Is "Imperialism" Really the Right Word for What We're Doing in Iraq?

Historians/History




Mr. Catsam is a fellow at the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities and a fellow at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies. He is a blogger for HNN's Cliopatria.

The American and indeed global political dialogue is increasingly sloppy. People throw around terms with blatant disregard for their meanings, usually with malice, or at least political point scoring. Thus conservatives with whom one disagrees become fascists, Nazis, or better yet, somehow evocative of Hitler. Lefties become Communists, Marxists, and, natch, Stalinists. Right-wingers want a police state. Left-wingers hate America . The effects of this increasingly divisive dialogue, or rather, these dueling monologues, are growing more and more corrosive, and their future effect on the body politic will likely continue to have deleterious effects.

Not surprisingly, the war in Iraq and the larger War on Terror under which it is supposed to be subsumed are front and center in this cacophonous shouting match. Critics of the war blithely threw around accusations of “unilateralism” without apparently knowing what that rather precise term means. Supporters of the war countered with vitriol asserting that their foes were anti-Americans who had learned nothing from 9-11 and who were handmaids to evil, a self-righteous bit of claptrap that served to further the replacement of reasoned disagreement with pointed ad hominem .

Into this increasingly contentious fray we can add the question of “Empire,” “imperialism,” and “colonialism.” These too are terms that have or at least should have meaning. Their meaning might not be precise, and may be debatable, but those who use these terms, especially in an accusatory way to buttress their own side in a political debate, bear the burden of proving that American actions are imperialistic, not simply by asserting that it is so ipse dixit .

What the United States is doing in Iraq is open to interpretation and to dispute. This is as it should be in a free society where open debate and discussion is not only welcome, but necessary to the survival of democracy. Some believe that on the whole America is trying to fight evil and remove scourges. Others argue as passionately that by taking on a role beyond that which much of the world would grant us, we are acting like that which we vow to oppose. Into the breach come the assertions that this war (or perhaps more precisely, these wars) represent imperialistic endeavor. This strikes me as, at the least, an anachronistic accusation.

It may be difficult to pin down just what an imperial power does, but one of those things self evidently is to establish empire. However sloppily it is being done, however dubious the outcome, and however self interested the current administration's intent, it seems that the last thing they want to do is establish a colonial holding in Iraq . Indeed for many of us the war's most immediate result has been chaos borne of unwillingness to nation build, reluctance to be in it for the long haul. Better to proclaim victory, however pyrrhic or false or insecure, than to stay in it for the duration. Yet to guarantee any sort of democracy in Iraq , whatever one thinks of the war and its justifications, it seems to me that it would be irresponsible not to remain, not to engage in the nation building that President Bush so derided in the debates with Al Gore in 2000. When I think of the colonial states in Africa in the twentieth century, whether manifested in the form of direct rule, indirect rule, or settler colonies, I do not see foreshadowing of what the United States is currently doing. I do not even see neo-colonialism, a term thrown around as much as just about any without regard to establishing its actual meaning in the current context.

This argument is intended neither to praise nor to bury the current war. That is not the question on the table. But it is to say that when one throws around the term “colonialism,” or its partners “imperialism” and “empire,” it is too often done with the goal of smiting down the other side, and not with any concern for definitional integrity, analytical rigor, or historical accuracy. Our work as scholars should allow us to contribute to a constructive discussion, and not to exacerbating the destructive shouting matches of the age.


Reprinted from the January 2004 issue of the Safundi Research Newsletter, published by Safundi: The Journal of South African and American Comparative Studies, and available at http://www.safundi.com/.



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bryan haught - 4/8/2004

The early Roman Empire expanded its influence through the creation and use of 'client states.' Though the US is not claiming direct control of more than one or two other states, one could consider many theoretically independent nations to be client states - particularly if the US bases in or around those countries allow swift intervention or invasion with little chance of failure. This is not a new observation. What is surprising is that there is so much discussion over whether an American Empire exists...I don't think that there has ever been a "Stealth Empire" before.


Josh S Narins - 4/5/2004

Islam did far more than act as a repository of Roman Law...

but the Europeans, in large part, when they emerged from the Dark Ages, looked back to the Roman Law, and not the Arab advances since then.


Josh S Narins - 4/5/2004

Hmm.

Blaming Britain for Opium production in India is like blaming the Taleban for Opium production in Afghanistan, or the Andean governments for growing cocaine.

British _pirates_, like Hutchinson, Jardine, Matheson (was one of those an Admiral? I forget), picked up the Opium and brought it to Canton.

Could Britain have stopped the trade entirely? They could have fought it harder, and they woudln't, because, as you say, it kept silver in British hands, which it was losing from all the tea purchases from China.


Josh S Narins - 4/5/2004

What's so wrong with Fascist?

Mussolini gets credit for inventing and defining the term as protecting the interests of the wealthy and powerful.

Aznar's mentor was Fascist Franco's Minister of the Interior (includes Secret Police) for a couple years (some of the better years, but that doesn't count for much).

The Popular Party is this work of this same man, Fraga Iribarne.

For the last 29 years, the top 10% has been getting better off, while the bottom 90% has been getting worse off.

Fascists are real simple, too. CEOs, Actors(Fronts), Religious types will always be big in fascist circles. (the Church is rich and powerful, too).

They tend to push really easy to consume messages, because when they get to detailed, their interests become apparent.


Josh S Narins - 4/5/2004

a thuggish, violent, post-colonial regime of murderers who we put in power over their own people, who threaten US financial interests in a financially critical area of the world.

But you were kinda close.


Josh S Narins - 4/5/2004

Awww, Wilson was fine with the Central American banana Republics, so let's not call it that.

Thing is, eliminating the world of dictatorships is a Straussian goal (the city and man, introduction).

I'm not so sure it is as hot to be South Korean as you are suggesting. I mean, they are far wealthier and freer than their northern cousins, but they aren't in control. If America (and Powell wants to refight the Korean War) decides the war with the North starts today, the war starts today, and their entire world would be smashed.

Well, is there a precise number of South Koreans you are willing to kill to make the North free?

Could you please run that number by the South Korean polity?

Thank you, they were really confused about how wonderful it all is.


Josh S Narins - 4/5/2004

Pericles led his nation into 15 years of non-stop wars with his peaceful neighbors.

After that, they got 15 really good years.

But overall, the long term impact of being such a belligerent fuck was a net minus for the Athenians.


Josh S Narins - 4/5/2004

I had not known they had actively encouraged, or forced, farmers to grow Opium.

Yes, the effective Drug Czar of China was enforcing Chinese law, and that was just too much.

I read that the Emperor of China at the time was convinced that if he cut off rhubarb, yes, rhubarb, shipments to England, the island would collapse.

Of course, I got that from the same history that skipped mentioning the Brits encouraging opium farmers.


Josh S Narins - 4/5/2004

Because 10s or 100s of thousands of foreigners lives are hanging in the balance of your lies, please stop talking, and start listening, hard.

The entire amount of artillery on the Northern border, in range of Seoul, is critical.

Your other claims seem equally stupid, but I would rather beat the crap out of you and go to jail for it than sit around and let you suggest that a war wouldn't be a risk to the South Koreans.

Americans really don't give a shit about foreign lives, do they?

Most of them say 55,000 people died in Viet Nam, not 2 million.

That 500 people died in Iraq, not 50,000.


Josh S Narins - 4/5/2004

President GHW Bush failed to figure out a solution to a very tricky problem, i.e., how do you invade and conquer Iraq, but not occupy it?

The locals would not support a war to occupy Iraq, and, in all likelihood, the calculation went like this

Choice 1: Let the UN or someone run it after we conquer it

Choice 2: Just push him out of Kuwait

Now, considering the standard sentiments from the right wing on the United Nations (sending associate to Iran/Contra international criminals to the UN), Choice 2 was the operation.


Marc "Adam Moshe" Bacharach - 3/30/2004

1) “Accusing a President of not being sufficiently focused after an atrocity like 9/11 calls his competence into question.”

I don’t disagree. However, this charge is not unique to Clarke, nor is the accusation directed solely towards Bush.

2) “You say, "Clarke never explicitely blames Bush for 9/11, only saying that Bush did not find it urgent and should have taken more actions to prevent it."
A distinction without a difference and you know it.”

Of course, there is little practical difference, but there is a great deal of difference in tone. Conservatives blame Clinton explicitly for 9/11 (as well as everything else). Clarke says Bush did not do enough. They may mean the same thing, but they have very different accusatory implications.

3) “Calling Clarke a Republican misses the partisan point and you know it.”

Accusing Clarke of only giving to Democrats (which is true) only attacks the character of the person and not his credentials or charges and you know it. What about Woodward and O’Neil? Making partisan charges in order to paint your opponent a political hack may often be successful, but is suffers from the same petty tactics so many in Washington like to accuse the other side of doing.

4) “President Bush did not publicly admit that Iraq had no connection to 9/11, in fact he said Al Qaeda had many connections to Iraq. He said there was no evidence Saddam was directly connected to 9/11. Look it up. A distinction with a huge difference, and you know that too.”

Actually, the distinction makes very little difference in this context. Bush has no evidence that Canada is harboring aliens from the planet Mars, but saying it like that implies that it might be (and indeed it might). Why is it when Bush tells America that Iraq definitely has WMD, and it turns out to be untrue, his critics are accused of arguing petty semantics, and yet when he says no evidence exists to tie Iraq to 9/11, conservatives attack anyone who says that it means Iraq had no ties?

For the sake of argument, you are right, the two do not mean the same thing since you cannot prove a negative (except the administration leading up to war). I would remind you in that case to make sure that future attacks on Clarke or anyone else be carefully written to read “evidence suggests” unless you have incontrovertible evidence.

5) “What do you know about conservatives on AM radio? Do you listen often? If so, you must also be aware many of us also seriously fault Ronald Reagan for not responding to the Beirut bombing of the Marine barracks in '83.”

Actually, I do listen often and I have never heard Reagan criticized, although I will not deny it has happened. Michael Savage is the only one I have heard ever criticize Bush (for not standing up to the “liberal vermin in this country”). The rest simply spend all day doing two things: Criticizing liberal for being liars, traitors, enemies of the military, causers of 9/11, lovers of Saddam Hussein, enemies to freedom… and secondly, lament how vitriolic the Democrats can be.

6) “Hauling out the disgruntled, the partisan and Bob Woodward to draw conclusions based on opinions might be good fun, but it's certainly not convincing.”

You are the first person I have ever heard call Bob Woodward partisan (at least, the only conservative calling him liberaly partisan), especially given how much praise Bush is given in his book and how high conservative radio hosts loved it when it came out. I suspect, with respect, that you simply designated him as such after hearing his charges rather than thoughtfully look at his record as a journalist, or better still, actually read the book. I would certainly like to know why the administration has not called him a liar for making up facts when he was given access to high level meetings and documents. Thus far, not a single person to my knowledge has leveled that charge to him.

7) “See the recent polls 3/29 & 3/30 - the American people have seen through this charade. I'm surprised you haven't. Or maybe you have and merely seek to amuse yourself.”

Of course, if public opinion polls are a record of a presidents performance, then you must accept the conclusion of your argument to mean that Bill Clinton was a wonderful president throughout his administration and even upon leaving office. When Bush’s numbers drop (as they have in the recent past), will you be so quick to credit it to an enlightened public?

I understand your tremendous partisanship, as this president is extremely polarizing. I have enjoyed our discussions very much and certainly hope that you have taken no offense to anything that I have said. Strong supporters of Bush are just as likely to blindly dismiss anyone who criticized the administration as strong critics are to embrace them. I am sure each of us thinks the other is ignoring the obvious, or blind to reality, or twisting the facts as they see fit. That is the beauty of democracy.

-- Adam


Bill Heuisler - 3/30/2004

Adam,
We are reaching impasse and you indulge in modulation to score debating points. Accusing a President of not being sufficiently focused after an atrocity like 9/11 calls his competence into question. You say, "Clarke never explicitely blames Bush for 9/11, only saying that Bush did not find it urgent and should have taken more actions to prevent it."
A distinction without a difference and you know it.

Republican? Clarke voted for McCain in 2000, but he only gives to Dem causes and candidates. Many Dems switched in that Va. primary to influence the General. Clarke himself artfully dodged the question when asked in an interview. Calling Clarke a Republican misses the partisan point and you know it.

