Media's Take on the News: 10-10-03 to 10-31-03

Media's Take on the News

  • Killing for Killing's Sake

  • The Boy Scouts Are in Charge

  • It Will Only Matter that Bush Told Lies If Iraq Turns Out Badly

  • Why Do Liberals Hate George W. Bush?

  • The End of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty

  • Death from Friendly Fire--Again

  • Editorial: Anti-Semitism and Ford

  • Suharto Era Continues to Cloud Indonesia's Political Life

  • More Regimes are Pledging to Democratize, but All They Really Want is Security

  • George F. Will: Why Legislators Make Bad Candidates for President

  • "Under God"--Whence this Phrase?

  • Why Jews Vote Democratic

  • The Pope's Mixed Legacy

  • Fred Kaplan: Iraq's Not the Philippines Either

  • Fred Kaplan: Iraq's Not Germany

  • The Smithsonian Expands

  • Bush Goes Over the Heads of the National Media

  • The Troops' Morale

  • PETA: Exploiting the Holocaust

  • Robert J. Samuelson: Bush II and Nixon

  • Was Germany a Victim, too?

  • Arnold’s Victory—Turning Point?

  • Israel's Nuclear History

  • Are Jews Who Fled Arab Countries Refugees?

  • Leaks Through History

  • Our Next President Should Be a General

  • Truman an Inspiration for Senator Seeking to Stop War Profiteering and Waste

  • Interview with the Man in Charge of Recovering Lost Pieces from the Iraq Museum

  • California Dreamin' ?

  • The Ancient Origins of Biological Warfare

  • The Liberty Bell Is Located Next to Slave Quarters

  • Old Europe Is Depressed ... Fearful of Asia's Rise?

  • America's Seven Lucky Breaks

  • Leaks and the Leakers Who Leaked Through History

  • The Liberty Bell's Contested History

  • Click here to return to top of page.

    Killing for Killing's Sake (posted 10-31-03)

    James Pinkerton, writing in Newsday (Oct. 30, 2003):

    Our word of the day is ecpyrosis. To the ancient Greeks, it meant destruction by fire. The "pyr" root gives us the modern word "pyromaniac."

    But the Greeks also used ecpyrosis as a word for extreme combat, as in to be so consumed with fighting that one disappears, as it were, in a ball of flame. There's some of that now, and there's more coming.

    President George W. Bush had a point on Monday when he said of Iraqi suicide bombers and rocket-attackers, "They don't care who they kill. They just want to kill." At one level, the terrorist resistance has the clear goal of driving out all foreigners, regardless of their nationality or purpose for being there. But at another level the killing has no goal whatsoever, since it's spread far and wide across the whole of lawless Iraq, where street crime and vengeance killings aren't even reported, let alone investigated. That's ecpyrosis, the fire that's consuming Iraq.

    Men have been consumed by their violent passions since the beginning of time. This is from Homer's Iliad: "Achilles then sprang upon the Trojans with a terrible cry ... as a fire raging in some mountain glen after long drought ... even so furiously did Achilles rage, wielding his spear as though he were a god, and giving chase to those whom he would slay, till the dark earth ran with blood ... and his hands were bedrabbled with gore." Sometimes, ecpyrosis has a terrible poetic beauty to it.

    And there are other reasons for some to love ecpyrosis, too. Sigmund Freud was no warmonger, but he observed pessimistically that combat "lays bare the primal man" in each of us. And in that raw mental state, "We are, like primitive man, simply a gang of murderers." The military historian Martin Van Creveld put it even more simply: "However unpalatable the fact, the real reason why we have wars is that men like fighting."

    It would be nice to believe that Americans are immune to such feelings. But here's an item in Tuesday's San Francisco Chronicle, in which a homeless Vietnam veteran was asked if he enjoyed killing. "Absolutely," came the answer. "Because you have no idea the sense of power that you get from killing someone. You are God. You are playing God to anything and everything that's in front of you, and you're killing whatever it is."

    OK, so maybe some readers will dismiss the testimony of a homeless vet speaking to a Bay Area newspaper. Yet, how about The Toledo Blade? That's about as Heartland as one can get. Earlier this month the Ohio paper ran a long series recalling the 1967 operations of the 101st Airborne Division's Tiger Force unit in Vietnam. The paper reported on the killings and massacres of hundreds of civilians, adding ghoulish details - such as GIs stringing severed ears around their necks as ornamentation. This is ecpyrosis, the sort of thing that was depicted in movies such as "Apocalypse Now" - or that really happened in previously reported Vietnam incidents, such as the 1968 slaughter ordered by Lt. William Calley in a village called My Lai.

    But the truly ecpyrotic comment in The Blade's series came from an ex-sergeant, who recalled the death-defying, death-welcoming spirit of those gory days: "We didn't expect to live." That is, if one is going to die, then everything is permitted.

    Click here to return to top of page.

    The Boy Scouts Are in Charge (posted 10-30-03)

    Samuel Brittan, writing in the London Financial Times (Oct. 24, 2003):

    George Kennan, the American diplomat and historian who developed the original cold war doctrine of deterrence, also made a vigorous onslaught on what he called the "moralistic, legalistic approach" to foreign policy. His strongest argument was that this approach brought more human hardship than a straightforward defence of national self-interest. He was reinforced in this belief by the work of Herbert Butterfield, the Cambridge historian. Writing from a Christian point of view, Butterfield warned fellow Christians of the dangers of rushing to make moralistic assumptions about international events that subsequently turned out to be wrong and inflicted more suffering than a more humble approach.

    This modest view is now being challenged by two misguided forces. One is known as neo-conservatism. The other is liberal imperialism. Neither name is self-explanatory. It is easier to explain the liberal imperialists, who are to be found more in Britain than the US. They observe the existence of sadistic dictatorships and their violations of human rights. They also notice the "failed states", territories that do not have a stable government able to enforce the rule of law. The liberal imperialists believe that the west has a duty to intervene in these countries to impose better performance. They sometimes take these ideas to their logical conclusion and advocate the establishment of United Nations, Nato, US or other kinds of western protectorates, akin to those that existed in the closing years of the prewar empires.

    There are two basic weaknesses in this Boy Scout attitude. The first is that the primary responsibility of any government is the welfare of the inhabitants of the area of which it is in charge. This does not mean placing a zero weight on the welfare of other people or being indifferent to the abuse of human rights elsewhere. Claims by some old-fashioned conservatives that morality has no place in foreign policy are mystification in a bad cause. But it is wrong to expect governments to have equal concern for all the inhabitants of the globe.

    Even those who regard this as insufficiently altruistic need to pay attention to a second argument: we do not always have the knowledge to improve the affairs of distant countries. Because of this ignorance, dreadful mistakes are made and it is extremely doubtful that the welfare of those whom we purport to help is in fact improved. The assumption that US forces would be widely welcomed as liberators in Iraq and the failure to foresee the outbreak of tribal, religious and simple gang warfare after the fall of Saddam Hussein surely demonstrate the point.

    The neo-conservatives start from a different position. Originally supporters of interventionist domestic social welfare policies, they eventually became disillusioned with President Lyndon Johnson's Great Society programmes. But they still wanted to "moralise" the free market approach.

    After a period out of the public eye, they burst forth into the foreign policy field. They could not remain silent in the face of the proliferation of repressive regimes abroad and believed the US had a duty to export democracy wherever possible. In practice their desire to engage in "nation-building" is almost indistinguishable from that of the liberal imperialists. Perhaps a difference is that they put less emphasis on international organisations and exhibit a greater willingness to see the US to go it alone.

    The alternative to both positions is a fairly simple one. It is that western nations have the right and duty to protect themselves not merely from traditional aggression across frontiers but also from terrorism, intolerant religious fundamentalism and other threats to their way of life. This may involve incursions into countries from which the threats emanate. But these should be as limited and as brief as possible. This is approximately the approach of Donald Rumsfeld, the US defence secretary (as distinct from Paul Wolfowitz, his more neo-conservative deputy). Only silly people will dismiss it for that reason.

    Click here to return to top of page.

    It Will Only Matter that Bush Told Lies If Iraq Turns Out Badly (posted 10-30-03)

    Benjamin Schwarz, writing in the LA Times (Oct. 30, 2003):

    The precise intelligence and specific policy calculations that impelled the Bush administration's decision to make war on Iraq will probably remain unascertain- able for decades. From what we know now, however, it's clear that the administration massaged the truth, to put it charitably, concerning Saddam Hussein's links to Al Qaeda and the imminence of the threat posed by Iraqi weapons of mass destruction — the administration's two most important publicly stated rationales for war.

    But does this imply that the administration didn't go to war in defense of what it believed to be — and what perhaps were — the vital security interests of the United States? No, it merely suggests that the public arguments for war weren't the most important reasons the Bush administration chose war....

    The decision to go to war may have been foolish and even dangerous; if the war and its aftermath hinder, rather than bolster, the war against Al Qaeda, it was both. It may, on the other hand, have been wise. The eventual perception of the war's results will alone determine how the administration's duplicity will be judged.

    Democrats especially should take heed. They should remember that two of their party's most revered leaders deceived Congress and the public concerning matters of national defense, for what those leaders believed to be the most patriotic reasons. Franklin Roosevelt, while professing the neutrality that the overwhelming number of Americans desired, attempted surreptitiously to maneuver the country into war (the U.S. was in combat against Germany in the North Atlantic — including helping the British navy in its hunt for the German cruiser the Prinz Eugen — long before Pearl Harbor).

    And the Truman administration, to rouse the country to the Soviet menace and to gain public support for the new and ambitious global role it perceived to be in the U.S. interest to pursue, knowingly hyped the threat posed by Moscow. The purpose, in the words of Secretary of State Dean Acheson, was to "scare hell out of the American people" by painting a picture "clearer than the truth."

    Most Democrats and other Americans now readily forgive FDR's and Truman's mendacity (which was almost certainly on a scale grander than anything for which the Bush administration might be guilty) because history has judged (rightly or not) that those administrations understood the threats confronting the U.S. better than did the country at large.

    Then again, another Democratic administration, that of Lyndon Johnson (made up largely of John Kennedy's men), fearing the international ramifications for the U.S. of a communist takeover in South Vietnam, conjured a North Vietnamese naval attack in the Gulf of Tonkin to gain congressional and public support for an escalation of the U.S. war in Indochina.

    That history castigates LBJ and Richard Nixon for their deceitfulness concerning war in Indochina is largely a reflection of the country's opinion not of the dishonesty itself but of the wisdom of that war and the price it exacted. By contrast, history disregards the less-than-forthright rationales for military action avowed by Ronald Reagan (Grenada), George H.W. Bush (Panama) and Bill Clinton (Kosovo) because, unlike the Vietnam War and the present intervention in Iraq, those were cheap in blood and money and were over quickly.

    In short, fair or not, and partisan posturing aside, in war lying doesn't matter in the end. All that ultimately matters is getting the threat right and winning the war at a reasonable cost.

    Click here to return to top of page.

    Why Do Liberals Hate George W. Bush? (posted 10-28-03)

    James Traub, writing in the NYT Magazine (Oct. 26, 2003):

    Why are so many liberals, including sane and sober ones, granting themselves permission to hate the president? And this in turn is related to a political question: How is it that Howard Dean has built a (so far) wildly successful campaign for the Democratic nomination for president on ressentiment?

    There are obvious ideological answers to this question. The liberal answer is that George Bush is a craven, lazy, hypocritical nitwit. The conservative answer is that liberals are being driven crazy by the fact that Bush is so popular with Americans, and thus by the realization that anyone to the left of center is utterly marginal. And then there is the generalized, nonpartisan lament that the public arena has become so vulgarized and polarized and Jerry Springerized that everyone is now at everyone else's throat. O tempora! O mores!

    The problem with this last view is precisely that it's nonpartisan. Our political culture has not been infected by some virus from outer space, or from TV. The carrier was Newt Gingrich. Now, I know perfectly well that Democrats like Teddy Kennedy did a fair job of dehumanizing Robert Bork in his 1987 Supreme Court hearings. But Gingrich brought delegitimation to the core of G.O.P. strategy. It was Gingrich who destroyed House Speaker Jim Wright in 1989, and Gingrich who advised Republicans to always affix adjectives like ''pathetic,'' ''sick'' and ''corrupt'' when referring to Democrats. Gingrich solemnly told the nation, at the 1992 Republican National Convention, that the Democratic Party ''rejects the lessons of American history, despises the values of the American people and denies the basic goodness of the American nation.'' And along with Trent Lott, Tom DeLay and Dick Armey, Gingrich labored mightily to bring down President Clinton, first through Whitewater and then through the Starr report and the impeachment proceedings.

    The politics of delegitimation worked, at least in the short term. Republicans gained control of both houses of Congress in 1994, old-line moderates like Bob Dole were forced to the right, evangelical conservatives were mobilized, right-wing think tanks and media outlets waxed fat and Bill Clinton was very nearly run from office. Today's Republican Party is arguably the most extreme -- the furthest from the center -- of any governing majority in the nation's history. But the poisons that Gingrich and others released into the atmosphere also turned out to sicken many voters. And so George Bush ran for President as a ''compassionate conservative'' and ''a uniter, not a divider.''

    Bush has not, of course, been a uniter. His most important domestic policy initiative by far, his massive tax cuts, received only token Democratic support and catered to his own party's most doctrinaire wing. The same is plainly true of the administration's environmental, regulatory and energy policies. He has made a theologically inspired conservative, John Ashcroft, his attorney general. And yet because he is so good-humored, so light-hearted, so devoid of personal animus, he is still able to offer himself as an antidote to divisiveness. And this, I think, does drive a great many Democrats crazy. Many of the ''lies'' recounted in ''The Lies of George W. Bush'' aren't untruths so much as artful repositionings designed to disguise raw partisanship as selfless patriotism. (Though there are quite a few actual fibs as well.)

    Liberals, and liberalism itself, got blitzed by Newt Gingrich and his minions a decade ago. But as President Bush himself likes to say, ''Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me.'' And so liberals are fighting back against Bush with the same vitriol that has been dumped on them.

    Click here to return to top of page.

    The End of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (posted 10-28-03)

    Nikolas K. Gvosdev, writing in National Review (Oct. 24, 2003):

    The Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) framework is crumbling. It doesn't matter whether Iran, for example, agrees to new inspections or pledges to suspend enrichment programs, because once a country can say, "We have the technology," it can easily conceal components or begin work at sites that are not known to the inspectors. Nor is North Korea likely to open all of its facilities, even if it receives the security guarantees it has demanded as preconditions for any further talks on nuclear disarmament. Rather than discussing ways to patch an increasingly leaky roof, it is time to begin envisioning a new structure altogether.

    Like the ABM Treaty, the NPT was a product of the Cold War. It took shape in a world where two nuclear superpowers with global reach had extended actual or tacit guarantees of protection for their allies and clients. There was a sense that regional conflicts — such as in East Asia or the Middle East — would be contained by the United States and the Soviet Union. It was also signed at a time when obtaining the technology needed to fabricate nuclear weapons was both prohibitively expensive and geo-strategically difficult — and the various nuclear powers had important incentives to try and prevent such weapons technology from spreading.

    But most importantly, the NPT worked because most countries found it in their interests to abide by its provisions. A developing country like Brazil, facing no real external threat and subsiding under the hemispheric nuclear umbrella of its northern neighbor, saw no real benefit to expending scarce funds to develop such weapons — and such assessments hold true to this present day.

    Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, however, a number of the assumptions that undergirt the treaty have fallen by the wayside. Nuclear-weapons technology is not so inaccessible as it was 30 years ago. And a number of regimes now have different perceptions of their security interests. A sign of the changing times was the decision by both India and Pakistan to move ahead with becoming full-fledged members of the nuclear club.

    Ironically, it was America's two greatest military triumphs of the 1990s that did much to cause a number of regimes to reassess the value of the NPT. The overwhelming conventional superiority of U.S. armed forces in the first Gulf War of 1991 dashed any hopes that regional powers could employ the "stalemate" strategies utilized by Egypt and Syria in the 1973 Yom Kippur war against Israel — being able to "hold out" until cease-fires could be implemented, giving the weaker parties the ability to gain some wiggle room in subsequent negotiations. In other words, after 1991, it was clear that no state or combination of states possessed sufficient conventional military might that could withstand a U.S. assault.

    There are a number of indications that the 1999 Kosovo war was decisive in convincing officials in places like Iran and North Korea to move ahead with their nuclear weapons programs. They concluded that the willingness of the United States to engage in a "humanitarian intervention" against Yugoslavia (for methods that appeared to be no more brutal than those employed by NATO ally Turkey in dealing with the Kurdish counterinsurgency) signaled that Washington would move against countries or regimes it did not approve and that lacked any credible deterrent. After all, a consistent refrain during the bombing campaign was that the Serbs did not possess anything capable of restraining Western militaries — a view reinforced by the outcome of the Second Gulf War.

    If Iran and North Korea cross the nuclear threshold, there is likely to be a significant domino effect. A nuclear-armed Iran torpedoes any chance that Israel might be induced to give up its nuclear deterrent, and increases the possibility that neighboring states such as Turkey, Saudi Arabia, or Egypt may reconsider their own commitment to the NPT. Similarly, a North Korean nuclear arsenal calls into question whether South Korea, Taiwan, or Japan will also not seek the option of being able to produce nuclear weapons.

    Unless the United States commits itself to full-scale invasions and occupations of both Iran and North Korea, there are no guarantees that "selected" military strikes can destroy all of the nuclear infrastructure of both countries. Indeed, the real danger is that targeted strikes may miss crucial institutions or facilities, especially since selected strikes would not be followed up by full-scale invasions.

    Click here to return to top of page.

    Death from Friendly Fire--Again (posted 10-28-03)

    David Isenberg, writing in Asia Times (Oct. 22, 2003)

    As an article in the October issue of Spectrum magazine notes, while US combat deaths have fallen dramatically with the rise of long-range, precision-guided weapons, the greater precision hasn't eliminated "fratricide" - the military term for the accidental killing or injuring of one's own forces. What's more, the proportion of fratricide deaths has remained static, and may even be on the rise.

