senate displeased Theodore Roosevelt and voted against selling him the Isthmus of Panama. Roosevelt roared that they were "foolish and homicidal corruptionists" and ordered up a "spontaneous" revolt, helped along by the appearance of an American battleship.

And so it goes. U.S. presidents repeatedly sent troops into the beggar nations of the Caribbean basin, Marines wading ashore in Nicaragua and Honduras, and occupied Haiti and the Dominican Republic in 1915 and 1916. In the latter cases, President Woodrow Wilson claimed German meddling might threaten the Panama Canal.

And in 1983, President Ronald Reagan saw a threat to sandal-shod medical students in Grenada and sent in the Marines. In any case, the Marxist-Leninist clique running that government was overthrown.

The point is not that every U.S. intervention is poisoned. But each sally came cloaked in rhetoric suggesting that preemption had nothing to do with it.

And that's what is intriguing about Iraq. American rhetoric is characteristically baroque -- Operation Iraqi Freedom follows on the heels of the Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan. But rarely have this country's leaders made their preemptive intent so clear. U.S. officials have only halfheartedly argued that Iraq itself threatened American soil. When the United Nations refused to endorse the war, the United States struck out on its own.

"Their reasoning now seems almost utopian: Making the Middle East safe for democracy," Lears says. "It's breathtakingly audacious."

Bypassing Enemy Strong Points: The American Way (posted 3-29-03)

Richard T. Cooper and John Hendren, writing in the LA Times (March 25, 2003):

Bypassing enemy strong points and attacking on more favorable ground has been essential military doctrine for U.S. and British forces at least since the World War II era.

Gregory Clodfelter, a military historian at the National Defense University in Washington, said U.S. tacticians are following a doctrine laid down by British military thinker Sir Basil Liddell-Hart after World War I.

Liddell-Hart advocated"the indirect approach."

In this view, Clodfelter said,"any chance to bypass the enemy's strongest positions and go for the sweet spot, you always take it."

MacArthur followed the indirect approach in parts of his South Pacific campaign. He bypassed islands that were heavily defended by Japanese troops, seized lightly held islands and used them as bases for bombing campaigns against the enemy strongholds.

And the final stage of MacArthur's experience could only reinforce the determination of U.S. commanders in Iraq to avoid urban warfare as long as possible.

When MacArthur returned to the Philippines in the final stages of the war, he faced fanatical Japanese forces head-on.

"The house-to-house fighting in Manila was a bloodbath," Clodfelter said. Taken altogether, U.S. officials say, the bypass approach is sound strategy in the south. They expect the present resistance in the south to be dealt with fairly quickly. If not, there will be time enough for the sledgehammer.

Inventors and War (posted 3-29-03)

Geoff Dutton, writing in the Columbus Post Dispatch (March 25, 2003):

In many cases, scientists resist efforts to adapt their innovations into instruments of war. Other times, however, they eagerly participate.

Richard Gatling, a Civil War-era inventor and sometime Ohio resident, invented the rapid-fire, six-barrel Gatling gun thinking it would be such a devastating weapon that it would end war.

"Of course, that was exactly the opposite of what happened," Quinn said.

Scientists before and since have expressed similar hopes.

For years, Beyerchen argued in lectures and writings that the next large-scale conflict would be the biologists' war.

The war with Iraq appears to fit his theory.

The prospect of Saddam Hussein unleashing deadly biological agents has been cited as both a justification for attacking Iraq and as one of the biggest unknowns in squaring off against an otherwise vastly outgunned opponent.

"We'll certainly know more about (biologicial weapons), I rather pessimistically predict," said Ohio State history professor John F. Guilmartin Jr., who specializes in warfare and technology.

Beyerchen added that the battlefield itself has become something like a biological organism, constantly changing and adapting through better communication and sophisticated computer analysis of information.

Science and technology also have created a type of war that has become increasingly distant and removed, making the computer-guided bombs raining down on Iraq seem almost unreal.