President Bush did not publicly admit that Iraq had no connection to 9/11, in fact he said Al Qaeda had many connections to Iraq. He said there was no evidence Saddam was directly connected to 9/11. Look it up. A distinction with a huge difference, and you know that too.

What do you know about conservatives on AM radio? Do you listen often? If so, you must also be aware many of us also seriously fault Ronald Reagan for not responding to the Beirut bombing of the Marine barracks in '83.

Hauling out the disgruntled, the partisan and Bob Woodward to draw conclusions based on opinions might be good fun, but it's certainly not convincing. See the recent polls 3/29 & 3/30 - the American people have seen through this charade. I'm surprised you haven't. Or maybe you have and merely seek to amuse yourself.
Bill Heuisler


Marc "Adam Moshe" Bacharach - 3/30/2004

Do you honestly believe that Clarke’s accusations (which again, and I cannot state enough, have been said by many others) and the administrations response constitutes a “orgy of vitriol” or are you referring to the 9/11 commission as a whole?


1) “Clarke quite literally accuses the Bush Administration of knowing the danger and doing very little about the terror problem - being largely culpable for 9/11.”

Actually, Clarke said that for Bush, Terrorism was “an important issue but not an urgent issue" in the months before September 11. If he is lying, than so is acclaimed historian Bob Woodward, who wrote in his widely praised book, “Bush at War” the following:

“Until September 11, however, Bush” had not “pressed the issue of bin Laden. Though Rice and the others were developing a plan to eliminate al Qaeda, no formal recommendations had ever been presented to the president.”
“He [Bush] acknowledged that bin Laden was not his focus or that of his national security team.” Said President Bush, “I didn’t feel that sense of urgency, and my blood was not nearly as boiling.” (pg. 39)
“Bush, though quick to respond after September 11, did not pursue the bin Laden threat aggressively enough in his first eight months in office.” (pg. 318)

Furthermore, Clarke has been significantly more tame than conservative pundits have been on Clinton. Clarke never explicitely blames Bush for 9/11, only saying that Bush did not find it urgent and should have taken more actions to prevent it. Many conservatives, on the other hand, have laid total culpability on Bill Clinton, explicitly blaming him for the attacks.

2) “He further accuses the President of asking him about Iraq's possible connections the day after 9/11 - in an intimidating way - and thus somehow promoting Bush's quixotic obsession at the expense of War on Terrorism.”

Again, let us look at what we know. Clarke says that “they had an idée fixe, a plan from Day One that they wanted to do something about Iraq. And while the World Trade Center was still smoldering, while they were still digging bodies out, people in the White House were thinking, 'Ah, this gives us the opportunity we've been looking for to go after Iraq.'"

This is what Woodward said: “Rumsfeld raised the question of Iraq. Why shouldn’t we go after Iraq, not just al Qaeda? He asked… His Deputy, Paul E. Wolfowitz, was committed to a policy that would make Iraq a principles target of the first round in the war on terror.”
“Rumslfeld was raising the possibility that they could take advantage of the opportunity offered by the terrorist attacks to go after Saddam immediately.” (pg. 49)

Here is the former secretary treasury and member of the National Security Council O’Neil said: “From the very beginning, there was a conviction, that Saddam Hussein was a bad person and that he needed to go… From the very first instance, it was about Iraq. It was about what we can do to change this regime.”

Why would Woodward, O’Neil, and Clarke all tell such blatant (and consistent) lies? O’Neil and Clarke are registered Republicans, and Woodward was given unprecedented access to Bush and his inner workings (so much so, some Democrats wanted to investigate whether he was given confidential information shortly after the release of the book.)

3) “Neither accusation was said by "many others".

I believe I demonstrated that above.

4) “Both are false on their face.”

How so?

5) “Clinton did little for eight years. Clarke conveniently elides eight years to target eight months. Political? Looks like a diuck to me, Adam.”

Not to me. Clarke was highly critical of Clinton for his failure to implement his policies as well. The only reasons conservatives are forgetting about this portion of his 9/11 testimony is because they are trying to make him look political and acknowledging his condemnation of Clinton would destroy that image. In any event, you are in fact, incorrect. Clinton did more to combat terrorism than any other president in history. By all means, blame him for not doing enough, but to suggest that he “did little for eight years” is simply ignoring his many public statements, legislative initiatives, and budget allocations.

6) “Iraq and Saddam were crucial to terrorism for many reasons already listed ad nauseaum and I'm a little tired of the assumption they were not. The evidence says they were.”

Bush has publicly admitted that Iraq had no connection to 9/11 and many analysts that work inside and outside the administration challenge much of the circumstantial evidence that conservatives keep recycling. In other words, the evidence does not say that there was a link. The evidence suggests that there could possibly be a link with nothing conclusive. Although even if ALL of the evidence is true (which I don’t believe so), there was never anything even the conservatives have produced to show that Iraq was “crucial to terrorism.”

7) “However I believe the 9/11 Commission would better serve the Republic by forgetting blame and concentrating on the real enemy.”

With respect, many of conservatives (at least the ones on AM radio) believe that the 9/11 Commission would better serve the Republic by blaming Clinton for all problems, absolving the Bush administration of everything, and ignoring why 9/11 happened or could have been prevented.


Bill Heuisler - 3/29/2004

Adam,
You ask two questions.
Do you honestly believe that Clarke’s accusations (which again, and I cannot state enough, have been said by many others) and the administrations response constitutes a “orgy of vitriol” or are you referring to the 9/11 commission as a whole?

Yes I do. Clarke quite literally accuses the Bush Administration of knowing the danger and doing very little about the terror problem - being largely culpable for 9/11. He further accuses the President of asking him about Iraq's possible connections the day after 9/11 - in an intimidating way - and thus somehow promoting Bush's quixotic obsession at the expense of War on Terrorism.

Neither accusation was said by "many others". Both are false on their face. According to Clarke's press briefing Bush increased terror-spending five-fold and was in the process of instituting new policies based on a report he received on 9/10. Clinton did little for eight years. Clarke conveniently elides eight years to target eight months. Political? Looks like a diuck to me, Adam.

Second, according to history, Bush first ordered the invasion of Afganistan after meetings with Clarke et al. Therefore Clarke's "intimidation" becomes irrelevant except as a means to draw convenient conclusions. Iraq and Saddam were crucial to terrorism for many reasons already listed ad nauseaum and I'm a little tired of the assumption they were not. The evidence says they were.

Please step back and observe the facts as opposed to the words, disregard the personnel involved and become a jury.
Notice how the witness corrupts his own testimony, how all the so-called evidence is circumstantial and how the so-called crime better fits another suspect.

No. However I believe the 9/11 Commission would better serve the Republic by forgetting blame and concentrating on the real enemy.
Bill Heuisler


Marc "Adam Moshe" Bacharach - 3/29/2004

1) “The administration has not tried to discredit Clarke, only to point out his contradictions in the new book.”

I would disagree with you, or at the very least argue that the media is spinning a different story. Thus far, virtually every article that refers to the administrations reaction to Clarke talks about the attempt to discredit him, including exposing him as the “inside source” some articles once referred to him as in the past, stressing his link to the Democrats, and declassifying certain portions of testimony that might be used against him (but not all of the testimony, as Clarke has requested). In any event, I am not saying that what the administration is doing is wrong or below the belt. I am saying that it does seem like a campaign to attack this mans credibility.

2) “Clarke has advocated many things the Dems decry: preemption on suspicion of WMDs, reinstatement of a pre-nineties CIA budget, changing the reaction to terrorism from Law Enforcement to Military. W, Condi and Rumsfeld agree with this approach.”

All the more evidence that he is not some partisan pawn. The fact that he is critical of many things the Democrats don’t like strengthens his claim of objectivity. This is a top level terrorist expert, not a liberal Democrat.

3) “What has become more incomprehensible as time passes is the morphing of Clarke into a partisan weapon for the Kerry campaign by implications of blame.”

If Clarke’s testimony is being used as a partisan weapon, it is not because of the Kerry campaign. Indeed, an article as late as 03/24 noted how Kerry remained silent on the whole issue, letting the 9/11 commission do its job. It was only on the 27th that he spoke out, not in favor of Clarke’s conclusions, but in lamentation of “character assassination.”
http://www.cnn.com/2004/ALLPOLITICS/03/24/kerry.clarke.ap/index.html
http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/4615144/

In any event, I don’t know why any of this is incomprehensible. Clarke’s statements about Bush (much of which has been verified by others) is going to be used as a partisan weapon, as is any statement about any candidate. If Kerry’s looks (an administration official once said he looked French), and Kerry’s wealth (Bush and Cheney were both worth millions before they were in office) are going to be used as partisan weapons, I don’t see why a top-level expert’s opinion about the handling of the war on terror should be somehow ignored.

4) “As events thicken to history and the press frenzy consumes itself Clarke and the Dems will be left with nothing but their greed and passion. The energy spent on this orgy of vitriol will carry the same sad import as the vote-count tantrum in Florida. The legacy is hatred.”

You may be right that this will end for the Democrats the same way as the FAR more vicious (BY ANY MEASURE) impeachment of Clinton ended for the Republicans… with defeat. However, I think not. This president has taken us to war for reasons many people are still not sure about. Contrary to many conservatives, this is a big deal, regardless of what party you are in. Besides, I believe you overestimate the value of Clarke. Do you honestly believe that Clarke’s accusations (which again, and I cannot state enough, have been said by many others) and the administrations response constitutes a “orgy of vitriol” or are you referring to the 9/11 commission as a whole?


Bill Heuisler - 3/29/2004

Adam,
The administration has not tried to discredit Clarke, only to point out his contradictions in the new book. That's the whole point I'm trying to make. Clarke has advocated many things the Dems decry: preemption on suspicion of WMDs, reinstatement of a pre-nineties CIA budget, changing the reaction to terrorism from Law Enforcement to Military. W, Condi and Rumsfeld agree with this approach. What has become more incomprehensible as time passes is the morphing of Clarke into a partisan weapon for the Kerry campaign by implications of blame.

This whole Clarke tempest is a disservice to the country, to the Bush Administration and to a 30-year career. As events thicken to history and the press frenzy consumes itself Clarke and the Dems will be left with nothing but their greed and passion. The energy spent on this orgy of vitriol will carry the same sad import as the vote-count tantrum in Florida. The legacy is hatred.
Bill Heuisler


Ben H. Severance - 3/29/2004

Chris,

You write with pronounced passion and sound reason. It is hard to contest your knowledge. I too, would like to see a Utopian world. And I agree that most people just want to live their lives, raise their families, go to work, etc... I certainly do, and sometimes think my blogging is little more than a search for an intellectual stimulant (i,.e, a good argument).

Anyway, I did read the CounterPunch article and came away with the question, "what's your point?" I will readily concede the many terrible things that have marred American History: slavery, Jim Crow, race riots, Robber-Barons, economic exploitation (both at home and abroad), poverty, Red scares (especially McCarthyism), separate spheres, internment camps, Indian removal, anti-immigration, anti-Catholicism, and on and on and on. So, the country sucks. But it doesn't, for behind those vices lies the inexorable force of democratic reform and progress. Life for most Americans is better today than at any other time, all reflected in the increased access to opportunity and the undeniable right to protest (including HNN). There is a reason millions of people immigrate to this country. And a reason why no one emigrates to the Middle East (except Jews to Israel).

I don't just want "big stick diplomacy," I also want "big stick domestic policy." Shake down the CEOs, bust up the drug rings, resume the war on poverty and ignorance. As individuals, humans are not innately good; they are depraved and selfish. But as a public body they are capable of aspiring to a general good. Enter a centralized, republican form of government, which can translate the voice of the people into meaningful legislation--big government as an equalizer. Internationally, I believe all societies will eventually embrace democratic politics and capitalistic economics. Therefore, I see no reason for the U.S. not to speed the process along. Will there be mistakes and lives lost? Yes, but then mistakes and lost lives were and are already happening.

As for your evident admiration for Islamic legal thinking of the medieval period, I do agree that Muslims displayed a remarkable creativity a thousand years ago. But one wonders where that intellect went to, for nothing original has emerged from the Arab world since the days of Saladin (my opinion). Perhaps this marked atrophy is a result of the uninspiring Ottoman rule, but Arabic decline over time is astonishing. It is the Arab world that is in need of a Renaissance and Reformation, a scientific revolution and Enlightenment. But can the West afford to wait the 400 or so years needed for this happen? As a former military officer, I prefer to take and hold the iniative, even when it's not clear exactly what I plan to do. So it should be with the U.S.


