Why I Intend to Vote for John Kerry

News Abroad


The United States faces a real crisis. It's not just the military failure of Bush's policies in Iraq or the discrediting of our armed forces and intelligence agencies as corrupt, incompetent, and criminal. It is above all our international isolation and disgrace because of our contempt for the rule of law. Article six of the U. S. Constitution says, in part,"all Treaties made, or which shall be made, under the Authority of the United States, shall be the supreme Law of the Land." The Geneva Conventions of 1949 covering the treatment of prisoners of war and civilians in wartime are treaties the U.S. government promoted, signed, and ratified. They are therefore the supreme law of the land. Neither the President nor the Secretary of Defense has the authority to alter them or to choose whether or not to abide by them. President Bush's invention of such hitherto unknown categories as"illegal combatant,""evil-doer," or"bad guy" and his claim of a unilateral right to imprison such persons indefinitely, without charging them or giving them access to the courts and legal counsel, is a usurpation of the Constitution. It is precisely why the United States should have ratified the treaty establishing the International Criminal Court. It is intended to deal not only with genuine terrorists and people like Saddam Hussein but also with the kind of crimes President Bush has committed.

In his speech of May 26 at New York University, former Vice President Al Gore said,"We are less safe because of [Bush's] policies. He has created more anger and righteous indignation against us as Americans than any leader of our country in the 228 years of our existence as a nation -- because of his attitude of contempt for any person, institution, or nation who disagrees with him."

Despite endless hypocrisy about how we have brought freedom to the people of Afghanistan and Iraq, we know that almost all the citizens of those countries who have come in contact with our armed forces and survived have nonetheless had their lives ruined. The courageous, anonymous Iraqi woman who edits the blog"Baghdad Burning," subtitled"Girl blog from Iraq," writes (on May 7),"I sometimes get emails asking me to propose solutions or make suggestions. Fine. Today's lesson: don't rape, don't torture, don't kill, and get out while you can -- while it still looks like you have a choice. . . . Chaos? Civil war? We'll take our chances -- just take your puppets, your tanks, your smart weapons, your dumb politicians, your lies, your empty promises, your rapists, your sadistic torturers and go." Her reports on the Internet are indispensable to an understanding of the disaster we have made of a country that we invaded in the name of"preventive war."

You're thinking that I am only citing anti-Bush politicians like Gore or a highly literate but still unquestionably anti-American woman from Baghdad. OK. Let's look at the views of some of our ubiquitous high-ranking military officers.

In his press conference of April 14, President Bush said repeatedly,"We must stay the course in Iraq," and Democratic challenger John Kerry agreed with him, arguing only that he would do it better. The problem is that, as former Centcom commander Gen. Anthony Zinni said to"60 Minutes","The course is headed over Niagara Falls." Gen. Joseph Hoar, a former head of the Marine Corps, has remarked,"I believe we are absolutely on the brink of failure. We are looking into the abyss." Zinni and Hoar are both retired officers. But the active-duty Commander of the 82nd Airborne, Army Maj. Gen. Charles Swannack, when asked by the Washington Post whether he believes the United States is losing the war in Iraq, replied,"I think strategically, we are." Marine Maj. Gen. William Whitlow wrote in an op-ed for the Washington Post,"A principal tenet of forming a strategy -- have a 'war termination' phase -- was neglected… It is time for the president to ask those responsible for the flawed Iraqi policy -- civilian and military -- to resign from public service."

The point is that the torture scandals at Abu Ghraib prison, Chalabigate, CIA Director Tenet's resignation, war profiteering by Cheney's Halliburton Corporation, and other recent events have so discredited the United States that we have only the choice of getting out or being thrown out.

The Iraq war is very possibly the most serious self-inflicted wound in the history of American foreign policy. It was caused by American imperialism and militarism, which are the subjects of my new book The Sorrows of Empire: Militarism, Secrecy, and the End of the Republic. Let me make clear what I mean by imperialism and militarism.

According to the Pentagon's annual inventory of real estate -- its so-called Base Structure Report -- we have over 725 military bases in some 132 countries around the world. This vast network of American bases constitutes a new form of empire -- an empire of military enclaves rather than of colonies as in older forms of imperialism.

Our military deploys well over half a million soldiers, spies, technicians, teachers, dependents, and civilian contractors in other nations. To dominate the oceans and seas of the world, we maintain some thirteen carrier task-forces, which constitute floating bases. We operate numerous espionage bases not included in the Base Structure Report to monitor what the people of the world, including our own citizens, are saying, faxing, or emailing to one another.

Our installations abroad bring profits to civilian industries, which design and manufacture weapons for the armed forces or, like the now well-publicized Kellogg, Brown & Root, a subsidiary of the Halliburton Corporation of Houston, undertake contract services to build and maintain our outposts. One task of such contractors is to keep uniformed members of the imperium housed in comfortable quarters, well fed, amused, and supplied with enjoyable, affordable vacation facilities.

For their occupants, these bases are not necessarily unpleasant places to live and work. Military service today, which is voluntary, bears almost no relation to the duties of a soldier during World War II or the Korean or Vietnamese wars. Most chores like laundry, KP ("kitchen police"), guard duty, and cleaning latrines have been subcontracted to private military companies. About $30 billion, fully one-third of the funds appropriated for the war in Iraq, are going into private American hands for exactly such services.

The military prefers bases that resemble small fundamentalist towns in the Bible Belt rather than neighborhoods in the big population centers of the United States. For example, even though more than 100,000 women live on our overseas bases -- including women in the services, spouses, and relatives of military personnel -- obtaining an abortion at a local military hospital is prohibited. Since there are some 14,000 sexual assaults or attempted sexual assaults each year in the military, women who become pregnant overseas and want an abortion have no choice but to come home at their own expense or try the local economy, which cannot be either easy or pleasant in Baghdad or other parts of our empire these days.

Our armed missionaries live in a closed-off, self-contained world serviced by its own airline -- the Air Mobility Command -- that links our outposts from Greenland to Australia. For generals and admirals, the military provides seventy-one Learjets, thirteen Gulfstream IIIs, and seventeen Cessna Citation luxury jets to fly them to such spots as the armed forces' ski and vacation center at Garmisch in the Bavarian Alps or to any of the 234 military golf courses the Pentagon operates worldwide. Defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld flies around in his own personal Boeing 757, called a C-32A in the Air Force.

The inseparable companion of imperialism is militarism. This refers not to the defense of the country but to vested interests in the military as a way of life, in the expansion of the military establishment at the expense of civilian sectors of our government, and in making a living by working for the armed forces, military think tanks, or the munitions industries. Service in our armed forces is no longer an obligation of citizenship, as it was back in 1953 when I served in the Navy. Since 1973, it has been a career choice, one often made by citizens trying to escape from one or another dead-end of our society. That is why African-Americans are twice as well represented in the Army as they are in our population and why 50 percent of the women in the armed forces are from minorities. Army Pfc. Jessica Lynch, who was wounded at Nasiriyah during the assault on Baghdad, was asked by the media why she had joined the army."I couldn't get a job at Wal-Mart in Palestine, West Virginia," she replied."I joined the Army to get out of my home town." When she was recruited she was also told that as a supply clerk she wouldn't be shot at.

Today, we have a professional, permanent standing army that costs around three-quarters of a trillion dollars a year -- that is, about $750 billion. This amount includes the annual Defense Department appropriation for weapons and salaries of $427 billion, another $75 billion for Iraq and Afghanistan, $20 billion for nuclear weapons funded by the Department of Energy, and at least $200 billion in pensions and disability payments for our veterans. We are not paying for these expenses but putting them on the tab. Since we are today running the largest governmental and trade deficits in modern economic history, our militarism threatens us with bankruptcy.

The two most famous warnings about militarism in our history came from two prominent generals who became presidents. The first was by George Washington in his Farewell Address of September 1796. He wrote,"Overgrown military establishments are under any form of government inauspicious to liberty, and are to be regarded as particularly hostile to republican liberty." The key phrase here is republican liberty (with a lower case 'r'). Washington was referring to the division of labor in our government into executive, legislative, and judicial branches and the establishment of checks and balances among them. The intent was to prevent the concentration of power in any one institution or person such that it or he could exercise dictatorial power. Washington was warning us that standing armies concentrate power in the executive branch. They lead to an expansion of taxes and the growth of a national bureaucracy that can lead to an imperial presidency, such as we have today. The division of labor in our form of government is the main bulwark defending our freedoms; if the enlargement of standing armies leads to a breakdown in the balance of power, the Bill of Rights becomes nothing more than a piece of paper.

No less important than Washington's Farewell Address was that of President Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1961. He warned us against the vested interests that stand behind our huge military establishment. He wrote:"Our military organization today bears little relation to that known by any of my predecessors in peacetime, or indeed by the fighting men of World War II or Korea. Until the latest of our world conflicts, the United States had no armaments industry.... But now 3.5 million men and women are directly engaged in the defense establishment. We annually spend on military security more than the net income of all United States corporations. This conjunction of an immense military establishment and a large arms industry is new in the American experience.... In the councils of government we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist. We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes. We should take nothing for granted."

Unfortunately, we Americans did not heed this warning and today the Department of Defense and its supporting military-industrial complex dominate our government. Of the money we spend on foreign affairs, 93 percent is controlled by the Pentagon, only 7 percent by the State Department. The biggest of all our weapons companies is the Lockheed Martin Corporation. In the year prior to the outbreak of the Iraq war, Lockheed Martin's profits rose by some 36 percent. When war becomes this profitable, we can expect more of it.

In The Sorrows of Empire I devote the final chapter to the likely consequences of our imperialism and militarism: perpetual war, the end of the Republic, official lying and disinformation, and bankruptcy. I document how advanced these are in our society. I hope you will read my analysis. My intent is to mobilize inattentive citizens to information that I know they don't have -- because our government does everything in its power to see that they don't -- but that they need if they are not to lose our Republic and the civil liberties it defends.

John Kerry

The case for John Kerry has, to my mind, four main points. First, he is not a" chicken hawk." It is a scandal that with the exception of Colin Powell every single civilian leader of our government from the president on down has no experience of either war or barracks life and that the vice president obtained six deferments to avoid service in Vietnam. When married men with children were ordered deferred, Dick Cheney and his wife had a daughter nine months and a day later. Kerry has a distinguished record of military service. This is important today when the military establishment is easily the largest and most expensive element of the executive branch.

Second, Kerry's stand as a leader of Vietnam Veterans Against the War is one of the most honorable aspects of his background. It is a tragedy that we have become so militaristic he must disown the courageous stand he took thirty-five years ago in order to be elected. This reflects one of the major differences between our military during the Vietnam War and our military today. Then it was a citizens' army. Members of the armed forces were a democratic check on militarism because they were not volunteers. They were naturally concerned about the purposes of the war, how it would end, and whether their government and officers were lying to them. Today we have a professional military. People who serve in it are volunteers with a vested interest in advancing their careers through armed conflict. It's possible we'll see a movement of Iraq Veterans Against the War, but the participants are likely to be more concerned about internal military grievances -- such as involuntary extensions of enlistments -- than deceit by the president, vice-president, and the high command about the war itself.

Third, a Kerry administration will be a check on the rampant spread of secrecy upon which our militarism thrives. Given his nineteen years of service in the Senate, he is likely to end at least a significant part of the secrecy that covers up the destruction of the environment, the deployment of weapons in outer space, our refusal to conserve fossil fuels, and many other scandals. Last year, the U.S. government classified more than 14 million new national security secrets, up from 11 million the previous year, and 8 million the year before. Ending, or at least curtailing, the secrecy surrounding the Department of Defense and the intelligence agencies would be one of the most effective ways to begin to restore democratic controls over them.

Fourth, the main issue in the coming election is the Constitution and the need to restore its integrity as the supreme law of the land. It was concern over violations of the Constitution that energized the Howard Dean campaign. Kerry will end the tenure of John Ashcroft and the illegal incarceration of native-born citizens in Federal prisons and prosecute those responsible for torture in Iraq and at Guantánamo Bay. If we're lucky, he might even close the School of the Americas at Fort Benning, Georgia, which is where we instruct military officers from Latin America in state terrorism. For those even slightly interested in human rights, a Kerry victory is indispensable.

Having said all this, let me nonetheless end by noting that the political system may not be capable of saving the Republic. It is hard to imagine that any president of either party could stand up to the powerful vested interests surrounding the Pentagon and the secret intelligence agencies. Given that 40 percent of the defense budget is secret and that all of the intelligence agencies' budgets are secret, it is impossible for Congress to do effective oversight of them even if it wanted to. This is not something that started with the Bush administration. The Defense Department's"black budgets" go back to the Manhattan Project of World War II to build atomic bombs. The amounts spent on the intelligence agencies have been secret ever since the CIA was created in 1947. The stipulation in article 1, section 9, clause 7 of the Constitution that"a regular statement and account of receipts and expenditures of all public money shall be published from time to time" has not been true in our country for more than fifty years.

A good example of the sorry state of oversight was the recent hearings before the Senate Armed Services Committee concerning the military's torture of prisoners at Abu Ghraib prison. The hearings were a travesty. The committee, with the possible exception of Sen. McCain, treated the secretary of defense and the military high command as if they were beyond accountability to the representatives of the people. The Army Times was more effective. Its editorial of May 17, "A Failure of Leadership at the Highest Levels," demanded that Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld and chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Richard Myers resign or be fired.

I believe that if the Republic is to be saved it will be as a result of an upsurge of direct democracy. A little more than a year ago some ten million people in all the genuine democracies on earth demonstrated against the war in Iraq, against George Bush, and for democracy. These were the largest demonstrations in British history -- two million people in London -- but they also included 400,000 people in New York City and a million each in Berlin, Madrid, and Rome. In late April we saw a powerful demonstration in Washington DC of over a million for a woman's right to choose and to encourage younger women to vote. A half-million demonstrated in Rome last Friday against a visit by our Boy Emperor.

The first victory of this movement came on March 14 with the election of Spanish prime minister José Zapatero. If democracy means anything at all, it means that public opinion matters. Zapatero understood that 80 percent of the Spanish people opposed Bush's war in Iraq, and he immediately withdrew all Spanish forces. It's a great pity that Kerry criticized Zapatero for this. We need to duplicate the Spanish victory in Tony Blair's Britain, Silvio Berlusconi's Italy, Junichiro Koizumi's Japan, and in our own country.

