Volume 17, Number 5
Pick a Card
Israelis: Victims No Longer?
Israel: Eager Tool of U.S. Imperialism?
Cafeteria Catholicism and the Culture of Dissent
Secret Draft of 'Patriot II': Justice Department Drafts Sweeping Expansion of Anti-Terrorism Act
When U.S. Foreign Policy Meets Biblical Prophecy
Bushenomics: Losing Momentum
A Rap Poem
Two Poems: Hummer Apocalypse and Limb
My Mother Would Kill Me
Seven Stereoscopic Civil War Slides
As the world protests against war, we hear again the lies of old. "A painful decision," say the supporters of an invasion. But it is not they who will feel the pain: It will be the Iraqi infants writhing in the dust when the cluster bombs fall.
In "Dulce et decorum est," his classic poem from the First World War, Wilfred Owen described young soldiers, doomed to die, "like old beggars under sacks," and a man's "hanging face, like a devil's sick of sin."
If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood
What has changed since Owen wrote those words, not long before his own death in the trenches? In the Gulf war in 1991, the slaughter of Iraqi conscripts was conducted in a similar industrial way. Three brigades of the United States 1st Mechanised Infantry Division used snow ploughs mounted on tanks and combat earth movers, mostly at night, to bury terrified Iraqi teenagers, many of them still alive, including the wounded, in more than 70 miles of trenches. A brigade commander, Colonel Anthony Moreno, said: "For all I know, we could have killed thousands."
The policy of General Norman Schwarzkopf, the American field commander, was that the Iraqi dead were not to be counted. "This is the first war in modern times," said one of his aides, "where every screwdriver, every nail, is accounted for." As for human beings, "I don't think anybody is going to come up with an accurate count for Iraqi dead."
In fact, Schwarzkopf did provide figures to Congress, indicating that at least 100,000 Iraqi soldiers had been killed. He offered no estimate of civilian deaths. Almost a year later, the Medical Education Trust in London published a comprehensive study of casualties. Up to a quarter of a million men, women and children were killed or died in the aftermath of the American-led attack.
As in 1914-18, the war was a bloodfest, with one difference. Almost all the casualties were on one side, and as many as half of them were civilians. A quarter of the 148 American soldiers who died were killed by other Americans. Most of the British who died were also killed by Americans, including nine blown to bits by an American tank. Little of this was reported at the time. The massacre of conscripts and the wounded was revealed six months later by one tenacious reporter, Knut Royce, in New York's Newsday. Although journalists sent to report the Gulf war enjoyed extraordinary communications, their editors allowed them to be corralled in a censorial "pool" system.
Little had changed since 1914-18 when the Times correspondent Sir Philip Gibbs (compliant media stars were knighted then; nowadays it's more likely to be an OBE) wrote: "We were our own censors . . . some of us wrote the truth . . . apart from the naked realism of horrors and losses, and criticism of the facts which did not come within the liberty of our pen." When the Gulf war was over, the BBC's foreign editor, John Simpson, reported from Baghdad: "As for the human casualties, tens of thousands of them, or the brutal effect the war had on millions of others . . . we didn't see much of that." If the Gulf war was the most "covered" war in history, it was also the most covered-up. With honourable exceptions, the massacre of so many human beings was not considered news.
Every effort is now being made to repeat this travesty, this "old lie." In his interview on 6 February with the Prime Minister, the BBC's Jeremy Paxman's only reference to the human cost of the Bush/Blair adventure was to repeat a question from a woman in his audience. "She asked you," said Paxman to Tony Blair, "about the deaths of innocent people. I mean, as a Christian, how do you feel about innocent people dying?" He then allowed Blair to get away with a self-serving answer that included the lie that, prior to NATO's attack on Yugoslavia, he "let the peace negotiations go on for several more weeks in order to try and get them sorted."
Paxman made no mention of a United Nations estimate, based on World Health Organisation figures, that "as many as 500,000 people could require treatment as a result of direct and indirect injuries" and that an attack was "likely to cause an outbreak of diseases in epidemic if not pandemic proportions." Neither did he ask Blair how he could justify attacking a nation where almost half the population were children, and a large proportion of them were stricken from the consequences of an American and British-driven blockade. If the American and British governments had no quarrel with the Iraqi people and wished to liberate them, Paxman might have asked, quoting Blair himself, why was the United States currently blocking more than $5 billion worth of humanitarian supplies approved by the Security Council?
No, the BBC's inquisitor was more concerned with the complexities of a second UN resolution, a fig leaf, an amoral contrivance. The clear implication was that as long as the killing of large numbers of innocent human beings was backed by a second resolution, "the problem" was solved. That the Security Council's principal members were themselves the sources of numerous human rights crimes was not deemed relevant.
Suppressing the human cost of war is the "old lie" in Wilfred Owen's wonderful poem. Yet in 2003, a privileged establishment journalist paid large amounts of public money to ensure that the prime minister did not have to justify the old lie, just as he ensured that Blair did not have to explain the hypocrisy and double standards of Britain's long and cynical role in Iraq. He even allowed Blair contemptuously to dismiss "the oil thing" as a "conspiracy theory." With the lives of thousands in the balance, he asked Blair if he prayed with George W. Bush.
The opposition of the great majority of the British people, and of people all over the world, to an unprovoked attack on another country has illuminated the indecency of those who claim to speak for and share the public's essentially liberal values. From behind a humanitarian mask, they promote killing. To this "liberal" lobby, it is wrong to kill innocent people if you are Saddam Hussein (evil) and right to kill them if you are Tony Blair (good). The actual deaths and the crime of killing are irrelevant; the attitude of their killers is what matters.
On 3 February, I pointed out that the Observer (London), in its editorial of 19 January, had finally buried the principled "freethinking" legacy of its great editor, David Astor. The paper that had stood against British imperialism's attack on Egypt in 1956 announced it was for attacking Iraq. Coming to the defence of the Observer's betrayal of its history and readers was the Guardian (London) group's latest right-wing provocateur, David Aaronovitch, who exemplifies the mask-wearers.
"For many of us [supporting an attack on Iraq]," wrote Aaronovitch, "this has become the most difficult and painful judgement to make." Painful? What pain will he feel? Pain is what the children on the dirt floor felt. Pain is what dying Iraqi infants, who are denied painkillers by the Anglo-American blockade, feel. Ask Dennis Halliday, the former UN assistant secretary general and UN humanitarian co-ordinator for Iraq, who watched them die and demanded that the embargo's enforcers, such as Blair, join him and hear the children's screams. Who among the "liberals" who say their motive for backing Bush and Blair is to "liberate" the Iraqi people has spoken out against this medieval siege that has "liberated" hundreds of thousands of Iraqis from life? Their specious compassion is like that of the man who stands besides a torturer, reassuring the victim that his ordeal will end if he accepts the torturer's terms.
In his seminal essay "The Banality of Evil," Edward S Herman described the important state function of certain journalists and commentators as "normalising the unthinkable for the general public." What it is wonderful to see these days is that they have failed. There has never been a time of such overwhelming popular opposition to a war before it began. What Aaronovitch calls "the left" are people of decency and common sense from right across the political spectrum.
I read a letter recently by a former conservative Australian politician, Bob Solomon, writing on behalf of other Australian Tories. Its deeply offended and angry tone is representative of the feelings of millions. He wrote: "Willful mixing of the 'war against terrorism' with alleged threat from Iraq is an insult to our intelligence, and if there's one thing I like less than mindless war, it's being treated like an idiot by people not bright enough to know we know or too full of their own importance to care. George Bush Junior is the worst leader of a major democracy I have observed for more than 50 years."
Today, all over the world, the common decency of the majority of humanity is ranged against Bush and Blair and their suburban propagandists, who can either listen and draw back and save countless lives - or they can do as Bertolt Brecht suggested in "The Solution":
The Secretary of the Writers' Union
© John Pilger. A longer version of this article appeared on ZNet on February 17, 2003.
We Must Pray Fervently „ and Precisely „ for our Soldiers: The Case of General Anton Dostler
As a college student in the late 1920s, my father, Cecil Kent Emery, served in the Reserve Officers Training Corps (R.O.T.C.), receiving his commission as an officer in the U.S. Army Reserves upon graduation. He married my mother at the beginning of the Great Depression; throughout the Depression my mother and he lived with her parents. A few months before the attack on Pearl Harbor, my father formed a new law firm with two other lawyers, each of whom died before the war was over (one in combat, the other in an automobile accident). On the day itself of the Pearl Harbor attack, my father was moving into his and my mother's first home. That afternoon he received the call summoning him to serve as an officer in World War II. My father was then 37 years old, called to serve at such an advanced age because of his training in R.O.T.C. and his commission in the reserves.
My father was first commissioned in the Second Division of the U.S. Cavalry, which fought in the North African campaign. With the Fifth Army troops he landed in Italy at the Anzio beachhead, where he survived that great battle. Thereafter he was part of the allied occupation forces in Italy, until they reached Rome. At that point, as an experienced attorney, he was transferred to the Judge Advocates Office of the U.S. Army. Soon afterwards he was given a grave assignment that affected his understanding for the rest of his life: he was appointed as the defense counsel for the German four-star general, General Anton Dostler, in the first allied war trial in World War II, which took place in the Palace of Justice at Rome, 8-10 October 1945. That trial, for better or worse, was also intended to establish precedents for the war trials that would follow in Nuremberg.
According to an international convention, captured soldiers are beneficiaries of all of the provisions pertaining to prisoners of war provided they are dressed in uniform and are therefore recognizable as "enemy combatants." If they are not so dressed, or disguised in their enemy's uniform, their protection under the convention is not assured. The Bush administration has appealed to this particular convention, among others, concerning the al-Qaeda suspects captured in Afghanistan, who were not in the uniform of regular forces, and who have not been afforded any of the regular rights established for prisoners of war by the Geneva Convention.
Here is the event for which General Dostler, an officer in the regular German army and not of any Nazi "special forces," was tried. United States O.S.S. troops (13 enlisted men and two officers) had landed in Northern Italy far behind German lines. They were not in uniform, Dostler claimed, but were disguised as Italian civilians. Their mission was to bomb the access routes in the mountains between Austria and Italy, in order to cut off supplies to German troops. They were captured by the German troops in a brigade commanded by German Brigadier General Almers. The Germans at first thought that they were Italian civilian saboteurs (the disguise succeeded). Report of the capture was sent to the headquarters of General Dostler. Dostler ordered that they be executed, at which point the captured soldiers revealed that they were in fact Americans. This fact was eventually established by a German intelligence unit. Dostler then withdrew his order of execution and informed his superior, General Albert Kesselring, commanding general of all German forces in southeast Europe. Dostler's adjutant officer reported to him that Kesselring, in response, had instead ordered the soldiers to be executed. Dostler told his adjutant to inform General Almers of Kesselring's decision, and Almers then carried out the execution. At the end of the War, the captive General Dostler was accused of carrying out an "illegal order" in this affair. Dostler maintained that he did not issue the order, but only told his adjutant to inform General Almers of the supreme commander's order.
As should be evident, there were several legal weaknesses in the case against Dostler. First, it was not clear that executing captured enemy soldiers disguised by not being in uniform violated any convention pertaining to prisoners of war. Second, it could not be established that Dostler had in fact issued the order of execution. Indeed, the prosecutor, my father and other legal advisors involved in the case determined that the charges against Dostler would need to be dropped for lack of evidence, according to the standard rules of evidence in the law, which pertained as well in the Military Code until that time. This presented an enormous dilemma to the legal officers charged with the case. For months, the Roosevelt administration in Washington, D.C., assisted especially by Mr. Henry Luce of Time-Life magazines, had been promising the American people that "not a single German officer guilty of war crimes would be set free." Obviously, should the first German officer tried in an allied war trial be exonerated and released, it would be an embarrassment for the Roosevelt administration.
For that reason, the prosecutor and my father sent a wire to Washington, informing the administration of the situation. Shortly thereafter, the prosecuting officer received the reply: "Lacking standard evidence, hearsay will be accepted as evidence in the trial." This decision established a precedent for the subsequent war trials in Nuremberg. Thus General Dostler was convicted on the "hearsay" testimony of a turned-informant in U.S. custody, otherwise unverifiable, asserting that the captured troops had been in uniform, and that Dostler had directly issued the order. General Dostler was executed by a firing squad on 12 October 1945. It was an ashen-faced prosecuting officer who presented Washington's response to my father, with this comment: "Hope to God we never lose a war." Both officers understood the dangerous consequences of the precedent just set in their trial: Captured soldiers could now be tried according to a very low standard of evidence; after the fact, soldiers were liable to be found guilty for carrying out the orders of their superior commanders, as all soldiers are required to do; an ancient maxim would now apply, "Justice is what the Winners say it is." Hope to God we never lose a war.
Whatever the actual truth in this murky affair, two things are clear: the lawyers involved in the case originally judged that there was insufficient evidence for convicting General Dostler, according to the normal canons of evidence; however evasive or passive he may have been in doing so, General Dostler obeyed the order of his superior officer. Are we expected to believe that officers in the U.S. military are encouraged to disobey the orders of their superiors whenever they think that the command is morally dubious?
