Randy's Corner Deli Library

27 September 2006

The Politics of Memory

What would Richard J. Daley do?

The father of the current Democratic mayor of Chicago was an ass-kicking
Irishman. A traditional, old school Democrat who had a lot of flaws, chief
among them was his dislike (some would say hate) of black people whom he
stashed away in Towers of misery called the Robert Taylor homes along the
Dan Ryan expressway. Those towers have thankfully been torn down and "da
mare" is dead 30 years ago this year, but his impact on the Democratic party
is etched in history, for he was the head of the Party Machine that pushed
JFK over the top in the election of 1960 and who was also known for his
"shoot first, ask questions later" orders (did we have "policy" back then?)
for his police chief during the 1968 Democratic National convention held in
Chicago. I was 7.

I remember the tension in my Lake Shore Drive Jewish liberal family. Well,
my mother hated Nixon, anyway. I loved the Flintstones but we were, I
recall, afraid of "the hippies" who meant to shower us with drugs, flowers
and weirdness, gimme a brontosaurus burger to go. My parents were listening
to WAIT-AM, and the Nelson Riddle Orchestra played the monotonous tunes I
remember coming out of the radio of my mother's new blue 1968 Chevy Impala
convertible. Sticky vinyl seats that stung my thighs in the heat. A
long-time Democratic family, friends I was told with Congressman Sid Yates.
Democrats and Jews who'd helped win the war against the Japanese and Nazis.
Who'd not take guff from anybody. Even and especially my grampa Milt. Or his
brother Jack. Or Willie. Men and wisdom that knew where it stood, was right,
and didn't give a damn what anybody thought because they were able to tell
it like it was. For the benefit of everybody. And they'd killed for it.

But aside from cracking some skulls, Mare Daley is known now for his head
cracking attitude toward politics and his opponents. He took no prisoners.
He knew how to win. In 1960, Democrats like us didn't have to worry about
where we were going to get our next candidate from, but little did we know,
we peons know that Jack Kennedy was the last we were going to hear from the
Democratic Party on foreign relations for a very long time. Jimmy Carter
doesn't qualify though he did, for a time, bring the South back into the
fold, at least for one election, but he was too busy trying to look pious to
really do anything fully or correctly. The Iranians toyed with him until the
day he handed the keys of the White House over to Ronald Reagan who then
proceeded to bankrupt the Soviet Union into the dustbin of history but not
without some cricks in the reasoning, helping "freedom fighters" via the
Iranians - who's selling what to whom?

So it was with a bit of disgust that I answered the phone last night - the
Caller ID said it was coming from the 707 area - Sonoma County - but it was
a call from a script reader who claimed to be from the Democratic National
Committee seeking money. What balls! What pussies! They of Howard Dean? The
current DNC is an embarrassment to progressive liberals without the backbone
to do anything even in light of an utterly incompetent incumbent
administration and Congress which has seen its own party membership revolt
over whether or not to officially undertake torture (oops, "aggressive
interrogation tactics") as a means of interrogating terror detainees -- the
disappeared. Kick HIS ass! Howard Dean indeed. Oh the sweet strains of
Nelson Riddle floating past my too-young ears.

Not to go against the grain, me, but it's all a bit of a mystery. Why do we
have to discuss this? There's no question but that if the situation warrants
it, they can beat whatever they want out of who ever they want. So why the
push? Beat and ask questions later. Like Daley woulda. But why the push?
It's political. Bush and the rest have to look like they are ass kickers.
And they have to drill it into the brains of the public before they forget
that there are terrorists out there. But not to worry since the National
Intelligence Assessments just released say that the war in Iraq is creating
more terrorists than it is killing. Which if you are a Bushy, is great,
because you have a built-in excuse to keep our troops over there? They say
that it's impossible to create life, but the Bushys have done the
impossible: created a self-perpetuating organism. And almost 3000 Americans
are dead. I'm sure that there are a lot of parents around this country who
are disgusted with the invention. Well, who believes him now about anything?
What would Da Mare do?

Why do I need to understand this? Disappeared, those times. Memories, all of
them. But still very real, the politics of memory that shapes the past and
informs the future. Mission Accomplished? Howard Dean? We need to and can do
better. We have to. It can't be allowed to be "Mission Accomplished".

Randy Shiner

20 September 2006

Bush’s Useful Idiots: Tony Judt on the Strange Death of Liberal America

How valid are Judt’s observations about liberals like me who support Israel fairly unconditionally? Does that make me less of a liberal? Are the aims of Israel and the US perfectly aligned? Where? Where not? Judt is [in]famous for a NYRB article he wrote in October, 2003 in which he envisioned a world according to Ahmedinejad: no Israel. You can read that horror here:


Is Judt’s claim in this article that liberalism is dead solely based on his perception that the Bush administration has swallowed whole the Israeli foreign policy? What are the inferences of that position?

If you want some background on Israeli involvement in Iraq and does what it wants, the work done by Seymour Hersh that appeared in the New Yorker in June of 2004 is illustrative of how the interests of Israel and the US might diverge. I’ve copied and pasted the relevant portions that concern Israel, but I suggest that you read the article in its entirety:


"A former Administration official who had supported the war completed a discouraging tour of Iraq late last fall. He visited Tel Aviv afterward and found that the Israelis he met with were equally discouraged. As they saw it, their warnings and advice had been ignored, and the American war against the insurgency was continuing to founder. “I spent hours talking to the senior members of the Israeli political and intelligence community,” the former official recalled. “Their concern was ‘You’re not going to get it right in Iraq, and shouldn’t we be planning for the worst-case scenario and how to deal with it?’ ”

Ehud Barak, the former Israeli Prime Minister, who supported the Bush Administration’s invasion of Iraq, took it upon himself at this point to privately warn Vice-President Dick Cheney that America had lost in Iraq; according to an American close to Barak, he said that Israel “had learned that there’s no way to win an occupation.” The only issue, Barak told Cheney, “was choosing the size of your humiliation.” Cheney did not respond to Barak’s assessment. (Cheney’s office declined to comment.)

In a series of interviews in Europe, the Middle East, and the United States, officials told me that by the end of last year Israel had concluded that the Bush Administration would not be able to bring stability or democracy to Iraq, and that Israel needed other options. Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s government decided, I was told, to minimize the damage that the war was causing to Israel’s strategic position by expanding its long-standing relationship with Iraq’s Kurds and establishing a significant presence on the ground in the semi-autonomous region of Kurdistan. Several officials depicted Sharon’s decision, which involves a heavy financial commitment, as a potentially reckless move that could create even more chaos and violence as the insurgency in Iraq continues to grow.

Israeli intelligence and military operatives are now quietly at work in Kurdistan, providing training for Kurdish commando units and, most important in Israel’s view, running covert operations inside Kurdish areas of Iran and Syria. Israel feels particularly threatened by Iran, whose position in the region has been strengthened by the war. The Israeli operatives include members of the Mossad, Israel’s clandestine foreign-intelligence service, who work undercover in Kurdistan as businessmen and, in some cases, do not carry Israeli passports.

Asked to comment, Mark Regev, the spokesman for the Israeli Embassy in Washington, said, “The story is simply untrue and the relevant governments know it’s untrue.” Kurdish officials declined to comment, as did a spokesman for the State Department.

However, a senior C.I.A. official acknowledged in an interview last week that the Israelis were indeed operating in Kurdistan. He told me that the Israelis felt that they had little choice: “They think they have to be there.” Asked whether the Israelis had sought approval from Washington, the official laughed and said, “Do you know anybody who can tell the Israelis what to do? They’re always going to do what is in their best interest.” The C.I.A. official added that the Israeli presence was widely known in the American intelligence community.

The Israeli decision to seek a bigger foothold in Kurdistan—characterized by the former Israeli intelligence officer as “Plan B”—has also raised tensions between Israel and Turkey. It has provoked bitter statements from Turkish politicians and, in a major regional shift, a new alliance among Iran, Syria, and Turkey, all of which have significant Kurdish minorities. In early June, Intel Brief, a privately circulated intelligence newsletter produced by Vincent Cannistraro, a retired C.I.A. counterterrorism chief, and Philip Giraldi, who served as the C.I.A.’s deputy chief of base in Istanbul in the late nineteen-eighties, said:

Turkish sources confidentially report that the Turks are increasingly concerned by the expanding Israeli presence in Kurdistan and alleged encouragement of Kurdish ambitions to create an independent state. . . . The Turks note that the large Israeli intelligence operations in Northern Iraq incorporate anti-Syrian and anti-Iranian activity, including support to Iranian and Syrian Kurds who are in opposition to their respective governments.

In the years since the first Gulf War, Iraq’s Kurds, aided by an internationally enforced no-fly zone and by a U.N. mandate providing them with a share of the country’s oil revenues, have managed to achieve a large measure of independence in three northern Iraqi provinces. As far as most Kurds are concerned, however, historic “Kurdistan” extends well beyond Iraq’s borders, encompassing parts of Iran, Syria, and Turkey. All three countries fear that Kurdistan, despite public pledges to the contrary, will declare its independence from the interim Iraqi government if conditions don’t improve after June 30th.

Israeli involvement in Kurdistan is not new. Throughout the nineteen-sixties and seventies, Israel actively supported a Kurdish rebellion against Iraq, as part of its strategic policy of seeking alliances with non-Arabs in the Middle East. In 1975, the Kurds were betrayed by the United States, when Washington went along with a decision by the Shah of Iran to stop supporting Kurdish aspirations for autonomy in Iraq."


In the meantime, I don’t believe in throwing the baby out with the proverbial bathwater. But as to Judt, the ring he left around the tub as the result of his 2003 NYRB article hasn’t, for me, washed off, and my view of this article and anything else he writes is duly colored by the views he expressed in October of 2003 which envisioned a world sans Israel.


Bush’s Useful Idiots
Tony Judt on the Strange Death of Liberal America

Why have American liberals acquiesced in President Bush’s catastrophic foreign policy? Why have they so little to say about Iraq, about Lebanon, or about reports of a planned attack on Iran? Why has the administration’s sustained attack on civil liberties and international law aroused so little opposition or anger from those who used to care most about these things? Why, in short, has the liberal intelligentsia of the United States in recent years kept its head safely below the parapet?

