Iraqi Died While Hanging by His Wrists
By SETH HETTENA
The Associated Press
Friday, February 18, 2005; 8:04 AM
SAN DIEGO - An Iraqi whose corpse was photographed with grinning U.S. soldiers at Abu Ghraib died under CIA interrogation while in a position condemned by human rights groups as torture - suspended by his wrists, with his hands cuffed behind his back, according to reports reviewed by The Associated Press.
The death of the prisoner, Manadel al-Jamadi, became known last year when the Abu Ghraib prison scandal broke. The U.S. military said back then that the death had been ruled a homicide. But the exact circumstances under which the man died were not disclosed at the time.
The prisoner died in a position known as "Palestinian hanging," the documents reviewed by The AP show. It is unclear whether that position was approved by the Bush administration for use in CIA interrogations.
The spy agency, which faces congressional scrutiny over its detention and interrogation of terror suspects at the Baghdad prison and elsewhere, declined to comment for this story, as did the Justice Department.
Al-Jamadi was one of the CIA's "ghost" detainees at Abu Ghraib - prisoners being held secretly by the agency.
His death in November 2003 became public with the release of photos of Abu Ghraib guards giving a thumbs-up over his bruised and puffy-faced corpse, which had been packed in ice. One of those guards was Pvt. Charles Graner, who last month received 10 years in a military prison for abusing detainees.
Al-Jamadi died in a prison shower room during about a half-hour of questioning, before interrogators could extract any information, according to the documents, which consist of statements from Army prison guards to investigators with the military and the CIA's Inspector General's office.
One Army guard, Sgt. Jeffery Frost, said the prisoner's arms were stretched behind him in a way he had never before seen. Frost told investigators he was surprised al-Jamadi's arms "didn't pop out of their sockets," according to a summary of his interview.
Frost and other guards had been summoned to reposition al-Jamadi, who an interrogator said was not cooperating. As the guards released the shackles and lowered al-Jamadi, blood gushed from his mouth "as if a faucet had been turned on," according to the interview summary.
The military pathologist who ruled the case a homicide found several broken ribs and concluded al-Jamadi died from pressure to the chest and difficulty breathing.
Dr. Michael Baden, a distinguished civilian pathologist who reviewed the autopsy for a defense attorney in the case, agreed in an interview that the position in which al-Jamadi was suspended could have contributed to his death.
Dr. Vincent Iacopino, director of research for Physicians for Human Rights, called the hyper-extension of the arms behind the back "clear and simple torture." The European Court of Human Rights found Turkey guilty of torture in 1996 in a case of Palestinian hanging - a technique Iacopino said is used worldwide but named for its alleged use by Israel in the Palestinian territories.
The Washington Post reported last year that after the Abu Ghraib scandal broke, the CIA suspended the use of its "enhanced interrogation techniques," including stress positions, because of fears that the agency could be accused of unsanctioned and illegal activity. The newspaper said the White House had approved the tactics.
Navy SEALs apprehended al-Jamadi as a suspect in the Oct. 27, 2003, bombing of Red Cross offices in Baghdad that killed 12 people. His alleged role in the bombing is unclear. According to court documents and testimony, the SEALs punched, kicked and struck al-Jamadi with their rifles before handing him over to the CIA early on Nov. 4. By 7 a.m., al-Jamadi was dead.
Navy prosecutors in San Diego have charged nine SEALs and one sailor with abusing al-Jamadi and others. All but two lieutenants have received nonjudicial punishment; one lieutenant is scheduled for court-martial in March, the other is awaiting a hearing before the Navy's top SEAL.
The statements from five of Abu Ghraib's Army guards were shown to The AP by an attorney for one of the SEALs, who said they offered a more balanced picture of what happened. The lawyer asked not to be identified, saying he feared repercussions for his client.
According to the statements:
Al-Jamadi was brought naked below the waist to the prison with a CIA interrogator and translator. A green plastic bag covered his head, and plastic cuffs tightly bound his wrists. Guards dressed al-Jamadi in an orange jumpsuit, slapped on metal handcuffs and escorted him to the shower room, a common CIA interrogation spot.
There, the interrogator instructed guards to attach shackles from the prisoner's handcuffs to a barred window. That would let al-Jamadi stand without pain, but if he tried to lower himself, his arms would be stretched above and behind him.
The documents do not make clear what happened after guards left. After about a half-hour, the interrogator called for the guards to reposition the prisoner, who was slouching with his arms stretched behind him.
The interrogator told guards that al-Jamadi was "playing possum" - faking it - and then watched as guards struggled to get him on his feet. But the guards realized it was useless.
"After we found out he was dead, they were nervous," Spc. Dennis E. Stevanus said of the CIA interrogator and translator. "They didn't know what the hell to do."
Friday, February 18, 2005
In Europe, New Force for Recruiting Radicals
Ansar al-Islam Emerges as Primary Extremist Group Funneling Fighters Into Iraq
By Craig Whitlock
Washington Post Foreign Service
Friday, February 18, 2005; Page A01
COPENHAGEN -- When robbers stole more than $300,000 from an armored car here in 1997, investigators were taken aback by the size and brazenness of the heist. But they really became alarmed when they discovered that one of the culprits had been under surveillance as a suspected Islamic extremist.
That man, Mustapha Darwich Ramadan, was arrested shortly before he planned to flee Copenhagen on a flight to Amman, Jordan, police said. He was convicted of robbery and served 3 1/2 years in prison. After his release in June 2001, Copenhagen police said, he struck again, robbing a money-transfer store of about $15,000. This time, he escaped to either Jordan or Lebanon, police said.
Since then, according to European intelligence officials, Ramadan has surfaced in Iraq as a leader of Ansar al-Islam, a radical group that U.S. officials say has carried out at least 40 suicide bombings and other attacks resulting in more than 1,000 deaths in the war-ravaged country.
Officials say Ansar also operates an extensive underground network that recruits young Muslims across Europe to join the insurgency in Iraq. Intelligence estimates of the numbers sent from Europe by Ansar and other groups vary from 100 to more than 3,000, but there is general agreement that the flow is increasing.
U.S. intelligence officials say that most insurgents are Iraqis but that foreign fighters pose a major threat. Testifying before Congress on Wednesday, CIA Director Porter J. Goss said Islamic extremists were "exploiting the Iraqi conflict to recruit new anti-U.S. jihadists."
He expressed concern that fighters who survive the insurgency will establish cells in Saudi Arabia, Jordan and other countries.
Since moving to Iraq, Ramadan has operated under the name Abu Mohammed Lubnani, or father of Mohammed the Lebanese, European intelligence officials believe. A Web site run by Islamic radicals reported recently that he had been killed, but the claim has drawn skepticism here on grounds it may be disinformation.
Lubnani, a 40-year-old former Lebanese military officer, developed contacts across Europe during his 14-year stay in Denmark. His story is emblematic of how Ansar, once a small Kurdish group focused solely on local conflicts in northern Iraq, has been able to broaden its mission, casting itself as an international force in Islamic radicalism and expanding into Europe.
In the past two years, authorities have arrested alleged Ansar operatives, smugglers and fundraisers in six European countries. In Italy, anti-terrorism police said they had broken up two Ansar cells that funneled fighters to Iraq via Turkey and Syria.
In Sweden, police arrested four Ansar suspects and are investigating them for allegedly helping to plan twin bombings that killed more than 100 people on Feb. 1, 2004, in the Iraqi city of Irbil.
In December, German police said they broke up a hastily arranged plot by three Ansar members to attack interim Iraqi Prime Minister Ayad Allawi during a visit to Berlin. German federal prosecutor Kay Nehm said the cell had "close contact to the highest leadership circles" of Ansar, in which he included Lubnani, describing him as "the deputy leader" of the network in Iraq.
"Ansar is very good -- a leading power -- in terms of mobilizing followers to fight the Americans in Iraq," said Guenther Beckstein, interior minister for the German state of Bavaria. "They are especially brutal and they are very good at getting attention worldwide. This in turn enables them to recruit more fanatics."
Beckstein estimated that between 10 and 50 fighters had left Bavaria to join the insurgency in Iraq. Among them: a 27-year-old Ansar courier from Munich who traveled freely back and forth between Germany and Iraq 20 times before he was caught by Iraqi forces last March.
Ansar was founded by a Kurdish cleric known as Mullah Krekar, who was granted political asylum in Norway more than a decade ago but who traveled back and forth from Europe to northern Iraq to set up military training camps for the group. According to the State Department, Ansar's goal was to establish an Islamic state in northern Iraq.
In Washington, officials began to view the group as a threat to U.S. interests after seeing evidence that it gave shelter to al Qaeda leaders who fled Afghanistan when U.S. attacks began there in October 2001.
In the early days of the Iraq war, U.S. troops and Kurdish allies swept into Ansar's enclave in northern Iraq. U.S. officials estimated that 250 to 700 of the group's fighters were killed.
