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Politics and Free Thought at the Eclipse of Reason
It is only rarely remembered that the definition of democracy immortalized by Lincoln in the Gettysburg Address had been inspired by Theodore Parker, the abolitionist prophet. Driven from his pulpit, Parker said, "I will go about and preach and lecture in the city and glen, by the roadside and field-side, and wherever men and women may be found." He became the Hound of Freedom and helped to change America through the power of the word. We have a story of equal power. It is that the promise of America leaves no one out. Go now, and tell it on the mountains. From the rooftops, tell it. From your laptops, tell it. From the street corners and from Starbucks, from delis and from diners, tell it. From the workplace and the bookstore, tell it. On campus and at the mall, tell it. Tell it at the synagogue, sanctuary and mosque. Tell it where you can, when you can and while you can--to every candidate for office, to every talk-show host and pundit, to corporate executives and schoolchildren. Tell it--for America's sake.If you want to watch it, here it is on You Tube via The Nation.
There was a time when the Champs-Élysées stood for grand living, high style and serendipity...But the road where de Gaulle celebrated France’s liberation from the Nazis, the one known as “the most beautiful avenue on earth,” has, like Times Square and Oxford Street in London, turned into a commercialized money trap...And so, in a truly French moment, the Paris city government has begun to push back, proclaiming a crisis of confidence and promising a plan aimed at stopping the “banalization” of the Champs-Élysées.Which only goes to show that even when the French are right, they are still pretentious.
1. An end to one-way multiculturalism and to the cultural masochism that goes with it. The Koran does not mandate the wearing of veils or genital mutilation, and until recently only those who apostasized from Islam faced the threat of punishment by death. Now, though, all manner of antisocial practices find themselves validated in the name of religion, and mullahs have begun to issue threats even against non-Muslims for criticism of Islam. This creeping Islamism must cease at once, and those responsible must feel the full weight of the law. Meanwhile, we should insist on reciprocity at all times. We should not allow a single Saudi dollar to pay for propaganda within the U.S., for example, until Saudi Arabia also permits Jewish and Christian and secular practices. No Wahhabi-printed Korans anywhere in our prison system. No Salafist imams in our armed forces.At first glance, I have nothing to add to this, except for a call for liberals to not explain Islamism as a reaction to American imperialism or confuse it with Third World revolution and understand it as the existential threat it wishes to be. What I like to call gushy liberals may protest this as Islamophobia, which only makes me wonder if liberal democracy, and its more economically managed counterpart in Europe, social democracy, are under threat from liberals so PC that they cannot see an emerging threat poised to destroy everything they profess and hold dear.
2. A strong, open alliance with India on all fronts, from the military to the political and economic, backed by an extensive cultural exchange program, to demonstrate solidarity with the other great multiethnic democracy under attack from Muslim fascism. A hugely enlarged quota for qualified Indian immigrants and a reduction in quotas from Pakistan and other nations where fundamentalism dominates.
3. A similarly forward approach to Nigeria, São Tomé and Príncipe, and the other countries of Western Africa that are under attack by jihadists and are also the location of vast potential oil reserves, whose proper development could help emancipate the local populations from poverty and ourselves from dependence on Middle Eastern oil.
4. A declaration at the UN of our solidarity with the right of the Kurdish people of Iraq and elsewhere to self-determination as well as a further declaration by Congress that in no circumstance will Muslim forces who have fought on our side, from the Kurds to the Northern Alliance in Afghanistan, find themselves friendless, unarmed, or abandoned. Partition in Iraq would be defeat under another name (and as with past partitions, would lead to yet further partitions and micro-wars over these very subdivisions). But if it has to come, we cannot even consider abandoning the one part of the country that did seize the opportunity of modernization, development, and democracy.