It wasn’t always so. On 26 October 1988, the New York Times carried a full-page advertisement for liberalism. Headed ‘A Reaffirmation of Principle’, it openly rebuked Ronald Reagan for deriding ‘the dreaded L-word’ and treating ‘liberals’ and ‘liberalism’ as terms of opprobrium. Liberal principles, the text affirmed, are ‘timeless. Extremists of the right and of the left have long attacked liberalism as their greatest enemy. In our own time liberal democracies have been crushed by such extremists. Against any encouragement of this tendency in our own country, intentional or not, we feel obliged to speak out.’

The advertisement was signed by 63 prominent intellectuals, writers and businessmen: among them Daniel Bell, J.K. Galbraith, Felix Rohatyn, Arthur Schlesinger Jr, Irving Howe and Eudora Welty. These and other signatories – the economist Kenneth Arrow, the poet Robert Penn Warren – were the critical intellectual core, the steady moral centre of American public life. But who, now, would sign such a protest? Liberalism in the United States today is the politics that dares not speak its name. And those who style themselves ‘liberal intellectuals’ are otherwise engaged. As befits the new Gilded Age, in which the pay ratio of an American CEO to that of a skilled worker is 412:1 and a corrupted Congress is awash in lobbies and favours, the place of the liberal intellectual has been largely taken over by an admirable cohort of ‘muck-raking’ investigative journalists – Seymour Hersh, Michael Massing and Mark Danner, writing in the New Yorker and the New York Review of Books.

The collapse of liberal self-confidence in the contemporary US can be variously explained. In part it is a backwash from the lost illusions of the 1960s generation, a retreat from the radical nostrums of youth into the all-consuming business of material accumulation and personal security. The signatories of the New York Times advertisement were born in most cases many years earlier, their political opinions shaped by the 1930s above all. Their commitments were the product of experience and adversity and made of sterner stuff. The disappearance of the liberal centre in American politics is also a direct outcome of the deliquescence of the Democratic Party. In domestic politics liberals once believed in the provision of welfare, good government and social justice. In foreign affairs they had a longstanding commitment to international law, negotiation, and the importance of moral example. Today, a spreading me-first consensus has replaced vigorous public debate in both arenas. And like their political counterparts, the critical intelligentsia once so prominent in American cultural life has fallen silent.

This process was well underway before 11 September 2001, and in domestic affairs at least, Bill Clinton and his calculated policy ‘triangulations’ must carry some responsibility for the evisceration of liberal politics. But since then the moral and intellectual arteries of the American body politic have hardened further. Magazines and newspapers of the traditional liberal centre – the New Yorker, the New Republic, the Washington Post and the New York Times itself – fell over themselves in the hurry to align their editorial stance with that of a Republican president bent on exemplary war. A fearful conformism gripped the mainstream media. And America’s liberal intellectuals found at last a new cause.

Or, rather, an old cause in a new guise. For what distinguishes the worldview of Bush’s liberal supporters from that of his neo-conservative allies is that they don’t look on the ‘War on Terror’, or the war in Iraq, or the war in Lebanon and eventually Iran, as mere serial exercises in the re-establishment of American martial dominance. They see them as skirmishes in a new global confrontation: a Good Fight, reassuringly comparable to their grandparents’ war against Fascism and their Cold War liberal parents’ stance against international Communism. Once again, they assert, things are clear. The world is ideologically divided; and – as before – we must take our stand on the issue of the age. Long nostalgic for the comforting verities of a simpler time, today’s liberal intellectuals have at last discovered a sense of purpose: they are at war with ‘Islamo-fascism’.

Thus Paul Berman, a frequent contributor to Dissent, the New Yorker and other liberal journals, and until now better known as a commentator on American cultural affairs, recycled himself as an expert on Islamic fascism (itself a new term of art), publishing Terror and Liberalism just in time for the Iraq war. Peter Beinart, a former editor of the New Republic, followed in his wake this year with The Good Fight: Why Liberals – and Only Liberals – Can Win the War on Terror and Make America Great Again, where he sketches at some length the resemblance between the War on Terror and the early Cold War.[1] Neither author had previously shown any familiarity with the Middle East, much less with the Wahhabi and Sufi traditions on which they pronounce with such confidence.

But like Christopher Hitchens and other former left-liberal pundits now expert in ‘Islamo-fascism’, Beinart and Berman and their kind really are conversant – and comfortable – with a binary division of the world along ideological lines. In some cases they can even look back to their own youthful Trotskyism when seeking a template and thesaurus for world-historical antagonisms. In order for today’s ‘fight’ (note the recycled Leninist lexicon of conflicts, clashes, struggles and wars) to make political sense, it too must have a single universal enemy whose ideas we can study, theorise and combat; and the new confrontation must be reducible, like its 20th-century predecessor, to a familiar juxtaposition that eliminates exotic complexity and confusion: Democracy v. Totalitarianism, Freedom v. Fascism, Them v. Us.

To be sure, Bush’s liberal supporters have been disappointed by his efforts. Every newspaper I have listed and many others besides have carried editorials criticising Bush’s policy on imprisonment, his use of torture and above all the sheer ineptitude of the president’s war. But here, too, the Cold War offers a revealing analogy. Like Stalin’s Western admirers who, in the wake of Khrushchev’s revelations, resented the Soviet dictator not so much for his crimes as for discrediting their Marxism, so intellectual supporters of the Iraq War – among them Michael Ignatieff, Leon Wieseltier, David Remnick and other prominent figures in the North American liberal establishment – have focused their regrets not on the catastrophic invasion itself (which they all supported) but on its incompetent execution. They are irritated with Bush for giving ‘preventive war’ a bad name.

In a similar vein, those centrist voices that bayed most insistently for blood in the prelude to the Iraq War – the New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman demanded that France be voted ‘Off the Island’ (i.e. out of the Security Council) for its presumption in opposing America’s drive to war – are today the most confident when asserting their monopoly of insight into world affairs. The same Friedman now sneers at ‘anti-war activists who haven’t thought a whit about the larger struggle we’re in’ (New York Times, 16 August). To be sure, Friedman’s Pulitzer-winning pieties are always road-tested for middlebrow political acceptability. But for just that reason they are a sure guide to the mood of the American intellectual mainstream.

Friedman is seconded by Beinart, who concedes that he ‘didn’t realise’(!) how detrimental American actions would be to ‘the struggle’ but insists even so that anyone who won’t stand up to ‘Global Jihad’ just isn’t a consistent defender of liberal values. Jacob Weisberg, the editor of Slate, writing in the Financial Times, accuses Democratic critics of the Iraq War of failing ‘to take the wider, global battle against Islamic fanaticism seriously’. The only people qualified to speak on this matter, it would seem, are those who got it wrong initially. Such insouciance in spite of – indeed because of – your past misjudgments recalls a remark by the French ex-Stalinist Pierre Courtade to Edgar Morin, a dissenting Communist vindicated by events: ‘You and your kind were wrong to be right; we were right to be wrong.’

It is particularly ironic that the ‘Clinton generation’ of American liberal intellectuals take special pride in their ‘tough-mindedness’, in their success in casting aside the illusions and myths of the old left, for these same ‘tough’ new liberals reproduce some of that old left’s worst characteristics. They may see themselves as having migrated to the opposite shore; but they display precisely the same mixture of dogmatic faith and cultural provincialism, not to mention the exuberant enthusiasm for violent political transformation at other people’s expense, that marked their fellow-travelling predecessors across the Cold War ideological divide. The use value of such persons to ambitious, radical regimes is an old story. Indeed, intellectual camp followers of this kind were first identified by Lenin himself, who coined the term that still describes them best. Today, America’s liberal armchair warriors are the ‘useful idiots’ of the War on Terror.

In fairness, America’s bellicose intellectuals are not alone. In Europe, Adam Michnik, the hero of the Polish intellectual resistance to Communism, has become an outspoken admirer of the embarrassingly Islamophobic Oriana Fallaci; Václav Havel has joined the DC-based Committee on the Present Danger (a recycled Cold War-era organisation dedicated to rooting out Communists, now pledged to fighting ‘the threat posed by global radical Islamist and fascist terrorist movements’); André Glucksmann in Paris contributes agitated essays to Le Figaro (most recently on 8 August) lambasting ‘universal Jihad’, Iranian ‘lust for power’ and radical Islam’s strategy of ‘green subversion’. All three enthusiastically supported the invasion of Iraq.

In the European case this trend is an unfortunate by-product of the intellectual revolution of the 1980s, especially in the former Communist East, when ‘human rights’ displaced conventional political allegiances as the basis for collective action. The gains wrought by this transformation in the rhetoric of oppositional politics were considerable. But a price was paid all the same. A commitment to the abstract universalism of ‘rights’ – and uncompromising ethical stands taken against malign regimes in their name – can lead all too readily to the habit of casting every political choice in binary moral terms. In this light Bush’s War against Terror, Evil and Islamo-fascism appears seductive and even familiar: self-deluding foreigners readily mistake the US president’s myopic rigidity for their own moral rectitude.

But back home, America’s liberal intellectuals are fast becoming a service class, their opinions determined by their allegiance and calibrated to justify a political end. In itself this is hardly a new departure: we are all familiar with intellectuals who speak only on behalf of their country, class, religion, race, gender or sexual orientation, and who shape their opinions according to what they take to be the interest of their affinity of birth or predilection. But the distinctive feature of the liberal intellectual in past times was precisely the striving for universality; not the unworldly or disingenuous denial of sectional interest but the sustained effort to transcend that interest.

It is thus depressing to read some of the better known and more avowedly ‘liberal’ intellectuals in the contemporary USA exploiting their professional credibility to advance a partisan case. Jean Bethke Elshtain and Michael Walzer, two senior figures in the country’s philosophical establishment (she at the University of Chicago Divinity School, he at the Princeton Institute), both wrote portentous essays purporting to demonstrate the justness of necessary wars – she in Just War against Terror: The Burden of American Power in a Violent World, a pre-emptive defence of the Iraq War; he only a few weeks ago in a shameless justification of Israel’s bombardments of Lebanese civilians (‘War Fair’, New Republic, 31 July). In today’s America, neo-conservatives generate brutish policies for which liberals provide the ethical fig-leaf. There really is no other difference between them.