    During World War II, friendly fire accounted for anywhere from 2 to 21 percent of US casualties, depending on whose figures one believed. During the first Gulf War in 1991, by contrast, 35 (23 percent) of the 146 US military personnel killed in action were killed by friendly fire, and 72 (15 percent) of the 467 wounded were the result of friendly fire, according to the Pentagon's 1992 Conduct of the Persian Gulf War report.

    While casualties from the Iraqi war are still being tallied, it's already known that friendly fire accounted for some 35 US and allied deaths, or 18 percent, during the first six weeks of conflict, out of a total of 189 fatalities. The worst friendly fire incident killed 19 Kurds fighting with the US and injured three members of the US Special Forces when their convoy was mistakenly bombed on April 6.

    But, in actuality, the total might be higher than the administration acknowledges. A recently released report, "Truth from These Podia" by retired air force colonel Sam Gardiner, recalls that during the course of the war, central command officials claimed that US forces came under artillery fire after Iraqi soldiers surrendered under a white flag. The implication was that it was a ruse. But Gardiner thinks that the white flag stories were engineered to cover a very serious friendly fire event.

    Gardiner writes: "A disheartening aspect of the white flag story is what is beginning to surface about what might have been the real cause of the Marine casualties near An Nasiriyah on March 23. Marines are saying that nine of those killed may have been killed by an A-10 that made repeated passes attacking their position.

    "We know from a 'Lessons Learned' report released early in October that the death of nine Marines is under investigation as a friendly fire accident. From individual reports, we know that at least one of the Marines killed on March 23, reported as having been caught in the ruse, was hit directly in the chest with a round from an A-10 gun."

    Click here to return to top of page.

    Editorial: Anti-Semitism and Ford (posted 10-28-03)

    Nolan Finley, writing in the Detroit News (Oct. 26, 2003):

    An old ghost is haunting the Ford name. Henry Ford, the brilliant industrialist whose flaw was raging anti-Semitism, spent much of the 1920s obsessed with proving that Jews were the root of all the world's evils.

    His diatribes filled the pages of The Dearborn Independent, which he purchased as a vehicle for his political and social philosophies and initially staffed with former Detroit News reporters and editors.

    Ford's conspiracy theories about ruthless Jewish bankers and blood-drinking Zionist rabbis might have served as a handbook for the hate-mongers who hijacked last year's international conference on racism in Durban, South Africa.

    The Bush administration, by the way, refused to participate in the gathering and was roundly denounced by the worshippers of multilateralism.

    As it turns out, it was a smart decision. Just as the administration predicted, the conference was a world festival of anti-Semitism.

    Israel was accused of practicing apartheid and genocide. Proposed resolutions expressed doubts about the Holocaust and the legitimacy of the Jewish state.

    Palestinian activist groups orchestrated the takeover of the conference agenda. The groups were funded by the Ford Foundation, the charity established by Henry Ford to distribute his fortune.

    The New York-based foundation, with estimated assets of $10 billion and a $500 million annual distribution, long ago severed all connections to the Ford family and the Ford Motor Co. Neither entity is involved with the charity today, and the automaker has spent considerable resources to atone for its founder's prejudices.

    Various Jewish groups are raining down criticism on the Ford Foundation for inflaming tensions in the Middle East and fueling those who preach hate. An investigation by the Jewish Telegraphic Agency accused the foundation of not doing enough to determine whether its money is moving through the Palestinian groups and into the hands of terrorists.

    The State Department has all but stopped sending funds to independent Palestinian organizations because of that fear.

    The Jewish news service also said some of the organizations benefiting from Ford Foundation grants express unity with the Hamas and Islamic Jihad terrorists, and advocate boycotts of American companies that do business with Israel.

    There's been talk of a Congressional investigation into the Ford Foundation's grant-making. The American Jewish Congress has asked for a Justice Department probe.

    The Ford Foundation denies the groups it funds are linked to terrorism, and says it thoroughly checks all its grantees to make sure they comply with U.S. law, don't incite hate and have no association with terrorists. It also denies that any of the groups it supports were responsible for the deplorable display in Durban.

    Click here to return to top of page.

    Suharto Era Continues to Cloud Indonesia's Political Life (posted 10-27-03)

    Shawn Donnan, writing in the Financial Times (London) (October 27, 2003):

    Five years after Mr Suharto's exit, a now raucously democratic Indonesia has gone some way to redressing his New Order's wrongs. Last week, for example, the head of the country's Kopassus special forces went on trial for allegedly giving the order that led to the Tanjung Priok massacre.

    However, activists, diplomats, historians and even institutions such as the World Bank increasingly point to what they see as Indonesia's reluctance to deal with the abuses of the Suharto regime.

    Many believe this is contributing to the reascendance of an unreformed military with a habit of human rights abuse as well as a broader culture of impunity that interferes with still badly needed economic and political reforms. Adnan Buyung Nasution, a prominent defence lawyer, says:"Those who took part in the oppressive system of the past have not been punished. Because of that they feel they can do what they did before once again."

    In a report on Indonesia's endemic corruption published last week, the World Bank said Mr Suharto's family and others connected to him continue to"flourish" from graft.

    Mr Suharto's former political party, Golkar, is expected by many to win parliamentary elections next year. Its presidential candidates include Wiranto, a former general indicted by United Nations prosecutors for human rights abuses in East Timor who retains strong ties to Mr Suharto, as well as Prabowo Subianto, a one-time general and Mr Suharto's estranged former son-in-law.

    In Aceh, the restive province in northern Sumatra where martial law has been in place since May, human rights activists and other observers believe hundreds of civilians have been killed since the relaunch of military operations.

    Leading the fight against Acehnese separatists, according to a Human Rights Watch report released this month, are six senior officers born out of the Suharto regime with questionable rights records.

    Critics argue the culture of impunity springs largely from the reluctance of President Megawati Sukarnoputri's government to tackle a powerful elite that became entrenched under Mr Suharto. Todung Mulya Lubis, a prominent human rights lawyer, says many have argued for forgetting the past and starting"anew" since Mr Suharto's fall.

    "This elite community is made up of the old elite," he says."There's no cut-off between the New Order (of Mr Suharto) and the Reformasi Order. The elite is pretty much the same."

    There are some moves under way to address the past and sensitive issues such as the 1965 anti-communist bloodletting that led to the death of up to a million, the rise of Mr Suharto and continuing discrimination against the relatives of suspected communists.

    A panel of historians is reviewing the official version of 1965's events. That official version says a foiled communist coup led to Mr Suharto's eventual - and heroic - seizure of power.

    Moves are also afoot in parliament to create a reconciliation commission that would address the events of 1965 as well as Suharto regime abuses and even, potentially, the events surrounding the strongman's fall in 1998.

    But scepticism and questions abound.

    Click here to return to top of page.

    More Regimes are Pledging to Democratize, but All They Really Want Is Security (posted 10-27-03)

    Muhammad Muslih, writing in Newsday (October 26, 2003):

    "After long labor pains, the mountain gave birth to a mouse." This Arabic expression aptly describes the series of"political reforms" recently introduced in some of the 22 states of the Arab world. The so-called reforms are being conferred by ruling elites as a makruma (gift) upon oppressed societies that have been afflicted with a general state of depression at least since the 1967 war with Israel, or even much earlier. Many of these measures are responses to socioeconomic dislocations, but they are also responses to the projection of American military power in Iraq in 1990-'91 and again this year.

    In Saudi Arabia, the ruling monarchy is presenting reforms as a step toward new political openness, with partial municipal elections planned by the end of 2004, expected to be followed by partial elections to the Shura Council (the appointed advisory body), as well as for regional councils, two years after that. In Egypt, promises to allow more freedom to political parties and unions were presented in September at the annual convention of the ruling National Democratic Party. And who proposed reform? It was the son of President Hosni Mubarak, who is widely believed to be a most likely successor to his father.

    Incumbent elites in other Arab countries want their people and the world to see them as being engaged in reform and democratization: in Morocco, where King Muhammad VI has proposed a multi-stage process of local council elections within a framework of other reforms which have been stalled since terrorist bombings in May; in Jordan, where King Abdullah II has called for the establishment of a Center for Human Rights and a Higher Media Council and where, last June, the government revived parliament after a two-year hiatus; and in Kuwait, where there is an extensive debate in both the legislature and society at large about a women's bill of rights, as well as other reforms.

    All these measures are nothing but outward manifestations of reform granted by leaders who either feel that they are firmly enough established in power not to be threatened by them or who want to make a nod of good will to Washington's public statements about the need for democracy in the Arab world. The instruments that ensure total submission to authority are still in place. Arab governments are still unwilling to relax the limits of authority or to extend the limits of political participation by parties, by civil society organs, by women and by other groups. The minimum necessities of liberal democracy are absent.

    Whence the obstacles to real reform in the Arab world that could uphold the metaphor of the mountain and its infant for a very long time to come?

    We can identify four prohibitive forces. The first is what Ibn Khaldun (1332-1406), the Arab historian/sociologist, called asabiyya - tribal or elite or group solidarity. All ruling groups in the Arab world have successfully created and preserved their own asabiyya, thus acquiring, keeping and concentrating power in their hands.

    In some countries, for example Egypt, Syria and Algeria, we have the asabiyya of military and/or military-supported politicians with ties to dominant business groups, sometimes reinforced by kinship or intermarriage. In other Arab countries, such as Jordan, Morocco and the Gulf States, there is the asabiyya of a ruling family held together by ties of blood and money and security interests.

    The second anti-democratic force is the complex structure of Arab governments. This structure puts at the disposal of Arab ruling elites a machinery of government, most notably a multi-layered system of security services, that is much larger than the machinery of the emperor of Imperial Rome or the sultan of the Ottoman Empire.

    The third prohibitive force is represented by a relatively new aggregate of business elites, including a comprador class whose members act as local agents for foreign industrialists. These business groups have linked up with the ruling political elites because they want a stable order that would ensure a free flow of workers and money, as well as unencumbered import-export and construction licenses. This has resulted in a partnership between the wielders of the power of the sword and the holders of the power of money....

    So how much reform are we really talking about in the Arab countries? A gift given is a gift that can be taken back. Arab regimes that are offering a small degree of political openness are doing this not as a matter of citizens' rights, but as a"noble" act of generosity done at the pleasure of the leader.

    Click here to return to top of page.

    George F. Will: Why Legislators Make Bad Candidates for President (posted 10-23-03)

    George F. Will, writing in Newsweek (Oct. 27, 2003):

    THIS YEAR IT is notable that the four serious Democratic presidential candidates from Congress—Sens. John Edwards, John Kerry and Joseph Lieberman and Rep. Dick Gephardt—are making smaller waves so far than a governor of a small state (Howard Dean of Vermont) and a general from a small war (Wesley Clark, conqueror, from the air, of Serbia).

    Who can explain all this? Christopher DeMuth, that’s who. He is head of the American Enterprise Institute, and author of a soon to be published (in the January-February American Enterprise) essay “Governors (and Generals) Rule.”

    In it he sorts through the 88 winning and losing major-party candidates in the 44 elections that have produced 31 elected presidents since 1828, the beginning of the politics of mass mobilization. He divides them into five categories—governors, military leaders, legislators, statesmen and activists (e.g., William Howard Taft, William Jennings Bryan), and vice presidents.

    Governors and generals are 55 percent of elected presidents (17 of 31) and 52 percent of presidential nominees (46 of 88). The pool of legislators is much larger than the pool of governors, but only three of the 31 elected presidents came from legislative backgrounds—and two, Harding and Kennedy, were, to say no more, inattentive to their Senate duties, with little involvement in legislative dealmaking.

    Executives make decisions. Legislators make speeches, attend committee meetings, cast votes and leave a paper trail of positions taken and poses struck, mostly without consequences clearly ascribable to them as individuals. A senator is 1 percent of, and a representative is 1/435th of, one half of one branch of government. So legislators have less accountability than governors, who, not surprisingly, are more apt to have a leader’s demeanor. That demeanor is, of course, part of the training and job description of a general.

    Leaders of legislatures make compromises in order to broker concessions to build coalitions to form majorities. This bending and trimming of principles is crucial to democratic governance but interferes with creating a profile of leadership. “I am,” said Everett Dirksen, leader of Senate Republicans from 1959 through 1969, “a man of fixed and unbending principles, the first of which is to be flexible at all times.” Thus it is not surprising, says DeMuth, that none of the three legislators elected president had been a legislative leader.

    DeMuth says that governors more than legislators are apt to have “oratorical facility—the ability to crystallize in words, from the confusion of political conflict, that which is essential, ennobling and expressive of vital national aspirations.” He notes that in the 20th century four of the five two-term presidents were governors who were gifted orators—Woodrow Wilson, FDR, Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton. The other was a general—Dwight Eisenhower.

    It takes years of training in legislative mores, and especially seasoning in the Senate’s habits of unlimited debate and its belief that self-congratulatory sonorousness is eloquence, to produce a person as inarticulate as Bob Dole. He authored the Americans With Disabilities Act, which should have a category for persons rendered by Senate life prone to speaking to the country in the shorthand patois of a small, face-to-face society like a legislature: “... my perfecting amendment to the tabling resolution ...” No wonder legislators find it difficult to talk to a continent.

    Finally, governors seeking the presidency are always served by the desire to clean up “the mess in Washington.” Last week Dean appealed to this hardy American perennial when he compared Washington politicians, including most of his serious Democratic rivals, to “cockroaches” who will scatter when he turns on them the bright flashlight of his fearlessness.

    Click here to return to top of page.

    "Under God"--Whence this Phrase? (posted 10-23-03)

    James Piereson, executive director of the John M. Olin Foundation, writing in the Weekly Standard (Oct. 27, 2003):

    THE UNITED STATES SUPREME COURT has now agreed to review the ruling from the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in California that challenged the use of the phrase "under God" in the Pledge of Allegiance. To nearly everyone's surprise, the lower court held that the recitation of the pledge in public schools constitutes an "endorsement of religion," in violation of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment. As a result of this decision, public schools in the nine western states under the jurisdiction of the Ninth Circuit are forbidden to hold pledge exercises for their students. The Supreme Court will render a decision by next June....

    IN ARRIVING AT ITS DECISION, the Court of Appeals placed great weight on the fact that Congress inserted the words "under God" into the pledge in 1954 as a means of advancing religion at a time when the nation was engaged in a battle against the doctrines of atheistic communism. The court further noted that when President Eisenhower signed the bill, he stated, "From this day forward, the millions of our schoolchildren will daily proclaim . . . the dedication of our Nation and our people to the Almighty." From the Ninth Circuit's point of view, the record amply demonstrated that the purpose of the act was not to advance patriotism (a legitimate secular goal), but rather to promote religion....

    Where, then, did Congress find the words, "under God?" It is certainly true that, over the generations, many American statesmen have expressed gratitude for the blessings of God or have invoked the protection of the Almighty, though in doing so few have used the particular phrase, "under God." Where did it come from?

    The proximate origins of "under God" are familiar to most Americans, because it is heard in Abraham Lincoln's Gettysburg Address. Schoolchildren who over the generations have memorized Lincoln's speech know very well that Congress did not just pull these words out of the air in 1954.

    When Lincoln traveled to Gettysburg in November 1863 to dedicate a national cemetery as the final resting place for those who had died in the battle there three months before, he tried to find words that might provide deeper purpose and meaning to the terrible carnage of the Civil War. The war began as a struggle to save the Union, but had grown into a war to end slavery. Was it about something more?

    After describing the purpose of the occasion and paying tribute to the soldiers who had died, Lincoln turned to the responsibilities of the living:

    It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us--that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to the cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion; that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain; that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom; and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

    It is entirely understandable that Lincoln's immortal speech should have inserted into the national consciousness a number of words and phrases of lasting influence--one such phrase being, of course, "under God." It is a phrase which was very rarely used before 1863, but very frequently used in the years and decades afterward, thanks to the Gettysburg Address. Lincoln apparently inserted "under God" into the speech at the last minute, perhaps while he was sitting on the stage waiting for his turn to speak, since the words did not appear in the written draft that he prepared before embarking on his trip to Gettysburg, nor did they appear in the copy of the speech that he carried to the ceremony. Nevertheless, all who heard the speech agreed that he had used the words "under God." And Lincoln himself included the phrase in subsequent copies of the speech that he wrote out in longhand in the days and weeks after it was delivered.

    The words themselves, as Lincoln used them, are subject to varying though not necessarily inconsistent interpretations. The most obvious meaning is that the United States exists not only under the protection of God, but also under His judgment--thus implying that the nation must conduct itself according to the standards of divine justice, or suffer the consequences. This is a theme that Lincoln developed some 15 months later in his Second Inaugural Address, where he suggested, with numerous references to the Bible, that the war was a punishment visited by God on both North and South for complicity in the offense of slavery. This "great Civil War," as Lincoln called it at Gettysburg, was a reminder that the Almighty does in fact watch over our affairs.

    Lincoln was, moreover, acutely conscious of the fact that the course of the war had not followed the intentions or designs of any individual, party, or section, but had followed a logic entirely of its own. The scale of the conflict seemed beyond human control, which he took to be a sign that events were following a divine plan of some kind. "The Almighty has His own purposes," as Lincoln would later say in his Second Inaugural Address.

    Lincoln also understood, as much as anyone, that the constitutional structure created by the Founding Fathers had failed, in the end, to maintain the Union. Some in the North condemned the Constitution as "a bargain with the devil," because of its concessions to slavery; others in the South condemned the self-evident truths of the Declaration of Independence as "self-evident lies." Many Americans, he concluded, had begun to take their institutions for granted, and to view them as instruments which might or might not be useful in the pursuit of other goals--in this case, either the expansion or the destruction of slavery.

