Tuesday, July 31, 2007

NU Pre-View:Nebraska Football 2007

It's almost here, and time now to start fearlessly prognosticating. I will start with NU, and work my way out from here.

2007

NEVADA - Not the most comfortable opening game, particularly for a new quarterback. But the Wolf Pack aren't the same bowl team as last year, and NU's defense should be enough to contain the Pistol offense. WIN.

@ WAKE FOREST - Scary, scary game. Before going game-by-game, I had thought that Nebraska would drop one road game that they probably shouldn't. This game could definitely fall into that category. But NU also gets a huge break, playing the ACC champion from last year with a talent level that doesn't match up with Nebraska's. It could be a problem, but I don't think it will be a problem. WIN.

USC - The atmosphere in Lincoln should be electric for this game. The Trojans may be the best team coming into Lincoln in twenty years. Getting this game would be a turning point, a defining moment in Bill Callahan's tenure, a springboard to greater things. But, it ain't going to happen. USC has way too much defense for NU to score enough to keep up. In a low-scoring game ... LOSS.

BALL STATE - The Cardinals went into Ann Arbor last year and gave Michigan quite a scare last year. Don't hold your breath. This is a get-well game after USC. WIN.

IOWA STATE - The Gene Chizek era begins for the Cyclones. ISU's defense should be much improved, and I would suspect we will see more of a Texas-style spread option attack that fits Bret Meyer's skill set a lot better than whatever Dan McCarney was trying to run. ISU gave Nebraska a scare in Lincoln last time, but the talent train has run in opposite directions for these two programs. WIN.

@ MISSOURI - The Big XII North Championship game. All the signs point poorly for Nebraska. It's a big, road, conference game. Not exactly Callahan's strength lately. But the talent is at least even (I would give NU an advantage, slightly), and Mizzou's defense will struggle containing Keller and Co. Plus, and most importantly, for as bad as Callahan may be in big games, don't forget Gary Pinkel is the guy on the other sideline. WIN.

OKLAHOMA STATE - The Cowboys are a team on the come in the South. But this game is in Lincoln, and payback's a bitch for last year. WIN.

TEXAS A&M - Dennis Franchione must be thrilled that Pinkel is still employed at Missouri, so he doesn't bear the "biggest underachiever" label in the conference. The Aggies have a stout running game, but Nebraska is the better talent, and is at home. WIN.

@ TEXAS - This one is so ripe for Nebraska's picking. The Longhorns aren't what they've been. God bless Colt McCoy (a Colt for QB at Texas makes sense ... but at Hawai'i?), but he's not Vince Young. This is Nebraska's best shot to take the next step in their program, but until I see Callahan win a game like this against top-quality talent (aTm last year does NOT count as top talent) I can't call it. LOSS.

@ KANSAS - Complete trap game. Win or loss against the Longhorns, going to Lawrence the week afterwards is no treat. If you're looking for the loss that Nebraska shouldn't have on its' record at the end of the year but does, if it's not Wake it's here. But the thriller against the Jayhawks last year, and the memory of the debacle in Lawrence two years ago, should be enough to keep a superior NU team locked in enough. WIN.

KANSAS STATE - I really like Ron Prince, except that he coaches the Purples. And I really can't wait to see Josh Freeman's inaugural appearance in Memorial Stadium. (I can hear it going back and forth from the East and West seats ... PRIMA ... DONNA ...) Prince is a good coach and will get the Purples good. But not yet. WIN.

@ COLORADO - I thought Dan Hawkins was a great hire for CU when they brought him in to replace Gary Barnett. Now, it's looking like it may be a great hire ... for everyone else in the North. I think the Buffaloes are going to continue their struggles under Hawkins' weirdness. WIN.

I am not at all convinced that, overall, Nebraska is really the 10-2 team that I've put them at. There's traps all over the place, and Nebraska's history under Callahan of coming up small against the big boys terrifies me. But the schedule, while very difficult, does play out well for Nebraska. This prognostication puts them in the Big XII Championship game again, most likely against Oklahoma. I would give them a LOSS to the Sooners, and put them in the Holiday Bowl against a team like California, which NU should WIN with the additions of offensive talent this year. That ends the season at 12-3, and what should be a top-ten finish to the season.

Nebraska is knocking on the door of national relevance and BCS contention, but I believe they are still a year away. This is a year of incremental progress and movement towards elite status, but I don't see it happening this year. A win over Texas or, especially, USC, along with holding serve on games they should win could accelerate that progress.

GBR, baby.

Fascinating strategy from the pro-choice movement

Really interesting piece by Anna Quindlen in Newsweek (http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/20010696/site/newsweek/page/0/), discussing a new strategy for the pro-choice movement. One of the most frequent signs you'll see at a pro-life rally or other event is the "abortion=murder" sign. So, the new counter-strategy goes, if pro-lifers are serious about that, what's the punishment? How much jail time should a woman get for having an abortion.

Politically, it's very smart. It forces the pro-lifer to do one of three things. First, they could say that the woman should be punished harshly and jailed. That's going to cost huge political support. Second, they could say that only the doctors should be punished, not the woman. That will make them come off as both patronizing to women (which is the route the Supreme Court took in the most recent abortion decision) and squishy-soft on crime, a place most conservatives don't like to be. Third, you can force the pro-lifer to admit they don't really think abortion=murder. That's pretty unlikely.

Abortion is a very hard issue, probably the hardest one out there. Without taking a strong stand on the issue itself, I have to admire the strategic brilliance of this move. It's a classic "reductio ad absurdum," reducing the "abortion=murder" down to it's basest form and forcing pro-lifers to take their rhetoric to its' logical conclusion. Should be interesting to see how it plays out in the '08 Presidential election, particularly with abortion and Supreme Court nominations likely to play a bigger role than in previous races.

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Quindlen: How Much Jail Time for Women Who Have Abortions?

By Anna Quindlen
Newsweek
Aug. 6, 2007 issue - Buried among prairie dogs and amateur animation shorts on YouTube is a curious little mini-documentary shot in front of an abortion clinic in Libertyville, Ill. The man behind the camera is asking demonstrators who want abortion criminalized what the penalty should be for a woman who has one nonetheless. You have rarely seen people look more gobsmacked. It's as though the guy has asked them to solve quadratic equations. Here are a range of responses: "I've never really thought about it." "I don't have an answer for that." "I don't know." "Just pray for them."

You have to hand it to the questioner; he struggles manfully. "Usually when things are illegal there's a penalty attached," he explains patiently. But he can't get a single person to be decisive about the crux of a matter they have been approaching with absolute certainty.

A new public-policy group called the National Institute for Reproductive Health wants to take this contradiction and make it the centerpiece of a national conversation, along with a slogan that stops people in their tracks: how much time should she do? If the Supreme Court decides abortion is not protected by a constitutional guarantee of privacy, the issue will revert to the states. If it goes to the states, some, perhaps many, will ban abortion. If abortion is made a crime, then surely the woman who has one is a criminal. But, boy, do the doctrinaire suddenly turn squirrelly at the prospect of throwing women in jail.

"They never connect the dots," says Jill June, president of Planned Parenthood of Greater Iowa. But her organization urged voters to do just that in the last gubernatorial election, in which the Republican contender believed abortion should be illegal even in cases of rape and incest. "We wanted him to tell the women of Iowa exactly how much time he expected them to serve in jail if they had an abortion," June recalled. Chet Culver, the Democrat who unabashedly favors legal abortion, won that race, proving that choice can be a winning issue if you force people to stop evading the hard facts. "How have we come this far in the debate and been oblivious to the logical ramifications of making abortion illegal?" June says.

Perhaps by ignoring or infantilizing women, turning them into "victims" of their own free will. State statutes that propose punishing only a physician suggest the woman was merely some addled bystander who happened to find herself in the wrong stirrups at the wrong time. Such a view seemed to be a vestige of the past until the Supreme Court handed down its most recent abortion decision upholding a federal prohibition on a specific procedure. Justice Anthony Kennedy, obviously feeling excessively paternal, argued that the ban protected women from themselves. "While we find no reliable data to measure the phenomenon," he wrote, "it seems unexceptionable to conclude some women come to regret their choice to abort the infant life they once created and sustained."

Even with "no reliable data," he went on to conclude that "severe depression and loss of esteem can follow." (Apparently, no one has told Justice Kennedy about the severe depression and loss of esteem that can follow bearing and raising a baby you can't afford and didn't want.) Luckily, there still remains one justice on the court who has actually been pregnant, and Ruth Bader Ginsburg roared back with a dissent that called Kennedy's caveat about regret an "anti-abortion shibboleth" and his opinion a reflection of "ancient notions about women's place in the family and under the Constitution—ideas that have long since been discredited."

Those ancient notions undergird the refusal to confront the logical endpoint of criminalization. Lawmakers in a number of states have already passed or are considering statutes designed to outlaw abortion if Roe is overturned. But almost none hold the woman, the person who set the so-called crime in motion, accountable. Is the message that women are not to be held responsible for their actions? Or is it merely that those writing the laws understand that if women were going to jail, the vast majority of Americans would violently object? Watch the demonstrators in Libertyville try to worm their way out of the hypocrisy: It's murder, but she'll get her punishment from God. It's murder, but it depends on her state of mind. It's murder, but the penalty should be ... counseling?

The great thing about video is that you can see the mental wheels turning as these people realize that they somehow have overlooked something central while they were slinging certainties. Nearly 20 years ago, in a presidential debate, George Bush the elder was asked this very question, whether in making abortion illegal he would punish the woman who had one. "I haven't sorted out the penalties," he said lamely. Neither, it turns out, has anyone else. But there are only two logical choices: hold women accountable for a criminal act by sending them to prison, or refuse to criminalize the act in the first place. If you can't countenance the first, you have to accept the second. You can't have it both ways.