David Lion Salmanson - 3/29/2004

When British authorities displace native farmers involved in subsistence production and actively replace them with opium growers, I think that points to more British culpability than you suggest. When Britain fights a war (actually a couple of wars) to prevent China from enforcing its own laws, that also points to more British culpability. Imagine if Columbia were to invade the United States and fight a war up the Mississippi river to promote the legality of and legitimize the sale of cocaine. That's pretty much what Britain did. We are talking active support of the crown, not merely failure to stop a trend.


Marc "Adam Moshe" Bacharach - 3/29/2004

Bill,
No need to apologize.

You are quite right, we see things differently. If Clarke is telling the truth (and I admit, we really don’t know as of now), I believe that he does a great service to our goal of defeating terror by exposing mistakes and deception within the administration.

As for Richard Henry Morgan’s evidence, allow me to answer your question the same way I addressed his post:
If you are correct (and I have no reason not to believe it as I have not read Clarke’s book or this other book), it is a good question. I might also wonder why the media (including the conservative media) have not seem to bring this up, or why the administration does not point it out? Since the whole idea is to discredit the man, this would seem to be a good example.

Thus far, the only clear evidence that Clarke ever lied was that he incorrectly attributed a particular argument in his book to another author. Beyond that, the only other things people can point to is that he defended his boss against attacks when he worked in the White House.

You may use Clarke’s false attribution to dismiss his entire argument about Iraq and 9/11, that is certainly your right. As for myself, I have seen too many political books (as well as history books, I might add) that suffer from the same straw-man problem to simply throw out the baby with the bath water, so to speak.

Since Clarke is a 30 year veteran of terrorism expertise who served under several presidents with distinction (a claim I make based on his continued retention and promotion), I am inclined to forgive certain arrogance that he seems to emit as well as semantic inconsistencies. I wonder if other books so hold under the microscope, in any field, would be immune from error, either intentional or not.


Ben H. Severance - 3/29/2004

You're unhinged. And you know my name, so come find me you Ass-hole and we'll see who beats the crap out of who.


Bill Heuisler - 3/28/2004

Adam,
Just read a post by Richard Henry Morgan on another post. He quotes Jay Epstein as follows:

"Clarke totally fabricates a position he attributes to Laurie Mylroie, author of Study Of Revenge (2001), and then he use his own fabrication to discredit that author's position.
On p.95 of his Against All Enemies, Clarke states that "author" Laurie Mylroie had asserted "Ramzi Yousef was not in the federal Metropolitan Detention Center in Manhattan but lounging at the right hand of Saddam Hussein in Baghdad." He then debunks this "thesis" by stating that, in fact, Ramzi Yousef "had been in a U.S. jail for years," which was true.

Obviously, if Yousef had been in prison in America, he could not be in Baghdad at the right hand of Saddam, and Mylroie's theory would be demonstratively untrue-- a discreditation Clarke considers important enough to feature on the dust jacket of his book, noting that prior to 9-11 "[Paul] Wolfowitz was actually spouting the totally discredited Laurie Mylroie theory."
The problem here is that the straw man Clarke demolishes is an invention entirely of his own creation. Mylroie did not write anything remotely like it before 9-11 (or after it). On the contrary, she explicitly states on p. 212 of her book Study Of Revenge, "Ramzi Yousef was arrested and returned to the U.S. on February 7, 1995." While she questions the provenance of documents he used prior to his capture in 1995, she does not claim in her book or any other writing that Yousef resides anywhere but a maximum security federal prison.
Clarke himself makes up the absurd assertion Yousef was in Baghdad with Saddam, falsely attributes it to Mylroie, then uses it to discredit Mylroie."

Why does he leave himself so obviously open? How much else in the book is so easily refuted? We'll see.
Bill Heuisler


Bill Heuisler - 3/28/2004

Adam,
Sorry for the delay. Speeches and politics - so important, but so time-consuming and trivial in essence.
We butt biases. There's no fulcrum we share in common. Clarke's nuanced, battling opinions damage our common goal as Americans: to defeat terrorism. I believe Iraq is a keystone of terror; you do not. You believe Clarke tells the truth; I don't. I believe Bush tells the truth; you don't. Your evidence is in the beholder's eye, as is mine for now and - shamelessly paraphrasing a great poet - our arguments fling endlessly into eternity, shifting moments that journey toward no Spring, no birth, no death, no time nor sun in answer.

My opinion? Clarke has come undone with injured pride and blind hubris. The eventual exposure of his inconstancy will end our dispute. For the good of our country, I might add, and we can resume arguments about history.
Bill Heuisler


David Lion Salmanson - 3/27/2004

Gotta agree with Chris here. Both the paxes (is that the plural?) were overrated. Rome never really stabilized the empire and any venture into the countryside meant dealing with bandits, brigands etc. Not to mention the constant civil wars. The Han and Song empires in China seem more like examples of what Bill is trying to argue for, although I don't think he likes reading me rephrase it that way. As for Britain, most of the world that the crown conquered went backwards judging by any objective criteria such as GDP, average caloric intake, etc.. Not to mention the active campaigns against native cultural art forms (which is not to say that the British campaign against suttee wasn't a good thing). Heck just ask the Irish on this front. The Pax Britainica rested on maximizing output from the colonies and shipping it to feed England's workers which is why famine followed the empire (again India, Ireland are prime examples). Ireland was exporting food to England during the potato famine; India's famines were largely caused by the British shifting agricultural land from food production to opium so as to balance the trade defecit with China. Not India's trade deficit but the homeland's. Hardly steps forward.


Marc "Adam Moshe" Bacharach - 3/27/2004

Clarke:
Terrorism was “an important issue but not an urgent issue" in the months before September 11.

Bob Woodward:
“Until September 11, however, Bush” had not “pressed the issue of bin Laden. Though Rice and the others were developing a plan to eliminate al Qaeda, no formal recommendations had ever been presented to the president.”

“He [Bush] acknowledged that bin Laden was not his focus or that of his national security team.” Said President Bush, “I didn’t feel that sense of urgency, and my blood was not nearly as boiling.”
-- Bush at War, pg. 39

“Bush, though quick to respond after September 11, did not pursue the bin Laden threat aggressively enough in his first eight months in office.”
-- pg. 318

Clarke:
"I think they had an idée fixe, a plan from Day One that they wanted to do something about Iraq. And while the World Trade Center was still smoldering, while they were still digging bodies out, people in the White House were thinking, 'Ah, this gives us the opportunity we've been looking for to go after Iraq.'"

Bob Woodward:
“Rumsfeld raised the question of Iraq. Why shouldn’t we go after Iraq, not just al Qaeda? He asked… His Deputy, Paul E. Wolfowitz, was committed to a policy that would make Iraq a principles target of the first round in the war on terror.”

“Rumslfeld was raising the possibility that they could take advantage of the opportunity offered by the terrorist attacks to go after Saddam immediately.”
-- Bush at War, pg. 49


Marc "Adam Moshe" Bacharach - 3/27/2004

Bill,
You are quite right, his testimony to Congress should put more of this into perspective, as will subsequent interviews and if Rice decides to answer questions under oath.

1) “My reference was to a deliberate withholding of information in order to make more money on a book. This conflict of interest would be shameful if only a political prize were at stake, but the potential millions of dollars in book sales makes CBS silence and Simon and Schuster moving up the release date rise to the level of an unlawful scheme or artifice to enrich the corporate coffers. Remember the outrage about the Gingrich book advance? Hypocrisy?”

Are you suggesting that CBS avoiding the information that they have an interest in promoting a book is bias and “unlawful” (although I am not really sure how), while Fox News calling itself fair and balanced despite being owned and operated by Republicans, former high-ranking Republican strategists, and relatives of presidential candidates is not a problem? Hypocrisy? I don’t know, but certainly a rather selective condemnation. Since when is being president of the most powerful country in the world, as well as all other election coverage, simply determining “a political prize.”

2) “Conversely you disagree with what Republicans have done in Iraq because you don't think Saddam abetted terrorism. Most Americans disagree and feel a strong and visceral reaction to the man who invaded Kumait, harbored Yasin after the '93 World Trade Bombing, issued Abbas of Achille Lauro an Iraqi passport, tried to assassinate our President and violated our Cease-Fire agreement by shooting missiles at our planes.
But that's not good enough for some. Why not?”

A good question, and here is my answer. Most Americans believed that Iraq had WMD and that he had the potential to use them against us in the near future unless we reacted. This was, in fact, not correct. The WMD Bush assured Americans were there were NOT there after all, nor did it seem was the pre-war intelligence so certain either. Secondly, Americans were led to believe that Iraq was connected to 9/11 attacks. After the war, Bush admitted that this was not the case at all. Perhaps had the justification for the war been humanitarian intervention or some other factual and reasonable argument, I would have supported it. As it was, the rationale was fallacious, and the method of carrying it out severely flawed in my opinion.

3) “May I ask what Gore would've done after 9/11? May I also project the theory he would not have used ground troops? Evidence? Clarke repeated over and over in all his utterances that Clinton/Gore were inadequate to the threat of terror.”

So now you use Clarke as evidence against Gore? You are correct, Clarke was highliy critical of the Clinton administration. It is more likely that he is correct on both Clinton and Bush than he is correct on Clinton but lying about Bush. Of course, I have no idea what Gore would have done, although I hope he would have invaded Afghanistan as any president now had the means and opportunity to do so.

4) “The connections among Clarke, Beers and Wilson are obvious. Bringing O'Neill into the discussion only weakens your attempt at objectivity.”

Why is that? How could bringing O’Neil do anything but support my argument? Clake is making a claim that the administration disagrees with and I am trying validate that claim by citing others who believe the same thing. Perhaps I am misunderstanding something here?

5) “BTW, evidence to support Clarke's claims seems lacking in your thesis - or have I missed something?”

With respect Bill, I believe you have missed something. Nevertheless, I would be more than happy to outline my basic argument for clarity.
A. Evidence supporting Clarke’s claims comes from others in the administration who said the same thing (which you suggests “weakens” my attempt at objectivity, which I have already freely abdicated by claiming that I am an anti-Bush Democrat, by the way). B. Evidence also comes from the fact that acclaimed historian Bob Woodward said the same thing in his highly successful, and administration endorsed book, “Bush at War.”
C. I also cited Clarke’s 30 year history working directly for presidents of both parties to affirm his credibility, as well a pointed out how two seemingly contrary statements do not, upon closer analysis of the context, directly contradict each other.


Bill Heuisler - 3/27/2004

Mr. Moshe,
True, Clarke wasn't under oath in the press briefing, but he had no reasonable expectation of being IDed after a "background" briefing. Only the extraordinary circumstance of an appointed/retained member of an Administration's security advisory staff writing a book on highly sensative matters during a war and because of an election caused this exception to the press practise of protecting anonymous sources. His testimony under oath to Congress that (I hope) will be declassified soon will put this matter in proper perspective.

Your comparisons are asymetric. Fox News did no less or more than the other more liberal networks when they called the Florida election for Gore before the polls in the (Republican) panhandle were closed. My reference was to a deliberate withholding of information in order to make more money on a book. This conflict of interest would be shameful if only a political prize were at stake, but the potential millions of dollars in book sales makes CBS silence and Simon and Schuster moving up the release date rise to the level of an unlawful scheme or artifice to enrich the corporate coffers. Remember the outrage about the Gingrich book advance? Hypocrisy?

What Republicans would have done differently, given the circumstances, is unknowable. Conversely you disagree with what Republicans have done in Iraq because you don't think Saddam abetted terrorism. Most Americans disagree and feel a strong and visceral reaction to the man who invaded Kumait, harbored Yasin after the '93 World Trade Bombing, issued Abbas of Achille Lauro an Iraqi passport, tried to assassinate our President and violated our Cease-Fire agreement by shooting missiles at our planes.
But that's not good enough for some. Why not?

May I ask what Gore would've done after 9/11? May I also project the theory he would not have used ground troops? Evidence? Clarke repeated over and over in all his utterances that Clinton/Gore were inadequate to the threat of terror.

The connections among Clarke, Beers and Wilson are obvious. Bringing O'Neill into the discussion only weakens your attempt at objectivity. BTW, evidence to support Clarke's claims seems lacking in your thesis - or have I missed something?
Bill Heuisler


Marc "Adam Moshe" Bacharach - 3/27/2004

Bill,
Thank you for the interview, I had not seen it before but it certainly would appear, on the surface, to be complementary towards his administration (I say his since he was working for it at the time).