"Our new weapons remove the killers from the people killed," said Carroll Pursell, a Case Western Reserve University professor who specializes in warfare and technology.

"There's no blood. There's no bodies. What are you doing? You're playing a video game."

Scientists not only influence wars, but their contributions can have lasting impacts on their own legacies.

Gabriel Rains, a Confederate general during the Civil War, invented land mines only to have them decried by both sides as barbaric.

Soon after they were introduced, the North and South quickly banned their use.

Rains didn't live long enough to see them gain widespread acceptance in future wars.

When Fritz Haber, whose work with nitrogen revolutionized agriculture, received the Nobel Prize in chemistry 1918, protesters heckled him at the ceremony.

Haber, whose findings also led to more-sophisticated gunpowder and deadlier weapons, enthusiastically lobbied for the use of mustard gas during World War I.

"His reputation is forever sullied by this," Quinn said.

The National Inventors Hall of Fame selects inductees based on their "cultural impact," which inevitably leads to moral and ethical debates.

"A person who invented only weapons," Quinn said, "is not likely to end up here."

Alfred Nobel established the annual Nobel prizes in his will, after spending a lifetime reconciling his invention of dynamite with his crusade for peace.

Orville and Wilbur Wright apparently harbored no such misgivings about their invention.

"They knew about the military implications, but they didn't seem to worry about it much," Guilmartin said. "They were eager to sell their aircraft to the Army."

NYSE: Buy or Sell? (posted 3-29-03)

Tom Petruno, writing in the LA Times (March 19, 2003):

Investing for wartime turned out to be a relatively simple matter during World War II: You bought stocks of the industrial companies that were helping to supply the military machine -- automakers such as Studebaker and Hudson, for example.

Later in the war, the importance of music and movies in maintaining morale on the homefront helped fuel shares of Decca Records and Universal Pictures, according to financial historian Richard Sylla of New York University.

The strategy of investing in war-effort suppliers such as steel and copper firms worked fine during the Korean War, too, as the Dow Jones industrial average rose about 36% from shortly after the conflict's start in mid-1950 to its end in mid-1953.

Since then, however, devising a wartime investment strategy has been a more complicated game for Wall Street, in large part because the two main conflicts -- the Vietnam War and the 1991 Persian Gulf War -- were historically unusual for their durations (the former very long, the latter very short).

Now, with war looming again, some investors have been trying to mine history for clues about how markets might fare, which industries and companies might benefit and which might be hurt.

But given the long buildup for an invasion of Iraq, many bets related to the expected conflict already have been placed -- and in some cases, perhaps played out. Defense stocks, for example, have mostly been sliding since mid-2002 after a two-year surge.

Today, with its overload of analysis, Wall Street is looking further ahead: Its concern is less with what will transpire in Iraq than with the outlook for the global economy once most of the shooting stops.

The Larger Purpose of the War (posted 3-29-03)

John H. Taylor, Executive Director of the Nixon Foundation, in the course of a speech on March 25, 2003:

My proposition this evening is that the United States will be judged not because it went to war against Iraq but strictly on the basis of whether it will be possible to say that the world became a better place as a result of what the valiant men and women of our volunteer armed forces are doing as we speak.

I'll also argue that for the judgment of history to favor the United States, we will have to accomplish far more than eliminating the danger to ourselves of Iraqi weapons of mass destruction.

The first fruits of an allied victory will be the end of a brutal regime responsible for up to a million deaths - a regime that almost inevitably would have provided weapons to terrorists.

But to be true to itself and its covenants, the United States must also pursue and achieve vitally important strategic and humanitarian aims.

For a third of a century our nation has been called to mediate one of the bloodiest domestic disputes in modern history - the struggle between Israel and her neighbors in the Middle East. President Bush and our coalition partners are acting to shatter the inhumane status quo in the Middle East and replace a seemingly intractable spiral of violence with the hope of peace.

Perhaps some think it odd that the President hasn't told us that, in so many words.