    Lincoln tried to address this crisis by promoting a civil religion among Americans, under which a sacred aura would be attached to our institutions and to the patriots whose sacrifices had made them possible. He frequently described the Declaration of Independence as "the sheet anchor of American republicanism," as "the immortal emblem of humanity," and, more to the point, as "the political religion of the nation." The Revolution, in Lincoln's view, ought to be understood by Americans as a sacred event, while the Declaration and the Constitution ought to be seen as sacred documents, to be read and debated with the same kind of reverence with which one approaches a sacred religious text. In the Gettysburg Address, Lincoln sought to add the Civil War itself, and its battles and battlefields, along with the fallen dead, to the nation's calendar of sacred events. By associating our institutions with sacred images, Lincoln tried to provide a glue for the Union that the Founding Fathers did not think was necessary. And by reminding his countrymen that their nation exists "under God," he tried to reinforce this sacred association and thus advance his ideal of an American civil religion.

    There is, finally, another meaning to this reference to God that Lincoln may have borrowed from Thomas Jefferson, whose writings Lincoln studied with great care. In his "Notes on the State of Virginia," which Jefferson wrote at Monticello in 1781, he considered the question of slavery in connection with the broader liberties of free citizens. He there raised a question that continues to surprise those who believe that Jefferson's views were entirely secular:

    And can [Jefferson asked] the liberties of a nation be thought secure when we have removed their only firm basis, a conviction in the minds of the people that these liberties are of the gift of God? That they are not to be violated but with His wrath? Indeed, I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just; that His justice cannot sleep forever.

    This powerful statement is not merely a condemnation of slavery, but also an assertion that the survival of liberty is intimately connected to the public recognition of God. Jefferson, who originated the concept of a wall of separation between church and state, says here not only that our liberties are a gift of God, but also that citizens must recognize this fact if they are to preserve those liberties.

    BUT WHERE did Lincoln find the locution, "under God?" Was the phrase his own creation, like many other of the memorable images that are found in his speeches? Or did he find the phrase elsewhere?

    William Barton, in a wonderful little book titled "Lincoln at Gettysburg" (1930), provided a surprising answer to this question. In his research, Barton looked into just about everything Lincoln did and said on that memorable day in Gettysburg, including the origins of his most memorable lines.

    Barton allowed that the phrase "under God" probably existed in Lincoln's "own stock of phraseology," which he had accumulated over a lifetime of careful reading. Nevertheless, Barton suggests that Lincoln originally found the words in Parson Weems's biography of George Washington, a book that Lincoln acknowledged he had read as a boy. This book, Barton says, was one of young Lincoln's favorites, along with the Bible, "Pilgrim's Progress," and "Robinson Crusoe."

    "Under God" was one of those phrases that Weems liked to use, and it appeared frequently in his biography of Washington. When Washington delivered his Farewell Address, for example, Weems noted the effect on the public of the president's impending retirement: "To be thus bidden farewell by one to whom, in every time of danger, they had so long and fondly looked up, as under God, their surest and safest friend, could not but prove to them a grievous shock." On Washington's death, Weems wrote (as quoted by Barton): "Sons and daughters of Columbia, gather yourselves together around the bed of your expiring father--around the last bed of him to whom you and your children owe, under God, many of the best blessings of this life."..

    Can the Supreme Court now strike down "under God" without at the same time striking at the very foundations of our national existence? Or has the nation changed to the point where we no longer believe such an image to be true or, even, useful to sustain our institutions?

    Click here to return to top of page.

    Why Jews Vote Democratic (posted 10-23-03)

    Jason Maoz, senior editor of The Jewish Press, writing in (Oct. 17, 2003):

    Why are Jews still wedded to the Democratic party, years after it stopped making any economic or political sense for them to remain in the marriage? It`s a question one hears often from bewildered non-Jews and Republican Jews (Democratic Jews - i.e., the vast majority of American Jews - seem oblivious to the question, let alone any possible answer).

    The truth is, there is no single answer....

    Surprising as it might seem from our vantage point, the Jews who came to the U.S. prior to the great waves of immigration from Eastern Europe tended to look askance at the Democratic party, which was identified in the popular mind with Tammany-style political bossism, support for slavery, and an agrarian populism that often seemed indistinguishable from the rawest

    That attitude changed with the arrival of the Eastern European Jews who crowded into the big cities at the turn of the century and quickly learned that their very livelihoods were dependent on the good will of those Tammany-like political machines, which were invariably Democratic and
    invariably corrupt.

    Jobs and basic amenities were used as barter to purchase party loyalty, and bribery was the order of the day - the late New York senator Jacob Javits told the story of how his father loved Election Day because the saloonkeepers would pay $2 (double a day`s wages at the time) to anyone who promised to vote Democratic.

    Although the dominance of the big city bosses was an inescapable fact of life for the new Jewish immigrants, the pressure to vote the party line was felt most keenly in local elections. When it came to presidential politics, Jews were far less wary of voting their conscience.

    In 1916, for example, Republican candidate Charles Evan Hughes received 45 percent of the Jewish vote, and four years later Republican Warren Harding actually won a plurality among Jews - 43 percent as opposed to 19 percent for Democrat James Cox and 38 percent for Socialist Eugene V. Debs.

    That last figure - nearly 4 in 10 Jews voting for the Socialist candidate - tells a story in itself, a story not to be ignored when seeking to understand Jewish voting habits. Many of the Jewish immigrants from Eastern Europe came to America with a passionate belief in one form or another of socialism, and those Jews tended to vote for third party left-wing candidates when offered the choice. Though their candidates were, with the exception of some local races in immigrant neighborhoods, roundly unsuccessful, Jewish socialists and communists left a seemingly indelible stamp on the collective political identity of American Jews.

    Most Jews, however, whether out of political moderation or fear of wasting their vote on a long shot, cast their ballots for either Democrats or Republicans. And though the Republicans lost a significant number of votes in 1924 to the third party candidacy of Progressive Robert LaFollette, it was not until the election of 1928 that the relationship between Jews and the Democratic party became the inseparable bond that still exists nearly 75 years later.

    It was in 1928 that Democratic presidential candidates first began polling landslide numbers among American Jews, as New York governor Al Smith, a Roman Catholic of immigrant stock (whose campaign manager happened to be Jewish) captured 72 percent of the Jewish vote. Despite his overwhelming Jewish support, and the equally strong backing of fellow Catholics, Smith carried only 8 states against Republican Herbert Hoover and failed to win his own home state of New York.

    The nascent trend of lopsided Jewish support for Democratic presidential candidates solidified four years later when another New York governor, Franklin Roosevelt, won the votes of better than 8 in 10 American Jews. Roosevelt, whom Jews idolized more than any other politician before or since, went on to win 85 percent of the Jewish vote in 1936 and 90 percent in both 1940 and 1944.

    Harry Truman was the next Democrat to benefit from Jewish party loyalty, though his share of the Jewish vote in 1948 slipped from the Rooseveltian 90 percent to a "mere" 75 percent, thanks to the third-party candidacy of Henry Wallace, whose left-wing campaign attracted those 15 percent of Jewish voters for whom Truman apparently was not liberal enough.

    Whether Roosevelt or Truman was deserving of such Jewish support is a question most Jews were reluctant even to ask until relatively recently. As the journalist Sidney Zion wrote several years ago, Roosevelt "refused to lift a finger to save [Jews] from Auschwitz.... Then, in 1948, the Jews helped elect Harry Truman, who recognized Israel but immediately embargoed arms to the Jewish state while knowing that the British had fully armed the Arabs."

    The Republican share of the Jewish vote - an embarrassing 10 percent in 1940, 1944 and 1948 - improved significantly in the 1950`s as Dwight Eisenhower won the support of 36 percent of Jews in 1952 and 40 percent in 1956. Eisenhower`s opponent in both elections was Adlai Stevenson, a one-term governor of Illinois whose persona of urbane intellectualism set a new standard for the type of candidate favored by Jewish liberals.

    Actually, Stevenson was not at all what he seemed: biographer John Barlow Martin revealed that Adlai hardly ever cracked open a book, and the historian Michael Beschloss, in a New York Times op-ed piece ("How Well-Read Should a President Be?" June 11, 2000), noted that when Stevenson died, there was just one book found on his bedside table - The Social Register.

    Fortunately for politicians, perception is at least as important as reality, and John Kennedy followed in Stevenson`s footsteps as a non-intellectual who, with the help of compliant reporters and academic acolytes like Arthur Schlesinger Jr., managed to come across as a Big Thinker - in marked contrast to his well-earned reputation as an intellectual lightweight that dogged him throughout his years in Congress.

    Despite the fact that his books were ghost-written (the journalist Arthur Krock was in large measure responsible for "Why England Slept," while Kennedy speechwriter Theodore Sorensen was the primary author of "Profiles in Courage") and his choice of reading material ran mainly to spy novels, Kennedy, like Stevenson, benefited from the perception that he was made of sterner intellectual stuff. This was particularly true when it came to Jewish voters, who gave Kennedy 82 percent of their votes in 1960 and continued to support him in similarly high numbers for the duration of his presidency.

    There never was much doubt that Jews would vote in large numbers for Democrat Lyndon Johnson over Republican Barry Goldwater in 1964 - a year when even many moderate members of his own party were high-tailing it away from the GOP`s outspokenly conservative standard bearer.

    Johnson, the incumbent who assumed office upon the assassination of John Kennedy in 1963, adroitly positioned himself as a man of the sensible center while Goldwater, disturbingly ambivalent about his own presidential ambitions and qualifications ("I`m not even sure I`ve got the brains to be president of the United States," he told the Chicago Tribune), seemed to delight in saying whatever he felt would most disturb the liberal reporters covering his campaign.

    Goldwater`s supporters thrilled to what they perceived to be their man`s unusually blunt and honest oratory, but the rest of the country was decidedly unimpressed. Johnson was returned to office with 61.1 percent of the popular vote. Among Jews the results were even more one-sided as Johnson equaled Franklin Roosevelt in his heyday, pulling 90 percent of the Jewish vote to Goldwater`s 10 percent.

    Republicans did somewhat better with Jews in 1968 when former vice president Richard Nixon, never a popular figure in the Jewish community, garnered 17 percent of the Jewish vote (actually a point down from the 18 percent he received from Jews when he ran against Kennedy in 1960).

    This, too, was an easy election to predict in terms of Jewish preference, not simply because Nixon was Nixon, but more so because the Democratic candidate, Vice President Hubert Humphrey - a classic cold war liberal whose type would become nearly extinct by the mid-1970`s - enjoyed an unusually close relationship with most of the leading organizational figures in American Jewish life.

    Once again, Jews hardly reflected the thinking of the country at large, as Nixon (43.4 percent) squeezed out a victory over Humphrey (42.7 percent). George Wallace, the segregationist governor of Alabama, won 13.5 percent of the vote as a third-party candidate. (Jews gave Wallace 2 percent of their votes.)
    The 1972 presidential election proved to be one of the more interesting - and instructive - elections in terms of Jewish voting behavior. During his first four years in office, Nixon had compiled a generally solid record on Israel. U.S. policymakers began to take seriously Israel`s value as an American asset in the region, and military aid to Israel rose to unprecedented levels.

    Israel`s prime minister at the time, Golda Meir, was an unabashed admirer of Nixon`s, and the Israeli ambassador in Washington, a former IDF chief of staff named Yitzhak Rabin, raised the hackles of liberal Jewish organizations when he all but endorsed Nixon for a second term.

    None of that seemed to matter to the bulk of American Jewry. Certainly there were defections from Democratic ranks - an organization calling itself "Democrats for Nixon" was a predominantly Jewish affair, and several wealthy big-name Jewish contributors who normally gave to Democrats were this time around writing checks to the Nixon campaign - but most Jews still feared that pulling the Republican lever would cause their right hands to lose their cunning.

    Running against Nixon in 1972 was the liberal South Dakota senator George McGovern, a leading "dove" on Vietnam and a man who had not exactly carved a name for himself as a defender of Israel. McGovern exemplified the type of guilt-driven, anti-defense liberalism that captured the Democratic Party that year and would lead it to electoral disaster in four of the next five presidential elections.

    "Official" Jewry - that dizzying network of committees, councils, conferences and leagues staffed by liberal flunkies whose Holy Writ is the platform of the Democratic Party and whose daily spiritual sustenance comes from New York Times editorials - was represented in the McGovern campaign by Jewish liaison Richard Cohen, who after the election returned to his job as public relations director at the American Jewish Congress, and campaign director Frank Mankiewicz, a former employee of the Anti-Defamation League.

    As was the case in prior elections, Jewish organizational flunkies such as Washington fixture Hyman Bookbinder made no secret of their Democratic sympathies. Jewish celebrities were highly visible McGovern supporters: Barbra Streisand, Peter Falk, Carol King, Simon and Garfunkel, and scores of other household names enthusiastically gave their time and money to the
    Democratic candidate.

    As Stephen Isaacs described it in his 1974 book Jews and American Politics: "despite problems with affirmative action plans-cum-quotas, the 'urban fever zone,` scatter site housing, community control of schools, an inept Democratic presidential campaign - despite all these things and more -the Jewish bloc vote did hold up" for McGovern, who won the votes of 65 percent of American Jews - this while Nixon was crushing McGovern among the general electorate with a landslide of historic proportions.

    Nixon defeated McGovern by a count of 60.7 percent to 37.5 percent, 49 states to 1; more tellingly as far as Jews were concerned, he won nearly 70 percent of the white vote.

    Nixon did double his share of the Jewish vote from the paltry 17 percent he received four years earlier, but the startling fact remains that McGovern actually did better among Jews than Adlai Stevenson had in 1952 and 1956.

    Given Nixon`s record on Israel and the plaudits of Israeli leaders, his moderate domestic agenda, and an unimpressive opponent with no strong ties to the Jewish community, the 1972 election was as clear a signal as any that it was a combination of old habits and a religious-like devotion to dogmatic liberalism that drove the majority of Jewish voters, not any primary concern for Israel or narrowly defined Jewish interests.

    A year later, as the Yom Kippur War raged, Nixon went against the State and Defense Department bureaucracies and directed the massive military airlift to Israel that saved the Jewish state from near certain defeat. It should never be forgotten that had it been left up to two-thirds of American Jewish voters, the man sitting in the Oval Office during Israel`s time of unprecedented peril would have been President George McGovern.

    Although it played out more than two years after the fact, the 1976 presidential campaign was overshadowed by the Watergate scandal, with voters still angry over President Gerald Ford`s pardon of his predecessor, Richard Nixon, who resigned the presidency to escape impeachment.

    Ford`s Democratic challenger was Jimmy Carter, a previously little-known governor of Georgia who promised a scandal-weary nation "a government as good and as honest and as decent and as competent and as compassionate and as filled with love as are the American people."

    As treacly as it sounds in retrospect, Carter`s mantra was perfect for the times, as was his much publicized "born again" religious experience and his repeated insistence to crowds along the campaign trail that he would never lie to them. In short, he was the anti-Nixon - or so he and his aides would have had the country believe.

    All was not freshness and light with the Carter campaign, however. A number of voices were raised during Carter`s long march to his party`s nomination and then the White House which, taken together, should have served as an early warning signal of problems to come:

    * The respected Atlanta journalist Reg Murphy, who had closely followed Carter`s political career from its humble start, flatly declared that Carter was "one of the three or four phoniest men I ever met."

    * A young reporter named Steven Brill, who would go on to become a media mogul in the 1980`s and 90`s, wrote a detailed expose of Carter`s record in Georgia for Harper`s magazine. The title of the take-no-prisoners article? "Jimmy Carter`s Pathetic Lies."

    * Carter speechwriter Bob Shrum, who has since achieved no small measure of renown as a major Democratic strategist, quit the campaign in disgust over what he saw as Carter`s penchant for fudging the truth. (So much for the "I`ll never lie to you" pledge.)

    Shrum also disclosed that Carter, convinced that the Jewish vote in the primaries would go to Sen. Henry "Scoop" Jackson, instructed his staff to henceforth ignore Middle East-related issues. According to Shrum, this was how Carter put it: "Jackson has all the Jews anyway....We get the

    By Election Day, Carter`s wide-eyed sanctimony had begun to wear thin with American voters. What had been an immense lead over Ford in the polls throughout the summer and early fall all but evaporated, and Carter ended up with just a two point margin in the popular vote, 50 percent to 48 percent. (Such was Ford`s momentum in the final week of the campaign that pollsters agreed he likely would have won had the election taken place a couple of days after it did.)

    In contrast to their fellow Americans, the preference of Jewish voters was never in doubt. Even the relatively small percentage of Jews for whom Israel and Jewish issues were top priorities - and whose knees therefore failed to automatically jerk for the Democrats - found it difficult to work up much enthusiasm for Ford, whose Mideast policy, crafted by Nixon holdover Henry Kissinger, was widely seen as reverting back to the even-handedness that had defined the U.S. stance from the late 1940`s to the early 1970`s.

    Carter swept the Jewish vote 71 to 27 percent - not quite the lopsided margin that had once been the norm for Democratic presidential candidates, but several points better than George McGovern`s showing four years earlier.

    Carter rewarded his Jewish supporters just weeks after assuming office by becoming the first American president to call for a "homeland" for the Palestinians - this at a time when the PLO had not even gone through the motions of rejecting terrorism or abrogating its call for Israel`s destruction. Carter`s pro-Palestinian statement set the tone for what would become an increasingly rocky relationship between his administration and the American Jewish community. For once, though, Jews were politically in sync with the rest of the country as Carter`s approval ratings plunged below those of Nixon`s at the height of Watergate.

    The 1980 presidential election, like the Nixon-McGovern matchup eight years earlier, offered a clear choice between a Republican candidate who was unambiguous in his support of Israel and a Democrat whose record was something less than sterling. Only this time, the pro-Israel candidate was the challenger, former California governor Ronald Reagan, while the more problematic candidate was the incumbent, James Earl Carter.

    Carter had alienated many American Jews early on in his presidency by calling for a "Palestinian homeland" and engaging in a series of confrontations with Israeli leaders. Moshe Dayan, the legendary Israeli general who at the time was serving as Prime Minister Menachem Begin`s foreign minister, recalled a particularly unpleasant meeting with Carter in Washington.