Monday, July 30, 2007

More politicizing of science

Another installment in the current President's need to make EVERYTHING about politics. In this case, former Surgeon General Dr. Richard Carmona, along with other people involved in the report, tell Christopher Lee and Marc Kaufmann of the Washington Post (http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/07/28/AR2007072801420.html?wpisrc=newsletter) that a report about tackling global health problems was blocked from being released because it didn't fit in with the current President's political agenda.

Even worse, the charming soul who was responsible for this is William Steiger, a scholar of Latin American history who, shock of shocks, has deep family ties with the Bush family. Go to the website, take a look at this clown, and tell me if he doesn't scream young Republican functionary.

Judas Priest. Is there anything these people won't do to keep their deathgrip on power? Have you no sense of decency, sir, at long last? Have you left no sense of decency?

Whoops. Sorry. Wrong runaway Republican kook. But the quote still fits.

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Bush Aide Blocked Report
Global Health Draft In 2006 Rejected for Not Being Political

By Christopher Lee and Marc Kaufman
Washington Post Staff Writers
Sunday, July 29, 2007; A01



A surgeon general's report in 2006 that called on Americans to help tackle global health problems has been kept from the public by a Bush political appointee without any background or expertise in medicine or public health, chiefly because the report did not promote the administration's policy accomplishments, according to current and former public health officials.

The report described the link between poverty and poor health, urged the U.S. government to help combat widespread diseases as a key aim of its foreign policy, and called on corporations to help improve health conditions in the countries where they operate. A copy of the report was obtained by The Washington Post.

Three people directly involved in its preparation said its publication was blocked by William R. Steiger, a specialist in education and a scholar of Latin American history whose family has long ties to President Bush and Vice President Cheney. Since 2001, Steiger has run the Office of Global Health Affairs in the Department of Health and Human Services.

Richard H. Carmona, who commissioned the "Call to Action on Global Health" while serving as surgeon general from 2002 to 2006, recently cited its suppression as an example of the Bush administration's frequent efforts during his tenure to give scientific documents a political twist. At a July 10 House committee hearing, Carmona did not cite Steiger by name or detail the report's contents and its implications for American public health.

Carmona told lawmakers that, as he fought to release the document, he was "called in and again admonished . . . via a senior official who said, 'You don't get it.' " He said a senior official told him that "this will be a political document, or it will not be released."

After a long struggle that pitted top scientific and medical experts inside and outside the government against Steiger and his political bosses, Carmona refused to make the requested changes, according to the officials. Carmona engaged in similar fights over other public health reports, including an unpublished report on prison health. A few days before the end of his term as the nation's senior medical officer, he was abruptly told he would not be reappointed.

Steiger did not return a phone call seeking his comment. But he said in a written statement released by an HHS spokesman Friday that the report contained information that was "often inaccurate or out-of-date and it lacked analysis and focus."

Steiger confirmed that he sharply disagreed with Carmona on the issue of how much the report should promote Bush administration policies. "A document meant to educate the American public about health as a global challenge and urge them to action should at least let Americans know what their generosity is already doing in helping to solve those challenges," Steiger said in the statement.

Steiger said that "political considerations" did not delay the report; "sloppy work, poor analysis, and lack of scientific rigor did." Asked about the report's handling, an HHS spokeswoman said Friday that it is still "under development."

The draft report itself, in language linking public health problems with violence and other social ills, says "we cannot overstate . . . that problems in remote parts of the globe can no longer be ignored. Diseases that Americans once read about as affecting people in regions . . . most of us would never visit are now capable of reaching us directly. The hunger, disease, and death resulting from poor food and nutrition create social and political instability . . . and that instability may spread to other nations as people migrate to survive."

In 65 pages, the report charts trends in infectious and chronic disease; reviews efforts to curb AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria; calls for the careful monitoring of public health to safeguard against bioterrorism; and explains the importance of proper nutrition, childhood immunizations and clean air and water, among other topics. Its underlying message is that disease and suffering do not respect political boundaries in an era of globalization and mass population movements.

The report was compiled by government and private public-health experts from various organizations, including the National Institutes of Health, the Catholic Medical Mission Board and several universities. Steiger's global health office provided the funding and staff to lead the effort because the surgeon general's office has no budget and few staff members of its own.

"It covered all of the contemporary issues of public health, from environmental health through infectious disease transmission," said Jerrold M. Michael, a former assistant surgeon general and a former longtime dean of the University of Hawaii School of Public Health, who worked on the report.

A few of the issues it focuses on, such as AIDS treatment and research, have been public health priorities for the Bush administration. But others -- including ratifying the international tobacco treaty and making global health an element of U.S. foreign policy -- are more politically sensitive. The report calls on the administration to consider spending more money on global health improvement, for instance. And it warns that "the environmental conditions that poison our water and contaminate our air are not contained within national boundaries. . . . The use of pesticides is also of concern to health officials, scientists and government leaders around the world."

Three people involved in the preparation of an initial draft in 2005 said it received largely positive reviews from global health experts both inside and outside the government, prompting wide optimism that the report would be publicly released that year. The Commissioned Officers Association, a nonprofit group representing more than 7,000 current and retired officers of the U.S. Public Health Service, organized a global health summit in June 2005 in Philadelphia where Carmona was expected to unveil the report in a keynote address -- but he was not cleared to release it there.

Richard Walling, a former career official in the HHS global health office who oversaw the draft, said Steiger was the official who blocked its release. "Steiger always had his political hat on," he said. "I don't think public health was what his vision was. As far as the international office was concerned, it was a political office of the secretary. . . . What he was looking for, and in general what he was always looking for, was, 'How do we promote the policies and the programs of the administration?' This report didn't focus on that."

On June 30, 2006, a Steiger aide sent an e-mail saying that the report should not be cleared for public distribution: "While we believe the subject matter of the draft is important, we disagree with the style, tone and messaging," wrote the aide, Mark A. Abdoo, according to a copy of the e-mail. "We believe this document should be focused tightly on the Administration's major priorities in global health so the American public can understand better why these issues should be important to them. As such, the draft should be a policy statement, albeit one that is evidence based and draws on the best available science."

Steiger, 37, is a godson of former president George H.W. Bush and the son of a moderate Republican who represented Wisconsin in the House and hired a young Dick Cheney as an intern. The elder Bush appointed Steiger's mother to the Federal Trade Commission in 1989. A biographical sketch of her on the American Bar Association's Web site states that Steiger's parents, now deceased, were "lifelong friends" of many members of the same congressional class, including the Rumsfelds and the Bushes.

According to a résumé Steiger supplied to Congress, he obtained a doctorate in Latin American history from the University of California at Los Angeles before teaching at a university in the Philippines and consulting in Angola for the International Republican Institute -- a nonprofit group that is associated with the party and promotes democracy around the world. He was an education adviser to then-Gov. Tommy G. Thompson (R) of Wisconsin and came to Washington when Thompson became HHS secretary. He is now awaiting a Senate vote on his nomination as Bush's ambassador to Mozambique.

Bill Hall, an HHS spokesman, said Steiger promoted interest in global health at the department while more than doubling the number of expert staff members overseas and participating in international negotiations on issues such as avian influenza. "You have to look at his skills as an executive leader in spite of the fact that he doesn't have a medical degree or a public health degree," Hall said.

Public health advocates have accused Steiger of political meddling before. He briefly attained notoriety in 2004 by demanding changes in the language of an international report on obesity. The report was opposed by some U.S. food manufacturers and the sugar industry.

According to Walling and three other public health officials familiar with the current dispute, Carmona at one point suggested that Steiger release the global health report in tandem with a separate report of the sort Steiger wanted, but Steiger rejected the idea. An appeal by Carmona to Health and Human Services Secretary Mike Leavitt and his staff produced no relief, a former HHS official said.

"I fought for my last year to try to get it out and couldn't get it past the initial vetting," Carmona testified earlier this month. "I refused to release it [with the requested changes] . . . because it would tarnish the office of the surgeon general when our colleagues saw us taking a political stand."

Thomas Novotny, a former assistant surgeon general who ran the global health office before Steiger, said, "It's embarrassing, just ridiculous that the report hasn't come out." Novotny, who served at HHS in the Clinton and in both Bush administrations, said that many nations have made health issues central to their foreign relations and trade policies, but that the United States has been reluctant to embrace that idea.

"It made perfect sense for the surgeon general to take up the issue because the U.S. used to be a leader in this field," Novotny said. "For the nation's top doctor to be unable to release the report shows that leadership is gone."

The global health document was one of several reports initiated by Carmona that top HHS officials suppressed because they disliked the reports' conclusions, according to a former administration official. Another was a "Call to Action on Corrections and Community Health." It says -- according to draft language obtained by The Post -- that the public has a large stake in the health of the 2 million men and women who are behind bars, and in the health care available to them in their communities after their release.

The report recommends enhanced health screenings for those arrested and their victims; better disease surveillance in prisons; and ready access to medical, mental health and substance abuse prevention services for those released.

But the report has been bottled up at HHS, said three public health experts who worked on it. John Miles, a consultant and former Centers for Disease Control and Prevention official who helped draft it, said he suspects that the proposed health screenings and other recommendations are seen as a potentially burdensome cost. "Maybe they just don't feel it's a priority," Miles said.

Hall, the HHS spokesman, responded in a statement Friday that the Bush administration has always believed that public health policy should be rooted in science. "While we appreciate and respect Dr. Carmona's service as surgeon general, we disagree with his statements," Hall said.

Staff researcher Madonna Lebling contributed to this report.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

The depth of the Bush damage

A chilling post by Matthew Rothschild of the New Press (http://www.alternet.org/rights/57689/) chronicling exactly how much the current President has done to transform America into a police state. It's a depressing read, but it is also uplifting in that the people of the country are now, finally, turning against this small little man. Even with the vast power of the Presidency at his disposal, he is becoming less and less relevant.