There is ample precedent for Presidents using the necessity of war to accomplish purposes larger than mere military victory.

In 1860, if Abraham Lincoln had proposed a humanitarian war to destroy slavery, he would have been rebuffed. Only the south's secession sparked the mighty campaign to save the Union. The end of the sin of slavery was the inevitable consequence.

In 1940, if President Roosevelt had proposed a humanitarian war against Germany and Japan, he would have been rebuffed. It took Pearl Harbor to bring Americans to the battlements. The defeat of fascism and the rise of the democratic nations of Germany and Japan were the consequences, thanks to implacable Allied resolve and extraordinary American largess.

History in Harm's Way in Iraq (posted 3-29-03)

Paul Sheehan, writing in the Sydney Morning Herald (March 29, 2003):

Nebuchadnezzar. Babylon. Assyria. Nineveh. Mesopotamia. These names are so evocative of a mythical and ancient past that it is easy to forget these civilisations have left an archaeological legacy so dense that it is scattered across the theatre of war like a carpet of cultural landmines.

"This is where recorded history begins, so the area contains the cultural heritage of the planet," said Dr Timothy Potts, one of Australia's leading scholars in this area, and now director of the Kimbell Museum in Fort Worth, Texas.

Potts says that in 1991, Saddam's regime positioned military units beside the fabled ziggurat at Ur, first constructed 4100 years ago, which subsequently came under rocket fire, damaging the ziggurat. Now Ur is again in the path of invading forces."The royal tombs of Ur are the richest source of art and archaeology in the Middle East after the temple of Tutankhamen," said Potts.

The invention of writing, the invention of the wheel, the first code of laws, the birth of mathematics, the first examples of literature, the engineering marvel of the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, and the consolidation of Islamic culture and power in Baghdad during the 9th century are all part of the legacy of the fertile valley of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers.

Important clusters of archaeological sites, ancient churches, mosques and museums are in Mosul, Nasiriyah and Baghdad, three of the heaviest centres of bombing in the fighting now under way."There is not just the danger of bomb damage," said Potts."It's the looting of museums and the ransacking of sites that takes place when central control collapses. Poverty-stricken people will do desperate things."

Looting was considerable in the aftermath of the Gulf War in 1991 even though that battle theatre barely touched the most important areas. As soon as Saddam's regime temporarily lost control of the country, nine of 13 regional museums were looted and many excavation sites were attacked with front-end loaders as looters searched for any artefact they could carry away. Ever since, artefacts of dubious provenance have been turning up at auctions. On eBay recently, a reputedly 4500-year-old Sumerian silver necklace was on offer.

In January, McGuire Gibson, professor of Mesopotamian archaeology at the University of Chicago, visited the Pentagon to discuss the impact of war plans on the area's treasures. He was given a list of 150 archaeological sites that military planners had marked to avoid. The Pentagon thought it was doing a good job until Gibson presented them with his own list of 4000 important sites.

Baghdad, sure to be the scene of Saddam's last stand, is itself a treasure trove."The Museum of Baghdad has thousands of fragile clay tablets from all over Babylon - including the earliest examples of writing anywhere in the world - and many of them have not even been read or published yet," said Potts.

The museum has been heavily sandbagged and much of its treasure packed into metal trunks and put into storage, either at the museum or at a nearby ancient mosque.

A declaration published last week in the journal Science and signed by 128 scholars warned:"The extraordinary global significance of the monuments, museums and archaeological sites of Iraq imposes an obligation on all peoples and governments to protect them. In any military conflict that heritage is put at risk, and it appears now to be in grave danger."

Another leading scholar in the field, Professor Nicholas Postgate, of Oxford University, warns that the very nature of the geography of the war theatre puts many sites at risk:"In a ground confrontation the greatest danger to archaeological sites is posed by the fact that their mounds, which can be 30 metres high and extend over kilometres, are often the only raised features on the southern alluvial plain, and therefore liable to be adopted by combatants for various purposes," he wrote in a website set up to detail the threat to world heritage posed by the war."With modern machinery, an entire 6000-year-old village can be recycled into a defensive earthwork in a day or two."