One of the particularly depressing ways in which liberal intellectuals have abdicated personal and ethical responsibility for the actions they now endorse can be seen in their failure to think independently about the Middle East. Not every liberal cheerleader for the Global War against Islamo-fascism, or against Terror, or against Global Jihad, is an unreconstructed supporter of Likud: Christopher Hitchens, for one, is critical of Israel. But the willingness of so many American pundits and commentators and essayists to roll over for Bush’s doctrine of preventive war; to abstain from criticising the disproportionate use of air power on civilian targets in both Iraq and Lebanon; and to stay coyly silent in the face of Condoleezza Rice’s enthusiasm for the bloody ‘birth pangs of a new Middle East’, makes more sense when one recalls their backing for Israel: a country which for fifty years has rested its entire national strategy on preventive wars, disproportionate retaliation, and efforts to redesign the map of the whole Middle East.

Since its inception the state of Israel has fought a number of wars of choice (the only exception was the Yom Kippur War of 1973). To be sure, these have been presented to the world as wars of necessity or self-defence; but Israel’s statesmen and generals have never been under any such illusion. Whether this approach has done Israel much good is debatable (for a clear-headed recent account that describes as a resounding failure his country’s strategy of using wars of choice to ‘redraw’ the map of its neighbourhood, see Scars of War, Wounds of Peace: The Israeli-Arab Tragedy by Shlomo Ben-Ami,[2] a historian and former Israeli foreign minister). But the idea of a super-power behaving in a similar way – responding to terrorist threats or guerrilla incursions by flattening another country just to preserve its own deterrent credibility – is odd in the extreme. It is one thing for the US unconditionally to underwrite Israel’s behaviour (though in neither country’s interest, as some Israeli commentators at least have remarked). But for the US to imitate Israel wholesale, to import that tiny country’s self-destructive, intemperate response to any hostility or opposition and to make it the leitmotif of American foreign policy: that is simply bizarre.

Bush’s Middle Eastern policy now tracks so closely to the Israeli precedent that it is very difficult to see daylight between the two. It is this surreal turn of events that helps explain the confusion and silence of American liberal thinking on the subject (as well, perhaps, as Tony Blair’s syntactically sympathetic me-tooism). Historically, liberals have been unsympathetic to ‘wars of choice’ when undertaken or proposed by their own government. War, in the liberal imagination (and not only the liberal one), is a last resort, not a first option. But the United States now has an Israeli-style foreign policy and America’s liberal intellectuals overwhelmingly support it.

The contradictions to which this can lead are striking. There is, for example, a blatant discrepancy between Bush’s proclaimed desire to bring democracy to the Muslim world and his refusal to intervene when the only working instances of fragile democracy in action in the whole Muslim world – in Palestine and Lebanon – were systematically ignored and then shattered by America’s Israeli ally. This discrepancy, and the bad faith and hypocrisy which it seems to suggest, have become a staple of editorial pages and internet blogs the world over, to America’s lasting discredit. But America’s leading liberal intellectuals have kept silent. To speak would be to choose between the tactical logic of America’s new ‘war of movement’ against Islamic fascism – democracy as the sweetener for American involvement – and the strategic tradition of Israeli statecraft, for which democratic neighbours are no better and most likely worse than authoritarian ones. This is not a choice that most American liberal commentators are even willing to acknowledge, much less make. And so they say nothing.

This blind spot obscures and risks polluting and obliterating every traditional liberal concern and inhibition. How else can one explain the appalling illustration on the cover of the New Republic of 7 August: a lurid depiction of Hizbullah’s Hassan Nasrallah in the style of Der Stürmer crossed with more than a touch of the ‘Dirty Jap’ cartoons of World War Two? How else is one to account for the convoluted, sophistic defence by Leon Wieseltier in the same journal of the killing of Arab children in Qana (‘These are not tender times’)? But the blind spot is not just ethical, it is also political: if American liberals ‘didn’t realise’ why their war in Iraq would have the predictable effect of promoting terrorism, benefiting the Iranian ayatollahs and turning Iraq into Lebanon, then we should not expect them to understand (or care) that Israel’s brutal over-reaction risks turning Lebanon into Iraq.

In Five Germanys I Have Known, Fritz Stern – a coauthor of the 1988 New York Times text defending liberalism – writes of his concern about the condition of the liberal spirit in America today.[3] It is with the extinction of that spirit, he notes, that the death of a republic begins. Stern, a historian and a refugee from Nazi Germany, speaks with authority on this matter. And he is surely correct. We don’t expect right-wingers to care very much about the health of a republic, particularly when they are assiduously engaged in the unilateral promotion of empire. And the ideological left, while occasionally adept at analysing the shortcomings of a liberal republic, is typically not much interested in defending it.

It is the liberals, then, who count. They are, as it might be, the canaries in the sulphurous mineshaft of modern democracy. The alacrity with which many of America’s most prominent liberals have censored themselves in the name of the War on Terror, the enthusiasm with which they have invented ideological and moral cover for war and war crimes and proffered that cover to their political enemies: all this is a bad sign. Liberal intellectuals used to be distinguished precisely by their efforts to think for themselves, rather than in the service of others. Intellectuals should not be smugly theorising endless war, much less confidently promoting and excusing it. They should be engaged in disturbing the peace – their own above all.


1 HarperCollins, 288 pp., $25.95, June, 0 06 084161 3.

2 Weidenfeld, 280 pp., £20, November, 0 297 84883 6.

3 To be reviewed in a future issue.

Tony Judt directs the Remarque Institute at New York University. He is the author of The Burden of Responsibility: Blum, Camus, Aron and the French 20th Century and, most recently, Postwar: A History of Europe since 1945.

12 September 2006

How Bad Is He?

How bad is he?
Bush ran as a moderate, tacked right and governed ineffectually -- before 9/11. Since then he's become the most radical American president in history -- and arguably the worst.
By Sidney Blumenthal

Sep. 12, 2006 | No one predicted just how radical a president George W. Bush would be. Neither his opponents, nor the reporters covering him, nor his closest campaign aides suggested that he would be the most willfully radical president in American history.

In his 2000 campaign, Bush permitted himself few hints of radicalism. On the contrary he made ready promises of moderation, judiciously offering himself as a "compassionate conservative," an identity carefully crafted to contrast with the discredited Republican radicals of the House of Representatives. After capturing the Congress in 1994 and proclaiming a "revolution," they had twice shut down the government over the budget and staged an impeachment trial that resulted in the acquittal of President Clinton. Seeking to distance himself from the congressional Republicans, Bush declared that he was not hostile to government. He would, he said, "change the tone in Washington." He would be more reasonable than the House Republicans and more moral than Clinton. Governor Bush went out of his way to point to his record of bipartisan cooperation with Democrats in Texas, stressing that he would be "a uniter, not a divider."

Trying to remove the suspicion that falls on conservative Republicans, he pledged that he would protect the solvency of Social Security. On foreign policy, he said he would be "humble": "If we're an arrogant nation, they'll view us that way, but if we're a humble nation, they'll respect us." Here he was criticizing Clinton's peacemaking and nation-building efforts in the Balkans and suggesting he would be far more restrained. The sharpest criticism he made of Clinton's foreign policy was that he would be more mindful of the civil liberties of Arabs accused of terrorism: "Arab-Americans are racially profiled in what's called secret evidence. People are stopped, and we got to do something about that." This statement was not an off-the-cuff remark, but carefully crafted and presented in one of the debates with Vice President Al Gore. Bush's intent was to win an endorsement from the American Muslim Council, which was cued to back him after he delivered his debating point, and it was instrumental in his winning an overwhelming share of Muslims' votes, about 90,000 of which were in Florida.

So Bush deliberately offered himself as an alternative to the divisive congressional Republicans, his father's son (at last) in political temperament, but also experienced as an executive who had learned the art of compromise with the other party, and differing from the incumbent Democratic president only in personality and degree. Bush wanted the press to report and discuss that he would reform and discipline his party, which had gone too far to the right. He encouraged commentary that he represented a "Fourth Way," a variation on the theme of Clinton's "Third Way."

In his second term, Clinton had the highest sustained popularity of any president since World War II, prosperity was in its longest recorded cycle, and the nation's international prestige high. Bush's tack as moderate was adroit, shrewd and necessary. His political imperative was to create the public perception there were no major issues dividing the candidates and that the current halcyon days would continue as well under his aegis. Only through his positioning did Bush manage to close to within just short of a half-million votes of Gore and achieve an apparent tie in Florida, creating an Electoral College deadlock and forcing the election toward an extraordinary resolution.

Few political commentators at the time thought that the ruthless tactics used by the Bush camp in the Florida contest presaged his presidency. The battle there was seen as unique, a self-contained episode of high political drama that could and would not be replicated. Tactics such as setting loose a mob comprised mostly of Republican staff members from the House and Senate flown down from Washington to intimidate physically the Miami-Dade County Board of Supervisors from counting the votes there, and manipulating the Florida state government through the office of the governor, Jeb Bush, the candidate's brother, to forestall vote counting were justified as simply hardball politics.

The Supreme Court decision in Bush v. Gore, by a five to four margin, perversely sanctioned not counting thousands of votes (mostly African-American) as somehow upholding the equal protection clause of the 15th Amendment (enacted after the Civil War to guarantee the rights of newly enfranchised slaves, the ancestors of those disenfranchised by Bush v. Gore). In the majority opinion, Justice Antonin Scalia argued that counting votes would cast a shadow on the "legitimacy" of Bush's claim to the presidency. The Court concluded that the ruling was to have applicability only this one time. By its very nature, it was declared to be unprecedented. Never before had the Supreme Court decided who would be president, much less according to tortuous argument, and by a one vote margin that underlined and extended political polarization.

The constitutional system had ruptured, but it was widely believed by the political class in Washington, including most of the press corps, that Bush, who had benefited, would rush to repair the breach. The brutality enabling him to become president, while losing the popular majority, and following a decade of partisan polarization, must spur him to make good on his campaign rhetoric of moderation, seek common ground and enact centrist policies. Old family retainers, James Baker (the former Secretary of State who had been summoned to command the legal and political teams in Florida) and Brent Scowcroft (elder Bush's former national security adviser), were especially unprepared for what was to come, and they came to oppose Bush's radicalism, mounting a sub rosa opposition. In its brazen, cold-blooded and single-minded partisanship, the Florida contest turned out in retrospect to be an augury not an aberration. It was Bush's first opening, and having charged through it, grabbing the presidency, he continued widening the breach.