I intend to vote for Kerry because I believe he is the only electable politician in America who might, like Zapatero in Spain, pay attention to public opinion. If we can demonstrate that a majority of the American people want peace, I believe that John Kerry will heed the call.

This article first appeared on www.tomdispatch.com, a weblog of the Nation Institute, which offers a steady flow of alternate sources, news and opinion from Tom Engelhardt, a long time editor in publishing, the author of The End of Victory Culture, and a fellow of the Nation Institute.

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Peter K. Clarke - 10/9/2007

The word missing from Mr. Hadegorn's comment above is prevention. In this case, an ounce of prevention would have been worth not a pound, but a ton of "cure".

Terrorism, like excrement, happens. But it happens more often when those in charge of preventing it help, through their incompetence, to perpetuate it instead.

Here is what our dry drunk president had to say today
(on NPR) in response to the horrible murder of Johnson:

"We must pursue these people and bring them to justice before they kill other Americans."

Can any one imagine Gerhard Schroeder, Jacques Chirac, or Tony Blair, making that kind of a diplomatically idiotic remark in response to the murder of a German, French or British tourist, who, for example, had done nothing more than rent a car in Florida ?

The case for Kerry is not overwhelming, but it is simple, and it is understood across the political spectrum by intelligent liberals, conservatives, atheists, carnivores,
flag-waving soldiers, mystics, statists, anarchists, entrepreneurs and piously devote Christians, among many other groups, and tens of millions of individual Americans with IQs above 50: Any competent member of Congress, i.e. several hundred people, including both Masschusetts senators, could do better than the arrogant, ignorant, stubborn, and tongue-twisted failed businessman from Texas who is an unprecedented international disgrace for our country. The longer he stays in power, the greater the disaster inflicted upon America. A vote for Nader, or a communist or a libertarian, especially in a "swing state" this coming November, risks four more years of such disaster.

I sympathize with those who decry repeated choices between the "lesser evil" and the "greater evil". I invite them to direct their attention towards campaign finance reform
(if necessary a constitutional amendment to outlaw the ridiculous idea that "money is speech") and instant runoff voting. Those would be two ways to help lower the probability of future episodes of mass stupidity of the type which, for example, defeated John McCain in South Carolina in 2000.

Peter K. Clarke - 10/9/2007

I am not a "Kerry supporter" any more than you are a Bush ostrich, Tom. I agree with sentiments expressed in the article referenced below.

The case that the Bush administration has been a failure in foreign policy is not "emotional" but factual, as for instance evidenced in the recent report on how terrorism has increased since 9-11-01.

Re the international incompetence of G.W. Bush see


Peter K. Clarke - 10/9/2007

Bush "steadfast in his commitment to protect America" ?
How much is that very powerful and illicit weed that is being passed around ?

Congratulations, Mr. (evidently no relation to Alfred) Mahan, on being able to accurately plagiarize from the lame Bush (not re) election website.

Here we have a real full fledged ostrich, who would tell you that all is safe and well in the sand where his head is buried, while his behind gets blown away.

So “steadfast” was the tongue-twisted Junior Bush that he arrogantly ignored all the warnings about Al Qaeda before 9-11, sat on his backside asking advisors to look into links to Saddam on 9-12, then suddenly dropped all common sense to run around paranoid about "evildoers", refused to agree to create a Dept of Homeland Security, then set up one that issues worthless color-coded "information" alerts and tells us about duck tape. Then he dropped Osama, and started suddenly screaming about Saddam, ignoring the vast bipartisan outpouring of skepticism about any serious Iraq-Al Qaeda links, and doubts about the WMD hype, sent our troops in unprepared with no real support from other countries or even from Iraqis, no legitimacy, and no strategy, managing against all odds to generate international reluctance to support an overthrow of one of history's most brutal dictators.

Bush was so”steadfast” on the domestic economy he turned energy policy over to Ken Lay, until he pretended he didn't know him. He stuck with Harvey Pitt at SEC through and thin, until he dumped him. He was all for free trade until it came time to buy some steel worker votes.

If the English language is to be raped by calling Dubya “steadfast”, then Kerry is a waffle made of granite.

Peter K. Clarke - 10/9/2007

Sorry about the above mess, folks. The text and the subject switched places. Apparently there is no limit on the length of the title.

Peter K. Clarke - 10/9/2007

The issue is consistency.

"It's another attack on the president. No more, no less".

says Ellis who "attacks" Johnson in just the same way.

Peter K. Clarke - 10/9/2007

Anyone who criticizes the president for any reason is now automatically a "Kerry supporter". Better than being automatically a terrorist, I suppose.

How convenient this dumbing down of discourse. Pat Buchanan, William Kristol, and the mighty Osama bin Hussein himself, all critical of Bush, ergo all "Kerry supporters".

I stand by my position. The campaign to elect G.W. Bush president, for the first time this November, is based on a hope that American voters will be as stupid and frightened as possible.

The ridiculous resort by Mr. Mahan to the current Karl Rove pejorative, "Kerry supporter" illustrated in the comments above, is but one example of many demonstrating that the more ignorant and gullible the voter, the more heavily they will be targeted by the Rove-Cheney campaign.

I hope enough Americans wake up in time.

Peter K. Clarke - 10/9/2007


Peter K. Clarke - 10/9/2007

Mr. Ellis,

I was not trying to "refute" any arguments of yours, only pointing out your inconsistency in criticizing a criticism of Bush because of factual inaccuracy, when the whole world, practically, knows how Bush, as the most powerful individual in that world, played extremely loose with the facts on Iraq, producing -through this deception- much more devastating consequences for America's long term security than any mere author could ever conceivably wreak through error, distortion, or lie.

As for the “limbo” of Guantanamo detainees, you are quite right. They are in a gray area, legally. But there are two problems with Bush's (typically) incompetent handling of them. First of all, no matter what the legal category of suspected offense, every human being has a basic human right not to be locked up indefinitely without charges or a trial. If the Bushies had had a clue about the importance of international opinion, they would have realized that to temporarily round up masses of vaguely suspicious characters in the immediate aftermath of 9-11 was something few would fuss about. To be still holding them in limbo 30 months later without having done much of anything with them is something quite different, from a practical (if not legal) standpoint.

Peter K. Clarke - 10/9/2007

In the faint hope that you may still be open to education, Mr. Mahan, consider the following analogy.

Your neighbor boy, a temporary substitute for your regular babysitter, plays with matches on the job and sets your house on fire. Your fire chief in your town was once convicted of beating his wife, and is under investigation by the IRS, but you nevertheless let him to your house to put out the fire.

This does NOT make you a "supporter" of spousal abuse and tax evasion.

Peter K. Clarke - 10/9/2007

"the blame falls on Saddam Hussien" (sic)

Well, plenty of blame can indeed be assigned to Saddam Hussein, including his aggression against Iran and Kuwait in 1980 and 1990, which American diplomats in the Carter, Reagan and first Bush Administration ignored or encouraged. But, repeated insinuations by the second Bush Administration that Saddam was in cahoots with Al Qaeda, and that his WMD arsenal was such an imminent threat to other countries that Blix's weapons inspections had to be cut short in 2003, are not among the deposed dictator’s many crimes.

Chalmers Johnson is likely be a forgotten footnote to history by the time America's national security recovers from the damage inflicted on it by GW Bush's deceptive incompetence.

Peter K. Clarke - 10/9/2007

Even pathological liars get free rein here. For the last time, Andy, I am NOT a "Kerry supporter".

Peter K. Clarke - 10/9/2007

Without directly addressing the tacked-on pro-Kerry editorial, a main conclusion from the main body of this informative piece "that we have only the choice of getting out or being thrown out" of Iraq, merits critical examination.

This choice is extremely unpalatable because it amounts to choosing between an America with a long-lasting international reputation as a nation of stubborn fools, or of arrogant cowards.

There is, I believe, a third choice, and, thanks to the colossal cascade of blunders committed by the Bush Administration in Iraq, it is the only honorable choice left. America can continue to supply 90% of the manpower and firepower to a security and counter-terrorism force in Iraq, which would be, however, firmly and unequivocally under multinational (including Iraqi) control, instead of under the control of the U.S. military establishment, a far-flung bureaucracy set up for very different purposes and horribly weakened, de-legitimized and dishonored by Bush and his corrupt chickenhawks. Along with this transfer of control, and at least as important as it, President Kerry, when he takes office, should announce and press Congress to endorse a policy of spending TWO American tax dollars, under extremely strict and independently audited procedures, on reconstruction, development, education and social assistance, for every ONE dollar devoted -over the past 18 months and going forward- to U.S. military expenditures in Iraq. If America is going to come out this mess NOT looking like a land of selfish and willfully ignorant cry-baby bullies (G.W. Bush's main legacy to our posterity), I cannot see any other solution.

Peter K. Clarke - 10/9/2007

RE: the statement above

“At best, the man is a lousy, lazy historian. Far worse, however, is that it appears he is willing to doctor the facts in order to sell a few books.”

Whatever the so-called Bush doctrine may pretend, two wrongs do not equal one right, nor have they ever, nor will they ever. On the other hand consistency by historians and other public figures is almost always to be preferred over inconsistency. Let us therefore assume that Mr. Ellis wishes to be consistent, and would like to address the fundamental questions implicit in Johnson's article above: What is the best policy for the U.S. in Iraq now, going forward, and which candidate for American president this coming November would be better equipped to implement such a policy ? A crucial observation, based on the historical facts about WMD intelligence and Al Qaeda - Saddam links (notwithstanding the odd fantasy posted from time to time here on this sometimes history news network) would then have to be:

“At best GW Bush is a lousy lazy president. Far worse, however, is that it appears he is willing to doctor the facts, plunge headlong into Osama's trap, and ruin America's national security and international reputation for years to come, in all in pursuit of a ridiculous gamble that this might help him appear sufficiently macho to finally be ELECTED president.”

andy mahan - 9/18/2006

Mr. Hagedorn:
You have cut through all the distractions to seize upon the most important issue Americans will have to deal with for decades to come. Terrorism IS the ONLY issue.

Libertarianism is a great system conceptually but like Communism it doesn’t really work. Governments must have institutions. It’s just a fact. Human nature, or the market will not take care of all of societies needs automatically.

You will not have any Kerry supporter tell you Kerry’s plan to fight terrorism because he doesn’t have a plan. Kerry’s entire plan is to trash Bush at every opportunity yet he has NOTHING to offer. You will not find a Democrat able to articulate Kerry’s position without critisising Bush because that is the entire Democrat strategy.

You might consider voting Bush. He is the first President to substantively confront global terrorism. Past presidents have all been aware of it but have mollified the parties permitting terror groups to rise to the level at which they now exist. Time is up, we can no longer appease. It is them or us…ask ‘em.

Bush knows many are unfairly ganging up on him for political gain, yet he is steadfast in his commitment to protect America. He is committed to prosecute the task before him regardless of the poll numbers or whether he is reelected. Sure, GWB has been forced to spend mightily to ensure global safety. But it cannot be any other way.
With Kerry you have no idea what you’re going to get. Truth be told, Kerry doesn’t even know. It depends on who, what, when, and where he is approached by pressure groups. We need someone with a little more moral conviction than someone that has demonstrated over the short term and long that he doesn’t know where he is going.

You said yourself terrorism is #1. Consider subordinating your fiscal policy concerns until we can get out of the woods. Do you really think Kerry will be more of a fiscal conservative than Bush?

If it is Kerry’s position on terror that you are looking for forget it, it doesn’t exist.

andy mahan - 9/18/2006

Mr. Hagedorn:

This is an excellent example of what I was talking about. The preceding is your typical Kerry supporter, angry, insulting, rude, and without facts to support his distortions. Starts off trying to first insult me for having an opinion, then defaults to the standard array of unsupportable paranoid idioms characteristic of the Kerry crowd. See any suggestions for how to improve our war on terrorism? No. I mean it is easy to second, third, fourth, etc., guess our President’s decisions. But the opposition party is so vacuous and misguided that they cannot even effectively do that. All they do is HATE BUSH. That is the entire Democrat platform, and is why most Americans reject Kerry. Most Americans recognize an empty smear campaign. Most Americans recognize the exemplary job our President has done on the war on terror (not to mention the economy) and are not buying the angry tantrums of the opposition.

I believe that Kerry is afraid to define himself because he knows his future waffling can then be fixed. He has learned from the past that when he makes a stand on something then changes his position, (as he is wont to do) that he will be called on it. His prior waffling and general dishonesty have been some of the most damaging aspects of his political past, (the whole Vietnam thing), (voting for/against the same bill), (having/not having SUV’s). Currently, he seeks to downplay his past deceptions and minimize potential damage from future metamorphosis.

As you will recall, before both Afghanistan and Iraq, our legislature overwhelmingly voted in support of our President’s principled and protective stand against terrorism. Today, many of these same people (including Kerry) who voted “for” military action have developed amnesia. These same people are whining that they were tricked, duped, lied to, and deceived. These same people, (supposedly grown ups) are the ones that say our President is incompetent, dumb, slow, and gutless (see above). So which is it? Is he a con man or is he incompetent? Either way it reflects poorly on those who allowed themselves to be duped. Truth is, neither is true. President Bush is a good, honest, man trying to do the best he can given a dire situation that is of no making of his own, but was inherited from his predecessors. The single purpose of all of the negative insulting attacks on our President is specifically political, with little basis in fact, in fact, this is all the Democrats have to offer, criticism, nothing constructive. Most Americans know the truth. GWB has been playing the hand he was dealt to the best of his ability at the time. He has been steadfast in his opposition to the evils of those that would use terrorism. He has been responsible for his actions, real or fabricated by his opposition. THAT is a true leader.

All that being said, I do like the imagery evoked with the prior “granite waffle” description. I mean that is how Kerry appears to me, cold, ridged, expensive, impersonal, gray, rich and impenetrable, and of course, a waffle.

Again Mr. Hagedorn I challenge you to HONESTLY consider the work of our President’s first term and support him this November as he has supported you and all Americans. You will find that granite waffles are not very good even with a liberal helping of real Vermont maple syrup.