Since then, Ansar has regrouped and become stronger, with many recruits coming from outside Iraq. The State Department reported last April that membership levels had rebounded to 700 to 1,000 fighters. Ansar gained a quick foothold in Europe because it tapped into pre-existing networks on the continent, according to a review of arrests of its operatives.
In 2003, Italian police detained a dozen suspected Ansar supporters and accused them of smuggling an estimated 200 Islamic radicals from Europe into Iraq.
A key figure in that cell was Abderrazak Mahdjoub, an Algerian immigrant who had been investigated previously by German and Spanish officials for ties to the al Qaeda cell from Hamburg that carried out the Sept. 11, 2001, hijackings in the United States.
Mahdjoub and three other Algerian men were arrested in Syria in March 2003, days before the start of the war in Iraq. They were deported to Germany, but it took European investigators several months to realize that the reason the men were in Syria was to set up a pipeline to funnel foreign fighters into Iraq.
According to documents filed at a court in Milan, the cell members had been operating in Italy since at least July 2001, though investigators do not believe that the cell established connections to Ansar until later.
Six of the suspects, including Mahdjoub, are scheduled to go on trial this month in Milan. Indictments accuse them of "sending militants to war zones to sustain terrorist activities" and raising money for Ansar. Last month, a judge threw out terrorism charges filed against three other suspects in the case, saying their actions in Iraq amounted only to guerrilla warfare by a resistance movement, not terrorism.
The discovery of the cell in Milan enabled European officials to track down Ansar operatives in several other countries. According to court records, one of the suspects arrested in Italy, a Kurdish immigrant named Mohammed Tahir Hamid, has provided investigators with the names of Ansar members in Norway, Germany, Sweden and Britain.
Search Moves North
Information from the Milan case soon led investigators north to Munich.
On Dec. 3, 2003, German police arrested a 30-year-old Kurdish immigrant at the Munich train station and accused him of smuggling a dozen fighters into Iraq and of helping wounded Ansar members leave the war zone and bringing them clandestinely into Europe to receive medical treatment.
The suspect, Lokman Amin Mohammed, was indicted last year on charges of smuggling more than 20 Iraqis into Europe, most of them before the invasion. He is also charged with belonging to Ansar, which the German government formally listed as a terrorist organization last summer. He is scheduled to go on trial in March.
In one of the smuggling cases, court records allege, Mohammed helped an Ansar bomb expert named Ali Fadhil leave Iraq after he lost his hands in an explosion in September 2003. Mohammed arranged for the man to be smuggled along a circuitous route from Milan to Rome, then to Paris and finally London, where he received medical treatment, records say.
Investigators have been unable to find the bomb maker and it is unclear if he is in Europe.
Mohammed has admitted to investigators that he helped smuggle people from Iraq into Europe, but has denied being a member of Ansar or knowing that any of the illegal immigrants were part of the group, his lawyer said.
"From the first moment on, he said he was not a member of Ansar al-Islam and that there was no political background to his actions," the lawyer, Nicole Hinz, said in an interview in Munich. "He was smuggling these people for money. There was never any doubt about that." His purpose was to reunite people with friends and relatives in Europe, Hinz said.
Before his arrest, German police wiretapped Mohammed's phone and listened to dozens of conversations in an attempt to learn more about the Ansar network in Europe. Records show that at least one of the conversations steered the investigation north again, this time to Sweden.
On Nov. 22, 2003, in a tapped phone conversation, Mohammed was asked by a boyhood friend to help smuggle 12 people into Iraq, ostensibly for the purpose of joining Ansar forces there, according to court records. Mohammed didn't have time to act on the request; he was arrested two weeks later.
The friend, Shahab Shahab, had grown up with him in the Kurdish town of Chamchamal. The two left Iraq together for Europe; Shahab went to Sweden.
The conversation led Swedish security police to open an investigation into Shahab. In April 2004, he and three other men were arrested in Stockholm and the southern Swedish city of Malmo on suspicion of engaging in terrorism.
Swedish authorities have accused the four men -- three of whom are Iraqi nationals -- of having "strong ties" to Ansar and of planning crimes that were "directed at the state of Iraq and were aimed at striking grave terror into a population," according to arrest warrants filed in Stockholm.
Swedish media have reported that the men are suspected of helping plan the bombings in Irbil last February.
After the arrests, the chief of Sweden's security police, Klas Bergenstrand, called the risk of terrorism in Sweden "relatively small," but acknowledged the presence of Ansar operatives in the country.
"There is a high risk that there are people in Sweden who work to prepare terrorist attacks in other countries," he told Swedish radio.
The arrests were "the first serious sign that we do have these problems," said Magnus Norell, an analyst for the Swedish Defense Research Council who studies terrorist groups. "Most of what is going on, you don't see. And that's the danger. This is a very good part of Europe to operate in. As long as you play it safe and play it cool, you're home free."
Shahab was released from jail last month after an appellate judge ruled that prosecutors did not have enough evidence to hold him while they pursued the investigation. Swedish authorities said they wanted to deport him, but were prohibited by law from sending him back to Iraq because he could face the death penalty or political persecution there.
His attorney, Bengt Soederstroem, said Shahab denied "very strongly" belonging to Ansar or playing any role in the Irbil bombings. Two of the other suspects in the case remain in jail. A third suspect, a Swedish citizen originally from Lebanon, was released in September but also remains under investigation.
Special correspondent Shannon Smiley in Berlin contributed to this report.
Posted by politicalstuff at 5:06 PM
arabnews.com The Middle East's Leading English Language Daily
Friday, 18, February, 2005 (09, Muharram, 1426)
Plutonium Missing From British Site
Agence France Presse —
LONDON, 18 February 2005 — A civilian nuclear fuels reprocessing plant in northwest England cannot account for some 30 kilograms of plutonium, enough for seven or eight nuclear bombs, a newspaper said yesterday.
The annual audit of nuclear material at all of Britain’s civil nuclear plants is expected to reveal that the quantity of plutonium at Sellafield was classified as “material unaccounted for” last year, The Times said.
Figures published by the British Nuclear Group (BNG) each year reveal an audit of nuclear material which is admitted and processed by the various plants around Britain.
A spokeswoman at Sellafield said: “This is material that is unaccounted for, and there is always a discrepancy between the physical inventory and the book inventory. There is no suggestion that any material has left the site.”
The Sellafield spokeswoman said the most likely reason for any shortfall was due to the complex measuring processes that are carried out. Asked if the 30 kilogram figure raised concern, she replied: “I wouldn’t say we would be alarmed by it, because we are only talking about a book figure here.”
But independent experts were worried about the disclosure, according to The Times. “They make this claim of an auditing problem but I would expect them to be overzealous in the current climate of fears about terrorism,” John Large, an independent nuclear consultant, was quoted as saying.
Frank Barnaby, a specialist in nuclear weapons, told The Times: “There will always be some material unaccounted for but this is a dramatic development.”
Posted by politicalstuff at 5:05 PM
Army Destroyed Mock Execution Pictures
Friday February 18, 2005 12:46 PM
By LARRY NEUMEISTER
Associated Press Writer
NEW YORK (AP) - Pictures of U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan posing with hooded and bound detainees during mock executions were destroyed after the Abu Ghraib prison scandal in Iraq to avoid another public outrage, Army documents released Friday by the American Civil Liberties Union show.
The results of an Army probe of the photographs were among hundreds of pages of documents released after the ACLU obtained a federal court order in Manhattan to let it see documents about U.S. treatment of detainees around the world.
The ACLU said the probe shows the rippling effect of the Abu Ghraib scandal and that efforts to humiliate the enemy might have been more widespread than thought.
``It's increasingly clear that members of the military were aware of the allegations of torture and that efforts were taken to erase evidence, to shut down investigations and to humiliate the detainees in an effort to silence them,'' ACLU Executive Director Anthony Romero said.
The Army did not immediately return a telephone message seeking comment.
The probe of the pictures in Afghanistan began after a CD found there during a July office cleanup contained pictures of uniformed soldiers pointing guns at bound and hooded detainees.
The investigation showed that the pictures were taken in and around Fire Base Tycze in southern Afghanistan, according to the documents, which blacked out the identities of those interviewed.
An Army specialist told investigators that similar photographs were destroyed after images of torture at Abu Ghraib were leaked to the media.
Another Army specialist admitted he was photographed standing behind a prisoner while holding a weapon to his head, according to the released records. The specialist told investigators he considered those kinds of pictures bad because they would enrage the public.
The probe established probable cause to believe eight soldiers committed dereliction of duty when they jokingly pointed weapons at bound detainees and took pictures, the Army records show.
Earlier documents released by the ACLU had primarily been from the FBI. The ACLU also is seeking documents from the CIA and the Department of Defense.
Other Army documents released Friday outlined the case of an Iraqi detainee who said Americans in civilian clothes beat him, dislocated his arms, fired an unloaded pistol into his mouth and beat his leg with a bat before making him denounce his abuse claims to win release. A criminal file on the alleged abuse was closed because the probe could not prove or disprove the claims.
The Army documents also describe a probe into complaints by senior psychological operations officers in Afghanistan that they saw assaults by special forces on civilians during raids in May 2004 in the villages of Gurjay and Sukhagen.
