Roundup: Historian's Take
This is where we place excerpts by historians writing about the news. On occasion this page also includes political scientists, economists, and law professors who write about history. We may from time to time even include English profs.
SOURCE: Chronicle of Higher Education (6-5-07)
The fact that people move around the world has been true ever since the human race stood up on two legs. There is nothing crisislike about this. To the extent that we are in fact facing crises, they are economic and environmental in nature. These two crises are connected with immigration because of the way resources are concentrated in certain parts of the world. The beginning of immigration typically comes with peasant communities' being pushed off their land by foreign corporations. That is one of the main reasons that people move. So the crisis is not the fact that they are moving, the crisis is the fact that they can't survive where they are.
When we look at immigration from Latin America, it is important to keep in mind America's long history of political and military domination in the region. Colonialism has always been connected to racism. The social movements of the 1960s delegitimized overt racism. But in some ways the category of the immigrant, or the illegal immigrant, has risen up to fill the gap left by the elimination of overt racism.
Today we look back at laws that discriminated against blacks and say that those were bad laws and that it is good that people like Rosa Parks broke them and challenged them and eventually got them changed. We celebrate that. But because it is still legitimate to discriminate against immigrants, we don't apply the same standards to people who break or challenge the immigration laws.
People should have rights by virtue of the fact that they are people. Within America, from state to state, we recognize that principle. Jurisdictionally I may be a resident of Massachusetts or I may be a resident of Connecticut, but I still have rights as a person, and one of those rights is the right to political representation wherever I happen to be. But suddenly when someone crosses the national border, our respect for humanity disappears....
Posted on: Tuesday, June 5, 2007 - 17:40
The san francisco outfielder Barry Bonds, one of the most talented hitters ever to play major-league baseball, as well as probably the single most disliked player in the game, is about to break one of the most hallowed records in all sports: Henry Aaron's lifetime home-run record of 755, which Aaron took away from the game's legendary and beloved Babe Ruth.
Bonds's run-up to this extraordinary record is complicated by many factors, not the least of which is the likelihood that he used steroids for several years in the late 1990s and early 2000s, probably lied about it to a grand jury, and could be indicted for perjury sometime this year. There's also the fact that he appears to be a genuinely unpleasant human being, who reserves special hostility for the reporters charged with covering his exploits, but also manages simultaneously to whine about not being treated fairly while refusing to relate to fans.
Did I mention that he's black? In fact, he has a family pedigree reaching deep into baseball's history of segregation and reintegration (a few African-Americans played big-league ball in the 19th century, until the late 1880s). His father, Bobby Bonds, came up with the San Francisco Giants in 1968 and played for eight teams over 14 seasons. Then there's his godfather, the Hall of Fame slugging outfielder Willie Mays, who began playing baseball for the Birmingham Black Barons and then integrated the New York Giants in 1951, and whose 660 home runs now rank fourth in baseball history. Bonds holds a raft of career and single-season records — including seven Most Valuable Player awards — from before and after he came under suspicion for steroid use.
Not only is Barry Bonds African-American, he's a "race man." In 2004 he set off a firestorm by telling a Boston sportswriter that he'd never finish his career in Boston as a designated hitter. "Boston is too racist for me," he said, noting that racist treatment of athletes had "been going on ever since my dad was playing baseball." The reporter suggested that Boston had changed since the days when the Red Sox passed on a chance to sign Jackie Robinson, claiming the honor in 1959 (!) of being the very last major-league team to hire a black player. Bonds was unimpressed. "It ain't changing," he responded.
Bonds's approach to his coming batting record has tied baseball fans and writers in knots. Ask most baseball fans whether they think he should be elected to the Hall of Fame, and get ready for a lot of passion, a whole lot less reason. I teach a course on sports history and try to help my students to understand this controversy in context — of baseball history and of race....
Posted on: Tuesday, June 5, 2007 - 17:30
SOURCE: New York Sun (with additional materials) (6-5-07)
The decision last week by the Islamic Society of Boston to drop its lawsuit against 17 defendants, including counterterrorism specialist Steven Emerson, gives reason to step back to consider radical Islam's legal ambitions.
The envisioned $22 million Islamic Society of Boston Cultural Center.
Under this barrage of criticism, the ISB in May 2005 turned tables on its critics with a lawsuit accusing them of defamation and conspiring to violate its civil rights through"a concerted, well-coordinated effort to deprive the Plaintiffs … of their basic rights of free association and the free exercise of religion."
The lawsuit roiled Bostonians for two long years, and Jewish-Muslim relations in particular. The discovery process, while revealing that the defendants had engaged in routine newsgathering and political disputation, and had nothing to hide, uncovered the plaintiff's record of extremism and deception. Newly aware of its own vulnerabilities, the ISB on May 29 withdrew its lawsuit with its many complaints about"false statements," and it did so without getting a dime.
Why should this dispute matter to anyone beyond the litigants?
The Islamist movement has two wings, one violent and one lawful, which operate apart but often reinforce each other. Their effective coordination was on display in Britain last August, when the Islamist establishment seized on the Heathrow airport plot to destroy planes over the Atlantic Ocean as an opening for it to press the Blair government for changes in policy.