After further service in preparing war trials, my father, seemingly trusted by his commanding officers, was sent to Romania, where he was charged with extracting a woman spy who had served the Russians and Americans during the war, but whom American officials were now worried would fall into the hands of our new Communist enemy. Having successfully completed that mission, my father finally returned home in late 1946 (or early 1947). He entered the war as a first lieutenant, exited as a major, was soon promoted to colonel in the reserves, and just before retiring from his reserve service in the National Guard was proposed for promotion to one-star general. Above all, however, as a civilian my father was a man of law. He often said to me: "Son, the American political experiment is extremely volatile. The nation brings together people from every corner of the globe, with different historical experiences, different (sometimes contrary) religions, different understandings of what is honorable and dishonorable, etc. The only thing that binds us together is the willingness on the part of each to abide by a rule of law." Precisely according to that principle, until the end of his life he was deeply disturbed about the dark implications of the trial of General Anton Dostler.
As should be obvious from my retelling of it, the account of General Dostler's trial made an indelible impression on my mind, and has rushed back into my thoughts in light of the circumstances in which the American people, driven by the implacable "will-to-power" of the Bush administration, now find themselves. In my judgment, George W. Bush has cast our soldiers into harm's way no less in the moral than in the physical order. I shall elaborate.
Among their many ploys to "win the American people over to the invasion of Iraq," Bush, his subordinates and publicists appeal to sound bites extracted from the so-called just war theory. That theory was invented by Saint Augustine, and then developed by many medieval theologians, including Thomas Aquinas. I advise readers to return to their writings, and to discover the theory in its integrity. According to their criteria, the times when war can be prosecuted as just are few indeed, even by standards of medieval warfare, which did not employ what Bush and his shills gloat over as "the most lethal arsenal ever assembled by mankind." Mr. Powell's famous policy of "Overwhelming Force" ipso facto subverts the criterion of "proportionate force." At its foundation, the medieval justification of war is based on the notion of self-defense against an invader, a criterion which would seem to apply more to the Iraqis than to the American pre-emptive invaders.
With fine historical irony, in the minds of Augustine and Thomas war is justified especially when it is in defence of the Catholic Faith and the Catholic faithful; it was under that rubric that medieval theologians theoretically justified the crusades against the Muslims, who had captured the holy places in Palestine, and had killed or subjugated Christian peoples living there. (We seldom hear modern advocates of just war theory, even at the Cushwa or Erasmus Centers, invoking that criterion!) But readers should especially attend Augustine's words expressing that war always bespeaks a moral failure, that the criteria which might justify a war can never be preserved in the heat of battle, and that war inevitably compromises morally the souls of all who are required to engage in it. In short, war is an historical reality sub ratione peccati, a result of Original Sin fraught with all of its ravaging effects, which can only be healed by penance and the supplication of divine grace and absolution. Do our leaders and their neo-con and apocalyptic evangelical propagandists, who invoke the just war theory (even under the name of Augustine), have a federally funded program of public penance in place, which their warriors will be required to undergo when their missions are completed? In any event, Augustine's anxieties were fully realized in the crusades, in the sacking of Byzantium, unrestrained blood-letting, rape, pillage, etc. The consequences of that "just war" have been long-lived indeed, still at play in the recent conflicts in the Balkans and now surely in our foray into the lands of Islamic civilization. These long-lived consequences confirm another observation of Augustine, that the results of war are almost always worse and more tenacious than the "problem" they were meant to solve.
In the seventeenth century, in view of the carnage and destruction of the religious wars in Europe, the "Princes of the Natural Law" (as Giambattista Vico called them), Grotius, Pufendorf, Seldon, adapted the medieval theory of just war by eliminating all of its theological dimensions, in an attempt to base the theory "on reason alone." (Arguably, the removal of all theological underpinnings and restrictions weakened the coherence of the doctrine.) That seemed necessary, since religion was now the problem and no part of the solution. Again, the core around which their theories were based is the notion of national self-defense against an invading aggressor. The Bush policy of pre-emptive invasion was precisely what they sought to render illegitimate, by "universal agreement." It is that fundamental idea that has governed those who appeal to international law ever since; it is for that reason that experienced diplomats around the world are horrified at the policy and "justifications" of the Bush administration for its pre-emptive adventure and experiment.
As far as Catholics are concerned, the question concerning the invasion of Iraq is now closed. In a fine, straightforward statement in the South Bend Tribune (Dialogue, Sunday, March 2, 2003), Bishop John D'Arcy has accurately stated the criteria for a so-called Just War, has shown that according to authoritative Catholic teaching "all other peaceful means must be exhausted" before armed force can be considered (exactly as French and German diplomats propose), and that the Pope John Paul II, the bishops and other Catholic authorities have declared that a pre-emptive invasion of Iraq, without approval of the United Nations and before all other means for peace have been exhausted, would be immoral and unjust. In this instance, the judgment of the ecclesiastical authorities accords with the "sense of the faithful" around the world (except with the little band of suborned Catholic Neo-Cons, who make the rounds of the talk shows on Fox News and National "Public" Radio).
Think, then, of our soldiers and the case of General Dostler, and the moral and legal danger into which they are being cast. Now that the Bush administration has set yet another precedent, in the treatment of prisoners of war at Guantanamo Bay, imagine the jeopardy our soldiers will be in should they be captured, in uniform or not. And with so many moral authorities stating that a pre-emptive invasion will be unjust, and is unjustifiable, think of General Dostler, and what our soldiers could be held accountable for, simply for obeying orders, if things go wrong. Let us hope to God we never lose a war, as my father's fellow-officer remarked.
Considering all of this, I have devised the form of a prayer that we should make for all those soldiers enlisted in Mr. Bush's adventure:
I have a personal investment in this prayer, which I dare not expose because of Damoclean "advice" issued to all U.S. Army personnel and their extended families by the Defense Department of Mr. Rumsfeld. My wife and I have dubbed this advice the "Uriah Syndrome."
In sum, let us hope to God we never lose a war.
Kent Emery, Jr. is a Professor in the Program of Liberal Studies and the Medieval Institute at the University of Notre Dame. He is the father of six children, all of whom are now married.
Pick a Card
Ariel Sharon is like one of those sleight-of-hand tricksters you see on the pavements of European cities. They mix three cards before your eyes, ask you to pick on of them, turn them upside down and ask you to guess which one is the card you have chosen. You are absolutely sure that you know where the card is—and you are wrong. Always. How does the man do it? Elementary, dear Watson: he keeps up an incessant prattle and diverts your attention for the fraction of a second—and at this moment he changes the layout of the cards.
Therefore, never (but never!) pay attention to what Sharon says. The sole object of all his utterances is to divert your attention. One has to watch his hands and not avert one's eyes from them for a second.
If Sharon had been a contemporary of Voltaire, one could have thought that the great French philosopher meant him when he said: "Men use thought only to justify their wrong-doings, and words only to conceal their thoughts."
This has not changed since Ben-Gurion, the first patron of Sharon's career, wrote in his diary that Sharon is a habitual liar. But the word "liar" is out of place. The sleight-of-hand artist on the pavement is not a liar. He uses words as an instrument of his craft, the way a soldier uses smoke bombs.
For three months Sharon prattled about his strong desire to set up a National Unity Government, in which the Labor Party would serve as a cornerstone. This is necessary, he repeated again and again, in order to allow him to set out on the road to peace. This slogan was the centerpiece of his election campaign. Many voted for him in order to have him as the head of a government in which Labor would be a major component. (Many others voted for the Shinui party, which also promised a "secular" government headed by Sharon and Labor.)
Now everybody can see that Sharon's promises were nothing but a smoke-screen. At the end, Sharon has created exactly the government he intended to set up right from the beginning: a government of the radical right that will do the things the words were designed to hide. At most he was ready to imprison the Labor party in this government, shackled hand and foot, to act as a fig-leaf.
Amram Mitzna has to be commended for refusing to fall into this trap. When Sharon tried to divert his attention by his prattle about peace, Mitzna demanded that he put his words in writing and sign them. Sharon threw him out.
If there had been a competition for the nomination of the four most extreme anti-Palestinian chauvinists in Israel, the winners would surely have been Ariel Sharon, Effy Eytam, Avigdor Liberman and Tommy Lapid. And here they are, wonder of wonders, by sheer accident, the four senior partners in the new government. (Other candidates for the title would have been Benny Eilon, Binyamin Netanyahu, Ehud Olmert, Tsachi Hanegbi and Uzi Landau, all of them ministers in the new government.)
The story does not end with the launching of the government. It is only starting. Witness his speech in the Knesset, introducing his new government to the Knesset. He concluded with a touching personal confession: entering the 76th year of his life (it was the day after his birthday), he has no greater desire than to bring tranquility and peace to our people. When Sharon speaks about peace, it is time to run for cover.
Now, when the cards lie again on the pavement with their faces up, all the commentators in Israel and the world realize that their guesses were wrong again. Because this is the most right-wing, the most nationalistic, the most extreme, the most war-like government Israel has ever had. If someone would set up a government consisting of the French Jean-Marie Le Pen, the Austrian Joerg Haider, the Russian Jirinowsky and the Dutch Fortuyn in Europe, it would have looked like a bunch of bleeding-heart liberals compared to this one. The Europeans can only incite, but Sharon and his partners can act.
This is a government of the settlers. The most prominent representative of the settlers, General Effy Eytam, a man so extreme that even the army could not stand him, got the ministry that is the most important for the settlers: housing. He will build thousands of new homes in the settlements. Sharon will neither "freeze" the settlements nor dismantle them. Quite to the contrary, the settlement campaign will get new impetus.
Some people compare the settlers to the "tail wagging the dog", they believe that this small minority imposes its will on the government. That is an utterly false way of judging reality. In the Sharon era, the government views the settlers as its shock troops. The settlements are the most important weapon in the war against the Palestinian people.
Also wrong are those who believe that Sharon has no vision. He certainly has one. And what a vision it is! He does indeed want to enter history as the man who realized the dream of generations. But this is not the dream of peace, about which he prattles day and night. Peace interests him as last year's snow. He strives for an aim that seems to him vastly more important: to fulfil the aim of Zionism as he understands it: to create a Jewish state that will comprise (at least) all the land between the Mediterranean and the Jordan river, and if possible without Arabs.
When one understands the aim, the composition of the new government is eminently reasonable. It is custom-made. Sharon at the helm. The army in the hands of Shaul Mofaz, the most brutal Arab-fighter of them all. The police in charge of Tsachi Hanegby, a rowdy whose career began with pogroms against Arab students at the university. Eytam building housing units in the settlements. Liberman, himself a settler, responsible for the roads. The treasury, that must finance all this, in the hands of Netanyahu.
In his maiden speech, Mitzna asked of Sharon to stop comparing himself to de Gaulle. For decades, Sharon has encouraged commentators at home and abroad to spread the legend that at any moment this tough, battle-scared general will turn out to be the Israeli edition of the great Frenchman who ceded all of Algeria to the "terrorists", while evacuating a million French settlers.
Sharon—a de Gaulle? Stop listening to the prattle. Just look at his hands!
© Uri Avnery. Uri Avnery is an Israeli journalist and peace activist with Gus Shalom.
Israelis: Victims No Longer?
Iris Murdoch, the Oxford moral philosopher and novelist, thought suffering was not necessarily redemptive; it did not always improve us morally or spiritually. Taking her cue from Plato, she argued that while suffering might well be a constituent of the moral life, it must never be an end in itself. Moreover, evil, which she often characterized as the good degenerating into egotism, could corrupt its innocent victims. From the late 1930s, Murdoch was involved in a number of friendships with Jewish refugees from Fascism; she was pupil, lover or muse to several, including the Nobel Laureate Elias Canetti. The moral abyss that was the Holocaust came to haunt her. Yet, in 1970, she took the considerable risk of writing a novel, A Fairly Honourable Defeat, in which the amoral, destructive protagonist in the story, Julius King, an urbane Jewish ³migr³, is discovered to have the numbers of a concentration camp tattooed on his arm. In an earlier novel, The Nice and the Good, Murdoch portrayed another, very different Holocaust survivor, Willie Kost. Although Willie is trapped by his past, he nevertheless spends his time on "small, non-grandiose exercises in love." Julius King, on the other hand, claims to have had a "cosy war." His period in Belsen is never acknowledged; the price he has paid in surviving the horror and the powerlessness is the loss of his humanity. A cold repressed anger turns him into a monster of egoism, a puppet-master whose raison d'etre is the exercise of power. He deliberately places himself outside the circle of ordinary, fallible human community.
Primo Levi, the Italian Jew who survived Auschwitz and wrote so unsparingly and unsentimentally about life in the camp, never doubted that the evil revealed in the Holocaust had universal meaning: it was not only a tragedy for Jews, but for all humankind. Thus he refused the temptation to enlist this catastrophe to shield the new Jewish state from criticism. When, after the wars of 1967 and 1973, Israel held onto conquered land (in defiance of U.N. resolutions) and continued to dispossess Palestinians, Levi urged the Israelis not to use a "sacred history of suffering" as the rationale for what he called their "tribal aggression" „ a very different position to that taken by another Auschwitz survivor, Eli Wiesel. Through his writings and his witness to that terrible moment, Wiesel has earned iconic status as the quintessential moral man. However, his embrace of the temptation that Primo Levi spurned is seldom recognized. No matter how brutal Israeli actions become, Wiesel is silent or defensive, reserving his sympathy for Jews. His public utterances reveal a chilling indifference to the plight of Palestinians. Last fall in the British press, Wiesel was calling with pious insistence for war with Iraq „ even after UN Resolution 1441 tried to pave the way for peaceful disarmament. Historical amnesia has allowed him to forget that before the establishment of Israel, Arabs, unlike Europeans, were, on the whole, hospitable to their Jewish minorities. His stance comes perilously close to the one satirized by the Israeli novelist Amos Oz in The Slopes of Lebanon: "Our sufferings have granted us immunity papers, as it were, a moral carte blanche...We were victims and have suffered so much. Once a victim, always a victim, and victim-hood entitles its owners to a moral exemption."