5. Energetic support for all the opposition forces in Iran and in the Iranian diaspora. A public offer from the United States, disseminated widely in the Persian language, of help for a reformed Iran on all matters, including peaceful nuclear energy, and of assistance in protecting Iran from the catastrophic earthquake that seismologists predict in its immediate future. Millions of lives might be lost in a few moments, and we would also have to worry about the fate of secret underground nuclear facilities. When a quake leveled the Iranian city of Bam three years ago, the performance of American rescue teams was so impressive that their popularity embarrassed the regime. Iran’s neighbors would need to pay attention, too: a crisis in Iran’s nuclear underground facilities—an Iranian Chernobyl—would not be an internal affair. These concerns might help shift the currently ossified terms of the argument and put us again on the side of an internal reform movement within Iran and its large and talented diaspora.
6. Unconditional solidarity, backed with force and the relevant UN resolutions, with an independent and multi-confessional Lebanon.
7. A commitment to buy Afghanistan’s opium crop and to keep the profits out of the hands of the warlords and Talibanists, until such time as the country’s agriculture— especially its once-famous vines—has been replanted and restored. We can use the product in the interim for the manufacture of much-needed analgesics for our own market and apply the profits to the reconstruction of Afghanistan.
8. We should, of course, be scrupulous on principle about stirring up interethnic tensions. But we should remind those states that are less scrupulous—Iran, Pakistan, and Syria swiftly come to mind—that we know that they, too, have restless minorities and that they should not make trouble in Afghanistan, Lebanon, or Iraq without bearing this in mind. Some years ago, the Pakistani government announced that it would break the international embargo on the unrecognized and illegal Turkish separatist state in Cyprus and would appoint an ambassador to it, out of “Islamic solidarity.” Cyprus is a small democracy with no armed forces to speak of, but its then–foreign minister told me the following story. He sought a meeting with the Pakistani authorities and told them privately that if they recognized the breakaway Turkish colony, his government would immediately supply funds and arms to one of the secessionist movements—such as the Baluchis—within Pakistan itself. Pakistan never appointed an ambassador to Turkish Cyprus.
European governments are resisting Bush administration demands that they curtail support for exports to Iran and that they block transactions and freeze assets of some Iranian companies, officials on both sides say. The resistance threatens to open a new rift between Europe and the United States over Iran.This is unsurprising as Europe values its economic dealings with Iran more than the possible chance of war breaking out between Iran and the U.S. if Iran gets more aggressive in Iraq, which indeed seems unlikely. Again this is the nature of realpolitik -- an educated guess as to how events will turn out and how it can effect a state's or regional organization's interests.
Administration officials say a new American drive to reduce exports to Iran and cut off its financial transactions is intended to further isolate Iran commercially amid the first signs that global pressure has hurt Iran’s oil production and its economy. There are also reports of rising political dissent in Iran.
In December, Iran’s refusal to give up its nuclear program led the United Nations Security Council to impose economic sanctions. Iran’s rebuff is based on its contention that its nuclear program is civilian in nature, while the United States and other countries believe Iran plans to make weapons.
At issue now is how the resolution is to be carried out, with Europeans resisting American appeals for quick action, citing technical and political problems related to the heavy European economic ties to Iran and its oil industry.
“Sometimes I am analyzing myself and thinking, Oh, we have done wrong,” he mused. “He is very popular and friendly with the people, but sometimes when he is expressing his ideas, he doesn’t think about the future or the consequences. He is a simple man.”Doesn't this sound familiar?
But more questions about the campaign in Iraq, and in particular whether it includes a more aggressive approach to Iraq’s neighbor Iran, seem certain following a report in The Washington Post today.As long as the Administration continues to couple diplomacy along with this more aggressive approach within Iraq, then this is the correct foreign policy decision regarding Iran and its effort to defeat the U.S. in Iraq. War with Iran would be catastrophic for all sorts of reasons economic and diplomatic, but Iranian agents cannot be allowed to consort with the insurgency and terrorists and kill American soldiers. If Bush continues to walk this delicate line between diplomacy and force, then he should be supported in this particular situation.
The newspaper reported that the Bush administration has authorized the American military to kill or capture Iranian operatives inside Iraq as part of a new strategy to weaken Tehran’s influence in the Middle East and to give up its nuclear ambitions.