A similar one-two punch stifles the open discussion of Muhammad, the Koran, Islam, and Muslims. Violence causing hundreds of deaths erupted against The Satanic Verses, the Danish cartoons, and Pope Benedict, creating a climate of fear that adds muscle to lawsuits such as the ISB's. As Mr. Emerson noted when the Muslim Public Affairs Council recently threatened to sue him for supposed false statements,"Legal action has become a mainstay of radical Islamist organizations seeking to intimidate and silence their critics."
Such lawsuits, including the ISB's, are often predatory, filed without serious expectations of winning, but initiated to bankrupt, distract, intimidate, and demoralize defendants. Such plaintiffs seek less to win than to wear down the researchers and analysts who, even when they win, pay heavily in time and money. Two examples:
Khalid bin Mahfouz v Rachel Ehrenfeld: Ehrenfeld wrote that Bin Mahfouz had financial links to Al-Qaeda and Hamas. He sued her in January 2004 in a plaintiff-friendly British court. He won by default and was awarded £30,000 and an apology.
Iqbal Unus v Rita Katz: His house searched in the course of a American government operation, code-named Green Quest, Unus sued Ms Katz, a non-governmental counterterrorist expert, charging in March 2004 that she was responsible for the raid. Mr. Unus lost and had to pay Ms Katz's court costs.
The Council on American-Islamic Relations began a burst of litigiousness in 2003 and announced ambitious fundraising goals for this effort. But the collapse of three lawsuits, in particular the one against Andrew Whitehead of Anti-CAIR, seems by April 2006 to have prompted a reconsideration. Frustrated in the courtroom, one CAIR staffer consoled himself that"education is superior to litigation."
This retreat notwithstanding, Islamists clearly hope, as Douglas Farah notes, that lawsuits will cause researchers and analysts to"get tired of the cost and the hassle and simply shut up." Just last month, KinderUSA sued Matthew Levitt, a specialist on terrorist funding, and two organizations, for his assertion that KinderUSA funds Hamas. One must assume that Islamists are planning future legal ordeals for their critics.
Which brings me to an announcement: The Middle East Forum is establishing a"Legal Project" to protect counterterror and anti-Islamist researchers and analysts. Their vital work must not be preempted by legal intimidation. In the event of litigation, they need to be armed with sufficient funding and the finest legal representation.
This article is reprinted with permission by Daniel Pipes. This article first appeared in the New York Sun.
Posted on: Tuesday, June 5, 2007 - 15:10
SOURCE: Informed Comment (Blog) (6-5-07)
Libby, VP Robert Bruce Cheney's chief of staff and national security adviser, was formally charged with obstruction of justice. He has been convicted of lying under oath to the special prosecutor about his role in leaking the identity of undercover CIA operative Valerie Plame Wilson to the US press.
Libby was not charged with the leak, which was probably illegal and certainly grossly unethical. Since Valerie was undercover working against the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, especially with regard to Iran, in running a deliberate leaking operation against her Libby was essentially functioning as an agent of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps.
That is, Libby was functioning, for political purposes, in the same way as Robert Hanssen, the FBI agent who betrayed colleagues and assets to the Soviet Union, as portrayed in the film,"Breach."
The same is true for Cheney himself and for Karl Rove, Bush's political adviser. They are all traitors who betrayed an undercover US operative who was attempting to work against the ayatollahs in Tehran.
Since potential Republican presidential candidate Fred Thompson is a big defender of Libby, the Red States may as well go ahead and put Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in the White House as elect the"Law and Order" poobah. If that's the sort of thing Thompson supports, he not only may as well be an Iranian spy, he will never ever gain the trust of the US intelligence community, which is absolutely necessary for a president in these perilous times.
Plame Wilson portrayed herself to the outside world as an employee of an energy corporation, Brewster Jennings & Associates. That was a dummy corporation set up for the purposes of tradecraft by the CIA. Cheney and his henchmen destroyed the value of that facade. They also put in danger the lives of everyone known to have closely associated with Plame Wilson and her" company"-- i.e. her assets and contacts in Africa and elsewhere helping her with counter-proliferation. Cheney had Libby and his other gang members potentially"burn" all those agents. Since Plame Wilson's activities were classified, it is not possible for us to know for sure, but it is entirely possible that Libby's efforts (and those of his more effective colleague, Karl Rove) got these assets killed.
Personally, I think the special prosecutor in this case was far too cautious. He brought only obstruction of justice charges. I think there were grounds to bring espionage charges, and not just against Libby. You can't tell the American press about an undercover operative's true identity without also telling Iran about it.
Readers who want a primer on this complicated case can find my earlier explanation of it here.
Joe and Valerie Wilson sent out this comment on the sentencing via their attorney:
"As Americans, both Valerie and I are grateful that justice has been served, reconfirming that our country remains a nation of laws.
We are also saddened for the pain that Mr. Libby has inflicted on his family, friends, and the nation. Mr. Libby benefited from the best this country had to offer: the finest schools, a lucrative career as a lawyer and many years of service in Republican administrations. That he would knowingly lie, perjure himself and obstruct a legitimate criminal investigation is incomprehensible.
It is our hope that he will now cooperate with Special Counsel Fitzgerald in his efforts to get to the truth. As Mr. Fitzgerald has said, a cloud remains over the Vice President.
Every official in this administration must be held accountable for their actions."