    In his memoir Breakthrough, Dayan wrote that Carter berated him for what he perceived to be Israel`s intransigence. "You are more stubborn than the Arabs, and you put obstacles on the path to peace," Carter told the startled Dayan.

    Carter`s animosity toward Israel was on full display during the Camp David negotiations in the fall of 1978. The president continually browbeat Begin while White House aides put out the word that the Israeli leader was the main stumbling block to Egyptian president Anwar Sadat`s noble quest for peace.

    The Carter administration`s relationship with the American Jewish community reached its nadir several months prior to the 1980 election when the U.S. voted against Israel at the United Nations and Carter`s UN ambassador, Donald McHenry, clumsily tried to double-talk his way out of the ensuing controversy.

    But as the presidential campaign heated up later that year, American Jews - at least the vast majority for whom voting Democratic had become the closest thing in their lives to a religious act - faced the dilemma of having to turn their backs on a Democratic president. The only viable alternative to Carter was Ronald Reagan, who was not just a Republican but a conservative Republican, which for most Jews in 1980 (and to a somewhat lesser extent today) was akin to an alien life form: an altogether unfamiliar species.

    There was a third choice that year, in the person of liberal Illinois Republican congressman John Anderson, who after a dismal showing in the Republican primaries saw fit to inflict himself on the electorate as a third-party candidate in the general election. But Anderson`s chances of winning were nil, so voting for him was widely understood to be something of a protest vote, a "neither of the above" judgment on Carter and Reagan.

    For many Jews who ordinarily voted Democratic, Carter`s dismal performance as president - and not just his perceived tilt against Israel - made the decision to vote for Reagan a little easier. So did the fact that Reagan was receiving support from some rather surprising sources, including the endorsement of former Democratic senator Eugene McCarthy, a virtual icon of the 1960`s antiwar movement.

    On Election Day Carter was repudiated by better than half the American Jewish electorate, garnering just 45 percent of their votes. Thirty-nine percent of the Jewish vote went to Reagan, just a drop less than the 40 percent that went to Eisenhower in 1956. John Anderson, as expected, did extremely well - better than 14 percent - among Jews who were sick of Carter but could not take the step of voting Republican.

    Since leaving office, Carter has been a vocal critic of Israeli policies and a staunch advocate of Palestinian nationalism. Had he won a second term, there is little doubt the Jewish state would have suffered.

    Shortly before the 1980 election, Cyrus Vance, who earlier that year had resigned as Carter`s secretary of state, confirmed to then-New York mayor Ed Koch that Carter, if reelected, would "sell out" the Jews. And according to investigative journalists Andrew and Leslie Cockburn, Carter, at a March 1980 meeting with his senior political advisers, angrily snapped, "If I get back in, I`m going to f--- the Jews."

    A majority of American Jewish voters had deserted Jimmy Carter in 1980, leading to speculation that the Jewish community perhaps was moving away from its longtime loyalty to the Democratic party and rendering obsolete Milton Himmelfarb`s famous observation that "Jews earn like Episcopalians but vote like Puerto Ricans."

    But Jews would flock home to the Democratic party in 1984, preferring the Democratic candidate, Walter Mondale, to the incumbent Republican president, Ronald Reagan, by a 69 percent to 31 percent margin.

    The '84 election was yet another indication that a Republican presidential candidate, whether an incumbent or a challenger and no matter how strong his record on Israel, will always lose among Jewish voters when the alternative is a liberal Democrat without any pronounced or well-known hostility to Israel. Mondale, a protégé of the late Hubert Humphrey, was a former senator from Minnesota who more recently had served as Carter`s vice president during the latter`s ineffectual one-term presidency. Jews were drawn to Mondale for a number of reasons - his Humphrey connection, his New Deal liberalism, and the simple fact that he wasn`t Reagan, to whom most American Jews never took a liking, despite a dramatic improvement in U.S-Israel relations since Mondale`s old boss had been thrown out of office.

    Mondale had compiled a pro-Israel voting record while in the Senate, but there were questions raised during his tenure as vice president about the depth of his commitment. He never publicly criticized any of the Carter administration`s Mideast policies that American Jews found so troubling - and worse, seemed to share Carter`s instinctive need to blame Israel for all manner of wrongdoing.

    According to Ezer Weizman and Moshe Dayan, both of whom authored accounts of their intimate involvement in Israel`s negotiations with Washington during the Carter years, Mondale was a thorn in the side of the Israelis.

    Dayan was particularly scathing, describing one meeting at the White House with senior American officials, Carter and Mondale included, that amounted to a non-stop scolding of Israel. Carter berated Dayan and his fellow Israeli diplomats for being "more stubborn than the Arabs" and putting "obstacles on the path to peace."

    If anything, wrote Dayan, Mondale was worse than Carter: "Our talk lasted more than an hour and was most unpleasant. President Carter...and even more so Mondale, launched charge after charge against Israel."

    In fact, Dayan added, Mondale could barely restrain himself: "Whenever the president showed signs of calming down and holding an even-tempered dialogue, Mondale jumped in with fresh complaints which disrupted the talk."

    Ronald Reagan, on the other hand, was never shy about his affinity for Jews and Israel, which went back decades. The Nazi death-camp newsreels he viewed at the end of World War II had an especially profound effect. "From then on," he stated on more than one occasion, "I was concerned for the Jewish people."

    In his memoirs, Reagan declared, "I`ve believed many things in my life, but no conviction I`ve ever had has been stronger than my belief that the United States must ensure the survival of Israel."

    Under Reagan, U.S. aid to Israel, both economic and military, rose to new heights, as did strategic cooperation between the two countries. Despite a series of policy disagreements between the Reagan administration and the governments of Menachem Begin and Yitzhak Shamir, Israeli journalists Dan Raviv and Yossi Melman summed up the Reagan years as the "Solid Gold Era."

    Once again, however, American Jews in 1984 (with the exception of several heavily Orthodox New York City neighborhoods) were above all else concerned with preserving abortion rights and keeping prayer out of public schools. Accordingly, seven out of 10 Jewish voters pulled the lever for Mondale, even as their fellow Americans were reelecting Reagan with landslide numbers, 59 percent to 40.6 percent, 49 states to 1.

    The 1988 presidential election - unlike those of, say, 1972 and 1980 - was notable for its lack of sharp differentiation between the Republican and Democratic nominees on the issue of Israel and the Middle East.

    For one thing, this was the first election since 1968 without an incumbent, so neither the Democratic candidate, Massachusetts governor Michael Dukakis, nor his Republican counterpart, vice president George Bush, had a record on which to run. True, Bush had just spent eight years as second in command in an administration considered extremely friendly toward Israel, but any anecdotal evidence that leaked out during that period was not of the type to inspire confidence in him as someone with an instinctive appreciation of, and sensitivity to, the Jewish state. On Israel, as on much else, it was widely felt that Bush was no Reagan.

    But Dukakis, who until he decided to run for president had given not the slightest indication that he had ever entertained a single thought about foreign policy, also was far from reassuring to the pro-Israel community. His speeches to Jewish groups raised more questions than they answered, and he seemed to view the world through the eyes of an unreconstructed McGovernite.

    Dukakis, in sum, gave every impression that as president he`d be distrustful of American military power and even more fearful of using it. Not a good sign to Jews who had come to appreciate that the anti-military isolationism that defined the Democratic party in the 1970`s and 1980`s was far from being in the best interests of either the U.S. or Israel.

    As noted above, it is rare for an appreciable number of American Jews to vote for a Republican presidential candidate even when the Republican is clearly more sympathetic to Israel than his Democratic opponent. It therefore came as no surprise that the returns on election night showed Bush being shellacked by Dukakis among Jewish voters, 73 percent to 27 percent, at the same time that he was easily defeating Dukakis in the country at large, 53.4 percent to 45.6 percent.

    Amazingly, Bush over the next four years would find a way to squander much of his measly 1988 Jewish support. By the time the 1992 presidential campaign got under way, Bush -- who along with his secretary of state, James Baker, appeared to develop a bad case of gas at the mere mention of the word "Israel" -- had become hopelessly unpopular even with Jews normally not averse to voting Republican.

    In fact, not since the Eisenhower years had relations between the U.S. and Israel been so lukewarm, and while Bush`s record on Israel was not as grim as some sought to portray it - the administration did succeed in getting the UN to rescind its infamous 1975 resolution equating Zionism with racism - the close relationship and good feelings of the Reagan era were already distant memories.

    Given the intense disappointment with Bush among supporters of Israel, it was hard to believe that it was just twelve years since Ronald Reagan won nearly four Jewish votes in 10 - a showing that triggered talk of widespread Jewish defections to Republican ranks - or four years since Bush himself had won 27 percent of the Jewish vote, a figure that now actually seemed quite large in light of Bush`s severely diminished standing in the Jewish community.

    As it turned out, Bush lost almost half his Jewish support during his term in office, managing to hold on to just 15 percent of the Jewish vote in 1992. His Democratic challenger, Arkansas governor Bill Clinton, won the backing of 78 percent of Jewish voters and Ross Perot, the loony billionaire third-party candidate, picked up the remaining 7 percent of the Jewish vote. Overall the numbers read: Clinton 43.3 percent, Bush 37.7 percent, Perot 19 percent.

    Jewish voters gave Bill Clinton 78 percent of their votes in 1992 and again in 1996 - at the time the best showing by a presidential candidate among Jews since Hubert Humphrey won 81 percent of the Jewish vote in 1968 - and their love for Clinton never dimmed during the course of his tumultuous presidency.

    It helped, of course, that the two Republicans against whom it was Clinton`s great fortune to run - President Bush Senior in 1992 and Bob Dole in 1996 - were, in addition to being miserable campaigners, viewed by Jews in a less than sympathetic light.

    But Clinton would have defeated Bush and Dole even if each had sworn to immediately move the White House to Jerusalem, for the simple reason that Israel has never been the determining factor in how most Jews vote. If it were the determining factor, Nixon in 1972 and Reagan in 1980 and 1984 would have received a far greater share of the Jewish vote than they did, and Clinton`s approval numbers among Jews at the end of his second term would have been appreciably lower than they were.

    What made Clinton unique was that he did well, both in 1992 and 1996, with Orthodox Jewish voters, who in recent presidential elections had shown a proclivity for voting Republican due to their social conservatism and tendency to place the well-being of Israel at or near the top of their political agenda. No doubt at least some of that Orthodox support was attributable to the lack of Jewish affinity for Bush and Dole. But the truth is that a not inconsiderable number of Orthodox Jews found themselves to be just as susceptible as their secular brethren to the fatal Clinton Mystique.

    They were impressed when Clinton pledged, at an appearance in Brooklyn during the 1992 campaign, that if elected he would install a glatt kosher kitchen in the White House as soon as he moved in. (Needless to say, when Clinton left Washington eight years later the White House still had no kosher kitchen, glatt or otherwise.)

    They chuckled when Clinton, also during the 1992 campaign, sought to simultaneously ingratiate himself with New Yorkers and puncture their cultural prejudices by telling radio host Don Imus that the nickname "Bubba" was simply Southern for "mensch."

    They liked the fact that he seemed to enjoy the company of Jews and appointed an unprecedented number of Jews to Cabinet and key administrative positions.

    To their credit, though, large numbers of Orthodox Jews had begun to sour on Clinton by the middle of his second term, by which time it was no longer possible to pretend that his Mideast policies were not placing Israel in an increasingly untenable position.

    Clinton`s apologists loved to bill him as "The Best Friend Israel Ever Had In The White House," but it was Clinton who befriended Yasser Arafat like no previous American president, having him over to the White House more than any other foreign leader. It was Clinton who crassly intervened in Israeli elections, not once but twice - unsuccessfully in 1996 when he tried to help Shimon Peres defeat Benjamin Netanyahu, and then with better luck three years later when he actually dispatched political operatives to help engineer Ehud Barak`s victory over Netanyahu.

    Throughout his presidency Clinton relentlessly pushed Israel to make concessions for the sake of the "peace process," even as it became increasingly obvious that there was no real reciprocity on the other side.

    And in perhaps the most disgusting display of moral equivalence ever attempted by an American president, Clinton, while on a visit to the West Bank, spoke in the same breath and sorrowful cadence of Israeli children orphaned by Palestinian terrorism - and Palestinian children whose terrorist fathers were either dead or in Israeli jails.

    And yet there is every reason to believe that had Bill Clinton been on the ballot in the 2000 presidential election, American Jews would have voted in overwhelming numbers to return him to office for a third term.

    With the possible exception of Orthodox voters, Jews were supportive of Clinton in a way they had not been of any American president since they paid collective and shameful obeisance to Franklin Delano Roosevelt in the Thirties and Forties.

    To be sure, Clinton had his share of Orthodox supporters right through the end - including one prominent rabbi who appeared on the cover of The Jerusalem Report beaming like a bar mitzvah boy in Clinton`s embrace and who, even after Clinton left office in disgrace over his pardons of Marc Rich and other persons of dubious repute, continued to try to make him him in such venues as the Letters page of The New York Times.

    But because Orthodox Jews are generally more hawkish on Israel than the American Jewish community as a whole, they were far more likely to sour on Clinton than other Jews.

    For most American Jews, however, the Clinton approach to the Middle East was just fine by them. In fact, well before the Oslo accords and the Rabin-Arafat handshake on the White House lawn that was supposed to herald a new age of peace between Arabs and Israelis, public opinion surveys had consistently shown a large majority of American Jews supporting negotiations with the PLO and the creation of a Palestinian state.

    Given that reality, the Democratic candidate for president in 2000, Clinton`s faithful vice president Al Gore, was certain to win the Jewish vote by the overwhelming margin to which Democrats had long become accustomed. Even if Gore felt any misgivings about the way events were transpiring in the Middle East - and there is not the slightest indication that he did - he and his advisers were well aware that there was no political gain to be had from separating himself from the Clinton administration`s Middle East policy. Not when he was certain to receive at least two-thirds and probably more of the Jewish vote no matter what.

    Sure enough, candidate Gore gave every indication that he intended to follow the Clinton approach of making nice to Yasser Arafat while ignoring the Palestinian Authority`s failure to abide by virtually every promise it had made at Oslo and afterward.

    If there had been even the slimmest of chances that Gore`s Republican opponent, Texas Governor George W. Bush, could somehow capture more than a sliver of the Jewish vote, it was dashed when Gore, on the eve of the Democratic convention, chose Connecticut Senator Joseph Lieberman, an Orthodox Jew, as his running mate.

    The excitement of a Jew on a major party`s presidential ticket - of a Jew having a realistic chance of being a heartbeat away from the presidency of the United States - swept through the Jewish community, causing even Jewish Republicans to reconsider their intentions. Gore`s surprise pick of Lieberman electrified American Jews and seemed to foreclose any possibility that George W. Bush would even approach the poor numbers put up among Jewish voters by his father in 1992 (15 percent) and Bob Dole in 1996 (16 percent).

    As things turned out, the Lieberman selection failed to have a net positive effect among Jews. Bush got slightly more than 19 percent of the Jewish vote, an actual gain of three points from what the Dole-Kemp team had been able to muster four years before. Surprisingly to some, the Orthodox Lieberman ended up hurting Gore among the very group - Orthodox Jews - with whom he was most closely identified.

    The trouble began for Lieberman when the website relentlessly publicized an appearance that Lieberman had made on the Don Imus radio show during which Lieberman joked about various Jewish practices and denied that Judaism banned intermarriage.

    The Jewish Press featured the story on its front page, and Jewish World Review, in response to claims by the Gore campaign that Lieberman`s words had been taken out of context, posted a link to the audio clip of Lieberman`s remarks. Soon other questions began to be raised about Lieberman`s views, and then one day, seemingly out of the blue, the Lieberman camp released a statement informing journalists that Lieberman preferred to be referred to as an "observant" Jew as opposed to an Orthodox one.

    Also troubling to many politically conservative Jews was Lieberman`s rush to disassociate himself from his long-held centrist positions. Within 48 hours of his selection by Gore, Lieberman met with various left-wing interest groups to pledge his newfound fealty and deny that he`d ever entertained so much as a moderate thought - it had all been a terrible misunderstanding, he whined to outfits like the Congressional Black Caucus.

    In its editorial endorsing the Bush-Cheney ticket, The Jewish Press said of Lieberman, "Soon after he was selected as Mr. Gore`s running mate, [he] suddenly changed his stand on a whole host of matters...doubtless to bring them into line with those of the head of the ticket. Thus he became an advocate of affirmative action, gay rights and outreach to Louis Farrakhan. He no longer opposed late-term abortions and became more tolerant of Hollywood`s vulgar standards. And he became a staunch opponent of tuition vouchers."

    Lieberman was far from the only problem The Jewish Press had with the Democrats; the newspaper had for years been sounding the alarm over the direction of the Clinton administration`s Middle East policy, and now the concern shifted to what the ramifications would be of a Gore presidency.

    "The stark reality is that the Clinton policy of unswerving support for the Oslo process - despite the clear absence of reciprocity on the part of the Palestinians - has brought the Middle East to the brink of war," the paper warned.

    In endorsing Bush, The Jewish Press stated its "fear that a Gore presidency would mean more of the same slavish obeisance to Oslo...This is not to suggest that Mr. Gore is anti-Israel, only that he seems ready to continue policies that have proven so disastrous."

    We have touched in this report on some of the historical reasons usually given for the phenomenon: Immigrants falling under the sway of big city Democrat bosses and passing the legacy down to their children and grandchildren; left-wing movements, after first enticing Jews in Europe, gaining important footholds in the early 20th-century American Jewish community; Jewish Americans moving into professional fields (civil service, education, law) where voting Democrat was socially and culturally de rigueur; non-Orthodox movements within Judaism seizing on secular liberalism and confusing it with divine revelation.

    We have also looked at how Jews have voted in presidential contests going back more than 80 years, noting the tedious predictability of the Jewish vote since the election of 1924 and how even when the choice comes down, as it did in 1972 and 1980, to a pro-Israel Republican versus a coolly indifferent or borderline hostile Democrat, most Jews have shown themselves to be constitutionally incapable of voting for the GOP.