Unless, of course, sometime between now and January 2009 he decides not to give up power after his term is over. Given what has happen, that's not an unreasonable possibility to consider.

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The following is an excerpt of Matthew Rothschild's "You Have No Rights: Stories of America in an Age of Repression" (The New Press, 2007).


To those who scare peace-loving people with phantoms of lost liberty, my message is this: Your tactics only aid terrorists. ... They give ammunition to America's enemies, and pause to America's friends.
-- former attorney general John Ashcroft

You're either with us or against us. -- George W. Bush
Today's America is a much less free place than the America of 2000. Following the attacks of September 11, 2001, the Bush administration has, by word and by deed, erected an edifice of repression here in the United States.

We've been living in it ever since. And it's not a comfortable place. The government is monitoring your phone calls and can read your e-mails and open your snail mail.

The government can access records of your large financial transactions, such as buying a house.

Law enforcement officers can bust into your home when you're not there, riffle through your belongings, plant a recording device on your computer, and leave without notifying you for at least thirty days -- and maybe a lot more.

You no longer have the right to protest where the president or vice president can see you, or at major public events when they aren't even present.

Law enforcement officers can now monitor you in public if you are merely exercising your political rights.

They can infiltrate your political organizations.

And they can keep track of you at your place of worship. The government can find out from bookstores and libraries the material you've been reading, and the bookstore owner and the librarian can't talk about it, except to their lawyers, for a whole year -- or more.

The government can hold you in preventive detention for months on end as a "material witness."

If you're not a citizen the government can deport you on a technicality or for mere political association.

If you're not a citizen the government can label you an "enemy combatant" and send you to secret prisons around the world, where you may never see the light of day again -- much less a lawyer or a judge. And even if you are a citizen, the government can label you an enemy combatant and hold you in solitary confinement here in the United States.

Under George W. Bush's interpretation of the president's powers during the so-called war on terror he can do just about whatever he wants. He cites the Authorization for Use of Military Force bill, which Congress passed on September 18, 2001, as the justification for this enormous leeway.

"Congress gave me the authority to use necessary force to protect the American people, but it didn't prescribe the tactics,"Bush said in a speech at Kansas State University on January 23, 2006. Those tactics, he presumes, are totally up to him. Under this rationale Bush could send F-16s to attack a residential area in, say, Indianapolis if he thought Al Qaeda suspects were there.

Lest you think I'm exaggerating, check out the February 13, 2006, issue of Newsweek:


A Justice Department official suggested that in certain circumstances, the President might have the power to order the killing of terrorist suspects inside the United States. ... Steven Bradbury, acting head of the department's office of Legal Counsel, went to a closed-door Senate Intelligence committee meeting last week to defend President George W. Bush's surveillance program. During the briefing, said Administration and Capitol Hill officials (who declined to be identified because the session was private), California Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein asked Bradbury questions about the ex- tent of Presidential powers to fight Al Qaeda; could Bush, for instance, order the killing of a Qaeda suspect known to be on U.S. soil? Bradbury replied that he believed Bush could indeed do this, at least in certain circumstances.
Yes, the U.S. government has a primary obligation to protect us all from another attack. But there needs to be a legal limit; there needs to be a respect for our Constitution and our liberties. Otherwise, as Senator Russ Feingold pointed out, "this country won't be America."

What the Bush administration did after 9/11 was not to engage in precise police work to find any would-be terrorists in our midst. Instead, it issued edicts and enacted laws that curtailed all of our freedoms. And it cast a gigantic dragnet over Arabs and Muslims in this country, treating many of them with a de facto presumption of guilt. To put those experiences in context we need to examine how the Bush administration constructed the edifice of repression.

It got the job done, in part, by blasting those who dared to dissent. When the president's former press secretary Ari Fleischer told people they should "watch what they say" after comedian Bill Maher on ABC's Politically Incorrect dared to question the label of "cowards" that Bush had slapped on the suicide bombers, it sent a message. As did the canceling of Maher's show. As did Bush's repeated assertion that "you're either with us or against us."

The message was clear: If you dissent you're un-American, you're a traitor.

And that message went down the ranks.

"You can make an easy kind of link that, if you have a protest group protesting a war where the cause that's being fought against is international terrorism, you might have terrorism at that protest, "Mike Van Winkle, spokesman for the California Anti-Terrorism Information Center, told the Oakland Tribune in 2003. "You can almost argue that a protest against that is a terrorist act."

Celebrity dissenters, such as Susan Sarandon, Tim Robbins, Sean Penn, Linda Ronstadt, and the Dixie Chicks, all felt the sting of reprobation. The attacks on them reinforced the idea in the air that if you speak out, you'll pay a price. Gradually, as Bush's popularity has faded, his power to regulate the cultural thermostat has diminished.

But the Bush administration's efforts have gone way beyond chilly climate control. Breathtaking in its audaciousness, the administration has implemented, of ten by fiat, an amazing array of repressive policies that still stand. These policies deprive us of some of our most precious freedoms and threaten the very character of our democratic system. This repression has not been indiscriminate. For the most part white, non-Muslim U.S. citizens have not felt the full brunt of it. But for many Muslim and Arab and South Asian immigrants in America, citizen or not, America became inhospitable overnight. Their quality of life, their sense of security, has never been the same.

1. The Ashcroft raids

Just as the rounding up of ten thousand immigrants and radicals from 1918 to 1921 became known as the Palmer Raids, after Attorney General A. Mitchell Palmer, so too should the roundups after September 11 be called the Ashcroft Raids.

John Ashcroft, who served as attorney general from 2001 to 2005, sent law enforcement officers around the country to seize Muslims and Arabs in the United States and to hold them on whatever conceivable pretext. As David Cole notes in Enemy Aliens, this was a policy of "mass preventive detention." In the first two months after 9/11 the Ashcroft Raids had rounded up more than 1,182 people. (The Justice Department stopped reporting numbers after that.) Some were citizens; the majority were not.

Ashcroft sent law enforcement agents all over the country to nab immigrants on the slightest offenses. As he told the U.S. Conference of Mayors on October 25, 2001, "Let the terrorists among us be warned: If you overstay your visa -- even by one day -- we will arrest you. If you violate a local law, you will be put in jail and kept in custody as long as possible. We will use every available statute. We will seek every prosecutorial advantage."

Some Arabs and Muslims in the United States were apprehended solely on "anonymous tips called in by members of the public suspicious of Arab and Muslim neighbors who kept odd schedules," according to a June 2003 report of the Justice Department's office of the Inspector General titled "A Review of the Treatment of Aliens Held on Immigration Charges in Connection with the Investigation of the September 11 Attacks." One such detainee worked at a grocery store run by Middle Eastern men that was open twenty-four hours a day, and someone called that in as a threat, the report says. Three other Middle Eastern men were stopped in Manhattan on a traffic violation. In their car were design plans for a public school. Even though "their employers confirmed that the men were working on construction at the school and that it was appropriate for them to have the plans," they were detained.

"The Department was detaining aliens on immigration violations that generally had not been enforced in the past," the report noted. And it was detaining them for long periods of time, without the usual due process.

Before 9/11, the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) had a practice of charging detainees within forty-eight hours of their arrests. After the attacks, the INS changed that to seventy-two hours and added a huge loophole: "In the event of an emergency or other extraordinary circumstances, the charging decision could be made within an additional reasonable period of time," the inspector general's report said. That period was not specified, so there was no outer limit. More than 100 detainees were not charged within the first 10 days of detention, and five detainees waited "approximately 168 days after their arrest" to be charged. These delays "affected the detainees' ability to obtain effective legal counsel."

The detainees were held without bond. Many were labeled in an "indiscriminate and haphazard manner" by the FBI, making it difficult "to distinguish between aliens who it actually suspected of having a connection to terrorism as opposed to aliens who, while possibly guilty of violating federal immigration law, had no connection to terrorism." Many were held in the most restrictive wings of detention facilities.

And for the first "several days to several weeks" they were held incommunicado, not allowed to make any calls to lawyers or loved ones. On average, the FBI held these detainees for 80 days before clearing them. One was actually held for 244 days: "The untimely clearance process had enormous ramifications for September 11 detainees." One of those ramifications was brutalization.

At the Metropolitan Detention Center in Manhattan "there is evidence supporting the detainees' claims of abuse," the inspector general's report concluded. Detainees said officers "slammed them into walls, dragged them by their arms, stepped on the chain between their ankle cuffs ... and twisted their arms, hands, wrists, and fingers." One detainee said that "an officer bent his finger back until it touched his wrist. Another said that "officers repeatedly twisted his arm, which was in a cast."

The Ashcroft Raids included not only the initial dragnet after September 11 but two other dragnets. One was the Absconder Apprehension Initiative. This program expressly targeted Arabs and Muslims for deportation, even though they made up only a tiny fraction of "the more than 300,000 foreign nationals living here with outstanding deportation orders," Cole writes in Enemy Aliens. The other was the Special Registration program, which ordered immigrant men from predominantly Muslim or Arab countries to report to the immigration service. According to Cole, these three dragnets combined rounded up more than 5,000 people. With nothing to show for it.

"This program has been a colossal failure at finding terrorists," Cole writes, "of the more than 5,000 persons subjected to preventive detention as of May 2003, not one has been charged with any involvement in the crimes of September 11."

The Center for Constitutional Rights filed a class-action lawsuit on behalf of "male non-citizens from the Middle East, South Asia, and elsewhere who are Arab or Muslim or have been perceived by Defendants to be Arab or Muslim, who have been arrested and detained on minor immigration violations" after 9/11. The suit, Turkmen v. Ashcroft, charged that their First, Fourth, Fifth, and Sixth Amendment rights were violated.