Outrageous military vandalism took place during the Iran-Iraq war when the Iraqi army used the excavations at the ancient city of Derwas as a military emplacement. The army's trenching cut through the 4500-year-old main temple.

How the Supreme Court Misconstrued the History of Sodomy (posted 3-28-03)

Kristin Eliasberg, writing in Slate (March 25, 2003):

This Wednesday, the Supreme Court will be called on to decide in Lawrence v. Texas whether homosexuals have the constitutional right to have sex. ...

One approach to the problem comes from a surprising non-legal source. A group of historians, led by University of Chicago Professor George Chauncey, filed an amicus (or friend of the court) brief for the appellants, pointing to errors and confusion in the Bowers court's interpretation of the historical record on state anti-sodomy laws, including its definition of"sodomy" itself. Though medical or scientific groups often file friend of the court briefs, and legal briefs necessarily deal with historical records, a strictly academic brief is less common—no such brief was filed in Bowers [the 1986 case that ruled the Georgia statue against sodomy constitutional].

... Many Americans, including some on the judiciary, assume"sodomy" is just another word for same-sex sex, and the current law in Texas—and the similar laws in Missouri, Kansas, and Oklahoma—do apply exclusively to gays and lesbians. But the majority of anti-sodomy laws, both today and in the past, apply to both heterosexual and homosexual acts. Although we now understand those acts in the main to encompass oral or anal sex, the historians point out in their brief that at different times"sodomy" has been defined to include bestiality, mutual masturbation, sex in the wrong position, sex without procreative intent, male-male, and male-female sex, though only rarely female-female. In fact, the law in force in Georgia in 1986 applied to both hetero- and homosexuals, contrary to the language of the court's opinion in Bowers, which treated"sodomy" as strictly homosexual sex.

If sodomy is itself a fluid concept over time, then arguing—as the Bowers' majority did—that its prohibition is"deeply rooted in the Nation's history and tradition" becomes a less than convincing statement. Even the early biblical teachings—from whence the whole idea of sodomy is derived—were hopelessly inconsistent on the topic. In Ezekiel, the sin of the Sodomites is described as inhospitality. In later theology, sodomy became associated with unnatural sex acts in general but was interpreted broadly and never limited to homosexual sex; in fact it included all forms of non-procreative sex. Similarly, in Colonial America where sodomy proscriptions were first used to encourage population growth, they ranged across various forms of" carnal knowledge," though generally including anal sex between men and men, men and women, and men and animals (oral sex not making an appearance in the statutory records until after 1868).

Did We Get War Because We Prepared for War? (posted 3-26-03)

Anthony Howard, writing in the Times (London) (March 18, 2003):

MORE than 30 years ago the historian A. J. P. Taylor produced one of his more mischievous works. It was called War by Timetable and purported to tell the story of how the First World War had come about.

Forget about Archduke Franz Ferdinand, Sarajevo and all the rest: what had precipitated the conflict, Taylor argued, was the mere fact of mobilisation.

The faith that the world then placed in railway timetables meant that all movements of troops were public knowledge; once one great power had put its forces in place, the rest had to follow suit or risk being caught napping.

With the remarkable persuasive skill that was all his own, Taylor contrived to make it sound a plausible thesis (he was, in fact, merely elaborating a theory that he had earlier put forward in his 1963 compact masterpiece The First World War).

And, bizarre though the case he made now seems -not least in the emphasis it gave to the way in which the inflexibility of interlocking train times locked political leaders in -there remains a sense in which any military mobilisation always builds up its own momentum.

If we had not realised that before, at least we know it now. It has seemed to me, at least for the past two or three weeks, that war was going to happen over Iraq, if only because of the loss of face involved for both Britain and the US in bringing home all the mass of military power that they had assembled in the Middle East.