    But while each of the explanations we`ve cited may have its own degree of merit, and while taken together they may provide an interesting glimpse into the collective psyche of the American Jewish community, the Great Mystery of Jewish voting habits remains just that.

    Some observers feel that George W. Bush -- who in his first three years as president has proved to be the most instinctively pro-Israel president ever -- is poised for an impressive showing among Jewish voters in 2004. Realistically, while Bush will no doubt receive a somewhat higher Jewish vote total than he did in 2000, history tells us that the Democratic candidate, whomever he may be, will score a decisive majority among American Jews.

    The fact is, in the year 2003 -- seven decades after the New Deal and thirty years after the McGovernization of the Democratic party -- the American Jewish community, the most affluent subgroup in the country, still votes as if it's one step ahead of the bread lines and the evict notices.

    Click here to return to top of page.

    The Pope's Mixed Legacy (posted 10-22-03)

    Bob Keeler, writing in Newsday (Oct. 20, 2003):

    John Paul survived the Nazi occupation of Poland, witnessed the Holocaust, dueled Polish Communists skillfully as a cardinal and, as pope, later contributed to their downfall. He is absolutely certain about church teaching, but he has had the strength to apologize for the times that Catholics have been wrong - especially in our shameful treatment of the Jews.

    In the future, church historians will look back and say that all else pales in comparison with his contribution toward healing the Catholic-Jewish rift. But for those who feel the pain of John Paul's less noble side, it's hard to take the long view.

    Last week, an angry phone call from a reader reminded me of what I know (but my affection often makes me forget): The pope has triumphed over two tyrannies, but he has not overcome the tyrannical impulses of his own heart. (It's OK for popes to act human; they are. Starting with Peter himself, the vicars of Christ have displayed all of humanity's tragic flaws.)

    The effect of John Paul's oppressive, centralizing style has made life difficult for people I admire but have never met, such as the late Archbishop Oscar Romero of El Salvador; for a trusted source, the Rev. Charles Curran, a moral theologian who lost his teaching post at Catholic University in Washington; and for a friend, Sister Joan Chittister.

    Sister Joan is the former prioress of a powerhouse Benedictine congregation in Erie, Pa. She's one of the most gifted preachers in America, but some bishops have tried to muzzle her prophetic voice. That is largely because she speaks against the church's besetting sin of patriarchy and refuses to knuckle under to John Paul's demand that all debate about women's ordination cease.

    Under this pope, no one gets to be a bishop without taking a hard line against women's ordination. But too many get to be bishops without the vaguest idea of how to inspire a flock or protect the young from sexual abuse by priests. John Paul can't escape responsibility; he appointed these bishops.

    That was one point that an angry reader made in his phone call last week, after reading my piece on John Paul's 25th anniversary as pope. This reader, a gay man who was abused by a priest years ago, was stunned that our headline called John Paul a "giant." He argued that the pope's failure on the sexual abuse scandal "outweighs everything else he has done." And he added: "The church is in serious ethical and moral peril from this man."

    All I could do was listen compassionately and acknowledge the truth: Though I disagree sharply with John Paul on such issues as women's ordination and mandatory priestly celibacy, my prevailing attitude toward him is one of affection. But then, his papacy hasn't hurt me as directly as it seems to have hurt this reader.

    Click here to return to top of page.

    Fred Kaplan: Iraq's Not the Philippines Either (posted 10-22-03)

    Fred Kaplan, writing in Slate (Oct. 22, 2003):

    In a recent speech in Manila, Bush said, speaking of the critics of the Iraqi occupation:

    Democracy always has skeptics. Some say the culture of the Middle East will not sustain the institutions of democracy. The same doubts were proven wrong nearly six decades ago, when the Republic of the Philippines became the first democracy in Asia.

    The comparison between Iraq and the Philippines may be more accurate than the one between Iraq and West Germany, but it is hardly more comforting. In fact, it is so discomfiting—it implies such a dismal forecast for America's occupation in Iraq over the next several years (for that matter, the next few decades)—that it's hard to imagine Bush would have made such a remark if he'd understood its full implications.

    It is true, as Bush noted, that the Filipinos endured 300 years of Spanish rule and that they achieved independence in 1946. But Spain ended its rule in 1898. What happened during the 48-year unmentioned interregnum? Nothing pleasant, if the point of the inquiry is to seek parallels with Iraq after Saddam.

    The Spanish empire ceded the Philippines to U.S. control in 1898 after losing that "splendid little war" in the Caribbean. The American military then invaded the Philippines and took over the capital, Manila, in fairly short order. Then, as now, the troubles began. Here's how Max Boot described the ensuing conflict in his book The Savage Wars of Peace: "[T]hough successive U.S. generals proclaimed victory at hand, American soldiers kept dying in ambushes, telegraph lines kept getting cut, and army convoys kept getting attacked."

    Over the next three and a half years, until July 1902, when the Filipino guerrillas were finally subdued, the U.S. Army lost 4,234 soldiers. Another 2,818 were wounded. (By the Army's own estimate, 69,000 Filipino combatants were killed, along with nearly 200,000 civilians.) The American war effort was marked by much burning, pillaging, and torturing, and the commanders finally achieved victory through a strategy of isolating the guerrillas. They did this by forcing the civilian population out of towns and into "protected zones"; able-bodied men found outside the zones without a pass were arrested or shot.

    Even so, sporadic uprisings continued long after 1902. The American military occupation was forced to remain for 44 years. Surely Bush is not suggesting that victory in Iraq requires a similar strategy or timetable.

    There is another unfortunate aspect to the Philippines parallel. Much of the resistance was led by "Moors"—i.e., Muslims. American politicians whipped up support for the war by painting it as a Christian crusade. President William McKinley's official proclamation ending the Spanish-American War of 1898 declared his goal in the Philippines as one of "benevolent assimilation." (The problem was that many Filipinos didn't want to be assimilated.) McKinley later told a group of Methodist missionaries how he formulated this goal:

    I went down on my knees and prayed Almighty God for light and guidance more than one night. And one night late it came to me this way … that there was nothing left for us to do but to take them all and to educate the Filipinos and uplift them and civilize and Christianize them.

    Sen. Albert Beveridge reinforced the theme, saying:

    God has not been preparing the English-speaking and Teutonic peoples for a thousand years for nothing but vain and idle self-contemplation and self-admiration. … He has made us adepts in government that we may administer government among savages and senile people.

    The notion spread through popular culture. Rudyard Kipling's famous poem "The White Man's Burden" was subtitled, "The United States and the Philippine Islands."

    Click here to return to top of page.

    Fred Kaplan: Iraq's Not Germany (posted 10-22-03)

    Fred Kaplan, writing in Slate (Oct. 17, 2003):

    Historian and former National Security Council official Daniel Benjamin persuasively tore apart the parallels with [Iraq and] Germany in Slate two months ago. Joshua Micah Marshall, in his blog, has been making merry with Wall Street Journal columnist (and Bush partisan) John Fund's more recent comparison of Iraqi guerrillas to the pathetic handful of island-bound Japanese who kept fighting after the emperor surrendered.

    A new fragment of history, just now unearthed, is sure to reinvigorate this pedagogic campaign. The next issue of Foreign Affairs magazine, due out in a couple of weeks, contains a transcript of an off-the-record speech that Allen W. Dulles made at the Council on Foreign Relations on Dec. 3, 1945—just seven months after V-E Day—about the then-current state of the Allied occupation of postwar Germany. Dulles, who later became director of the CIA, had been an Office of Strategic Services station chief during the war, the main U.S. liaison with the German resistance, and was now a high-ranking on-the-ground observer of the occupation's early stages. The Council on Foreign Relations, back then, was an elite club; an off-the-record meeting was a session of peers; confidence could be assured, candor could be assumed.

    Some of Dulles' remarks at this meeting have striking parallels with present-day Iraq. "I am inclined to think that the problems inherent in the situation are almost too much for us," Dulles says at one point. "The problem of Germany very nearly defies a successful solution," he says at another. A few of his examples: The local economy has "scraped the bottom of the barrel." Industries are idle. Key roads and bridges are impassible. Competent people who aren't tainted by Nazi Party membership are nearly impossible to find. "Sound familiar?"{However ...]

    Rumsfeld and Rice will certainly frown when they read this passage from Dulles' remarks: "There is no dangerous underground operating [in Germany] now, although some newspapers in the United States played up such a story." So much for the two Bush officials' claim—at a VFW Convention in San Antonio last August—that postwar Iraq's guerrillas are very much like the ex-SS officers who called themselves "werewolves" and terrorized postwar Germany in a rampage of looting, sabotage, and revenge killings. The Dulles speech adds one more confirming bit of data to Daniel Benjamin's argument that the werewolves, as he put it, "amounted to next to nothing."...

    It should also be noted that Dulles gave this talk two years before foreign aid and investment began to pour into Germany. The Marshall Plan was not announced until March 1947. Congress didn't pass the Economic Cooperation Act, which put the plan into motion, until April 1948. Over the next three years, the United States poured $13.3 billion into West Germany—the equivalent today (when adjusted for inflation) of $81 billion. Yet Congress is already on the verge of approving $20 billion of reconstruction aid for Iraq. By this measure, four months after war's end, Iraq is two years ahead of where Germany was at the same point. Yet the danger and disorder in Iraq are, in many ways, more severe.

    Germany nonetheless recovered as fully as it did, in large part, because the country had substantial experience with capitalism and, though more briefly, democracy. It was a Western nation long before Hitler; it required only a restoration, not a transformation, to become a Western nation after Hitler. The same cannot be said of Iraq before Saddam.

    Click here to return to top of page.

    The Smithsonian Expands (posted 10-21-03)

    Maria Puente, writing in USA Today (Oct. 20, 2003):

    Smithsonian secretary Lawrence Small, the former high-level banker who has been in charge since 2000, predicts the Smithsonian's role in the national life will be as crucial in the 21st century as it was in the 19th and 20th.

    "What we are today is the largest single source of authoritative experiences that connect the American people with their scientific, historical and cultural heritage," Small says. "We are not about entertainment; we are about authoritative scholarship."

    But can the Smithsonian become too big? After all, it's also known, not affectionately, as "the octopus on the Mall." Anything so sprawling can be difficult to manage.

    "Most museums don't have the massive overlay of scholarship and research of the Smithsonian, and most universities do not intersect with the general public in the way the Smithsonian does," says Tom Freudenheim, a former Smithsonian assistant secretary and longtime museum professional.

    Small, 62, an amateur flamenco guitarist and himself a collector (of Amazonian tribal art), took office promising to raise more money and modernize — which he has done, although not without criticism. In three years, the Smithsonian raised $500 million in private donations, "more than was raised in the previous 153 years," he says.

    That money has helped pay for the modernization drive. Visitors in recent years could not have failed to notice that parts of the Smithsonian look dilapidated. No surprise: Some buildings are more than 100 years old. Even worse, some of the permanent exhibits appeared dated, not just in scientific or technical terms but in presentation. Diorama displays were state-of-the-art in Grandpa's time, but they no longer cut it, especially with computer-savvy kids and especially when compared with the interactive sophistication of contemporary museums such as the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum. But slowly, the major museums are updating their big exhibits:

    • The $31 million Hall of Mammals renovation in the Museum of Natural History's west wing, which opens Nov. 15, features nearly 300 mammals and fossils — most of them newly taxidermied — in a dozen environments and state-of-the-art interactive displays, which tell the story of mammal evolution. The wing has been restored to its 1910 architectural glory, unveiling a beautiful vaulted, skylighted ceiling unseen since World War I. That meant the blue whale that hung from the old ceiling had to be removed, and it will be installed in a redone marine life hall.

    • The $28.3 million America on the Move exhibit, which opens at the Museum of American History on Nov. 22, presents the sweep of America's transportation history. It's part of an overhaul of the museum's exhibits and infrastructure that will cost about $300 million by 2008. The old transportation hall was a static exhibit of machinery and technology that appealed to train buffs and car fans; the new exhibit has been "repackaged as a series of stories or vignettes that tell how America became knitted together through a national network of roads, railroads, trolleys, subways and even airplanes," museum director Brent Glass says.

    These projects also are controversial examples of how major donors get to plaster their names on things. It's the General Motors Hall of Transportation because GM put the most money, $10 million, into the hall. And it's the Kenneth E. Behring Family Hall of Mammals, because multimillionaire developer Behring donated $100 million to the Smithsonian, including $20 million for mammals.

    Smithsonian staffers and scholars worry that corporate sponsorship and growing commercialism are damaging the Smithsonian's reputation and integrity, with exhibits used as advertising vehicles for Fuji Film, McDonald's or Orkin exterminator.

    Rep. Maurice Hinchey, a New York Democrat who sits on one of the subcommittees that controls Smithsonian funding, is harsh in his assessment: "The Smithsonian is up for sale. Everything is on the block and at bargain prices."

    Robert Friedel, a former Smithsonian curator who is now a historian at the University of Maryland, says that "I will always cringe" at GM's name on the transportation hall. "I worked on exhibits 15 years ago funded by DuPont, and it was understood that their logo would be discreet, and the company understood (its role) very well."

    Click here to return to top of page.

    Bush Goes Over the Heads of the National Media (posted 10-21-03)

    Elisabeth Bumiller, writing in the NYT about President Bush's decision to make himself available to local TV reporters in an attempt to go over the heads of the national media (Oct. 20, 2003):

    This goes back at least to the 19th century," said Bruce J. Schulman, a professor of history and American studies at Boston University. "Certainly every 20th-century president has tried to go over the heads of the national media directly to the people."

    Woodrow Wilson was the first president to go on a whistle-stop tour, Mr. Schulman said, in large part because he wanted to sell the League of Nations to the country, above the heads of skeptical Washington reporters. Decades later during the Vietnam War, Richard M. Nixon tried at one low point to bypass Walter Cronkite, John Chancellor and Frank Reynolds, the network anchors of the time.

    "The White House was convinced that the network evening news was highly critical of the Vietnam policy," Mr. Schulman said. "So they brought these local news anchors to the White House, and let them interview the president there, and not surprisingly they tended to be much less critical and confrontational than the network reporters were. But the reason that the war was going badly was that the policy wasn't working. The unfavorable news coverage wasn't inaccurate."

    This time around with Mr. Bush, it is unclear just how acquiescent the regional reporters were. Transcripts of the interviews show plenty of questions about Americans dying in Baghdad, undiscovered chemical and biological weapons and who is in control of the administration's Iraq policy. "The person who is in charge is me," Mr. Bush memorably responded to Tribune Broadcasting, uttering one of the keeper quotations of the year. The other interviews were granted to Cox Broadcasting, Sinclair Television and the Washington office of the Texas-based Belo Corporation. ...

    Jody Powell, Jimmy Carter's White House press secretary, said that, he, too, reached out to the local news media through regional news conferences, which he said produced broader questions than those the president got inside the Beltway.

    "The White House press corps is operating from a base of knowledge that doesn't extend to the rest of the country, and they're incrementally trying to move the ball along," Mr. Powell said. "The average person gets sort of lost in that."

    But Michael K. Deaver, Ronald Reagan's image maker, said that his attempt to cozy up to the regional news media met with mixed success. "In many ways, they were tougher," Mr. Deaver said. "The problem was, you always had some young reporter out there who was trying to get a Pulitzer or make a name for himself."

    (It was, after all, a local television reporter, Andy Hiller of WHDH-TV in Boston, who socked Mr. Bush in an interview during the 2000 presidential campaign by asking him to name the top person in power in Taiwan, India, Pakistan and Chechnya. Mr. Bush's failure of the pop quiz fueled perceptions that he knew little of foreign affairs.)

    Click here to return to top of page.

    The Troops' Morale (posted 10-16-03)

    Bradley Graham and Dana Milbank, writing in the Washington Post (Oct. 16, 2003):

    A broad survey of U.S. troops in Iraq by a Pentagon-funded newspaper found that half of those questioned described their unit's morale as low and their training as insufficient, and said they do not plan to reenlist.

    The survey, conducted by the Stars and Stripes newspaper, also recorded about a third of the respondents complaining that their mission lacks clear definition and characterizing the war in Iraq as of little or no value. Fully 40 percent said the jobs they were doing had little or nothing to do with their training....

    "We haven't had time to study the survey, but we take all indicators of morale seriously," said Bryan Whitman, a senior Pentagon spokesman. "It's the reason we've instituted several programs to address morale and welfare issues." A White House spokesman had no comment.

    Some military experts pointed to good news for the administration in the survey. Military historian Eliot Cohen, who serves on a Pentagon advisory panel, noted that the proportion that said the war was worthwhile -- 67 percent -- and the proportion of troops that said they have a clearly defined mission -- 64 percent -- are "amazingly high." He added that complaints are typical. "American troops have a God-given right and tradition of grumbling," he said.

    In the survey, 34 percent described their morale as low, compared with 27 percent who described it as high and 37 percent who said it was average; 49 percent described their unit's morale as low, while 16 percent called it high.

    In recent days, the Bush administration has launched a campaign to blame the news media for portraying the situation in Iraq in a negative light. Last week, Bush described the military spirit as high and said that life in Iraq is "a lot better than you probably think. Just ask people who have been there."

    Click here to return to top of page.

    PETA: Exploiting the Holocaust (posted 10-16-03)

    Joseph J. Sabia, Ph.D. candidate in economics at Cornell University, writing in (Oct. 16, 2003):

    The Cornell Coalition for Animal Defense (CCAD) — the campus chapter of People for the Ethical Treatment for Animals (PETA) — recently sponsored a student-funded event in which victims of the Holocaust were compared to starving cows and chickens. The event, called “Holocaust on Your Plate,” is part of PETA’s nationwide attempt to gain sympathy for the animal rights movement. CNN first reported on PETA’s insanity in February 2003, when the fringe group’s anti-Semitic campaign commenced.