A story in the New York Times Magazine (Feb. 16), on radical young settlers engaged in a wholesale land-grab in the Occupied Territories, provides a graphic illustration of stunted moral development in a new generation of Israelis who have appropriated the history and memory of the Holocaust to justify a savage nationalism. These predatory eretz Zionists intimidate Palestinians into abandoning their homes and land which they then plunder, pillage and expropriate. Yehoshefat Tor, the founder of one of the settlements, declares "the Torah says we should kill all the Arabs." These people seem stripped of culture and possessed by nihilistic rage.
Curiously, in a bit of bourgeois bowdlerizing, the Times chose to advertise the story on the magazine's cover under the title "Israel's Rebellious Teen Settlers." This is no youthful rebellion. Rather it is an expression of the ruthless expansionism that Israel's Prime Minister, Ariel Sharon, has advocated for years. In 1998, in an address to the extreme right-wing Tsomet Party, Sharon instructed the outpost settler movement to "grab as many hilltops as (you) can to enlarge the settlements, because everything we take now will stay ours..." Chris McGreal, reporting for the Guardian (London) on the composition of the new Sharon governrment, noted that it is made up of right-wing parties, one of which advocates the complete expulsion of the Palestinians from the Occupied Territories. Saeeb Erekat, a Palestinian minister, says "it's a government for the settlers, from the settlers and by the settlers...Sharon has made it clear that he wants the Palestinians to surrender to him." Towards the end of her New York Times essay, author Samantha Shapiro writes that the young settlers "seem to the Palestinians to be embodying their nightmare fear: that the state of Israel is a lawless, boundless anarchic occupation, and not the effort of a group of refugees to establish a homeland in borders delineated by the United Nations." However, the settlers themselves "portray outposts as a retort to the horror of living in ghettos, powerless and ashamed. The settlements are seen as a repudiation of the long Jewish history of victimization." So we have come full circle. The evil of the Holocaust has been internalized by the descendents of its victims who „ in turn „ have now become the victimizers.
In the late 1970s, Jonathan (Jay) Pollard, the American who spied for Israel, took a summer course on the politics of South Africa which my husband was teaching. Jay was an outstanding student and, when asked, the spouse supported his application to graduate school. The future spy did not conceal his Zionist commitments „ but neither did he brandish them. After his arrest, we learned from a British journalist investigating the case, that Pollard had subsequently become fluent in Afrikaans, an accomplishment that could well have made him an ideal conduit in the mid-1980s when Israel and South Africa were in collusion. Israel, which had consistently defied the 1977 UN mandatory arms embargo against South Africa, became the major supplier of military technology to the apartheid state. Arms were manufactured under license from Israel and the two countries cooperated in the production of nuclear weapons. There was cooperation between their military academies and a regular exchange of instructors. The Holocaust and the history of discrimination and pogroms against Jews had not nurtured in Pollard's Israeli handlers, or Jay himself, a sense of solidarity with the world's oppressed non-Jews. Apartheid's Africans were betrayed without compunction and also, in a tragic irony, were those universalist South African Jews who had joined the liberation movement „ people like Ruth First and her partner Joe Slovo. In 1982 Ruth was killed by a letter bomb, sent courtesy of South African state security, the same folk with whom Pollard and Israel were doing business.
Manipulation of the Holocaust is having a distorting effect on current US political discourse at a time when resolving the Israeli/Palestinian crisis is crucial. A majority of American Jews and their cultural and political organizations continue to regard criticism of Israel as prima facie evidence of anti-Semitism. In May last year, writing in the New York Review of Books, Professor Tony Judt confronted the myth of "the small victim community," arguing that "since 1967 Israel has changed in ways that render its traditional self-description absurd. It is now a colonial power, by some accounts the world's forth largest military ... by comparison, Palestinians are weak." Calling him Israel's "dark id," Judt warned that Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has encouraged a contempt and cynicism towards Palestinians that will be "hard to shake." In his new book, Israel and Palestine: Out of the Ashes; The Search for Jewish Identity in the 21st Century, Marc Ellis wrestles with the meaning for Jews of a Jewish state that has become an idol, pursing policies that were "in another age and in different circumstances carried out against us. Ghettoization of an entire people, collective punishment for the resistance of the few..." He expresses disappointment with American Jewish leaders who call only "for unity against an 'uncivilized' foe and for loving rather than criticizing the state of Israel." Ellis wants Jews everywhere to stop taking refuge in narratives of themselves as the suffering innocent; it is hypocritical, he says, "when victims now empowered claim victim-hood." He exhorts them to return to the prophetic tradition that was Judaism's unique gift to history. At the core of this tradition is the requirement to act justly. Only this, he believes, could break the political impasse in Israel/Palestine: "Without the prophetic, the world collapses in upon itself." A greater Israel „ purged of Palestinians „ would be a barren achievement (and in Tony Judt's words, "a rogue state"), a far cry from what the prophet lsaiah hoped would be "a light unto the nations."
Postscript. As I was writing this, an Israeli friend (a member of Ta'ayush, an Israeli/ Palestinian peace group) phoned to say that after trying to deliver food to the Occupied Territories he was detained for several hours. (Jews are not allowed into Bethlehem, hence his arrest.) The sympathetic Israeli policeman who was taking down his details, said that he had watched the light go out in Palestinian eyes; a different kind of despair was overtaking them. My friend asked whether this would mean more suicide bombing. Not necessarily, was the policeman's response. This time, he suggested, it was the same despair as that experienced by Jews as they went passively to their slaughter in the concentration camps.
Ann Pettifer is an alumna of Notre Dame.
How the News will be Censored in this War: A new CNN system of "script approval" suggests the Pentagon will have nothing to worry about
Already, the American press is expressing its approval of the coverage of American forces which the US military intends to allow its reporters in the next Gulf war. The boys from CNN, CBS, ABC and the New York Times will be "embedded" among the US marines and infantry. The degree of censorship hasn't quite been worked out. But it doesn't matter how much the Pentagon cuts from the reporters' dispatches. A new CNN system of "script approval" „ the iniquitous instruction to reporters that they have to send all their copy to anonymous officials in Atlanta to ensure it is suitably sanitized- suggests that the Pentagon and the Department of State have nothing to worry about. Nor do the Israelis.
Indeed, reading a new CNN document, "Reminder of Script Approval Policy," fairly takes the breath away. "All reporters preparing package scripts must submit the scripts for approval," it says. "Packages may not be edited until the scripts are approved. All packages originating outside Washington, LA (Los Angeles) or NY (New York), including all international bureaus, must come to the ROW in Atlanta for approval."
The date of this extraordinary message is 27 January. The "ROW" is the row of script editors in Atlanta who can insist on changes or "balances" in the reporter's dispatch. "A script is not approved for air unless it is properly marked approved by an authorized manager and duped (duplicated) to burcopy (bureau copy). When a script is updated it must be re-approved, preferably by the originating approving authority."
Note the key words here: "approved" and "authorized." CNN's man or woman in Kuwait or Baghdad „ or Jerusalem or Ramallah „ may know the background to his or her story; indeed, they will know far more about it than the "authorities" in Atlanta. But CNN's chiefs will decide the spin of the story.
CNN, of course, is not alone in this paranoid form of reporting. Other US networks operate equally anti-journalistic systems. And it's not the fault of the reporters. CNN's teams may use clich³s and don military costumes - you will see them do this in the next war - but they try to get something of the truth out. Next time, though, they're going to have even less chance.
Just where this awful system leads is evident from an intriguing exchange last year between CNN's reporter in the occupied West Bank town of Ramallah, and Eason Jordan, one of CNN's top honchos in Atlanta.
The journalist's first complaint was about a story by the reporter Michael Holmes on the Red Crescent ambulance drivers who are repeatedly shot at by Israeli troops. "We risked our lives and went out with ambulance drivers ... for a whole day. We have also witnessed ambulances from our window being shot at by Israeli soldiers. ... The story received approval from Mike Shoulder. The story ran twice and then Rick Davis (a CNN executive) killed it. The reason was we did not have an Israeli army response, even though we stated in our story that Israel believes that Palestinians are smuggling weapons and wanted people in the ambulances."
The Israelis refused to give CNN an interview, only a written statement. This statement was then written into the CNN script. But again it was rejected by Davis in Atlanta. Only when, after three days, the Israeli army gave CNN an interview did Holmes's story run - but then with the dishonest inclusion of a line that said the ambulances were shot in "crossfire" (i.e. that Palestinians also shot at their own ambulances).
The reporter's complaint was all too obvious. "Since when do we hold a story hostage to the whims of governments and armies? We were told by Rick that if we do not get an Israeli on-camera we would not air the package. This means that governments and armies are indirectly censoring us and we are playing directly into their own hands."
The relevance of this is all too obvious in the next Gulf War. We are going to have to see a US army officer denying everything the Iraqis say if any report from Iraq is to get on air. Take another of the Ramallah correspondent's complaints last year. In a package on the damage to Ramallah after Israel's massive incursion last April, "we had already mentioned right at the top of our piece that Israel says it is doing all these incursions because it wants to crack down on the infrastructure of terror. However, obviously that was not enough. We were made by the ROW (in Atlanta) to repeat this same idea three times in one piece, just to make sure that we keep justifying the Israeli actions."
But the system of "script approval" that has so marred CNN's coverage has got worse. In a further and even more sinister message dated 31 January this year, CNN staff are told that a new computerized system of script approval will allow "authorized script approvers to mark scripts (i.e. reports) in a clear and standard manner. Script EPs (executive producers) will click on the colored APPROVED button to turn it from red (unapproved) to green (approved). When someone makes a change in the script after approval, the button will turn yellow." Someone? Who is this someone? CNN's reporters aren't told.
But when we recall that CNN revealed after the 1991 Gulf War that it had allowed Pentagon "trainees" into the CNN newsroom in Atlanta, I have my suspicions.
© Robert Fisk. This column first appeared in The Inpendent (London).
Keenan Review and Vagina Monologues: A Case of Contradiction
The Keenan Revue held at the University of Notre Dame was criticized for including jokes and skits that were blatantly racist and homophobic. Many criticized specific anti-Semitic skits or skits that capitalized on Asian stereotypes. However, very few people criticized the misogynist tones of other skits, in particular one that played on hurtful stereotypes of Notre Dame and Saint Mary's women and presented an unflattering and untrue portrait of the women at Saint Mary's College.
In this skit, a performer stated that the patron saint of the University of Notre Dame was Mary, mother of Jesus. This led him to ask the question: Who then was the patron saint of Saint Mary's College? He answered himself by declaring that it was Mary Magdalene, because she was the patron saint of whores, and compared her to the Saint Mary's student body. In the first version of this skit, pictures of the president and vice president of the SMC freshman class were displayed and labeled as the poster children of whores. The pictures were cut out of the skit when a Saint Mary's student government representative who'd attended the dress rehearsal objected to their inclusion. Several Saint Mary's students protested the performance by passing out flyers opposing the objectionable skit. The flyers were tastefully done and had been approved by student activities.
Many ND students (and a few SMC students) brushed off the skit as a silly harmless joke and criticized those students who protested as being uptight and oversensitive. After the second night of the performance and protest, a student government representative received e-mails from male Notre Dame students regarding the protest. They asked her why she and the protestors (Note: the representative was not affiliated with or involved in the protest) weren't concerning themselves with women's rights and criticized them for wasting time on "trivial" things such as protesting skits. The representative replied by pointing out the connections between the content of the skit and the women's rights activists' concerns and noted the parallels and overlap between the two supposedly separate areas of concern. This callous disregard of the dignity of women is not funny, and a campus that promotes Catholic values should not consider it acceptable. The skit was an obvious indicator that the relationship between Saint Mary's women, Notre Dame women and Notre Dame men has gone beyond the realm of satire. The attitudes and stereotypes have been internalized and are deeply ingrained in students' personal beliefs as well as the wider campus culture.
The rivalry and unease between Saint Mary's and Notre Dame women is only further intensified by the stereotypes held by male and female members of both college communities. If students regard Saint Mary's as a brothel (of sorts), Notre Dame is viewed as a convent. Students at Notre Dame believe Saint Mary's students are "Notre Dame rejects" who were not smart enough to get accepted to Notre Dame and cannot compete intellectually with Notre Dame students. Instead of careers, they pursue "Mrs. degrees" or marriage to wealthy ND men whom they can "live off." The school creates Stepford wives, not student leaders. Saint Mary's students are regarded as sexually promiscuous; many Notre Dame students, both male and female, refer to the student shuttle as the "Sluttle" because Saint Mary's students commonly use the transportation. The Notre Dame women suffer the reverse of the stereotype of the SMC women, being labeled as "ugly" and "prudish." They are both mocked and respected for being "studious" and are regarded as intellectually superior to their counterparts across the road.