1) “this rather detailed beginning shows how Clarke - enthusiastically and with lavish minutiae - contradicted his book before the fact.”
Although the tone and opinion certainly sounds different, I don’t know if there is any factual contradiction. For example, Clarke told the 9/11 commission that "I believe the Bush administration in the first eight months considered terrorism an important issue, but not an urgent issue.” It should be noted that this is no different from what Bob Woodward reported in his flattering book about Bush, “Bush at War.” In it, Woodward reported that Bush “didn't have a sense of urgency” about Osama bin Laden or al Qaeda. Both of these accounts are even further corroborated by the former Treasury Secretary, who described an unengaged president with little focus other than on invading Iraq.
Clarke sent a memo to national security adviser Condoleezza Rice one week BEFORE 9/11, blasting the Defense Department for not doing enough against al-Qaeda and criticizing the CIA for holding up a plan to arm Predator drones. This is consistent with his current story.
In any event, I have not read the Clarke book but it seemed to me that the most damning part was the administrations drive to Iraq immediately after the attacks. It is Clarke’s statements on Iraq policy that seem the most cited, his statements about Bush before 9/11, while certainly negative, does not factually contradict the things he claims Bush did in the interview. Even if they did (which so far does not look like the case but that could change) he was talking to a journalist in the interview and was under oath before the commission. If he is lying, why believe the first but not the second rather than the other way around?
In the interview, he said that Bush had a strategy to eliminate al-Qaeda, “vigorously pursue the existing policy… [and] initiate a process to look at those issues which had been on the table for a couple of years and get them decided.”
Now, he says that Bush did not do enough and did not consider the issue urgent. You may disagree and correctly point out the contrary tone, but factually, the two beliefs are not in conflict to me anymore than other whistleblowers who praise their bosses on the job only to condemn them when the threat of being fired is removed.
2) “You say he explains there was pressure to lie/fudge/understate.”

Certainly not. I would never claim without evidence that Clarke was asked to lie about something. Understate might be more accurate but I would not use that term either. More accurately, I would say what Clarke has said: that he was asked to defend his boss against accusations that he (Bush) did nothing before 9/11.

3) “Reading the book carefully will not counter the weight of contrary evidence and only immerses you in questioned words.”

True, but I could say the same about the Bush administration. Thus far, two Republican insiders in the administration, men who were selected (or retained) by Bush have both said that Bush was determined to go to war with Iraq from the beginning. Listening to the administration carefully will not counter the weight of contrary evidence.

4) “My understanding is that Kerry's advisor (Beers?) has known both Clarke and the Niger guy, Wilson, for decades.”

Clarke helped shape U.S. policy on terrorism for 30 years, serving under President Reagan and the first President Bush. He was held over by President Clinton to be his terrorism czar, then held over again by the current President Bush. You may disagree with Clake, you may call him a partisan liar, but make no mistake, his credentials and his service to this country make any attempt to tarnish his credibility through association a bit far fetched.

5) “This is a rather large important issue that could effect the Presidency and our country's security. Name a similar conflict of interest Fox (or any other Medium) committed.”

In the interest of time and space, I will be brief, although there is so much more to be said.

The Chairman of Fox News is Roger Ailes, a former campaign strategist for George W. Bush's father, President George H.W. Bush (and advisor on many other Republican campaigns).
For Election Night 2000, Roger Ailes hired John Ellis to head the team responsible for analyzing the voter exit polls. John Ellis is the cousin of George W. Bush and Florida Governor Jeb Bush. Ellis spoke frequently with candidate George W. Bush and Governor Jeb Bush on election night about the results coming in from the Florida voter exit polls and he made the judgment to declare George W. Bush the winner of the Florida vote, making Fox News the first news outlet to call the state for Bush. All the other media outlets such as CNN, ABC, CBS, and NBC followed Fox's lead.
This is just one of so many examples, and I will not even begin to talk about Fox owner, Rupert Murdoch. Here is more information if you are interested.
http://www.fair.org/extra/0108/fox-main.html
http://www.cjr.org/archives.asp?url=/98/2/fox.asp
http://www.ojr.org/ojr/ethics/1017965787.php
http://cjr.org/archives.asp?url=/98/3/murdoch.asp
6) “Clinton's actions to counter terrorism were nearly all administrative…Hire personnel and propose amending 7 laws. Like most of his tenure, lots of words, little action.”

Even if what you say is true, how are administrative structuring and legislation “little action.” The entire creation of the Homeland Security Department and the inaction of the PATRIOT act (which has many of its roots in Clinton’s expansion of investigative powers) were exactly that: administrative structuring and legislation, and even many of THOSE were rejected by Republicans! Any serious attempt to combat terrorism requires enhanced bureaucratic regulations and administrative readjustment. Clinton did exactly that and after 9/11, so did Bush.

Frankly, I am not entirely sure what else Republicans would have done differently, given the circumstances. Or you not believe Colin Powell and many others who say that an attack on Afghanistan would have been politically and militarily unworkable before international and domestic support after 9/11?

7) “You argue against evidence; you have no counter evidence except the words of Clarke. Could you possibly be biased against the Bush Administration in this matter?”

Of course I am bias against the Bush administration, I disagree with their policy and am a Democrat. Similarly, you are equally bias in favor of the administration, presumably because you agree with their policy and are a Republican. Is there some reason why any of this is relevant?

In any event, how do I ague against evidence? You believe the administration is telling the truth and all others (like Clarke, and perhaps O’Neil?) are lying. I believe that the evidence suggests that the administration is, in fact, not being honest with the American people about when and why they decided to go to war in Iraq.

You may disagree with my statements and offer counter evidence in support of your positions, but to suggest that what I have said contains “no counter evidence except the words of Clarke” is an extremely narrow reading of my posts.


chris l pettit - 3/27/2004

Bill...Ben....

I am not sure how much we differ historically to be honest. I am sorry if I gave the impression that Islamic Law was the first starting point of international law...it surely was not. There are sources of international law and treaty law dating back to the Egyptian kingdoms, if not earlier...including the Chinese. I again urge you to get a copy of "Universalising International Law" by CG Weeramantry...it is quite enlightening. The fact is though, that while the European relics of the Roman Empire were suffering through what we call the Dark Ages, Eastern thought, specifically Islamic thought, is what kept Roman thought alive and flourishing. The common Western statement that Islamic legal thought was just a "holder" of Roman thought until it was rediscovered by the West is highly biased and simply untrue. There are several great Islamic jurists that expounded on Roman law treatises many times over. It was the Islamic jurists that spread Roman thought to the Europeans during the Crusades, and well after in Spain during the rule of the Church there. THere are several notes about how the Moorish troops offered shelter and food to the Crusaders while the Crusaders were busy murdering, raping and pillaging. The truth is, at the time, Islamic jurisprudence was much better developed than European thought. It was not until the breakthrough of the Renaissance in Italy that Roman thought was rediscovered, so Islamic jurisprudence plays a key role in the histopry of international law and law in general.

In response to your point about the way Islamic law has been fundamentalised today...you are absolutely correct. however, we could criticise Bush and Christianity in the US in same way, as well as Buddhists here where I am in Sri Lanka, Jews in Israel, and many other places. The fact that governments have corrupted and misinterpreted Scripture and thought is nothing new...and is precisely why there needs to be an internaitonal system built on the fundamental goodnesses in all of the faiths. The world is not going to cease having religious thought and simply become totally secularised...it can't due to human nature. What we can do is learn to reapect all faiths and learn that there are those that misinterpret the faiths (al Qaeda, Bush, Scalia, Sharon, Arafat, Yassin, on and on) who need to be reigned in.

Pax Romania may have been a period of upward mobility for the human race as a whole, but it did not have the global reach of Pax Britannia or our current Pax Americana (if you choose to term it that). And most of Rome's "great" achievements in law, rights, and scientific advances occurred during the period of rule by the Senate, not the emperors. Does this fact make a difference...to be honest I do not know. But the fact is that anyone who thinks that we have anything close to a democracy at the moment is kidding themselves (not to say Rome was a democracy). What we do have is an executive branch that is purely out of balance in separation of powers than the other branches...much as happened in Rome when the emperors took power. When this happens, rights are curtailed, wars are waged, and the empire starts to crumble (at least historically). But again, we are comparing a regional "empire" with a global one.

In regards to Pax Britannia...exactly what do you find so advancing about it? We "civilised" savages? Dont think so, we destroyed much of their native culture (see India, Sri Lanka, US, basically most of the British Empire). The British enslaved much of the human race that was not white...much as we currently economically enslave much of the human race. THe fact is that human advancement occurs in all times in all places, as long as academia and intellectual stimulation is allowed to flourish. Again to use the example of the Middle Ages, it was because the Catholic CHurch put such a damper on learning that advances were unable to occur. TO say that Pax Britannia was any sort of a successful and happy period in human history is to go against the historical record I believe. We can always ask the African nations, India and Pakistan, Sri Lanka, and all other nations currently suffering the consequences of British colonialism.

I think if you examine all cultures, you will find that indeed they are based on the same tenets: peace, altruism, etc. THat is why there could be a Declaration of Human Rights, a COnvention for the Rights of the Child, etc, under international law. In fact, the one nation that has reneged or is not a signatory to the most rights based conventions in the world is...the US. The rest of the world is way ahead of the US when it comes to integrating as part of a global community, recognising the impact of globalisation and respecting rights. The imposition of an empire has not been ultimately successful, and will continue to fail...what frustrates me is the old saying "those who do not learn from history will be doomed to repeat it." As these discussions indicate, there are those who simply cannot learn from the historical record and insist that they are different and wont make the same mistakes...then proceed to do so. Is this an ingrained human trait that we all must make our own mistakes? Maybe...I dont know, but the fact is that down the road someone else will be looking at this period and saying "It happened before, why didn't they learn from it?" and probably insisting that it wont happen on their watch.

Ben...how much has our meddling led to awful dictatorships in the Middle East and religious extremism? How many times have we overthrown quality governments that we did not agree with and installed dictators who oppress, only heightening religious fervor and extremism? What is Sharon doing now other than driving more young kids into the waiting arms of extremists? Are the extremists and religious fundamentalists wrong? Absolutely! Are we wrong? Absolutely! What is the solution? Well...a lot of states have voluntarily given up a great deal of their sovereignty...look at all the highly respected regional courts and governing bodies around the world. THe fact is that Bismarkian theory and realpolitik has hung around as long as it has directly because of US actions over the past half century. having traveled most of the world, I can tell you that there is a great eagerness in government and cultural circles to become a global community. Most people on the ground are just like you and I and are only interested in living in peace and living their lives...it is the elites and the fringe groups that make policy and shape the world. That is why tens of millions around the world could be opposed to the War in Iraq and it happened anyway. There could be no clearer example. Four Million people plus wrote letters to the ICJ for the nuclear advisory case opposing nuclear weapons and in polls around the world the overwhelming majority of citizens are anti-nuclear weapons, yet the governments still use them. What exists is a question of when we will cease to believe in empires and domination, recognise the goodnesses in every culture, get rid of our biases and become a peaceful global community.

A dream of Star Trek? Not if we can overcome our ignorances and strange desires to repeat history and actually work towards peace and understanding...and it starts with the education of our young ones.

Sorry I wont be around for the rest of the weekend...I enjoyed the discussion. Ben I am glad to hear that I give food for thought...I am aware of the flaws in my thinking and appreciate you guys making me constantly think and reassess my positions. Bill...you too my friend

Peace and solidarity

CP


Jonathan Dresner - 3/27/2004

Actually, Athens was something of a latecomer to the philosophy game (the pre-Socratics, and most of the big post-Socratics, were in Ionia, not Delphia), but was a trading and colonizing powerhouse, with some stupendous leadership leveraging Athenian resources into regional domination. Great prosperity does bring with it leisure, scholarship and drama being two great beneficiaries of profit and growth.


Derek Charles Catsam - 3/26/2004

Bill --
I'm at the OAH in Boston so responding is not feasible. Adam said some things I would have, though likely better. I'll try to get back on Monday if I'm not too swamped. Have a good weekend, even if you are wrong wrong wrong!!!
dc


Bill Heuisler - 3/26/2004

Mr. Pettit,
We differ from a historic perspective. Two points:
Pax Romanum and Pax Britannia were periods of immense upward mobility for the Human Race as a whole. Health, architecture, science, machinery, civic philosophy and the arts all flourished and spread during these times of relative peace. All peoples are not peaceful, wise and altruistic; sometimes an involuntary template saves lives and enriches societies.