On June 14, 2006, District Judge John Gleeson dismissed the plaintiffs' claims, except those relating to the conditions of their confinement. He ruled that it was OK for the government to hold the detainees essentially on a pretext -- a minor immigration infraction -- when, in fact, they were holding them for other purposes. He said that it was OK for the government to hold detainees for six months -- and sometimes longer -- after a judge has issued a determination to deport. In fact, he said, the government could hold them so long as their release was "reasonably foreseeable" -- an exceptionally elastic term. And he said that it was OK for the government to discriminate on the basis of race, religion, and/or national origin by holding Muslim and Arab detainees longer than others. The judge cited a Supreme Court case (Reno v. American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee) that said that the discrimination needs to be "so outrageous"as to overcome the deference owed to the executive branch in immigration matters.

Judge Gleeson said there was nothing outrageous about the alleged discrimination in this case.

As Cole, who worked on the case with the Center for Constitutional Rights, pointed out in a Los Angeles Times piece, "In essence, he authorized a repeat of the Japanese internment."

2. Abuse of Material Witness Statute

The Bush administration has used another technique for holding people -- primarily but not exclusively noncitizens -- in preventive detention. And that is by aggressively and speciously applying the 1984 material witness statute. This law allows the government to detain a witness in a criminal case if it's likely that this person would flee before testifying.

As Nat Hentoff wrote in The Progressive, this statute was "largely intended to prevent members of organized crime from fleeing." But the Bush administration used it to detain about four dozen people whom it viewed as suspects but did not have sufficient evidence to charge with any crime or immigration violation. Some were held for more than three months, according to the Justice Department. "Jailing people who are simply under investigation is a hallmark of an authoritarian regime," District Judge Shira Scheindlin ruled on April 30, 2002, in a case involving Osama Awadallah, a Jordanian student who was here legally but whose phone number was found in one of the 9/11 hijackers' cars. "If the government has probable cause to believe a person has committed a crime, it may arrest that person," Judge Scheindlin said. But misusing the material witness statute poses "the threat of making detention the norm and liberty the exception."


3. Enemy combatants and "extraordinary renditions"

Another mechanism for depriving people -- citizen and noncitizen alike -- of their rights is to label them "enemy combatants."And that's what the Bush administration has been doing. It's held more than six hundred prisoners at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, as enemy combatants, and it has held others the same way in Iraq and Afghanistan and in secret CIA prisons around the world. Using the ridiculous euphemism of "extraordinary renditions," the United States has seized hundreds of individuals and shipped them off to countries notorious for torture.

In the process the Bush administration has deprived these detainees of their due process rights and denied them protection under the Geneva Conventions. In the Supreme Court's 2006 decision in Hamdan v. Rumsfeld, Justice John Paul Stevens, writing for the majority, ruled that Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions applies. That article requires trials by a "regularly constituted court, affording all the judicial guarantees which are recognized as indispensable by civilized peoples." Common Article 3 also prohibits "violence to life and person, in particular murder of all kinds, mutilation, cruel treatment and torture," as well as "outrages upon personal dignity, in particular humiliating and degrading treatment." (Similarly, Article 75, Fundamental Guarantees, of the 1977 protocol to the Geneva Conventions states unambiguously: "Persons who are in the power of a Party to the conflict and who do not benefit from more favorable treatment under the Conventions or under this Protocol shall be treated humanely in all circumstances.")

Essentially, the Bush administration claims the authority to seize any individual anywhere in the world, label that person an enemy combatant, and send him off to some prison in this remote corner or that, there to languish forever.

The Bush administration has used the enemy combatant label not only against foreign nationals but against U.S. citizens, too. The administration held both Yasser Hamdi and José Padilla for more than two years, of ten in solitary confinement, in military brigs, and denied them their due process rights. They were held incommunicado and not charged with any crimes.

In one of its sillier arguments the Bush administration even claimed that it was holding Hamdi, who was picked up on a battlefield in Afghanistan, for his own benefit. The president, the government said in its Supreme Court brief, has "the authority to engage in the time-honored and humanitarian practice of detaining enemy combatants captured in connection with the conflict, as opposed to subjecting such combatants to the more harmful consequences of war"(italics in original).

Padilla, however, wasn't captured on the battlefield like Hamdi. He was collared at O'Hare Airport in Chicago. "By imprisoning Padilla without a hearing of any sort and without producing any evidence against him, the executive branch has taken one of the most drastic steps in our nation's history," writes Barbara Olshansky in America's Disappeared.(The italics in that quotation are hers.)

As it has with much of its overreaching, the Bush administration argued in the Hamdi and Padilla cases that the president's commander-in-chief powers in Article II of the Constitution give him the authority to designate citizens as enemy combatants and deprive them of due process. "You have to recognize that in a situation where there is a war, where the government is on a war footing, that you have to trust the executive," argued Paul Clement in Hamdi. Clement was deputy solicitor general at the time, and subsequently became solicitor general. Astonishingly, under questioning from the justices, Clement claimed that the president had this power to declare U.S. citizens enemy combatants even when there is no war. "The president had that authority on September tenth," Clement told the justices.

The Supreme Court disagreed, even about executive powers during wartime. As it said in the Hamdi decision, "A state of war is not a blank check for the President."

And in June 2006, in Rasul v. Bush, a case brought by Guantánamo detainees, the Supreme Court also ordered the government to give those detainees some due process protections. Nevertheless, the administration has dragged its feet.

As for Hamdi, the United States released and deported him in October 2004. As for Padilla, the Supreme Court decided not to rule on his original case, since they said his lawyers filed it in the wrong district. Then, rather than let the Supreme Court rule on his designation as an enemy combatant and risk repudiation, the Bush administration finally charged him with three crimes -- more than three years after detaining him.

Justice John Paul Stevens, in the original Padilla case, let his views be known on the gravity of the matter. "At stake in the case is nothing less than the essence of a free society," he wrote. "Unconstrained Executive detention for the purpose of investigating and preventing subversive activity is the hallmark of the Star Chamber."

4. Watering down the Levi guidelines: A boon for domestic spying

The Church Committee hearings (named after Senator Frank Church of Idaho) in 1974 and 1975 revealed widespread FBI spying on political dissidents. One of the FBI's most notorious counterintelligence programs was called COINTELPRO, which infiltrated and disrupted the Black Panthers and the American Indian Movement, among other groups. In response to the revelations President Gerald Ford had his attorney general, Edward Levi, draw up guidelines to limit such activities in the future. The 1976 Levi guidelines prohibited the FBI from investigating the First Amendment activities of individuals and groups that weren't advocating violence. And, mindful of the role of FBI agents provocateurs in the 1960s, the guidelines outlawed the disruption of groups and the discrediting of individuals engaged in lawful First Amendment activities. Domestic spying could occur only when there was "specific and articulable facts" that indicated criminal activity.

Under the Reagan administration and that of Bush Senior, these guidelines were loosened somewhat. Then came Ashcroft. On May 30, 2002, he threw out the need to demonstrate any connection to criminal activity. Ashcroft's guidelines allow the FBI "to engage in searches and monitoring of chat rooms, bulletin boards, and websites without evidence of criminal wrongdoing," notes the Electronic Privacy Information Center. "Additionally, agents are permitted to visit public places and events to monitor individuals' activities with no predicate of criminal suspicion. These powers are not limited to terrorism investigations." What's more, Ashcroft's guidelines "allow FBI agents to use private-sector databases prospectively in order to predict terrorist acts. These databases may be used without any evidence of criminal activity or suspicious behavior. The FBI can now go on data mining 'fishing trips.'"

And it's not just the FBI. Since 9/11, agents from the campus police all the way up to the National Guard and the Pentagon have gotten into the domestic snooping game. Much of the gathering of domestic intelligence has been done by joint terrorism task forces that bring together state and local law enforcement with the FBI.

A story that MSNBC broke on December 14, 2005, told how the Pentagon had been busy spying on antiwar groups. The Pentagon's own database lists forty-three events in a six-month period alone, dating from November 11, 2004, to May 7, 2005. Pentagon political spying took place in the following states and the District of Columbia: Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Nebraska, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Texas, Vermont, and Wisconsin. On January 17, 2007, the ACLU revealed that the Pentagon had monitored at least 186 antimilitary protests.

5. Listening in on lawyer-prisoner conversations

Here's one of the violations of our civil liberties that has received little attention: If you're in federal custody you no longer can assume that you have the right to confidential communications with your lawyer.

On October 31, 2001, Ashcroft issued a regulation that allows the Justice Department at its own discretion and authority to eavesdrop on the lawyer-client conversations of anyone in its custody, so long as the attorney general says there is "reasonable suspicion"that the person in custody may use such conversations "to further or facilitate acts of terrorism." Prior to this, the only way prosecutors could eavesdrop on such communications was to demonstrate "probable cause" before a judge that the prisoner was using his discussions with counsel to further a criminal purpose. Under the Ashcroft regulation probable cause is no longer the standard. And Ashcroft unilaterally discarded the obligation of going to a judge. Now the executive branch itself makes the decision as to whether to listen in or not.

How can you possibly defend yourself and plan your legal strategy with your lawyer if the prosecutors are listening in?

"This regulation is an unprecedented frontal assault on the attorney-client privilege, and on the right to counsel and the right of access to the courts guaranteed by the Constitution," Nadine Strossen, president of the ACLU, testified to the Senate Judiciary Committee on December 4, 2001.

© 2007 by Matthew Rothschild. This piece is excerpted from You Have No Rights: Stories of America in an Age of Repression (The New Press, July 4, 2007). Published with the permission of The New Press and available at good book stores everywhere.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

The Iraq war has gotten so bad ...

Boy, you know things have gone badly in Iraq when the Fort Lewis army base in Washington State has to consider having monthly ceremonies honoring the fallen soldiers because individual ceremonies for individual soldiers is too cumbersome. Great article by William Yardley of the New York Times (http://www.nytimes.com/2007/07/25/us/25funeral.html?ei=5065&en=96fc36a0f3f392ea&ex=1186027200&partner=MYWAY&pagewanted=print) detailing how the families of those fallen warriors are outraged by the callousness of the Army base's actions. I think a quote towards the end of the article sums up how I feel about it:

Ms. Rothwell said she opposed monthly services. “Individuals gave their lives,” she said. “But if you have services just once a month, the other 29 days you don’t have to think about it. Well, isn’t that convenient.”