The Post said lethal force against Iranians was not known to have been used to date. But the newspaper did say that dozens of suspected Iranian agents had been detained over the past year for three to four days at a time under a “catch and release” policy intended to avoid escalating tensions with Iran.
One of the greatest debates within the Muslim Ummah, one that causes division within the Islamic nation and that is often used by the enemies of Islam as a means of ascribing brutality to our religion is centered on the methods by which Islam was propagated throughout the globe. Was Islam spread by the sword? The quick answer to this question is a resounding yes and in this article, we hope to set the record straight using the evidence from the Qur’an and the Sunnah, the practice of the Guided Caliphs and the consensus of the righteous scholars of the Ummah, inshaAllah. While the evidences in this article are by no means exhaustive, inshaAllah they will be adequate to lay this matter to rest.Read on and you'll get a litany of quotes from the Quran justifying the jihadist interpretation of this profanely sacred text as a violent ultimatum: conversion or death.
Muhammad, the messenger of Allah, was sent to all mankind and Jinn with Allah’s final and complete message constituting a system of life that leads to the ultimate spiritual, social, and economic justice, security and prosperity. In addition, Islam guarantees a blissful eternal life in the Hereafter to whoever adheres to its rules. Some will see Islam in the right light. Others will allow their whims to lead them astray. Protecting those who reject Islam through their own foolishness and who harbor the potential to corrupt others by forcing them (those who reject Islam) to embrace Islam under the gun is something for which Islam ought to be praised, not condemn. How could saving someone from Hellfire be condemned?
Halfway into the speech, it seemed for a moment that Bush might address this issue. "Succeeding in Iraq also requires … stabilizing the region in the face of the extremist challenge," he said, a task that "begins with addressing Iran and Syria." But then, instead of calling for, say, talks with those countries, Bush said that their regimes have provided material support to the insurgents. "We will disrupt the attacks on our forces," the president warned. "We will interrupt the flow of support from Iran and Syria. And we will seek out and destroy the networks providing advanced weaponry and training to our enemies in Iraq."For Bush, the drum beat never dulls, it only gets louder.
Really? All we can muster for Iraq is a paltry 20,000 extra troops; even they will accomplish little without massive infusions from a dubious Iraqi military and miraculous political breakthroughs from a faltering Iraqi government—and President Bush, at such a desperate moment, talks about expanding the war to Iran and Syria? It's shiveringly scary.
We will hear all the sob stories about how struggling small businesses with thin margins will be forced to cut back on hiring, pull back on expansion plans and, in some instances, close their doors. Moreover, this won't be a tragedy just for small-business owners and employees but for the economy as a whole, since everybody knows that small business creates virtually all new jobs. Only another round of tax breaks can keep the great American jobs machine humming.But Pearlstein also forgets another benefit of a minimum wage hike: the multiplier effect. This means as the wage increase hits the market, other workers higher up on the wage scale will receive raises as well. And while business owners bemoan this, it's good for overall economic activity. Workers will take the extra cash in their paychecks and return it immediately back into the economy, thereby increasing economic activity and expanding the marketplace.
And here's the thing: Most of it is nonsense.
To begin, both economic theory and history suggest that small business will, in time, pass on its increased costs to its consumers. Small businesses that pay low wages tend to compete with other small businesses that pay low wages, so they will all face the same cost pressures and respond in similar fashion. The worst that can be said is that a higher minimum wage will add, very modestly, to overall inflation.
There is also general agreement among economists that a higher minimum wage, at the levels we are talking about, will have a minimal impact on adult employment. Slightly higher prices might reduce, slightly, the demand for Wendy's hamburgers, cheap hotel rooms and dog-walking services. But largely offsetting those effects will be the increased demand for goods and services by tens of millions of Americans who will finally be getting a raise. A higher minimum wage doesn't lower economic activity so much as rearrange it slightly.