God bless America and President George W. Bush.

andy mahan - 9/18/2006

This will be the last time that I use the Kerry automaton above as an example, though I guarantee that he will continue to provide the model that I have described, that of incoherent exasperation and of lacking substantive policy. Like a moth to a flame the Democrat position is devoid of a positive policy position for Kerry, only angry defeatist rhetoric. Even when you show them that all they offer is hate, they can’t help themselves because they just have NOTHING ELSE TO OFFER. Unbridled anger will just not suffice as responses to the circumstances of these dangerous times. I thank God for GWB. The contrast is stark. A president that has proven himself in the trenches strong and committed versus a rich elitist empty and conflicted. Do we really need a relativist with adjustable morals?

andy mahan - 9/18/2006

Mr. Clarke,

You may not be a willing "Kerry supporter" nonetheless given that either GWB or Kerry are the only possibilities, your anti-Bush status automatically makes you a "Kerry supporter" by default.

Still, I suspect you are actually a reluctant "Kerry supporter" yearning for a Dean candidacy. Close?

Dave Livingston - 1/7/2005

A few days ago Johnson complained bitterly that the U.S. has under construction "fourteen" permanent military facilities in Iraq and that these facilities if utilized by U.S. armed forces will violate Iraqi soverignty. Today he whimpers we aren't "winning the war." Please, Mr. Johnson, which is it, our presence in Iraq is thwarts an Iraqi attempt to form a independent government or we've lost the war?

Moreover, according to "Strategic Forecasting, our purpose in Iraq is to impose a dominating U.S. military into the region by dominanting the most strategic country in the area, which is Iraq. The reason we want to impose our military power there is to put pressure upon regional governments to cease permitting al-qaeda and like groups to operate within their territories. Our very presence in Iraq is accomplishing that goal.

As much of the resistance to U.S. occupation of Iraq derives from foreign fighters, from Egypt to Indonesia, illustrates. In short, the bitterness of the opposition by militant non-Iraqi Islamists is in itself verification that we are achieving our primary goal--have thrown a monkey wrench into militant Islamism's operations.

Those who think the conquering of Saddam's Iraq, the removal of Saddam from power, was an end in & of itself or was undertaken because of Iraq's oil are quite mistaken, narrow-minded, and indeed nothing less than naive. Whether or no Saddam was the nasty tryant as claimed the point for the U.S. was that he controlled the most strategic piece of real estate in the Middle East & we need to control it in order to successfully combat militant Islamism.

Bigots desparate in their desire to thwart any achievement by President Bush's administration have shown time-after-time their inability to separate petty partisan politics from serious national security issues. Clearly, they'd prefer American boys be killed abroad, if that would promote their domestic political ambitions. This is much the same attitude taken by many anti-war types during the Viet-Nam War.

JOHN CHUCKMAN - 9/4/2004

September 1, 2004


John Chuckman

A lot can happen in three years.

In the United States since 9/11, about 4,000 children died from child abuse and neglect; in more than 80 percent of cases, parents were the perpetrators. About 36,000 Americans died from unnecessary surgery. Another 21,000 died from medication errors in hospitals, along with another 60,000 from other errors in hospitals. Adverse reactions to prescription drugs killed about 100,000. Roughly 10,000 Americans died from accidental drowning. About 2,100 died from bicycle accidents. Homicidal Americans killing other Americans took another roughly 60,000 lives. Suicide took more than 90,000. Traffic deaths amounted to well over 120,000.

Despite all of America's mayhem and death (more than 7,000,000 Americans died in the last three years, including the clearly avoidable ones listed above plus hundreds of thousands not listed that were at least in part avoidable), the subject of 9/11 is never allowed to rest. About 3,000 Americans died on 9/11 in a spectacular act of hatred and vengeance, carried out, so far as we know, by 19 men, all of whom were themselves consumed.

Those who attacked America certainly did not do so because they hated democracy or rights, no matter what President Muffinmouth keeps deliriously muttering. Likely, they would not even have understood such concepts, coming as they did from cultures where conditions prevail comparable to those of centuries ago in Europe. But anyone understands abuse and bullying, and it is America's terrible, careless abuse of its wealth and power to which they were violently responding.

In a Congress which consistently fails to remedy America's social ills, its members always disparaging sensible regulation and rules to cover their abject political cowardice and bought-and-paid-for status, it took no time to start a war, even though it was clear that no nation had attacked the United States, and to pass legislation more repressive than any possible regulation. Scene after scene of America's grunting, spewing legislators resembled life imitating art in the form of a movie for teen-agers, The Planet of Apes.

Whoever was responsible for 9/11 beyond those who killed themselves (America's press automatically attributes the act to al Qaeda, a shadowy and rather small organization at best, although still no proof has been offered), the U.S. responded by spending tens of billions of dollars to invade two nations. Billions more were spent stuffing already-bloated intelligence agencies like geese being prepared for pâté de foie gras and cranking up the megawatts snapping and crackling through the wires to the nation's military Frankenstein.

The money wasted on killing and maiming in Iraq might have done many fine things for the world. It might have built new schools in every wretched ghetto and backwater across the United States. It might have been used to launch an historic alternate-energy program, bringing down costs dramatically for technologies such as solar cells, contributing to the future well-being of all of humanity. Even a small portion of it could have done some spectacular things for fundamental science or medicine. Another small portion would have generously funded the simple technologies used for bringing clean drinking water to parts of the Indian subcontinent where arsenic and other compounds slowly poison millions year after year. The possibilities are almost endless.

But no, it all went to a destructive, psychotic fantasy called the war on terror (and more specifically to invade a place where, much as in the old Soviet Union, terror was never tolerated for a second). It should be clear, there can be no such thing as a war on terror, because terror is not a society or a regime or an army or even an ideology. Terror is a violent response to severe grievances. You can work hard to track down specific law-breakers and you can enhance security measures and you can work to redress grievances - all these are reasonable and fitting things to do - but there is no place or army that you can attack with any meaningful purpose. Of course, that simple fact hasn't stopped America from instituting vast new abuses in the name of fighting a war on terror. As with the country's crusade against communism, the pointless violence reflects America's own shibboleths, fears, and internal politics rather than meaningful policy. American politics are so utterly poisonous and corrupted that the failure of one party to commit some barbarism abroad automatically is used by the other party as a visceral issue. When Bush speaks of a long-haul war against terror, he really means a renewal of the same cycle of vicious domestic politics with a new foreign bogeyman and new foreign victims.

Estimates of civilians killed by American forces in Iraq have been slow in coming. America's press shows almost no interest, perhaps taking its lead from a government which doesn't want the subject mentioned. But then, Daddy Bush never advertised how many he slaughtered in the brief, first Gulf War he started with subtle winks and suggestions to Hussein. It is certain that tens of thousands of pathetically-equipped conscripts died under waves of B-52s whose carpet bombing on the desert sealed the men in their own graves: cooked and packed underground by millions of pounds of high explosive.

Quite recently, an Iraqi group announced what may be the best count in view of its language and network of contacts in every part of the country. It spent months talking to everyone from gravediggers to doctors, deliberately avoided counting military deaths, and came up with 37,000 civilian killed.

The immense suffering of a major part of the population who, overnight, lost the means to earn a living must be added to America's achievement, as well as the birth of violent resistance to occupation, an excellent laboratory for developing future generations of terrorists, and tidal waves of violent crime (things consistently under-reported in the U.S. press). Independent observers in Europe, including many British soldiers, have been taken aback by the violence and heavy-handedness of America's occupation. The abuses documented in the published photos from Abu Ghraib prison (and there are many others not published) show a small part of what American soldiers have done. Consider one clear instance, fairly typical according to witnesses in Iraq brave enough to speak up and at least one Marine non-commissioned officer who has left the service, the Pentagon-invented Battle of Samara. Headlined in America's press as a remarkable American victory, it was actually a slaughter of scores of civilians by sweltering, disgruntled, trigger-happy soldiers.

Only devotees of the Orwellian fantasies of Fox News and CNN and those who depend on Defense Department contracts for a living (and, sadly, that is now a truly gigantic number in the U.S.) ever accepted Bush's claims about Iraq. Recent American stories about "they knew," referring to the fact that Bush was informed by outsiders of the weak nature of his claims, are bitterly amusing. The world was awash in good information that told us Bush was lying before the invasion. It came from past weapons inspectors, current weapons inspectors, Iraqi refugees, diplomats, national leaders, and scrupulous journalists (a category that notably excluded employees of the New York Times and Washington Post). As it always does, understanding the truth required that essential skill, prized by courts everywhere, of evaluating the credibility of each witness. In Bush's case, this was an open-and-shut judgment for anyone with powers of observation. The man's every word is shrill and hollow.

America's stubborn refusal to think was broadcast to the world in childish demonstrations of antipathy towards France - restaurant owners pouring vintage wines down the drain - and, to a lesser extent, Canada. Had Americans just listened to sane voices coming from outside their nearly hermetically-sealed society, about 1,000 of their soldiers now dead would be alive, taxpayers would be at least 100,000,000,000 dollars richer, oil prices wouldn't be setting record highs, and the country would not be facing a years-long burden in Iraq, something, by the way, that is not going to change in the slightest if John Kerry is elected. (No one should forget, although the Democratic candidate strains the meaning of words to maintain otherwise, Kerry voted with the thumping, spewing gorillas to launch the war).

Of course, more Americans and others working for Americans have died than the 1,000 or so soldiers. For in this disgraceful war, America farmed-out substantial occupation duties to richly-paid private contractors - people once known, before the dawn of political correctness, as mercenaries or assassins. No effort is even made to keep track of how many of these are killed although I doubt many people much care.

Many small stories of 9/11 remain untold. I do not mean the kind of mawkish-tabloid stories that will be featured on the anniversary, but stories that help explain what happened afterward. One of mine concerns an American woman I know who left her job that morning and frantically raced around to gather her three children from schools and daycare and take them home, just in case, any terrorists were going to sacrifice their lives to send airliners hurling into rural Maine. Of course, the odds - infinitesimally small as they were - were at least the same that any airliners would crash near her house located in a more populated area. A deadly road accident during her frenetic car trip was a far more likely outcome than avoiding another hijacked plane crashing.

The point of the story was repeated only recently in testimony at Congressional hearings by members of "9/11 families," an American lobby group of professional victims, some of whom made flatly ridiculous statements about the country being unprepared for another attack, including Twilight Zone stuff about little Elizabeth or Kyle not being able to play outside safely (Good God, one wishes such people could spend one day with a miserable Iraqi family cooped up in a shattered apartment surrounded by violence and ruin so that they truly understood what terror is). Well, I do suppose a twenty-foot wall could be built around America and all of its possessions and embassies abroad with all planes and boats being required to stop outside for complete inspection, but in an age of globalization and the huge economic gains being made from it, it does seem an unpromising idea.

Both stories are measures of the terrible job America's press does informing people on politically-sensitive matters and of the irrationality so commonly observed in American society. Americans behave this way partly because they have so little understanding of the world and live in a fantasy concerning even the realities of their own country. American television doesn't ever show pictures of the country's dead, abused or murdered children although there are plenty of them (anymore than it showed the pictures of piteous Iraqi children mangled by bombs), but for videos of the planes striking the World Trade Center, networks left the replay switch in the "on" position for weeks. The flashing-message signs at service-station gas pumps are not used to remind motorists of dead kids in their neighborhood, but they sure were used to blink out idiotic slogans like "Never Forget!" over and over after 9/11. It all became something of a national computer game with life-like graphics, frightening and titillating Americans, reinforcing paranoid conceptions.

So far as the world is concerned, it might be fine were Americans to remain happily cocooned in their fantasies, if only they didn't leave their bloody set of butcher's tools in the hands of some of the world's most ignorant and dreadful elected leaders. These armies and weapons are never used to defend democracy or freedom or human rights (or even to stop the several horrifying genocides that have taken place in recent decades) - in fact, there exists no threat to America requiring such huge armies and dreadfully destructive machines - they exist solely to bully and intimidate and overthrow.

Can you think of one example of America displaying behavior that might be regarded as that of a human rights-respecting democracy towards Iraq and its neighborhood? Would you include actively supporting the tyrant Hussein for many years? Supplying him the means to wage chemical warfare during the Iran-Iraq war? Supporting the tyrant Shah in neighboring Iran for decades, right down to the day of his death in exile? Shooting down an Iranian airliner full of civilians with no apologies or proper compensation? Kissinger's duplicitous promises to the Kurds when they proved briefly useful? Pushing American forces into view near the holy places of Saudi Arabia after the first Gulf War?
Doing decades of Enron-style business with Saudi Arabia's feudal ruling family? Supporting, against all reason and decency, the violent apartheid policies of Israel? Putting a leader like Musharraf of Pakistan, elected by coup, on the regular payroll? Invading Afghanistan and making cozy deals with psychopathic warlords? Keeping an embargo on Iraq for a decade in the face of overwhelming proof that it was killing hundreds of thousands of innocents? Invading and occupying Iraq?

Please, is there a even hint in any of that about democracy and concern for human rights? No, there is only the ruthless manipulation and menacing displays of an imperial power using its might to get what it wants. Observed from the receiving end, in no case could you distinguish an enlightened nation at work. At the same time, on the sending end of things, America's cowardly politicians flatter constituents' vanity about having done brave and heroic deeds in the cause of freedom, and, truth be told, they get away with it, every time.

I wish Americans had the least spark of imagination and will to compare their almost delusional fears with the colossal human misery they have inflicted on the world. I wish, too, they had the imagination and will to understand that nothing has changed with American policies which literally assembled the forms and poured the concrete foundation for 9/11. All that has changed is that America has spent immense resources to pitch the world into more violence and lunacy.

Osama bin Laden or whoever was responsible for 9/11 must sit back on the anniversary date quietly chuckling as he reflects on his achievement, not only because he was able to see all of this happen at the mere cost of 19 followers, but because it is so stunningly clear that America still doesn't get it.

JOHN CHUCKMAN - 8/2/2004

July 31, 2004

The Disturbing Words of John Edwards

John Chuckman

I heard several lines from John Edwards' convention speech on the radio before I clicked it off. Anymore and I would have vomited.