Your assertion that much of our international legal scheme and moral standards are derived from islamic law principles neglects the fact that Islamic Law did not exist until the Seventh Century AD and ignores centuries of Greco-Roman legal/social thought, Hammurabic, Egyptian and Indo-Chinese laws and civic institutions. Mohammed said he extracted much of his wisdom and guidance from the Decalogue dating from 15-13th Century BC. Current Islamic Law is largely Medieval in source and Draconian in practise. Apologists for Islam often try to inflate the depth, importance and relative prosperity of life under the Emirs and Pashas, but they ignore history and they ignore the persistent injustice, squalor and stagnancy of life for the common man under Islam.
Bill Heuisler


Bill Heuisler - 3/26/2004

Mr. Moshe,
Welcome to the fray. Most of your comments can be answered by the following:
WASHINGTON — The following transcript documents a background briefing in early August 2002 by President Bush's former counterterrorism coordinator Richard A. Clarke to a handful of reporters, including Fox News' Jim Angle. In the conversation, cleared by the White House on Wednesday for distribution, Clarke describes the handover of intelligence from the Clinton administration to the Bush administration and the latter's decision to revise the U.S. approach to Al Qaeda. Clarke was named special adviser to the president for cyberspace security in October 2001. He resigned from his post in January 2003.

RICHARD CLARKE: Actually, I've got about seven points, let me just go through them quickly. Um, the first point, I think the overall point is, there was no plan on Al Qaeda that was passed from the Clinton administration to the Bush administration.

Second point is that the Clinton administration had a strategy in place, effectively dating from 1998. And there were a number of issues on the table since 1998. And they remained on the table when that administration went out of office — issues like aiding the Northern Alliance in Afghanistan, changing our Pakistan policy -- uh, changing our policy toward Uzbekistan. And in January 2001, the incoming Bush administration was briefed on the existing strategy. They were also briefed on these series of issues that had not been decided on in a couple of years.

And the third point is the Bush administration decided then, you know, in late January, to do two things. One, vigorously pursue the existing policy, including all of the lethal covert action findings, which we've now made public to some extent.

And the point is, while this big review was going on, there were still in effect, the lethal findings were still in effect. The second thing the administration decided to do is to initiate a process to look at those issues which had been on the table for a couple of years and get them decided.

So, point five, that process which was initiated in the first week in February, uh, decided in principle, uh in the spring to add to the existing Clinton strategy and to increase CIA resources, for example, for covert action, five-fold, to go after Al Qaeda.

The sixth point, the newly-appointed deputies — and you had to remember, the deputies didn't get into office until late March, early April. The deputies then tasked the development of the implementation details, uh, of these new decisions that they were endorsing, and sending out to the principals.

Over the course of the summer — last point — they developed implementation details, the principals met at the end of the summer, approved them in their first meeting, changed the strategy by authorizing the increase in funding five-fold, changing the policy on Pakistan, changing the policy on Uzbekistan, changing the policy on the Northern Alliance assistance.

And then changed the strategy from one of rollback with Al Qaeda over the course of five years, which it had been, to a new strategy that called for the rapid elimination of Al Qaeda. That is in fact the timeline.

QUESTION: When was that presented to the president?

CLARKE: Well, the president was briefed throughout this process.

QUESTION: But when was the final September 4 document? (interrupted) Was that presented to the president?

CLARKE: The document went to the president on September 10, I think.

QUESTION: What is your response to the suggestion in the [Aug. 12, 2002] Time [magazine] article that the Bush administration was unwilling to take on board the suggestions made in the Clinton administration because of animus against the — general animus against the foreign policy?

CLARKE: I think if there was a general animus that clouded their vision, they might not have kept the same guy dealing with terrorism issue. This is the one issue where the National Security Council leadership decided continuity was important and kept the same guy around, the same team in place. That doesn't sound like animus against uh the previous team to me.

JIM ANGLE: You're saying that the Bush administration did not stop anything that the Clinton administration was doing while it was making these decisions, and by the end of the summer had increased money for covert action five-fold. Is that correct?

CLARKE: All of that's correct.

There's more, but this rather detailed beginning shows how Clarke - enthusiastically and with lavish minutiae - contradicted his book before the fact. You say he explains there was pressure to lie/fudge/understate. In matters this important I will require more proof than the excuse of the defendant that he was told to lie. Think about it: If he's lying in the book, he must lie about his 8/02 briefing. Problem is, there are other Clarke writings/testimonies/statements that disagree also. Reading the book carefully will not counter the weight of contrary evidence and only immerses you in questioned words.

My understanding is that Kerry's advisor (Beers?) has known both Clarke and the Niger guy, Wilson, for decades.

This is a rather large important issue that could effect the Presidency and our country's security. Name a similar conflict of interest Fox (or any other Medium) committed.

Clinton's actions to counter terrorism were nearly all administrative: Omnibus Act, Fair Credit Act, allow pen registers, audit motel, telephony and funds. Ask for AG threat assessment, a BATF report and replace the Murrah building. Hire personnel and propose amending 7 laws.
Like most of his tenure, lots of words, little action.

Clarke's 8/02 press briefing and other comments show the Bush Administration was acting prior to 9/11. In fact he mentions the terrorism report was delivered on 9/10.

You argue against evidence; you have no counter evidence except the words of Clarke. Could you possibly be biased against the Bush Administration in this matter? Why?
Bill Heuisler


Ben H. Severance - 3/26/2004

A minus only because Nicias botched the military expedition against Syracuse.

And how quickly you forget the rich political and cultural legacy of Athens: art and architecture, drama and comedy, philosophy and science, and of course democracy. To be sure, one must qualify these contributions, and other city-states had their intellectual moments (expect totalitarian Sparta), but Athens was unquestionably the creative center of the Greek world. The West owes that Polis a great deal, just as future generations will pay homage to the U.S. for the many great things it has done and is doing. And the good WILL outweigh the bad.


Ben H. Severance - 3/26/2004

I do wish the U.S. had effected regime change in 1991. I and my fellow officers in the 24th IN Div (Mech) all thought the cease-fire after 100 hours of ground war produced a hollow victory. We thought we should have assisted the Shiitte uprising in Basra and the Kurdish insurrection in the North. But Bush Sr. fell victim to the Vietnam syndrome. And it was galling to watch that SOB Saddam jerk our chain for the next twelve years.


Ben H. Severance - 3/26/2004

I would rather the U.S. not have to station troops in South Korea at all, but they are there with that republic's permission, even insistence, despite the natural popular distaste for the presence of a foreign army on native soil. As for a war with the North, that remains to be seen, as does your assumption that the South would be destroyed in such an event.

It is vogue in many circles to lambast the U.S. for its self-appointed role as world policeman, but the fact is that most nations expect American vigilance and take comfort in it, even as they criticize, fairly and unfairly, the various abuses of power that invariably go with that task. How little credit the U.S. gets for all the armed conflict it has prevented simply by resolutely walking its global beat. But then no one can prove what didn't happen, so America gets criticized for an activist foreign policy that seems to disrupt more than it pacifies. Maybe this country should just let Pakistan and India engage in nuclear war, then people like you might appreciate just how successful and crucial U.S. peacekeeping has been ever since the end of World War Two. It isn't perfect, but big stick diplomacy, in the hands of a responsible and generally benevolent nation like the U.S., is an effective means of preserving the overall peace and good order on this planet.


Ben H. Severance - 3/26/2004

You have provided much food for thought, especially on the changing concepts of sovereignty; it will take time to digest. Maybe the world will one day be organized politically like some version of the Star Trek Federation. In the meantime, Bismarckian realpolitik continues to shape foreign policy, and the civilized world must deal seriously with dangerous and fanatical forces, namely Islamic terrorists and their supporters. I think we delude ourselves when we ignore that a Kulturkampf exists between the West and the Arab world, one initiated by muslim extremists and fueled by religious fervor and nationalism (factors that militate against the disappearance of sovereignty any time soon). I am not a cultural relativist. I see no merit in the stagnant political culture, be it theocracy or monarchy, that holds sway over much of the Middle East. Such an environment produces terrorism, stifles freedom, and barely maintains order. I understand that the legacy of western colonialism and economic exploitation contributes greatly to the hatred many Arabs feel toward western civilization, but an apology for past wrongs will accomplish nothing. What is needed is a major realignment of power into the hands of a secularized, commerce-oriented Arab middle-class. This requires the elimination of terrorists and the muzzling of fundamentalism, neither of which can be rationally negotiated with by such well-intentioned bodies as the United Nations. And at present, because no one else is doing so, U.S. military coercion is needed to provide the requisite stability. It would be nice if an Iraqi version of Ataturk emerged to transform the scene into the highly satisfying republic that Turkey has become. And Kemal democratized through force (Rousseu is not dead!). Until then, the U.S. acts as an essential guardian, one that incidentally also tempers, to a certain extent, the Likud mentality in Israel. But enough; I am multiplying my words.


Marc "Adam Moshe" Bacharach - 3/26/2004

Bill,
I hope you don’t mind if I join in the conversation and respond to some of your points, even if they were not directed towards me:

1)It matters a great deal that Clarke and the Kerry advisor are close.

I do not believe that matters a great deal, especially since they become friends long after Kerry decided to run for president. It would be far better for the Republicans if Clark had joined the Kerry team but since he didn’t, all they can do is suggest that one of his longtime friends advises Kerry on foreign policy and thus Clark must be lying in order to beat Bush? Sounds a little too conspiratorial for my taste. You cite a supporter of Bush’s who works in Washington, and I’ll bet they can be connected to someone who is connected with the administration… so what? Attacking someone’s credibility simply for being friends with someone who is against Bush is evidence of nothing to me.

It is true, many politicians use connections to their advantage, but those are usually used to promote their character, not their credibility on a particular issue.

You are right about one thing: “At the very least, timing casts doubt on motive, does it not?”

I agree 100%, this does cast doubt and therefore the book must be read carefully. However, such doubt does not translate into automatic rejection of the evidence.

2)It is a serious conflict of interest when a TV Network airs an uncritical show on a book published by the same company as the Network

Aside from the fact that the so-called liberal media is no more likely to expose conflicts of interest than Fox News (I could spend pages talking about the connection the owner of Fox News has with many business and corporations hostile to the Democratic Party), you are right, the news had an obligation to divulge their conflict of interest. This says nothing about Clark or his book, but it does say a lot about how the for-profit media works in this country.

3) I'm not going to do your homework for you. Read Clarke's August 2002 press briefing where he contradicts the main tenets of this year's book and then ask yourself which is the lie. Read his complimentary resignation letter and ask yourself where's the lie. Read Clarke quotes in other books about the Bush Administration and ask which is the lie. Or is Clarke merely schizophrenic?

I am afraid you are going to have to do some homework in order to demonstrate your argument. I find nothing inconstant with Clark’s comments. When he worked under Bush, he was asked to highlight the positive things Bush has done so he did just that in a latter which he was requested to write. Once he was no longer working for the administration, he did not recant the things he said, but he was now free to focus on the more critical aspects of the administration, which is what he did in his book.

4) The Clinton Administration did nothing substantive after any of the terrorist attacks.

This is simply factually incorrect. In fact, Clinton did more to combat terrorism than any other president in American history. You may argue that what he did was not enough or he should have done something more, but to argue that he did nothing it incorrect.
Here is a brief list (many of which were opposed by Republicans at the time)
http://www.angelfire.com/hi5/pearly/htmls/bill-terrorism.html

The complaint against Bush is that despite the outgoing administrations warnings about terrorism and bin Laden (which officials acknowledge they gave) Bush paid no attention to it before 9/11. For the record, I do not blame Bush for 9/11. However, I find it utterly disgusting that many conservatives choose to blame Clinton despite the reality that it was those same conservatives who condemned him on a daily basis for what he did do!