That investigation was suspended because the victims could not be interviewed and prospective witnesses were enemy forces, the Army said in its documents.
Posted by politicalstuff at 5:04 PM
Papers reveal Bagram abuse
· Prisoners subjected to 'mock executions'
· Photographs of detainees being sexually humiliated
Suzanne Goldenberg in Washington and James Meek
Friday February 18, 2005
New evidence has emerged that US forces in Afghanistan engaged in widespread Abu Ghraib-style abuse, taking "trophy photographs" of detainees and carrying out rape and sexual humiliation.
Documents obtained by the Guardian contain evidence that such abuses took place in the main detention centre at Bagram, near the capital Kabul, as well as at a smaller US installation near the southern city of Kandahar.
The documents also indicate that US soldiers covered up abuse in Afghanistan and in Iraq - even after the Abu Ghraib scandal last year.
A thousand pages of evidence from US army investigations released to the American Civil Liberties Union after a long legal battle, and made available to the Guardian, show that an Iraqi detained at Tikrit in September 2003 was forced to withdraw his report of abuse after soldiers told him he would be held indefinitely.
Meanwhile, photographs taken in southern Afghanistan showing US soldiers from the 22nd Infantry Battalion posing in mock executions of blindfolded and bound detainees, were purposely destroyed after the Abu Ghraib scandal to avoid "another public outrage", the documents show.
In the dossier, the Iraqi detainee claims that three US interrogators in civilian clothing dislocated his arms, stuck an unloaded gun in his mouth and pulled the trigger, choked him with a rope until he lost consciousness, and beat him with a baseball bat.
"After they tied me up in the chair, then they dislocate my both arms. He asked to admit before I kill you then he beat again and again," the prisoner says in his statement. "He asked me: Are you going to report me? You have no evidence. Then he hit me very hard on my nose, and then he stepped on my nose until he broken and I started bleeding."
The detainee withdrew his charges on November 23 2003. He says he was told: "You will stay in the prison for a long time, and you will never get out until you are 50 years old."
A medical examination by a US military doctor confirmed the detainee's account, yet the investigation was closed last October. "It is further proof that the army is not seriously investigating credible allegations of abuse," said Jameel Jaffar, a lawyer for the ACLU.
The latest allegations from Afghanistan fit a pattern of claims of brutal treatment made by former Guantánamo Bay prisoners and Afghans held by the US, and reported by the Guardian last year. In December the US said eight prisoners had died in its custody in Afghanistan.
In a separate case, which the Guardian reveals today, two former prisoners of the US in Afghanistan have come forward with claims against their American captors.
In sworn affidavits to a British-American human rights lawyer, a Palestinian says he was sodomised by American soldiers in Afghanistan. Another former prisoner of US forces, a Jordanian, describes a form of torture which involved being hung in a cage from a rope for days.
Both men were freed from US detention last year after being held in Afghanistan and Guantánamo Bay. Neither has been charged by any government with any offence.
Hussain Adbulkadr Youssouf Mustafa, a Palestinian living in Jordan, told the lawyer, Clive Stafford-Smith, that he was sodomised by US soldiers during his detention at Bagram air force base in 2002.
He claims to have been blindfolded, tightly handcuffed, gagged and had his ears plugged, forced to bend down over a table by two soldiers, with a third soldier pressing his face down on the table, and to have had his trousers pulled down.
"They forcibly rammed a stick up my rectum," he reports. "It was excruciatingly painful ... Only when the pain became overwhelming did I think I would ever scream. But I could not stop screaming when this happened."
In a second affidavit, the Jordanian citizen, Wesam Abdulrahman Ahmed Al Deemawi, detained from March 15 2002 to March 31 2004, says that during a 40-day period of detention at Bagram he was threatened with dogs, stripped and photographed "in shameful and obscene positions" and placed in a cage with a hook and a hanging rope. He says he was hung from this hook, blindfolded, for two days although he was occasionally given hour-long "breaks".
The Guardian asked the US military's central command, which has responsibility for Afghanistan, to respond to the allegations on Wednesday. By the time of going to press last night no response had been received other than an email from a Major Steven Wollman in Kabul, saying he was researching the question.
Posted by politicalstuff at 5:01 PM
Thursday, February 17, 2005
February 17, 2005
You won't often read this on an editorial page, but journalists are not above the law. This uncomfortable truth was reaffirmed by three federal judges on Tuesday. They upheld a lower court ruling that two journalists — Judith Miller of the New York Times and Matt Cooper of Time magazine — will have to go to jail if they won't reveal their sources to Patrick J. Fitzgerald, the special prosecutor investigating White House leaks.
The leaks "outed" an intelligence agent because the Bush administration had a gripe against her husband. That looks like a crime. But if journalists are exempt from the citizen's normal duty to testify about knowledge of a crime, and the leaker is also exempt on grounds of self-incrimination, there may be no way this crime can be punished.
Unsurprisingly, we believe that the work of journalists is socially valuable. And anonymous sources are sometimes necessary to that work. That is why we favor a "journalist's privilege" to honor promises of secrecy — but we realize that two caveats may also be socially valuable. First, that privilege cannot be absolute. It must be balanced against other considerations, such as enforcing the law. Second, striking that balance cannot be up to the sole discretion of individual journalists. That judgment should be made by courts or — preferably — by Congress, with a national shield law.
For more than three decades, the privilege afforded journalists — unlike, say, lawyers or spouses not to testify against someone — has been a muddle. Journalists have had to promise anonymity without knowing whether this might land them in jail. If the extent of the privilege was clear, most journalists would not promise what they could not deliver.
The problem for Miller and Cooper is that they have already made the promise of anonymity and feel obliged to keep it no matter what the courts decide.
Miller and Cooper are not even the ones who published the CIA operative's name. That was columnist Robert Novak, and the mystery of why he is not packing for prison remains unsolved.
Cooper even testified at one point, when a suspect in the leak investigation asked him to confirm that the prosecutor was barking up the wrong tree. Cooper did it, and immediately was subpoenaed again for other evidence.
It is hard to believe that Fitzgerald has any real doubt at this point about the culprit's identity, or that he has much to gain from harassing Cooper and Miller.
Fitzgerald has demonstrated that if journalists should not have total discretion about the extent of the privilege, neither should prosecutors. That's why we need a clear law.
Meanwhile, sending these two dedicated journalists — who weren't even involved in the actual CIA leak — to jail would be utterly unfair and preposterous.
Posted by politicalstuff at 6:05 PM
The New York Times
February 17, 2005
Allies Resisting as U.S. Pushes Terror Label for Hezbollah
By STEVEN R. WEISMAN
WASHINGTON, Feb. 16 - As rising instability in Lebanon increases tensions in the Middle East, the Bush administration is arguing with European governments over whether they should designate the Lebanon-based Shiite group Hezbollah a terrorist organization, American and European officials say.
The United States is already stepping up pressure on Iran and Syria, Hezbollah's main sponsors. The American rift with Syria deepened this week, with suspicions that Syria might have been behind the assassination of Lebanon's former prime minister in Beirut on Monday.
The disagreement over Hezbollah presents another challenge for President Bush, who will go to Europe on Sunday on a mission to fix ruptures with Europe over the Iraq war.
In the past two weeks, the officials said, France has rebuffed appeals by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and the Israeli foreign minister, Silvan Shalom, to list Hezbollah as a terrorist organization, which would prevent it from raising money in Europe through charity groups. The United States has long called Hezbollah a terrorist organization, but the French, American and European officials said, have opposed doing so, and argue that making such a designation now would be unwise, given the new turbulence in Lebanon.
Israeli and American officials say that the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, has told them that he, too, regards Hezbollah as a destructive force in the Middle East, one determined to undermine peace talks by supporting militant groups that attack Israelis.
The officials and diplomats interviewed would not give their names, saying they did not want to be seen as worsening tensions between the United States and Europe on the eve of Mr. Bush's trip.
The Europeans are not solidly opposed to listing Hezbollah as a terrorist group, the officials said. The Netherlands, Italy and Poland support the Bush administration's view, several officials said, while Germany and Britain believe the issue is moot unless the French change their minds. One European diplomat said other countries were "hiding behind" France on the issue.
Hezbollah, which is based in the Bekaa region in Lebanon, gets much of its financial support from Syria and Iran, American officials say. But besides carrying out attacks on civilians and opposing Israel, Hezbollah also provides social services to thousands of Lebanese Shiites and has political representatives in Lebanon's Parliament.
"This is a difficult issue because Hezbollah has military operations that we deplore, but Hezbollah is also a political party in Lebanon," said a European official. "Can a political party elected by the Lebanese people be put on a terrorist list? Would that really help deal with terrorism? Now with Lebanon in a fragile state, is this the proper moment to take such a step?"
A European diplomat said the issue of calling Hezbollah a terrorist organization was discussed in Brussels on Wednesday at a meeting of the Clearing House, a unit of the European Union that meets in confidential sessions to review terrorist activities in Europe. The group could reach no consensus, the diplomat said.