Winner & Associates
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Posted on: Tuesday, June 5, 2007 - 14:36
SOURCE: FrontpageMag.com (6-1-07)
Posted on: Tuesday, June 5, 2007 - 11:24
SOURCE: Independent (UK) (6-3-07)
Like Mr Blair, Wilberforce had his roots in the north of England. Like Mr Blair, he did not distinguish himself at Oxbridge. Like Mr Blair, he lost no time in entering politics, where his affability ensured rapid advancement. And, like Mr Blair, Wilberforce was strongly influenced by the Evangelical movement.
The revelation of "the infinite love, that Christ should die to save such a sinner" came to Wilberforce like a thunderbolt after he had entered Parliament.
But he was persuaded by (among others) the repentant slave trader and composer of Amazing Grace John Newton, that he could "do both": politics and God's work. It took a few false starts before, alerted to the atrocious conditions aboard slave ships making the transatlantic "Middle Passage", he found his cause célèbre.
The moral transformation of England achieved by the Evangelical movement, without which the law abolishing the slave trade would never have been passed, has its echoes in our own time.
Today, of course, most English people are faintly embarrassed by religion and regard Americans as rather absurd for reading the Bible. Nevertheless, the English retain an authentically 19th-century enthusiasm for moral crusades. Part of Mr Blair's original appeal as a politician was precisely the impression he gave of being able to lead one.
In our time, as in the 1800s, Africa has an especially strong appeal to the Evangelical sensibility. There is something irresistible about being able to feel simultaneously guilty about the continent's problems ("I once was blind...") and capable of solving them ("... but now I see").
The problem is, of course, that generation after generation thinks it has found the solution, and generation after generation is disappointed. Wilberforce and his friends were convinced that abolishing the slave trade, and then slavery itself, would do the trick....
[HNN: Ferguson goes on to argue that no amount of British aid to its former colonies in Africa has provided much help.]
On the sole occasion when the British intervened to end violence in one of their former colonies, Sierra Leone in 2000, the results were dramatic [however]. Freetown in the late Nineties had witnessed scenes out of Conrad's Heart of Darkness.
But when I went there not long after the British intervention, it was safe to walk the streets."Thank God for Britain!" an elderly man exclaimed when he heard where I was from. I never expected to hear that in Africa.
Credit where credit is due. It was Mr Blair who sent the troops to Sierra Leone and ended the anarchy there. So I don't begrudge him his visit to Freetown last week. It was surely the most richly deserved ego-trip of his entire Sinatra-like farewell world tour.
Moreover, Mr Blair proceeded to give a speech in South Africa on Thursday which, as messianic speeches on the subject of Africa go, was one of the best I have ever heard from a Western leader."Africa," he declared,"has been a prime example of a foreign policy that has been thoroughly interventionist. I believe in the power of political action to make the world better and the moral obligation to use it."
Great stuff. And pure Wilberforce. ...
Posted on: Monday, June 4, 2007 - 02:29
It is no surprise that Al Gore is attacking Bush in his new book, of course. Nor is it a surprise that Gore accuses Bush of ignoring all reasonable evidence in both making the decision to invade Iraq and in deciding to do nothing about global warming.
What is important about what Gore is saying is his focus on how the pollution of America's information environment by 1) corporate media consolidation (all television news is brought to Americans by five private corporations, the CEOs of which all vote Republican) and 2) government propaganda (i.e. lies purveyed to Americans using the money and resources of Americans).
Polling shows that the percentage of Americans who view Iran as the number one threat to the United States has risen to 27 percent now. I think it was only 20 percent in December 2006. First of all, how in the world can a developing country with about a fourth of the population of the US, about a $2000 per capita income (in real terms, not local purchasing power), with no intercontinental ballistic missiles, with no weapons of mass destruction (and no proof positive it is trying to get them), with a small army and a small military budget-- how is such a country a "threat" to the United States of America? Iranian leaders don't like the US, and they talk dirty about the US, and they do attempt to thwart US interests. The same is true of Venezuela under Chavez. But Tehran is a minor player on the world stage, and trying to build it up to replace the Soviet Union is just the worst sort of fear-mongering, and it is being done on behalf of the US military industrial complex, which wants to do to Iran what it did to Iraq. It is propaganda, and significant numbers of Americans (a 7 percent increase would be like 21 million people!) are buying it.
Why have those poll numbers gone up? Because the Bush administration is trying to hang the Sunni Arab insurgency in Iraq on Iran (and even trying to hang the Taliban resurgence in Afghanistan on Iran). The message of administration and military spokesmen is that Iran is deliberately killing US troops and is a major source of insurgency in Iraq. No convincing evidence has ever been presented for either allegation, nor is it reasonable to assume that Iran plays a significant role in funding hyper-Sunni, Shiite-killing death squads to deliberately destabilize its client governments in Baghdad (al-Maliki) and Kabul (Karzai). Yet the New York Times and even the Guardian put this b.s. on the front page, and of course it is all over CNN, Fox Cable News, MSNBC, etc. Are US journalists trapped in the the dictates of the military-industrial complex by virtue of working for these mega corporations? We know that Roger Ailes at Fox Cable News orders his employees how to spin the day's news (he is a former high Republican Party official). Has any of the journalists counted up how many of the 127 US troops killed in Iraq in May was killed in Sunni Arab areas and how many in Shiite neighborhoods? Has any of them actually read the translated communiques on World News Connection of the Sunni Arab guerrillas and what they say about Iran and Shiites? Has any demanded air tight proof and non-anonymous sources before printing this garbage?