    The CCAD demonstration, which took place in front of Cornell’s student union, was highlighted by the presence of several 60-square-foot panels with photos of concentration camp prisoners alongside pigs, chickens, and cows. One such placard explained the group’s moniker:

    "During the seven years between 1938 and 1945, 12 million people perished in the Holocaust. The same number of animals is killed every four hours for food in the U.S. alone. The Holocaust is on Your Plate."

    During the rally, Matt Prescott, a PETA representative, gestured to the panels and yelled to onlookers, “Suffering is suffering!” In a statement released to the press and reported by CNN, Prescott offered his rationale for comparing concentration camps to American farms:

    "The very same mind-set that made the Holocaust possible — that we can do anything we want to those we decide are 'different or inferior' — is what allows us to commit atrocities against animals every single day."

    Prescott went on to tell the Ithaca Journal:

    "[During the Holocaust] people were beaten, abused, and herded to death. Today, 28 billion animals a year in the United States are subjected to similar treatment."
    CCAD members Racheal Wechsler and Amy Icodae handed out literature containing such lovely sentiments as:

    “Decades from now, what will you tell your grandchildren when they ask whose side you were on during the ‘animals’ holocaust’? Will you be able to say that you stood up against oppression?”...

    The CCAD’s “Holocaust on Your Plate” rally achieved three major goals. First, the event demonstrated how morally bankrupt the animal rights movement is. Second, it showed that some young people have no conception of what the Holocaust was. And third, it revealed that in the absence of God, evil reigns. PETA’s evil placards serve as an important reminder of the inevitable conclusions of moral relativism.


    Click here to return to top of page.

    Robert J. Samuelson: Bush II and Nixon (posted 10-15-03)

    Robert J. Samuelson, writing in the Washington Post (Oct. 15, 2003):

    George W. Bush's quest to overcome a weak economy and win a second term offers some interesting parallels with previous presidents. The most obvious is with his father, who lost reelection in 1992 because he seemed indifferent to a stumbling economy. The son resolved to avoid that fate, raising a more intriguing presidential parallel: Richard Nixon.

    To win in 1972, Nixon revved the economy. All presidents would like to do this, because all know they'll be judged -- rightly or wrongly -- on the economy's performance. Few succeed, because the economy is so big and unruly. Nixon beat the odds. Facing stubborn inflation, he embraced wage and price controls in August 1971. With inflation suppressed, easy money and a big deficit stimulated demand. Unemployment fell from 6.1 percent in August to 5.5 percent by the next fall. In November Nixon trounced George McGovern, who won 37.5 percent of the vote. ...

    His embrace of wage-price controls now seems utterly cynical. But then "he was following a large part of elite opinion," says historian Allen J. Matusow of Rice University, author of "Nixon's Economy: Booms, Busts, Dollars, & Votes." Many economists advocated wage-price controls to restrain inflation in a tight job market. Over Nixon's objections, the Democratic Congress passed legislation authorizing controls. Once he used it, the reaction was giddy. A poll six weeks later found the public supported Nixon by 53 percent to 23 percent.

    Bush's immediate political prospects depend on two questions. Will the economy improve? Will people think it's improving? On the first, recent indicators favor Bush. Unemployment insurance claims are down; the stock market is up; GDP growth is increasing. On the second, the evidence is mixed. Bush's approval ratings have dropped. In the National Journal, William Schneider notes that the largest decline (17 percentage points since August) has occurred among men, who may be worried about jobs. Still, Bush's approval ratings equal Reagan's and are higher than Clinton's at comparable stages.

    History's final verdict on Bush will depend less on election returns than on whether his policies ultimately succeed. We can't know that yet. But Nixon does offer a cautionary lesson, because wage-price controls proved calamitous. Once they ended, inflation exploded (12.3 percent in 1974) and a harsh recession followed. "The tragedy was that they didn't have to do anything," says Matusow. "The economy was on schedule to deliver by 1972. They panicked." Such a judgment is surely one Nixon parallel that Bush doesn't covet.

    Click here to return to top of page.

    Was Germany a Victim, too? (posted 10-15-03)

    Richard Bernstein, writing in the NYT (Oct. 15, 2003):

    Even as the idea of Europe is inexorably pushing Germany and Poland, those ancient neighbors and enemies, into the same club, the European Union, a different way of looking at history has been pushing them apart.

    Certainly this has been so in recent weeks, since a group of Germans led by a conservative member of Parliament proposed that a center be built in Berlin to study and remember the mass expulsions of 12 million to 13 million ethnic Germans from several countries of Eastern Europe after World War II.

    To its advocates the center would be a natural development, an effort to remember and understand a lamentable, often forgotten fact: that in the two years after Germany's defeat in 1945, ethnic Germans were forced to leave countries where they and their ancestors had lived, in some instances for centuries, and resettle in Germany itself.

    But in Polish places like this medieval, painstakingly restored city and in other countries, most notably the Czech Republic, the proposal has provoked an emotional and almost entirely negative reaction.

    That was summed up when a leading Warsaw newsmagazine put a cartoon on its cover showing the most prominent advocate of the proposed center, Erika Steinbach, as an officer in the Nazi SS, sitting astride a submissive Gerhard Schroder, the German chancellor.

    "There is an emotional overreaction, and that's not needed," allowed Wojciech Wrzesinski, director of the Institute of History here in Wroclaw, a city whose entire German population was forced to leave after the war and where the German idea for a memorial resonates about as badly as anywhere in Poland.

    Even if Professor Wrzesinski believes that the magazine went a bit far, he quickly points out why the German initiative is wrongheaded and harmful.

    Especially if located in Berlin, he and others argue, the center would make Germans seem equal in their victimization to the peoples, including the Poles, whom they harmed.

    "Consciousness is created by certain symbols," said Wlodzimierz Suleja, the director of the Wroclaw branch of the Polish Institute for National Memory, and a historian of modern Poland. "And this center would be their symbol, the Germany symbol, that they were victims, too, and that would be a symbol detached from the truth about the past."

    German officials say the issue has become a matter of negotiation between the government of Germany and those of some of its former Soviet bloc neighbors. This may further complicate the delicacy of bringing peoples who have feared or experienced German domination into the European Union in May -- a step that is already unleashing fears in Poland of a swarm of wealthy Germans buying up the country.

    In fact, the proposal for a center on the deportees may turn out to be a minor irritant. The idea has been publicly opposed by Mr. Schroder and his government.

    Still, a difference over memory and how it is safeguarded has taken its place among the differences that have been more commonly discussed in the growing union.

    The dispute over the past, moreover, is a reminder that the passage of time may heal some wounds; eventually it may even lead to a benign sort of forgetfulness.

    But once history has happened, it has happened forever, and as long as people wish to forge their identity on the basis of collective memory there can be no annulment of its consequences.

    Click here to return to top of page.

    Arnold’s Victory—Turning Point? (posted 10-15-03)

    Jon Sawyer, writing in the Post-Dispatch (Oct. 12, 2003):

    Historian Arthur Schlesinger, biographer of John F. Kennedy and Franklin D. Roosevelt, says the odd circumstances in California -- the peculiarities of the recall process, Gov. Gray Davis's extreme unpopularity and Schwarzenegger's mega-celebrity -- will likely limit repercussions beyond the state.

    "I don't think any generalization based on California will apply to the rest of the county," Schlesinger said. "It's such a quixotic state. I don't think a candidate like Schwarzenegger would do well, except in California."

    Celebrity politics

    To Darrell West, a political scientist at Brown University and co-author of a new book called "Celebrity Politics," Schwarzenegger's election is the latest instance of a phenomenon that stretches back to the early 1960s and the emergence of political leaders like John F. Kennedy and Ronald Reagan.

    "What changed in 1960 was that it was really the start of the television era," West said, "which opened up opportunities for celebrities. The political system moved closer to the world of entertainment and having good media skills became a real asset."

    It didn't hurt that Schwarzenegger was directly linked to the mother lode of American political celebrity, the Kennedys, through his marriage to Maria Shriver -- especially given Shriver's defense of her husband amidst allegations of serial sexual misconduct.

    "The Kennedy connection helped," West said. "It allowed Democrats and independents to feel comfortable with Schwarzenegger," who picked up a stunning 50 percent of Hispanic votes in last Tuesday's election and 20 percent of Democrats.

    After Reagan took office in 1967 he governed largely from the center, overseeing a record tax increase, signing permissive abortion-rights legislation and laying the groundwork for presidential campaigns to come. Schwarzenegger's Austrian birth makes him constitutionally ineligible for higher office but he has otherwise followed the Reagan lead -- reaching out to Democrats for his transition team and playing up his support for gun control, homosexual rights and environmental protection.

    Positions like that aren't typically Republican, which is why strategists in both parties will keep close tabs on the body builder's body language as he interacts with GOP leaders, starting with his meeting this week with President George W. Bush.

    "It all depends on how Bush plays it," said Schlesinger. "If he plays it as showing that the Republicans have room for an immigrant California governor who favors gun control and homosexual rights and environmentalism then perhaps it will show that Republicans are genuinely a big-tent party.

    "But taking that course would antagonize the religious right and I think Bush II probably regards the alienation of the religious right as his father's fatal error," Schlesinger said. "So I don't think he'll take advantage of the opportunity that California presents."

    Click here to return to top of page.

    Israel's Nuclear History (posted 10-14-03)

    Douglas Frantz, writing in the LA Times (Oct. 12, 2003):

    Israel has modified American-supplied cruise missiles to carry nuclear warheads on submarines, giving the Middle East's only nuclear power the ability to launch atomic weapons from land, air and beneath the sea, according to senior Bush administration and Israeli officials.

    The previously undisclosed submarine capability bolsters Israel's deterrence in the event that Iran -- an avowed enemy -- develops nuclear weapons. It also complicates efforts by the United States and the United Nations to persuade Iran to abandon its suspected nuclear weapons program.

    The consensus in the U.S. intelligence community and among outside experts is that Israel, with possibly 200 nuclear weapons, has the fifth- or sixth-largest arsenal in the world.

    Under the nonproliferation treaty, five countries are permitted nuclear weapons. Britain has 185, the smallest number among the five, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute. The group estimated that Russia has 8,232 weapons; the United States, 7,068; China, 402; and France, 348.

    Israel has about double the number of India and Pakistan. North Korea claims to have nuclear weapons, but U.S. intelligence officials are uncertain whether that is true. Estimates of the number have ranged from one or two to six.

    Israel began building a nuclear bomb in the mid-1950s when hostile neighbors surrounded the young country and the Holocaust was fresh in the minds of its leaders.

    A secret agreement with the French government in 1956 helped Israel build a plutonium nuclear reactor. France and Israel were natural partners then; they had been allies with Britain in a brief attempt to seize the Suez Canal after Egypt nationalized it and had shared concerns about the Soviets and unrest in North Africa.

    The reactor site was in a remote corner of the Negev desert, outside the village of Dimona.

    It was a massive project, with as many as 1,500 Israeli and French workers building the reactor and an extensive underground complex on 14 square miles. French military aircraft secretly flew heavy water, a key component of a plutonium reactor, from Norway to Israel, according to the Federation of American Scientists in Washington.

    American U-2 spy planes spotted the construction soon after it began in 1958. Israel initially said it was a textile plant and later a metallurgical research facility. Two years later, U.S. intelligence identified the site as a nuclear reactor and the CIA said it was part of a weapons program, according to documents at the National Archives in Washington.

    In December 1960, Israeli Prime Minister David Ben Gurion told the Israeli parliament that a nuclear reactor was under construction, but he said it was exclusively for peaceful purposes.

    It was the first and last time that an Israeli prime minister made a public statement about Dimona, according to "Israel and the Bomb," an authoritative book by Avner Cohen, an Israeli American scholar.

    Soon after taking office in 1961, President Kennedy pressured Israel to allow an inspection. Ben Gurion agreed, and an American team visited the installation that May.

    A post-visit U.S. memo said the scientists were "satisfied that nothing was concealed from them and that the reactor is of the scope and peaceful character previously described to the United States."

    American teams visited Dimona seven times during the 1960s and reported that they could find no evidence of a weapons program.

    In June 1967, on the eve of the Middle East War, Israeli engineers assembled two improvised nuclear devices, according to published accounts and an interview with an Israeli with knowledge of the episode.

    By early 1968, Carl Duckett, then deputy director of the CIA office of science and technology, had concluded that Israel had nuclear weapons, according to testimony he gave to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission in 1974.

    Duckett said his assessment was based on conversations with Edward Teller, the father of the hydrogen bomb, who visited Israel several times and supported its nuclear program. Duckett said Richard Helms, CIA director, ordered him not to circulate his conclusions.

    In 1969, President Nixon struck a deal with Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir: As long as Israel did not go public with its program or test weapons openly, the United States would stop its inspections and turn a blind eye, according to Cohen's book.

    The proof surfaced 17 years later. On Oct. 5, 1986, the Sunday Times of London published an article in which a former Dimona technician, Mordechai Vanunu, provided a detailed look at Israel's nuclear weapons program. His cache included diagrams and photographs from inside the complex, which he said had produced enough plutonium for 100 bombs since it went online in 1964.

    To conceal the weapons work from U.S. inspectors, a false wall had been built to hide elevators that descended six stories beneath the desert floor to facilities where plutonium was refined and bomb parts were manufactured, Vanunu said.

    Shortly before the article was published, a female agent from Israel's intelligence service lured Vanunu from London to Rome. He was kidnapped and smuggled back to Israel, where he was convicted of treason in a secret trial and sentenced to 18 years in prison.

    Vanunu is scheduled to be released next year. He has been denied parole because prosecutors say he still has secrets to tell, according to his lawyer and supporters.

    Click here to return to top of page.

    Are Jews Who Fled Arab Countries Refugees? (posted 10-14-03)

    Samuel Freedman, writing in the NYT (Oct. 11, 2003):

    For all its military aspects, the Middle East conflict is also typified by clashes of narratives, different accounts of flight and dispossession that are used to justify political goals today. Now comes another competing variation of this complicated history, one involving the nearly 900,000 Jews who left Arab nations amid an anti-Semitic backlash after the creation of Israel in 1948.

    While the events of this exodus are decades old, the advocacy on behalf of Jewish refugees has grown markedly in the last several years. These efforts, ranging from briefings for members of Congress to diplomatic maneuvers in the United Nations, seek to bring both historical attention and financial compensation to the Jewish refugees. Yet to critics, these endeavors are nothing more than cynical attempts to undercut the claims of Palestinians who fled Israel at its establishment.

    "This is not a campaign against Palestinian refugees," said Stanley A. Urman, executive director of Justice for Jews From Arab Countries, a coalition of 27 groups that includes the powerful Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations. "On the contrary, we believe the legitimate rights of the Palestinian refugees must be addressed in any peace process." He added, "We've got to make sure Palestinian refugees receive rights and redress, and Jewish refugees receive rights and redress."

    Rashid Khalidi, a professor of Arab studies at Columbia University, disagrees. "This is a bait-and-switch tactic that does not serve either Palestinians or Oriental Jews or a just peace," he said, using the umbrella term for Jews from Arab countries. "Leaving both of these groups aggrieved guarantees that whatever quote, unquote settlement results would be unstable. There are just claims here. They should be addressed by the Arab states. But it shouldn't be a bait-and-switch that will make Oriental Jews pay the price for Israel's confiscation of a very large amount of Palestinian property."

    Jews first settled in Arab lands more than 2,500 years ago, after Babylon conquered ancient Judea. The problem of refugees, both Jewish and Palestinian, goes back to the formation of Israel. During United Nations debates in 1947 over the partition of Palestine, Arab delegates warned that the formation of a Jewish state might lead to violent retaliation against Jews in their countries. "The masses in the Arab world cannot be restrained," an Iraqi diplomat said at the time.

    The immediate outcomes ranged from anti-Jewish riots in Yemen and Syria to the revocation of citizenship for Jews in Libya to the confiscation of their property in Iraq. After the overthrow of King Farouk of Egypt in a military coup in 1952 and Israel's invasion of Sinai in 1956, Egypt declared Jews enemies of the state.

    For its part, Israel mounted operations to transport tens of thousands of Jews from Iraq and Yemen. While 856,000 Jews lived in Arab nations in 1948, only 7,800 were there in 2001, the American Sephardi Federation reports. About 600,000 went to Israel, the remainder to the United States and Western Europe.

    Click here to return to top of page.

    Leaks Through History (posted 10-14-03)

    John Woestendiek, writing in the Baltimore Sun (Oct. 14, 2003):

    Every administration since Woodrow Wilson's has lambasted leakers. And every president since Wilson has made discreet but routine use of the practice themselves -- personally, or through their minions, giving the press information on the sly when circumstances merited some truth, or untruth, become known.

    But the sometimes noble, sometimes ignoble, history of leaks goes back much further.

    George Washington grew infuriated with Alexander Hamilton for leaking information to the British during the Jay Treaty negotiations in the summer and fall of 1794. James Madison was exasperated when his secretary of state leaked documents to his enemies in the Federalist Party.

    During James K. Polk's administration, in 1848, John Nugent, a journalist for the New York Herald, published, based on a leak, the secret treaty ending the war with Mexico. When he refused to disclose his sources to Senate investigators, he was arrested and held for a month in a Capitol committee room, continuing to write his column at double his normal salary and going home at night with the sergeant at arms, who fed and housed him.

    In World War II, the government made sure soldiers had no questions about where they stood when it came to the often fuzzy line between national security and the public's right to know. Each was given a brochure detailing what not to talk about with whom, titled "Loose Lips Sink Ships."

    "There are good leaks and bad leaks because there is good secrecy and there is bad secrecy," said Steven Aftergood, director of the Project on Government Secrecy at the Federation of American Scientists.

    "Secrecy is good when it conceals information that could be damaging to the country, like design details of advanced military technology, identities of intelligence sources or details of diplomatic negotiations.

    "The problem is there is also bad secrecy -- information withheld from the public to avoid controversy, evade oversight or other illegitimate reasons. When that kind of information leaks, that's a good leak."

    Benjamin Franklin didn't invent the leak, but his participation in one -- besides subjecting the founding father to a severe verbal thrashing -- further incited the tensions that led to the American Revolution.