"Nothing is going to change on Hezbollah because we don't have an agreement among the member states," the diplomat said. "That doesn't mean we won't get a consensus. I know the Americans are impatient, but the European Union has 25 states, and these things take time."
The Bush administration persuaded the Europeans to list Hamas, the Palestinian militant organization, as a terrorist group in September 2003. But enforcement of a ban on Hamas's fund-raising and financial activities has been left to each country, so the effort has been uneven, European officials say. Most countries have not made serious enforcement efforts, they said.
Now, in a measure of continuing trans-Atlantic disagreement about how to handle the Middle East, some European countries are questioning whether Hamas should remain on the terrorist list, because some of its members won municipal posts in recent Palestinian elections, and Europeans want to encourage Hamas to enter the mainstream of Palestinian politics.
Britain and other countries have argued that the best way to press Hamas to drop its efforts to disrupt Middle East peace talks and to recognize Israel is to offer inducements, several officials said. But the Clearing House has not raised the question of whether to remove Hamas from the terrorist list.
A senior State Department official said that the United States had wanted Europe to list Hezbollah as a terrorist group for some time, but that it had become a priority now that the Israelis and the Palestinians were making progress in easing tensions.
"It's incumbent on everybody to tighten up on Hezbollah, but it's become this big fat wild card that everybody's afraid to take on," an administration official said.
Ms. Rice, speaking to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee during hearings on the State Department budget, singled out Hezbollah as a group that had tried to wreck the Middle East peace talks.
"Here you have Hezbollah and other terrorist groups, many of them supported by Syria, trying literally to blow up the process," Ms. Rice said.
In a statement before the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, Porter J. Goss, the new director of central intelligence, said Hezbollah's "main focus remains Israel, but it could conduct lethal attacks against U.S. interests quickly upon a decision to do so."
The dispute over how to handle Hezbollah underscores the number of issues that continue to divide the United States from its longtime European allies, despite Ms. Rice's recent visit.
French doubts about punishing Hezbollah echo the European-American dispute over how to handle Iran, which intelligence officials say is the main source of Hezbollah's financing. The administration favors punishments and penalties on Iran, while most European governments favor negotiations and engagement.
In addition, Europe is determined to lift an arms embargo imposed in 1989 on China, which the United States wants to keep, while the United States opposes the Kyoto Treaty on global warming and the International Criminal Court, each warmly supported in Europe.
Another issue is American opposition to another term for Mohamed El Baradei as chief of the International Atomic Energy Agency, an issue also linked to Iran. Europeans argue that Dr. El Baradei, a Muslim, is best suited to press the Iranians to cooperate on its nuclear program.
Posted by politicalstuff at 6:00 PM
War Helps Recruit Terrorists, Hill Told
Intelligence Officials Talk Of Growing Insurgency
By Dana Priest and Josh White
Washington Post Staff Writers
Thursday, February 17, 2005; Page A01
The insurgency in Iraq continues to baffle the U.S. military and intelligence communities, and the U.S. occupation has become a potent recruiting tool for al Qaeda and other terrorist groups, top U.S. national security officials told Congress yesterday.
"Islamic extremists are exploiting the Iraqi conflict to recruit new anti-U.S. jihadists," CIA Director Porter J. Goss told the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence.
"These jihadists who survive will leave Iraq experienced and focused on acts of urban terrorism," he said. "They represent a potential pool of contacts to build transnational terrorist cells, groups and networks in Saudi Arabia, Jordan and other countries."
On a day when the top half-dozen U.S. national security and intelligence officials went to Capitol Hill to talk about the continued determination of terrorists to strike the United States, their statements underscored the unintended consequences of the war in Iraq.
"The Iraq conflict, while not a cause of extremism, has become a cause for extremists," Goss said in his first public testimony since taking over the CIA. Goss said Abu Musab Zarqawi, a Jordanian terrorist who has joined al Qaeda since the U.S. invasion, "hopes to establish a safe haven in Iraq" from which he could operate against Western nations and moderate Muslim governments.
"Our policies in the Middle East fuel Islamic resentment," Vice Adm. Lowell E. Jacoby, director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, told the Senate panel. "Overwhelming majorities in Morocco, Jordan and Saudi Arabia believe the U.S. has a negative policy toward the Arab world."
Jacoby said the Iraq insurgency has grown "in size and complexity over the past year" and is now mounting an average of 60 attacks per day, up from 25 last year. Attacks on Iraq's election day last month reached 300, he said, double the previous one-day high of 150, even though transportation was virtually locked down.
Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld told the House Armed Services Committee that he has trouble believing any of the estimates of the number of insurgents because it is so difficult to track them.
Rumsfeld said that the CIA and DIA had differing assessments at different times but that U.S. intelligence estimates of the insurgency are "considerably lower" than a recent Iraqi intelligence report of 40,000 hard-core insurgents and 200,000 part-time fighters. Rumsfeld told Rep. Ike Skelton (Mo.), the committee's ranking Democrat, that he had copies of the CIA and DIA estimates but declined to disclose them in a public session because they are classified.
"My job in the government is not to be the principal intelligence officer and try to rationalize differences between the Iraqis, the CIA and the DIA," Rumsfeld testified. "I see these reports. Frankly, I don't have a lot of confidence in any of them."
After the hearing, Rumsfeld told reporters that he did not mean to be "dismissive" of the intelligence reports.
"People are doing the best that can be done, and the fact is that people disagree," he said. ". . . It's not clear to me that the number is the overriding important thing."
Air Force Gen. Richard B. Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told the House panel that the extremists associated with al Qaeda and Zarqawi represent "a fairly small percentage of the total number of insurgents."
Sunni Arabs, dominated by former members of Saddam Hussein's Baath Party, "comprise the core of the insurgency" and continue to provide "funds and guidance across family, tribal, religious and peer-group lines," Jacoby said.
Foreign fighters "are a small component of the insurgency," and Syrian, Saudi, Egyptian, Jordanian and Iranian nationals make up the majority of foreign fighters, he said.
On terrorism, Goss, FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III and the acting deputy director of the Department of Homeland Security reiterated their belief that al Qaeda and other jihadist groups intend to strike the United States but offered no new information about the threat.
"It may be only a matter of time before al Qaeda or another group attempts to use chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear weapons," Goss said.
Tom Fingar, assistant secretary of state for intelligence and research, submitted a written statement that said: "We have seen no persuasive evidence that al-Qaida has obtained fissile material or ever has had a serious and sustained program to do so. At worst, the group possesses small amounts of radiological material that could be used to fabricate a radiological dispersion device," or dirty bomb.
Mueller, whose bureau has the lead in finding and apprehending terrorists in the United States, said his top concern is "the threat from covert operatives who may be inside the U.S." and said finding them is the FBI's top priority. But he said they have been unable to do so.
"I remain very concerned about what we are not seeing," Mueller said.
"Whether we are talking about a true sleeper operative who has been in place for years, waiting to be activated to conduct an attack, or a recently deployed operative that has entered the U.S. to facilitate or conduct an attack, we are continuously adapting our methods to reflect newly received intelligence and to ensure we are as proactive and as targeted as we can be in detecting their presence," he said.
Mueller said transportation systems and nuclear power plants remain key al Qaeda targets.
James Loy, acting deputy secretary of homeland security, agreed. In a written statement, he said that despite the efforts of the U.S. intelligence community and his department, and advances in information sharing, technology and organization, "any attack of any kind could occur at any time."
Posted by politicalstuff at 5:58 PM
The Wall Street Journal
February 16, 2005
Bush Combs Senate for Friendly Democrats
White House Lobbyists
Estimate a Third of Opposition
Will Provide Occasional Support
By CHRISTOPHER COOPER
Staff Reporter of THE WALL STREET JOURNAL
February 16, 2005; Page A4
WASHINGTON -- From the tone in the capital lately, you might think President Bush couldn't expect support from any Democrat in Congress.
In the past few days, the Democratic Party made Bush critic Howard Dean its chairman, and top House Democratic tax writer, Rep. Charles Rangel, pronounced the president's Social Security plan "dead."
Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid recently upbraided the White House for personally attacking him through the Republican National Committee.
But in fact there are some Democrats who may yet help Mr. Bush accomplish parts of his agenda. "We spend a lot of time trying to understand what makes these people tick," says a senior White House official -- and the administration's efficiency in capitalizing on that will be critical to Mr. Bush's second-term success.
The pool of potential collaborators is smaller than it was. Mr. Bush's closest Democratic ally, Sen. Zell Miller of Georgia, has retired. Gone as well are several who cast crucial votes for Mr. Bush's first-term tax cuts: Sens. Max Cleland of Georgia, Jean Carnahan of Missouri, Robert Torricelli of New Jersey and John Breaux of Louisiana.
Still, White House lobbyists estimate that as many as a third of the 44 Democratic senators will provide occasional assistance on issues such as energy, judicial nominations, tax-code overhaul and perhaps even Social Security. Since Republicans need 60 votes to overcome Democratic filibusters, and have just 55 of their own, winning converts isn't optional.