The precedents for a president who gained office without winning the popular vote were uniformly grim. John Quincy Adams, the first president elected without a plurality, never escaped the accusation of having made a "corrupt bargain" to secure the necessary Electoral College votes. After one term he was turned out of office with an overwhelming vote for his rival, Andrew Jackson. Rutherford B. Hayes and Benjamin Harrison, also having won the White House but not the popular vote, declined to run again. Like these three predecessors Bush lacked a mandate, but unlike them he proceeded as though he had won by a landslide.

The Republicans had control of both houses of the Congress and the presidency for the first time since Dwight Eisenhower was elected. But Eisenhower had gained the White House with a resounding majority. He spent his early years in office trying to isolate his right wing in the Congress, quietly if belatedly encouraging efforts to censure Senator Joseph McCarthy. Eisenhower greeted the Democratic recovery of the Congress in 1954 with relief and smoothly governed for the rest of his tenure in tandem with Senate Majority Leader Lyndon Johnson. The outrageous behavior of the Republicans during the brief period in which they had held congressional power and unleashed McCarthy was a direct cause of their minority status for 40 subsequent years. But the Republicans who gained control of the Congress in 1994 had not learned from their past.

The Republican radicals in charge of the House of Representatives remained unabashed by their smashing failures of the 1990s. They were willing to sacrifice two speakers of the House to scandals of their own in order to pursue an unconstitutional coup d'état to remove President Clinton. (It was unconstitutional, strictly speaking, because they had rejected any standards whatsoever for impeachment in the House Judiciary Committee in contradistinction to the committee's exacting standards enacted in the impeachment proceedings of President Nixon.) Now these Republicans welcomed the Bush ascension as deus ex machina, rescuing them from their exhaustion, disrepute and dead end. They became Bush's indispensable partners.

Immediately upon assuming office, Bush launched upon a series of initiatives that began to undo the bipartisan traditions of internationalism, environmentalism, fiscal discipline, and scientific progress. His first nine months in office were a quick march to the right. The reasons were manifold, ranging from Cheney and Rumsfeld's extraordinary influence, Rove's strategies, the neoconservatives' inordinate sway, and Bush's Southern conservatism. These deeper patterns were initially obscured by the surprising rapidity of Bush's determined tack.

Bush withdrew from the diplomacy with North Korea to control its development and production of nuclear weapons. Secretary of State Colin Powell, after briefing the press that the diplomatic track would continue, was sent out again to repudiate himself and announce the administration's reversal of almost a decade of negotiation. Powell did not realize that this would be the first of many times his credibility would be abused in a ritual of humiliation. Swiftly, Bush rejected the Kyoto treaty to reduce greenhouse gases and global warming, and presented a "voluntary" plan that was supported by no other nation. He also withdrew the U.S. from its historic role as negotiator among Israelis, Palestinians and Arabs, a process to which his father had been particularly committed.

In short order, Bush also reversed his campaign promise to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from power plants and canceled the federal regulation reducing cancer causing arsenic levels in water. He joked at a dinner: "As you know, we're studying safe levels for arsenic in drinking water. To base our decision on sound science, the scientists told us we needed to test the water glasses of about 3,000 people. Thank you for participating." He appointed scores of former lobbyists and industry executives to oversee policies regulating the industries they previously represented.

As his top priority Bush pushed for passage of a large tax cut that would redistribute income to the wealthy, drain the surplus that the Clinton administration had accumulated, and reverse fiscal discipline embraced by both the Clinton and prior Bush administrations. The tax cut became Bush's chief instrument of social policy. By wiping out the surplus, budget pressure was exerted on domestic social programs. Under the Reagan administration, a tax cut had produced the largest deficit to that time, bigger than the combined deficits accumulated by all previous presidents. But Reagan had stumbled onto this method of crushing social programs through the inadvertent though predictable failure of his fantasy of supply-side economics in which slashing taxes would magically create increased federal revenues. Bush confronted alternatives in the recent Republican past, the Reagan example or his father's responsible counter-example of raising taxes to cut the deficit; once again, he rejected his father's path. But unlike Reagan, his decision to foster a deficit was completely deliberate and with full awareness of its consequences.

Domestic policy adviser John DiIulio, a political scientist from the University of Pennsylvania, who had accepted his position in the White House on the assumption that he would be working to give substance to the president's rhetoric of "compassionate conservatism," resigned in a state of shock. "There is no precedent in any modern White House for what is going on in this one: a complete lack of a policy apparatus," DiIulio told Esquire magazine. "What you've got is everything -- and I mean everything -- being run by the political arm. It's the reign of the Mayberry Machiavellis ... Besides the tax cut ... the administration has not done much, either in absolute terms or in comparison to previous administrations at this stage, on domestic policy. There is a virtual absence as yet of any policy accomplishments that might, to a fair-minded non-partisan, count as the flesh on the bones of so-called compassionate conservatism."

After just four months into the Bush presidency, the Republicans lost control of the Senate. Senator Jim Jeffords of Vermont, who had served for 26 years as a moderate Republican in the House and the Senate, left his party in response to Bush's radicalism. "In the past, without the presidency, the various wings of the Republican Party in Congress have had some freedom to argue and influence and ultimately to shape the party's agenda. The election of President Bush changed that dramatically," Jeffords said on May 24, 2001. Overnight, the majority in the upper chamber shifted to the Democrats.

Bush spent the entire month of August on vacation at his ranch in Crawford, Texas. His main public event was a speech declaring federal limits on scientific research involving stem cells that might lead to cures for many diseases. Bush's tortuous position was a sop to the religious right. On August 6, three days before his nationally televised address on stem cells, he was presented with a Presidential Daily Brief from the CIA entitled "Bin Laden Determined to Strike Inside U.S." CIA director George Tenet later told the 9/11 Commission on Terrorist Attacks on the United States "the system was blinking red." The Commission reported: "The President told us the August 6 report was historical in nature ... We have found no indication of any further discussion before September 11 among the President and his top advisers of the possibility of a threat of an al Qaeda attack in the United States."

By September 10, Bush held the lowest job approval rating of any president to that early point in his tenure. He appeared to be falling into the pattern of presidents who arrived without a popular mandate and lasted only one term. The deadliest foreign attack on American soil transformed his foundering presidency.

The events of September 11 lent Bush the aura of legitimacy that Bush v. Gore had not granted. Catastrophe infused him with the charisma of a "war president," as he proclaimed himself. At once, his radicalism had an unobstructed path.

Bush's political rhetoric reached Manichaean and apocalyptic heights. He divided the world into "good" and "evil." "You're either with the terrorists or with us," he said. He stood at the ramparts of Fortress America, defending it from evildoers without and within. His fervent messianism guided what he called his "crusade" in the Muslim realm. "Bring them on!" he exclaimed about Iraqi insurgents. Asked if he ever sought advice from his father, Bush replied, "There's a higher Father I appeal to."

After September 11, the American people were virtually united in sentiment. Support for the Afghanistan war was almost unanimous. "The nation is united and there is a resolve and a spirit that is just so fantastic to feel," said Bush. But two weeks after he made this statement, in January 2002, his chief political aide, whom he called "The Architect," Karl Rove, spoke before a meeting of the Republican National Committee, laying out the strategy for exploiting fear of terror for partisan advantage. "We can go to the country on this issue because they trust the Republican Party to do a better job of protecting and strengthening America's military might and thereby protecting America," said Rove. His strategy was premised on the idea that Republicans win elections by maximizing the turnout of their conservative base; his method was to polarize the electorate as much as possible. Rove's tactic was to challenge the patriotism of Democrats by creating false issues of national security in which they could be demonized. September 11 gave his politics of polarization the urgency of national emergency.

Bush's politics sustained his remaking of the government that had been the agenda of his vice president from the start. Even before September 11, when "wartime" was used to justify secrecy, Bush resisted transparency. He fought in the courts the disclosure of the names of the participants on Vice President Dick Cheney's energy panel. Kenneth Lay, Enron's chief executive officer, was among them. Enron was the biggest financial supporter of Bush's political career, before that had been a partner in Bush's oil ventures and provided its corporate jets to the Bush campaign for its Florida contest. Bush, who referred to Lay as "Kenny Boy," claimed he didn't get to "know" him until after he became governor and then hardly at all.

Vice President Cheney and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld were the prime movers behind the concentration of power in the executive. Their experience going back to the Nixon presidency had imbued them with belief in absolute presidential power, disdain for the Congress ("a bunch of annoying gnats," Cheney called its members, of which he had once been one), and secrecy.

Executive power was rationalized by a radical theory called the "unitary executive," asserting that the president had complete authority over independent federal agencies and was not bound by congressional oversight or even law in his role as commander-in-chief.

Bush constructed a hidden world of his "war on terror" consisting of "black sites," secret CIA prisons holding thousands of "ghost" detainees deprived of legal due process and approved methods of torture. Cheney insisted it was necessary to go to "the dark side," as he called it.

Attorneys in the Office of Legal Counsel in the Department of Justice wrote numerous memos to justify the "unitary executive" and the president's unfettered right to engage in torture and domestic spying. Bush's White House legal counsel Alberto Gonzales (appointed Attorney General in the second term) derided the Geneva Conventions against torture as "quaint" and Bush overruled strenuous objections from the military, Secretary of State Powell and senior officials in the Department of Justice in abrogating U.S. adherence to them. Indeed, Bush signed a directive stipulating that as commander-in-chief he could determine any law he wished in dealing with those accused of terrorism.

At Gonzales's request, on August 1, 2002, the Office of Legal Counsel at the Justice Department sent him a memo on torture. It was signed by OLC's director Jay Bybee (later appointed a federal judge) and written by an OLC deputy, John Yoo, who drafted at least a dozen crucial memos justifying absolute presidential power. In this memo, the president's authority to conduct torture without any oversight and by rules he determined was asserted as fundamental to his power: "Any effort by the Congress to regulate the interrogation of battlefield combatants would violate the Constitution's sole vesting of the Commander in Chief authority in the President." The memo defined torture specifically and broadly: "Physical pain amounting to torture must be equivalent to intensity to the pain accompanying serious physical injury, such as organ failure, impairment of bodily function, or even death."

Revelations of torture at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq were the tip of the iceberg of the vast network of the detained and disappeared. The International Committee of the Red Cross was forbidden access. Those at the top of the chain of command were shielded from legal accountability while a few soldiers and the female general in charge at Abu Ghraib were offered up as scapegoats. After FBI agents witnessed gruesome spectacles of torture at Guantánamo, the Bureau issued orders that it would not participate in this netherworld.