Some students regard Saint Mary's as the lesser of the two schools, a secondary institution that is dependent upon Notre Dame in all respects. Members of the Notre Dame community consider Saint Mary's College to be "too liberal" and "not Catholic enough" and the students are disparaged as "lesbians" or "femi-nazis." Progressive activism working to establish a gay/lesbian/bisexual/ straight/questioning student support group on campus or performances of plays such as The Vagina Monologues are often cited as evidence that the College has deviated too far from its Catholic character. But interestingly enough, ND somehow retains that Catholic character despite huge protests over crackdowns on underage drinking, concealment of rape, and the sanctioning of racist, homophobic and misogynist student performances. Many student from both schools protested past years' performances of The Vagina Monologues, but it was more acceptable for (and expected of) Saint Mary's to put them on because they weren't "Catholic enough" to have a "higher standard of morality" to aspire to as ND did. Those who opposed the play were angry with Notre Dame for allowing a sanctioned campus performance but few expressed similar outrage over past performances (sanctioned and not sanctioned) held at Saint Mary's. The implicit message in the Observer columns and letters to the editor objecting to the Monologues was that while such things were expected of SMC, Notre Dame should take the higher moral ground on the issue and rise above its prodigal sister. Like Mary Magdalene, students perceive SMC as tainted and morally loose while Notre Dame is considered to be as pure and morally upright as its namesake.
Despite the Catholic values purportedly promoted by the University and embraced by its students, there are many disturbing attitudes held by some Notre Dame men regarding the women of both schools, especially Saint Mary's women. Some of these opinions border on outright misogyny while others are simply an attitude of superiority. There are "good" and "bad" women and students draw this distinction according to questionable criteria. "Good" women are modest and chaste and are acceptable candidates for marriage. Men should respect and honor them as long as they conform to their role and act deferential and accommodating. "Bad" women are those who dress "slutty" and who "drink too much." If they are raped and sexually assaulted, they receive blame because they "asked for it" (and this is also true in many cases for "good" women). The distinction between these two groups is drawn sharply between the women of Saint Mary's and the women of Notre Dame. The Notre Dame women are considered the "good" women, much like the Virgin Mary. Though they are often labeled as "prudes," they are considered to be virginal and of good repute. The ND men, who regard them as sisters in the Notre Dame family and feel a duty to protect and defend them, place them on pedestals. This behavior echoes the manner of the Southerners of the Civil War and Reconstruction Era, who idolized white Southern women while feeling no qualms about abusing and sexually exploiting black women. If the Notre Dame women are the ones these men will eventually marry, these same men treat the Saint Mary's women like the prostitutes they go to in order to satisfy their sexual urges as not to violate their "sisters" or because these women will not "put out" for them.
The flyers passed out at the SMC student protest of the Keenan Review contained the definitions of "homophobia" and "misogyny," attitudes contrary to the fundamental values of Catholicism, and certainly to an institution that claims to adhere strongly to those values. However the atmosphere of campus culture fosters and implicitly encourages these negative attitudes, and outright ignorance and denial of the issue brings these Catholic values into serious question.
Students and faculty were quick to criticize the Keenan Review for its racist skits and homophobic jokes, but very few showed the same concern and outrage regarding the blatantly anti-woman content. All members of both college communities need to thoroughly evaluate these attitudes about masculinity and femininity in order to align them with values that stress the dignity of all people and their deserving of respect regardless of race, sexual orientation, or gender.
Sarah Edwards is an undergraduate at Saint Mary's College and a member of Common Sense.
Israel: Eager Tool of U.S. Imperialism?
Some recent writings in Common Sense may foster the impression that Israel, as a willing agent (or even instigator) of U.S. policy, is enthusiastically and monolithically backing war with Iraq. Reality, as usual, is more complex. As the probable target of desperate Iraqi reactions, Israelis are very apprehensive about such a war. And, as usual, there are diverse views about it. The following items from Ha'aretz, Israel's leading newspaper, during the three days of February 13, 14, and 16, illustrate this human side of the situation; they could easily be multiplied many times over.
Disquiet on the Home Front
In the document he prepared for the national network that was set up at the Prime Minister's Office to explain the public developments related to the war, Dr. Yehiel Goldstein, deputy director general for strategy and information for the Union of Local Authorities, notes, "The local councils are properly prepared for scenarios ranging from the mild to the middling. Extreme scenarios of the evacuation of tens of thousands of people and a large number of fatalities is beyond the spectrum of their preparedness."
The extremely threatening scenario to which Goldstein is relating is the possibility of a missile with a biological or chemical warhead landing here, for which the state is distributing protective kits. Israelis know that they are supposed to take shelter in sealed rooms, protected spaces in their apartments or shelters, but only a few people are familiar with the operational doctrine of the Home Front Command, which has the security officers in the local councils so worried.
"There are only 60,000 places for evacuees and there are scenarios of 600,000. There are scenarios for extended evacuation and there is no preparedness for such evacuation," writes Goldstein in the document.
True, 71 percent have refreshed their gas mask kits (in Jerusalem, only 60 percent), and another 17 percent say they will do so shortly, but 12 percent have no intention whatsoever of going to the Home Front's distribution points (20 percent in Jerusalem) „ even if Scuds do fall in Israel. (Experience reveals that the percentage of brave people drops greatly after the first barrage, and those are the people who will then crowd the stores.)
Despite declarations by intelligence officers and senior ministers that the chance of missiles reaching Israel is "very low," the public is showing a healthy skepticism about that. Only 37 percent believe Iraq will not attack Israel, while 43 percent believe missiles will hit this country. (Most of these believe in the worst-case scenario: conventional, biological and chemical warheads).
The greatest surprise from the Haaretz survey was the public's positions on matters of principle related to the war. If the expectation was that the public would unequivocally back the Americans in their plan to attack, the survey found a different picture. Only 46 percent of the Israeli public believes that the Americans should attack as soon as possible. On the other hand, 23 percent support the "European option" „ that all efforts at inspection and mediation should be exhausted before an attack is launched „ while 20 percent (among the Arab sector, 75 percent) are opposed to an attack under any circumstances.
The survey therefore places Israel somewhere between the American public, which mostly supports the war, and the European public, which continues to oppose it, with Israelis slightly closer to the Americans.
U.S. Embassy starts evacuating families
The Israeli Foreign Ministry said it does not know of any other embassies that have begun evacuating non-essential personnel, but in light of the U.S. move, it expects most - and certainly those of Western countries - to begin doing so in the next few days.
Israel fears war may benefit Iran
Israelis, Palestinians join anti-war protest
Hey Ho, Here Comes the War
In actuality, what we have here are the militant doctrines of an imperial power, economic self-interest and an attempt to ride the waves of the war to achieve petty political objectives.
Entering a World of Pain
So it is not surprising that the fact that we are being dragged, frightened (or are pushing ourselves, willingly) into the new war is accompanied by mixed, not to say mystical, feelings. On the one hand, there is the same semi-messianic arrogance bordering on nothing less than a "sense of miracle" (in the words of the "national commentator," Major General Amos Gilad) in the face of the Americans' determination to (again) rip out our enemies' fingernails; while, on the other hand, there is the same apocalyptic terror, justifiably based on traumas, lest the cure (elimination of weapons of mass destruction) again put us at greater risk than the disease (the launching of such weapons or the opening of the gates of hell of mega-terrorism).
Be that as it may, the plastic sheeting we futilely neglected is returning, and the duct tape is still being stretched lengthwise, and it's already hard to remember how we lived without "renewing the gas masks" or the "sealed room" - the psychoses that have affected us from time to time for the past dozen years.
This is not the strategic alliance we coveted. It was not in the realm of "life on the edge of the abyss" - with the plastic, the duct tape, the security guards, the tanks in the streets, the "high alerts" - that we aspired to be a light unto the nations. This is not how we imagined the 21st century. Welcome to the "world of pain," even if it's no longer clear who put whom into it.
Alan Dowty is Professor of Political Science and a Fellow of the Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies.
U.S. Plans for a New Nuclear Arsenal: Secret talks may lead to breaking treaties
The Bush administration is planning a secret meeting in August to discuss the construction of a new generation of nuclear weapons, including "mini-nukes," "bunker-busters" and neutron bombs designed to destroy chemical or biological agents, according to a leaked Pentagon document.
The meeting of senior military officials and US nuclear scientists at the Omaha headquarters of the US Strategic Command would also decide whether to restart nuclear testing and how to convince the American public that the new weapons are necessary.
The leaked preparations for the meeting are the clearest sign yet that the administration is determined to overhaul its nuclear arsenal so that it could be used as part of the new "Bush doctrine" of pre-emption, to strike the stockpiles of chemical and biological weapons of rogue states.
Greg Mello, the head of the Los Alamos Study Group, a nuclear watchdog organisation that obtained the Pentagon documents, said the meeting would also prepare the ground for a US breakaway from global arms control treaties, and the moratorium on conducting nuclear tests.
"It is impossible to overstate the challenge these plans pose to the comprehensive test ban treaty, the existing nuclear test moratorium, and US compliance with article six of the nuclear non-proliferation treaty," Mr Mello said.
The documents leaked to Mr Mello are the minutes of a meeting in the Pentagon on January 10 this year called by Dale Klein, the assistant to the defence secretary, Donald Rumsfeld, to prepare the secret conference, planned for "the week of August 4, 2003."
The National Nuclear Security Administration, which is responsible for designing, building and maintaining nuclear weapons, yesterday confirmed the authenticity of the document. But Anson Franklin, the NNSA head of governmental affairs, said: "We have no request from the defence department for any new nuclear weapon, and we have no plans for nuclear testing.
"The fact is that this paper is talking about what-if scenarios and very long range planning," Mr Franklin told the Guardian.
However, non-proliferation groups say the Omaha meeting will bring a new US nuclear arsenal out of the realm of the theoretical and far closer to reality, in the shape of new bombs and a new readiness to use them.
"To me it indicates there are plans proceeding and well under way ... to resume the development, testing and production of new nuclear weapons. It's very serious," said Stephen Schwartz, the publisher of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, who added that it opened the US to charges of hypocrisy when it is demanding the disarmament of Iraq and North Korea.
"How can we possibly go to the international community or to these countries and say 'How dare you develop these weapons,' when it's exactly what we're doing?" Mr Schwartz said.
The starting point for the January discussion was Mr. Rumsfeld's nuclear posture review (NPR), a policy paper published last year that identified Russia, China, North Korea, Iraq, Iran, Syria and Libya as potential targets for US nuclear weapons.
According to the Pentagon minutes, the August meeting in Strategic Command's bunker headquarters would discuss how to make weapons to match the new policy. A "future arsenal panel" would consider: "What are the warhead characteristics and advanced concepts we will need in the post-NPR environment?"
The panel would also contemplate the "requirements for low-yield weapons, EPWs [earth-penetrating weapons], enhanced radiation weapons, agent defeat weapons."
This is the menu of weapons being actively considered by the Pentagon. Low-yield means tactical warheads of less than a kiloton, "mini-nukes", which advocates of the new arsenal say represent a far more effective deterrent than the existing huge weapons, because they are more "usable."
Earth-penetrating weapons are "bunker-busters," which would break through the surface of the earth before detonating. US weapons scientists believe they could be used as "agent defeat weapons" used to destroy chemical or biological weapons stored underground. The designers are also looking at low-yield neutron bombs or "enhanced radiation weapons," which could destroy chemical or biological weapons in surface warehouses.
According to the leaked document, the "future arsenal panel" in Omaha would also ask the pivotal question: "What forms of testing will these new designs require?"
The Bush administration has been working to reduce the amount of warning the test sites in the western US desert would need to be reactivated after 10 years lying dormant.
© Guardian Newspapers Limited 2003 (London)
Cafeteria Catholicism and the Culture of Dissent
For a number of years Catholics located to the right of center on the ecclesiastical spectrum were fond of using the term, "cafeteria Catholicism," as an epithet dismissive of fellow Catholics. In their minds, "cafeteria Catholics" are somehow less than fully Catholic. Just like someone in a real cafeteria line, such Catholics pick and choose among doctrinal items prepared by the magisterial "chefs."
According to this view, "cafeteria Catholics" turn up their noses at the various "delicacies" labeled "sexual ethics," "reproductive morality," or "ordination of women," while rushing to scoop up whatever their theological plates can hold from nearby tables marked "social justice," "war and peace," or "capital punishment."
In several columns over the years, I have pointed out that, contrary to the impression given by purveyors of the epithet, "cafeteria Catholicism," Catholics of every theological orientation can be found in the cafeteria line.
Those with politically liberal views do indeed prefer the offerings from the "social teachings" buffet, but politically conservative Catholics quickly pass it by (or say that the "executive chef" never intended its contents to be eaten, just admired from a distance). Instead, they pile their plates high with "sexual teachings" fare.
It was suggested recently that non-cafeteria types in the U.S. Catholic Church are without a political home these days. If they are pro-life, in the sense that papal teachings on abortion are pro-life, their natural base is the Republican Party. But if they are also pro-social justice, pro-peace, and pro-environment¿about which papal teachings are also emphatic--their logical base is the Democratic Party.
While there are individual exceptions within the political parties, no party provides an unambiguous welcome to Catholics who embrace a consistent-ethic-of-life approach, promoted especially by the late Cardinal Joseph Bernardin of Chicago.
To be sure, the term, "cafeteria Catholicism," has not been completely abandoned by Catholics on the right, but a few of their leading spokespersons seem now to prefer the expression, "culture of dissent"—perhaps on the assumption that the phrase cannot so easily be turned back on them as "cafeteria Catholicism" has been.
But they are mistaken in that regard, as a recent editorial in the National Catholic Reporter (1/31/03) makes clear.
The editorial's point of reference is Pope John Paul II's remarkably explicit comments on the Bush Administration's growing preparations for war against Iraq. In his annual address last month to diplomats assigned to the Holy See, the pope said it would be a "defeat for humanity" if such a war were to be launched.