Just as the die was cast for the forcible recovery of the Falklands from the moment that the first two British aircraft carriers sailed from Portsmouth, so we can now see that the build-up of force around Iraq's frontiers left no other viable option available. Neither George W. Bush nor Tony Blair was, after all, willingly going to invite comparison with the Grand Old Duke of York.

Have we then, once again, watched war develop by timetable?

Is Bush a Cowboy? (posted 3-26-03)

Paul Burka, executive editor of the Texas Monthly, writing in the NYT (March 23, 2003):

Mr. Bush is not the first president to be referred to in disparaging tones as a cowboy. The precedent was set at Theodore Roosevelt's expense, and not by a foreigner but by an American. A New Yorker by birth, Roosevelt spent a lot of time in the West as a youth and considered it the formative experience of his life. (Real cowboys made fun of his high voice, spectacles and Eastern way of talking, according to his biographer, Edmund Morris.)

He was independent and ornery and impossible to divert from a course of action he thought was right — Western characteristics that were anathema to Mark Hanna, the leading Republican strategist of the late 19th century. Hanna tried unsuccessfully to dissuade William McKinley from choosing Roosevelt as his vice presidential nominee in 1900.

When McKinley was assassinated in 1901, Hanna was heard to say on the funeral train, "Now look, that damned cowboy is president of the United States."

Even as Hanna spoke, however, real cowboys were receding into history. His era lasted less than a quarter of a century before it fell victim to the barbed-wire fence, which closed the open range, and to the ubiquity of the railroad, which rendered trail drives obsolete. The truth is that myth has elevated the cowboy far beyond what he was in his heyday. The essential figure of the cattle kingdom was the cowman, not the cowboy. It was the ranch owner, not the worker, who was the king of his realm, who made up his own rules, and it was the cowboy who had to obey them.

Now it's the rancher's turn to face oblivion; it's hard to make a living in the cattle business today.

A Horrible Muddle? (posted 3-26-03)

Richard Bernstein, writing in the NYT (March 23, 2003):

In 1918 Gertrude Bell, the British explorer and adviser on all things Middle Eastern, wrote to a friend about her worry that, after World War I, the Europeans were making "a horrible muddle of the Near East."

"I confidently anticipate," Bell said, "that it will be much worse than it was before the war." But she felt that one country would turn out all right, and that was Mesopotamia, what is today called Iraq, just then being cobbled together out of three former provinces of the defunct Ottoman Empire.

It was, Bell wrote, the one place "we may manage to hold up out of the general chaos."

She was wrong; by 1920 Iraq was in the midst of a bloody Shiite rebellion against British rule. All this has been much cited of late in the cautionary commentaries occasioned by the outbreak of the second war against Iraq waged by the United States in the last 12 years.

The rolling diplomatic crisis of the weeks leading up to the war has already led some experts to ask whether the Atlantic alliance, NATO, and the United Nations may all now be so badly riven that none will play their former roles again.

"How can you keep Europe and the United States in the same institutions when they have such fundamental differences?" asked John J. Mearsheimer, a political scientist at the University of Chicago and the author of "The Tragedy of Great Power Politics" (Norton, 2001).

Quite aside from the bitter, and failed, diplomacy of recent months, the ambitions for this war are so large that this moment may someday look like a turning point in history, when a lot more changed than a regime or a border.

What the Democrats Can Learn from Bush (posted 3-26-03)

Nick Penniman and Richard Just, writing in the American Prospect (March 21, 2003):

Why liberals need an affirmative position on Iraq Optimism is an invaluable political commodity in America, and it is nearly impossible to win elections without it. Right now Bush has it, and liberals don't. Consider the recent history of presidential elections. In 1976, Jimmy Carter offered a moral vision of American life that stood in stark contrast to the perceived dirtiness of Nixonian politics; in its own way, Carter's implicit promise to American voters was a powerful sort of optimism. Four years later, his moralism came to be seen by voters as a kind of self-righteous negativism, and one that America could never be worthy of. So Ronald Reagan -- despite an agenda that was anything but moderate or mainstream -- won over those voters by sunnily conveying that the United States was meant for great things in the world. In 1992, Bill Clinton triumphed by using a similar optimism to speak to the economic aspirations of the middle-class. (Remember"Don't Stop Thinking About Tomorrow"?) And since 9-11, Bush has won over many moderates with his confident message that Americans are a resilient people who will not just survive terrorist strikes but exhibit bravery in preventing future ones.