It is this sort of thing that Gore is alarmed about. He is a man of enormous experience in public life, and he is saying that he sees a sea change for the worse in this regard. I concur.
Posted on: Sunday, June 3, 2007 - 21:18
SOURCE: Foreign Policy Research Institute (5-29-07)
There is a relationship between societies that aren’t free and genocide, but it’s not exactly the relationship one might assume. The common wisdom is based on our knowledge of the Holocaust, which we think of as the prototypical case of genocide. We think that an oppressive state begins to discriminate against people, and then this discrimination escalates into an annihilation campaign of genocide. The Holocaust is the case we know best, so we think that must be what’s happening in all these other cases, whether Rwanda or Darfur.
But in fact, one sees a slightly different narrative in most other cases. The Holocaust was almost the exception. The more typical case starts with a rebellion, often by an ethnically based group in the society, sometimes with a legitimate grievance of discrimination or poverty, other times with no legitimate grievance, just wanting more power or independence.
States respond to rebellion in a number of ways, often initially with counterinsurgency campaigns. But another of their options, and one they sometimes choose, is to say “Well, these rebels are supported by their ethnic group, so we should target the civilians.” That can be done in a spectrum of ways, ranging from forcing the civilians to leave, which we typically call ethnic cleansing, all the way to actually killing all the civilians. With modern cases of genocide one often sees exactly those roots: first, there’s a rebellion, then the government launches a brutal counterinsurgency campaign, which escalates to saying “We have to kill all the civilians who are supporting the rebels.”
It matters a great deal that the actual narrative is different from the common wisdom, because the misimpression of what actually happens can lead to unproductive or even counterproductive activism. Not only doesn’t it save lives, it may actually cost lives. Addressing the problem of genocide is not just a matter of raising consciousness and creating political will for action, but also understanding what’s actually causing such violence, in order to devise remedies that do more good than harm.
Hundreds of years ago, two groups settled in Rwanda: the Hutu and the Tutsi. The Hutu were the vast majority, somewhere around 85 percent of the country, mainly farmers. The Tutsi were more likely to be involved in raising cattle. Over time a symbiotic relationship evolved between these two groups in Rwanda because those with cattle need crops to eat and land to graze herds, but in return have the means to provide security. Cattle are a sign of wealth, so whoever has cattle is higher in the pecking order than subsistence farmers. So in Rwanda, the Tutsi were the more privileged group well before the arrival of any colonialists.
Germany was the original colonial power in Rwanda but lost the colony during WWI, at which point Belgium took over. This was not a settler colony; the Belgians ruled indirectly, which meant divide and rule. To do this, you don’t ally with the majority, because there are too many of them. The Belgians allied with the Tutsi and said “What we really want from this country is production”—of tea and coffee. The Tutsi elite became essentially the strong hand of the Belgians. As a result, what previously had been a symbiotic relationship between Tutsi and Hutu devolved into a more oppressive, exploitative relationship. The Tutsi exerted strong pressure on the Hutu to work harder and produce more, and in turn were rewarded by the colonial power.
The Hutu of course resented this, and so as the country started after WWII to move toward independence, the Hutu said “We want not just independence, but also majority rule. We’re tired of being under the thumb of the Tutsi.” Eventually the European powers supported majority rule, so when Rwanda became independent in the early 1960s, the pecking order switched. The first elected president of Rwanda was a Hutu, and the newly empowered Hutu took small-scale vengeance against the elite of the Tutsi, killing some and forcing others to flee to neighboring states. But after having been in control for so long, the former Tutsi elite were not satisfied to live as refugees. They soon began to invade the country and try to recapture power. A dynamic emerged in the 1960s—which would repeat itself a quarter-century later—of Tutsi rebels invading the country, the Hutu government fighting them off, and then the Hutu starting to attack Tutsi within the country, fearing a possible fifth column. In the early 1960s, there was a series of invasions by Tutsi rebels from Uganda and Burundi and brutal retaliation by the Hutu government against the Tutsi within the country—prompting fully half of the Tutsi population to flee Rwanda.
In 1967, the Tutsi refugee rebels realized that they could not reconquer the country this way and stopped the invasions. Accordingly, attacks on Tutsi within the country also stopped. To be clear, when the Tutsi rebel invasions stopped, so did the attacks against Tutsi civilians in Rwanda. So the popular impression of Rwanda as a place where the Hutu and Tutsi have always been at each other’s throats is simply untrue. In fact, from 1967-90, there was virtually no ethnic violence in Rwanda (except for a small disturbance in 1973 when the Hutu president was deposed by a Hutu officer and attempted unsuccessfully to blame the Tutsi). Why then did we subsequently get a genocide? Because the Tutsi refugees, who had been quiescent for 23 years, reinvaded in 1990, having acquired military expertise and materiel in neighboring Uganda. They had joined a rebel force there that came to power in 1986, so now they were in the Ugandan army, had access to weaponry, and said, “Why not invade and take over our own homeland?” As in the 1960s, Rwanda’s Hutu government responded by targeting not only the rebels but also Tutsi civilians within the country. However, the rebels were much more competent than they had been in the 1960s. They came closer and closer to capturing the capital.