Some are good prospects for the White House because of their ideological orientation. Hawkish Sen. Joseph Lieberman of Connecticut, though he spent part of 2004 bashing the White House during his unsuccessful bid for the Democratic presidential nomination, has backed Mr. Bush at important moments on national security.
Others are propelled toward cooperation by constituent interests. On energy legislation, for instance, the administration hopes for help from Democrats representing energy-producing states, such as Mary Landrieu of Louisiana and Robert Byrd of West Virginia.
Perhaps most important for the White House are those Democrats who must cope with broad home-state support for Mr. Bush. Five Democratic senators -- Ben Nelson of Nebraska, Kent Conrad and Byron Dorgan of North Dakota, Tim Johnson of South Dakota and Evan Bayh of Indiana -- represent states that Mr. Bush carried with at least 60% of the vote in November. Messrs. Nelson and Conrad are up for re-election in 2006.
Democrats from decidedly "red," or pro-Bush, states have been the focus of the president's public lobbying on Social Security. Mr. Conrad was aboard Air Force One for the president's recent trip to North Dakota for a town meeting on the issue.
"The president made an earnest attempt to win [Mr. Conrad] over on Social Security," says Conrad spokesman Chris Thorne. Mr. Conrad has said there is "a kernel of a good idea" in the president's plan. But he dislikes the idea of large-scale borrowing to finance a transition to private accounts, and there is no indication yet he is preparing to sign on.
Overhauling the Democratic touchstone of Social Security may be the most difficult initiative for Mr. Bush to win cross-party cooperation on. Sen. Max Baucus of Montana, who four years ago smoothed passage of Mr. Bush's tax cuts as ranking Democrat on the Finance Committee, appears unlikely to assist Mr. Bush this time.
Mr. Reid says every Senate Democrat opposes creating private accounts with Social Security payroll taxes. Some analysts believe Mr. Bush will encounter similar resistance on overhauling the tax system, though former Democratic Sen. Breaux is co-chairman of a commission exploring ideas on the subject.
Posted by politicalstuff at 1:50 AM
DVDs, 'Key Points' Employed in Social Security Debate
By Mike Allen and Brian Faler
Wednesday, February 16, 2005; Page A05
When they host town meetings over the Presidents' Day recess next week, congressional Republicans will boast of a special guest: President Bush, via DVDs, proclaiming the need "to fix Social Security, once and for all."
Typically, Republicans and Democrats alike are armed with party-generated binders full of tips, statistics and sample remarks before they go home for extended breaks. But the presidential recording is the latest wrinkle in a highly aggressive White House campaign to try to sell voters on Bush's plan to restructure Social Security by creating personal investment accounts.
"I'm pleased to join you to discuss a subject of tremendous importance to you and your family -- saving and strengthening Social Security for future generations," a relaxed Bush explains in the four-minute recording. "For younger workers, the government has made promises it cannot pay for, and that means Social Security is set to go broke just when you reach retirement. . . . By the year 2042, the entire system would be bankrupt."
"Some have suggested limiting benefits for wealthy retirees," he said, adding that options include increasing the retirement age, changing the benefit formulas and including penalties for early collection of Social Security benefits. "All these ideas are on the table," he said.
The presentation includes clips of Bush's appearances in talk-show-style settings. Congressional aides said lawmakers requested the DVDs, recalling that Bush produced a similar video that was used effectively in selling the president's Medicare prescription-drug benefit to constituents in 2003. Some lawmakers believe it helped add a personal touch to the outreach effort.
Democrats, too, are girding to make their case on Social Security. The party yesterday gave Democratic senators five "key points" that began: "We want to work with President Bush to strengthen Social Security for the long-term, but we need to get it right. Unfortunately, the Republican privatization plan would cut Social Security's funding, weakening the program, and make its financial problems worse, not better."
House Democrats were given a sample presentation, "Social Security: An American Success Story," that asserts that the "GOP Privatization Plan" "creates a crisis where none exists" and "cuts future benefits by almost 50%."
Posted by politicalstuff at 1:49 AM
Alan Greenspan and the Meaning of "Trust"
Greg Anrig, Jr.
The Century Foundation, 2/15/2005
When Federal Reserve chairman Alan Greenspan testifies before the Senate Banking Committee on Wednesday, it will be the first time he will comment publicly on President George W. Bush's proposal to privatize Social Security. Great weight will be given to his statements. But in light of Greenspan's long, tortured relationship with Social Security, his views should be treated with the same skepticism that Dr. Phil shows toward his guests.
Greenspan famously chaired a bipartisan commission that in 1983 issued recommendations for strengthening Social Security. Those reforms, which President Reagan signed into law in April of that year, made a promise to American workers: your payroll taxes will be increased in order to finance the build up of trust funds, which will secure Social Security benefits when you retire in the 21st Century. The Greenspan Commission's plan has worked even better than imagined, with projections today showing that promised benefits can be paid in full until 2052, according to the Congressional Budget Office.
When President Ronald Reagan signed the Greenspan Commission's reforms into law, he pronounced, "This Bill demonstrates for all time our nation's ironclad commitment to Social Security. It assures the elderly that America will always keep the promises made in troubled times a half a century ago. It assures those who are still working that they, too, have a pact with the future. From this day forward, they have our pledge that they will get their fair share of benefits when they retire."
But Greenspan himself, in an interview with the New York Times just weeks after the signing ceremony, said, "Do I like the present Social Security system? No. If you asked me whether it would be necessary in the ideal society, I'd say no. Our type of economy is far removed from where I would like to see it, but you have to be careful about moving from one type of society to another."
Over the past two decades, Greenspan has repeatedly argued that Reagan's "ironclad commitment" should be broken. Year after year, he has said that the benefits promised to future retirees are unaffordable, that the retirement age should be delayed further, and that other ways of reducing benefits should be considered. And yet in 2001, Greenspan endorsed the Bush tax cuts, which mainly benefited the highest income Americans. If made permanent, those tax cuts would amount to more than three times the size of Social Security's projected shortfall over the next 75 years, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. In Greenspan's view, the Social Security benefits that his own commission promised to future retirees are not affordable, but tax cuts for the wealthy are.
We will learn more on Wednesday about what Greenspan thinks of the president's proposal to allow workers to divert payroll taxes to private investment accounts, reducing the money available to finance currently promised benefits. In the past, in his ever-cryptic fashion, Greenspan has expressed an openness to privatization. In a December 1996 speech, for example, he said, "Perhaps the strongest argument for privatization is that replacing the current unfunded system, which apparently discourages saving, with a fully funded system, is that such a change could boost domestic saving.
But, in any event, we must remember it is because privatization plans might increase savings that makes them potentially viable, not their particular form of financing."
President Bush's proposal would raise the national debt by $4.5 trillion over its first 20 years—substantially more than the shortfall projected for Social Security over the next 75 years—because new money would be needed to pay for the accounts while continuing to pay current beneficiaries. On the surface of it, that added federal debt in and of itself should be anathema to a Federal Reserve chairman who has long preached the virtues of fiscal responsibility. But remember, Alan Greenspan "doesn't like the present Social Security system." We will soon find out how much he
Greg Anrig, Jr., is vice president of programs at The Century Foundation.
For more on Social Security and the debate over its future, visit The Social Security Network http://www.socsec.org/
Posted by politicalstuff at 1:47 AM
Hastert's 'partisanship' blast at Emanuel signals rift in delegation
BY LYNN SWEET WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF
WASHINGTON -- Republican House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert is taking aim at Rep. Rahm Emanuel, the new chairman of the Democratic House political arm, accusing his fellow Illinoisan of undue partisanship while highlighting the millions of dollars he made with a Wall Street firm before coming to Congress.
For Emanuel, "politics is everything," said Hastert.
Replied Emanuel, "I don't know why he trying to make it personal."
Hastert's comments, in a Chicago Sun-Times interview last Wednesday, signal a breach in the usual bipartisan harmony within the Illinois delegation and come as Emanuel raises his profile by taking over the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and landing a seat on the Ways and Means Committee.
'I'm doing what he's done'
Both assignments put Emanuel on a potential collision course with Hastert. The goal of the DCCC is to win a Democratic majority, which would end Hastert's reign as speaker. And the debate over the future of Social Security -- where Hastert and Emanuel are at odds over the merits of privatization -- will center in the Ways and Means Committee.
When House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) appointed Emanuel, a former senior adviser in the Clinton White House, to the party post last month, he said, "I come from the Vince Lombardi school. Winning is everything."
Emanuel's paraphrase of the famous quote by the Green Bay Packers coach was on Hastert's mind at the interview Wednesday.
Asked about the impact of Emanuel's new roles, Hastert said, "I think Rahm has injected partisanship'' within the Illinois delegation. "I think what he said is that he is going to try to overthrow and he has the Vince Lombardi philosophy; I think he used that as his quote, 'Winning is everything.' I don't think I have taken that approach.''