The current President has tried to keep this war going in two ways. The first is by trying to scare people into not thinking about alternatives, an effort that is ongoing. The second is by trying to make sure that no one other than the military is asked to sacrifice for this war. Hopefully articles like this will help put the lie to that kind of arrogance, to ask The Littles to fight and die in Iraq to preserve some scrap of the current President's legacy.

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July 25, 2007
On Base, a Plea to Give Each Death Its Due
By WILLIAM YARDLEY

FORT LEWIS, Wash. — Twenty soldiers deployed to Iraq from this Army base were killed in May, a monthly high. That same month, the base announced a change in how it would honor its dead: instead of units holding services after each death, they would be held collectively once a month.

The anger and hurt were immediate. Soldiers’ families and veterans protested the change as cold and logistics-driven. Critics online said the military was trying to repress bad news about deaths. By mid-June, the base had delayed the plan.

[Its commander, Lt. Gen. Charles H. Jacoby, was expected to decide Wednesday whether to go through with it.]

“If I lost my husband at the beginning of the month, what do you do, wait until the end of the month?” asked Toni Shanyfelt, who said her husband was serving one of multiple tours in Iraq. “I don’t know if it’s more convenient for them, or what, but that’s insane.”

Military historians and scholars say the proposal and its fallout highlight the tender questions facing the armed forces as casualties in Iraq and Afghanistan mount, and some soldiers and their families come to expect more from military bases than in past conflicts.

During Vietnam and Korea, the historians say, many bases were places for training soldiers and shipping them out, rarely to see them return, with memorial services uncommon. Now, in the age of the all-volunteer force, the base has become the center of community. The Army and other branches have fostered the idea that military service is as much about education, job training and belonging to a community as national defense.

“It wasn’t considered the Army’s business in any of the other wars to conduct these services,” said Alan H. Archambault, director of the Fort Lewis Military Museum, which is supported by the Army. “It was the hometowns of the soldiers that died that had these. Now I think the Army bases are trying to be the hometowns.”

Army officials said the idea to hold monthly services reflected a need to find balance between honoring the dead and the practical reality that the services take time to plan, including things like coordinating rifle salutes and arranging receptions for family members who attend.

“As much as we would like to think otherwise, I am afraid that with the number of soldiers we now have in harm’s way, our losses will preclude us from continuing to do individual memorial ceremonies,” Brig. Gen. William Troy, who was the interim commander at Fort Lewis at the time, wrote in an e-mail message announcing the policy in May.

The Army also emphasizes that the ceremonies held on bases are in addition to those held by the soldier’s unit overseas as well as private family services, which usually include military honor guards. Those services would not be affected if Fort Lewis moved to a monthly schedule.

Fort Lewis, the third-largest Army base in the nation, has about 10,000 of its 28,000 soldiers deployed overseas, a majority of them in Stryker brigades trained specially for urban combat. Several other major bases, including Fort Hood in Texas, the largest, already hold services monthly. Some hold them even less frequently.

“There is no Army-wide policy to have any memorial services,” a spokeswoman for the Army, Maj. Cheryl Phillips, said in an e-mail message. “Commanders make the call. Several installations have conducted services for each individual soldier and now have begun to roll them into a quarterly service because, alas, the casualty numbers are rising.”

At many bases, local elected officials attend the services. At Fort Hood, whose First Cavalry Division has 19,000 soldiers overseas, many of these officials are veterans with ties to the base or the Army.

“It really is important that we keep it scheduled and that these people all have it on their calendars,” said Diane Battaglia, a spokeswoman for Fort Hood.

Ms. Battaglia said the monthly services helped bring families together, a point also made by General Troy at Fort Lewis.

“I see this as a way of sharing the heavy burdens our spouses and rear detachments bear, while giving our fallen warriors the respect they deserve,” General Troy wrote in the e-mail message. “It will also give the families of the fallen the opportunity to bond with one another, as they see others who share their grief.”

Ms. Battaglia said the Fort Hood soldiers received individual eulogies at the monthly services. “It has worked phenomenally well,” she said.

At Fort Lewis, however, tension has been evident; changing a ritual, especially as the death toll is rising, strikes some as disrespectful.

“By reducing it to once a month, I think they’re taking away from us,” said Staff Sgt. Jason Angelle. “Soldiers deserve individual honors.”

Sue Rothwell, who runs a diner popular among soldiers that is just outside the main gate, said she had long opposed the war in Iraq but had recently made a public point of honoring those who serve in it. Several weeks ago she started putting the last names of soldiers who had died on the reader board outside the restaurant, called Galloping Gertie’s, under the heading, “The numbers have names.”

Ms. Rothwell said she opposed monthly services. “Individuals gave their lives,” she said. “But if you have services just once a month, the other 29 days you don’t have to think about it. Well, isn’t that convenient.”

For now, at least, those who die are eulogized as hometown heroes, either individually or by division.

“We owe them the highest gratitude a nation can give,” Lt. Col. John Pettit, a chaplain, said at a memorial service in July for two soldiers. Sgt. Joel A. Dahl and Cpl. Victor A. Garcia were killed by small-arms fire in Iraq.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Romney's $2000 makeup charges

I'm just going to give you the link this time, because there's some embedded stuff in it that's pretty good. But the basic point is that over the last four years, Republican Presidential candidate Mitt Romney has declared about $2000 in campaign expenses for makeup artists.

Which, of course, would be perfectly reasonable for a guy who is on TV a lot. But it does cause a problem when the same well-made-up Romney says stuff like this:

"You know I think John Edwards was right. There are two Americas. There is the America where people pay $400 for a haircut and then there is everybody else,"

Much like the Mike Vitter/DC Madam scandal, it's not the action that's the problem, it's the hypocrisy. I wonder if Romney will take the beating that Edwards did about his haircut ...

http://www.alternet.org/blogs/peek/57409/

Thursday, July 19, 2007

The Romneys on security priorities

Wonderful little quote at the end of a piece on ABCNews.com (http://abcnews.go.com/Politics/TheNote/Story?id=3105288&page=1) from Ann Romney about liquid restrictions on airlines. Whether or not the TSA rule is a good idea or not, it's fascinating to see the wife of the guy who is so tough on security he wants to double Guantanamo advocating loosening a security rule because she "can't make it work" when she has to fly with The Littles on commercial planes. Seems to me someone could make some nice hay with this one.

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"Some of the time I fly private -- which is really terrific -- but most of the time I fly commercial, and as you know, you are only allowed three ounces and one of the tiny quart-size bags. I can't make that work." -- Ann Romney, promising to reverse TSA restrictions on liquids if she becomes first lady.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Cruising with the conservatives

Fascinating piece by Johann Hari from the Independent UK (http://www.alternet.org/stories/57001/?page=1). The basic premise is that he went undercover on a National Review-sponsored cruise to see what conservatives are like when they are just around themselves. The answer is both frightening and depressing.

Now, in all fairness, some of the things that Hari says he heard almost strain credulity. I take particular exception to his description of the arrogance that "all judges" show, but that's personal. But some don't. I'm not entirely sure what to make of this or how much credibility to give it.

But, boy, if these are the underlying thoughts of the hard Right in America, it explains how there's still twenty-something percent of people who think the current President is doing a "heckuva job."

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I am standing waist-deep in the Pacific Ocean, both chilling and burning, indulging in the polite chit-chat beloved by vacationing Americans. A sweet elderly lady from Los Angeles is sitting on the rocks nearby, telling me dreamily about her son. "Is he your only child?" I ask. "Yes," she says. "Do you have a child back in England?" she asks. No, I say. Her face darkens. "You'd better start," she says. "The Muslims are breeding. Soon, they'll have the whole of Europe."

I am getting used to these moments - when gentle holiday geniality bleeds into… what? I lie on the beach with Hillary-Ann, a chatty, scatty 35-year-old Californian designer. As she explains the perils of Republican dating, my mind drifts, watching the gentle tide. When I hear her say, " Of course, we need to execute some of these people," I wake up. Who do we need to execute? She runs her fingers through the sand lazily. "A few of these prominent liberals who are trying to demoralise the country," she says. "Just take a couple of these anti-war people off to the gas chamber for treason to show, if you try to bring down America at a time of war, that's what you'll get." She squints at the sun and smiles. " Then things'll change."

I am travelling on a bright white cruise ship with two restaurants, five bars, a casino - and 500 readers of the National Review. Here, the Iraq war has been "an amazing success". Global warming is not happening. The solitary black person claims, "If the Ku Klux Klan supports equal rights, then God bless them." And I have nowhere to run.

From time to time, National Review - the bible of American conservatism - organises a cruise for its readers. I paid $1,200 to join them. The rules I imposed on myself were simple: If any of the conservative cruisers asked who I was, I answered honestly, telling them I was a journalist. Mostly, I just tried to blend in - and find out what American conservatives say when they think the rest of us aren't listening.

From sweet to suicide bomber

I arrive at the dockside in San Diego on Saturday afternoon and stare up at the Oosterdam, our home for the next seven days. Filipino boat hands are loading trunks into the hull and wealthy white folk are gliding onto its polished boards with pale sun parasols dangling off their arms.

The Reviewers have been told to gather for a cocktail reception on the Lido, near the very top of the ship. I arrive to find a tableau from Gone With the Wind, washed in a thousand shades of grey. Southern belles - aged and pinched - are flirting with old conservative warriors. The etiquette here is different from anything I have ever seen. It takes me 15 minutes to realise what is wrong with this scene. There are no big hugs, no warm kisses. This is a place of starchy handshakes. Men approach each other with stiffened spines, puffed-out chests and crunching handshakes. Women are greeted with a single kiss on the cheek. Anything more would be French.