    Ironically, he was trying to have the opposite effect.

    "There has lately fallen into my hands part of a correspondence that I have reason to believe laid the foundation of most if not all our present grievances," Franklin wrote in 1772 to the Massachusetts speaker of the house.

    His note was accompanied by a batch of letters written to officials in London, including six by Thomas Hutchinson, the royal governor of Massachusetts. The letters attacked colonial leaders and suggested curtailing their liberties.

    The letters had been passed to Franklin, living in England at the time, by an unnamed member of Parliament who was an opponent of Hutchinson's.

    Franklin sent them to radical leaders in the colony -- asking they not be made public -- in hopes of easing growing tensions by showing the colonists that Hutchinson, not England, was the cause of their problems.

    When the letters were published, there was an uproar. In Boston, angry colonists began pushing for a recall of Hutchinson. In England, speculation was rampant over who leaked the letters, and accusations were flying. Two men -- accusing each other of having leaked the letters -- went so far as to engage in a duel. When neither was killed, they agreed to a rematch, at which point Franklin stepped in, writing a letter to The London Chronicle:

    "I think it incumbent on me to declare (for the prevention of fartherµ mischief ...) that I alone am the person who obtained and transmitted to Boston the letters in question ... They were not of the nature of private letters between friends. They were written by public officers to persons in public station ..."

    After his admission, Franklin was summoned before the Privy Council for what he thought was a discussion on removing Hutchinson from office.

    Instead, in a room known as the "cockpit" -- because cockfights had been held there during the reign of Henry VIII -- Franklin received what one observer called "a torrent of virulent abuse" from a table- pounding solicitor general named Alexander Wedderburn.

    The council rejected the petition to remove Hutchinson from office, but Franklin was removed from his job as American postmaster. Two years later, in 1775, Franklin returned to America to take part in the founding of a new nation.

    It is considered the granddaddy of all leaks.

    Starting in 1969, Daniel Ellsberg began photocopying a 7,000-page top-secret Pentagon report that documented U.S. policy in Vietnam, and how the American public had been lied to and misled about the war.

    In 1971, hoping to turn public sentiment against what he saw as an unjust war, Ellsberg began delivering the documents -- first to The New York Times, then The Washington Post and, later, 17 other newspapers as he traveled across the country trying to avoid authorities.

    The government tried to stop publication through an injunction -- the first time in history that had been done -- but it was unsuccessful.

    After two weeks on the run, Ellsberg turned himself in. Charged with 12 felonies, he faced a sentence of up to 115 years.

    Because no law specifically prohibits supplying classified information to the media, Ellsberg and Anthony Russo, a colleague at the Rand Corp. who had helped him copy the papers, were prosecuted under the Espionage Act of 1917.

    First proposed amid the hysteria of World War I, the law made it a crime to disclose national defense secrets to the enemy. Originally, it would have made leaking illegal, but, amid concerns that such a provision would abridge free speech, it was dropped.

    Among those spending anxious moments awaiting Ellsberg's trial was President Nixon -- even though the Pentagon Papers didn't deal with his term as president.

    Still, Nixon wanted to send a message to Ellsberg and others who would leak government secrets -- and he wasn't above using leaks to fight the leakers, according to White House tapes:

    Nixon: "Let's get the son of a bitch into jail."

    Henry Kissinger: "We've got to get him."

    Nixon: "We've got to get him ... Don't worry about his trial. Just get everything out. Try him in the press ... Everything ... that there is on the investigation, get it out, leak it out. We want to destroy him in the press. Press. Is that clear?"

    Enter the "plumbers," a secret unit established by the White House in 1971 -- so named because their original purpose was to stop leaks. They broke into the office of Ellsberg's psychiatrist in an attempt to gain incriminating information.

    The next year, Nixon's covert operatives, toting eavesdropping equipment, were arrested after breaking into the offices of the Democratic National Committee in the Watergate Hotel.

    The charges against Ellsberg were dismissed in 1973 because of the break-in at his psychiatrist's office.

    Click here to return to top of page.

    Our Next President Should Be a General (posted 10-14-03)

    Harold Bloom, Sterling Professor of Humanities at Yale, writing in the <>Wall Street Journal (Oct. 14, 2003):

    Lincoln, confronting the South's rebellion, first established our imperial presidency. Since then we have become increasingly a plutocracy. Like such precursors as Benjamin Harrison, William McKinley and Warren Harding, the current possessor of the White House sincerely believes in making the rich richer, while expressing the hope that somehow all of his constituents must eventually benefit from this benign process. Our nation has long invested in this hope, with our territorial expansion (mostly at the expense of Mexico, and of the Native Americans) and also overseas extensions fueling the investment. At this time, we occupy all of Iraq, and rather less of Afghanistan. These irrealistic adventures, while expensive in money and in blood, are more venturesome than most of our past incursions, but otherwise not radically new. What is different are the provocations. Fundamentalist Islam conducts a world-wide terror onslaught, much of it financed by Saudi Arabia. Israel and the Arabs continue to fight a Hundred Years War, going back to the earliest Zionist emigrants, and we are now well along in the first decade of a religious war that could endure for another century. All this is piously denied by nearly everyone, yet all the deniers know better. The American Empire, like the Roman before it, seeks to impose a Roman peace upon the world.

    I have been rereading Edmund Gibbon's "The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire," which I recommend to anyone in search of wisdom relevant at this moment. Gibbon attributes decline and fall to many varied factors, but the characters of specific Roman emperors--good, bad and indifferent--are viewed by him as crucial in the self-destructiveness of Rome. It is not at all clear whether we are already in decline: bread is still available for most and circuses for all. Still, there are troubling omens, economic and diplomatic, and a hint or two from Gibbon may be of considerable use. I trust it is clear that I am not deploring our deposing of Saddam Hussein, though its motivations remain obscure. Our decimation of the Taliban, and continued pursuit of bin Laden, are inevitable responses to Islamic terrorism. But our wars with fundamentalist Islam will continue, and will broaden; others will be attacked. We have no option except imposing a Roman peace. The question I bring forward is: What is the proper training for our imperial presidents?

    We need, at just this time, a military personage as president, one who is more in the mode of Dwight Eisenhower than of Ulysses Grant. In Wesley Clark, we have a four-star general and former NATO commander who is a diplomatic unifier, an authentic hero, wise and compassionate. That Gen. Clark saved tens of thousands of Muslim lives in Bosnia and Kosovo is irrefutable, despite current deprecations by worried supporters of the president. They are accurate only in their anxieties. Gen. Clark is highly electable for 2004; the other Democratic candidates are not. Even should our economy worsen considerably by a year hence, Howard Dean and John Kerry cannot win, unless the terrorists again bring down American temples as vital as the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. Most of the electorate will vote for the incumbent, because of their national security concerns.

    Our most vital interest is to persuade as much of Islam as possible not to join in what the Muslim fundamentalists consider to be a Counter-Crusade. Who is more qualified than Gen. Clark to render such persuasion plausible? His leadership of international forces is Bosnia and Kosovo was precisely calibrated, and prevented Serb paramilitaries from even more dreadful slaughters of Muslim innocents than those already performed as "ethnic cleansings."

    Click here to return to top of page.

    Truman an Inspiration for Senator Seeking to Stop War Profiteering and Waste (posted 10-10-03)

    Gail Russell Chaddock, writing in the Christian Science Monitor (Oct. 10, 2003):

    Critics are taking a hard look at several rich US contracts to rebuild war-damaged Iraq.
    When Susan Collins was just a staffer in the United States Senate, she used to worry about fat government contracts being awarded in secret. Now Collins is a US Senator - and she can finally do something about it.

    Senator Collins is drawing a bead on contracts in Iraq, where the US has begun pouring in billions of dollars to repair war damage and rebuild the country. There are charges in the press that no-bid contracts are squandering taxpayer funds....

    "The problem is there is no oversight to see that these exceptions are used appropriately," she says. As chairman of the committee she once worked for, Collins wants those loopholes closed. Her "sunshine rule," cosponsored with Sen. Ron Wyden (D) of Oregon, was approved by the Senate as an amendment to President Bush's $ 87 billion request for Iraq.

    She claims another influence in this work: Sen. Harry Truman (D) of Missouri, who was spotted by President Franklin D. Roosevelt as a vice-presidential prospect for his work on war profiteering during World War II. Truman, like Collins, was no grandstander. He said his aim was "heading off scandals before they started." But his conclusions were unambiguous: "The little manufacturer, the little contractor, and the little machine shop have been left entirely out in the cold. The policy seems to be to make the big man bigger and to put the little man completely out of business," Truman said in 1941.

    Historian Theodore Wilson wrote in 1975 that the Truman committee is widely viewed as "the most successful congressional investigative effort in United States history." It later evolved into the permanent subcommittee on investigation, now a panel of the Senate Government Affairs Committee that Collins chairs. "Our committee has a legacy of being aggressive in protecting the taxpayer from contracting abuses," she says.

    Many of the same Truman-like criticisms are surfacing in the congressional debate over the contracts in Iraq. In all, some $ 79 billion has already been allocated for war expenses in Iraq, and another $ 87 billion bill is working its way through Congress - a windfall for companies that can make themselves part of it.

    "We're overrelying on large umbrella contracts... Halliburton has a monopoly on the work in oil, and Bechtel has a monopoly on the reconstruction work," says Rep. Henry Waxman (D) of California, the ranking Democrat on the House Government Reform Committee. "There is no incentive to lower costs," he adds.

    Click here to return to top of page.

    Interview with the Man in Charge of Recovering Lost Pieces from the Iraq Museum (posted 10-10-03)

    An interview conducted on"The NewsHour" (Oct. 1, 2003):

    JEFFREY BROWN: In recent days, authorities in Baghdad announced the recovery of a 5,000-year-old Sumerian mask. Made of alabaster, it is known as "The Lady of Warka," one of the earliest known representations of the human face. The mask was widely considered one of the most important objects still missing after the looting of the Iraqi museum last April. Investigators have now issued a final report of their work, documenting the recovery of thousands of items. They say about 10,000 objects are still missing, including 29 major pieces considered irreplaceable.
    I'm joined now by the man who has headed the investigation, Marine Reserve Colonel Mathew Bogdanos. Later this month he returns to civilian life, where he's an assistant district attorney in New York. Colonel, welcome back to the United States and back to this program.

    MARINE COL. MATTHEW BOGDANOS: Thank you very much. Thank you for having me.

    JEFFREY BROWN: As you near the end of your part of the work, give us an overview assessment of where things stand.

    MARINE COL. MATTHEW BOGDANOS: Certainly, and with a nod to Mr. Churchill, we are not at the end of the investigation or even at the beginning of the end. We are perhaps, though, at the end of the beginning. The first phase is complete, and that first phase consisted of identifying primarily what was taken, and then recovering those items that we could do so locally in and around Baghdad. We're transitioning now to the next phase, which is the international component to the investigation, which will take far longer than the six months that the first phase did.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Now, there are some remarkable stories I've heard about how you've gotten back some of these things. Tell us, for example, about the "Lady of Warka" that I just mentioned.

    MARINE COL. MATTHEW BOGDANOS: The mask itself... in many ways the manner in which it was recovered is very typical of the manner in which we recovered many items. An informant, an individual, an Iraqi, walked into the museum with a tip that he knew where antiquities were being held or hidden, without identifying the mask. Acting on that information, members of the investigation who are still in Baghdad then went to that location, conducted a reconnaissance of the location, and then conducted a raid.

    Initially they didn't find the mask, but they found the owner of the farm-- it's a farm in northern Baghdad-- and after interviewing the farmer, he admitted that he did in fact have an antiquity, in this case the mask, buried in the back of his farm. The investigators went behind the farm and uncovered the mask exactly where he had placed it, and it is intact and undamaged. The one thing I want to point out here as well is that the farmer indicated that this mask had changed hands many times in the last several months, and would have been out of the country already but for the publicity that the theft and the recovery investigation has been receiving. So for fear of being intercepted in transit, they kept the mask in and around Baghdad.

    JEFFREY BROWN: So a lot of your work has been classic investigative type of work. You're gathering information from sources, you're conducting raids, getting back what you can.

    MARINE COL. MATTHEW BOGDANOS: Yes. In many ways what I was doing and what the team was doing in Baghdad was exactly what I would do in conducting a search warrant in Manhattan, in my civilian job. The difference is, you're doing it in a combat environment, and you have to factor in the possibility that when an informant brings you information, that that informant might be leading you into an ambush.

    JEFFREY BROWN: It's still a very dangerous place to work.

    MARINE COL. MATTHEW BOGDANOS: It's still a very dangerous place to work, but the rewards are so worthwhile that we were willing to take the chance.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Now, there are some remarkable pieces that are still missing. We have some photos of a few of them. We could show them now. This is the statue.

    MARINE COL. MATTHEW BOGDANOS: It's a wonderful piece, an Acadian piece, weighs about 160 kilos, and it is the base of the statue itself. That was taken during the looting period, and indeed, the individuals who took that damaged the floor, not realizing how heavy it was. It dropped to the floor, and they actually scraped the floor as they dragged it out of one of the doors.

    JEFFREY BROWN: We have another one. It's the "Nubian Boy with a Lion." Can we see that one?

    MARINE COL. MATTHEW BOGDANOS: Wonderful ivory. This is much smaller, a very small piece, and it is, in fact, a lion with a Nubian boy. We consider this one of the most significant pieces that is still missing.

    JEFFREY BROWN: So what is going on now to recover these and other objects?

    MARINE COL. MATTHEW BOGDANOS: Well, when we spoke last, we spoke about the fact that the methodology for the investigation itself is divided into three separate components. The looters, or the items that were looted, those have been the items that have been recovered locally in Baghdad through informants, through the amnesty program, through seizures and raids. Virtually all of the looted items, about 2,700 altogether, have been recovered, but what remains are the items that were taken by insiders or with insider information, and then those high-quality or high-end items, and the only way we're going to recover those is through good, classic law- enforcement techniques that cut across national borders. We have got to do this internationally or we can't be successful.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Now, you've created a wanted poster?


    JEFFREY BROWN: We have an image of that. Tell us about the idea behind that.

    MARINE COL. MATTHEW BOGDANOS: Well, the idea behind that was a bunch of us sitting in Baghdad, talking about what we can do to educate the world, educate law-enforcement officers, to educate civilians, to educate art dealer employees throughout the world on the most important items, much like a wanted poster for a criminal. "Have you seen this person? If you've seen this person, contact the authorities." Well, we simply decided to put, instead of "person," to put the antiquities in there, and the goal is to distribute these posters throughout the international art and law- enforcement communities throughout the world in order to get people to provide us information for items they may have seen, either in transit or in their bosses' gallery.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Publicity has made a real difference in this, hasn't it?

    MARINE COL. MATTHEW BOGDANOS: Publicity has been what I would call, in marine terminology, a force multiplier. It has been one of our biggest assets, the fact that you and your colleagues are continuing to keep this, the looting and the recovery, in the public eye has helped us immeasurably.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Now, as you finish your work here, are the resources in place? Is the personnel there? Is the will there to continue the investigative work?

    MARINE COL. MATTHEW BOGDANOS: You've hit on the greatest challenge we have. We live in a world of finite resources, everybody-- the UK, the U.S., Jordan, Italy, Iraq-- and in a world of finite resources, you have to make tough decisions, tough decisions based on priorities. We have received, the investigation has received enormous assistance from Scotland Yard, for example, or from the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Southern District of New York, from Jordanian officials from the Italian Carabinieri, but we need more, and what we need are agencies like Interpol to assist us, to take an active part in the investigation so that when a seizure is made anywhere, everyone knows it.

    If there's a seizure made in Newark, it's crucial that we immediately... the customs inspectors who make that seizure notify the originating customs officials. If it's London, then London needs to be notified immediately so they can conduct a simultaneous investigation on their end as we conduct one in the U.S. on our end, and there's no other way to conduct this investigation properly but through seamless cooperation and integration.

    JEFFREY BROWN: A brief final personal question: What makes you so passionate about this? We were talking earlier about the fact that you have a master's in classical studies, so I know you've been at this for a long time as an interest. But we're talking about stone, we're talking about old clay, we're talking about objects, but you clearly have a passion for it.

    MARINE COL. MATTHEW BOGDANOS: Since the age of 12, classical history has absolutely mesmerized me, more so because it is not my chosen profession, more so because I'm not smart enough or talented enough in that field to really have made that a career. I mean, we're talking about our history, our heritage, our cultural beginnings. I mean, those who do not remember the past are destined to repeat its mistakes. The past is what we have. It's what we bring with us into the future. I can't imagine a more important undertaking.

    Click here to return to top of page.

    California Dreamin' ? (posted 10-10-03)

    Mark Sappenfield, writing in the Christian Science Monitor (Oct. 10, 2003):

    To some, the Golden State's travails are part of the inevitable evolution of democracy, as the people take the full power kindled in the Constitution's opening words, "We the people...." To others, California voters are the prime culprits in their own mess, as they malign the very lawmakers needed to make government work. Indeed, California's experiment is challenging some basic assumptions underlying American democracy since the writing of the Federalist Papers, particularly the idea that elected officials should use their judgment to act on voters' behalf. In recent decades, Californians' deep distrust of politicians has increasingly led them to limit politicians' power and discretion through ballots - and now the recall.

    That, say experts, is the aspect of the recall that could resonate nationwide. Across the country, as here, the heightening stakes of politics has led to greater partisanship. Yet across the country, as here, people have never been less partisan, with registering voters eschewing both parties in record numbers. The result is a decline in respect for government and a new willingness to reshape it. In this context, California will go some way toward determining if there are limits to a government "by the people."

    To Larry Gerston, the answer is already apparent: The recall is but the latest example that California's political system is broken. Many of the problems predate the era of the ballot initiative, which essentially began when voters passed Proposition 13 in 1978 to cap property taxes. But voters' best intentions have only compounded the problem.

    "We attempt to solve a problem, and we create another one that is unforeseen," says Dr. Gerston, a political scientist at San Jose State University.