American progressives need to reclaim their sense of optimism on foreign policy. And if they are looking for some inspiration to escape the temperamental and political corner they have painted themselves into, then they need look no farther than their own history. From the American Revolution to the New Deal to the civil-rights movement, the crusading spirit of liberalism is decorated with victories won on behalf of democracy and the common good.

What Gene McCarthy Thinks (posted 3-26-03)

Craig Gustafson, writing for the Associated Press (March 24, 2003):

It was supposed to be a forum about the struggle of third parties in a dominant two-party political system. Instead, the discussion frequently turned toward war.

That tends to happen when Eugene McCarthy is around.

Last month, the former Minnesota senator and anti-war presidential candidate predicted that the United States wouldn't attack Iraq (news - web sites). On Sunday, he shook his head.

"I'm not clear as to what a pre-emptive strike means," McCarthy said. "I don't think we should call it a war. It's kind of a police action."

McCarthy, whose 1968 Democratic presidential campaign helped galvanize opposition to the Vietnam War, has been a staunch opponent of war in Iraq and believes it's the result of a military and political system run amok.

The military industry has become too big and its influence on politicians — Republican and Democrat — too strong, McCarthy said. He compared President Bush (news - web sites) to the Romans, who, he said, attacked northern Africa because they needed something to do.

"Bush has found a cause," said McCarthy, who turns 87 Saturday.

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More Comments:

Rainer Kyster - 7/19/2004

Thanks for this. And you Americans have even longer to wait until you are liberated from being the murderer of Hisroshima and Nagasaki and the inventor of the atomic threat.

Nathan Williams - 4/29/2003

John Bloom, the author of "Assignment America: The Lawrence Problem," does not remember Lawrence of Arabia as well as he imagines. When the bickering tribes abandon administrative control of Damascus near the end of the film, there is no implication whatsoever that they have looted this culturally important city.

The looting of a Turkish train that occurs earlier in the film is an entirely different incident and likely would bare little resemblance, in the minds of the characters, and their historical counterparts, to the notion of sacking of an overwhelmingly Arab city.

He also makes the implication that after the bickering Arabs gave up, the Europeans established their rule "with a minimum of fuss." He evidently forgets that the French had to militarily defeat a Syrian army, united under Faysal (portrayed by Alec Guiness in Lawrence), in 1920 and put down a bloody revolt in 1925. Simmering hostility towards the French rule led to the formation of a certain "Ba'ath" party in that very city.

Ernest Wilberger - 4/9/2003

Yea right!

Mr. Weinkopf needs a lesson in current events.
Sure it was a quick war but whether or not it will be a quagmire is yet to be seen.

At a time when the United States is promising a reconstructed, democratic postwar Iraq, many Afghans are remembering hearing similar promises not long ago.
Instead, what they see are thieving warlords, killings on the roads and a resurgence of Taliban vigilantism.
"It's like I am seeing the same movie twice, and no one is trying to fix the problem," said Ahmed Wali Karzai, the brother of Afghanistan's president and his representative in southern Kandahar. "What was promised to Afghans with the collapse of the Taliban was a new life of hope and change. But what was delivered? Nothing. Everyone is back in business."
Mr. Karzai said reconstruction has been painfully slow — a canal repaired, a piece of city road paved, a small school rebuilt.
"There have been no significant changes for people," he said. "People are tired of seeing small, small projects. I don't know what to say to people anymore."
When the Taliban ruled, it forcibly conscripted young men.
"Today I can say, 'We don't take your sons away by force to fight at the front line,' " Mr. Karzai said. "But that's about all I can say."