At the same time, Bush ordered the National Security Agency to conduct domestic spying dragnets outside the legal confines of the Foreign Surveillance Intelligence Act and without seeking warrants from the FISA court. Conservative lawyers within the Justice Department wrote memos justifying the practice on the same grounds as they had rationalized torture -- the right of the commander-in-chief to do as he saw fit. Once again, the presidency was construed as a monarchy. Bush and Cheney argued publicly that operating outside the FISA court might have prevented the terrorist attacks of September 11, though nothing stopped the administration from getting warrants to eavesdrop on calls from the United States to al Qaeda before or after.

Foreign policy was captured by neoconservative ideologues, a small group of sectarians rooted in the hothouse environment of the capital's right-wing think tanks. Its principals had been fired from the Reagan administration after the Iran-contra scandal and banished from the elder Bush's administration, but Bush rewarded them with positions at the strategic heights of national security. These cadres operated with a Leninist sensibility following a party line, engaging in fierce polemics, using harsh invective, and showing equal contempt for traditional Republicans and liberal Democrats. Cheney acted as their sponsor, protector and promoter. Under his aegis, they ran foreign policy from the White House and the Pentagon. Secretary of State Colin Powell was sidelined. The Undersecretary of State John Bolton, inserted by Cheney, blocked Powell's initiatives and spied on him and his team, reporting back to the Office of the Vice President. National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice made a separate peace and turned the National Security Council into an augmented force for Cheney and the neocons. Meanwhile, Republican realists, including elder Bush's closest associates such as Brent Scowcroft, were isolated or purged.

The 60-year tradition of bipartisan internationalism was jettisoned. After the Afghanistan war against the Taliban, the administration elevated into a "Bush Doctrine" the policy of preemptive attack, previously alien to the principles of U.S. foreign policy and expressly rejected as dangerous to the nation's security by presidents Eisenhower and Kennedy during the Cold War.

In the run-up to the Iraq war, an internal campaign was waged against professionals of the intelligence community and diplomatic corps who still upheld standards of objective analysis and carrying on the traditions of U.S. foreign policy. Intense political pressure was applied to them to distort or suppress their assessments if they contained caveats and to give credence to disinformation fabricated by Iraqi exiles favored by the neoconservatives. A special operation of neocons was set up at the Pentagon, the Office of Special Plans, to "stovepipe" information directly into the White House without passing through the analytical filter of the CIA and other intelligence agencies. Cheney made several unprecedented personal visits to CIA headquarters to try to intimidate analysts into certifying the disinformation. The caveats and warnings of the State Department's Intelligence and Research Bureau, the Defense Intelligence Agency, the Department of Energy, and the intelligence services of Germany and France were all ignored.

In making its case for war the administration stampeded public opinion with false and misleading information about Saddam Hussein's possession and development of weapons of mass destruction, particularly nuclear weapons. Later his National Security Adviser Rice (promoted to Secretary of State in the second term) admitted that President Bush had made a false statement in his 2003 State of the Union address about Iraq's seeking uranium to produce nuclear weapons. Yet Bush, Cheney, Rice and other officials had constantly suggested that Hussein was linked to terrorism and those behind the attacks on September 11. Secretary of State Powell's best-case presentation before the United Nations was later proven to contain 26 major falsehoods. Not a single substantial claim he made turned out to be true. He explained he had been "deceived." He called it the biggest "blot" on his record. His chief of staff Colonel Lawrence Wilkerson said it was the "lowest point of my life." It was certainly the lowest point of U.S. credibility.

After he resigned in 2005, Wilkerson revealed how a "Cheney-Rumsfeld cabal" controlled national security policy: "Its insular and secret workings were efficient and swift -- not unlike the decision-making one would associate more with a dictatorship than a democracy. This furtive process was camouflaged neatly by the dysfunction and inefficiency of the formal decision-making process, where decisions, if they were reached at all, had to wend their way through the bureaucracy, with its dissenters, obstructionists and 'guardians of the turf.' But the secret process was ultimately a failure. It produced a series of disastrous decisions and virtually ensured that the agencies charged with implementing them would not or could not execute them well."

Less than a year after September 11, the administration was beset by disclosures that it had refused to take terrorism seriously before the attacks and by stories about dysfunction at the FBI. An FBI agent at the Minneapolis bureau, Coleen Rowley, emerged with documentation of how the Bureau had ignored warnings of the coming terrorist strike. On the day that she testified before the Senate, June 6, 2002, Bush suddenly announced a dramatic reversal of his position against the Democratic proposal for a Department of Homeland Security. Rowley's story was blotted out.

Bush now turned the issue of a new department against the Democrats in the midterm elections, following Rove's script. In Bush's proposal the department would not recognize unions, and because the Democrats believed that employees should have the right to form unions they were cast as weak on homeland security and terrorism. Against this backdrop, Rove helped direct attacks on the patriotism of Democrats in the 2002 midterm elections. In one Republican television commercial, the face of Senator Max Cleland of Georgia, a Vietnam veteran who had lost three limbs, was morphed into that of Osama bin Laden, and Cleland lost. The Republicans captured the Senate by one seat.

The tactics used against Democrats were also deployed to stifle contrary views within the administration and to taint the motives of those who had served and become critics. Any loyalist, no matter the egregious error of judgment, was vaunted; any heretic was burned. Bush's radical remaking of government demanded a relentless war against professionals who did not operate according to ideological tenets but objective standards of analysis.

In 2003, the disillusioned Secretary of the Treasury Paul O'Neill, the former CEO of Alcoa, a traditional business-oriented Republican, published a memoir, "The Price of Loyalty," recounting that the deficit was deliberately fostered as a political tool contrary to economic merits. He disclosed that the invasion of Iraq was raised at a National Security Council meeting ten days after the inauguration. And he described the president among his advisers as being "like a blind man in a roomful of deaf people." The administration's response was to investigate O'Neill for supposedly unlawfully making public classified materials. It was a patently false charge, he was exonerated, but it succeeded in changing the subject and silencing him.

When, in 2003, retired Marine Corps General Anthony Zinni criticized the administration's Iraq policy and the neoconservatives' instrumental part played in its formulation, conservative media retaliated by labeling him "anti-Semitic." The former U.S. commander of Central Command and Bush's envoy to the Middle East, who had endorsed Bush in 2000, had told the Washington Post, "The more I saw, the more I thought that this was the product of the neocons who didn't understand the region and were going to create havoc there. These were dilettantes from Washington think tanks who never had an idea that worked on the ground ... I don't know where the neocons came from -- that wasn't the platform they ran on."

In July 2003, former U.S. ambassador Joseph Wilson wrote an op-ed article in the New York Times detailing that he had been sent on a mission by the CIA before the Iraq war to Niger, where he discovered that the administration claim that Saddam Hussein was trying to purchase enriched yellowcake uranium there for building nuclear weapons was untrue. Despite his report and that of two others the president insisted in his 2003 State of the Union that Hussein was in fact seeking uranium for nuclear weaponry. The counterattack against Wilson was swift. A week after his piece appeared, the conservative columnist Robert Novak wrote that "two senior administration officials" had informed him that Wilson's wife, Valerie Plame, an undercover CIA operative, had been responsible for sending him on his mission. The intent was somehow to cast aspersions on Wilson's credibility. (For his service as the acting U.S. ambassador in Iraq during the Gulf War, elder Bush had called him "a hero.") The disclosure of Plame's identity was an apparent felony against national security, a violation of the Intelligence Identity Protection Act, and soon a special prosecutor was appointed, and the president and the vice president were interviewed, along with much of the White House senior staff. Cheney's chief of staff and national security adviser, I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, was indicted for perjury and obstruction of justice.

When, in March 2004, Richard Clarke, chief of counterterrorism on the National Security Council, testified before the 9/11 Commission and elaborated in a book, "Against All Enemies," that the Bush administration had ignored terrorism before September 11, his credibility was attacked by the administration and his motivations questioned. By then, the smearing of whistleblower career professionals had become a familiar pattern.

Traditional Republicans emerged among Bush's most penetrating critics, from O'Neill to Wilkerson, from Zinni to Clarke. They were not hostile to Bush when he entered office; on the contrary, they were willing and eager to serve under him. They observed first-hand, more than opponents on the outside, the radical changes Bush was making within the government. As Republicans, more than Democrats, they understood which traditions of their own were being traduced.

Bush's war on terror melded with his culture war at home. Never before had a president attempted so vigorously to batter down the wall of separation between church and state. In 2005, Bush proclaimed himself a votary of the "culture of life" as he signed unprecedented legislation seeking to reverse numerous state and federal court decisions that the husband of a woman named Terri Schiavo, in a persistent vegetative state for years, could end her life support. Political opportunism in the guise of theology trampled the Constitution.

Bush's appointments to the federal judiciary were an attempt to reverse the direction of the law for at least 70 years. Nearly all of his nominees were members of the Federalist Society, a conservative group of lawyers who seek to propagate certain doctrines and advance each other's careers. One of these doctrines is called "originalism," the belief that the intent of the framers can be applied to all modern problems and lead to conservative legal solution. Yet another is called the "Constitution in exile," a school of thought that argues that the true Constitution has been suppressed since President Franklin D. Roosevelt began naming justices to the Supreme Court and that its hidden law must be revived. One of Bush's judiciary appointments, Janice Rogers Brown, lecturing before a Federalist Society meeting, referred to the New Deal as "Revolution of 1937," and denounced it as "the triumph of our socialist revolution." It was hardly a surprise that Bush's nominee to the Supreme Court, federal appellate court judge Samuel Alito, was a proponent of the theory of the "unitary executive" and a wholehearted supporter of executive power.

No other president has ever been hostile to science. Russell Train, the Environmental Protection Agency administrator under presidents Nixon and Ford, observed, "How radically we have moved away from regulation based on independent findings and professional analysis of scientific, health and economic data by the responsible agency to regulation controlled by the White House and driven primarily by political considerations."