He spoke of "the threat of a war which could strike the people of Iraq ... a people already sorely tried by more than 12 years of embargo," and then added: "War cannot be decided upon, even when it is a matter of ensuring the common good, except as the very last option, and in accordance with very strict conditions, without ignoring the consequences for the civilian population both during and after the military operations."
John Paul II's thinking (echoed at other high levels of the Vatican) is at odds with that of the Bush Administration and its Catholic political supporters in the United States. Somehow they must spin away his inconvenient utterances and cite other papal words, taken from other contexts, to justify a war in which, for the first time in its history, the United States would mount a preemptive attack against another nation.
R. James Nicholson, U.S. ambassador to the Holy See and former chairman of the Republican National Committee, tried mightily to reconcile the pope's sharp words about preparations for war against Iraq with the intentions articulated by President Bush. "If you examine carefully what the pope said," Nicholson observed, "he said that war is not always inevitable, and we agree."
The present and future question before the Vatican, he continued, is whether there would be "sufficient provocation" for the United States to take military action against Iraq. "The answer to that," Nicholson acknowledged, "may remain something that we don't agree on."
The NCR editorial points out that this issue exposes a "culture of dissent" on the U.S. Catholic right as well. "Usually it arises when John Paul challenges America's prerogatives in commerce or war."
"There is nothing wrong with believing that a pope and his top aides can err in their political or social judgments," the editorial concedes. "But when Catholics, especially those in the public eye, draw conclusions at odds with the Holy Father, sincerity would seem to require naming this for what it is—dissent from non-infallible papal statements—rather than some linguistic sleight-of-hand that makes contradiction seem like coherence."
The cafeteria line forms here.
© Richard McBrien. Fr. McBrien is the Crowley-O'Brien Professor of Theology at the University of Notre Dame.
Bush Uses AIDS Funding as an Instrument of Foreign Policy
US President George W. Bush announced $15 billion to fight HIV and AIDS in his State of the Union address on January 28. The proposed funds are to be spent in the African countries of Botswana, Ivory Coast, Ethiopia, Kenya, Mozambique, Namibia, Nigeria, Rwanda, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda, and Zambia. Also included are the two Caribbean countries Guyana and Haiti.
Two thirds of the sum is new money, with the remainder being drawn from existing proposals. However, the move is far less generous than it first appears and has a definite and sinister ulterior motive.
In a deliberate snub, the United Nations Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria will only receive $1 billion of the proposed aid over the next five years. The initial installment of $200 million will be given for the financial year 2004, which starts in October. This is less than this year's pledge to the Global Fund of $380 million.
As a result, the Global Fund is in danger of going broke. Top fund official Anil Soni said; "We have a problem. We need to get new dollars in, so we can continue to fund programs." Approximately $6.3 billion is needed over the next two years to continue funding proposals. UN Secretary General Kofi Annan has stated the world would need to spend between $7 billion and $10 billion a year to effectively treat HIV/AIDS and other infectious diseases in underdeveloped countries.
Although it does not intend to finance the Global Fund, the Bush administration is determined to keep control of it. Tommy G. Thompson, the head of the US Health and Human Services Department, is the Fund's chairman.
Rather than contribute to the Global Fund, Bush intends to allocate the new aid unilaterally through US government agencies, such as USAID and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).
USAID is the major government body for distributing aid. Its role is to foster the strategic and economic interests of the US government. In the year 2004 around a quarter of its $8 billion budget will go to Israel, Egypt, Turkey and Pakistan. The CDC is the government body associated with public health controls but has connections, via its Chemical and Biological warfare role, with the National Security apparatus.
Prior to his announcement the Boston based Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) sent a letter to Bush signed by over a 100 leading health professionals, including Nobel prize winners, involved in the care and treatment of HIV patients. They urged Bush to respond to the HIV/AIDS pandemic and called on the US government to support the Global Fund and to provide debt relief for poor countries.
Following Bush's speech PHR Director, Holly Burkhalter, said; "The funding of the new plan under the President's budget would come too slowly. He has allocated only $2 billion in fiscal year 2004, still well short of the $3.5 billion that Physicians for Human Rights is calling for on an annual basis. The money for his plan should be front-loaded to pay for the most expensive initial investment: building health infrastructure. With infrastructure in place, the treatment costs will go down."
They condemned the fact that "the vast bulk of the new money will be for US government programs." They were particularly concerned at the creation of a new, high-level Special Coordinator for International HIV/AIDS Assistance at the State Department. They pointed out that neither the Department of Health and Human Services, which houses the CDC and the National Institute of Health, nor USAID has any experience in this area. USAID Administrator Andrew Natsios opposes treatment of AIDS with anti-retrovirals in poor countries.
The US based Global AIDS Alliance criticized the slow timetable of the funding which they considered, "inappropriate from a public health standpoint, because the epidemic is expanding exponentially now and there is extensive under funding of currently available programmes that are ready for scale-up."
They also criticized the failure to provide funding to some of the countries most heavily affected by HIV/AIDS such as the Democratic Republic of Congo and Mali. They pointed out the obscenity of African countries having to pay debts to the West during the HIV pandemic. "In 2001, African governments paid $14.6 billion in debt servicing to the IMF, the World Bank and wealthy nation creditors. This extraction of local resources directly undermines all efforts to combat AIDS," their statement read.
The American based AIDS and human rights group Health GAP (Global Access Project) criticized Bush's attack on the UN Global Fund and went on, "USAID and CDC do not have the capacity nor the desire to implement the programmes called for by the president."
Health GAP state bluntly that, "The funding levels are fraudulent. By accumulating numbers over arbitrary lengths of time and back loading until the distant future, the Administration makes a little look like a lot."
Bush clearly intends to use the issue of AIDS funding to impose US policies, granting aid to those who toe the line and denying it to those regimes who fall short of the mark or find themselves out of favor.
He was originally going to announce the funding on his African trip at the beginning of this year and has had a team working on the plan for several months. Those involved are a strange group to be concerned in health matters. They include Dr Anthony Fauci a leading expert on bio-terrorism and vaccine research who talks to Bush on a regular basis, Joshua Bolton, head of national security and international affairs at the Office of Management and Budget, and Robin Cleveland, deputy national security adviser.
The choice of personnel is in line with two reports published last year, which discussed the HIV/AIDS pandemic as a security threat to the USA. The National Intelligence Council (NIC) which answers directly to Central Intelligence director, George Tenet, published one report, The Next Wave of HIV/AIDS. The other was produced by the Washington based Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS). Entitled The Destabilizing Impact of HIV/AIDS, the report's preamble explains that it was produced to "highlight for military and security policy leaders the security challenges posed by rapidly spreading HIV/AIDS and to propose concrete measures to strengthen the US response to these emerging challenges."
Bush's announcement is in line with this assessment. It demonstrates his administration's determination to treat the HIV/AIDS epidemic as a matter of security not a health question or a humanitarian issue. The money will be used as an instrument of foreign policy to reward or punish underdeveloped countries and to tighten US control over them.
© World Socialist Web Site. 18 February 2003
Out of the Wreckage: By Tearing Up the Global Rulebook, the US is in Fact Undermining Its Own Imperial Rule
The men who run the world are democrats at home and dictators abroad. They came to power by means of national elections which possess, at least, the potential to represent the will of their people. Their citizens can dismiss them without bloodshed and challenge their policies in the expectation that, if enough people join in, they will be obliged to listen.
Internationally, they rule by brute force. They and the global institutions they run exercise greater economic and political control over the people of the poor world than its own governments do. But those people can no sooner challenge or replace them than the citizens of the Soviet Union could vote Stalin out of office. Their global governance is, by all the classic political definitions, tyrannical.
But while citizens' means of overthrowing this tyranny are limited, it seems to be creating some of the conditions for its own destruction. In one week in February, the US government has threatened to dismantle two of the institutions which have, until recently, best served its global interests.
On February 20 President Bush warned the UN security council that accepting a new resolution authorizing a war with Iraq was its "last chance" to prove "its relevance." Four days before, a leaked document from the Pentagon showed that this final opportunity might already have passed. The US is planning to build a new generation of nuclear weapons in order to enhance its ability to launch a pre-emptive attack. This policy threatens both the comprehensive test ban treaty and the nuclear non-proliferation treaty „ two of the principal instruments of global security „ while endangering the international compact that the UN exists to sustain. The security council, which, despite constant disruption, survived the cold war, is beginning to look brittle in its aftermath.
On February 19, the US took a decisive step towards the destruction of the World Trade Organization. The WTO's current trade round collapsed in Seattle in 1999 because the poor nations perceived that it offered them nothing, while granting new rights to the rich world's corporations. It was relaunched in Qatar in 2001 only because those nations were promised two concessions: They could override the patents on expensive drugs and import cheaper copies when public health was threatened, and they could expect a major reduction in the rich world's agricultural subsidies. At the February WTO meeting in Geneva, the US flatly reneged on both promises.
The Republicans' victory in the mid-term elections last November was secured with the help of $60 million from America's big drug firms. This appears to have been a straightforward deal: we will buy the elections for you if you abandon the concession you made in Qatar. The agribusiness lobbies in both the US and Europe appear to have been almost as successful: The poor nations have been forced to discuss a draft document which effectively permits the rich world to continue dumping its subsidized products in their markets.
If the US does not back down, the world trade talks will collapse at the next ministerial meeting in Mexico in September, just as they did in Seattle. If so, then the WTO, as its former director-general has warned, will fall apart. Nations will instead resolve their trade disputes individually or through regional agreements. Already, by means of the free trade agreement of the Americas and the harsh concessions it is extracting from other nations as a condition of receiving aid, the US appears to be preparing for this possibility.
The US, in other words, seems to be ripping up the global rulebook. As it does so, those of us who have campaigned against the grotesque injustices of the existing world order will quickly discover that a world with no institutions is even nastier than a world run by the wrong ones. Multilateralism, however inequitable it may be, requires certain concessions to other nations. Unilateralism means piracy: the armed robbery of the poor by the rich. The difference between today's world order and the one for which the US may be preparing is the difference between mediated and unmediated force.
But the possible collapse of the current world order, dangerous as it will be, also provides us with the best opportunities we have ever encountered for replacing the world's unjust and coercive institutions with a fairer and more democratic means of global governance.
By wrecking the multilateral system for the sake of a few short-term, corporate interests, the US is, paradoxically, threatening its own tyrannical control of other nations. The existing international agencies, fashioned by means of brutal power politics at the end of the second world war, have permitted the US to develop its international commercial and political interests more effectively than it could have done alone.
The institutions through which it has worked „ the security council, the WTO, the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank „ have provided a semblance of legitimacy for what has become, in all but name, the construction of empire. The end of multilateralism would force the US, as it is already beginning to do, to drop this pretence and frankly admit to its imperial designs on the rest of the world. This admission, in turn, forces other nations to seek to resist it. Effective resistance would create the political space in which their citizens could begin to press for a new, more equitable multilateralism.
There are several means of contesting the unilateral power of the US, but perhaps the most immediate and effective one is to accelerate its economic crisis. Already, strategists in China are suggesting that the yuan should replace the dollar as east Asia's reserve currency. Over the past year, as the Observer (London) revealed on February 23, the euro has started to challenge the dollar's position as the international means of payment for oil. The dollar's dominance of world trade, particularly the oil market, is all that permits the US Treasury to sustain the nation's massive deficit, as it can print inflation-free money for global circulation. If the global demand for dollars falls, the value of the currency will fall with it, and speculators will shift their assets into euros or yen or even yuan, with the result that the US economy will begin to totter.
Of course an economically weakened nation in possession of overwhelming military force remains a very dangerous one. Already the US appears to be using its military machine to extend its economic life. But it is not clear that the American people would permit their government to threaten or attack other nations without even a semblance of an international political process, which is, of course, what the Bush administration is currently destroying.
America's assertions of independence from the rest of the world force the rest of the world to assert its independence from America. They permit the people of the weaker nations to contemplate the global democratic revolution that is long overdue.
The Age of Consent, George Monbiot's proposals for global democratic governance, will be published in June.
© George Monbiot. This article first appeared in The Guardian (UK) on February 25, 2003
Secret Draft of 'Patriot II': Justice Department Drafts Sweeping Expansion of Anti-Terrorism Act
The Bush administration is preparing an audacious sequel to the U.S.A. Patriot Act that will give government brazen new powers to increase domestic intelligence-gathering while decreasing the public's right to review and contest those actions.
The Bush administration is preparing a bold, comprehensive sequel to the U.S.A. Patriot Act passed in the wake of 9/11, which will give the government broad, sweeping new powers to increase domestic intelligence-gathering, surveillance and law enforcement prerogatives, and simultaneously decrease judicial review and public access to information.
The Center for Public Integrity has obtained a draft, dated Jan. 9, 2003, of this previously undisclosed legislation and is making it available in full text. The bill, drafted by the staff of Attorney General John Ashcroft and entitled the Domestic Security Enhancement Act of 2003, has not been officially released by the Department of Justice, although rumors of its development have circulated around the Capitol for the last few months under the name of "the Patriot Act II" in legislative parlance.
"We haven't heard anything from the Justice Department on updating the Patriot Act," House Judiciary Committee spokesman Jeff Lungren told the Center. "They haven't shared their thoughts on that. Obviously, we'd be interested, but we haven't heard anything at this point." Senior members of the Senate Judiciary Committee minority staff have inquired about Patriot II for months and have been told as recently as this week that there is no such legislation being planned.