As it was, I experienced a horrible flashback to being a twelve-year old at the Midwest Baptists' Camp Sycamore, sitting in the sweltering cinderblock meeting hall, shirt stuck to the back of a card-table chair, while a strutting little preacher sprayed beads of sweat and globs of spit into the twilight yelling about hell.

John Edwards is pure Elmer Gantry.

Well, what would you expect from a guy who spent twenty years chasing ambulances, looking for deep pockets to sue, always waving his arms and smiling like a chipmunk? America's litigation lawyers and its evangelists-for-profit have a lot in common, and when they come from places like Dog Bite, North Carolina, it's almost impossible to tell them apart. There's always a syrupy sweet exterior, the beneficent smile - just think of Jerry Falwell or Pat Robertson - in the ruthless pursuit of things that human society would be better off without.

Here's a few lines from John's official site on how he sees his career:

For…20 years, John dedicated his career to representing families and children hurt by the negligence of others. Standing up against the powerful insurance industry and their armies of lawyers, John helped these families through the darkest moments of their lives to overcome tremendous challenges. His passionate advocacy for people like the folks who worked in the mill with his father earned him respect and recognition across the country.

That sounds like a promo for the next episode of "Rescuing Little Nell from the Clutches of Snidely Whiplash." Of course, it's what the words don't say that is often important. Why did John only stand up for "families and children"? Is there something wrong with representing people without families or children? Of course not, but his language is reclaimed manure from the Republican family-values compost heap.

John stood against armies of lawyers? No, actually John swelled the ranks of lawyers who now swarm America like the aftereffect of a lab-accident release of killer bees, spreading conflict and fear everywhere they appear. The blurb doesn't say that in twenty years John had made himself a very rich man through litigation, that is by helping to raise insurance premiums for everyone, but that's the truth. "Standing up against the powerful insurance industry…" could just as well read, "Mining the huge revenues of the insurance industry for all he could haul away…."

Like any of America's current crop of crocodile-tear evangelists hoping to witness a repeat of the miracle of the loaves and fishes from a collection plate, John helped families through their "darkest moments," just managing to accumulate a fortune by the time he was in his forties. Well, I'm not against success, just against misrepresenting what it is you did.

Since most litigation is socially disruptive and economically unproductive, there is something particularly disturbing about one of its predatory practitioners seeking high office. After all, it is the abject failure of American legislators to provide sufficient enlightened laws and decent regulations that makes the threatening jungle where litigation flourishes.

Reading the balance of John's speech on the Internet had the advantage of not having to hear his backwoods, folksy tone and watch his flamboyant, well-practiced gestures, but I still quickly grasped why John was so successful at litigation. People would settle just to escape having to hear him for months in court. My favorite passage of his speech is this:

When you wake up and sit with your kids at the kitchen table, talking to them about the great possibilities in America, you make sure that they know that John and I believe at our core that tomorrow can be better than today. Like all of us, I have learned a lot of lessons in my life. Two of the most important are that first, there will always be heartache and struggle—you can’t make it go away. But the other is that people of good and strong will can make a difference. One lesson is a sad lesson and the other’s inspiring. We are Americans and we choose to be inspired

Apart from the fact that half of all America's marriages end in divorce, you could never convince me that there are many of the remaining families who sit around a breakfast table talking up "the great possibilities of America." Can't you just see squirming kids, screaming about how someone ate all the Lucky Charms or what a jerk the math teacher is, falling silent as a father decides to lift his Lincolnesque brows, perhaps having offered the blessing for the morning's Pop Tarts, to invoke the great possibilities of America? Doesn't that sound just a little bizarre? If this is what happens at John's house, you should be afraid of his holding office. If this isn't what happens at John's house, why is he saying it?

The truth is, and I'm sure John knows this, few families even sit together at the breakfast table in America, and, if they do, there's a better-than-even chance that a television is mindlessly blaring the whole time. As for millions of poor families, there is no breakfast on the table. Isn't that why Head Start supplies the kids with food at school? Even in suburban middle-class families, it's all they can do to each make it out of the door on time with rush-hour commutes and drop-offs for the privileged kids' heavy schedule of activities.

And how do like that injunction about adding to the breakfast-table sermon, "you make sure that they know that John and I believe at our core that tomorrow can be better than today." John and I believe at our core? Why can't they just believe? Why must it be at their core, whatever that means? The word suggests a nuclear reactor rather than a human being. Anyway, more than a few disturbed personalities in history lay claim to some kind of mystical core something-or-other. Frankly, this statement is so patronizing and ridiculous, it makes me wonder about John's rationality.

And what does John mean about tomorrow being better than today? It resembles the words of a certain old American religious huckster who used to open his pitch for money by saying "Something GOOD is going to happen to YOU!" But it is worse than that, because it is so utterly implausible and silly. He is giving you an injunction to talk seriously to your kids about the fatuous advertising claims of two bought-and-paid-for politicians.

John has one or more mini-sermons in almost every brief passage. You'd think he was running for church deacon instead of high political office. I like his great first lesson, "there will always be heartache and struggle—you can’t make it go away." Is that what the leaders of a great nation are supposed to talk about? Do we need national elections to hear lines borrowed from Oprah Winfrey?

Then there's, "But the other is that people of good and strong will can make a difference. One lesson is a sad lesson and the other’s inspiring. We are Americans and we choose to be inspired."

John probably has in mind the kind of "inspired" a preacher talks about, as the inspired Word of God. That kind of inspired allows of no mistakes, because God can't make any. It also allows of no questions or critics. Nice stuff for a politician to embrace - feel self-righteous while effectively telling people to shut-up.

In the real world, and it is the job of politicians to deal with the real world, inspired is not always a sound state of mind. Inspired about what? Inspired to do what? People are just as likely to be inspired to do terrible things as good things. The word is often used by the flunkies of great tyrants. Germans regularly used the word to describe Der Fűhrer. The ghastly blood-letting of Vietnam was inspired by a loopy, religious-like belief in the need to stop communism. Would you say that that smiling humbug, Pat Robertson, was inspired when he recently advocated America's invading Iran to overthrow the heathens?

The passage is full of question-begging phrases. Make a difference to what? I can't help thinking of the cliche about the path to hell being paved with good intentions. Sorry, John, but there's no shortage of leaders with strong wills in the world, and each of them believes in his own goodness. That fact is almost certainly one of the human race's true curses.

The rest of John's speech is sprinkled with soul-deadening cliches and even contradictions. At one point, he said, "I stand here tonight ready to work with you and John [Kerry] to make America strong again." Well, I think the last thing any thinking person on the planet wants are people working to make America stronger. America has destabilized two countries, killed tens of thousands of innocent people, tortured, and improperly imprisoned simply because it had the power to do so. Power is like that, as Lord Acton so wisely said, it corrupts. Chase after enough of it, and you get absolute corruption.

John's speech takes on the theme of two Americas, and were he to deal with the genuine problem of two distinct and separate societies in America (actually, I think it is three, including the wealthy class represented by all the Presidential candidates)), he might have said something worthwhile. John tells us: "Because the truth is, we still live in two different Americas: one for people who have lived the American Dream and don’t have to worry, and another for most Americans who work hard and still struggle to make ends meet. It doesn’t have to be that way." But it was John himself who already told us how struggle and difficulties won't go away, so what's he saying?

On education, John says: "We shouldn't have two public school systems in this country: one for the most affluent communities, and one for everybody else. None of us believe that the quality of a child’s education should be controlled by where they live or the affluence of their community."

John must know perfectly well that education is not primarily a responsibility of the federal government under America's 18th-century Constitution, so what's he talking about? What does he propose to do to change a situation where some suburban high schools have PhDs teaching and classes enjoy trips to Europe, while urban schools have labs with rusted taps and Bunsen burners that don't work?

The truth is that all good things in America, including medical care and political influence, are rationed according to ability to pay. So why would education be any different?

John adds: "We shouldn't have two different economies in America: one for people who are set for life, their kids and grandkids will be just fine, and then one for most Americans who live paycheck to paycheck." What does that mean, beyond populist hot air? I have no idea, and I suspect John doesn't either.

Here's Preacher John on adversity and hardship: "…and you know what happens if something goes wrong—a child gets sick, somebody gets laid off, or there’s a financial problem, you go right off the cliff. And what’s the first thing to go? Your dreams." Your dreams? I really think dreams are the last thing people experiencing hardship worry about. They are worried about getting through with a shred of dignity, perhaps about surviving. Is John offering them genuine help or an airy hand-out of dreams and inspiration?

Here's a few selected gems from Preacher John on 9/11:

We will do whatever it takes, for as long as it takes, to make sure that never happens again, not to our America…. We will strengthen our homeland security and protect our ports, safeguard our chemical plants, and support our firefighters, police officers and EMT’s. We will always use our military might to keep the American people safe….And we will have one clear unmistakable message for al Qaida and the rest of these terrorists. You cannot run. You cannot hide. And we will destroy you.

Does John think there are people in America - other than its substantial population of militia types, survivalists, millenarianists, and those looking forward to Armageddan - who want that to happen again? Does he think there's people, other than the two million or so in America's prisons, who don't support police?

John's promise to hunt down terrorists is pure comic-book superhero, and isn't it exactly what the delusional Bush believes he's been doing all along? What does John propose that is different? He says absolutely nothing about using proper diplomatic and legal channels to hunt down violent criminals or about strengthening international institutions. No, it's all America this and America that, the same totally narcissistic stuff that's making the world sick of hearing from America. Nobody wants a friend who only talks about himself and refuses to help anyone except on his own terms, but Americans like John think those same qualities somehow become attractive traits in world relations. Like his partner-candidate, Kerry, he promises only more threats about not hesitating to use the military to kill more people.

Keep in mind that John, sitting as he does on a Senate intelligence committee, has an extremely high intelligence clearance and ask yourself what he was able to forecast or advocate either before or after 9/11. Not much is the answer. John's pet project now is to start a new domestic spy agency - still another multi-billion-dollar agency on top the vast existing network of intrusive agencies and one dedicated specifically to spying on the homeland's residents. Does that sound like someone genuinely concerned about rights and freedoms? Someone should ask John if he is committed to rescinding the execrable Patriot Act, but I doubt he'd receive an honest answer.

Having Preacher John teamed up with Kerry - that drearily ambitious man whose concept of bravery ran to shooting civilians safely from a riverboat in Vietnam - leaves me with a bleak outlook for America and thereby the world. That this dishonest pair and the insipid Bush are the best America offers as leaders says something terrible about that frighteningly-powerful nation: it suffers a devastating poverty of imagination and spirit.

Marc "Adam Moshe" Bacharach - 6/21/2004

The UN was indeed correct. You seem to believe that they unequivicollay denied that Iraq had WMD. That is incorrect. They simply said that the evidence for their existence was relatively weak and could not be confirmed and that more inspections were recommended. It turns out that, in my opinion, that is exactly the couse that should have been chosen. I find it almost impossible to believe that, given what we know now, people can still believe that Iraq was worth the invading. Even if you do not hold the administration accountable for ANY wrong doing.

Richard Henry Morgan - 6/20/2004


What does Zakaria think was driving the inspection process? A ouija board, UN inspectors stumbling onto things in the dark, or a whole host of non-UN sources, including technical means?

Richard Henry Morgan - 6/19/2004

The statements in common were those relating to chemical and bio weapons. Bush never said the threat was imminent, though I will admit Powell said it was growing. If by that he meant a growing threat that Iraq would hook up with terrorists, I think he was right. If he emant that Iraq was a growing conventional threat, then he was wrong.

Richard Henry Morgan - 6/19/2004

Fascinating, except the UN can't account for the binary sarin shell of apparently Iraqi construction -- it officially doesn't exist, as it never appeared in any UNSCOM or UNMOVIC report. How many more are out there? Don't ask the UN, because, officially, they can't exist.

Where is the several tons of biological growth medium that is missing? Don't ask the UN that either. They don't know. In fact, if it weren't for the defection of Saddaam's son-in-law (who didn't defect to the UN, by the way), there's a much longer list of what the UN wouldn't know. Humint at the UN? Give me a break. Zakaria doesn't know the foggiest thing about Humint, or the history of weapons inspections in Iraq.

Richard Henry Morgan - 6/19/2004

Through all the fire, I still haven't heard what Kerry would do to fight terrorism. Interesting. And between a supposedly dry drunk, and a veritable drunk (teddy boy), I'll take the dry variety.

Thomas W Hagedorn - 6/18/2004

Like so many Kerry supporters, you made an emotional case against Bush, but not a reasoned argument for Kerry.

Andrew D. Todd - 6/18/2004

Professor Hagedorn:

I was neutral in 2000, because I considered that presidential politics had degenerated to a game of ins and outs, a spoils system. Far from being a conventional Democrat, I used to call Bill Clinton the "All American Bipartisan Beagle" (AABB). It has a nice ring, don't you think? I am going to vote for Kerry, not out of any great enthusiasm, but simply as a lesser evil. Here are some practical proposals:

1. Domestic defense to rely on dispersal. Recognize that giant office buildings do not embody the best of America, or perform an essential function. The essential heart of America is in the kinds of small towns stereotyped by Maybury RFD and Lake Wobegon, Minnesota. Giant cities breed totalitarianism. Deliberately set out to use technology to enable a dispersal down to small town level. Spread everything out to the point that the terrorists simply don't have enough men to attack all the different potential targets.

2. Energy independence at maximum possible speed, even if it involves stepping on the toes of a few Houston oil moguls. Primary stress to be on energy conservation rather than oil drilling. Spending oil money in the middle east is like feeding sharks. George W. Bush is the greatest appeaser of them all: "Prince Bandar has assured me-- and I believe him..." or words to that effect. Well, I don't think anyone outside the administration believes Prince Bandar. Armies march on their bellies. That includes terrorist armies. Saudi Arabia is the quartermaster-general and paymaster of the terrorists. The terrorists were only able to attack the World Trade Center because most of them were traveling on Saudi passports, which our government gave credence to.

Parenthetically, dispersal and energy independence will have to be based mostly on the telecommunications infrastructure, which is to say, the internet. This is a "come as you are war," and that is what we have got. There are some obstructionists in positions of power who are still trying to sabotage computers and the internet. Certain senators, for example. The movie and record industries, among others. This will have to cease. The minutemen of this war are going to be the millions of computer hackers, and I tell you flatly that they will not fight for characters like Jack Valenti of the MPAA and Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), who habitually demonize them for personal profit, and seek to legally persecute them. You either mend some fences at home, or you can fight your own war.