Hastert has traveled to hundreds of congressional districts since becoming speaker to raise money to make sure Republicans keep their House majority.
"I'm doing what he's done,'' Emanuel said Sunday.
With the creation of private Social Security investment accounts being a priority on President Bush's agenda, Hastert said he would value Emanuel's experience as a successful Wall Street investment firm partner in helping to reform the program.
"I'd love to have his wisdom on how to do it, 'cause he has made a lot of money on those types of things, millions of dollars,'' the speaker said.
After Emanuel left the White House in 1999, he earned about $10 million in three years. Most of his income in 2001 came from his $6,491,000 salary as managing director of the investment banking firm of Dresdner Kleinwort Wasserstein. The year before, the firm paid him $1,006,510.
'Let's work together'
Though Emanuel made a fortune as an investment banker, he is against Wall Street getting into the Social Security business.
"The last thing you want to do is take a foundation of one's retirement and play on Wall Street,'' Emanuel said. Bush's plan takes away a guaranteed benefit while creating a "guaranteed fee'' for Wall Street, Emanuel said.
Hastert said Emanuel's experience could be useful "if we worked on a bipartisan basis and [Emanuel] was willing to do that, instead of saying, 'My way or the highway, which is what he is saying right now. We are looking for good information and good input.''
When told that his statements, which on the surface are seemingly just a challenge to work together, could be taken as a sarcastic dig at Emanuel, Hastert said, "No, I would never do that. Let me be perfectly clear.... Here is somebody with knowledge of what the real world of finance is about and what the potential is. And to deny every other young person that ability to have that same opportunity; I say, let's work together.''
Emanuel said he has worked with Republicans on importing prescription drugs from Canada and other countries -- legislation opposed by Hastert -- and on creation of a Great Lakes restoration fund.
originally posted February 7, 2005
Posted by politicalstuff at 1:17 AM
Tuesday, February 15, 2005
Our Godless Constitution
by BROOKE ALLEN
[from the February 21, 2005 issue]
It is hard to believe that George Bush has ever read the works of George Orwell, but he seems, somehow, to have grasped a few Orwellian precepts. The lesson the President has learned best--and certainly the one that has been the most useful to him--is the axiom that if you repeat a lie often enough, people will believe it. One of his Administration's current favorites is the whopper about America having been founded on Christian principles. Our nation was founded not on Christian principles but on Enlightenment ones. God only entered the picture as a very minor player, and Jesus Christ was conspicuously absent.
Our Constitution makes no mention whatever of God. The omission was too obvious to have been anything but deliberate, in spite of Alexander Hamilton's flippant responses when asked about it: According to one account, he said that the new nation was not in need of "foreign aid"; according to another, he simply said "we forgot." But as Hamilton's biographer Ron Chernow points out, Hamilton never forgot anything important.
In the eighty-five essays that make up The Federalist, God is mentioned only twice (both times by Madison, who uses the word, as Gore Vidal has remarked, in the "only Heaven knows" sense). In the Declaration of Independence, He gets two brief nods: a reference to "the Laws of Nature and Nature's God," and the famous line about men being "endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights." More blatant official references to a deity date from long after the founding period: "In God We Trust" did not appear on our coinage until the Civil War, and "under God" was introduced into the Pledge of Allegiance during the McCarthy hysteria in 1954 [see Elisabeth Sifton, "The Battle Over the Pledge," April 5, 2004].
In 1797 our government concluded a "Treaty of Peace and Friendship between the United States of America and the Bey and Subjects of Tripoli, or Barbary," now known simply as the Treaty of Tripoli. Article 11 of the treaty contains these words:
As the Government of the United States...is not in any sense founded on the Christian religion--as it has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion, or tranquillity of Musselmen--and as the said States never have entered into any war or act of hostility against any Mehomitan nation, it is declared by the parties that no pretext arising from religious opinions shall ever produce an interruption of the harmony existing between the two countries.
This document was endorsed by Secretary of State Timothy Pickering and President John Adams. It was then sent to the Senate for ratification; the vote was unanimous. It is worth pointing out that although this was the 339th time a recorded vote had been required by the Senate, it was only the third unanimous vote in the Senate's history. There is no record of debate or dissent. The text of the treaty was printed in full in the Philadelphia Gazette and in two New York papers, but there were no screams of outrage, as one might expect today.
The Founding Fathers were not religious men, and they fought hard to erect, in Thomas Jefferson's words, "a wall of separation between church and state." John Adams opined that if they were not restrained by legal measures, Puritans--the fundamentalists of their day--would "whip and crop, and pillory and roast." The historical epoch had afforded these men ample opportunity to observe the corruption to which established priesthoods were liable, as well as "the impious presumption of legislators and rulers," as Jefferson wrote, "civil as well as ecclesiastical, who, being themselves but fallible and uninspired men, have assumed dominion over the faith of others, setting up their own opinions and modes of thinking as the only true and infallible, and as such endeavoring to impose them on others, hath established and maintained false religions over the greatest part of the world and through all time."
If we define a Christian as a person who believes in the divinity of Jesus Christ, then it is safe to say that some of the key Founding Fathers were not Christians at all. Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson and Tom Paine were deists--that is, they believed in one Supreme Being but rejected revelation and all the supernatural elements of the Christian Church; the word of the Creator, they believed, could best be read in Nature. John Adams was a professed liberal Unitarian, but he, too, in his private correspondence seems more deist than Christian.
George Washington and James Madison also leaned toward deism, although neither took much interest in religious matters. Madison believed that "religious bondage shackles and debilitates the mind and unfits it for every noble enterprize." He spoke of the "almost fifteen centuries" during which Christianity had been on trial: "What have been its fruits? More or less in all places, pride and indolence in the Clergy, ignorance and servility in the laity, in both, superstition, bigotry, and persecution." If Washington mentioned the Almighty in a public address, as he occasionally did, he was careful to refer to Him not as "God" but with some nondenominational moniker like "Great Author" or "Almighty Being." It is interesting to note that the Father of our Country spoke no words of a religious nature on his deathbed, although fully aware that he was dying, and did not ask for a man of God to be present; his last act was to take his own pulse, the consummate gesture of a creature of the age of scientific rationalism.
Tom Paine, a polemicist rather than a politician, could afford to be perfectly honest about his religious beliefs, which were baldly deist in the tradition of Voltaire: "I believe in one God, and no more; and I hope for happiness beyond this life.... I do not believe in the creed professed by the Jewish church, by the Roman church, by the Greek church, by the Turkish church, by the Protestant church, nor by any church that I know of. My own mind is my own church." This is how he opened The Age of Reason, his virulent attack on Christianity. In it he railed against the "obscene stories, the voluptuous debaucheries, the cruel and torturous executions, the unrelenting vindictiveness" of the Old Testament, "a history of wickedness, that has served to corrupt and brutalize mankind." The New Testament is less brutalizing but more absurd, the story of Christ's divine genesis a "fable, which for absurdity and extravagance is not exceeded by any thing that is to be found in the mythology of the ancients." He held the idea of the Resurrection in especial ridicule: Indeed, "the wretched contrivance with which this latter part is told, exceeds every thing that went before it." Paine was careful to contrast the tortuous twists of theology with the pure clarity of deism. "The true deist has but one Deity; and his religion consists in contemplating the power, wisdom, and benignity of the Deity in his works, and in endeavoring to imitate him in every thing moral, scientifical, and mechanical."
Paine's rhetoric was so fervent that he was inevitably branded an atheist. Men like Franklin, Adams and Jefferson could not risk being tarred with that brush, and in fact Jefferson got into a good deal of trouble for continuing his friendship with Paine and entertaining him at Monticello. These statesmen had to be far more circumspect than the turbulent Paine, yet if we examine their beliefs it is all but impossible to see just how theirs differed from his.
Franklin was the oldest of the Founding Fathers. He was also the most worldly and sophisticated, and was well aware of the Machiavellian principle that if one aspires to influence the masses, one must at least profess religious sentiments. By his own definition he was a deist, although one French acquaintance claimed that "our free-thinkers have adroitly sounded him on his religion, and they maintain that they have discovered he is one of their own, that is that he has none at all." If he did have a religion, it was strictly utilitarian: As his biographer Gordon Wood has said, "He praised religion for whatever moral effects it had, but for little else." Divine revelation, Franklin freely admitted, had "no weight with me," and the covenant of grace seemed "unintelligible" and "not beneficial." As for the pious hypocrites who have ever controlled nations, "A man compounded of law and gospel is able to cheat a whole country with his religion and then destroy them under color of law"--a comment we should carefully consider at this turning point in the history of our Republic.
Here is Franklin's considered summary of his own beliefs, in response to a query by Ezra Stiles, the president of Yale. He wrote it just six weeks before his death at the age of 84.
Here is my creed. I believe in one God, Creator of the universe. That he governs it by his providence. That he ought to be worshipped. That the most acceptable service we render to him is doing good to his other children. That the soul of Man is immortal, and will be treated with justice in another life respecting its conduct in this. These I take to be the fundamental points in all sound religion, and I regard them as you do in whatever sect I meet with them.