Denis Sinor - 3/15/2003

If Iraq has WMD, our losses might become appaling - and our attack justified. Respect for the US will increase. If, on the contrary, Iraq does not possess WMD. the war will be short and relatively painless for us and it will become evident that the attack was unjustified. Respect for the US around the world will be at an all-time low. It really is quite simple.

Dave Thomas - 2/24/2003

The Germans may want to be a normal country liberated from their past, but they need to wake up and realize the rest of the world, including their French allies, has not wiped the slate clean. How preposterous for Germans to want to hold the Allied nations responsible for the actions they took to save the world from a German assault on humanity. Does Germany think that they can demand that the allies could only defeatthem with the minimum amount of force necessary and that any actions taken beyond this were criminal? How preposterous to even suggest such a thing. War is a diabolical evil that the Germans perpetuated on Europe in the 1940's. They will have to live with that reality and responsiblity until the grandchildren of the soldiers of World War II pass away. Why is it that France and England refuse to allow the newly liberated German nation to possess nuclear weapons? Germany has a long way to go and a long time to wait, thirty to forty more years, before she is liberated from her Hitlerian nightmare.

Dave Thomas - 2/24/2003

I would appreciate some substantiation of the devestating charges Mr. Ellsberg makes. I would appreciate Dr. Ellsberg supplying evidence that one anti-American mass murderer, Saddam Hussein, would not supply another anti-American mass murderer, Osama Bin Laden, with NBC agents in sufficient quantitiy to kill hundreds of American citizens. It may not be a case for invasion, but he makes it sound like the possibility of such a collaboration is akin to martians landing in Nevada.

Stanley Davis - 12/20/2002

RE: ridiculous interpretation of events in this article:

The Party of Lincoln is now the Democratic Party,,,,,, silly,,,,
That's why Lott left the Democrats,,,,,,,, the party philosophy slowly migrated to opposite sides over 100 years,, not surprising,,,, each party is always trying to grab the constituency of the opposing party,,,,,,,, Stan Davis

Matthew Moriarty - 12/12/2002


Walter Isaacson of the New Republic gives Kissinger a thumbs up on his appointment to head the latest government cover-up of 9/11. In doing so, Isaacson typifies the intellectual drivel that passes for scholarly opinion these days. We are talking about a familiar sociopath here, a man who can hardly leave the country for fear arrest in matters of war crimes and murder. A man who unabashedly espouses pre-emptive war and the right of might in deciding questions of state to state relations. Kissinger's record is a record of lies and arrogance and contempt for the constitutional rights of Americans. Kissinger is an enemy of all that most Americans hold dear. He is fundamentally and viscerally opposed to our republic, to the nation state and profoundly believes the future of America is embedded in the rise of a world fascism. He is poison to all that is good and decent in America. His appointment to head the 9/11 investigation is an insult. This man that should be in jail.

Jo Ann McNamara - 10/17/2002

Your commentator is looking at the wrong Caesar. Julius was highly respectful of the Roman constitution and its traditions and, unlike other imperators of the period (Marius, Sulla, Pompey) abided strictly by the rules until his enemies drove him into a corner where he felt his career and even his life to be in peril.

The Roman Empire was actually devised (or flung together) by his nephew, Octavian, a nasty piece of work if ever there was one. Octavian was a devious young man with a reputation for womanizing and generally living it up. He joined the army in seeking revenge for Caesar's murder but avoided going into battle. His later battles were fought by surrogates. He manipulated his position in Rome to undercut his fellow triumvirs and ultimately cut them out of the government. He built up his own support by executing the bloody proscriptions against the supporters of Caesar's murderers. After he had murdered his enemies and knocked out his rivals, he claimed that he had restored the republic and the grateful survivors voted to change his name to Augustus and give him the title of Father of the Country. After that, he could do pretty much as he pleased while pretending to be just a humble citizen.

Does this sound like anyone we know?