Bush's opposition to stem cell research was just the beginning of his enmity toward science. The words "reproductive health" and "condoms" were forbidden from appearing on websites of agencies or organizations that received federal funds. At the Food and Drug Administration, staff scientists and two independent advisory panels were overruled in order to deny the public access to emergency contraception. At the Centers for Disease Control, scientifically false information was posted on its website to foster doubt about the effectiveness of condoms in preventing HIV/AIDS. At the President's Council on Bioethics, two scientists were fired for dissents based on scientific reasoning. At the National Cancer Institute, staff scientists were suppressed as the administration planted a story on its website falsely connecting breast cancer to abortion. The top climate scientist at NASA, James Hansen, longtime director of the agency's Goddard Institute for Space Studies, was ordered muzzled after he noted at a scientific conference the link between greenhouse gas emissions and climate change. The president also suggested that public schools should equally teach evolution, the basis of all biological science, and "Intelligent Design," a pseudo-scientific version of creationism. "I think that part of education is to expose people to different schools of thought," Bush said.

Bush's antipathy to science had an overlapping political appeal to both the religious right and industrial special interests. Scientific research was distorted and suppressed at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Department of Agriculture, and the Environmental Protection Agency. The administration censored and misrepresented scientific reports on climate change, air pollution, endangered species, soil conservation, mercury emissions, and forests. Scientists were dismissed or rejected from numerous science advisory committees, from the Lead Poisoning Prevention Panel to the Army Science Board.

In February 2004, 60 of the nation's leading scientists, university presidents, medical experts, and former federal agency directors from both Democratic and Republican administrations, including 20 Nobel laureates, issued a statement entitled "Restoring Scientific Integrity in Policymaking." It declared: "The distortion of scientific knowledge for partisan political ends must cease if the public is to be properly informed about issues central to its well being, and the nation is to benefit fully from its heavy investment in scientific research and education."

When Hurricane Katrina landed in August 2005 scientific reality and dysfunctional government collided. Bush had systematically distorted, suppressed and ignored evidence of global warming, which scientists believed was responsible for intensifying hurricanes. The director of the National Hurricane Center had briefed Bush on the devastating impact on New Orleans and the Gulf Coast of Katrina before it hit, but the president disregarded the advance warning. The Federal Emergency Management Agency, which under President Clinton had been one of the most efficient and effective, had become a morass of incompetence and political cronyism. Amid its abject failure, Bush praised its director Michael Brown, whose previous experience was as the head of the International Arabian Horse Association, as doing "a heck of a job." New Orleans, a major and unique American city, was destroyed. In the immediate aftermath of the storm, Bush traveled six times to the city, promising to rebuild it to its former glory, but most of the city lay in ruins a year later. In January 2006, Bush declared that he had received no rebuilding plan, apparently unaware that he had already rejected it.

During the 2004 campaign, Bush's essential appeal was that he alone could keep the country safe from terrorists. Before and after the Iraq war, he implied that Saddam Hussein was in league with those responsible for September 11. On May 1, 2002, in his speech on the USS Abraham Lincoln, behind a banner reading "Mission Accomplished," he declared, "The battle of Iraq is one victory in a war on terror that began on September the 11, 2001 -- and still goes on." This theme was at the core of his campaign message and stump speech. When under questioning late in the campaign he admitted Saddam Hussein had nothing to do with September 11, he still insisted Saddam was involved with al Qaeda. Bush's closing television commercial in his 2004 campaign showed a pack of wolves symbolizing terrorists about to prey on the viewer. The voiceover intoned: "And weakness attracts those who are waiting to do America harm."

As his supporters saw him, his simplistic rhetoric was straight talk, his dogmatism fortitude, his swagger reassuring, his stubbornness made him seem like a rock against danger, and his rough edges were proof that he was a man of the people. His evangelical religion was central to his image as a man of conviction and his purity of heart. This persona helped insulate Bush from accusations that he got things wrong, misled and had ulterior motives.

Faith was as important in sustaining Bush's politics as fear. Evangelical ministers and conservative Catholic bishops turned their churches into political clubhouses. At the behest of Karl Rove, right-wingers put initiatives against gay marriage on the ballot in 16 swing states that were instrumental in maximizing the vote for Bush there in the 2004 election.

The White House carefully tended an alternative universe of belief into which its supporters took a leap of faith. From the Schiavo case to Intelligent Design, from the morning after pill to abstinence, Bush sent signals of encouragement to the religious right. His anti-scientific approach helped arouse suspicion and detestation of "experts." Critics were tainted as "elitists." Contempt for contrary facts was cultivated as a psychological prop of the leader's authority.

In 2004, the University of Maryland Program on International Policy Attitudes issued a study, "The Separate Realities of Bush and Kerry Supporters." It reported that 72 percent of Bush supporters believed that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction even after the U.S. Iraq Survey Group had definitively concluded that it had none. Seventy-five percent of Bush supporters believed that Saddam Hussein had been providing help to al Qaeda; 55 percent believed that the 9/11 Commission had proved that point, though the commission's report had disproved it and Bush had been forced to deny it. The social scientists conducting the survey observed that respondents held these beliefs because they said the Bush administration and conservative media had confirmed them.

Near the end of the campaign, a senior White House aide explained the "faith-based" school of political thought to reporter Ron Suskind, who wrote in the New York Times Magazine: "The aide said that guys like me were 'in what we call the reality-based community,' which he defined as people who 'believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality.' I nodded and murmured something about enlightenment principles and empiricism. He cut me off. 'That's not the way the world really works anymore,' he continued. 'We're an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you're studying that reality -- judiciously, as you will -- we'll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that's how things will sort out. We're history's actors ... and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do.'"

The method described by the Bush aide was an updated version of the insight of the philosopher Francis Bacon, who, in 1625, wrote in his essay "Of Vaine-Glory": "For Lies are sufficient to breed Opinion, and Opinion brings on Substance."

The "separate realities" of Bush and Kerry supporters studied by the University of Maryland extended to the facts of their military records, controversies about which became decisive events in the campaign and case studies in the manipulation of information. Bush had numerous mysterious discrepancies in his Vietnam era service in the Texas Air National Guard, especially being absent without leave for a year. It is indisputable that he never actually completed his service. How he entered his unit through special preference and under what circumstances he was discharged without having finished his requirements was the subject of an investigation by CBS's "60 Minutes." The program's use of documents that could not be authenticated, though various witnesses confirmed the underlying facts, aroused an intense attack from Republican activists and the White House, and the entire exposé was discredited because of the journalistic lapse.

The Bush White House had anticipated the potential scandal in his military background, particularly in contrast to the record of Senator Kerry, who was a genuine war hero, awarded the Silver Star, Bronze Star and three Purple Hearts. In order to undermine Kerry's strong point and defend Bush's weak one, a group called Swift Boat Veterans for Truth was created, funded and its public relations handled by Bush allies, and led by one John O'Neill, who had been selected by the Nixon White House to hector Kerry during the Vietnam era. The group accused Kerry of having falsely earned his medals and subsequently lied about his war experiences. Though the Navy officially affirmed his right to his medals and those who served directly with him upheld his account, the Swift Boat Veterans were granted extensive media attention as if their fabrications were a valid point of view that must be heard. On cable television especially, and on CNN in particular, a perverse form of objectivity prevailed in which the news organization abdicated establishing the facts and allowed defamation to be presented as though it was just one reasonable side of a debate.

The Bush White House, drawing harsh cautionary lessons from the Nixon experience, considered the press an extremely dangerous enemy that must be treated with contempt -- isolated, intimidated, and, if not made pliable, discredited. The administration favored Fox News and other conservative media, using them as quasi-official government propaganda organs. Joining the long project by the conservative movement, the administration sought to bring the press into disrepute and marginalize it. If journalists did not support the administration's talking points or operate from its premises, they were assailed as unfair and biased.

The conservative campaign against journalism as "liberal media" was Leninist in its assumption that truth and fact were inherently sectarian and instrumental. Acting on this premise, the press was subjected to constant and elaborate campaigns of intimidation. The administration enjoyed unprecedented success. Not a single report in any major newspaper or on the broadcast news networks covered the campaign of intimidation, as the press had once readily reported on Nixon's early effort, progenitor of the current strategy.

As giant corporate conglomerates with extensive holdings in industries subject to all manner of government regulation, media outlets were sensitive to pressure from the administration. The effort to make the mainstream media compliant was so dedicated that even Cheney himself called corporate owners to complain about individual correspondents and stories. (In 2005, Time Warner, which owns CNN, hired Republican House Majority Leader Tom DeLay's chief of staff, Timothy Berry, as its chief Washington lobbyist.)

After September 11 and in the rush to war in Iraq, a jingoist spirit infected elements of the press corps and for a long time they largely abandoned holding the government accountable. The New York Times' news reports on weapons of mass destruction and the Washington Post's editorials were indispensable in lending credence to the disinformation on which the administration made its case for the Iraq war. (The Times published a lengthy editor's note on the failures of its coverage and the Times' chief correspondent on WMD, Judith Miller, eventually resigned from the newspaper. The Post refused to acknowledge how it had been misled in its editorials before the war.) The long-term damage to the credibility of the prestige press is incalculable.

Reality was often too radical and threatening for many in the press to venture covering. Those who dared were frequently thrust into fierce conflicts. Some were subject to legal investigations by the Justice Department (for example, the New York Times for reporting on Bush's warrantless domestic surveillance and the Washington Post for reporting on secret prisons for detainees). Some were even subjected to innuendo and invasions of private life (for example, after broadcasting a story on Army morale an ABC News reporter was outed as gay by right-wing gossip columnist Matt Drudge, who claimed he was given the information by a White House source).

A gay prostitute without journalistic background, carrying press credentials from a phony media operation financed by right-wing Texas Republicans, was granted access to the regular White House press briefings and the press secretary employed the tactic of calling on him to break up the questioning of legitimate reporters. The White House also funneled federal funds to conservatives posing as legitimate journalists and commentators. Bush's chairman of the Public Broadcasting System, Kenneth Tomlinson, drove distinguished journalist Bill Moyers off the air for his heretical views and approved a show for the Wall Street Journal editorial board. Tomlinson commissioned an enemies list of "liberal media" on PBS in order to guide purging the network. (Tomlinson resigned in November 2005 after the Inspector General of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting found he had violated PBS rules by meddling in programming and contracting.)

By containing and curbing the press, Bush attempted to remove another constitutional check and balance on his power. When President Bush made an extended joke at the 2004 Radio and Television Correspondents Dinner about his inability to find WMD in Iraq -- "Not here," he said, narrating a film depicting him looking under his desk in the Oval Office -- the 1,500 members of the assembled press corps burst into raucous laughter like pledges to his fraternity.