As for Jesus of Nazareth, my opinion of whom you particularly desire, I think his system of morals and his religion, as he left them to us, the best the world ever saw or is likely to see; but I apprehend it has received various corrupting changes, and I have, with most of the present dissenters in England, some doubts as to his divinity; though it is a question I do not dogmatize upon, having never studied it, and think it needless to busy myself with now, when I expect soon an opportunity of knowing the truth with less trouble. I see no harm, however, in its being believed, if that belief has the good consequence, as it probably has, of making his doctrines more respected and better observed, especially as I do not perceive that the Supreme takes it amiss, by distinguishing the unbelievers in his government of the world with any particular marks of his displeasure.
Jefferson thoroughly agreed with Franklin on the corruptions the teachings of Jesus had undergone. "The metaphysical abstractions of Athanasius, and the maniacal ravings of Calvin, tinctured plentifully with the foggy dreams of Plato, have so loaded [Christianity] with absurdities and incomprehensibilities" that it was almost impossible to recapture "its native simplicity and purity." Like Paine, Jefferson felt that the miracles claimed by the New Testament put an intolerable strain on credulity. "The day will come," he predicted (wrongly, so far), "when the mystical generation of Jesus, by the supreme being as his father in the womb of a virgin, will be classed with the fable of the generation of Minerva in the brain of Jupiter." The Revelation of St. John he dismissed as "the ravings of a maniac."
Jefferson edited his own version of the New Testament, "The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth," in which he carefully deleted all the miraculous passages from the works of the Evangelists. He intended it, he said, as "a document in proof that I am a real Christian, that is to say, a disciple of the doctrines of Jesus." This was clearly a defense against his many enemies, who hoped to blacken his reputation by comparing him with the vile atheist Paine. His biographer Joseph Ellis is undoubtedly correct, though, in seeing disingenuousness here: "If [Jefferson] had been completely scrupulous, he would have described himself as a deist who admired the ethical teachings of Jesus as a man rather than as the son of God. (In modern-day parlance, he was a secular humanist.)" In short, not a Christian at all.
The three accomplishments Jefferson was proudest of--those that he requested be put on his tombstone--were the founding of the University of Virginia and the authorship of the Declaration of Independence and the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom. The latter was a truly radical document that would eventually influence the separation of church and state in the US Constitution; when it was passed by the Virginia legislature in 1786, Jefferson rejoiced that there was finally "freedom for the Jew and the Gentile, the Christian and the Mohammeden, the Hindu and infidel of every denomination"--note his respect, still unusual today, for the sensibilities of the "infidel." The University of Virginia was notable among early-American seats of higher education in that it had no religious affiliation whatever. Jefferson even banned the teaching of theology at the school.
If we were to speak of Jefferson in modern political categories, we would have to admit that he was a pure libertarian, in religious as in other matters. His real commitment (or lack thereof) to the teachings of Jesus Christ is plain from a famous throwaway comment he made: "It does me no injury for my neighbor to say there are twenty gods or no god. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg." This raised plenty of hackles when it got about, and Jefferson had to go to some pains to restore his reputation as a good Christian. But one can only conclude, with Ellis, that he was no Christian at all.
John Adams, though no more religious than Jefferson, had inherited the fatalistic mindset of the Puritan culture in which he had grown up. He personally endorsed the Enlightenment commitment to Reason but did not share Jefferson's optimism about its future, writing to him, "I wish that Superstition in Religion exciting Superstition in Polliticks...may never blow up all your benevolent and phylanthropic Lucubrations," but that "the History of all Ages is against you." As an old man he observed, "Twenty times in the course of my late reading have I been upon the point of breaking out, 'This would be the best of all possible worlds, if there were no religion in it!'" Speaking ex cathedra, as a relic of the founding generation, he expressed his admiration for the Roman system whereby every man could worship whom, what and how he pleased. When his young listeners objected that this was paganism, Adams replied that it was indeed, and laughed.
In their fascinating and eloquent valetudinarian correspondence, Adams and Jefferson had a great deal to say about religion. Pressed by Jefferson to define his personal creed, Adams replied that it was "contained in four short words, 'Be just and good.'" Jefferson replied, "The result of our fifty or sixty years of religious reading, in the four words, 'Be just and good,' is that in which all our inquiries must end; as the riddles of all priesthoods end in four more, 'ubi panis, ibi deus.' What all agree in, is probably right. What no two agree in, most probably wrong."
This was a clear reference to Voltaire's Reflections on Religion. As Voltaire put it:
There are no sects in geometry. One does not speak of a Euclidean, an Archimedean. When the truth is evident, it is impossible for parties and factions to arise.... Well, to what dogma do all minds agree? To the worship of a God, and to honesty. All the philosophers of the world who have had a religion have said in all ages: "There is a God, and one must be just." There, then, is the universal religion established in all ages and throughout mankind. The point in which they all agree is therefore true, and the systems through which they differ are therefore false.
Of course all these men knew, as all modern presidential candidates know, that to admit to theological skepticism is political suicide. During Jefferson's presidency a friend observed him on his way to church, carrying a large prayer book. "You going to church, Mr. J," remarked the friend. "You do not believe a word in it." Jefferson didn't exactly deny the charge. "Sir," he replied, "no nation has ever yet existed or been governed without religion. Nor can be. The Christian religion is the best religion that has been given to man and I as chief Magistrate of this nation am bound to give it the sanction of my example. Good morning Sir."
Like Jefferson, every recent President has understood the necessity of at least paying lip service to the piety of most American voters. All of our leaders, Democrat and Republican, have attended church, and have made very sure they are seen to do so. But there is a difference between offering this gesture of respect for majority beliefs and manipulating and pandering to the bigotry, prejudice and millennial fantasies of Christian extremists. Though for public consumption the Founding Fathers identified themselves as Christians, they were, at least by today's standards, remarkably honest about their misgivings when it came to theological doctrine, and religion in general came very low on the list of their concerns and priorities--always excepting, that is, their determination to keep the new nation free from bondage to its rule.
Posted by politicalstuff at 12:12 PM
Time to punt, Bill (Keith Olbermann)
SECAUCUS — For those of you familiar with the kids’ football challenge, “Punt, Pass, and Kick,” we long ago saw Bill O’Reilly’s passing (ask Andrea Mackris). Sunday we learned about his punting (in a rather exaggerated essay in the official Super Bowl program). And now we’re seeing him kick.
Typical to the commemorative programs for the big sporting events, O’Reilly was asked to write the ‘end piece’ to the Super Bowl 39 edition. Dan Rather penned one for Super Bowl 38, and even I’ve done them for Baseball’s All-Star Game Program and annual official “yearbooks.” But only O’Reilly could turn one of these brief “Why I Love This Sport” venues into a means of shameless self-promotion.
He waxed poetic about the inspiration provided by his own football career at Marist College in Poughkeepsie, New York, observing that he learned much from having one of his punts land behind his own line of scrimmage (one could argue that what he learned was to see everything backwards). He added, “I won the national punting title for my division as a senior,” and concluded, “I guess you could say the end zone was the beginning of the no-spin zone.”
Ah, but in recounting his collegiate football experience, Mr. O’Reilly has done a little spinning of his own.
The phrase in question is “I won the national punting title for my division as a senior.” For the unfamiliar, college football is and has been divided not merely into regional conferences (Atlantic Coast Conference, Pac Ten, etc.) and leagues (Ivy, Patriot, etc.), but also national divisions, based on the size of a school’s student body and the relative strength of its commitment to a particular sport. The National Collegiate Athletic Association has Division 1 (the big schools, and actually known as Division 1-A), Division 1-AA, Division 2, and Division 3. Another collegiate group, the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics, currently has all its football teams in one Division, but maintains Division 1 and Division 2 for basketball.
The key word here is “division.” In college sports, it implies organization, national recognition, big athletic budgets, careful scheduling and record-keeping — and scholarships and varying degrees of those charming professional touches that all too often turn college sports into mere way stations for future NFL, NBA, MLB, and NHL players.
In short, “division” means big time.
And herein lies the problem with Mr. O’Reilly’s boast. A very nice man named Juwan Jackson, an assistant coach and the recruiting coordinator for the Marist football program, told me the other day that the school didn’t start playing varsity football until 1978. That year, it launched its “program” with an inauspicious record of one win and eight losses, in the NCAA Division 3 Metropolitan Conference. In 1993, Marist made the big jump to Division 1-AA, the second highest division, and the next year won its conference championship.
But Bill O’Reilly graduated from Marist in 1971. Certainly he played football there — there’s a New York Times clipping in front of me showing him kicking the points-after for two of Marist’s final-game loss to St. John’s on November 27, 1970 (he missed the third point-after). But if Marist dates the start of its divisional football history to 1978, exactly what kind of “division” did O’Reilly play in?