3. In the middle east, withdraw from populated areas which have no oil but do have hostile populations. Hold oilfields in the empty desert instead. If you control the oil, you control the money. Sooner or later, that results in a larger degree of control.

Those three points cover all the essentials.

Thomas W Hagedorn - 6/18/2004

Before any of us consider who to vote for in November, we need to look at Paul Johnson's severed head. Then, look at Nick Berg's and then the images of the people jumping from the World Trade Center. Dealing with terrorism is the ONLY issue that I will consider.

As a libertarian and classic liberal (read Jefferson, Madison, Jackson here), I have profound problems with George Bush, as a huge disappointment to my political philosophy on fiscal policy and spending. I will vote for the the Libertarian candidate, as I did in 2000 UNLESS I am convinced that Kerry will not defend us against these terrorists, who would gladly kill us all - Republican, Democrat, Libertarian, Green Party, White, Black, Hispanic - every last one.

Appeasement and retreat will never work. These people are as fanatic as the Nazi's or Japanese. I am afraid that Kerry will try to mislead us by criticizing Bush's anti-terrorism policies while not telling us he would back off the terrorist pursuit. Isn't that what a lot of his supporters want him to do?

Kerry supporters, please tell me how he will fight terrorism. Leave out the negatives about Bush's mistakes. What would Kerry do? If you convince me, I will vote for the Libertarian candidate and not Bush.

Marc "Adam Moshe" Bacharach - 6/17/2004

My apologies for the misunderstanding. Your last post certainly clarified your position on this issue and I must confess, there is little that I can dispute of what you have said. I have no particular loyalty to the VVAW, and consider most of those protest groups that emerged at around that time to be too radical in their protests, which I speculate ultimately pushed the country to the Right in the next decade in response.

However, when I read about the chain of events that led John Kerry into the anti-war movement, and his actions in that movement, I am impressed. Frankly, I wish he had that kind of dedication and conviction to something (ANYTHING) now as he did then. Maybe then I would not be forced to vote for mediocrity out of lack of any better alternative.

Richard Henry Morgan - 6/17/2004

Please excuse me if I have gotten a little heated and offended you, Adam. You have me precisely backwards. I don't maintain that the stories were transparently false. Some were revealed as fraudulent merely by the checking of DD214s. Checking a DD214 can reveal fraud, but it is hardly a verification of subsequent claims of atrocity.

I've never believed, or suggested, that Kerry knew Hubbard was a fraud. There was a failure of due diligence, on the part of Kerry and the VVAW before Detroit, which had due diligence been exercised, would have revealed many of the frauds. I can't tell you how unimpressed I am by the claim that Kerry, starting with the Detroit Winter Soldier hearings, interviewed the prospective "witnesses", and came to the conclusion, before putting their claims out there, that they were truthful -- based on his all of four months riding a Swift boat in country.

There's an interesting book by Paul Ekman, whose research has shown that the best lie detectors in the world, Secret Service agents who do thousands and thousands of interviews, are only right about 70% of the time in their conclusions about truthfulness of sources. Interviews are a starting point, not the finish line. The idea that cherry-boy Kerry could reliably determine truthfulness about claims of atrocities, by a mere interview separated by miles and years from the purported event, and without any corroborating evidence, is, well, laughable. It is a simple fact of psychology that when you already believe something, the standard of evidence demanded for believing like claims is diminished. A trip to a text on cognitive psychology will settle that question. You seem to accept that with your latest post. I think it a less than salutary fact that Kerry seemed driven to accept the claims absent corroborating evidence -- absent even a nefarious motive. On the other hand, I'm at a loss to give a non-nefarious interpretation to the fact that the VVAW told their "witnesses" not to cooperate with CID -- a procedure which could have revealed further fraud.

Richard Henry Morgan - 6/17/2004

I think I suggested precisely that when Adam and I first addressed this topic in response to another article on HNN. Seems only fair that we slap each around equally before comparing them.

Marc "Adam Moshe" Bacharach - 6/17/2004


Marc "Adam Moshe" Bacharach - 6/17/2004

An excellent idea, Derek. In a two party system, the goal is to see who is the better choice, not who is the best choice. Why must Kerry be compared to perfection, while Bush is given a free hand. Frankly, my vote this November is not based on what either one did in Vietnam, good or bad, but on what they can do NOW. However, if it were based on events from 30 years ago, it is almost impossible for me to imagine Bush getting anyone's vote based on it.

Regardless of what one thinks about the events surrounding Kerry's medals, there is doubt he risked his life and served with courage and distinction in Vietnam while Bush, to say the least, did not. Kerry then dedicated his energy into opposing the war, actions which history has vindicated him on as far as I am concerned, as he was able to use his leadership abilities to rise to the near top of the anti-war movement. Again, I don't pick my candidates that way at all, but if I did, I don't see how my vote would be effected.

Marc "Adam Moshe" Bacharach - 6/17/2004

I don't know if I totally agree with your interpretation of Vietnam, but you are absolutely right in all. All this talk of specific words Kerry used over 30 years ago ignored the bigger picture of what Kerry was trying to do and why he was trying to do it. I can think of no public figure who participated in any high profile event in their youth whose record is as spotless as Kerry's is expected to be by his critics.

Marc "Adam Moshe" Bacharach - 6/17/2004

1) “You don't seem to understand the distinction between something being transparently false, and the failure to perform due diligence.”

And you have made an assumption, and then presumed to insult my intelligence when I do not agree with that assumption. Your assumption is that the various stories Kerry heard were “transparently false” and then, based on that assumption, you fault Kerry for deliberately repeating them. Let us look at your evidence for your assumption, shall we?

2) “Even a cursory inspection of a DD 214 (discharge papers) would have revealed some as obvious liars, yet their stories were repeated, up until the Detroit meeting. It doesn't take the FBI to look at a DD 214, since each veteran was issued one upon discharge. How do you account for that?”

I do not need to account for that, since there is no evidence that Kerry believed all of them. You said yourself that it would have revealed SOME as obvious lies. It is enough for me to know that Kerry believed the stories he heard. If his was blinded by his observations in combat, or his passion of opposition against the war, that is certainly a possibility, it was over 30 years ago, and it is a possibility I am more than able to accept, in fact I consider it the most likely possibility, rather than your implication that he had some nefarious motives for believing the stories and went about to use them for his gain.

3) “How do you account for the fact that his second-in-command, Al Hubbard, passed himself off as formerly a Captain in the Air Force, wounded in Vietnam, when he had been an Air Force sergeant who had never served in Vietnam? How exactly do you become second-in-command of the Vietnam Veterans Against the War, when you have never even been to Vietnam?”

Hubbard, to the best of my knowledge, was not his second in command, he was Kerry’s superior within the organization. As for how he was able to become second in command having never been a veteran, I assume he simply used deception and skills as a speaker. Either way, I see no relevance to Kerry’s character unless you are suggesting that Kerry KNEW Hubbard was a fake and lied about it (which you may very well be, given what you have written about Kerry, I don’t know).

4) “Have you ever seen a DD 214?”

No, I have not. Anything else?

5) “From what I can gather, documentation was not requested until the Detroit Winter Soldier hearings in Detroit in February, 1971.”

According to the LA Times (05/23/2004), the Winter Soldier investigation is described as follows:
“More than 100 veterans spoke. Kerry saw their discharge forms and talked with the vets enough, he said, to become satisfied that most were telling authentic stories--of torturing and murdering Viet Cong prisoners, raping village women, shooting villagers for target practice, cutting off ears and other body parts. These accounts were news to him and educated him, he said then. "It was a very, very heavy, difficult kind of thing to listen to, and it was painful."

6) “In other words, the VVAW protected themselves from putting on "witnesses" who had never served, or who had never served in Vietnam (the DD 214's did that), but they also protected the "testimony" from possible refutation by instructing the witnesses not to cooperate with CID. Does that strike you as honorable or honest? Seems like they were more interested in not being refuted than in finding out the truth.”

Again, you accuse Kerry of being part of this deceitful plot with little more than speculation on what he knew about people who he gave credit to in interviews! Why cite those people at all if he was afraid that they would be caught. Why not simply say that they were veterans rather than identifying them by naming the investigation?

Derek Charles Catsam - 6/17/2004

I tell you what. This parsing of Kerry is fine and dandy as long as we get to line up what George W. Bush was doing at the same time -- while Kerry was in Vietnam, while he was leading VVAW, while he was pulling out of that group, and so forth. Why is the bar so much higher for Kerry than Bush? So let's place their records in the 70s side by side. Fair is fair.

Don Williams - 6/17/2004

Re Mr Gauck's statement above:"Prior to the actual capture of Iraq claims substantially similar to the Presidents were widely believed by members of both parties with access to highly classified intelligence, by the previous administration, which stated a very similar case in the announcement of Operation Desert Fox (the 1998 bombing of Iraq), by the United Nations, and by everyone who had an intelligence service"
I distinctly recall several Democrats -- Bob Graham, Nancy Pelosi, Diane Feinstein, etc-- on the House/Senate Intelligence Committees stating that they had NOT seen any intelligence indicating the Hussein was an imminent threat. This was prior to the Congressional vote on the Iraqi military action. I even recall Tim Russert asking Neocon Richard Perle about this on Meet the Press -- and that lying shithead Perle stating on TV to the US voters that those Democrats did not have access to all the info.

I also recall the German Foreign Minister stating on TV that Germany had access to the same intelligence as the US and that Germany did not see Hussein as being a threat which required immediate action.

Don Williams - 6/17/2004

The larger picture being that Lyndon Johnson, in response to Republican criticism and pressure, went along with escalation so that he could not be accused of
having "lost Vietnam".

Millions of Vietnamese and 55,000+ Americans lost their lives. Why? To install democracy ? --what a crock. South Vietnam had more people and resources than North Vietnam. Plus the enormous military assistance of the United States. Plus the major advantage of fighting a defensive war on their own land --which usually gives the defender at least a 3 to 1 advantage over an aggressor. Yet the South Vietnam government lost the war because it was deeply corrupt,brutal, and was hated by the majority of its citizens. Yet those are the guys we supported.

Why? To prevent Vietnam from going Communist? The rift between CHina and Russia showed that Communism was not monolithic and that it fractured along the lines of national loyalties and interests. Even if you accept that Vietnam could add to Communism's power, it was militarily stupid to chose a primitive jungle as the battlefield. The Domino theory was an obvious crock of shit -- the Indonesian archiapelago would have been a perfect hunting ground for our Navy. Subsequent events since the fall of Saigon have disproved the hysterical claims of the war hawks. Vietnam has not become a threat to the US.

So, again, what was the reason for going into Vietnam? Looking at the Pentagon Papers, the only reason I could see was that Vietnam was a major food basket-- a very fertile supply of rice. Control of Vietnam's rice would let us grab Japan by the short and curlies -- i.e., control of Japan's food supply would ensure that Japan's government would be properly obedient to our whims.
Very important when several major US corporations were preparing to pour $billions into Japan investments. The potential profits were huge, but money men don't like to put their capital at risk without having things hardwired. Plus , as others have noted, billions were made in war profiteering from the Vietnam War.

Circa 1966 , I was 12 years old. My parents had their house remodeled and I became acquainted with one of the workmen, Larry Sayers. Larry, around 18, was drafted a few months latter, sent to Vietnam, and returned in a coffin several months afterwards. I still remember going to the funeral, standing at the head of the coffin, and seeing the large scar under his collar where his throat had been cut from ear to ear.

Larry was posthumously promoted to corporal by the Army , the type of chickenshit gestures that REMFs are good at. Larry was a amicable, easy going guy who never considered questioning his callup. His was just one of numerous young lives lost in a giant goatfuck by a bunch of lying shitheads pursuing their private agendas. In my opinion, the hawks who got us into Vietnam for no good reason did not just deserve to be voted out of
office -- they deserved to be thrown against a wall and their brains blown out. They inflicted enormous misery on this country --and they did not give a damn.

In that light, whatever minor errors Kerry committed are very small beer. He at least had the instincts to stand up and challenge Washington. Other than Colonel Hackworth, I don't recall any other military officers having the balls to resign their commission and do the same.

Richard Henry Morgan - 6/17/2004

You don't seem to understand the distinction between something being transparently false, and the failure to perform due diligence. The law reflects that distinction, inasmuch as even in Times v. Sullivan, reckless disregard for the truth or falsity of a claim establishes actual malice, and leaves one legally exposed for libel or slander action.

Even a cursory inspection of a DD 214 (discharge papers) would have revealed some as obvious liars, yet their stories were repeated, up until the Detroit meeting. It doesn't take the FBI to look at a DD 214, since each veteran was issued one upon discharge. How do you account for that? How do you account for the fact that his second-in-command, Al Hubbard, passed himself off as formerly a Captain in the Air Force, wounded in Vietnam, when he had been an Air Force sergeant who had never served in Vietnam? How exactly do you become second-in-command of the Vietnam Veterans Against the War, when you have never even been to Vietnam? Have you ever seen a DD 214?

From what I can gather, documentation was not requested until the Detroit Winter Soldier hearings in Detroit in February, 1971. They were requested precisely because the VVAW and Kerry had been repeating charges, for the past year, made by veterans who turned out be frauds. The Winter Soldier Investigation was organized, in part, by Mark Lane, who went on to represent the Rev. Jim Jones of the Peoples' Temple and Guyana fame (that gives you an idea). He had previously published a book, Conversations with Americans, that had asserted atrocities that even anti-war journalist Neil Sheehan had revealed were fabrications.

So yes, from Detroit onwards, the VVAW asked for documentation of service, but instructed their "witnesses" not to cooperate with CID, even when offered immunity from prosecution. In other words, the VVAW protected themselves from putting on "witnesses" who had never served, or who had never served in Vietnam (the DD 214's did that), but they also protected the "testimony" from possible refutation by instructing the witnesses not to cooperate with CID. Does that strike you as honorable or honest? Seems like they were more interested in not being refuted than in finding out the truth.