    Take term limits. More than a decade ago, California voters passed Prop. 140, establishing term limits for state legislators. In response, the Legislature passed a redistricting plan two years ago that made every seat safe for incumbents, in part so they wouldn't have to spend their limited time in Sacramento worried only about getting reelected. The result, however, has been an increasingly polarized Legislature representing districts dominated by the political extremes - meaning that voters played a significant role in creating the partisanship that helped fuel the recall.

    "I don't think [term-limit] reformers even considered that," says Gerston, who suggests that California's political problems are so entrenched that the state needs to convene a constitutional convention.

    Term limits, though, are just one symptom of the deeper and more basic problem of California voters wanting to punish politicians for being politicians, add others. Along with term limits, for instance, voters have mandated that certain minimum percentage of the budget be spent on education and after-school programs.

    "These initiatives block all the maneuverability of politicians," says Kevin Starr, the state librarian. "Far from demonizing politicians, we need good politicians."

    Click here to return to top of page.

    The Ancient Origins of Biological Warfare (posted 10-10-03)

    John Noble Wilford, writing in the NYT (Oct. 7, 2003):

    Mighty as Hercules was, he sometimes prevailed only by means other than his own brute strength. When the need arose, the superhero of Greek mythology armed himself with biochemical weaponry, anticipating the technological innovations of modern warfare.

    Up against the Many-Headed Hydra, Hercules forced the monstrous serpent from its den by shooting fiery arrows coated with pitch. After finally slaying the Hydra, he cut open the body and dipped his arrows in its poisonous venom. His quiver was never again without a supply of poison arrows.

    The story of Hercules and the Hydra may be the first description in Western literature of chemical and biological weapons. Because myth often contains a kernel of historical reality, the story suggests that projectiles tipped with combustible or toxic substances must have been known early in Greek history, and widely used in combat.

    It may hardly be a coincidence, for example, that the word "toxic" is derived from the ancient Greek word "toxon," meaning arrow.

    In a new book praised as an illuminating revision of early military history, Adrienne Mayor marshals not just myth, but also the writing of ancient authors and evidence from archaeological digs to show that biological and chemical weapons saw action in battles long before the modern era of mustard gas, napalm and a Pandora's box of pathogens.

    The Greeks of antiquity were not the only ones to weaponize nature. Ms. Mayor cited evidence of biological agents in ancient battles from Europe and the Mideast to India and China. Among the historical victims and perpetrators were conquerors like Hannibal, Julius Caesar and Alexander the Great.

    "The sheer number of legendary narratives and historically verifiable incidents," Ms. Mayor concluded, "invites us to revise assumptions about the origins of biological and chemical warfare and its moral and technological constraints."

    Ms. Mayor is an independent scholar of the classics and folklore who lives in Princeton, N.J. Her book, recently published by Overlook Duckworth, is "Greek Fire, Poison Arrows and Scorpion Bombs: Biological and Chemical Warfare in the Ancient World."

    Robert Cowley, a founder and former editor of MHQ: Quarterly Journal of Military History, said last week that the book was "a solid contribution to military history." Ms. Mayor, he added, has "done something no one's done before, bringing together all this material on the dirty tricks of ancient warfare, and think how relevant it is with our present obsession with weapons of mass destruction."

    The book also is issued at a time of resurgence in scholarly interest in the origins and history of war. Historians and archaeologists are paying increasing attention to overlooked evidence of warfare among tribal societies and chiefdoms, as well as advanced civilizations.

    Click here to return to top of page.

    The Liberty Bell Is Located Next to Slave Quarters (posted 10-10-03)

    Deborah Bolling, writing in (Oct. 9, 2003):

    While many argue that the Liberty Bell has traditionally symbolized America's freedom and bravery, perhaps its distinctive crack has meaning related to the damage it sustained in the mid-1800s as it rang in celebration of President Washington's birthday. Maybe the crack crystallizes an ideological divide in how the Liberty Bell should be displayed and understood.

    A year and a half ago, historians presented evidence that between 1790 and 1797, the years of Washington's presidency, his household slaves lived in a two-room shed adjacent to America's first White House -- situated only five feet from the entrance of the new Liberty Bell Center. So far, the National Park Service has refused to acknowledge the full significance of this historical fact, citing a lack of sufficient corroborating evidence.

    Edward Lawler Jr., a member of the Ad Hoc Historians, was part of the team that uncovered documentation verifying the presence of the shed, known as the Slave Quarters.

    The people at INHP [Independence National Historical Park] agree that the buildings were there, but they're not positive that they housed slaves, Lawler says. For me, the proof rests on documentation from Washington's own correspondence, but there may never be any other really good, strong evidence. What's important is not to think of Washington's eight enslaved Africans as his property, but rather as individuals. The reason they should be honored is that they were enslaved within what was then the executive mansion of the United States. I'd love for people who come to Independence Park to understand where they are and what happened here.

    While festivities to celebrate the antique bell's arduous move are scheduled throughout the day, as the Philadelphia Boys Choir belts out patriotic songs, members of the Avenging The Ancestors Coalition (ATAC) will be staging a protest at Sixth and Market. The organization, which identifies its membership as the descendants of the victims of the greatest holocaust in humankind, want to draw attention to what they view as the hypocrisy of acknowledging America's history while ignoring Philadelphia's own slave past.

    Think how upsetting it would be for the average white American to know that as they enter the Liberty Center, they are passing over hallowed ground, says Michael Coard, one of the ATAC founders. I think it would be embarrassing for the people at Independence National Historical Park to have to fully acknowledge that Africans were enslaved there by the first president of the United States in the worst type of human degradation known to mankind.

    Click here to return to top of page.

    Old Europe Is Depressed ... Fearful of Asia's Rise? (posted 10-10-03)

    Brad Glosserman, writing in the South China Morning Post (Oct. 9, 2003):

    Officially, we were discussing Russia's place in Asia. It was hard to tell whether the French senator-historian on the panel was warning of Moscow's return to great power status or urging it on. He was no crypto-communist, however: for him, Russia's resurgence would signal the return of multipolarity and the emergence of a "golden quadrangle" of world powers consisting of the US, Europe, China and Russia.

    It was unlikely that the forum in Paris, sponsored by the French-American Foundation, would indulge in US-bashing. However, by focusing on Russia, critics had a chance to make the same point, albeit indirectly.

    Bur several weeks in Europe yielded a different perspective on the source of the "old world's" unease about international affairs. While most commentary focuses on the unparalleled power of the United States, there is an equally - if not more - powerful thread that laments the decline of Europe.

    Writing in the International Herald Tribune, veteran correspondent John Vinocur last week reported on the criticism of France - by French intellectuals - that dominates that country's best-seller lists. He notes that "the notion of a rapid descent of France's influence is receiving wide acknowledgement within the French establishment". Several books, whose titles include French Arrogance, France in Disarray, and France in Free Fall, slam "a decadent France, adrift from its brilliant past, incapable of inspiring allegiance or emulation, and without a constructive, humanist plan for the future".

    Italians have noted that deep vein of pessimism, as well. La Stampa's Paris correspondent described France as "Sunset Boulevard", and noted the "darkness" descending over the country and the fear that follows in its wake. Of course, some of that language needs to be taken with a grain of salt: France's decline is a mirror in which Italians look to see their own place in the world.

    But the problem is not France's. Increasing numbers of economists worry that Germany is about to succumb to the "Japanese disease" while the entire European Union flirts with stagnation.

    Last month, British parliamentarian David Willetts presented research that showed Europe's demographic profile put an end to hopes that the continent might become a cultural or economic alternative to the US.

    With birth rates plunging below replacement - in some cases reaching levels not seen in peacetime since the Black Death - Europe will be unable to muster the economic vitality needed to sustain itself. By 2050, he reckons, Europe's share of world output will fall from its current 18 per cent to 10 per cent. The US share will have increased over the same period from 23 per cent to 26 per cent.

    Yet while one leading European economist reports that the only place Europeans will see growth is on television, the Asian Development Bank's updated Asian Development Outlook reports that the Asia-Pacific region will continue to be the most dynamic area in the world this and next year.

    According to the bank, the region will enjoy 5.1 per cent growth this year and 6.1 per cent next year, an increase over original forecasts. Europe's performance is, in a pointed contrast, "very weak".

    And herein lie the real roots of European unease. It is not just US vitality that threatens Europe's role in the world. Remember, it was Napoleon who first warned of the tumult that would follow China's awakening.

    Of course, this could just be Europe's penchant for masochism. Notoriously gloomy, the old world's introspection does end in a lot of hand-wringing. But the critics do have one thing on their side: history. Writing in La Repubblica, columnist Carlo de Benedetti last week noted that "we are experiencing a shift of historical significance ... with the centre of the world shifting from the Atlantic to the Pacific, and Europe risks an epochal decline".

    Shift happens. De Benedetti pointed out that more than two centuries ago, Asia had nearly 60 per cent of the world's wealth. The region's fortunes declined, but that was a mere interregnum. Asia is not rising, but returning. The question is where Europe will fit in this new order.

    It is Europe's decline, rather than the US' rise, which seems to be the real source of discontent. Europeans applaud multipolarity not because it serves as a check on unbridled US ambition, but because it offers a fingerhold for continued European relevance in a rapidly changing world.

    Click here to return to top of page.

    America's Seven Lucky Breaks (posted 10-10-03)

    From free-lance writer Der Voron:

    Here are America's main lucky breaks, shown in chronological order.

    Lucky Break No 1: Respectively, North America, Mexico and most of South America were colonies of Great Britain, Spain and Portugal. (Florida and California were once Spain's colonies in North America.) With the exception of Canada, which was a part of the British Empire until 1945, here is what happened after the colonies became independent:

    Former British colonies united into one country (United States); and former Spanish colonies did not unite into one country.

    Perhaps this contributed to the independence gained by the former Spanish colonies. But this would also have made competition with the former British colonies (i.e., United States) harder, because they not only competed with the United States but also with each other. Also, the United States could exploit frictions between the politically divided Latin American countries.

    An example of this division could be observed in the destructive war between Paraguay and a coalition of Argentina, Brazil and Uruguay. This conflict lasted from 1860 to 1870 and resulted in the nearly complete destruction of Paraguay. Equally, this prolonged war damaged the economies of Uruguay, Argentina and Brazil. It seems to me that it was easier for the Latin Americans to call inhabitants of the United States "gringos", than it was for them to unite into one country. With the possible exception of Portuguese-speaking Brazil, the language issue wouldn't have presented a problem. All the rest spoke Spanish. In any case, the Portuguese language is closely related to Spanish.

    [Click here for the rest.]

    Click here to return to top of page.

    Leaks and the Leakers Who Leaked Through History (posted 10-10-03)

    From "The NewsHour" (Oct. 9, 2003):

    RICHARD NORTON SMITH: Well, we are talking about a symbiotic relationship here, Jim. As long as there have been presidents and the press they have been exploiting each other and professing to be shocked when they were caught at it.

    In the Washington administration Hamilton leaked against Thomas Jefferson. Thomas Jefferson leaked against Alexander Hamilton. When Jefferson became president, he said the only thing in newspapers that he read for the accuracy was the advertisements.

    In Dwight Eisenhower's administration a classic example that presidents like leaks when they advance their interests and they don't like them when they do the opposite -- early in his presidency Eisenhower summoned James Reston, the legendary New York Times correspondent, because he wanted to send a non-official signal to the Chinese Communists that the president's patience regarding the Korean peace talks was not infinite and indeed that under the worst circumstances Eisenhower might actually consider the use of nuclear weapons on the Korean peninsula. Reston wrote the story. He knew he was being used by the White House. He understood those were the terms of the relationship. The irony is that a few years later Reston wrote a story using a leak Eisenhower didn't like; Eisenhower complained, 'who the hell is Scotty Reston to tell me how to run the country'?

    JIM LEHRER: So, from a president's point of view there are good leaks and bad leaks and a good leak is one that is done intentionally and usually done for what purposes? Just like that? Is it trial balloons -- for instance, Teddy Roosevelt used leaks a lot. What did he use them for?

    RICHARD NORTON SMITH: Absolutely. You are right, Jim; 100 years ago Teddy Roosevelt wanted to get Congress to create something called the Bureau of Corporations. This was part of TR's campaign against those he denounced as malefactors of wealth, the plutocrats of his day. Well, Congress was dragging its heels so TR very skillfully leaked the information that John D Rockefeller, Sr., the ultimate malefactor, was opposed to the Bureau of Corporations. In doing so he transformed the whole debate. No longer was it a question of do you want to have this new bureaucratic agency; the question was: Are you with Teddy Roosevelt on the side of the people, or are you with John D. Rockefeller, Sr., on the side of the plutocrats?


    JOAN HOFF: I think a big time investigative journalism as we now know it really is product of Watergate and the problem there was that the use of anonymous leaks that increased after Watergate led so-called investigative reporters to sensationalize, sometimes even fictionalize what they were saying in the newspaper accounts.

    And it got to the point by really the mid-80s that you had some reporters, like Clark Mullenhoff, who was a Pulitzer Prize winning reporter, say this was running amok and this heavy reliance on anonymous sources simply was not in the interest of the American public.

    You had a National News Council set up in 1973 to sort of track these leaks and anonymous sources to create more trust in the journalism profession on the part of American public. It was let die in 1983 simply because you had investigative journalism and anonymous sources basically running amok.

    And I think what we don't think about in terms of these kinds of sources is that they represent a kind of privileged information pure and simple on the part of an insider group of reporters who are in the hip pockets, in my mind, in my opinion anyway, of major politicians and bureaucrats. And it's not that they are objectively getting leaks, they are getting leaks usually from the conservative reporters are getting them from conservative politicians and bureaucrats, and the liberal reporters are getting them from liberal politicians and bureaucrats. And so it's always one sided and it has led them to these faked kind of stories, plagiarism, nonexistent sources.

    And I think probably it remains out of hand down to the present day and of course Richard Nixon himself was plagued by these kinds of leaks and then set in motion what I think is really a change, a seismic change in the journalistic profession since Watergate.

    JIM LEHRER: Roger, do you also view this with alarm?

    ROGER WILKINS: Not really. First of all the greatest presidential leaker there ever was was Franklin D. Roosevelt because the deal was he would call reporters into his office, and he would have press conferences -- he promised lots of press conferences and he had them - but the deal was you couldn't quote him. You had to attribute it to a high administration source. And everybody played the game.

    JIM LEHRER: Which is what Eisenhower did with Scotty Reston --

    ROGER WILKINS: Exactly but he did it with the whole presidential -- the whole White House press corps.

    JIM LEHRER: Right.

    ROGER WILKINS: Obviously some leaks are bad. The Wilson planned leak is a bad destructive, awful leak.

    JIM LEHRER: She's the woman operative that I mentioned.

    ROGER WILKINS: Right. But there is an awful lot of useful information that we wouldn't ordinarily know or there are lots of debates that go on in this city. You know, defense puts on a -- is about to put out a proposition, state thinks it's really bad. They haven't really been able to get it done inside the government so some guy from state leaks the state plan. All of a sudden it's out in the public and everybody gets a chance to chime in.

    Click here to return to top of page.

    The Liberty Bell's Contested History (posted 10-10-03)

    John H. Hinderaker, writing on his group blog, (Oct. 9, 2003):

    Last Christmas my family visited one of my brothers, who lives in eastern Pennsylvania. We went to Philadelphia to see the historical sites. I was deeply impressed by how the Bell resonated with my children, then aged six to sixteen. Its power as a symbol was brought home to me when I saw how they responded to it. It is, indeed, the bell of freedom, and after we returned home I added the Bell's inscription to the quotes at the left side of Power Line's front page.

    The moving of the Bell to a new home just a block away went smoothly. But the move was fraught with political significance. A UCLA historian said, "It's moving a few hundred feet geographically, and a few hundred miles conceptually." The reason? The Bell's new home is located close to a site (long since destroyed) where George Washington and John Adams once lived. So what, you ask? Washington once kept slaves there. On this slim reed, an attack--a successful attack--on the Bell was launched.

    "After numerous discussions with historians and community groups, park officials agreed to delay the opening and rework the story line planned for the exhibits. As a result, when members of the public enter for the first time at 4:30 p.m. Thursday, they will certainly find a stirring setting for the Liberty Bell...To reach this ethereal, chancellike space, however, visitors pass through an earthly exhibit area that explores not only the promise and achievements but the contradictions and failures of the nation - all embodied in a flawed and ancient artifact.

    " will acknowledge the presence of racial bondage. It will note that the bell hung in Independence Hall during the Colonial and Revolutionary periods - and also point out that many Founding Fathers, including Washington, owned chattel slaves." No word on whether it will mention that he freed them.

    All this had to be done, we are told, because of "[black] people who have gone to the Liberty Bell and not felt included."

    This betrays, I think, a stunning ignorance of history. The Liberty Bell was little known until it was shown to a group of abolitionists in the 1830's. They were struck by the universality of its Biblical message and it was they who named it the Liberty Bell. The bell became famous because a prominent abolitionist newspaper put the bell and its inscription on the paper's masthead.

    Given this history, for a black person to say that he "doesn't feel included" when he contemplates the Liberty Bell is like an Italian claiming to feel excluded on Columbus Day, or a Scandinavian who says he feels "left out" when he goes to a Minnesota Vikings game. Or an Irishman who goes to Notre Dame and....Well, you get the point.

    The Liberty Bell is an inspiring symbol. But there are those in America who do not want Americans to be inspired, and they control most of our institutions. Given the chance, they will devalue every one of our national symbols.

    Early in the war on terror, it was reported that Islamofascists were plotting to bomb the Liberty Bell. They wanted to destroy it as a potent symbol of American freedom. Turns out they needn't have bothered. The liberals are doing that for them.

    Here it is, the Liberty Bell, the bell of freedom, a "flawed and ancient artifact." Yes, we'll agree to that. The Bell will still be here, I predict, inspiring new generations of American children for reasons that we can't quite express, long after the current nay-sayers have left the scene.

    comments powered by Disqus