In 1993, with pressure mounting from the rebels and from the international community, the Rwandan government signed a peace treaty. The number of casualties at this point was fairly low, some 2,000 killed from 1990–93. But the government feared that the Tutsi wanted not just to share power but to take power. It stalled on implementing the agreement and tried to rouse the Hutu populace, reminding them of the old days of being second-class citizens. Under the 1993 peace agreement, some 2,500 UN peacekeepers arrived, and there was still hope of implementation until April 6, 1994, when the Hutu president was assassinated. The Hutu claimed, and evidence increasingly points to the fact, that the Tutsi rebels had shot the president’s plane down. The Hutu immediately pursued a “final solution.” Over the next three months, the fastest genocide in recorded history took place, with over a half-million Tutsi killed, some three-quarters of their population in Rwanda.
The peacekeepers managed to protect a few thousand people, but as the violence escalated, the UN withdrew, downsizing in April 2004 from a force of 2,500 to an authorized level of about 250. A larger UN-authorized force did not return until late June, when the genocide was mostly over, and in July 2004 the Tutsi rebels conquered what was left of the country. So the Tutsi refugee rebels won their war, but at an enormous cost to their fellow Tutsi inside Rwanda. The Hutu fled—over 2 million became refugees, including their Army—mainly to Zaire, from where they tried repeatedly to reinvade. This is partially what led to the Zairian civil war of 1996, and then another Congolese civil war starting in 1997, and several more million people dying in the DRC due to the disruption and deprivation of those wars.
So there certainly is a lack of freedom throughout the narrative. At one point the Hutu are oppressed; at another point the Tutsi refugees aren’t free to live in their own country. In fact, they were banned from reentering the country in the 1970s-80s. But the situation for Rwanda’s Tutsi—both within and outside Rwanda—wasn’t so terrible during those decades. No one was being killed, ethnically cleansed, or badly oppressed. In fact, some Tutsi were thriving. In Uganda, the chief of staff and the head of intelligence of the Army were both Rwandan Tutsi. There was even some resentment in Uganda because the Tutsi refugees were faring better than native Ugandans. Despite this, it was the decision by some Rwandan Tutsi refugees to invade Rwanda that triggered the set of events that led to the genocide. So there is a relationship between lack of freedom and genocide, but it’s not the simplistic story that one might imagine. This is not to excuse but to explain what happened.
As for whether international military intervention could have prevented the genocide, the common wisdom is that this would have been easy if only we had mustered the political will to act. But addressing this issue requires us to answer three questions: how fast did the genocide progress, when did we realize a genocide was underway, and how quickly could we have deployed troops to stop it?
The genocide didn’t start gradually and accelerate later, leaving a window for decisive intervention, as most people think. Rather, the massacres exploded immediately throughout most of the country. Indeed, most of the killing occurred during the first two to three weeks. Nor did the U.S. government immediately know it was a genocide. The international media had a greater presence in Rwanda than U.S. intelligence agencies, and if one looks at the media coverage from the first two weeks after the Hutu president was assassinated, it focused largely on the renewed civil war. When the president was killed, the Tutsi rebels launched a new offensive and the army started defending against the rebels. So at the same time as the genocide was erupting, there was renewal of civil war that disrupted implementation of an internationally brokered peace agreement. International actors were focused on the latter, and so did not become aware of the former until about two weeks into the violence.
Moreover, the Tutsi rebels were winning the civil war (and, indeed, ultimately won it). So it was hard initially for international observers to reconcile the Tutsi as victims of genocide if they were in the process of winning a civil war. Also, during the initial days of violence, international reporters were evacuated from the countryside, where most of the violence was occurring, so they could not report it. Only in retrospect did human rights groups document the massacres by painstaking interviews with survivors. Indeed, at the time, the estimated death toll in the media didn’t increase from the second or third day of violence all the way through the end of the second week.
Finally, the U.S. could not have transported even a modest military force, including its requisite equipment, halfway around the world quickly. To get there as fast as possible, both the troops and their equipment—armored personnel carriers, artillery, helicopters—would have had to be flown in. But there was limited airfield capacity in Rwanda and surrounding states, and other constraints on airlift, so it would have taken about 40 days to get a force of 15,000 troops with equipment to Rwanda. Of course, one wouldn’t need to get the whole force there to begin halting the genocide, and our forces could have mitigated the killing once they were able to disperse to the countryside. But that would have required a matter of weeks, not days, and the genocide was moving quicker than that. At best, a military intervention could have saved some but not most of the victims, mitigating but not preventing the genocide.
Sudan involves two categories of civil war. The first is a north-south civil war that ran on and off for nearly fifty years. Then there’s the war we hear about today, in Darfur which I address further below. The north-south war was between the mainly Arab/Muslim north and the mainly African/animist/Christian south. The two parts had always been different, so much so that under British colonial rule there were separate administrators for each. As independence approached, the south rightly felt neglected, especially economically. The per capita GDP in the south was one tenth that of Khartoum, the capital, in the north. So when independence came around, the southerners in Sudan wanted to be independent. The northerners maintained that the south had always been subordinate to them and must remain part of the country. So you had a civil war from 1956-72, which eventually was settled by an agreement in which the north granted the south autonomy. But in 1983, inspired by an upsurge of Islamism, the north reneged, revoked autonomy, and imposed sharia law on the south.