Marc "Adam Moshe" Bacharach - 6/17/2004

1) "You treat his Congressional testimony as dispositive. The blanket smear was committed on Meet the Press, back in 1971... Today, he offers the mealy-mouthed explanation that he wouldn't use those same words today. A bare minimum of integrity would demand an abject apology."

I treat his Congressional testimony as exactly what it was: testimony before the United States Congress. Come now, Richard, surely you would not have me post every speech he made to try and prove a negative, that he did NOT say something, would you?

You brought up Meet the Press, and thats fine, let's look at it: In 1971, Kerry said the following:
"There are all kinds of atrocities and I would have to say that, yes, yes, I committed the same kind of atrocities as thousands of other soldiers have committed in that I took part in shootings in free-fire zones. I conducted harassment and interdiction fire.... And I believe that the men who designed these, the men who designed the free-fire zone, the men who ordered us, the men who signed off the air raid strike areas, I think these men, by the letter of the law, the same letter of the law that tried Lieutenant Calley, are war criminals."

I disagree that he owes anyone an apology at all, except for specific charges that he may have made that have been proven false.

As Kerry goes on to say during a more recent Meet the Press interview:
"A lot of those stories have been documented. Have some been discredited? Sure, they have, Tim. The problem is that's not where the focus should have been. And, you know, when you're angry about something and you're young, you know, you're perfectly capable of not--I mean, if I had the kind of experience and time behind me that I have today, I'd have framed some of that differently. Needless to say, I'm proud that I stood up. I don't want anybody to think twice about it. I'm proud that I took the position that I took to oppose it. I think we saved lives, and I'm proud that I stood up at a time when it was important to stand up, but I'm not going to quibble, you know, 35 years later that I might not have phrased things more artfully at times."

We will never agree on this issue Richard, but again, Kerry's record after he returned from the war was honorable to me. Perhaps our disagreement stems more from our different positions on the Vietnam conflict than on our differences with Kerry's politics, I don't know. Atrocities in Vietnam have been well documented, including Bob Kerry's recent coming out of his own atrocities he committed. Kerry's passionate resistance to the war is commendable in my eye's.


2) "Personally, I don't think his 4 months riding a boat in the Delta qualifies him to make blanket statements about the war and its conduct."

Personally, I don't think serving 4 years, or 10 years, any other amount of time qualifies anyone to make blanket statements about anything. Nevertheless, people make them all the time. I have read veterans on this very post saying that no veteran supports Kerry, seen countless TV interviews of war veterans from any war claiming to speak for everyone. What you say, of course is true from an academic perspective, but it has little adherents in the real world of politics, either regarding John Kerry or just about everything else.

3) "Yes, Kerry took the Winter Soldier claimants at their word -- without any due diligence, he spread their lies. Not surprising, inasmuch as his second-in-command, Al Hubbard was a liar and fraud -- Kerry couldn't even spot a liar in his own midst, and never questioned Hubbard's claims, so it would be a little too much to expect Kerry to subject the Winter Soldier claims to scrutiny, wouldn't it?"

You assume that the lies were transparent and insinuate that perhaps Kerry simply wanted to believe them. I do not share this assumption and frankly, nor do you have any evidence to support the claim that Kerry did not subject what he heard to some scrutiny. Indeed, according to the LA Times, Kerry requested to see actual documentation that the people he spoke to served, including their discharge papers. We know this from FBI files, and we also know that it took the FBI to discredit them. If an Iraqi soldier goes on TV and talks about all the GOOD things we are doing in Iraq, do you question them on those claims, or do you accept it because it conforms to your expectations? Honestly? Do you condemn all of the pundits and politicians who said that ALL servicemen served honorably, knowing that it turned out a few did not? Or did you seriously question those claims from the beginning?

It is my opinion that much of America was lied to about Iraq, and indeed many conservatives still believe things that specialists have rebuked. I certainly am not prepared to condemn a man for, 30 years ago, having returned from war, believing stories that did nothing but corroborate his own experiences and observations.

4) " The important thing is the claims served his purposes, and as they say in journalism, the stories were too good to check."

If you assume nothing but nefarious intentions to meet Kerry's mad ambition or whatever you believe "his purposes" were, there is no evidence I can produce, and no argument that I can make to change your mind. When you assume the worst about someone, anything can be made to fit into the schema. As I have said above, perhaps we view the Vietnam conflict itself differently, and thus look upon the cast of actors at the time differently.

Richard Henry Morgan - 6/17/2004

You treat his Congressional testimony as dispositive. The blanket smear was committed on Meet the Press, back in 1971. Personally, I don't think his 4 months riding a boat in the Delta qualifies him to make blanket statements about the war and its conduct. Today, he offers the mealy-mouthed explanation that he wouldn't use those same words today. A bare minimum of integrity would demand an abject apology.

Yes, Kerry took the Winter Soldier claimants at their word -- without any due diligence, he spread their lies. Not surprising, inasmuch as his second-in-command, Al Hubbard was a liar and fraud -- Kerry couldn't even spot a liar in his own midst, and never questioned Hubbard's claims, so it would be a little too much to expect Kerry to subject the Winter Soldier claims to scrutiny, wouldn't it? The important thing is the claims served his purposes, and as they say in journalism, the stories were too good to check.

Andrew D. Todd - 6/17/2004

The notion of a politician who does not lie is rather a contradiction in terms, as Henry Adams' Russian colleagues pointed out to him back in the 1860's, when he was representing the United States in England against the Confederacy. All politicians lie, even if they are British noblemen who can trace their pedigree back to the eleventh century. It goes with the job.

The essential point is that Kerry had the good judgment to get out of the Vietnam Veterans Against the War when the FBI provocateurs began setting up assassinations. He is not altogether a fool. He does have more practical experience of war than the entire Bush administration, Collin Powell excepted. And Powell is in the process of being purged. I anticipate that Kerry will lie to the public about his voting record during the Bush administration. However, I do not think he will lie to himself. And that is what matters.

Col. Harry G. Summers Jr. coined the phrase, "private political bomb shelter" (_On Strategy: A Critical Analysis of the Gulf War_, 1992, p 32, pbk. ed.), describing the way in which the Vietnam-era congress chose to avoid political responsibility and risk. They said, in effect, that they believed President Johnson, but (soto voice) that if his representations should turn out to be materially inaccurate, it was his rear end, not theirs. However, when Congress climbed up from underground, it was for the Watergate hearings. The same thing is happening all over again with Bush. I do not hold it against Kerry that he was underground when the walking barrage passed over. I can only think of two brave souls in the senate who stuck their noses up for a moment, Leahy and Feingold. In the House, there was Barbara Lee, representing the "People's Republic of Berkeley." Since none of them can, by the wildest stretch of the imagination, be considered electable, Kerry is as suitable as the next man.

If one thing has been demonstrated by events, it is that George W. Bush does not possess good judgment. He does not seem to have grasped that the simultaneous invasion of Afghanistan and Iraq involved the commitment of an army of fifty divisions, fifteen of them up front and the rest in reserve. This is, after all, the same ratio of forces which were required in Vietnam. Much nonsense has been said and written about the "Revolution in Military Affairs" (RMA), but it all assumes that the enemy does not have access to the same grade of technology that we do. It assumes that high-tech weapons cannot be made from high-tech children's toys. Bush is bound to take reelection as a mandate to invade Syria, Iran, and Pakistan. In that case, he will need a good two hundred divisions. Two. Hundred. Divisions.

To understand Bush and Kerry, it is useful to go back and read Edwin O'Connor's _The Last Hurrah_, simply to get a grasp of what machine politics with the gloves off looks like. It is one thing to be stage-managed when you are twenty or thirty, and there are a lot of sixty and seventy-year-olds, with experience far beyond your own, but it is entirely another matter when you are fifty or sixty. There are no hundred-and-fifty-year-old elders.

Marc "Adam Moshe" Bacharach - 6/16/2004

I do not "defend Kerry's claims about all servicemen being involved in war crimes, by correctly pointing out that some war crimes were commited." This is because I do not believe that he ever made such a blanket accusation. This is not to say he did not, and you may correct me if I am wrong, but I don't recall such a total condemnation of all soldiers.

The following are excepts from his testimony before Congress on 04/22/1971 that I believe confirm my point:

- "I am not here as John Kerry. I am here as one member of the group of 1,000 which is a small representation of a very much larger group of veterans in this country, and were it possible for all of them to sit at this table they would be here and have the same kind of testimony"

- "I don't want to get into the game of saying I represent everybody over there, but let me try to say as straightforwardly as I can, we had an advertisement, ran full page, to show you what the troops read."

- "I think they are expressing, some of these troops, solidarity with us, right now by wearing black arm bands and Vietnam Veterans Against the War buttons."

- "However, I do recognize there are some men who are in the military for life. The job in the military is to fight wars. When they have a war to fight, they are just as happy in a sense, and I am sure that these men feel they are being stabbed in the back. But, at the same time, I think to most of them the realization of the emptiness, the hollowness, the absurdity of Vietnam has finally hit home, and I feel is they did come home the recrimination would certainly not come from the right, from the military."

As for Winter Soldier being "debunked," I will say for the sake of argument that the book that makes such claims, Stolen Valor, are valid and true. Kerry believed them and he credits them in his testimony before Congress when he says the following:

- "I would like to talk, representing all those veterans, and say that several months ago in Detroit, we had an investigation at which over 150 honorably discharged and many very highly decorated veterans testified to war crimes committed in Southeast Asia, not isolated incidents but crimes committed on a day-to-day basis with the full awareness of officers at all levels of command....
They told the stories at times they had personally raped, cut off ears... and the normal and very particular ravaging which is done by the applied bombing power of this country."

Frankly, I find Kerry's post Vietnam actions to be only with the best intentions for America. The fact that the information he was told by so-called veterans, information that his sister said had a profound effect on his outlook, may have been lies does nothing to impeach his character as far as I am concerned, although certainly the characters who told him the lies. Was there a speech given in front of some crowd in the middle of nowhere that has now surfaced in which Kerry implicated all soldiers? Probably (although I have never seen it).

John Kerry has many faults, including his disposition to change his mind on issues, and his total lack of appeal as a candidate. However, his passionate opposition to the war, having fought and risked his life in Vietnam, is not one of those faults as far as I am concerned. Others disagree, either for partisan reasons or because they may genuinely believe that his actions are dishonorable. That is fine, but I do not share that belief, and neither does many respected Republicans and respected Vietnam veterans.

Richard Henry Morgan - 6/16/2004

I agree and disagree. There is no evidence that Kerry was involved in a conspiracy to assassinate -- he merely lied about attending a meeting at which the idea was floated.

The other point I let slide the last time you made it, and now you make it again. You defend Kerry's claims about all servicemen being involved in war crimes, by correctly pointing out that some war crimes were commited. That is not kosher. You similarly defend the specific charges aired at the Winter Soldier, and repeated by Kerry, by the again vague and general comment that war crimes were committed. That simply won't do. Kerry repeated the specific charges of Winter Soldier in speeches across the US, and in a book that he has since stopped publication of, and sought to recall copies of. Winter Soldier has been debunked (I cited the sources earlier) in its specifics, and references to the fact that some war crimes (unspecified) did in fact occur, just won't do.

Kenneth R Gauck - 6/16/2004

Mr Clarke writes that he is "only pointing out your inconsistency in criticizing a criticism of Bush because of factual inaccuracy, when the whole world, practically, knows how Bush, as the most powerful individual in that world, played extremely loose with the facts on Iraq, producing -through this deception..."

I do not find this to be a true statement of fact, let alone known to practically the whole world. Prior to the actual capture of Iraq claims substantially similar to the Presidents were widely believed by members of both parties with access to highly classified intelligence, by the previous administration, which stated a very similar case in the announcement of Operation Desert Fox (the 1998 bombing of Iraq), by the United Nations, and by everyone who had an intelligence service.

There are two plausible possibilities. Either the year long run up to the war provided sufficient time for the Iraqi dictator to either destroy, bury, or ship away the WMD materials, or the very despotism of Iraq lead to lies about what it possessed, to the outside world, very possibily internally (see Francis Fukuyama's Aug 5, 2003 opinion in the Wall Street Journal), or very possibly to both.

There are strong precidents for this. In the late 1950's, Primier Krushchev intentionally created false impressions about the capacity of Soviet missiles and missile production. John Kennedy believed them and ran against the Eisenhower-Nixon record on the basis of the presumed "Missile Gap". By 1964 the Pentagon figured out that it wasm in McNamara's words, "a myth ... created by ... emotionally guided but nonetheless patriotic individuals in the Pentagon." President Kennedy replied with self-deprecating humor, calling himself a "patriotic and misguided man" who had been "one of those who put that myth around." (See Christopher Preble's piece in the December Presidential Studies Quarterly.)

Since the belief about Iraqi WMD's was so widely held, it was either true, but remains unproved (the Syria hypothesis), or was the product of a the deceptions which are so much a product of closed societies and dictatorial government (the Fukuyama hypothesis). Either way, the blame falls on Saddam Hussien.

Don Williams - 6/16/2004

1) Article I, Section 8 states that Congress has the power to:
"To define and punish piracies and felonies committed on the high seas, and offenses against the law of nations;

To declare war, grant letters of marque and reprisal, and make rules concerning captures on land and water; "

2) Even the power of Congress has limitation imposed by the Bill of Rights and by Section 9 of Article I , which states that:

"The privilege of the writ of habeas corpus shall not be suspended, unless when in cases of rebellion or invasion the public safety may require it."

Marc "Adam Moshe" Bacharach - 6/16/2004

Frankly, I neither know nor care about the author of this article, only the arguments made in the article itself. However, I see nothing in your analysis that would indicate Johnson is being a hypocrite. You say the following:

1) "A few days ago Johnson complained bitterly that the U.S. has under construction "fourteen" permanent military facilities in Iraq and that these facilities if utilized by U.S. armed forces will violate Iraqi soverignty. Today he whimpers we aren't "winning the war." Please, Mr. Johnson, which is it, our presence in Iraq is thwarts an Iraqi attempt to form a independent government or we've lost the war?"

Is there any reason why both of these statements cannot be true? Our winning the war is not contingent upon having permanent military bases, is it? I suppose it depends on what the definition of success is.