Bush's admirers have cast him in the mold of Shakespeare's Henry V, a wastrel royal son who upon rising to the purple realizes his leadership in war. Some detractors offered an opposite portrait of the dry drunk. But these literary and psychological theories failed to assess Bush's radicalism in the historical and constitutional terms of the American presidency.

Bush has deliberately sought to institute radical changes in the character of the presidency and American government that would permanently alter the constitutional system. He used the "global war on terrorism" to impose a "unitary executive" of absolute power, disdainful of the Congress and brushing aside the judicial branch when he felt it necessary (for example, his domestic surveillance outside the FISA court). He issued many "signing statements" (a device originally designed by Samuel Alito when he served as an aide in the Reagan Justice Department) to express his own understanding of the meaning of enacted legislation and how the executive branch would or would not enforce it. The Bush White House concept of the executive was the full flowering of the imperial presidency as conceived by Richard Nixon.

Operationally, within the White House, the Office of the Vice President controlled foreign policy, making the National Security Council its auxiliary, and the flow of information to the president. No vice president was ever as powerful.

Bush was unusually incurious and passive in seeking facts. He never demanded worst-case scenarios. His circle of advisers was tightly restricted. Only a select few of the White House staff were permitted to see him, much less interact with him. He made no effort to establish independent sources of information. He never circulated to his staff articles that sparked a policy interest in him. When his support in public opinion declined, he soaked up the flattery of his aides that the people had momentarily lapsed in their appreciation of his heroic strength and vision.

Accountability was treated as a threat to executive power, not as essential to democratic governance. No one up the chain of command was held responsible for the crimes of Abu Ghraib. No one who committed grievous errors of judgment in the Iraq war was held to account. Instead they were showered with honors, medals and promotions.

Bush's radical White House depended on one-party control of the Congress. The Republican Congress supported the consolidation of executive power, even at the expense of congressional prerogatives. Oversight was studiously neglected. On any matter that might cause irritation to the White House, hearings were not held or quashed. When the White House did not produce requested documents, for example, on its conduct in response to Hurricane Katrina, there were no repercussions from the Republican Congress. The intelligence committees and the House Armed Services, among other committees, covered up administration malfeasance. The Senate Intelligence Committee skewed and distorted its report on intelligence leading into the Iraq war to acquit the administration of responsibility and refused to conduct a promised investigation into administration political pressures on the intelligence community.

The Republicans in Congress enforced discipline by creation of a pay-for-play system. Lobbyists, trade associations and law firms were told that unless they contributed to Republican campaign funds and hired Republicans they would be treated with disfavor. House Majority Leader Tom DeLay developed this political machine, called the K Street Project, to a high degree of control over Washington, until he was forced to resign his post due to indictment for criminal campaign fundraising practices. Jack Abramoff, a super-lobbyist, worked closely with DeLay, and when Abramoff pled guilty in January 2006 to fraud, tax evasion and criminal conspiracy he triggered the biggest congressional scandal in modern history. Abramoff was also plugged into the White House, linked to Rove, and even attended staff meetings.

Bush's presidency was uniquely radical in its elevation of absolute executive power, dismissal of the other branches of government, contempt for law, dominant power of the vice president, networks of ideological cadres, principle of unaccountability, stifling of internal debate, reliance on one-party rule, and overtly political use of war. Never before had a president shown disdain for science and sought to batter down the wall of separation between church and state. None of it seemed in the offing upon Bush's inauguration in 2001. Yet these actions were not sudden impulses, spontaneous reactions or accidental gestures. They were based on deliberate decisions intended to change the presidency and government fundamentally and forever. And these decisions had deep historical roots.

One of the distinctive sources of Bush's radicalism was that he was the first Southern conservative ever elected to the presidency. Southern politics has always contained varied and conflicting traditions. Through Bush, a reactionary Southern political tradition captured the center of the federal government, a phenomenon that has never occurred before. His brand of conservatism is the expression of a commodity-based oligarchy rooted in Texas, deeply hostile to the New Deal, dedicated to neglect of public services, seeking to maintain class and racially based hierarchies. Using the rhetoric of limited government and states' rights these Texas conservatives claim control over government in order to consolidate power and wealth. Both Bush and Cheney (former chief executive officer of Halliburton, a Texas based company) come out of the oil patch background. Bush's language about "compassionate conservatism" was a simple emollient to ease the way for his harsher political and policy imperatives.

In method, spirit and goals, Bush's project was the opposite of the New Deal, which was a great improvisation in the spirit of American pragmatism, "bold, persistent experimentation," as Franklin D. Roosevelt put it. The New Deal, in the face of the greatest domestic crisis since the Civil War, mobilized the capacities of government for the general welfare. The New Frontier of John F. Kennedy and the Great Society of Lyndon Johnson extended the New Deal in its social inclusiveness, reforming immigration policy, ending poverty among the elderly, and expanding education. Most significantly, on racial justice, the frustrated legacy of Reconstruction and the great Civil War constitutional amendments was finally realized.

The three Southern presidents of the 20th century were all progressive Democrats -- Lyndon Johnson, Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton. If Woodrow Wilson were to be counted as a fourth, having been born in Virginia, he would also fit the profile of progressive (though definitely of the pre-civil rights era, given his support for segregation within the federal government). Harry Truman, from the border state of Missouri, must be categorized as one of the great liberals (including on civil rights).

In the 19th century, the Southerners in the White House, from Jefferson through Andrew Jackson, represented expanded democracy. The only Southern conservative to hold the office before the Civil War was John Tyler, who acceded to the presidency after the sudden death of William Henry Harrison, the first Whig president. Tyler was a conservative Democrat from Virginia and a man without a party whose tenure was an accidental one term. Zachary Taylor, the last Whig, from Louisiana, a national hero as the triumphant commander in the Mexican War, was setting himself against the pro-slavery forces from the South, including his son-in-law Senator Jefferson Davis of Mississippi, at the time of his death. Andrew Johnson, another accident and anomaly, was both a vehement populist and conservative, who used the presidency to attempt to scuttle Reconstruction in the name of a white man's democracy. Lyndon Johnson, the first elected Southerner since the Civil War, of course, was the greatest president on civil rights since Ulysses Grant.

The two great epochal crises in American history after the revolution -- the Civil War and the Great Depression -- were accelerated and deepened by passive, accommodating or stubbornly out of touch presidents -- James Buchanan and Herbert Hoover. Political and economic forces they failed to control or understand overcame them. But neither sought conflict or courted turmoil, even though they accelerated it. By contrast, Bush purposefully polarized differences in the country for political advantage.

In foreign policy, Bush freely appropriated the language of Woodrow Wilson about freedom and democracy. But Wilson sought to bring the U.S. into a new international system of law. Bush's unilateralism opposed the Wilsonian heritage at every turn, exemplified by his appointment of John Bolton as ambassador to the United Nations.

Bush also claimed to stand in the conservative tradition of Ronald Reagan. Indeed, Reagan sought to overturn longstanding policies of Democratic and Republican presidents alike in his pursuit of a radical and often fanciful conservatism. But when he found himself cornered by realities, Reagan the ideologue gave way to Reagan the old union negotiator prepared for compromise. Facing reality, he gave up his rhetoric about privatizing Social Security to join with Democrats to fund its long-term solvency. After the Iran-contra scandal, he summarily dismissed his neoconservative aides and forged a détente with Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev that helped lead to the end of the Cold War. That achievement, which required disenthralling his administration from the right wing, was his finest moment and the enduring basis of his presidential reputation. Had he not cast out the right, he would have remained covered with disgrace in history.

George W. Bush's father, Reagan's vice president and successor, George H.W. Bush, pointedly blackballed the neoconservatives from his administration. Yet the son George dusted off Reagan's discredited zealots and their doctrines to provide him with reasons for a war of choice in Iraq. His rejection of his father's realism in foreign policy was pointed and that rejection signaled a larger radicalism.

Nothing like Bush's concerted radicalism has ever been seen before in the White House. One would have to go back to the Civil War era to find politics as polarized. But not even the president of the Confederate States of America, Jefferson Davis, ran as extreme and insulated an administration. Davis, a former U.S. senator and Secretary of War, appointed men he knew to be experienced politicians and diplomats to responsible positions within his government, and kept the radical Fire-eaters at bay. As soon as the Fire-eaters' vision of an independent slave republic materialized through secession they were consigned to the sidelines, where they remained as critics of the Confederate president for the duration of the Civil War.

Never before has a president so single-handedly and willfully been the source of national and international crises. The tragedy of September 11 cannot be offered as the sole justification to explain his actions. In his first inaugural address, Bush cited a biblical passage about an "angel in the whirlwind." His presidency has been a self-created whirlwind.

In 1900, Theodore Roosevelt wrote a sympathetic biography of Oliver Cromwell, the leader of the short-lived English republic of the 17th century. While Roosevelt admired many of Cromwell's intentions to create representative government, he described how Cromwell's volatile temperament undermined his virtuous goals. "In criticizing Cromwell, however, we must remember that generally in such cases an even greater share of blame must attach to the nation than to the man." Roosevelt continued:

"Self-governing freemen must have the power to accept necessary compromises, to make necessary concessions, each sacrificing somewhat of prejudice, and even of principle, and every group must show the necessary subordination of its particular interests to the interests of the community as a whole. When the people will not or cannot work together; when they permit groups of extremists to decline to accept anything that does not coincide with their own extreme views; or when they let power slip from their hands through sheer supine indifference; then they have themselves chiefly to blame if the power is grasped by stronger hands."

The tragedy that Theodore Roosevelt described is not reserved in its broad dimensions to Britain. Roosevelt wrote his history as a lesson for Americans, who had been spared the travesties of the English revolution. Instead of Cromwell, we had had Washington. Ultimately, a people are responsible for its leaders. Bush's legacy will encompass a crisis over democracy that only the American people can resolve.

-- By Sidney Blumenthal

03 September 2006

Hitler is Dead, and He's Not Coming Back

September 03, 2006
Hitler is Dead, and He's Not Coming Back
By Steve Chapman

Among the many innovations generated by the Internet is an axiom called Godwin's Law, which says that given enough time, any online discussion will produce a comparison involving Nazism or Hitler. So common is this phenomenon in cyberspace arguments that it also spawned an informal rule: Whoever first mentions the Nazis loses.

By that standard, the Bush administration is getting trounced in the debate on Iraq. Last week, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld went to the American Legion convention and likened critics of our policy to those who discounted the threat posed by Nazism. The threat of "a new type of fascism," he argued, is just as great as the one posed by Hitler and Mussolini.