Not even all Muslims in Sudan want to live under sharia, but certainly Christians and animists don’t. So this was another example of “living without freedom.” In response, the south launched a new rebellion in 1983, starting a civil war that ran all the way until a few years ago. In this renewed war, the government of Sudan responded to the rebellion with an especially brutal counterinsurgency. The counterinsurgency involved several elements. First, the government employed the regular army, but not to a great extent, because this was tough fighting, involving high casualties, and the northern Sudanese didn’t want to sacrifice their sons in high numbers. So the second tactic was aerial bombing. But the Sudanese don’t have the smart bombs deployed by the U.S. Air Force. Instead, they use very dumb bombs, or helicopter gun ships, which are effective at wreaking terror, compelling people to flee their villages. Third, at least two types of militias were employed. One was from the north, and these were jihadists. Some in the north were actually willing to volunteer for a religious war, as opposed to army service. Then there were government-allied militias from the south. This is a divide-and-conquer strategy, too. There were historical rivalries in southern Sudan that the government took advantage of, saying: “You don’t like those tribes; we’ll help you if you help us.” These militia were especially prone to excesses.
The result of this brutal counterinsurgency was massive displacement. Four million southern Sudanese were displaced internally, one million fled as refugees, and some two million died. Most victims weren’t killed by a bullet or bomb but as a result of the disruption from the war, losing access to their farms or clean water or medical care. This is typical in Africa, and is also true in DRC and Darfur.
Why was the north doing this? It’s not mainly due to racism, although there certainly is a kind of racism—people in the north do consider themselves superior. But the main reason for the north’s carrying out ethnic cleansing is that they couldn’t fight and win a conventional war. Counter-insurgency is very hard, and an army takes a lot of casualties, as we are re-learning in Iraq and Afghanistan. The Khartoum regime didn’t have the political will to fight the war conventionally, but did have the will to essentially subcontract this out to militias, who were quite vicious. The second reason is oil, which became a big issue in the 1990s. Sudan has a lot of oil, most of it in the south, so the displacement there often stems from fighting for control of oilfields.
Eventually there was a major diplomatic effort to end this war and a peace framework was signed in 2002 between the government and the rebels, finalized in January 2005. It provides for revenue sharing so that proceeds from the southern oil are split between the north and south. After six years there’s to be a referendum on independence for the south. The bad news is that the south wants to leave Sudan but the north is never going to permit this. So it’s a ticking time bomb. War in the south is likely to restart when the south votes on independence in 2011, if not sooner.
Unlike southern Sudan, the region of Darfur, in northwest Sudan, is Muslim, like the government in Khartoum. But just as the south was neglected, so was Sudan’s northwest, leaving it quite poor relative to Khartoum. Within Darfur itself, as in Rwanda, there had long been a synergistic relationship between the herders (mainly nomadic Arabs) and farmers (mainly settled Africans). So what went wrong to compel members of these two groups to attack each other, as they have been doing since 2003? First, the government in Khartoum had an internal challenge from one of its top officials, Hassan Turabi, who was deemed too extreme an Islamist and purged from the government in 1999. The Khartoum regime feared that Turabi would use Darfur as a staging ground for rebellion, so it installed Arab loyalists in Darfur, which reduced local autonomy and aggrieved the local populace, especially African tribes. Yet rebellion did not occur until a few years later, in 2003.
The best explanation for why rebellion occurred in 2003 is as a response to the 2002 peace settlement of the north-south civil war, with its provisions for revenue sharing. Darfurians observed that the south had obtained this financial reward by rebelling and attracting international support, which compelled the government to cut a deal. So they too rebelled. The government retaliated, just as it had in the south, with its army, aerial bombing, and recruitment of local militias, which in this case are known as Janjaweed. It’s a repeat of what happened in the south but accelerated. In the first year alone, 2 million Darfurians were displaced; 100,000 made refugees in neighboring Chad; and tens of thousands died.
Just as the Darfur rebels hoped, this explosion of violence brought international pressure on the Khartoum regime, compelling it to sign a peace agreement in 2006 making certain concessions to the Darfur region. The government did not agree to huge revenue sharing, as it had with the south, but did concede to increased local autonomy and a small amount of reparations for the war. But most of the rebels didn’t agree to this peace, because they had not gotten as good a deal as the south did. So the rebels fight on to this day, and the government continues to respond with a brutal counterinsurgency. The big losers are Darfur’s civilians, who are caught in the middle.
This account of Darfur’s history, which partially implicates the rebels for perpetuating the region’s suffering, outrages many intervention advocates, who lay exclusive blame on the Khartoum regime. But the rebels are willing to sacrifice their own civilians in order to get international attention and thereby more power. Rebels in many such situations—and I’ve interviewed them personally in cases in Africa and the Balkans —really are this cynical.
What is the message for American students? The engagement of youth in our high schools and universities over Darfur is unprecedented in terms of demands for military intervention. This is a mixed blessing. On the one hand, it’s heartening that our youth care this much about people in a region that most cannot even locate on a map. On the other hand, they’ve joined a movement that caricatures the situation in Darfur as a simplistic morality tale, involving a racist Arab regime that just wants to kill black Darfurians. As set forth above, it’s much more complicated than that. Moreover, all these calls for intervention are actually emboldening the rebels to keep fighting, which perpetuates the suffering of innocent civilians.
The caricature argues that Darfur is a battle between good and evil and that we could easily intervene to enable good to prevail. But the reality is grayer, and international intervention against the will of Khartoum could become a quagmire like Iraq or Afghanistan. If students embrace the caricature of Darfur and then witness our government failing to intervene to stop genocide, they could become disillusioned with our government and with political engagement more generally.