I adjust and stiffly greet the first man I see. He is a judge, with the craggy self-important charm that slowly consumes any judge. He is from Canada, he declares (a little more apologetically), and is the founding president of "Canadians Against Suicide Bombing". Would there be many members of "Canadians for Suicide Bombing?" I ask. Dismayed, he suggests that yes, there would.

A bell rings somewhere, and we are all beckoned to dinner. We have been assigned random seats, which will change each night. We will, the publicity pack promises, each dine with at least one National Review speaker during our trip.

To my left, I find a middle-aged Floridian with a neat beard. To my right are two elderly New Yorkers who look and sound like late-era Dorothy Parkers, minus the alcohol poisoning. They live on Park Avenue, they explain in precise Northern tones. "You must live near the UN building," the Floridian says to one of the New York ladies after the entree is served. Yes, she responds, shaking her head wearily. "They should suicide-bomb that place," he says. They all chuckle gently. How did that happen? How do you go from sweet to suicide-bomb in six seconds?

The conversation ebbs back to friendly chit-chat. So, you're a European, one of the Park Avenue ladies says, before offering witty commentaries on the cities she's visited. Her companion adds, "I went to Paris, and it was so lovely." Her face darkens: "But then you think - it's surrounded by Muslims." The first lady nods: "They're out there, and they're coming." Emboldened, the bearded Floridian wags a finger and says, "Down the line, we're not going to bail out the French again." He mimes picking up a phone and shouts into it, "I can't hear you, Jacques! What's that? The Muslims are doing what to you? I can't hear you!"

Now that this barrier has been broken - everyone agrees the Muslims are devouring the French, and everyone agrees it's funny - the usual suspects are quickly rounded up. Jimmy Carter is "almost a traitor". John McCain is "crazy" because of "all that torture". One of the Park Avenue ladies declares that she gets on her knees every day to " thank God for Fox News". As the wine reaches the Floridian, he announces, "This cruise is the best money I ever spent."

They rush through the Rush-list of liberals who hate America, who want her to fail, and I ask them - why are liberals like this? What's their motivation? They stutter to a halt and there is a long, puzzled silence. " It's a good question," one of them, Martha, says finally. I have asked them to peer into the minds of cartoons and they are suddenly, reluctantly confronted with the hollowness of their creation. "There have always been intellectuals who want to tell people how to live," Martha adds, to an almost visible sense of relief. That's it - the intellectuals! They are not like us. Dave changes the subject, to wash away this moment of cognitive dissonance. "The liberals don't believe in the constitution. They don't believe in what the founders wanted - a strong executive," he announces, to nods. A Filipino waiter offers him a top-up of his wine, and he mock-whispers to me, "They all look the same! Can you tell them apart?" I stare out to sea. How long would it take me to drown?

"We're doing an excellent job killing them."

The Vista Lounge is a Vegas-style showroom, with glistening gold edges and the desperate optimism of an ageing Cha-Cha girl. Today, the scenery has been cleared away - "I always sit at the front in these shows to see if the girls are really pretty and on this ship they are ug-lee," I hear a Reviewer mutter - and our performers are the assorted purveyors of conservative show tunes, from Podhoretz to Steyn. The first of the trip's seminars is a discussion intended to exhume the conservative corpse and discover its cause of death on the black, black night of 7 November, 2006, when the treacherous Democrats took control of the US Congress.

There is something strange about this discussion, and it takes me a few moments to realise exactly what it is. All the tropes that conservatives usually deny in public - that Iraq is another Vietnam, that Bush is fighting a class war on behalf of the rich - are embraced on this shining ship in the middle of the ocean. Yes, they concede, we are fighting another Vietnam; and this time we won't let the weak-kneed liberals lose it. "It's customary to say we lost the Vietnam war, but who's 'we'?" the writer Dinesh D'Souza asks angrily. "The left won by demanding America's humiliation." On this ship, there are no Viet Cong, no three million dead. There is only liberal treachery. Yes, D'Souza says, in a swift shift to domestic politics, "of course" Republican politics is "about class. Republicans are the party of winners, Democrats are the party of losers."

The panel nods, but it doesn't want to stray from Iraq. Robert Bork, Ronald Reagan's one-time nominee to the Supreme Court, mumbles from beneath low-hanging jowls: "The coverage of this war is unbelievable. Even Fox News is unbelievable. You'd think we're the only ones dying. Enemy casualties aren't covered. We're doing an excellent job killing them."

Then, with a judder, the panel runs momentarily aground. Rich Lowry, the preppy, handsome 38-year-old editor of National Review, says, "The American public isn't concluding we're losing in Iraq for any irrational reason. They're looking at the cold, hard facts." The Vista Lounge is, as one, perplexed. Lowry continues, "I wish it was true that, because we're a superpower, we can't lose. But it's not."

No one argues with him. They just look away, in the same manner that people avoid glancing at a crazy person yelling at a bus stop. Then they return to hyperbole and accusations of treachery against people like their editor. The ageing historian Bernard Lewis - who was deputed to stiffen Dick Cheney's spine in the run-up to the war - declares, "The election in the US is being seen by [the bin Ladenists] as a victory on a par with the collapse of the Soviet Union. We should be prepared for whatever comes next." This is why the guests paid up to $6,000. This is what they came for. They give him a wheezing, stooping ovation and break for coffee.

A fracture-line in the lumbering certainty of American conservatism is opening right before my eyes. Following the break, Norman Podhoretz and William Buckley - two of the grand old men of the Grand Old Party - begin to feud. Podhoretz will not stop speaking - "I have lots of ex-friends on the left; it looks like I'm going to have some ex-friends on the right, too," he rants -and Buckley says to the chair, " Just take the mike, there's no other way." He says it with a smile, but with heavy eyes.

Podhoretz and Buckley now inhabit opposite poles of post-September 11 American conservatism, and they stare at wholly different Iraqs. Podhoretz is the Brooklyn-born, street-fighting kid who travelled through a long phase of left-liberalism to a pugilistic belief in America's power to redeem the world, one bomb at a time. Today, he is a bristling grey ball of aggression, here to declare that the Iraq war has been "an amazing success." He waves his fist and declaims: "There were WMD, and they were shipped to Syria … This picture of a country in total chaos with no security is false. It has been a triumph. It couldn't have gone better." He wants more wars, and fast. He is "certain" Bush will bomb Iran, and " thank God" for that.

Buckley is an urbane old reactionary, drunk on doubts. He founded the National Review in 1955 - when conservatism was viewed in polite society as a mental affliction - and he has always been sceptical of appeals to " the people," preferring the eternal top-down certainties of Catholicism. He united with Podhoretz in mutual hatred of Godless Communism, but, slouching into his eighties, he possesses a world view that is ill-suited for the fight to bring democracy to the Muslim world. He was a ghostly presence on the cruise at first, appearing only briefly to shake a few hands. But now he has emerged, and he is fighting.

"Aren't you embarrassed by the absence of these weapons?" Buckley snaps at Podhoretz. He has just explained that he supported the war reluctantly, because Dick Cheney convinced him Saddam Hussein had WMD primed to be fired. "No," Podhoretz replies. "As I say, they were shipped to Syria. During Gulf War I, the entire Iraqi air force was hidden in the deserts in Iran." He says he is "heartbroken" by this " rise of defeatism on the right." He adds, apropos of nothing, "There was nobody better than Don Rumsfeld. This defeatist talk only contributes to the impression we are losing, when I think we're winning." The audience cheers Podhoretz. The nuanced doubts of Bill Buckley leave them confused. Doesn't he sound like the liberal media? Later, over dinner, a tablemate from Denver calls Buckley "a coward". His wife nods and says, " Buckley's an old man," tapping her head with her finger to suggest dementia.

I decide to track down Buckley and Podhoretz separately and ask them for interviews. Buckley is sitting forlornly in his cabin, scribbling in a notebook. In 2005, at an event celebrating National Review's 50th birthday, President Bush described today's American conservatives as "Bill's children". I ask him if he feels like a parent whose kids grew up to be serial killers. He smiles slightly, and his blue eyes appear to twinkle. Then he sighs, "The answer is no. Because what animated the conservative core for 40 years was the Soviet menace, plus the rise of dogmatic socialism. That's pretty well gone."

This does not feel like an optimistic defence of his brood, but it's a theme he returns to repeatedly: the great battles of his life are already won. Still, he ruminates over what his old friend Ronald Reagan would have made of Iraq. "I think the prudent Reagan would have figured here, and the prudent Reagan would have shunned a commitment of the kind that we are now engaged in… I think he would have attempted to find some sort of assurance that any exposure by the United States would be exposure to a challenge the dimensions of which we could predict." Lest liberals be too eager to adopt the Gipper as one of their own, Buckley agrees approvingly that Reagan's approach would have been to "find a local strongman" to rule Iraq.

A few floors away, Podhoretz tells me he is losing his voice, "which will make some people very happy". Then he croaks out the standard-issue Wolfowitz line about how, after September 11, the United States had to introduce democracy to the Middle East in order to change the political culture that produced the mass murderers. For somebody who declares democracy to be his goal, he is remarkably blasé about the fact that 80 per cent of Iraqis want US troops to leave their country, according to the latest polls. "I don't much care," he says, batting the question away. He goes on to insist that "nobody was tortured in Abu Ghraib or Guantanamo" and that Bush is "a hero". He is, like most people on this cruise, certain the administration will attack Iran.

Podhoretz excitedly talks himself into a beautiful web of words, vindicating his every position. He fumes at Buckley, George Will and the other apostate conservatives who refuse to see sense. He announces victory. And for a moment, here in the Mexican breeze, it is as though a thousand miles away Baghdad is not bleeding. He starts hacking and coughing painfully. I offer to go to the ship infirmary and get him some throat sweets, and - locked in eternal fighter-mode - he looks thrown, as though this is an especially cunning punch. Is this random act of kindness designed to imbalance him? " I'm fine," he says, glancing contemptuously at the Bill Buckley book I am carrying. "I'll keep on shouting through the soreness."