John E. Moser - 3/26/2004

It's worth remembering what Bush I got for his "forceful, but level-headed foreign policy." In 1992 Al Gore said on the campaign trail (and I'm paraphrasing, but only slightly), "If these guys are such foreign policy whizzes, then why is Saddam Hussein still running things in Iraq?"


chris l pettit - 3/26/2004

I thank both of you honorable gentlemen for the discussion. Mr. Severance, I would urge you to take a good hard look at the global indicators regarding our nation. Here is a decent article on the topic...

http://www.counterpunch.org/alam03232004.html

(to be honest I would not usually post articles from counterpunch, but this article is quite good and actually hits the right social indicators...plus I can personally vouch for the credibility of the author)

My next point of fact draws upon historical analysis and foreign policy. When you speak of the goodness of our nation, everything seems to be framed in terms of national sovereignty. part of my work is geared at increasing awareness of international law and obligations in populations, especially the younger generations. It worries me when I see figures like the one stating 94% of US adults and 96% of US children have no idea what the Universal Declaration of Human Rights is or when it was signed (they no it exists, just not what it says, does or how long it has been around). What I see when I note arguments dedicated to sovereignty and the US "bringing" our culture to "failed" cultures, or those "less fortunate" is, whether it is intentional or not, a position that harkens back to a colonial or imperial mindset. This may be the farthest from what is intentioned and I know this, but when one steps back and really looks at the indicators, one sees that the US is really not much better or worse overall than a lot of nations. We phrase all these dicussions in the goodness we can bring to other nations, and we can, i give you that there are a lot of wonderful things about our nation, but the fact is that there are a lot of really nasty things that I would not wish upon anyone. We also tend to negate and ignore the great things that other cultures have to offer us. Judge CG Weeramantry, former VP of the ICJ, and my mentor, just authored a great text on the Universalising of International Law. Do we really want some sort of Pax Americana where we will have to deal with those who view us as oppressors and forcing our ideals upon them, even if we are only trying to help, or do we want to work towards a culture that takes the best of all nations and cultures and comes together as an international and global community built on peace and human rights that discards the outdated notion of sovereignty. This thought may be dismissed as ideological, and I admit that I am "on the fringe" as it were, and am probably one of those academics that is never satisfied. THis is true...I am a proponent of doing away with much of the governmental structure we currently have and starting over with the Constitution because I believe that we have become that which we first separated from. There is not a whole lot of difference between the two main parties right now, and those are the only two feasible choices unless there are major changes made.

As an ending note on Islamic culture in particular...many people do not realise that much of our international legal scheme and moral standards are derived from islamic law principles. THere are Islamic jurists that predate Grotius by 800 years and he drew heavily from their writings in composing his famous treatise in formulating the very sovereignty system you draw from for arguments about promoting our "great" nation to others. Upon closer reading of Grotius, one discovers that he had a set of morals that he thought nations should all agree on and ascribe to, and that he warns about the dangers of concentrating too much on national sovereignty. He warns against the very evils that Hobbes tends to propound and machiavelli (actually those who misinterpret hem) takes even further.

If you choose to advocate the "global enforcer" image of the US, that is your decision and we can disagree on the merits of the claim, but I would hope that you would take an objective look at all the factors and see if it is possible to reconcile the goods with the bads in imposing our style of governance on others. It is my opinion that it is a better path to try and build a universal system based on a)the fundamental tenets shared by all cultures and , b) the positives offered to the world by each separate culture or nation. That is what most human rights and international lawyers work towards and necessitates a surrendering of sovereignty and the nation-state ideal...and the accompanying thought that any one nation is "superior" to any other.

On terrorism and nuclear weapons...we will need an international authority that will deal with these issues as criminal matters and deal with both bringing the terrorists to face their crimes before an impartial system of justice and addressing the inequalities at the root of the cause of terrorism before any of this is ever resolved.

CP


Bill Heuisler - 3/25/2004

Derek,
If you wish to have a civil discourse please address my arguments. You've begun using the term ad hominum in every post again. When a public person often contradicts himself we can assume he is either incompetant or lying. There's nothing ad hominum about pointing this out.

1)It matters a great deal that Clarke and the Kerry advisor are close. The Senate Judiciary Committee uses connections and business relationships to critique judicial appointments; many politicians point proudly to close connections with people like Einstein, Oppenheimer, Hoover, Warren, MLK, JFK, Fulbright, Reagan, etc. Why is this any different? Do some connections have a different odor, sanctification, measure or weight? Do connections illustrate nothing at all? Your jaundiced eye fails you. Also, this is the first time I remember where a Senior Policy Advisor in the Executive Branch resigned and published a "tell-all" book about the recent inner workings of his administration - during a political campaign and during a war that was a subject of his advisory job - while we're still fighting the war. At the very least, timing casts doubt on motive, does it not?

2)It is a serious conflict of interest when a TV Network airs an uncritical show on a book published by the same company as the Network - and doesn't bother to mention the connection. It's revealing that other Liberal media
didn't mention the conflict (until Drudge) and then passed the matter off as unimportant - even though it involved a presidential campaign and cast doubts on the inner decisions of our country while at war.

3) I'm not going to do your homework for you. Read Clarke's August 2002 press briefing where he contradicts the main tenets of this year's book and then ask yourself which is the lie. Read his complimentary resignation letter and ask yourself where's the lie. Read Clarke quotes in other books about the Bush Administration and ask which is the lie. Or is Clarke merely schizophrenic?

4) The Clinton Administration did nothing substantive after any of the terrorist attacks. Clarke's Press Briefing of 8/2002 spells out exactly what the Clinton Administration did not do - and what the GW Bush Administration was doing, prior to and after 9/11. Again, do your homework instead of wasting time on polemics.
BTW, when does your book hit the street?
Bill


Ben H. Severance - 3/25/2004

Agreed. Bush I was preferable to Bush II. With daddy you got forceful, but level-headed foreign policy, one where reassuring the international community of America's overall peacefulness was important. With dubya, there is a disturbing arrogance (and a certain amount of duplicity) to how his administration conducts itself. Moreover, I always got the feeling that Bush I was his own man, whereas Bush II seems rather submissive to the dominant personalities around him (or maybe its his infantile indifference). Anyway...


Dan A Fox - 3/25/2004

I am ending this on my part. You have really taken this away from the main topic - imperialism. I has hpong for some good debates and inciteful comments, but this is starting to get personal.


David C Battle - 3/25/2004

What do you mean you're "dissapointed" in my views? Are you my mother? Are you a school teacher?

And what about this "Most of Congress" business of yours?

Is "most of Congress" who I'm talking about?

Or rather am I talking about the people who are marching "against the war" today? Is that "most of Congress"? or is that a bunch of America-hating, dictator supporting, terror apologizing unemployed anarcho/hippies for peace?

I say the latter. And they were marching long before Bush's "bunch of lies" were "discovered." (Big quotes around 'discovered.'

(As if there IS war. Terrorists blowing up soft targets don't make a "war". The WAR IS OVER. DUH.)


Derek Charles Catsam - 3/25/2004

Bill --
Yes, the Clinton administration did "nothing" after Cole. Nonsense, but it fits your partisanship. What, praytell, would the GOP have allowed Clinton to do? declare a war on terror? Nive revisionism, but again, simple nonsense.
Beers got Clark and Wilson their jobs? Huh? Clark, a thirty year veteran in government? And again -- so what? Slimy innuendo ain't an argument Bill. It barely qualifies as a harangue. Why aren't our dealoing with the substance here, why the ad hominem? So what if Beers (who resigned from the Bush administration) now works for Kerry -- so what? So Kerry people (who wotrked unfer the current admin) can't have views but Bush people can? Beers and Clark (who worked for reagan and Bush the elder as well as Clinton) aren't legit on terrorism but Bill Heuisler from Tucson is? (Hey, if arguing the merits and rather the biography is your thing -- and so far it is your sole line of argumentation -- then your bio is as relevant as Beers' or Clark's).
Which previous statements, briefings, etc? Beyond the GOP slander machine, you've seen a FULL record of Clark's statements and briefings (For the reading audience -- the answer to that is no. Bill's trying to play to the rafters. His material, however, is for the gutters.) Nice Bellislian selective reading of sources. Again, nonsense. But I would not want to insult your intelligence.
Wait, so CBS deciding when to release a boom that was already written is evidence of malfeasance? Again, book already written. Have you evidence that what he wrote is different now as opposed to when the book was supposed to come out? Or is this more argument by innuendo. You have not shown conflict of interest. So far, it's not like there was duck hunting with the VP or anything going on here. Now that, I'm sure we both admit, would look untoward. I suppose you would like for the book to come out after the election as the admin wants so many 9-11 disclosures. Sigh. What's good for America. As long as it's good for the GOP, right? Again -- the book was already written, they pushed up the release date.
Why is it that the standard you hold up for critics of the GOP as lying is so very much lower than those you hold up for that same GOP?
Meanwhile, the "liberal media" is still no such thing. Are you actually saying the WSJ's news division does not reflect its general editorial stance any more or less than the Times' new division reflects its? OOohh, the Big Thre news anchore. Wow. Well that seals it. The entire media must be liberal. Because Brokaw, Jennings and Rather are the entire media.
I've seen swiss cheese with less holes.
dc


David Lion Salmanson - 3/24/2004

Well, I liked it I heck of a lot better under Bush I than Bush II. When people think you are acting in your best interests, they cooperate and get on board which lessens your burden. However, when they resent you, things tend to go badly and your burden is much harder. Consider India just after the Mutiny. Many welcomed the British and hoped that they would restore order, grow the economy, provide capital investment, etc. But what they got instead were salt taxes, the desctruction of domestic industries, and famine. The wonder of India really isn't that it took them so long to throw off the British yoke, the wonder is - given how divided they were how quickly they managed it. Call it a cautionary fable.


Dan A Fox - 3/24/2004

Concerning you main point about “bringing democracy to the middle east”, this is really just a forum for you to “hold the Left accountable for their positions at every opportunity” - no wonder I have a long face. How can we debate anything if you are so closed minded and righteous about your position. Based on this point of view, no one can even debate anything with someone so closed minded. I thought this site was geared more for open-minded debates, not just restating your point of view.
The issue concerning the left and right have virtually diametrical positions vis a vis the future of democracy in Iraq has never been an issue. The point is many believe Bush led us to war under a bunch of lies. If I am not mistaken most of congress - left and right initially backed the war based on Bush's first account of WMD. It was only after Bush recanted that people began to doubt Bush’s intentions.
I thought the war with Iraq was all about WMD, then Bush turned around and added this as part of the War on Terrorism. I missed the point where right-wingers bringing democracy to the middle east. Isn't this everything you've been begging for all these decades?
I am very disappointed in your views. How can we debate facts or issues if you hold such mindless views and place blame on the left? Are we not all Americans? Is the left or right to blame for everything that is wrong in America or the world? Do you never question those in power?
Back to the main point, “bringing democracy to the middle east”, in Bush’s State of the Union speech last year, he spoke of war with Iraq based on WMD, not “bringing democracy to the middle east”. Democracy is a by-product of the war, and both left and right would prefer to have more democracies in the Middle East, or do you believe the left supports the extremists regions of the world?


David C Battle - 3/24/2004

You love to cite history to excuse your policies today. But you needn't, because I already stipulated to your main point--that during the Cold War we did unsavory things.

So why don't you respond to my main point? and that is, why the sudden turn around, the long face, when you see rightwingers bringing democracy to the middle east. Isn't this everything you've been begging for all these decades?

Yes, I do make it about Left and Right. TODAY, the left and right have virtually diametrical positions vis a vis the future of democracy in Iraq. But for the Left, Saddam would still be there. But for the Right, the people of Iraq have the possibility for real democracy. I will hold the Left accountable for their positions at every opportunity.

So answer the question. Why the Long face?


Derek Charles Catsam - 3/24/2004

I want to thank everyone for the smart, insightful, interesting, thought-provoking and sometimes tendentious comments. I want to reply to most of them with my own thoughts, but I have been finishing my manuscript and now am on the road on the way to OAH.
Thanks --
dc


Ben H. Severance - 3/24/2004

Well said. I certainly set myself up for that one. But history offers valuable lessons in how to avoid mistakes, in this case Athens' fall. It is not a prescription for inevitable repetition. The U.S. does treat the United Nations like the Delian League, but it does so because there are Spartans and Persians (imperfect analogies for terrorism and the nuclear danger) threatening conquest and destruction. Like Athens then, America is now the best equipped to safeguard the lesser powers. And since the U.S. is providing the military security (similar to Athenian triremes), then it should get the bigger voice in decision-making. The current governments of France, Germany, and Russia don't give a damn about Iraq, they are resentful and jealous of U.S. power. And America's swift conquest of Iraq only demonstrates that the "Yankee" will be dominating international diplomacy for many more years to come. And that is for the best.