The best way to protect students from grabbing onto half-truths and then ultimately becoming disillusioned is honesty. We should talk about the nuances of the situation. Some claims are true: there is a dearth of wealth and freedom in these regions, and civilians do become innocent victims in these wars. But there aren’t many good guys or freedom fighters on either side. Most of the fighters and especially their leaders are seeking power at the expense of others, sometimes for their group as a whole and sometimes for themselves personally.
Truly humanitarian aid—food, water, shelter, medicine—does save lives, and it doesn’t usually exacerbate conflict. So that’s something we can safely encourage students to support. It may not end the conflict, but at least it can save lives. Second, when students engage in advocacy, we should encourage them not to caricature the situation, depicting one party (the government of Sudan) as the only bad guy. Pressure must be exerted on all sides for peaceful compromise.
Finally, we should explore with students the potential for nonviolent movements. In part because of how this country was born, Americans have something of a romance with rebellion in the name of freedom. Our own rebellion in the name of freedom worked, and we became a democracy. But historically that is the exception. Most armed rebellions do not lead to actual freedom or democracy, but to military dictatorship, oppression, often counter-rebellion, and sometimes ethnic cleansing and even genocide. Nonviolent movements may not elicit the excitement of “give me liberty or give me death,” but they often have been remarkably successful: most famously with Gandhi in India and also in our own civil rights movement under Martin Luther King; more recently in people-power movements in countries like the Philippines, Indonesia, Serbia, Ukraine, Georgia, and Kyrgystan. Time and again, oppressive governments have been overthrown and at least some degree of democracy installed without a bullet being fired. This is an important lesson for students—that rebellion and military intervention are not the only, nor necessarily the best, paths to freedom.
For further reading:
Alex de Waal, “Briefing: Darfur, Sudan: Prospects for Peace,” African Affairs 104,414 (2005).
Alex de Waal, “I Will Not Sign,” London Review of Books, Nov. 30, 2006.
Julie Flint and Alex De Waal, Darfur: A Short History of a Long War (Zed Books, 2006).
Alan J. Kuperman, “Strategic Victimhood in Sudan,” New York Times, May 31, 2006, op-ed.
—, “Rwanda in Retrospect,” Foreign Affairs, Jan./Feb. 2000.
—, “Provoking Genocide: A Revised History of the Rwandan Patriotic Front,” Journal of Genocide Research, March 2004.
L. R. Melvern, A People Betrayed: The Role of the West in Rwanda’s Genocide (New York: Zed Books, 2000).
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Posted on: Friday, June 1, 2007 - 19:25
SOURCE: Tribune Media Services (5-27-07)
Yet American Cassandras are old stuff. Grim Charles Lindberg in the late 1930s lectured a Depression-era America that Hitler's new order in Germany could only be appeased, never opposed....
But our rivals are weaker and America is far stronger than many think.
Take oil. With oil prices at nearly $70 a barrel, Vladimir Putin, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Hugo Chavez seem invincible as they rally anti-American feeling.
But if we find alternate energy sources, or reduce slightly our oil hunger, we can defang all three rather quickly. None of their countries have a middle class or a culture of entrepreneurship to discover and disseminate new knowledge.
Russia and Europe are shrinking. China is an aging nation of only children. The only thing the hard-working Chinese fear more than their bankrupt communist dictatorship is getting rid of it.
True, the economies of China and India have made amazing progress. But both have rocky rendezvous ahead with all the social and cultural problems that we long ago addressed in the 20th century.
And European elites can't blame their problems — a bullying Russia, Islamic terrorists, unassimilated minorities and high unemployment — all on George Bush's swagger and accent. The recent elections of Angela Merkel in Germany and Nicolas Sarkozy in France suggest that Europe's cheap anti-Americanism may be ending, and that our practices of more open markets, lower taxes and less state control are preferrable to the European status quo.
In truth, a never-stronger America is being tested as never before. The world is watching whether we win or lose in Iraq and Afghanistan. The Middle East is either going to reform or remain an oil-rich tribal mess that endangers the entire world.
A better way to assess our chances at maintaining our preeminence is simply to ask the same questions that are the historical barometers of our nation's success or failure: Does any nation have a constitution comparable to ours? Does merit — or religion, tribe or class — mostly gauge success or failure in America? What nation is as free, stable and transparent as the U.S.?...
Posted on: Friday, June 1, 2007 - 15:59
SOURCE: TomPaine.com (5-30-07)
... Come with me, then, on a journey, courtesy of historian Nancy Fones-Wolfe's outstanding Selling Free Enterprise: The Business Assault on Labor and LIberalism, 1945-60....
It starts in 1934.
In the second year of Franklin Delano Roosevelt's New Deal, NAM's annual PR budget was already hefty at $360,000 (almost five and a half million in today's dollars). It wasn't, though, hefty enough. Americans, those silly souls, thought that the government should assist them out of their Depression misery, and that unions and regulation of business could help. So, after Roosevelt's landslide re-election, they more than doubled their budget—making it over half the organization's annual income.
"In the everlasting battle for the minds of men," NAM Public Relations Advisory Committee chair J. Warren Kinsman boomed, only modern PR techniques were "powerful enough to arouse public opinion sufficiently to check the steady, insidious, and current drift toward socialism." (That his PR budget resembled the most Orwellian aspects of socialism in itself—if his ideas were, simply, true and persuasive, why would he need millions to shove them down the public's throat?—was an irony that escaped him.)