Mark Corallo, deputy director of Justice's Office of Public Affairs, told the Center his office was unaware of the draft. "I have heard people talking about revising the Patriot Act, we are looking to work on things the way we would do with any law," he said. "We may work to make modifications to protect Americans," he added. When told that the Center had a copy of the draft legislation, he said, "This is all news to me. I have never heard of this."
After the Center posted this story, Barbara Comstock, director of public affairs for the Justice Department, released a statement saying that, "Department staff have not presented any final proposals to either the Attorney General or the White House. It would be premature to speculate on any future decisions, particularly ideas or proposals that are still being discussed at staff levels."
An Office of Legislative Affairs "control sheet" that was obtained by the PBS program "Now With Bill Moyers" shows that a copy of the bill was sent to Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert and Vice President Richard Cheney on Jan. 10, 2003. "Attached for your review and comment is a draft legislative proposal entitled the 'Domestice Security Enhancement Act of 2003,'" the memo, sent from "OLP" or Office of Legal Policy, says.
Dr. David Cole, Georgetown University Law professor and author of Terrorism and the Constitution, reviewed the draft legislation at the request of the Center, and said that the legislation "raises a lot of serious concerns. It's troubling that they have gotten this far along and they've been telling people there is nothing in the works." This proposed law, he added, "would radically expand law enforcement and intelligence gathering authorities, reduce or eliminate judicial oversight over surveillance, authorize secret arrests, create a DNA database based on unchecked executive 'suspicion,' create new death penalties, and even seek to take American citizenship away from persons who belong to or support disfavored political groups."
Some of the key provisions of the Domestic Security Enhancement Act of 2003 include:
Section 201, "Prohibition of Disclosure of Terrorism Investigation Detainee Information": Safeguarding the dissemination of information related to national security has been a hallmark of Ashcroft's first two years in office, and the Domestic Security Enhancement Act of 2003 follows in the footsteps of his October 2001 directive to carefully consider such interest when granting Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests. While the October memo simply encouraged FOIA officers to take national security, "protecting sensitive business information and, not least, preserving personal privacy" into account while deciding on requests, the proposed legislation would enhance the department's ability to deny releasing material on suspected terrorists in government custody through FOIA.
Section 202, "Distribution of 'Worst Case Scenario' Information": This would introduce new FOIA restrictions with regard to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). As provided for in the Clean Air Act, the EPA requires private companies that use potentially dangerous chemicals must produce a "worst case scenario" report detailing the effect that the release of these controlled substances would have on the surrounding community. Section 202 of this Act would, however, restrict FOIA requests to these reports, which the bill's drafters refer to as "a roadmap for terrorists." By reducing public access to "read-only" methods for only those persons "who live and work in the geographical area likely to be affected by a worst-case scenario," this subtitle would obfuscate an established level of transparency between private industry and the public.
Section 301-306, "Terrorist Identification Database": These sections would authorize creation of a DNA database on "suspected terrorists," expansively defined to include association with suspected terrorist groups, and noncitizens suspected of certain crimes or of having supported any group designated as terrorist.
Section 312, "Appropriate Remedies with Respect to Law Enforcement Surveillance Activities": This section would terminate all state law enforcement consent decrees before 9/11, not related to racial profiling or other civil rights violations, that limit such agencies from gathering information about individuals and organizations. The authors of this statute claim that these consent orders, which were passed as a result of police spying abuses, could impede current terrorism investigations. It would also place substantial restrictions on future court injunctions.
Section 405, "Presumption for Pretrial Detention in Cases Involving Terrorism": While many people charged with drug offenses punishable by prison terms of 10 years or more are held before their trial without bail, this provision would create a comparable statute for those suspected of terrorist activity. The reasons for presumptively holding suspected terrorists before trial, the Justice Department summary memo states, are clear. "This presumption is warranted because of the unparalleled magnitude of the danger to the United States and its people posed by acts of terrorism, and because terrorism is typically engaged in by groups „ many with international connections „ that are often in a position to help their members flee or go into hiding."
Section 501, "Expatriation of Terrorists": This provision, the drafters say, would establish that an American citizen could be expatriated "if, with the intent to relinquish his nationality, he becomes a member of, or provides material support to, a group that the United States has designated as a 'terrorist organization.'" But whereas a citizen formerly had to state his intent to relinquish his citizenship, the new law affirms that his intent can be "inferred from conduct." Thus, engaging in the lawful activities of a group designated as a "terrorist organization" by the Attorney General could be presumptive grounds for expatriation.
The Domestic Security Enhancement Act is the latest development in an 18-month trend in which the Bush administration has sought expanded powers and responsibilities for law enforcement bodies to help counter the threat of terrorism.
The U.S.A. Patriot Act, signed into law by President Bush on Oct. 26, 2001, gave law enforcement officials broader authority to conduct electronic surveillance and wiretaps and gives the president the authority, when the nation is under attack, to confiscate any property within U.S. jurisdiction of anyone believed to be engaging in such attacks. The measure also tightened oversight of financial activities to prevent money laundering and diminish bank secrecy in an effort to disrupt terrorist finances.
It also changed provisions of Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), which was passed in 1978 during the Cold War. FISA established a different standard of government oversight and judicial review for "foreign intelligence" surveillance than that applied to traditional domestic law enforcement surveillance.
The U.S.A. Patriot Act allowed the Federal Bureau of Investigation to share information gathered in terrorism investigations under the "foreign intelligence" standard with local law enforcement agencies, in essence nullifying the higher standard of oversight that applied to domestic investigations. The U.S.A. Patriot Act also amended FISA to permit surveillance under the less rigorous standard whenever "foreign intelligence" was a "significant purpose" rather than the "primary purpose" of an investigation.
The draft legislation goes further in that direction. "In the [U.S.A. Patriot Act] we have to break down the wall of foreign intelligence and law enforcement," Cole said. "Now they want to break down the wall between international terrorism and domestic terrorism."
In an Oct. 9, 2002, hearing of the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Technology, Terrorism, and Government Information, Deputy Assistant Attorney General Alice Fisher testified that Justice had been, "looking at potential proposals on following up on the Patriot Act for new tools and we have also been working with different agencies within the government and they are still studying that and hopefully we will continue to work with this committee in the future on new tools that we believe are necessary in the war on terrorism."
Asked by Sen. Russ Feingold (D-Wis.) whether she could inform the committee of what specific areas Justice was looking at, Fisher replied, "At this point I can't, I'm sorry. They're studying a lot of different ideas and a lot of different tools that follow up on information sharing and other aspects."
Assistant Attorney General for Legal Policy Viet Dinh, who was the principal author of the first Patriot Act, told Legal Times last October that there was "an ongoing process to continue evaluating and re-evaluating authorities we have with respect to counterterrorism," but declined to say whether a new bill was forthcoming.
Former FBI Director William Sessions, who urged caution while Congress considered the U.S.A. Patriot Act, did not want to enter the fray concerning a possible successor bill.
"I hate to jump into it, because it's a very delicate thing," Sessions told the Center, without acknowledging whether he knew of any proposed additions or revisions to the additional Patriot bill.
When the first bill was nearing passage in the Congress in late 2001, however, Sessions told Internet site NewsMax.com that the balance between civil liberties and sufficient intelligence gathering was a difficult one. "First of all, the Attorney General has to justify fully what he's asking for," Sessions, who served presidents Reagan and George H.W. Bush as FBI Director from 1987 until 1993, said at the time. "We need to be sure that we provide an effective means to deal with criminality." At the same time, he said, "we need to be sure that we are mindful of the Constitution, mindful of privacy considerations, but also meet the technological needs we have" to gather intelligence.
Cole found it disturbing that there have been no consultations with Congress on the draft legislation. "It raises a lot of serious concerns and is troubling as a generic matter that they have gotten this far along and tell people that there is nothing in the works. What that suggests is that they're waiting for a propitious time to introduce it, which might well be when a war is begun. At that time there would be less opportunity for discussion and theyäll have a much stronger hand in saying that they need these right away."
© Charles Lewis and Adam Mayle. Charles Lewis is the founder and executive director of the Center for Public Integrity (http://www.publicintegrity.org). Adam Mayle is a James R. Soles Fellow at the Center.
When U.S. Foreign Policy Meets Biblical Prophecy
Does the Bible foretell regime change in Iraq? Did God establish Israel's boundaries millennia ago? Is the United Nations a forerunner of a satanic world order?
For millions of Americans, the answer to all those questions is a resounding yes. For many believers in biblical prophecy, the Bush administration's go-it-alone foreign policy, hands-off attitude toward the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and war on Iraq are not simply actions in the national self-interest or an extension of the war on terrorism, but part of an unfolding divine plan.
Evangelical Christians have long complained that "people of faith" do not get sufficient respect and that religious belief is trivialized in our public discourse. So argues Stephen L. Carter, a Yale University law professor and an evangelical Christian, in his 1993 The Culture of Disbelief. Carter has a point, at least with reference to my own field of American history. With notable exceptions, cultural historians have long underplayed the importance of religion in the United States, particularly in the modern era. Church historians have produced good work, but somewhat in isolation, cut off from the larger currents of cultural and intellectual history. That is changing, as evidenced by Mark A. Noll's magisterial America's God: From Jonathan Edwards to Abraham Lincoln (2002). But, overall, the critics are on target.
However, I would vigorously challenge Carter's related complaint that religious belief plays little role in shaping public policy. In fact, religion has always had an enormous, if indirect and under-recognized, role in policy formation.
And that is especially true today, as is illustrated by the shadowy but vital way that belief in biblical prophecy is helping mold grassroots attitudes toward current U.S. foreign policy. As the nation debates a march toward war in the Middle East, all of us would do well to pay attention to the beliefs of the vast company of Americans who read the headlines and watch the news through a filter of prophetic belief.
Abundant evidence makes clear that millions of Americans „ upwards of 40 percent, according to some widely publicized national polls „ do, indeed, believe that Bible prophecies detail a specific sequence of end-times events. According to the most popular prophetic system, premillennial dispensationalism, formulated by the 19th-century British churchman John Darby, a series of last-day signs will signal the approaching end. Those will include wars, natural disasters, rampant immorality, the rise of a world political and economic order and the return of the Jews to the land promised by God to Abraham.
In Darby's system, the present "dispensation" will end with the Rapture, when all true believers will join Christ in the air. Next comes the Tribulation, when a charismatic but satanic figure, the Antichrist, will arise in Europe, seize world power and impose his universal tyranny under the dread sign "666," mentioned in Revelation. After seven years, Christ and the saints will return to vanquish the Antichrist and his armies at Har-Megiddo (the biblical Armageddon), an ancient battle site near Haifa. From a restored Temple in Jerusalem, Christ will then inaugurate a thousand-year reign of peace and justice „ the Millennium.
That scenario, which Darby ingeniously cobbled together from apocalyptic passages throughout the Bible, was popularized in America by expositors like Cyrus Scofield, whose 1909 Scofield Reference Bible became a best seller. More recently, dispensationalism has been promulgated by radio evangelists, paperback popularizers, fundamentalist and Pentecostal pastors, and TV luminaries like Jerry Falwell, Jack Van Impe, and John Hagee.
Hal Lindsey's The Late Great Planet Earth (1970), a slangy update of Darby's teachings, became the nonfiction best seller in the 1970s. Today's Left Behind series, a multivolume fictional treatment of dispensationalism by Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins, has sold 50 million copies since the first volume appeared, in 1995. Volume 10, The Remnant, topped the The New York Times's bestseller list for several weeks last summer.
During the cold war, Lindsey and other prophecy gurus focused on the Soviet Union, citing a passage in Ezekiel foretelling the destruction of a northern kingdom, Gog, which they interpreted as Russia. Today's popularizers, however, spotlight the Middle East and the rise of a New World Order led by their own "axis of evil": the United Nations and other international bodies; global media conglomerates; and multinational corporations, trading alliances, and financial institutions. This interlocking system, they preach, is laying the groundwork for the Antichrist's prophesied dictatorship.
As for the Middle East, the popularizers view Israel's founding in 1948 and its recapture of Jerusalem's Old City in 1967, as key end-times signs. They also see the Jewish settlements in the West Bank and Gaza and a future rebuilding of the Jerusalem Temple on a site sacred to Muslims as steps in God's unfolding plan. The most hard-line and expansionist groups in Israel today, including Likud Party leaders, have gratefully welcomed this unwavering support. When Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visited the United States in 1998, he called first on Falwell and only then met with President Clinton. (Dispensationalist dogma also foretells the mass slaughter of Jews by the Antichrist and the conversion of the surviving remnant to Christianity, but those themes are played down by most current popularizers.)
On the basis of such beliefs, dispensationalists denounce any proposals for shared governance of Jerusalem. As Hagee writes in Final Dawn Over Jerusalem (Thomas Nelson, 1998): "Christians and Jews, let us stand united and indivisible on this issue: There can be no compromise regarding the city of Jerusalem, not now, not ever. We are racing toward the end of time, and Israel lies in the eye of the storm. ... Israel is the only nation created by a sovereign act of God, and He has sworn by His holiness to defend Jerusalem, His Holy City. If God created and defends Israel, those nations that fight against it fight against God." Dispensationalists also oppose any scaling back of Jewish settlements in the West Bank or Gaza, since those areas lie well within God's grant to Abraham, recorded in Genesis 15:18, of all of the land from "the river of Egypt" to the Euphrates.