The Ghosts of Conservatism Past

The ghosts of Conservatism past are wandering this ship. From the pool, I see John O'Sullivan, a former adviser to Margaret Thatcher. And one morning on the deck I discover Kenneth Starr, looking like he has stepped out of a long-forgotten 1990s news bulletin waving Monica's stained blue dress. His face is round and unlined, like an immense, contented baby. As I stare at him, all my repressed bewilderment rises, and I ask - Mr Starr, do you feel ashamed that, as Osama bin Laden plotted to murder American citizens, you brought the American government to a stand-still over a few consensual blow jobs? Do you ever lie awake at night wondering if a few more memos on national security would have reached the President's desk if he wasn't spending half his time dealing with your sexual McCarthyism?

He smiles through his teeth and - in his soft somnambulant voice - says in perfect legalese, "I am entirely at rest with the process. The House of Representatives worked its will, the Senate worked its will, the Chief Justice of the United States presided. The constitutional process worked admirably."

It's an oddly meek defence, and the more I challenge him, the more legalistic he becomes. Every answer is a variant on "it's not my fault" . First, he says Clinton should have settled early on in Jones vs Clinton. Then he blames Jimmy Carter. "This critique really should be addressed to the now-departed, moribund independent counsel provisions. The Ethics and Government [provisions] ushered in during President Carter's administration has an extraordinarily low threshold for launching a special prosecutor…"

Enough - I see another, more intriguing ghost. Ward Connerly is the only black person in the National Review posse, a 67-year-old Louisiana-born businessman, best known for leading conservative campaigns against affirmative action for black people. Earlier, I heard him saying the Republican Party has been "too preoccupied with… not ticking off the blacks", and a cooing white couple wandered away smiling, "If he can say it, we can say it." What must it be like to be a black man shilling for a magazine that declared at the height of the civil rights movement that black people "tend to revert to savagery", and should be given the vote only "when they stop eating each other"?

I drag him into the bar, where he declines alcohol. He tells me plainly about his childhood - his mother died when he was four, and he was raised by his grandparents - but he never really becomes animated until I ask him if it is true he once said, "If the KKK supports equal rights, then God bless them." He leans forward, his palms open. There are, he says, " those who condemn the Klan based on their past without seeing the human side of it, because they don't want to be in the wrong, politically correct camp, you know… Members of the Ku Klux Klan are human beings, American citizens - they go to a place to eat, nobody asks them 'Are you a Klansmember?', before we serve you here. They go to buy groceries, nobody asks, 'Are you a Klansmember?' They go to vote for Governor, nobody asks 'Do you know that that person is a Klansmember?' Only in the context of race do they ask that. And I'm supposed to instantly say, 'Oh my God, they are Klansmen? Geez, I don't want their support.'"

This empathy for Klansmen first bubbled into the public domain this year when Connerly was leading an anti-affirmative action campaign in Michigan. The KKK came out in support of him - and he didn't decline it. I ask if he really thinks it is possible the KKK made this move because they have become converted to the cause of racial equality. "I think that the reasoning that a Klan member goes through is - blacks are getting benefits that I'm not getting. It's reverse discrimination. To me it's all discrimination. But the Klansmen is going through the reasoning that this is benefiting blacks, they are getting things that I don't get… A white man doesn't have a chance in this country."

He becomes incredibly impassioned imagining how they feel, ventriloquising them with a shaking fist - "The Mexicans are getting these benefits, the coloureds or niggers, whatever they are saying, are getting these benefits, and I as a white man am losing my country."

But when I ask him to empathise with the black victims of Hurricane Katrina, he offers none of this vim. No, all Katrina showed was "the dysfunctionality that is evident in many black neighbourhoods," he says flatly, and that has to be "tackled by black people, not the government. " Ward, do you ever worry you are siding with people who would have denied you a vote - or would hang you by a rope from a tree?

"I don't gather strength from what others think - no at all," he says. "Whether they are in favour or opposed. I can walk down these halls and, say, a hundred people say, 'Oh we just adore you', and I'll be polite and I'll say 'thank you', but it doesn't register or have any effect on me." There is a gaggle of Reviewers waiting to tell him how refreshing it is to "finally" hear a black person "speaking like this". I leave him to their white, white garlands.

"You're going to get fascists rising up, aren't you? Why hasn't that happened already?"

The nautical counter-revolution has docked in the perfectly-yellow sands of Puerto Vallarta in Mexico, and the Reviewers are clambering overboard into the Latino world they want to wall off behind a thousand-mile fence. They carry notebooks from the scribblings they made during the seminar teaching them "How To Shop in Mexico". Over breakfast, I forgot myself and said I was considering setting out to find a local street kid who would show me round the barrios - the real Mexico. They gaped. "Do you want to die?" one asked.

The Reviewers confine their Mexican jaunt to covered markets and walled-off private fortresses like the private Nikki Beach. Here, as ever, they want Mexico to be a dispenser of cheap consumer goods and lush sands - not a place populated by (uck) Mexicans. Dinesh D'Souza announced as we entered Mexican seas what he calls "D'Souza's law of immigration": " The quality of an immigrant is inversely proportional to the distance travelled to get to the United States."

In other words: Latinos suck.

I return for dinner with my special National Review guest: Kate O'Beirne. She's an impossibly tall blonde with the voice of a 1930s screwball star and the arguments of a 1890s Victorian patriarch. She inveighs against feminism and "women who make the world worse" in quick quips.

As I enter the onboard restaurant she is sitting among adoring Reviewers with her husband Jim, who announces that he is Donald Rumsfeld's personnel director. "People keep asking what I'm doing here, with him being fired and all," he says. "But the cruise has been arranged for a long time."

The familiar routine of the dinners - first the getting-to-know-you chit-chat, then some light conversational fascism - is accelerating. Tonight there is explicit praise for a fascist dictator before the entree has arrived. I drop into the conversation the news that there are moves in Germany to have Donald Rumsfeld extradited to face torture charges.

A red-faced man who looks like an egg with a moustache glued on grumbles, " If the Germans think they can take responsibility for the world, I don't care about German courts. Bomb them." I begin to witter on about the Pinochet precedent, and Kate snaps, "Treating Don Rumsfeld like Pinochet is disgusting." Egg Man pounds his fist on the table: " Treating Pinochet like that is disgusting. Pinochet is a hero. He saved Chile."

"Exactly," adds Jim. "And he privatised social security."

The table nods solemnly and then they march into the conversation - the billion-strong swarm of swarthy Muslims who are poised to take over the world. Jim leans forward and says, "When I see these football supporters from England, I think - these guys aren't going to be told by PC elites to be nice to Muslims. You're going to get fascists rising up, aren't you? Why isn't that happening already?" Before I can answer, he is conquering the Middle East from his table, from behind a crème brûlée.

"The civilised countries should invade all the oil-owning places in the Middle East and run them properly. We won't take the money ourselves, but we'll manage it so the money isn't going to terrorists."

The idea that Europe is being "taken over" by Muslims is the unifying theme of this cruise. Some people go on singles cruises. Some go on ballroom dancing cruises. This is the "The Muslims Are Coming" cruise - drinks included. Because everyone thinks it. Everyone knows it. Everyone dreams it. And the man responsible is sitting only a few tables down: Mark Steyn.

He is wearing sunglasses on top of his head and a bright, bright shirt that fits the image of the disk jockey he once was. Sitting in this sea of grey, it has an odd effect - he looks like a pimp inexplicably hanging out with the apostles of colostomy conservatism.

Steyn's thesis in his new book, America Alone, is simple: The "European races" i.e., white people - "are too self-absorbed to breed," but the Muslims are multiplying quickly. The inevitable result will be " large-scale evacuation operations circa 2015" as Europe is ceded to al Qaeda and "Greater France remorselessly evolve[s] into Greater Bosnia."

He offers a light smearing of dubious demographic figures - he needs to turn 20 million European Muslims into more than 150 million in nine years, which is a lot of humping.

But facts, figures, and doubt are not on the itinerary of this cruise. With one or two exceptions, the passengers discuss "the Muslims" as a homogenous, sharia-seeking block - already with near-total control of Europe. Over the week, I am asked nine times - I counted - when I am fleeing Europe's encroaching Muslim population for the safety of the United States of America.

At one of the seminars, a panelist says anti-Americanism comes from both directions in a grasping pincer movement - "The Muslims condemn us for being decadent; the Europeans condemn us for not being decadent enough." Midge Decter, Norman Podhoretz's wife, yells, "The Muslims are right, the Europeans are wrong!" And, instantly, Jay Nordlinger, National Review's managing editor and the panel's chair, says, " I'm afraid a lot of the Europeans are Muslim, Midge."

The audience cheers. Somebody shouts, "You tell 'em, Jay!" He tells 'em. Decter tells 'em. Steyn tells 'em.

On this cruise, everyone tells 'em - and, thanks to my European passport, tells me.

From cruise to cruise missiles?

I am back in the docks of San Diego watching these tireless champions of the overdog filter past and say their starchy, formal goodbyes. As Bernard Lewis disappears onto the horizon, I wonder about the connections between this cruise and the cruise missiles fired half a world away.

I spot the old lady from the sea looking for her suitcase, and stop to tell her I may have found a solution to her political worries about both Muslims and stem-cells.

"Couldn't they just do experiments on Muslim stem-cells?" I ask. " Hey - that's a great idea!" she laughs, and vanishes. Hillary-Ann stops to say she is definitely going on the next National Review cruise, to Alaska. "Perfect!" I yell, finally losing my mind.

"You can drill it as you go!" She puts her arms around me and says very sweetly, "We need you on every cruise."