President Bush followed with his own address to the legionnaires, asserting that the fighting in Iraq "can be as fierce as it was at Omaha Beach or Guadalcanal," while insisting that "victory is as important as it was in those earlier battles."

The administration's top officials have been a poor guide to the future: Rumsfeld said before the war that it might go on for "five days or five weeks or five months, but it certainly isn't going to last any longer than that." They have been a poor guide to the present, as when Vice President Cheney declared -- about 1,000 American deaths ago -- that we were seeing "the last throes, if you will, of the insurgency." And, judging from their recent forays into history, they are a poor guide to the past.

One defect in this analogy is that it's extremely shopworn. No matter how many Hitlers we stop, another appears. During the first Gulf War in 1991, it was Saddam Hussein. During the Balkan wars of the '90s, it was Yugoslavian President Slobodan Milosevic. Now it's -- well, anyone Islamic who might be an enemy.

Rather than try to understand, the analogizers assume they are replicas of ones we have confronted before. Such glib parallels bring to mind Mark Twain's remark: A cat that sits on a hot stove will never again sit on a hot stove, but it will also never sit on a cold one.

The supposed moral of the 1930s is that you cannot negotiate or coexist with enemies. Instead, you must fight them. Anything less amounts to a replay of the Munich conference, where Britain and France acceded to Hitler's claims on Czechoslovakia in a futile effort to purchase peace.

But we already know the analogy can be fatally misapplied. President Lyndon Johnson was guided by it during the Vietnam War. When the North Vietnamese won, though, it didn't set off a vast expansion of the communist empire. Ho Chi Minh looked like Hitler to LBJ, but he wasn't.

If the 1930s taught that you can't coexist with aggressive enemies, the Cold War taught just the opposite. Britain and the United States, which refused to appease Hitler, did appease Stalin by allowing the enslavement of Eastern Europe. Yet we were able to contain -- and eventually defeat -- the Soviets without meeting them on the battlefield.

You don't have to take my word that Hitler is irrelevant here. The administration's own policies confirm as much. If the enemy in Iraq were comparable to the Third Reich, we certainly wouldn't be fighting this war the way Bush and Rumsfeld have fought it.

When the U.S. entered the war against the Axis powers, we drafted millions of men, raised taxes and mobilized every resource to assure victory. When the U.S. invaded Iraq, we sent an undersized force, cut taxes and told Americans to live their normal lives. If Islamic extremists are the new Nazis, George W. Bush is no Churchill.

In fact, the situation today is much different from the one then. Militant Islam is not one phenomenon but many. Iraqi Shiites and Sunnis, far from being peas in a pod, are at war with each other. You can't barter with Osama bin Laden, but you may be able to negotiate with Syria or even Hezbollah. Persisting with the war in Iraq is more likely to undermine than advance the fight against al Qaeda.

Given the dire prospects in Iraq, it's not surprising that Bush and Rumsfeld would rather talk about the past than the present. But we already know how to defeat Hitler. What the administration has yet to prove is that it knows how to win in Iraq.

55 Scholars Protest New Book's Claim That Criticism Of FDR On Holocaust Is 'Anti-American'

55 Scholars Protest New Book's Claim That Criticism Of FDR On Holocaust Is 'Anti-American'

9/3/2006 4:50:00 PM

To: National Desk

Contact: The David S. Wyman Institute for Holocaust Studies, Rafaelmedoff@aol.com or 240-472-9773

WASHINGTON, Sept. 3 /U.S. Newswire/ -- Fifty-five leading Holocaust scholars have denounced a new book which asserts that criticism of President Franklin Roosevelt's response to the Holocaust is "anti-American" and "America-bashing." The book also contains false allegations against reputable historians, severely misrepresents key historical facts, and contains at least twenty-one passages that use language from other books without appropriate attribution, according to the David S. Wyman Institute for Holocaust Studies.

The book, "Saving the Jews: Franklin D. Roosevelt and the Holocaust," by South Carolina divorce attorney Robert N. Rosen, was published by Thunder's Mouth Press earlier this year. Rosen has been invited to address the Roosevelt Presidential Library in Hyde Park, N.Y., and the Carter Presidential Library, in Atlanta, as well as other institutions.

The scholars' petition, organized by The David S. Wyman Institute for Holocaust Studies, criticizes Rosen for "impugning the patriotism of scholars, including Prof. David S. Wyman, who have taken issue with the Roosevelt administration's response to the Holocaust...As scholars who have written about the Holocaust, we protest Mr. Rosen's attempt to demean the motives of reputable historians who have documented important facts about how America responded to the Nazi genocide. Does your publishing house really mean to suggest that questioning the policies of a particular administration is grounds for branding a scholar 'anti-American'? Such name-calling and invective are deplorable, false, and have no place in serious discussion of the Roosevelt administration's response to one of the greatest moral crises of the Twentieth Century."

The signatories include Rabbi Dr. Irving (Yitz) Greenberg, former chairman of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Council; Prof. Hubert G. Locke, dean emeritus at the University of Washington; Dr. Gregory H. Stanton, president of Genocide Watch; Dr. Michael Berenbaum, professor & director at the University of Judaism's Ziering Institute on the Holocaust; Prof. Blanche Cook of the City University of New York, author of the acclaimed multi-volume biography of Eleanor Roosevelt; Prof. Israel W. Charny, editor of the Encyclopedia of Genocide; Prof. Susannah Heschel of Dartmouth College; and Thane Rosenbaum, novelist and professor of human rights law at Fordham University.

For the full text of the petition and the list of signatories, call the Wyman Institute at 202-434-8994 or visit http://www.WymanInstitute.org

At the same time, the Wyman Institue has issued a 33-page report analyzing "Saving the Jews." The report, titled "Whitewashing FDR's Holocaust Record," was co-authored by Wyman Institute director Dr. Rafael Medoff; Dr. Racelle Weiman, director of the Center for Holocaust and Humanity Education at Hebrew Union College - Jewish Institute of Religion; and Dr. Bat-Ami Zucker of Bar Ilan University, author of In Search of Refuge: Jews and U.S. Consulates in Nazi Germany 1933-1941.

For the full text of the report, call the Wyman Institute at 202-434-8994 or visit http://www.WymanInstitute.org


Highlights of the Wyman Institute's report:

Rosen Makes False Allegations against Reputable Historians:

Rosen makes false allegations against prominent Holocaust scholars such as Deborah Lipstadt, Henry Feingold, David Wyman, and Laurel Leff. For example, Rosen falsely accuses Prof. Feingold of calling President Roosevelt "a coward," and calling the U.S.and British governments "unspeakable antisemites." He also alleges that Feingold essentially manufactured evidence to make a State Department official appear antisemitic. Rosen falsely alleges that Prof. Leff described Jewish activist Peter Bergson as the leader of the Palestine Jewish community.

Rosen Severely Misrepresents Key Historical Facts:

-- Rosen misquotes historians Richard Breitman and Alan Kraut to make it seem as if they praised FDR's response to Kristallnacht, when in fact they were critical of FDR's response. (p.78)

-- Rosen manipulates immigration statistics to claim the U.S. accepted twice as many refugees from Hitler as the rest of the world combined (p.442), when in fact the rest of the world took in nearly twice as many the United States.

-- Rosen falsely claims that FDR was so "incensed" by the 1939 British White Paper (which closed off Palestine to almost all Jewish immigrants), that he began pushing for the removal of Arabs from Palestine to make room for the Jews. (p.485) In fact, FDR's discussions about Arab emigration took place more than six months before the White Paper, and his response to the White Paper was very weak.

-- Rosen defends FDR's failure to speak out about the persecution of Europe Jews, on the baseless grounds that verbal protests would have led to increased persecution. (pp.455-456) Rosen also defends the British White Paper, claiming that Jewish immigration to Palestine would have caused Arabs to become pro-Nazi and possibly kill Jews in the Middle East. (pp.274, 116-117)

-- Rosen falsely claims that not a single prominent U.S. Jewish leader asked the Roosevelt administration to bomb the Auschwitz death camp. (pp. 404, 475) In fact, Nahum Goldmann, co-chairman of the World Jewish Congress and U.S. representative of the Jewish Agency, did ask the administration to do so, and his request is mentioned even in a document from 1944 that Rosen himself lists in one of his footnotes. Other Jewish leaders, organizations, and publications also called for bombing the death camps.

Rosen Falsely Portrays Jewish Activists as Draft-Dodgers: Rosen portrays the 1940s Jewish activists known as the Bergson Group as draft-dodgers. He claims that their leaders "sat out the war in America, preferring to agitate for the overthrow of the British in Palestine rather than enlist and fight Nazis themselves." (p. 303) In fact, two of the group's five leaders, Yitshaq Ben-Ami and Dr. Alexander Rafaeli, enlisted and fought in the U.S. Army (in the Battle of the Bulge and the Normandy invasion, respectively), and the other three were classified 4-F.

Rosen Uses Other Authors' Language without Appropriate Attribution:

"Saving the Jews" contains at least twenty-one passages that have language identical to, or virtually identical to, language used in books by other authors. In these twenty-one passages, Rosen does not use quotation marks to indicate that the words were composed by a different author. The American Historical Association's official Standards on Professional Conduct and Statement on Plagiarism define plagiarism as "the use of another's language without quotation marks and citation." The Statement also notes: "Plagiarism includes more subtle and perhaps pernicious abuses than simply expropriating the exact wording of another author without attribution...a historian... should never simply borrow and rephrase the findings of other scholars."

The Wyman Institute has alerted the American Historical Association's Professional Division concerning Rosen's book and the twenty-one passages in question.


ABOUT THE WYMAN INSTITUTE: The David S. Wyman Institute for Holocaust Studies, based in Washington, D.C., is a research and education institute focusing on America's response to the Holocaust. It is named in honor of the eminent historian and author of the 1984 best-seller The Abandonment of the Jews, the most important and influential book concerning the U.S. response to the Nazi genocide.

The Institute's Advisory Committee includes Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Elie Wiesel, Members of Congress, and other luminaries. Its Academic Council includes more than 50 leading professors of the Holocaust, American history, and Jewish history. The Institute's Arts & Letters Council, chaired by Cynthia Ozick, includes prominent artists, writers, musicians, and filmmakers. (For a complete list, please visit http://www.WymanInstitute.org )




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