In this scenario, the Islamic world is allied against God and faces annihilation in the last days. That view is actually a very ancient one in Christian eschatology. Medieval prophecy expounders saw Islam as the demonic force whose doom is foretold in Scripture. As Richard the Lionhearted prepared for the Third Crusade in 1190, the famed prophecy interpreter Joachim of Fiore assured him that the Islamic ruler Saladin, who held Jerusalem, was the Antichrist, and that Richard would defeat him and recapture the Holy City. (Joachim's prophecy failed: Richard returned to Europe in 1192 with Saladin still in power.) Later interpreters cast the Ottoman Empire in the Antichrist role.
That theme faded after 1920, with the Ottoman collapse and the rise of the Soviet Union, but it surged back in the later 20th century, as prophecy popularizers began not only to support the most hard-line groups in Israel, but also to demonize Islam as irredeemably evil and destined for destruction. "The Arab world is an Antichrist-world," wrote Guy Dury in Escape From the Coming Tribulation (1975). "God says he will lay the land of the Arabs waste and it will be desolate," Arthur Bloomfield wrote in Before the Last Battle „ Armageddon, published in 1971 and reprinted in 1999. "This may seem like a severe punishment, but ... the terms of the covenant must be carried out to the letter."
The anti-Islamic rhetoric is at fever pitch today. Last June, the prophecy magazine Midnight Call warmly endorsed a fierce attack on Islam by Franklin Graham (son of Billy) and summed up Graham's case in stark terms: "Islam is an evil religion." In Lindsey's 1996 prophecy novel, Blood Moon, Israel, in retaliation for a planned nuclear attack by an Arab extremist, launches a massive thermonuclear assault on the entire Arab world. Genocide, in short, becomes the ultimate means of prophetic fulfillment.
Anticipating George W. Bush, prophecy writers in the late 20th century also quickly zeroed in on Saddam Hussein. If not the Antichrist himself, they suggested, Saddam could well be a forerunner of the Evil One. In full-page newspaper advertisements during the Persian Gulf war of 1991, the organization Jews for Jesus declared that Saddam "represents the spirit of Antichrist about which the Bible warns us."
Prophecy believers found particular significance in Saddam's grandiose plan, launched in the 1970s, to rebuild Babylon on its ancient ruins. The fabled city on the Euphrates, south of Baghdad, which included one of the seven wonders of the ancient world, owed its splendor to King Nebuchadnezzar, the same wicked ruler who warred against Israel and destroyed Jerusalem in 586 B.C., for which impiety, according to the Book of Daniel, he went mad and ended his days eating grass in the fields.
In Revelation, Babylon embodies all that is corrupt, "a great whore ... with whom the kings of the earth have committed fornication." It stands as the antithesis of Jerusalem, the city of righteousness, and Revelation prophesies its annihilation by fire. Since Babylon cannot be destroyed unless it exists, Saddam's ambitious public-works project is seen as an essential step toward prophetic fulfillment.
Charles Dyer's The Rise of Babylon: Sign of the End Times (1991) elaborates the theme. Along with the emergence of modern Israel and the European Union (forerunner of the Antichrist's world system), writes Dyer, Saddam's restoration of Babylon signals the approaching end and offers "thrilling proof that Bible prophecies are infallible." "When Babylon is ultimately destroyed," he continues, "Israel will finally be at peace and will dwell in safety."
That theme resonates powerfully with today's calls for Saddam's overthrow. Indeed, the cover illustration of Dyer's book juxtaposes Saddam and Nebuchadnezzar. Hal Lindsey's Web site recently featured a cartoon of a military aircraft emblazoned with a U.S. flag and a Star of David and carrying a missile with a label targeting "Saddam." The caption quoted the prophet Zechariah: "It shall be that day I will seek to destroy all nations that come against Israel."
All of these themes converge in the Left Behind novels. As the plot unfolds, the Antichrist, Nicolae Carpathia, becomes secretary general of the United Nations. ("I've opposed the United Nations for 50 years," boasts one of the authors, Tim LaHaye, a veteran activist on the religious right.) Carpathia moves the U.N. from New York to a rebuilt Babylon, laying the groundwork for the simultaneous destruction of both the city that in the grammar of dispensationalism represents absolute evil and defiance of God's prophetic plan, and the organization that more than any other prefigures the Antichrist's satanic world order.
To be sure, some current Bush-administration policies trouble prophecy believers. For example, the expansion of Washington's surveillance powers after 9/11 (led, ironically, by Attorney General John Ashcroft, darling of the religious right) strikes some as another step toward the Antichrist's global dictatorship. Counterbalancing that, however, other key administration positions -- its hostility to multinational cooperation and international agreements, its downgrading of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, its muted response to growing Jewish settlement in Palestinian territory, and its unrelenting focus on Saddam Hussein -- strike prophecy believers as perfectly in harmony with God's prophetic plan: a plan that will bring human history to its apocalyptic denouement and usher in the longed-for epoch of righteousness, justice, and peace.
Academics do need to pay more attention to the role of religious belief in American public life, not only in the past, but also today. Without close attention to the prophetic scenario embraced by millions of American citizens, the current political climate in the United States cannot be fully understood.
Leaders have always invoked God's blessing on their wars, and, in this respect, the Bush administration is simply carrying on a familiar tradition. But when our born-again president describes the nation's foreign-policy objective in theological terms as a global struggle against "evildoers," and when, in his recent State of the Union address, he casts Saddam Hussein as a demonic, quasi-supernatural figure who could unleash "a day of horror like none we have ever known," he is not only playing upon our still-raw memories of 9/11. He is also invoking a powerful and ancient apocalyptic vocabulary that for millions of prophecy believers conveys a specific and thrilling message of an approaching end -- not just of Saddam, but of human history as we know it.
This article first appeared in The Chronicle of Higher Education. © Paul Boyer. Published with permission of the author. Professor Boyer is a member of the Department of History at the College of William and Mary. His publications include When Time Shall Be No More: Prophecy Belief in Modern American Culture, Harvard University Press, 1992.
Eyewitness Account of an Israeli Bulldozer Murder
Editor's note: American peace activist Rachel Corrie was murdered by an Israeli bulldozer driver on March 16, 2003 while attempting to defend a Palestinian doctor's home from demolition. Tom's account is excerpted from e-mails to friends and families.
Many of you will of heard varying accounts of the death of Rachel Corrie, maybe others will have heard nothing of it. Regardless, I was 10 metres away when it happened 2 days ago, and this is the way it went.
We'd been monitoring and occasionally obstructing the 2 bulldozers for about 2 hours when 1 of them turned toward a house we knew to be threatened with demolition. Rachel knelt down in its way. She was 10-20 metres in front of the bulldozer, clearly visible, the only object for many metres, directly in its view. They were in radio contact with a tank that had a profile view of the situation. There is no way she could not have been seen by them in their elevated cabin. They knew where she was, there is no doubt.
The bulldozer drove toward Rachel slowly, gathering earth in its scoop as it went. She knelt there, she did not move. The bulldozer reached her and she began to stand up, climbing onto the mound of earth. She appeared to be looking into the cockpit. The bulldozer continued to push Rachel, so she slipped down the mound of earth, turning as she went. Her faced showed she was panicking and it was clear she was in danger of being overwhelmed.
All the activists were screaming at the bulldozer to stop and gesturing to the crew about Rachel's presence. We were in clear view as Rachel had been, they continued. They pushed Rachel, first beneath the scoop, then beneath the blade, then continued till her body was beneath the cockpit. They waited over her for a few seconds, before reversing. They reversed with the blade pressed down, so it scraped over her body a second time. Every second I believed they would stop but they never did.
I ran for an ambulance, she was gasping and her face was covered in blood from a gash cutting her face from lip to cheek. She was showing signs of brain hemorrhaging. She died in the ambulance a few minutes later of massive internal injuries. She was a brilliant, bright and amazing person, immensely brave and committed. She is gone and I cannot believe it.
The group here in Rafah has decided that we will stay here and continue to oppose human rights abuses as best we can. I want to add that more than 10 Palestinians have died in the Gaza strip since Rachel.
Please: forward this message. Boycott Caterpillar. Take direct action against the Caterpillar Corporation - please do not let this be without cost to them. Legally, I shouldn't ask you to do anything destructive or against the law.
If you're wondering about Rachel: her writings, photos of her and statements on her death are available on the website below. More photos: go to yahoo news section, search for photos by 'Rachel'.
If you're wondering about the International Solidarity Movement: www.palsolidarity.org
If you're wondering about the bulldozers: They're American, Caterpillar-made armoured D9 Bulldozers. I estimate the blade is maybe 8 ft high, 15 ft wide and more than 9 tons. They're purchased from America using the $12billion per annum military aid package that America gives to Israel. [Report on their previous usage, well worth reading -- especially if you didn't believe anyone would be crazy enough to do this].
If you're wondering about Rafah: in the southern Gaza Strip, next to the Egyptian border. Apart from suffering in excess from the problems all over Palestine: Israeli manipulation of the water supply, economic strangulation, regular shootings and army operations, Rafah is afflicted by the building of an extra border wall. It has caused hundreds of homes to be destroyed.
The house in question, that of a doctor, like dozens of others in the area is not set to be demolished because of any supposed link to militants. Only because it lies within 100 metres of the new border wall, currently in construction. Families receive no compensation from Israel, and are frequently given just a few minutes warning in the form of live ammunition being shot through the walls of their house.
Tom Dale is a British citizen currently acting as a peacekeeper in the Occupied Territories. Courtesy of the International Solidarity Movement.
Bushenomics: Losing Momentum
Despite widespread economic insecurity, when President George Bush Jr. introduced his latest budget to congress several weeks ago early indications were that his latest windfall to the wealthiest Americans would meet a similar fate to the previous two. The limited dissent proffered by timid liberals would again fade, and those who refused to remain silent would be directed toward opinion polls as evidence of the President's overwhelming popularity, then be accused of divisive and petty politics. The obstinate few who continued to question the wisdom of 'Bushenomics' would be branded anti-American for their persistent intransigence, and cautioned to tow the line during a period in which 'presenting a unified front is necessary.' Having thus suffocated opposition, a wave of 'bipartisan' support would sweep the budget toward approval. Sometime thereafter large checks would arrive in the mail for the wealthiest Americans while the majority would receive next to nothing.
The early defection of Zell Miller of Georgia, the first Democrat to lend his support to this year's version of Bushenomics, seemed to mark the beginning of this now familiar cycle of pressure and ultimate capitulation. The tactics of Bush's rhetoricians likewise were familiar. In order to garner the popular opinion so valuable in silencing pesky liberals, they crowed about 'average reductions of $1,083 for all taxpayers,' and emphasized Bush's commitment to the economic well-being of all Americans, wealthy and poor alike. They utilized all of the familiar obfuscations to hide the fact that over fifty-percent of Americans would receive less than ten-percent of the 'average reduction.' This time, however, the manipulation failed.
Whether the public finally recognized Bush's lie, or simply acknowledged his pitiful track record, public support never materialized. On the contrary, widespread skepticism over Bush's stewardship of the economy continued to spread. According to recent Pew research polls, only 43 percent of Americans currently approve of Bush's handling of the economy while 48 percent disapprove. These economic doubts have severely undermined overall job approval ratings as well, which have dropped from their post 9/11 highs in the mid eighties to just 53 percent. It seems that despite his tremendous will to obscure his continual service to the wealthy (and his overall fiscal ineptitude) behind a smokescreen of war-mongering, Americans are finally holding Bush accountable for the ailing economy.
The general public is not alone in its concern over the Bush plan, and support, particularly amongst economists, has been difficult to find. So difficult, in fact, that Bush has effectively bestowed "degrees" on anyone willing to voice support. The result of this is Bush's list of over 250 economists who support the plan. This list contains a number of "economists" with credentials that are suspect at best. A cursory examination of those listed without a university affiliation reveals that quite a few of these "economists" do not, in fact, have Ph. D.'s in economics. The list includes businessmen, investment bankers, wealthy GOP donors, Wall Street analysts, and at least one comedian, all of whom are not truly economists. In order to lend his plan academic legitimacy, Bush has resorted to fabricating credentials.
Opposition to Bush's plan among economists, unlike support, is quite easy to find. The boast of support from 250 plus economists pales in comparison to the over 400, including 10 Nobel Prize winners, that have voiced a negative opinion. This academic attack on Bush's policy took the form of a full page add in the New York Times.
His critics maintain that his plan is irresponsible, and some suggest that Bush could effectively stimulate the economy with cuts in the neighborhood of $100 billion (rather than $725 billion) without delivering enormous long-run deficits that could harm the economy and undermine government programs. Furthermore, many suggest that Bush's cuts are targeted toward the wrong groups. In order for a stimulus to be effective, it must place money in the hands of those most in need and therefore most likely to spend in the short term. Bush's cuts, disproportionately aimed at providing a break to the wealthy, would put money in the hands of those more likely to save. This clearly defeats their stated purpose: economic stimulus.
It is not liberal economists alone that find fault with Bush's plan. In fact, every member of Bush's new economic team has, at some point in their career, criticized similar supply side cuts that favor the wealthy and run the risk of driving up the deficit. Now, however, as the President's advisors, they willfully support a plan that is perhaps even more offensive than any of Reagan's. This is eerily reminiscent of George Bush Sr.'s own change of heart. He was a vocal critic of Reagan's "voodoo economics" until offered the position of Vice President, at which point he climbed aboard the Reaganomics bandwagon.
Even in the face of Bush's willingness to invent economists and buy opponents with political positions, he still faces a series of obstacles. Perhaps the greatest barrier to his plan has been erected by members of his own party. Two key Republican figures, that Bush had counted on as "swing votes," (Olympia Snowe of Maine and George Voinovich of Ohio), along with two Democrat centrists (Max Baucus of Montana and John Breaux of Louisiana), submitted a letter to Senate leaders that indicated their support for a tax-cut capped at $350 billion, less than half of Bush's proposed $725 billion package.