As I turn my back on the ship for the last time, the Judge I met on my first night places his arm affectionately on my shoulder. "We have written off Britain to the Muslims," he says. "Come to America."

Monday, July 16, 2007

Libby's sentencing judge on Libby's commutation

There's always good stuff to be found in footnotes. In this case, in the first footnote from Judge Reggie Walton, the judge who "excessively" sentenced Lewis "Scooter" Libby to 30 months in jail for perjury and obstruction of justice, he makes the point that Libby's sentence is at the bottom end of the Federal Sentencing Guidelines. Therefore, according to the Guidelines (which current Attorney General Alberto Gonzales lobbied to make mandatory), Libby's sentence was hardly excessive.

Just more ammunition to point out how laughable the current President's attempt to explain his hush-money gift of commutation to Libby. While artfully stated and well written, Judge Walton, it ain't all that perplexing.

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In commuting the defendant’s thirty-month term of incarceration, the President stated that the sentence imposed by this Court was “excessive” and that two years of supervised release and a $250,000 alone are a “harsh punishment” for an individual convicted on multiple counts of perjury, obstruction of justice, and making false statements to federal investigators. Although it is certainly the President’s prerogative to justify the exercise of his constitutional commutation power in whatever manner he chooses (or even to decline to provide a reason for his actions altogether), the Court notes that the term of incarceration imposed in this case was determined after a careful consideration of each of the requite statutory factors, and was consistent with the bottom end of the applicable sentencing range as properly calculated under the United Stats Sentencing Guidelines.

Indeed, only recently the President’s Attorney General called for the passage of legislation to “restore the binding nature of the sentencing guidelines so that the bottom of the recommended sentencing range would be a minimum for judges, not merely a suggestion,” a stance that is fully consonant with the policies of this Administration as a whole. In light of these considerations, and given the indisputable importance of “provid[ing] certainty and fairness in sentencing . . . [and] avoid[ing] unwarranted sentencing disparities,” it is fair to say that the Court is somewhat perplexed as to how its sentence could be accurately be characterized as “excessive.”

More grown-up talk about terrorism

Excellent article by Christopher Dickey from Newsweek on how the current President is losing - is not really even fighting - the propaganda war against al Qaeda and the global jihadist movement. Whether it is because he doesn't understand it or just because he doesn't care is, at this stage, not the point. A quote from the article really sums it up well:

"Stephen Ulph, a research associate with the Combating Terrorism Center at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, recently told the Senate Intelligence Committee that 'we have failed to take the jihadists seriously, intellectually and culturally, and as a result their corrosive influence is progressing unopposed.'"

Which, to me, raises a very disturbing question. EVERYTHING in the current President's administration - from Plamegate to U.S. Attorney firings to pressure on the Surgeon General - has been done for political purposes. Could it be that the entire Iraq fiasco was done with the idea of creatinging an Orwellian "perpetual enemy" in an attempt to seize dictatorial power?

Probably not completely. I don't buy that 9/11 was a government conspiracy at all. But is it believable that guys like Karl Rove and Dick Cheney would see the horrible events of that day as an opportunity for historic power-grab? Hell yeah.

And, if that's the case, it would make some sense of the current President's remarkable intrangigence in "staying the course" in all of his imperial acts, from Iraq to Guantanamo to warrantless wiretapping. I always think incompetence is the most likely explanation for any action, but this much incompetence is almost too much for even me to buy.

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Dickey: Bush and Al Qaeda's Lessons of War
Bush is losing hopelessly in the war of ideas. What the terrorists can teach him about strategy, propaganda and ideology.
WEB-EXCLUSIVE COMMENTARY
By Christopher Dickey
Newsweek
Updated: 4:36 p.m. CT July 13, 2007
July 13, 2007 - “Ideology” is a word that President George W. Bush likes to use almost as much as “terrorist.” In presenting the lack-of-progress report about Iraq yesterday, he justified the negligible and negative results of the surge in troops by arguing “we are at the beginning of a great ideological conflict.” In fact, he used variations on that word and that theme a dozen times in an hour. But if you listen to the president, it’s hard to tell just what he means.

As Bush puts it, the struggle is “between those who yearn for peace and those who want their children to grow up in a normal, decent society, and radicals and extremists who want to impose their dark vision on people throughout the world.” But the sad irony is that this is precisely the argument, in reverse, that Al Qaeda and its many spinoffs use to justify their fight. And Al Qaeda’s people, as leading counterinsurgency strategists admit, make their case much more effectively.

An idea, of course, is only the beginning of an ideology, but if you don’t have a firm grip on it, you’re going to have trouble with all the rest. And the basic idea used by Osama bin Laden’s fellow travelers to justify their actions is that they’re under attack and on the defensive everywhere just because they’re Muslims. They could raise their families in peace and with dignity if it were not for the “dark vision” of the Bush administration and the forces of godless globalization that it represents.

The proof of American intentions, they argue, lies in Washington’s support for the Israeli occupation of Arab lands, as well as its own occupation of Iraq. And it’s not like the people of the Middle East, Africa and Asia haven’t seen this sort of thing before—and hated it deeply. In much of the world, Bush’s rhetoric rings less of freedom than the rationalizations of the old British Empire.

As Byron Farwell wrote 35 years ago in his book “Queen Victoria’s Little Wars,” the more far flung a great nation’s interests, the more pretexts for war present themselves: protecting one’s citizens or businesses; repelling an attack you provoked in the first place; filling “a power vacuum” to “restore law and order”; preventing another country from expanding its empire, or suppressing a rebellion “by those who did not understand the benefits of British rule and were ungrateful for the blessings of English civilization bestowed upon them.” President Bush often seems as puzzled by the ungrateful Iraqis as Queen Victoria must have been by the Afghans or, for that matter, the Boers. But, of course, in those days the people Rudyard Kipling sometimes called “the Fuzzy-Wuzzies” didn’t crash airplanes into London’s towers.

Obviously, if the United States is going to win the war of ideas in the Muslim world, it’s going to have to distance itself from the notion of occupation-as-liberation. But as the White House has made clear, it’s not about to do that. When Bush talks about leaving Iraq, even today, he talks about “beginning” to exit, never finishing. So there’s an evident trend among many of the best thinkers in the counterterrorist trenches to deal with Al Qaeda’s ideology as if it were divorced from any core idea.

Their focus increasingly is on jihadist methodologies and details, doctrine and culture, of the kind represented in the writings of Abu Musab al-Suri and others. Stephen Ulph, a research associate with the Combating Terrorism Center at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, recently told the Senate Intelligence Committee that “we have failed to take the jihadists seriously, intellectually and culturally, and as a result their corrosive influence is progressing unopposed.”

Ulph argues that a detailed map of the enemy’s thinking is needed “to pinpoint and exploit internal weaknesses in their ideology, to know who your friends are and ally ourselves accordingly, to understand our own vulnerabilities at home and protect ourselves from the slow erosion of our commonly held values, which alone can safeguard our peace and our freedoms.”

But what’s known so far about the terrorists’ ideological map is, to say the least, discouraging. In a much-passed-around essay published a few weeks ago, “New Paradigms for 21st Century Conflict,” David J. Kilcullen—an Australian who is the senior counterinsurgency adviser to the U.S. commander in Iraq, Gen. David Petraeus—lays out the enemy ideologues’ advantages:

They integrate “terrorism, subversion, humanitarian work, and insurgency” to support propaganda that influences global and local audiences.
They’ve been able to create grass-roots movements pulling together people from many different countries into a whole that’s greater than the parts, “with dispersed leadership and planning functions that deny us detectable targets.”
They exploit the speed of modern communications to mobilize people much faster than any government bureaucracy can do.
They play on deep-seated beliefs founded in “religious, ethnic, tribal or cultural identity” to create what Kilcullen describes as “extremely lethal, nonrational reactions.”
They exploit safe havens on the ground and in cyberspace—any place that is ungoverned or ungovernable—as well as ideological, religious and cultural “blindspots” and legal loopholes.
They use high-profile symbolic attacks that provoke nation-states into overreactions that damage the states’ long-term interests.
They mount “numerous, cheap, small-scale challenges to exhaust us by provoking expensive containment, prevention, and response efforts in dozens of remote areas."

Kilcullen’s recommendations for how to address this situation are eminently sensible. He suggests that we think less in terms of international relations and more in terms of anthropology. (Although, I have to say, I’ve rarely met a cop or soldier who didn’t cringe at the word.) He also raises the issue of grand strategy—should the West be thinking of “rollback” or “containment”—without quite prescribing one or the other.

In a conflict that’s much more like a global counterinsurgency than a conventional war, government priorities have to change, says Kilcullen. “About 80 percent of effort should go toward political, diplomatic, development, and informational activity,” he writes, with only about 20 percent going to the military. “At present,” he notes, “the U.S. defense budget is approximately half of total global defense spending”—that is, half of all the money spent on defense by every government in the world combined. The U.S. armed forces employ about 1.68 million uniformed members. But the State Department only has about 6,000 Foreign Service officers. As Kilcullen notes, there are more musicians in America’s military bands.

For Al Qaeda, propaganda is not an afterthought; it is the core of the strategy. The bombings, terrorism and insurgent activities all feed into its “information war.” “Contrast this with our approach,” says Kilcullen. The United States typically plans “physical operations” first, then crafts “supporting information operations to explain our actions.”

Which brings us back to President Bush, alas. Kilcullen does not criticize him, but you can draw your own conclusions. The invasion and occupation of Iraq that Bush now describes as the beginning of this ideological war was carried out, in fact, with utter disregard for the ideological consequences. Bush literally decided to shoot first and ask questions later. So, as he continues trying to explain, as an afterthought, he finds no other solution than to keep fighting, whether or not progress is made on the ground, much less in the war of ideas.

URL: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/19748690/site/newsweek/page/3/