Bill Heuisler - 3/24/2004

Derek,
The "vets" I referred to were the majority of the fifty or so unkept demonstrators who were wearing cammies and boonie hats while desecrating the flag, the coffins and our honored dead here in Tucson. Some of these valiant souls were known to me from political and law enforcement experience. Few, if any, have military experience.

Rand Beers, Joe Wilson and Richard Clarke are all close friends who spent eight years under Clinton doing nothing during the Cole, first World Trade bombing, Somalia and the Embassy bombings. Beers got Clarke and Wilson their jobs. He now is a top adviser in the Kerry campaign.

Lying? He is refuted by his own quotes in previous books and in his resignation letter, but the largest refutation of Clarke is the little-noted allusion in Newsweek 3/29, that "a federal judge severely chastised the FBI for improperly seeking permission to wiretap terrorists during the Bush administration's first few months." These weren't just terrorists, they were Al Qaeda and they were plotting highjacks. How come nobody named the judge? Don't FBI wiretaps prove the opposite of Clarke's claims? The FBI works for DOJ, remember.

Finally the media. Viacom, CBS and Simon Schuster decided to push up the original April release date of Clarke's book to March to coincide with the 9/11 hearings. CBS never mentioned the conflict of interest in an uncritical 60 Minutes promo of Clarke's book. They didn't think it was important. Drudge had to break the story. Most of your media examples chose to ignore it.

Please don't insult my intelligence with protestations; you know better. Or you should. TV assignments Editors and newspaper City Desks make the daily decisions about what is news and what isn't. When I talk about Leftist enablers, I'm referring to WSJ's news coverage, for instance, not their editorial pages. And please don't try to tell me the big three news anchors aren't Libs, two have already admitted it. Read up on Clarke's previous statements, briefings and written statements that contradict his new book. Tell me how both can be true.
Bill


Charles Lee Geshekter - 3/24/2004

What we're doing in Iraq is an attempt to replace a thuggish, violent post-colonial regime of murderers who threaten US interests in a key area of the world. Will we possibly get something different? Chances are slim.


David Lion Salmanson - 3/24/2004

Yeah, except Pericles was rather explicit to the other members of the Delian League that they did not have a say in how their money was spent- it was the old taxation w/out representation game all over again. What I fear is a repeat of Athens' fall.


David Lion Salmanson - 3/24/2004

Of course, they don't say things like "our goal is a client state" they say things like "we look forward to working with a democratically elected Iraqi government", which once we unpack that assumption we find that it actually means, "we look forward to working with a government that supports our interests and will do just about anything to ensure that will happen. For example, administration officials keep telling us that Israel and Iraq will form cornerstones that will spread Democracy in the Middle East. It is awfully difficult to see a democratically elected Iraq working hand in hand with any democratically elected Israeli government. So what kind of incentives and threats will the US throw out there. And our history in the area isn't so hot. I'm surprised there have not been more comparisons to Iran in the 50s yet.
And yes, Italy was a client state after World War II -at least into the 60s -, as the massive interference in domestic Italian politics both covert and overt clearly shows. The US simply would not let an Italian government not friendly to its interests come into power. It did not have to be this way, just as the Polish government did not have to become a proxy government for Direct Soviet rule (notice the gradations I am laying out?)
Japan, absolutely a client state, they didn't even have their own defense force but relied completely on the United States. I don't think Germany was a client state but an ally from the formation of the Federal Republic on. The US appears not to have interfered (or interfered much, especially compared to the Italian case) and the Germans pursued many independent foreign and domestic policies.


Ben H. Severance - 3/24/2004

Mr. Pettit:

I thank you for your comments; wordplay can be extremely frustrating at times. Perhaps I am naive, but I have grown fatigued by the all too frequent criticism of virtually every decision this country makes on foreign policy. Academia seems to verge on cynicism in its analysis of the U.S. role in world affairs. In this sense, I can empathize with the often intemperate comments by such readers as Mr. Battle. I have many objections to particular aspects of the invasion of Iraq (and the Bush Administration has displayed an unhealthy obsession with that country), but not to the overall notion of America as an active, global enforcer--a kind of Pax Americana. To be sure, such a posture risks the pitfalls of Hubris (and it is here that I especially applaud the voices of protest), but I tend to think of the U.S. in much the same way that Pericles thought of Athens. America is a superior culture and civilization, one where democratic principles combined with capitalistic ingenuity have produced more liberty and prosperity than ever before. This is not only worth defending, but exporting. This latter endeavor certainly requires close supervision, but it should not be thwarted.


John E. Moser - 3/24/2004

Certainly not. However, I was responding to this comment by Mr. Salmanson:

"I believe that many - but not all - spokespeople for the administation have to a greater or lesser degree indicated that the goal for Iraq is an American client state."

As this has been the only evidence put forward for the United States seeking a "client state" in Iraq, it seemed like something worth pursuing.


Name Removed at Poster's Request - 3/24/2004

Yes.


Name Removed at Poster's Request - 3/24/2004

Chris,
Back in another forum you wrote that you'd send me articles related to international trade agreements and sovereignty. If you're still willing to do so, please send them to my address at gadmthrawn@mindspring.com
Thanks.
- Josh


Ralph E. Luker - 3/24/2004

John, Surely you jest! Do you always take official statements at face value? Do you believe that all politicians always tell the truth?


Jesse David Lamovsky - 3/23/2004

"Maybe" is probably the correct way to put it. Certainly no one went into Iraq with the anticipation of making the country an imperial possession, along the lines of sub-saharan Africa post-1884. Then again, as Mr. Salmanson pointed out, the British didn't originally enter India with the intention of making the subcontinent the crown jewel of their Empire. The Roman Empire, generally, was built along constantly shifting definitions of "national security", much like ours.

In short, the United States may be unwittingly engaged in empire-building, without necessarily engaging in "emperialism.". Or perhaps we're an empire already, and just don't want to admit it. Remember, Americans have been having this kind of discussion ever since 1898.


chris l pettit - 3/23/2004

Seeing as no one seems to have complaints about the first post...

Mr Battle…guys,

Let me try and clarify and explain something to you. Working in international human rights law, credibility is all you have. There are so many people trying to tear you and those you are trying to protect down in the name of protecting and advancing their own selfish and greedy interests that infringe upon basic human rights. You have to be able to have the reputation of honesty, clarity, and grasp of language and ideas. This is why language is so important and that it is so important that we as scholars define our terms. The credibility issue does not only exist in human rights law, although I can testify that it is greatly amplified since one slip and people can use it against you even though you are human and fallible just like they are, it exists in every discipline.

When I first got into my chosen life, I had a geshe (Buddhist mentor, kind of a PhD) who used to drum into my head the fact that as soon as I started thinking that it was about what I thought or found people following me, I should ask myself what I was doing wrong. I find this thought very relevant to our discussion because the minute you start writing things in an emotional state and employing terms that are not rationally defined and explained, but simply used to gain political points, it stops being about ideas that you want to get across to others and starts being about you and what you think and why you are right. This has no place in academia and open debate. It has its hole on the Rush Limbaugh and Al Franken dials of talk radio, where it should stay buried and not be allowed to infringe upon intelligent academic discourse. This is not to say that it does not happen. All of us, including myself, are guilty of letting things get out of hand once in a while. We are human…thus we make mistakes and are prone to moments of irrational emotional thought. It is when you see those individuals who use the same emotional irrationality and political baiting week after week, like PM Carpenter, or Daniel Pipes, or several individuals who post on this board that you know that these individuals are not quality academics who care about their ideas…they care about being right. The ideas become secondary, which means that they are more inclined to not take advice and not see holes in their arguments (which everyone has). It is only when you can be rational and accurately define the terms that you are using that intelligent discourse can ensue. There are words that should not be used because there meanings are so twisted out of originality and those using them have no true knowledge of meaning or historical context, but there are also those words that should be used and can be powerful indictments if properly defined because of their ramifications (like unilateralism or imperialism in my last post). These words, as Derek states, are supposed to have concrete meanings and can if they are properly defined and the circumstances that they are used to describe properly explained as to how they fit the definition. We must not be sloppy in our language. It is only through intelligent discourse that we ever learn anything.

Mr. Battle and Mr. Severance are allowed their optimistic yet rather naive outlooks on Iraq. They attempt to support their points through explanations utilising narrow definitions of terms and interpretations of history, as is often the case with conservative commentators. The difference is that Mr. Severance sets out his terms in a much more detailed fashion than Mr. Battle, who utilizes generalization, exagerration, and political attacks to make his point. THis black and white vision simply is not congruent to society and historical study. Still, he is entitled to it. Mr. Severance seems rather reluctant to yet recognise that the conflict in Iraq follows a distinctive pattern of what many would term US imperialism over the past 100+ years. He is entitled to this view and, as said before, defines his terms properly, if more narrowly than many of the rest of us do. At least the terms are properly defined and explained. We can disagree about the narrowness of interpretation or definition, but at least the words are not ambiguous or sloppily used, exactly that topic that was the focus of Derek's article.

The debate about client states is a perfect example of a difference in defintions and disagreement over how to define certain situations. Yes, Mr. Battle, I would term post war Japan Italy and Germany client states, and believe that there is plenty of historical evidence to support my definition, but my definition is obviously broader than yours is, and your definition of what constitutes an independent state is much broader than mine. THe difference is in the rights afforded to the citizens and their government and the amount of influence the foreign power has. As a supporter of American hegemony, you seem to favor more dependence on American military might, economics, and administrative structure and less independence for citizens of nations to determine their own futures and government, especially if its interests may be different than those of the current US government. This is acceptable, just define your tems instead of relying on generalities and words that are easily misinterpreted.


Dan A Fox - 3/23/2004

Have you not done any research? We backed a lot of Middle East countries/factions for years, but only as long as it benefited the US. Then we just dropped them. Do not take this issue and make it a left vs. right. Whenever we go to war, all sides must be voiced, and all concerns should be heard. Life is something we cannot take back.
I am afraid people are trivializing this war. Because someone voices an opinion that differs from Bush or the right, does not make them Anti-American. If anything that makes them more American. Where would we be as a nation if we never questioned our leaders. Is this not one of the things we are for? It seems to me when other nations try to silence those indivuals or groups who to not agree with current policies, we shout foul, and raise our voices for more freedom. Do not try to shut someone up because they disagree. If anything you should listen with as much of an unbiased ear as possible, and entertain the possibility that they may be right. I am not trying to convince anyone this war is right or wrong, but if want to bring to bring our freedoms to another nation, we must set the right example. We must practice what we preach.


Jonathan Dresner - 3/23/2004

I don't think anyone in history has ever publicly stated that a "client state" is the goal, but there have been lots of client states through history, nominally independent polities which nonetheless function to serve the needs and goals of a more powerful state rather than the best interests of their own citizens.


Jonathan Dresner - 3/23/2004

Maybe. Sort of.


John E. Moser - 3/23/2004

I don't recall hearing anyone from the administration say that "the goal for Iraq is an American client state." I have heard it said repeatedly that Iraq is to be a constitutional democracy. Is Mr. Salmanson suggesting that this is the same thing?


David C Battle - 3/23/2004

Post-War Germany must be a "client state." Post-war Japan must be a "client state." Post-war Italy must be a "client state."


David C Battle - 3/23/2004

How many years have we heard the line about how Arabs hate the U.S. for it's "evil" foreign policy in the middle east? Decades.

What evil policies, I'd ask. Buying oil at market prices is inhumane? The usual response was that we supported dictatorships over there, and that's causing the arabs to hate us. Ok. Perhaps, perhaps.

But in the context of the Cold War, however, it might have made sense to prevent Soviet encroachment. That was the usual response by conservatives. It was debatable, I'll grant the Left that.

Nonetheless, today we have the overthrow of one the most brutal dictatorships ever seen on this planet--a dictatorship the Left took great pleasure in accusing the U.S. of installing--and we have replaced it with the only free and democratic government the people of Iraq has seen in their entire 5,000 year history. It's exactly what we did in Germany 50 years ago. And in Japan. No difference.

But, predictably, the same Leftist, blame-America-first crowd, instead of praising this apparent turnabout in U.S. foreign policy, condemn it instead.

So what do you want? Was it not the evil policy of supporting dictators that you hated so much? Was it not your only and pure desire to see democracy flourish for all the little brown peoples of the earth?