What were they buying? Press releases, pamphlets, speakers, radio shows and full-page ads like this one, placed during World War II: "I'm not playing for marbles. I'm fighting for freedom. I'm fighting for the things that made American the greatest place in the world to live in.... So don't anybody tell me I'll find America changed."
Schools were not slighted. In 1941 NAM proposed to the National Education Association, the only union they liked (it represented a potential vector with which to infect schoolchildren), joint conferences to convey "the sincerity of American business"—and the blight of federal aid to education. By 1950 NAM had circulated almost 4.5 million pamphlets to students. In 1953, two million children read the B. F. Goodrich-sponsored comic book "Johnson Makes the Team" ("Tommy Johnson, a son of a Goodrich tire dealer, learns about the American free enterprise system through teamwork in football") and saw the film "The Price of Freedom" ("the story of Fred Vollmer, a young newspaper man who joins the staff of his father's paper. He visits Germany and learns that public complacency to the exploding powers of the state fostered Nazism. Returning home, he sees the same threats to America's democratic institutions and resolves to expose them in a series of 'stirring editorials'").
In 1954, Fones-Wolfe reports, "school superintendents estimated the investment in free materials at $50 million, about half the amount public schools spent annually on regular textbooks."
The clergy was not neglected; their Committee on Cooperation with Churches drafted right-wing priests like Father Ferdinand Falque of Minnesota and Edward A. Keller of Notre Dame, a point man in their crusade against the guaranteed annual wage and for anti-union, right-to-work legislation. The NAM brass was especially worried, one internal memo revealed, about churches' "inherent sympathies" with the weak.
In 1947, fighting to end holdover wartime business regulation and against full-employment legislation, NAM pushed free material to 265 dailies and 1,876 small-town papers. As their vice president for PR implored the membership, "The story of business economics and philosophy needs to be told simply, understandably, repetitiously, and without dilution or distortion—to broad masses of people."
That's freedom for you, folks. They juked up the circulation of pamphlets from 2.5 million in 1948 to 6.5 million in 1949 to almost 8 million in 1950, adding a new, $1.4 million radio show. With the election of Harry Truman, after all, NAM's president pointed out, there was some question "whether we were so far down the road to socialism that there was no return or whether freedom still existed."
What other kind of stories did NAM push? The argument, as the chairman of their executive committee put it, that faith in government's role in prosperity was "childlike." As he put it in 1942, "It is not government that has wrought the miracle that is being accomplished today in the production of war materials but the initiative, ingenuity and organizing genius of private enterprise." As anyone who knows anything about World War II defense production knows, this notion is a childlike fairy tale in itself; America outproduced its enemies by a factor of three to one, a process for which government-business cooperation was responsible from start to finish. Good thing NAM had a lot of money with which to push it. It was a lie that couldn't have survived unless it was bought and paid for....
Posted on: Friday, June 1, 2007 - 15:08
SOURCE: Informed Comment (Blog) (Click on the SOURCE link for embedded links) (5-31-07)
Bush is now talking about a "South Korea" model for Iraq. He likely got this nonsense from John Gaddis at Yale, who I heard talking it last November at the Chicago Humanities Fair.
So what confuses me is the terms of the comparison. Who is playing the role of the Communists and of North Korea? Is it the Sunni Arabs of Iraq? But they are divided into Iraqi/Arab nationalists and Salafi Sunni revivalists. (The secular Arab nationalists are the vast majority according to recent polling). So they are not a united force. They are fighting with one another in al-Anbar. And, the Arab nationalists and the religious Sunnis cannot both play the role of the Communists. Some Arab nationalists are allied with the United States (Egypt, Tunisia, etc.) Others are not (Syria). Some religious Sunnis are allied with the US (Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan). Others are not. So where is the analogy to International Communism? Who is China and who is the Soviet Union? Is it Syria and Iran? But both are ruled by Shiites, not Sunnis!
But let us say that the Sunni Arabs are North Korea. Who is South Korea? Is it the Shiites of Iraq? But they are allied with Iran (isn't it playing the role of China?) And the vast majority of them don't want US troops in Iraq according to polls. There is zero chance that the Shiites of Iraq will put up with a long term presence of US bases in their areas of Iraq. The British base in Basra takes heavy fire all the time.
The only place in Iraq that looks at all like South Korea is maybe Kurdistan. But it is also allied with Iran behind the scenes, and it is in a troubling way giving asylum to Turkish-Kurdish terror groups that are infliction harm on the US's NATO ally, Turkey.
Even as we speak, in Iraq's north, Turkish military forces and now 20 tanks are massing on the Iraqi border, apparently poised for "hot pursuit" of Kurdish guerrillas of the Kurdish Workers Party (PKK), who have safe harbor in Iraqi Kurdistan but go over to Turkey and blow things up. There is some danger that the US will be in the middle of all this, though it is allied with both the Kurds and the Turks. Last week US fighter jets based in Iraq made an unauthorized incursion into Turkish air space that the Turks are protesting.
Do we really want to be in the middle of that?...
So, no, Iraq isn't like Korea in any obvious way, and in fact the analogy strikes me as frankly ridiculous.
Posted on: Friday, June 1, 2007 - 14:53