The loss of these votes leaves Bush's proposal in serious jeopardy, and, according to Senate Finance Committee Chairman Charles Grassley (R., Iowa), will likely mean eliminating the $400 billion dividend component, the centerpiece of Bush's plan. The severely modified $350 billion plan, however, also currently lacks majority support due to the refusal of two other Republicans, John McCain of Arizona and Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island, to support further tax cuts. In this case the lack of support is attributable to growing concerns over the cost of war (which Bush refuses to estimate-presumably because the addition of these costs to the budget would undermine any and all possible support for his dangerous plan) and the harmful effects of running a large deficit. This lack of support among Conservatives is remarkable when one considers that the tax breaks, particularly the dividend components, would be targeted to the wealthy.
Given all of the difficulties facing Bush's economic package already, it is clear that Tom Daschle was correct when he remarked, roughly a month ago, that Bush would face "a bipartisan coalition in opposition for the first time since [he] came to office." Now, however, rather than accept the amended budget, it is up to Daschle to rally a forceful opposition that will heed the message of economists and the American people and demand a more responsible economic policy. Now, perhaps for the first time in George Bush Jr.'s administration, congressional liberals have both the political mandate and the momentum necessary to provide a strong challenge to a myopic, unfair, and dangerous economic policy. It is essential that in the coming days the voices of the many dissenters are heard.
John Wojcik, a junior biology and philosophy major, is a member of Common Sense.
The Alliance for Catholic Education: Serving the Right Schools?
When U2 came to Notre Dame last year, Bono chose to speak„during one of the extended instrumentals he uses as an opportunity to preach„about the Alliance for Catholic Education (ACE) volunteers who give up years of their lives to help make a difference in this world of ours. I was puzzled when I heard this tribute by the pontiff of pop. How does ACE beat out international debt relief for this man's praise and attention?
My confusion came from my own ACE experience, which made clear the subtle differences between different understandings of "underserved communities." The traditional understanding of underserved communities refers to those groups who have been historically disadvantaged, especially financially. Catholics in this country have a long history of suffering from discrimination, often prompted by American nativism and what newspapers of the time sometimes referred to as some sort of conspiracy of "Papists" to spread the influence of the Pope on this side of the Atlantic.
As a result of such anti-Catholic sentiment, Catholic schools were started across the country, most famously in the urban areas where most immigrants landed: New York, Boston, Chicago, and the rest. Catholic education has had a major impact on American culture, from the Kentucky Fried Movie to the Blues Brothers to Britney Spears to the hallowed football fields of Our Lady's University. My parents both attended Catholic schools, as have all 21 of the men and women I've been lucky enough to live with over the past six years. And most of them turned out just fine. So what's the big deal?
All of the places ACE sends its teachers (ACErs) get quite hot in the summer. Most are in the Southeast, what is historically and politically thought of as the South, but since its inception, ACE has spread its range from coast to coast, most recently sending its charges on missions to Los Angeles, Texas and Arizona. This tremendous spread has led to a new diversity in ACE's target audience, especially linguistic diversity: America's fastest growing community, by any measure, is Hispanic Latin Americans, a group that is markedly Catholic. A quick look at ACE's website shows how important Latinos are to the growth of ACE.
Another type of diversity in ACE sites is one that is less visible from an ACE Internet tour: the economic diversity of the mission communities and their members. It is here that perhaps the greatest diversity in ACE exists. While it is clear that some of the students served by ACE come from impoverished families and communities, many of the children served come from the opposite end of the spectrum. The Church communities served by ACE are as diverse economically as America itself. Each individual site, however, is often less varied in its composition, and it is here that the slight differences in types of need are apparent. A case study can be of use in analyzing this phenomenon.
My own experience in ACE was in the diocese of Biloxi, Mississippi. Biloxi is in the middle of a thin strip of distinctly Catholic communities found along the Coast of the Gulf of Mexico. Communities along the Coast are generally better off than those communities further inland in Mississippi and Alabama. This is principally due to the resources the Gulf provides (seafood, oil) and related processing industries. The military bases found in every large community along the Coast also further add to its relative prosperity (many of these cities also have "offshore" gambling, the economic benefits of which are debatable).
ACErs in Biloxi teach in three different communities within a forty-minute drive from home: Biloxi itself, Gulfport, and Pascagoula. Each community has its own distinct personality, and the roles played in the community by the Catholic schools where the ACErs work is equally distinct. Blue-collar Pascagoula, home of Northrup-Grumman shipbuilding, a Chevron refinery, and Trent Lott, is one of the oldest towns in America, founded as a trading post in the 17th century (can you tell I taught Mississippi Studies?) as the Spanish and French fought for control of the region. By contrast, upscale Gulfport is a larger city that has grown up in the past century around a naval base, casinos, a nice beach, and the junction of the two major roadways connecting the Coast with the rest of the region. The population of the Gulf region is about 30 percent African American, with small but growing Southeast Asian and Latino communities.
Within Pascagoula, it is clear that the nature of the overall community is less important than the makeup of the school populations themselves. While the town could be aptly described as "working class," Pascagoula's Catholic school communities fall at opposite ends of the socioeconomic spectrum. There are two ACE sites in town, one an elementary and one a middle/high school. At the latter, the typical student comes from a middle- or upper-middle-class family. With tuition upwards of five thousand dollars per year, poor families cannot afford the luxury of a private education. This tuition has an interesting effect: my school's enrollment was more than ninety-percent white. This in itself is neither surprising nor objectionable, since most Catholics are white and most Catholic schools are predominantly white (see Notre Dame). What might surprise, however, is that the community served by this Americorps program largely represents the local elite. These students are not on the federal lunch program, nor were they on scholarship. There were no problems when I twice collected hundreds of dollars apiece for field trips, and many students got new cars on their sixteenth birthdays. There was little evidence of material lack in this group of families.
Across town, St. Peter the Apostle elementary school is an example of what ACE administrators point to as an ideal ACE school. With an even smaller enrollment (one grade last year consisted of only one student), St. Peter's students are all African-American, and most are non-Catholic. The school itself qualifies for Title I funding, meaning seventy-five percent of its students are below the poverty line. According to school administrators, this school would certainly close without ACE volunteers. What's more, the ACErs are the best teachers at this school (though there have only been three ACErs assigned here so far). This small school does much without much funding. There is another Catholic school in town, an elementary sister to the middle/high school, but this school does not host ACE teachers.
It is here that the subtle distinction between "needy schools" and "needy students" becomes the key. My school was needy. It is an aging building, half-closed, and there is no maintenance budget to speak of. Teachers are scarce and clearly not in it for the money: many are retirees from the local public school district„a school district that is, not incidentally, relatively well-funded thanks to its current most (in)famous native son, Mr. Lott. Just because the school was needy, however, does not necessarily mean that the students are. Of the four schools in the Biloxi diocese in which ACErs teach, all four would qualify as "needy": most need money badly (only one of them is financially self-sufficient) and all need teachers even worse„without ACE, it would be nearly impossible to draw recent college grads to work for $20,000 or less. Only one student body, however, would be considered needy by socioeconomic standards, or would qualify for Title I assistance, the government's own standard of need.
Without any hard data available, it is impossible to say whether the diocese of Biloxi is an aberrant case within ACE. A look at the smiling youngsters on the ACE website leads me to believe that far more than 25 percent of ACE-served schools would fit a common-sense test of "needy", and that few ACErs have to drive their Geos to school behind their students' Lexuses. Tales told by ACErs run the gamut when it comes to local contexts, however, and the swimming pools, boats, and community cars provided at several ACE houses seem to indicate that the host parishes may be far from indigent.
This is not an indictment of the ACE program. ACE does exactly what it says it does: produce quality teachers for Catholic schools. The administrators and volunteers are helpful, accessible, and generally likeable, and the model used„a bachelor's degree in the field of instruction, augmented by graduate courses, job experience, and consistent self-reflection„seems to work well for its dedicated volunteers. ACErs are typically well-received at their schools (though there are exceptions to this) and sometimes nearly revered. At schools where there are often no evaluative or professional standards enforced, the energy and passion of ACErs can serve as revitalizing energy to flagging morale and instruction. In a broader sense, it can easily be argued that all students are needy in some capacity, and that teaching is by definition service to the community. This is a profound statement, and the emotional rewards for students and teachers when education blossoms are equally profound„I still keep in touch with my students, thousands of miles away, and treasure the friendships I made in Biloxi. It was a largely positive experience, like most ACE tenures.
Those laudable contributions to Catholic education surely deserve note, and even Bono and President Bush have praised the program. Because an organization does good for its faith community, however, does not mean it should be a publicly-sponsored program or find a seat a the table with groups dedicated to fighting social inequality. The determining factor in choosing ACE sites is not the socioeconomic needs of the individuals within the community, but the financial and personnel needs of the schools themselves. Therefore, students with widely varying family backgrounds, at very different schools even within the same small town, can be lucky enough to get ACE teachers.
When compared with other postgraduate service programs, the disparate impacts that this slight variation on targeted aid recipients„from individuals to schools„can have is readily apparent. A perfect example can be found thousands of miles away, in Chile. There, volunteers in the Holy Cross Associates program work in orphanages or nursing homes in Santiago and in assisting political organization among the marginalized peasants in the countryside. This represents service to needy individuals. Miles up the hill, ACE has set up a post-ACE program for its own graduates in Chile, but "missionaries" in this "Chace" program work in the English department of one of Chile's elite preparatory schools. Chace represents service to a needy school (though less needy than even the most affluent of Biloxi's ACE sites), as this elite school needs top-notch English speakers to instruct Chile's upper-class youth. While ACE makes no claims that this is a "service" project in the traditional sense, instead selling it as a sort of networking opportunity/international adventure, this choice of placement for some of ACE's successful teachers is interesting to say the least.
Two issues are raised: ACE's priority of "needy schools" over "needy students" in ACE's selection of sites, and the continued sponsorship of ACE by Americorps. The first is largely a matter of internal priorities. Nowhere does ACE specifically claim that it targets those at the low end of the tax bracket for its service, nor does its make any explicit claims about the pursuit of social justice. If we infer that it does, it is not their responsibility to track us down and clear up the misunderstanding. ACE is, first and foremost, a well-designed program to help Catholic schools recruit good, dedicated faculty. At this, it is wildly successful: while most ACErs enter the program planning to teach for only two years, approximately 77 percent go on to remain in education. ACE is, by most early accounts, a fine professional training program.
The second issue, that of government sponsorship, should be equally straightforward. In research for this article, I found two programs with which ACE shares some similarity. The first is Teach For America, the widely popular Americorps program that places students in public schools, mainly in urban areas, across the country. This is probably the most well-known volunteer teacher-training program in the country, and it fits the current general guidelines for Americorps programs: it is secular and the target groups are decidedly marginalized.
The other group I found, the Jewish Teacher Corps, places its members in Jewish schools to teach mainly Judaic studies, and is not an Americorps program. On its website, it explains why. "Because the Jewish Teacher Corps Fellows are serving in private religious schools, and the student populations that we will be serving are not living in a socio-economic state that qualifies as 'need-based,' Americorps unfortunately can not invest in The Jewish Teacher Corps." ACE's dubitable claim to partial secularism and the constitutionality of Americorps support is addressed elsewhere in this edition, but the "need-based" qualification of which the JTC speaks is equally in doubt.
Jews and Catholics have something of a shared history of marginalization in this country. Immigrant populations that faced persistent discrimination for generations, each can be seen as success stories of "the American Dream". Especially notable has been the use of private education in the rise of the Catholic community. Catholic education has been so successful over the years, and become such a large part of American culture, that today discrimination against Catholics is virtually nonexistent, both economically and socially. In fact, studies show that Catholics are the most prosperous and highly educated single religious denomination in the U.S. With this in mind, one might again ask the question "Should the government subsidize private education for the most affluent group in America?"
The answer from the Jewish camp is "No." They have accepted the sectarian nature of their program and the affluence of their group, and accepted that it is not the government's responsibility to preserve the religio-cultural heritage of a rather affluent group. ACE's membership in Americorps takes the opposite track, claiming that parochial education in the faith tradition of the richest group in America merits federal support. Supporters of modern secular democracy must each make their own decision.
Tom Ogorzalek, Notre Dame '01 and a former Common Sense editor, taught with ACE and is now in Washington DC where he is editor of the Journal of Housing and Community Development for the National Association of Housing and Redevelopment Officials.
Poets for Peace
Early this year First Lady Laura Bush, herself a librarian by training, organized a White House Symposium entitled "Poetry and the American Voice" which was to include works by Emily Dickinson and Walt Whitman as well as works by contemporary poets. Upon hearing that poet Sam Hamill intended to read from his own work which speaks against the coming war, Mrs. Bush cancelled the symposium.
In response, a call went out nationwide to designate February 12 as a "Day of Poetry Against the War." Led by Notre Dame Professor Valerie Sayers, a group of thirteen Notre Dame participants met during the noon hour in the O'Shaughnessy Great Hall to read poetry on the theme of war to an audience of about 70.
There was a subsequent "Poets for Peace" reading on March 5 with Notre Dame faculty, graduate students, undergraduates and alumni joining for a four hour long reading of prose and poetry.
The following is a collection of the work of local poets read at the earlier "Day of Poetry Against the War" reading on February 12.