I can't say I'm surprised by your conflicting messages. I've always suspected that behind all your faux concern for "human rights" and "democracy for little brown peoples" slogans was just cover for your anti-Americanism. This proves it as far as I'm concerned.

When are you going to get your story straight?


Ben H. Severance - 3/23/2004

No.


Ben H. Severance - 3/23/2004

It remains to be seen whether the U.S. invasion and current occupation of Iraq is imperialism. Presently, the U.S. military is engaged in necessary reconstruction efforts, and nation-building, a fact that Mr. Catsam rightly wishes that we could all just admit. And if a viable Iraqi republic is formed, then we could all be describing this war as a exceptional case of the ends justifying the means. To be sure, the Bush administration's rationale for invading in the first place has proved unfounded, but there is, nonetheless, potential for a better Iraqi future. The creation of a stable Iraq, one where a middle-class can blossom, is an excellent plan for promoting peace and progress in the Middle East. (To this end, I applaud U.S. efforts to develop an Iraqi constabulary, for political legitimacy requires control over the means of law enforcement.)

Perhaps the administration should simply be more forthright and make the removal of dictators its raison d 'etre, a laudable albeit expensive policy. Call it a return to Wilsonian thinking, but don't call it imperialism. Is it imperialistic for America to have maintained a 40,000 soldier garrison in South Korea for the last fifty years? Does anyone regard South Korea as a U.S. province? Is not South Korea better off as a capitalistic republic (under U.S. protection) than an oppressed member of its totalitarian neighbor to the north? And has America not used Kuwait as a military assembling area since 1991? Another colony? No, these nations are fully sovereign, as Iraq may also be in the years ahead. Now, should Iraq be exploited by Halliburton and the Dick Cheney types of the world, then charges of economic imperialism may have merit, but as it stands now, the Bush Doctrine is not one of imperialism. Cavalier foreign policy where the potential for mistakes is high, yes, but imperialism where political ownership is the goal, no.


David Lion Salmanson - 3/23/2004

Derek,
Many definitions of Imperialism include the creation of client states pliable to the imperial power's interests, think Britain's first hundred years in India under the BEI/Raj or the Fante until the end of the Ashanti wars and the formation of a formal colonial government. I believe that many - but not all - spokespeople for the administation have to a greater or lesser degree indicated that the goal for Iraq is an American client state. I would include that under Imperialism.


Ben H. Severance - 3/23/2004

Keep up the good critiques. We can't let jingoism stifle patriotic dissent. Loyal opposition is essential to democratic politics, and wholly American.


chris l pettit - 3/23/2004

Derek...

In previous conversations and articles, I have agreed with probably a majority of your viewpoints and respect your opinions on topics. however, I think that we agree in part and disagree in part on this issue. I do think that the reason we disagree partly plays into what you are saying in this article and I hope to be articulate enough to explain myself fully.

I agree that we as scholars, actually everyone for that matter, generally have to be disciplined enough to shy away from words used to provoke and only serve to defile and degrade others. However, regarding imperialism versus colonialism, terms such as these have a need to be discussed, although great caution should be used to define what one means when employing the word. You yourself seem to either confuse imperialism and colonialism, or hold them to distinctly different meanings than I do, especially in your second to last paragraph. You should have defined your terms more effectively, by not doing so you are rendering yourself open to the same criticism of those you are critical of in the article. As I said, maybe this plays directly into what you are saying, and maybe it does not. I hope this is not too confusing, as I feel that my thought may be hard to follow (and I take full blame for that). If one defines empire simply by military might and presence (what I would call colonialism), then I think you are correct in asserting that the use of the term imperialism is not valid in the case of Iraq. I am in full agreement that there is not a colonial objective, at least in the traditional sense. Again, some may choose to define colonialism more broadly and have defensible reasons for doing so as long as they define their terms before they use them.

Unilateralism is another term that one must define whether one is using in a narrow or braod sense. In a vaccuum, the literal definition of unilateralism does not fit what the US is doing, but taken in political, historical, and international context, what the US is doing in Iraq is a superpower adventure that is smacking of unilateralism when one considers the lies, coercion, exthortion, and disregard for international law and the international community (that is driven by the US) that surround the conflict.

If one is absolutely mistaken about a concept, as most who employ terms such as "Marxism" "Communism" or "Maoism" are, or if a term blatantly does not fit a situation, such as "Stalinism" to most situations, then there is a legitimate beef about misuse and political benefit. However, if an individual carefully defines ones terms and demonstrates how actions fit them, that would be highly valid analysis, which is why I believe you may be a little off focus in certain parts of the article.

Your comments on the sloppiness of usage of terms is very valid and individuals such as Mr. Battle would be highly advised to take them into consideration before making themselves look foolish on a weekly basis (including the most recent post). It is true that many terms are used as political point scoring tools and do little or nothing to enhance analysis and discussion. I would just hope that in the interest of pointing out the realities of a situation, one could use terms that, as you say, should have meaning, as long as those terms are specifically defined and the factors fitting them carefully put forth...again harkening back to your reference to sloppiness.

We do not want discourse to turn into talk radio prattle as much as the US and academic discourse already has. However, we cannot take this too far and simply allow ourselves or others to write off those academics who may have a viable point and define their terms carefully to demonstrate how the actions of individuals or nations fit those terms. This becomes highly problematic and stifles debate and dissent.

I say these things highly respecting your academic ability and insight, just to throw a word of caution out. There will be those irrational actors that are unable to understand true definitions and unable to use words as anything other than ill reasoned political battering rams. That being said, there will be those of us able to make rational arguments in which terms are properly defined and circumstances explained in those terms.


Name Removed at Poster's Request - 3/22/2004

Yes.


Name Removed at Poster's Request - 3/22/2004

Yes.


Derek Charles Catsam - 3/22/2004

Bill --
I hate to say, I did not really notice the KIA protests (NCAA hoops plus my being in the throes of finishing my book mean no outside contact). I do think anti-war folks should be a bit more sensitive about their protests. i don't know about "veteran wannabees" so I cannot speak to that -- either there were or were not veterans. Their veterans status is not contingent upon their political stances.
The question I have with the 9-11 images is the use of the bodies and the smoldering wreckage and the firefighters, none of which has much to do with anything Bush related. I think his use of the subsequent war on terror is fine. His use of the images from that day seem to be inappropriate.
I'd need clarification on your statement "our mainstream press enables the leftist agenda . . ." because I just do not know what that means. I certianly do not buy a liberal media argument (Wall Street Journal outsells the NYT; more newspapers endorsed Bush than Gore in 2000 as they had the GOP in every election save 2 since 1932, etc. etc. etc.)
I am not certain that you or anyone else has shown that O'Neill and Clark have represented falsehoods -- certainly no more so than the administration. It seems you are back to the ad hominem again -- they disagree with me, they must be liars. Clark certainly has the credentials and the bona fides that he deserves to be taken seriously. Many of his assertions seem to relate to simple facts as he witnessed them. Many have to do with interpretations of what those facts mean. He takes them one way. others take them another. We can debate those merits. Why slur the guy giving them, a guy who spent more than ten years working in the Reagan, Bush the Elder, Clinton and current Bush admins.
As for those who were demoted or fired, well, that's just nonsense when those firings or demotions happened for political reasons or for not toeing the party line. I am not so certain how Clark's best friend's status as a Kerry advisor is of any real merit as a argument. It would be like me saying that Condi Rice is invalid because she is in the Bush administration. Advocating Kerry is not prima facie a case for or against anyone's argument. Or are Rice, Powell, and Cheney not going to support the president in 2004 election stuff?
And by the way, I got most of my news on the Clark stuff from the Post today. Meanwhile Condi Rice got an op-ed, which means much more space and much more status than any news piece, so don't try to float this crapola about how Clark got a free ride and the poor administration did not get to make its case.
In any case, we may well agree on the broad point I try to make and have problems applying it when specific issues where we disagree come into play. ouldn't be the first time.
dc


Dan A Fox - 3/22/2004

Apparently anone who does not approve of the war is un-american. This is not an issue Imperialism from our mainstream press enables the Leftist agenda. If you check most of the mainstream media is owned and operated by big business, which is in the Bush camp.
The real issue is Bush has flopped. At first this was a war of self defense, because we believed Iraq had WMD, and they were capable and had the will to use them against the US. Look at the number of Bush people who are speaking out now as an example. Look at ow many nations all over the world thought were were doing the wrong thing. America and Bush can make mistakes.
Long after the war had started Bush flopped to relate this was part of the war on terror. We were led down the path of war based on deception.
I am not saying that Saddam should have been left alone, but the reasons Bush gave for going to war were basically white lies.
This may work out in the end, but the end should never justify the means. In my little part of the world, thought is split. Those who support Bush, believe he was right. Shose who do not support Bush believe he was wrong. Why can't we look at the facts, what little we have so far, and be critical of choices?
One final note. Whether we believe this war was just, we must all support the effort, but there is nothing wrong with questioning our officials, and if we do, we should not be attacked. What message are we sending to the free world if we attack our own?


Bill Heuisler - 3/22/2004

Derek,
Incisive. Excellent.
Have you noticed this last weekend how our parks and streets were lightly infested by black, flag-draped coffins and veteran wannabees decrying Iraq KIA lists?
Why have there been no interviews with bereaved fathers and wives of casualties asking how anyone could use their honored dead in such crass political fashion?

Remember the outcry with the Bush campaign ad's use of a fleeting 9/11 image? Remember the interviews? How could the Commander in Chief use such a hallowed image (that incidently transformed the country and his presidency)?

Words like Imperialism flourish when truth becomes relative and subjective. Our mainstream press enables the Leftist agenda by ignoring truth and speculating on the obvious falsehoods of fired or demoted Administration Sour Grapes. Highlighting O'Neill and Clark uncritically and accepting their harangues without searching for truth has become SOP for our press. Clark's best friend is a Kerry Advisor; Clark was anti-terror chief and yet is allowed to criticize his boss without explaining his own rather bizarre roles in Clinton/Bush Administrations.
Why? Any thoughts?

Oh well, the fact you see part of the problem so clearly heartens me somewhat.
Bill


Derek Charles Catsam - 3/22/2004

David --
Thanks. Obviously you and I agree on some, disagree on much, and I probably could even quibble with terms in your post. But one thing I think we may agree on is the nature of how one could, and perhaps should disagree -- it is just too easy and too sloppy to fall back on these old terms of derision -- Nazi, fascist, Stalinist, pinko, whatever. Even if one thinks something is bad, shouldn't there be a more accurate term? Again, one can think what the US is doing is bad, but they need to come up with another word than "imperialism" which seems to me to easily translate to: "lazy shorthand for policies I don't like."
The other thing is -- if everyone is a fascist, then how useful is it for those who actually self-identify that way? Ditto "genocide" -- clearly genocide and genocidal policies exist and have existed. It seems to me to be pretty morally vacuous to claim that someone has genocidal policies -- the tiresome accusation levied toward Israel, for example -- in light of Rwanda's actual genocide. It slaps the victims of the real crimes of Nazism in the face to use that term to describe George Bush and Paul Wolfowitz; it is an insult to the tens of millions of victims of Stalin to label the editors of the Nation or the latest article by Noam Chomsky "Stalinist"; it is a mockery of history to call all US foreign policy "imperialist"; the list, alas, could go on.
dc


David C Battle - 3/22/2004

Great article.

Those in opposition to the status quo are more likely to be guilty of this blatant disregard for truth and facts. How else to wake the masses from their stupor? It is a Leftist tradition; holdover from the bolshevik and anarchist wars against the robber barons and statists of the 19th and 20th centuries.

Today, it is a conscious effort to redefine terms, but to do so while maintaing their emotional impact. Terms like "imperialism" or "Nazi" have to be used by those in opposition, because to describe the events in question with more accuracy would not evoke the desired emotional response in their audience. The audience would respond to a more accurate term by merely saying ho hum, or by changing the channel, or by moving on to the next comment on the thread, or perhaps by just getting up and grabbing a bite from the fridge. That's no way to mobilize the masses, to wake the sleeping giant that is the proletariat.

Terms like "imperialism", "Nazi", "genocide" are meant to manipulate the audience into an emotional response which is devoid, or nearly devoid of basis in fact. The same goes for terms like "Berlin Wall" to describe a fence, or "genocide" to describe killing a known terrorist or "activist", etc. etc.