If our goal in Iraq is, as you say, "to impose a dominating U.S. military into the region by dominating the most strategic country in the area, which is Iraq," than I suppose winning necessitates having a "dominant US military" presence in Iraq. However, this does not match the rhetoric of the Bush administration, who claims that the goal is a free and democratic Iraq, a goal that does not necessitate the presence of American troops permanently.

2) You go on to make a rather odd point by suggesting that "Our very presence in Iraq is accomplishing that goal" of preventing other government from "permitting al-qaeda and like groups to operate within their territories" and cite as evidence the fact that "much of the resistance to U.S. occupation of Iraq derives from foreign fighters." If I understand you correctly, what you are saying in effect is that since foreign fighters are fighting us in Iraq (along with domestic, by the way), that means other countries are not letting al-Qaeda in their countries. I find no basis of evidence for this claim.

3) Your next claim however, is even odder: "the bitterness of the opposition by militant non-Iraqi Islamists is in itself verification that we are achieving our primary goal--have thrown a monkey wrench into militant Islamism's operations."

This suggests a rather bizarre situation in which the harder they fight, the more we must be winning? By this model, we should have won in Vietnam and lost in WWI and the Civil War, shouldn't we have?

4) "Whether or no Saddam was the nasty tryant as claimed the point for the U.S. was that he controlled the most strategic piece of real estate in the Middle East & we need to control it in order to successfully combat militant Islamism.

I am forced to conclude that you consider the current administration "quite mistaken, narrow-minded, and indeed nothing less than naive" since they have stated the exact opposite as their rationale for war. According to them, it was the liberation and transformation of Iraq, not the acquisition and control of the territory, as you say. Your claim is, in fact, exactly what is claimed by ardent opponents of the conflict.

5) "Bigots desparate in their desire to thwart any achievement by President Bush's administration have shown time-after-time their inability to separate petty partisan politics from serious national security issues."

I am not sure why you used the word "bigots" in your sentence, since it makes your point make little sense, but in any event, it may surprise you to find that I find the exact same to be true of Bush supporters. Besides, much of what you say in this post is directly in contradiction of President Bush and his stated objectives. Whatever your ideology supports, it is certainly not the stated policy of the administration.

6) "Clearly, they'd prefer American boys be killed abroad, if that would promote their domestic political ambitions. This is much the same attitude taken by many anti-war types during the Viet-Nam War."

So to be against the war is to desire that Americans be killed? A rather paranoid contention, but convenient for political purposes. Thus, all debate about whether or not to do something can be framed, not in terms of what is in the best interest of the country, but rather by simply saying that everyone who disagrees with you is power hungry and anti-American. Do I understand you correctly, or did I misunderstand something?

Marc "Adam Moshe" Bacharach - 6/16/2004

Your points about the Constitution and international law are intelligent and compelling. I particularly agree with your point that the current vagueness "leaves the U.S. in an unfortunate predicament."

"Whose job, then, is it to determine how to best try these people?" Certainly, only the United States has the right to determine how to handle these people since they are currently in our custody. I believe the point the author was trying to make was the authors interpretation of how Bush is handling the situation is usurping the Constitution, based on his understanding. It is his opinion, no doubt, but not one that could rightly be called right or wrong given the ambiguity you correctly mentioned. Indeed, even on settled issues of law, such as with abortion or church and state issues, people routinely call into question their Constitutional bases for them.

Personally, I find it unfortunate that issues of torture, unlawful combatants and other serious concerns are not being discussed openly in current discourse to try and figure out how to proceed. I can say the following however: In the case of Buckley v. Valeo (which had nothing to do with war) the high court made an important observation that in a democracy, the appearance of impropriety is just as damaging as the reality. Regardless of what the law says, the current policy towards detainees, as well as their treatment in our custody very much has the appearance of impropriety, and I serious hopes that the issue is clarified and addressed either in another Bush administration or in a Kerry one.

Tom Ellis - 6/16/2004

Thank you. I had begun to think that none of the replies would actually address my arguments.

Regarding the shameless plug of the book. You're right. He mentions it once, somewhere around the 4th or 5th paragraph. The twelve paragraphs that follow, however, do nothing but talk about the content of the book.

Regarding the Guantanamo situation, however, the point that he attempts to make is that keeping Unlawful Combatants detained indefinitely "is a usurpation of the Constitution." Given his apparent belief that Bush invented the term, this view is not surprising.

In fact, the Constitution is silent regarding the rights of prisoners taken by the U.S. military outside the U.S. The Constitution contains no mention of either prisoners of was or unlawful combatants. The Bill of Rights guarantees of grand jury indictment, trial by jury, legal counsel, and speedy public trial apply to citizens and residents of the U.S., and to foreigners arrested on U.S. soil.

International law does address their status, but only partially. As I mentioned earlier, when the category of Unlawful Combatant was actually formed (in 1899), it was decided that such people are not extended the same rights as either POW's or non-combatant civilians.

So, what rights do they have? That hasn't been decided by international law just yet. It has only been 105 years since the 2nd Hague Convention, after all. We must give them time.

This leaves the U.S. in an unfortunate predicament, doesn't it? U.S. law clearly doesn't apply, and if the U.S. were to apply its standards to the trials of the Guantanamo detainees, some other nations would still object for various reasons, due to the procedural differences between our courts and those of, say European nations. Our Article 3 (civilian) trials are very different from those of other nations, and military tribunals lack many of the safeguards in the Constitution, as well.

Whose job, then, is it to determine how to best try these people? Perhaps the UN? Has the UN stepped in and granted a set of rights to detainees who have been designated unlawful combatants? No.

So, these detainees are in a sort of legal limbo, not entirely created by the president, despite Mr. Johnson's assertions. U.S. law doesn't (and shouldn't) apply, and international law has no answer. This is unfortunate for the detainees, but is neither a usurpation of the Constitution, nor of international law.

Marc "Adam Moshe" Bacharach - 6/16/2004

I agree with part of your post. Indeed, I too sooner favor someone I was not thrilled with over the current administration, and in a two-party system, that is the choice people must make. Just as many conservatives (including Michael Savage and Alan Keys) will sooner vote for what they believe to be a sub-mediocre (not their words) president over Kerry, so too do many liberals feel the same about Bush.

There are 2 points you make however, and have made before that I must comment on:

1) "Kerry smeared a generation of servicemen, he repeated the lies (which he should have known were lies) of the Winter Soldier Investigation."

You assume that the testimony of Vietnam veterans were all lies, and then based on that assumption, conclude that Kerry is lying by repeating them. Do you have any evidence that all of the testimony from the over 100 people who testified, not least of which Kerry's own testimony before Congress, were lies?

2) "And for the last thirty years he has lied about his attendance at, and knowledge of, a VVAW meeting where a plan was floated to assassinate the President and members of the Senate."

You may be right about this, but I doubt you would call similar lapses in memory of Bush "lies." Until recently, Kerry insisted that he had never attended any of the sessions in Kansas City, saying that he had resigned from the VVAW in June at the St. Louis meeting. After a Los Angeles Times review of a portion of the FBI files found that Kerry had been at Kansas City, he said his memory must have been faulty. What we do know (because the FBI followed these meetings and we have their reports) was that by then, Kerry was on his way out, and that he had always opposed any violence in the anti-war protests. According to FBI files of the event in question, they say: "John Kerry . . . reportedly in disagreement with Hubbard over VVAW participating in militant actions; Kerry wants VVAW to stay strictly nonviolent."

In a recent story, the LA Times concluded the following about the event (05/23/2004):
"The FBI documents say the proposal "seemed to be only an idea for discussion" rather than an actual conspiracy to kidnap or murder. Another possible explanation comes from Rusty Lindley. "The organization was breaking down so badly at that point that we couldn't tell if violent ideas were being introduced by infiltrators or genuine vets," he says. Considering that two FBI paid informants, Lemmer and Becker, were involved in the plot, it would seem the FBI has some questions to answer, too. Jan Barry says that he has some specific questions he'd like put to the FBI--such as why, since the FBI knew about the "assassination plot," it never brought charges against anyone, or why the agency didn't add it to the indictment the government brought against Camil the following July."

In sum, let us put this into perspective. The organization was growing increasingly militant, and Kerry resigned from it. Given his involvement with the organization and the countless meetings and events that he attended, it is really any wonder that he could not recall attending one that has only recently become highly publicized?

For those who would jump on this as evidence of something nefarious about Kerry (although I am not really sure what), it is worth remembering that when Billy Graham said that he had no memory of making anti-Semitic comments with Nixon, no one seemed to object to that story. Certainly, there are things that Bush is unable to recall, such as his activities in AL during his tenure there, and yet few seem to care. Nor should they. These attacks on candidates for not being able to recall something from over 30 years ago, or for verbal flaps and other silly things are, to me, useless. Policy is what drives this country, not repeated attacks on credibility based on trivial events blown out of proportion.

Richard Henry Morgan - 6/16/2004

I was impressed by just how little Johnson had to say in favor of Kerry. Apparently, he believes Bush so bad that even a sub-mediocre Senator would be an improvement. Fine, he's entitled to his opinion.

But along the way he makes some bizarre points. Members of the armed forrces in the Vietnam era were a democratic check on militarism? I must have missed the active-duty anti-war marches. And the officer corps, during peacetime drafts, have always been, in effect, a volunteer corps. It's a bizarre argument that enlisted personnel's careerism is driving militarism -- is there a secret NCO cabal somewhere dictating foreign policy?

As for Johnson's claim about Kerry and his VVAW service, it is risible. Kerry smeared a generation of servicemen, he repeated the lies (which he should have known were lies) of the Winter Soldier Investigation (or, Agitprop) -- in fact, Kerry has stopped publication of his book on opposition to the war -- a rather strange thing if his leadership of the VVAW was the most honorable thing about him. And for the last thirty years he has lied about his attendance at, and knowledge of, a VVAW meeting where a plan was floated to assassinate the President and members of the Senate. Johnson's article is, sadly, the usual can of tripe to be expected from the Nation Institute.

Marc "Adam Moshe" Bacharach - 6/16/2004

Mr. Ellis,
You seem to dwell on this idea that the author is trying to sell his book. Based on a reading of the article however, this seems like a rather shallow concern. The author mentions his book only once, saying that "It was caused by American imperialism and militarism, which are the subjects of my new book The Sorrows of Empire: Militarism, Secrecy, and the End of the Republic."

Perhaps he was simply trying to plug his book, perhaps he was signaling to the reading where they can read more about this, or indicating that he has elaborated on his points, who cares? I fail to see what that has to do with the article, or the credibility of the arguments, especially since he cites many other articles and editorials in addition to his own work.

You do however make one substantive point, although given the relatively lengthy article, the authors mentions your primary focus only in passing. In any event, it is certainly worth addressing.

The author states the following:
"President Bush's invention of such hitherto unknown categories as "illegal combatant," "evil-doer," or "bad guy" and his claim of a unilateral right to imprison such persons indefinitely, without charging them or giving them access to the courts and legal counsel, is a usurpation of the Constitution."

You are correct, the author is wrong, Bush did not invent the category. A valid criticism of the article but I do not see how this one can seriously shed any light on to the validity of everything else the author says. If you have any problems with those, I look forward to reading them.

I will point however that the second part of the sentence is correct. Although Bush did not invent the category, he has invented the right to do whatever he likes with them. In ex parte Quirin, the issue was whether such people could be tried by military tribunals, nothing more. In that case, the court said that "Unlawful combatants are likewise subject to capture and detention, but in addition they are subject to trial and punishment by military tribunals for acts which render their belligerency unlawful." Regardless of whether the court was right or wrong (I tend to support the decision personally) it still cannot serve as a justification for what is happening now.

Tom Ellis - 6/15/2004

Hmmm...Once again, I'm faced with a response that doesn't address the arguments.

Let's boil this down:

1. I don't care which candidate one backs. I don't believe anything in my original post actually backs a candidate.

2. Chalmers Johnson's article contained a plainly false assertion of historic fact. I called him on it.

3. Mr. Johnson's article was nothing more than a shameless plug for his book, thinly disguised as political commentary.

That was the content of my original response, in a nutshell. The replies I have received have not refuted my claims. Rather, they continue to attack Bush.

I'll address the concerns about Quirin in a separate post, so as to avoid further muddying the water.

E. Simon - 6/15/2004

If the decision regarding the American-Nazi saboteur was landed by a "servile" supreme court then I guess you must be really glad that F.D.R.'s earlier moves to pack the court weren't allowed to succeed. In that case there's no telling just how servile the justices would have been.

Don Williams - 6/15/2004

Tom Ellis might remember that while details are important in history, the big picture is important was well.

1) Chalmers' point was that Bush has imprisoned US citizens for a long period of time without trial.
In the case of Quirin, the German saboteurs were tried,
by a military tribunal, and their case was reviewed by the Supreme Court.

2) Plus, I do not see why we should regard Quirin with anything other than deep contempt. It arose during World War II after the Supreme Court had been continually threatened and browbeatened by Franklin Roosevelt and his allies (e.g, the threat to pack the Supreme Court by adding many more judges beyond the nine).

Anyone who reads Quirin realizes that it is a disgusting display of deceitful sophistry which explicitly ignores and violates several clauses in the US Constitution-- at least,it did in the case of the German saboteur who was a native born American. We should not respect it just because it was issued by a servile Supreme Court -- just as we do not respect Dred Scott. Instead,we should elect Members of Congress who will impeach and remove any President or Judge spineless enough to support it.

All Quirin shows is that members of the AMerican Bar Association --including members of the SUpreme COurt -- are capable of making up a pack of lies when it suits their purpose and to preserve their comfortable positions in society.

I have nothing against the trial and execution of Americans who engage in unlawful insurrections -- but the trial by jury is a major safeguard against tyranny.
At most, the Constitution states that Congress --NOT the President -- may suspend habeas corpus in times of national emergency -- which we are not in.

Our Founding Fathers fought a war against a major global power -- an occupational army -- during a time when 1/3 of their countrymen supported the enemy and 1/3 were indifferent. They prevailed during a time when the national currency became worthless, when a deep recession laid over the land, when men starved, and when a smallpox pandemic raged. Even in such terrible circumstances, they still wrote in the Constitution that conviction of Treason requires two witnesses or confession in open court. Even then, they wrote that Americans were entitled to trial by jury. Even then they thought that measures to ensure liberty were more important than security.