The Public Interest dealt primarily with domestic policy. But, in foreign affairs, neocons displayed the same skepticism toward what Francis Fukuyama has called "utopian social engineering." Early neocon foreign policy was aggressive; Podhoretz and Kristol wanted to confront communist movements across the globe. But, for the neocons, preventing communist takeovers did not mean imposing liberal democracies. In Daniel Patrick Moynihan's famous maxim, conservatism's key insight was that culture matters more than politics. And, if a nation's culture was not conducive to democracy, attempts to impose one would backfire. In her famed 1979 Commentary essay, "Dictatorships and Double Standards," Jeane Kirkpatrick ridiculed the liberal demand that Nicaragua and Iran shed their authoritarianism as a precondition of U.S. support. "No idea holds greater sway in the mind of educated Americans," she wrote, "than the belief that it is possible to democratize governments, anytime, anywhere, under any circumstances. This notion is belied by an enormous body of evidence." If neocons thought it utopian to believe Washington could rapidly end poverty, they thought it equally utopian to believe Washington could rapidly instill democracy. In both cases, they believed, such hubris was a particularly liberal vice.Beinart is on to something here. Today, young liberals value empiricism over ideology. They should, as empiricism is the tool most valued by Enlightenment philosophers or the classical liberals such as Locke, Humboldt, Rousseau and, if I may, Paine of which they are the heirs.
As it turns out, that was wrong. In the wake of America's success in the cold war and the right's success in U.S. politics, the same hubris began to afflict many neocons themselves.
|I know I am probably only contributing to the rubber-necking going on regarding the tyrant Saddam Hussein's execution, but I am linking to the full version here so it is understood why civilized nations have banned this barbarity from their legal codes.|
As Albert Camus once wrote, to be moral during the historial rush of reprisal and revenge, one must be "neither victim nor executioner."
She is a passionate opponent of the occupation, and her writing sparks with rage and indignation. An avid consumer of the press and the Internet, she is well aware of the range of American attitudes about the war; she has her own. When she hears that US forces in Iraq are fighting "terrorists," she notes that the American-installed Iraqi government includes several prominent members of the Islamist Dawa Party, which was behind a string of bombings that killed Iraqi civilians in the 1980s. When she hears that Washington aspires to implant democracy in Iraq, she responds by showing how her rights as a woman are being steadily curtailed by the rise of Islamic fundamentalism sponsored by the very same political parties that the Americans have brought to power. And when the talk turns to "collateral damage," she asserts that "American long-term memory is exclusive to American traumas. The rest of the world should simply 'put the past behind,' 'move forward,' 'be pragmatic,' and 'get over it.'"Yet while most Iraqis do indeed hate the occupation, there is a fear that an American withdrawal will, in the words of a Shiite matron, result in
A harsh verdict, to be sure, but perhaps it needs to be heard. The underlying irony of all this should be obvious. The writer of these words is a young female computer programmer (now twenty-seven), whose resourceful English (acquired during a long stay abroad in her childhood) would put many Americans to shame. Her familiarity with American culture and principles repeatedly comes to the fore; indeed, it is her intense awareness of American political discourse and reporting that infuses her writing. If any Iraqi can be receptive to America's grand democratic design for Iraq, surely it ought to be someone like her. And yet, as her book dramatically demonstrates, she and her occupiers may temporarily inhabit the same country, but they continue to live in different worlds.
"massacres... between the tribes, between the parties and between the Sunnis and Shiites, of course.'" She hastens to add that "no one who loves their country accepts an occupation. Everybody wants freedom."And this is why Iraq is such a tragedy of the Bush Administration's making. The U.S. is truly damned if we do and damned if we don't regarding withdrawal. I should clarify this by stating that we are more damned if we do withdraw and Iraq becomes the next killing field of ethnic and religious cleansing. Can there be any doubt the U.S., along with the fanatics and jihadists, would be responsible for this gruesome situation? Is there any doubt that if we do withdraw and genocide does occur that the U.S. will not be deploying another mass of troops to stop and contain the situation?
A Pentagon assessment of security conditions in Iraq concluded Monday that attacks against American and Iraqi targets had surged this summer and autumn to their highest level, and called violence by Shiite militants the most significant threat in Baghdad.The report goes on to describe Shiite death squads as more dangerous and violent than either insurgents or terrorist foreign fighters. This trend is frightening and portends increased ethnic cleansing, if not genocide, if the United States suddenly pulls out of Iraq leaving a vacuum of security.
The report, which covers the period from early August to early November, found an average of almost 960 attacks against Americans and Iraqis every week, the highest level recorded since the Pentagon began issuing the quarterly reports in 2005, with the biggest surge in attacks against American-led forces. That was an increase of 22 percent from the level for early May to early August, the report said.
While most attacks were directed at American forces, most deaths and injuries were suffered by the Iraqi military and civilians.
The report is the most comprehensive public assessment of the American-led operation to secure Baghdad, which began in early August. About 17,000 American combat troops are currently involved in the beefed-up security operation.
According to the Pentagon assessment, the operation initially had some success in reducing killings as militants concentrated on eluding capture and hiding their weapons. But sectarian death squads soon adapted, resuming their killings in regions of the capital that were not initially targets of the overstretched American and Iraqi troops.
Shiite militias, the Pentagon report said, also received help from allies among the Iraqi police. “Shia death squads leveraged support from some elements of the Iraqi Police Service and the National Police who facilitated freedom of movement and provided advance warning of upcoming operations,” the report said.
A team of C.I.A. analysts, however, has devised a new, and possibly potent, way of looking at the problem. The agency’s “Ziggurat of Zealotry” arrays Islamists into a pyramid in the Mesopotamian style, with each ascending level representing a leap in radicalization. At the bottom of the ziggurat are peaceful individuals who concern themselves with what some call the greater jihad, the personal struggle to be a dutiful and pious Muslim. Some of those individuals step up to join groups like Tablighi Jamaat — a missionary organization founded in India — that organize devout Muslims to effect change in their societies. Above that, you find groups with more radical political agendas, typically the overthrow or replacement of governments they regard as repressive and hostile to Islam as they believe it should be practiced. The next step abandons politics for violence exclusively. The top level covers only those who extend this mandate for violence globally and seek to destroy the Western nation-state system.While it is hard for me to understand how any intelligent person with any knowledge of Islam and the myriad ways Muslims practice their faith can believe Muslims are inherently violent, this easy to understand 'ziggurat" may help the black-and-white types to acknowledge gray when thinking about Muslims and violence.
The ziggurat is said to be the brainchild of Cindy Storer, an analyst at the C.I.A.’s counterterror center, who presented it publicly at the University of Pennsylvania in March. The model usefully implies that recruiters from one level draw almost exclusively from the level directly beneath them. It also implies that radicalization is neither fluid nor inevitable; radical Muslims are not destined to become violent. The task for counterterrorism, then, is to disrupt the “elevators” that pull individuals and resources up the ziggurat without taking steps to incur the ire of lower levels and nudge them upward.
Holocaust deniers and skeptics from around the world gathered at a government-sponsored conference here today to discuss their theories about whether six million Jews were indeed killed by the Nazis during World War II and whether gas chambers existed.When conferences such as these are organized, I think it is important to remember what Noam Chomsky wrote about the Holocaust in American Power and the New Mandarins four decades ago:
In a speech opening the two-day conference, Rasoul Mousavi, head of the Iranian Foreign Ministry’s Institute for Political and International Studies, which organized the event, said it was an opportunity for scholars to discuss the subject “away from Western taboos and the restriction imposed on them in Europe.”
The foreign ministry had said that 67 foreign researchers from 30 countries were scheduled to take part. Among those speaking today are David Duke, the American white-supremacist politician and former Ku Klux Klan leader, and Georges Thiel, a French writer who has been prosecuted in France over his denials of the Holocaust.
Mr. Duke’s remarks late this afternoon are expected to assert that no gas chambers or extermination camps were actually built during the war, on the ground that killing Jews that way would have been much too bothersome and expensive when the Nazis could have used much simpler methods, according to an advance summary of his speech published by the institute.
By entering into the arena of argument and counterargument, of technical feasibility and tactics, of footnotes and citations, by accepting the presumption of legitimacy of debate on certain issues, one has already lost one's humanity