But Republican politicians are such asskissing sycophants by nature that they not only dodge military service, they are also physical cowards who will let Bush create a police state to serve as a surrogate mommy. Just as in private life, they will betray their fellow workers for the sake of sucking up to some corporate executive who will promise them economic security if they will discard their moral principles and become obedient yes-men. (Hey, what do you think was the price of bailing Bush out of "El Busto"
oil company?)

3) One thing puzzles me, however. The NRA has long argued that the Second Amendment is a safeguard against tyranny --that it ensures Americans will always be armed so that they will be able to fight against a future dictator who might try to scrap the Constitution.

Why then does the NRA support a President who created Homeland Security, who is actively promoting measures to surveil the US population, and who is clearly laying the groundwork for a police state?

If any NRA members ever actually carried out their rhetoric ,would they not be unlawful combatants?? -- to be rounded up and shot like dogs or put in concentration camps like GITMO --without any trial by a jury of 12 fellow citizens?

IF Mr Ellis does not like Chalmers as a historian, he might try reading historians of the Roman Republic's fall -- Sallust, Tacitus, Cassius Dio, Julius Caesar, etc.

Lynn Bryan Schwartz - 6/15/2004

I am confused by Mr. Johnson's statement that the military of the Vietnam era was more democratic, "citizens' army" than today. He writes, "Members of the armed forces were a democratic check on militarism because they were not volunteers." I am not sure how a war fought by an army composed of conscripts is a more democratic way of waging war? Johnson wants to say that a war opposed by a sizeable minority, one forced to fight, is more democratic than one fought by army that today is more inclusive and all volunteer. This is nonsense.

Tom Ellis - 6/15/2004

Fair enough.

Chalmers Johnson can vote for whomever he wants (I state the obvious, here...give me a minute). He can also obviously use his position as a recognizable authority on our history to back his opinion.

However, as an historian, he has an obligation not to doctor the facts.

Mr. Clarke obviously feels that Bush has done much to damage the U.S. Chalmers Johnson obviously feels the same way. They may or may not be right. If the evidence exists, then there is NO EXCUSE for Johnson's blatant misrepresentation of fact.

My disdain for Chalmers Johnson isn't his choice of candidate for political office, nor is it with his use of this forum to plug his book (though the rules of these boards prohibit me from doing the same). I have a problem with historians who misrepresent history.

Mr. Clarke's reply doesn't refute what I wrote. He makes no claim that Mr. Johnson's facts were correct. It's another attack on the president. No more, no less.

JOHN CHUCKMAN - 6/15/2004


John Chuckman

Given its strutting brownshirt quality, here is a slogan that might well have been coined by America's most articulate political thug, Pat Buchanan.

But the slogan, with little waving-flag pictures, is being used for bumper stickers selling John Kerry. Good marketers know that you want an offering for every niche, so here's Kerry for the belly-over-the-belt, beer-belching, walrus-mustache set.

Niche marketing also explains goofy pieces about Kerry's military service versus that of Republican chicken hawks (for those unfamiliar, "chicken hawks" is an informal American political term for men who never fought yet advocate sending others off to war, a group largely, but not exclusively, consisting of Republicans). Never mind the moral obtuseness of opposing an armchair-psychopath like Bush with arguments in favor of a man who did his own killing, there's a weird market niche out there to be reached.

They sell everything in America. I recall the many patriotic displays of flags, buttons, and sweats in parking lots, supermarkets, and doughnut shops - all for sale, day and night, right after 9/11. Many claimed to be at reduced prices or even offered at two-for-one in especially touching displays of national feeling.

I recognize that Kerry needs all the advertising and marketing he can get. Every niche counts for one of the most uninspiring candidates in memory, although competition for the distinction of "most uninspiring" is tight in America. The nation's political system seems capable only of advancing con men, bumblers, and paste-board cutouts anymore, although, occasionally, as in the case of the late Great Communicator, a single man combines all three identities. A network of powerful interests much like rivers and tributaries running together to form one roaring cataract sweeps away any candidate in a major party who might actually stand for something other than the imperial ethos.

God knows Kerry never has never represented much of substance. Efforts to sell him are likely wasted. Ask any professional marketer whether he or she thinks Bud Lite, even with the best marketing effort, can outsell Bud. If there's a better description of John Kerry than "Bush Lite," it eludes me.

Kerry, the boring, monotone moose of American politics, has hung up his set of Senate-fundraising cummerbunds - or at least restricted photographers access to the galas when he still hitches them up - in favor of casual plaid shirts. Well, he isn't completely consistent about the plaid shirts: it's a matter of which group he's addressing whether he wants to suggest being a regular guy or society swell. When he does wear the plaid - always immaculately pressed to make sure no one mistakes him for someone who actually works for a living - there is more than a passing nod to millionaire, perpetual candidate, Lamar Alexander, who made a hobby of running for the Republican nomination sporting custom-made red lumberjack shirts.

People in struggling or oppressed lands who dream of being able to vote freely will be distressed to learn that America squanders her national elections on such costumed silliness, but it really cannot be otherwise when candidates have almost nothing to say.

Kerry's casual shirts are probably custom-made, too, with enough of them in each of his wardrobes to provide a fresh change three times a day. After all, Kerry is a very wealthy man, coming from a privileged background and having married the fabulously-rich heiress to the Heinz Pickle and Canned Spaghetti fortune (no, she has no connection to the company, now part of a monstrous agglomerate, she just sits on mountains of cash it generated). You can see where Kerry's sympathy and understanding for the little guy might come from.

There are precedents. George Washington inherited wealth and also married a very wealthy lady, Martha Custis, probably the richest widow in the colonies. Washington was famous for his warm qualities, too. The icy, piercing stare given to anyone for so much as touching his sleeve unbidden was legendary. His private characterization of early militiamen in Massachusetts, the men who genuinely had risked everything to start the revolt against Britain that he and other aristocrats then took over, was along the lines of filthy rabble.

Now, Kerry is not built of quite the same stern stuff as the Father of His Country. Washington would never have worn a plaid shirt, but a lot has changed since his day when maybe the wealthiest one-percent of Americans could vote. Now, most Americans can vote, so you can't be standoffish and you must expose yourself to the mob if you want to become President. The wealthiest one-percent now are limited strictly to determining with their campaign contributions which candidates the rabble sees on its ballots.

But Washington did sometimes coyly draw his silk frock coat over his cummerbund for touching moments when he spoke to people who weren't fellow aristocrats: he was skilled at acts like removing his glasses as his eyes went misty addressing the men, whose poor promises for pay he would in some cases later buy up at severe discount. You wouldn't recognize his capacity for empathy with ordinary men, though, from the monstrous bill he submitted to Congress after the Revolution for everything you can imagine including the wagon trains of wine he consumed at table while the rabble often did without a decent meal.

It's true that wealthy people sometimes make inspired leaders - F.D.R. comes to mind as does the greatest prince in Europe's history, Elizabeth I - but such people give strong signs of their remarkable talents long before they've reached Kerry's age. You don't hide your light until the near approach of senility. More often than not, you get Bushes or Rockefellers from the likes of Kerry, people with no more motivation for serving than capping their family's list of achievements with the nation's highest office.

Kerry rarely speaks of working people or the poor, rather he speaks of "the middle class," feel-good language adopted by contemporary politicians to cover just about everyone in the country down to McDonald's employees with more than one-month's service. You are not supposed to speak of class differences in America. Everyone there is middle-class, unless extremely wealthy like Mr. Kerry or Mr. Bush or Mr. Cheney or Mr. Rumsfeld, something not to be mentioned, or so poor as not to be worth mentioning. Economically-marginal Americans like to be called "middle class," just as they like to brag about their kids "going to college," even when the kids are working towards a degree in playground supervision or fast-food management in one of America's countless sleazy, for-profit diploma mills.

Mr. Kerry, of course, didn't attend a diploma mill. Only the best for him, the Yale of George and Daddy Bush. Incidentally, Bush's graduating Yale is often advanced as an argument for his actual intelligence being higher than the public's perception. But those old schools just love accepting the sons and daughters of rich patrons, and they manage to graduate them virtually always. You don't build fat institutional endowments by flunking guys like Georgie Bush. Even Oxford and Cambridge in England follow the practice, accepting and graduating some of the most mediocre members of the Royal Family.

America's love affair with everyone's being middle class nicely serves the establishment's belligerent foreign policy. It just doesn't count for much when you kill peasants somewhere on the periphery of the empire, it's a bit like stepping on ants while doing your gardening, and Kerry knows, firsthand, about killing peasants. He and his merry band of men buzzed up and down the rivers of Vietnam in a boat shooting people too poor and ignorant to understand the great blessings of liberty being offered them.

That experience may equip Kerry to handle the revolt of Iraqi peasants against American occupation. After all, in Vietnam they didn't bother with stripping prisoners naked and smearing excrement on them. That was a war for real men. They took prisoners up in helicopters and threw them out from several thousand feet if they didn't give the right response, and frequently even when they did give the right response. It just made for one less gook (the affectionate nickname American troops bestowed on the locals). When America's good old boys tired of such vicious games, they just napalmed whole villages instead of bothering to find out what should or should not be attacked. That's how you build a "body count" of about three million.

Kerry's statements on foreign policy indicate, as they are intended to do, that he is ready and willing to kill and maim for whatever are America's interests of the moment abroad. Of course, he doesn't say just those words, but what he does say carries those implications. Never mind any emphasis on diplomacy, international institutions, or cooperation - that's all sissy stuff. On the issue of Israel's bloody occupation of the Palestinians, a dreary, deadening reality at the heart of much of America's current trouble in the world, Kerry sounds even more fanatical than Bush.

Of course, the one comforting thought about an idiotic slogan like "These colors don't run," is that it is so plainly false. The colors ran like a cheap dye in Vietnam and Cambodia, leaving a trail of death, disillusionment, and broken promises. And the colors ran again in Somolia where an arrogant people busied themselves more with trying to shoot-up the bad guys than they did with feeding desperate people.

A stark summary of what actually has occurred over the last few years highlights the slogan's goonish nature. The only attack on America was by nineteen fanatics with virtually no weapons who all died. It is positively inspiring that Old Glory, imperial symbol of the world's mightiest country, didn't run on such a challenging field of battle. Old Glory also withstood the heroic assault and occupation of two pathetically-poor countries whose combined capacity for defense was roughly comparable to the state of Missouri.

How could you lose with cruise missiles, stealth bombers, high-tech fragmentation bombs, the poison of depleted uranium, plus all the money and means imaginable to bribe officials and reward disloyalty? It was indeed a shining achievement, and if you recall John Kerry's voice standing against any of it, you heard something the world missed.

The examples are countless of headstrong people like Americans learning hard lessons only by banging their heads into walls. A second dose of Bush's truly destructive leadership will likely do more for America's ailments than taking a placebo like John Kerry.

Tom Ellis - 6/14/2004

Oddly, for an historian, Chalmers Johnson wastes no time in misstating historic fact. He begins by claiming that Bush invented "illegal combatants" in order to justify skirting the Geneva Conventions of 1949.

In fact, in ex parte Quirin (1942), the U.S. Supreme Court used the term "Unlawful Combatant" (these are interchangeable terms) in its upholding the use of U.S. military tribunals in the trials of several German saboteurs in the U.S. Prior to that, in International Law, the 2nd Hague Convention (1899) defined the requirements for combatants to be eligible to be treated as Prisoners of War.

"Article 1. The laws, rights, and duties of war apply not only to armies, but also to militia and volunteer corps fulfilling the following conditions:

1. To be commanded by a person responsible for his subordinates;

2. To have a fixed distinctive emblem recognizable at a distance;

3. To carry arms openly; and

4. To conduct their operations in accordance with the laws and customs of war."

"Article. 3. The armed forces of the belligerent parties may consist of combatants and non-combatants. In case of capture by the enemy both have a right to be treated as prisoners of war."

International Law, therefore, provides four separate categories:

1. Combatant members of armies or militias (soldiers);

2. Non-Combatant members of armies or militias (army doctors or chaplains, for example);

3. Non-Combatant civilians; and

4. Civilian Combatants (aka Unlawful Combatants).

The first two categories, upon capture, are eligible for treatment as POW's. The third category is not eligible for POW status, but is eligible for protection under other statutes.

The final category, that of Unlawful (Illegal) Combatant, is not eligible for protection as a POW or as a civilian non-combatant.

Of course, that Dr. Johnson quickly segues from the war in Iraq to his book is telling. He spends 13 paragraphs detailing American "imperialism and militarism." He never ties this back to Bush, nor does he explain how Kerry would do something about this. He merely outlines what you can find in his book (on sale at Amazon.com, for only $17.00!)

At best, the man is a lousy, lazy historian. Far worse, however, is that it appears he is willing to doctor the facts in order to sell a few books.

W H - 6/14/2004

One of the problems with Chalmers Johnson is that whatever good points he has to make, he buries in a pile of steaming rhetoric. Examples:

"...we know that almost all the citizens of those countries who have come in contact with our armed forces and survived have nonetheless had their lives ruined." How do "we know" that?

"The military prefers bases that resemble small fundamentalist towns in the Bible Belt rather than neighborhoods in the big population centers of the United States." He bases this accusation solely on the fact that (as per Congress-passed law) abortions cannot be provided on military bases.

Bush is a "Boy Emperor."

Finally, my favorite: After stumping for Kerry, Johnson writes, "let me nonetheless end by noting that the political system may not be capable of saving the Republic."

Why is this my favorite? Because about 15 years ago, Chalmers Johnson said something to the effect of "the Cold War is over and Japan won." By this he meant that the struggle with the Soviets had so exhausted U.S. resources that the Japanese and other upstarts would be dominating us economically for the forseeable future. Years later he was forced to admit to historian Derek Leebaert that things had not quite turned out as he predicted. But like Paul Ehrlich, having been badly wrong once does not prevent him from predicting doomsday again.

Johnson has said that while he was once a conservative in the Vietnam era (a "spear carrier for the empire" in his words), he now thinks that Jane Fonda et al. were right. Like a dried-up drunk, he apparently wishes to make up for his boozing days with an excess of temperance zeal, and maybe have his own "Sixties." This stuff is only slightly better than Gore Vidal, and that ain't saying much.