It turns out when O’Reilly was at Marist, football was a so-called “club sport.” The school lent its name to the team — and nothing else. Players paid all their own expenses, were led not by a coach but a president (usually a student, even an active player, sometimes an ex-player), and organization was, at best, loose. “Club sports” were still widespread in my time at Cornell — rugby was the big one in the late ‘70s — but even their own members would grudgingly acknowledge that they were barely a notch above intramural teams which simply competed with rivals on their own campuses.
Some time in the ‘60s, the football “club teams” at some of the bigger non-division schools organized the National Club Football Association. The “national” part was not to be taken too literally. In O’Reilly’s senior year, 1970, a disproportionate number of the schools were in the New York metropolitan area. Marist’s football media guide notes that the 1970 squad for which O’Reilly kicked “advanced to the national championship game.” But that Times account of the game — versus St. John’s University of Queens, New York — calls it “the third annual Metropolitan Club Football Bowl,” and it was played in a ramshackle stadium in Mount Vernon, New York (a park I well remember from my childhood as the site of some lackluster kid baseball clinics usually attended by the least popular members of the then-equally lackluster New York Yankees).
I pointed this out — in considerably less detail — on Monday’s edition of Countdown. The point was not that O’Reilly wasn’t a punter/placekicker for a college football team (he was), nor that he wasn’t a good one (he was; he averaged 41.4 yards per punt in 1970) — just that he’d once again conveyed an illusion of grandeur about his accomplishments. There was no “division” for him to win “the national punting title” in while with Marist’s club team in 1970.
His claim was a little less egregious than the assertion that he won a Peabody Award while on the show “Inside Edition” (it was a Polk Award, and the show got it after he left). But the venue — the back page of the Super Bowl program — elevated to a similar level of ridiculousness.
Apparently I struck one of Mr. O’Reilly’s many nerves.
Tuesday, I got one of the damnedest e-mails I’ve ever received, anonymous other than for its return address and the signature “J., Chicago, IL.” Whoever wrote it seems to have been the club football equivalent of Deep Throat: “A long time friend of mine (and long time NFL scout) once told me that Bill O’Reilly could have dominated in the NFL as a punter if he had chosen that career path,” he began. “And a cousin of mine…” — maybe the best comparison to this guy isn’t Deep Throat but Forrest Gump — “a cousin of mine, who was the official statistician during that time period said that O’Reilly in fact did lead in punting net average…”
My anonymous correspondent then turned television critic. “So after using your O’Reilly ‘story’ as a tease for your entire hour, knowing that would be the only way to keep anyone watching your worthless show, you flat out got the facts WRONG, as you usually do.”
But wait. How could this viewer have known about our ‘teases’ and story if he hadn’t watched it? Ah, he had his answer prepared: “And before you get your snide remark ready, I only glanced over your show thanks to TiVo, since there’s no way I would be watching your show live instead of the Factor, you chump.”
My reply was brief — that an anonymous e-mailer quoting two anonymous sources had a lot of nerve calling anybody else a chump, and that as O’Reilly’s theoretical dominance of the annals of National Football League punting, perhaps we should leave him to trying to dominate the likes of Andrea Mackris and other employees, past and present.
Remarkably, this storm in a teacup got bigger still. The anonymous e-mailer’s subject line read simply “punting stats.” Lo and behold, on the same day, what shows up on Bill O’Reilly’s own website, but what appears to be an ancient, typed, either photocopied or mimeographed, list of the top ten performers in various statistical categories for the National Club Football Association for the 1970 season - including O’Reilly’s punting stats.
There’s an interesting coincidence.
I haven’t studied the typefaces carefully enough, nor called in any of the bloggers who got so much joy out of CBS’s dubious “Killian Memos,” but the thing looks legitimate. And there he is, at the top of the punting list at an average of 41.4 yards per kick: “O’Reilly, Marist.”
Now, of course there are a few facts about these statistics that would make the sports-savvy cringe. The runner-up, a punter from New Haven named Potter, averaged only 40.7 yards per kick. But he punted 36 times to O’Reilly’s 23 — thus exposing his average to the vagaries of sport more than 50% more often than O’Reilly did. In fact, of the other nine punters on the list, only two had fewer punts than did O’Reilly, and their average number of punts was 32 (some poor fellow named Ruth from Niagara had to make 48 punts that season).
From the dawn of sports figure filberts, leaders in all statistical average categories have had to exceed a minimum basis of attempts. Bob Hazle of the Milwaukee Braves hit an astonishing .403 in 1957, but he wasn’t considered the National League’s batting champion — he only came to bat 134 times (to blur the mind of the sports-hating reader still further, Stan Musial won the batting championship that year; he hit .351 - coming to bat 502 times).
The “National Club Football Association” stat sheet offers no minimum number of punts required to be eligible for the championship average for O’Reilly’s senior year. There may have been such an established standard and O’Reilly may have legitimately cleared it. But a sports statistician looking at these numbers would say that Mr. Potter of New Haven (36 punts, 40.7 average) and Mr. Primerano of St. John’s (40 punts, 38.1 average), got jobbed.
The point of all this is, like much of Mr. O’Reilly’s assertions about himself (and others), there’s a lot less than meets the eye in the statement “I won the national punting title for my division as a senior.” There was no division, the outfit was semi-national at best, and the title might have been statistically dubious.
So, writing in the official Super Bowl Program that you won the “punting title” in your “division” would be like me writing in one of those baseball program articles that I led the nation’s high school baseball players in on-base percentage in 1973 (I did, too — in a manner of speaking — my on-base percentage was a perfect one thousand: I came to bat once, and got hit in the ass with a pitch).
I guess we’re just lucky Bill didn’t claim he’d won a Peabody Award for his punting at Marist.
originally published February 9, 2005 | 7:01 p.m. ET
Posted by politicalstuff at 11:56 AM
February 14, 2005 | 7:14 p.m. ET
Rationing free speech (Keith Olbermann)
SECAUCUS - I never knew that freedom of speech came with an on/off switch.
Ward Churchill says some detestable things about 9/11 victims, so the Governor of Colorado wants to squeeze him out of the University there. Marine Corps Lieutenant General James Mattis tells an audience in San Diego “it’s fun to shoot some people,” particularly in Afghanistan, and his superior officers ask him to please not say stuff like that again. Eason Jordan makes a remarkable gaffe, implying that the U.S. military is hunting journalists. He backs off within moments of the remark, apologizes, and still gets forced to resign from CNN. Brit Hume and other political commentators twist Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s words to make it look like he would’ve supported President Bush’s partial privatization of Social Security, and nobody corrects their journalistic blunders, let alone resigns.
Remarkable, all of it — perhaps the Jordan story most of all. While some bloggers are parading his head around on a pike as another example of victory over the MSM, they — and the MSM — seem to have entirely forgotten, and excluded from their coverage, the fact that Eason Jordan had sealed his own doom as long ago as April, 2003. It is one thing to acknowledge that your news organization may have buried stories that would’ve illuminated the atrocities of Saddam Hussein, in order to preserve your access (and perhaps the lives of your staff) in Baghdad — it is another to have voluntarily written those facts up as an Op-Ed for The New York Times.
That was about the time Jordan stopped actually running CNN’s international coverage, and began being basically a spokesman for it. Between the misguided idea to boast in The Times about what he called “The News We Kept To Ourselves,” and the stomach-churning, much-publicized news that he’d left his wife and family to take up with Daniel Pearl’s widow, Jordan had become a resignation waiting to happen. The irony of the right-wing bloggers’ delight over Jordan’s resignation from what they perceive as the left-wing CNN, is that by publicizing his faux pas in Davos, they did CNN executives’ dirty work for them. They enabled CNN to squeeze him out.
The Fox News folks, of course, specifically Brit Hume, squeezed the whole FDR thing. ‘Media Matters For America’ has done much of the legwork on breaking this down, and both on his radio show and at his website, Al Franken has done much of the publicizing. Hume, and others like those bastions of public conduct John Fund and Bill Bennett, have taken a bunch of 70-year old quotes out of context to make it look like Franklin Delano Roosevelt is endorsing President Bush’s plan to partially privatize Social Security.
Here’s the full relevant segment from Roosevelt’s message to Congress on Social Security and other similar programs from 1935: “In the important field of security for our old people, it seems necessary to adopt three principles: First, non-contributory old-age pensions for those who are now too old to build up their own insurance. It is, of course, clear that for perhaps thirty years to come funds will have to be provided by the States and the Federal Government to meet these pensions. Second, compulsory contributory annuities which in time will establish a self-supporting system for those now young and for future generations. Third, voluntary contributory annuities by which individual initiative can increase the annual amounts received in old age. It is proposed that the Federal Government assume one-half of the cost of the old-age pension plan, which ought ultimately to be supplanted by self-supporting annuity plans.”
The syntax is a little ancient but the message is pretty straightforward. For 1935, people who would only take money out of Social Security and not put any in, should have their contributions covered half by the federal government and half by the states. Later on, those contributions should be replaced by the “self-supporting annuity plans” — which Roosevelt has already defined (“Second…”) as the actual Social Security system. Buried in the formality of his third point, FDR is talking about things we would later know as IRA’s and Keoghs and 401k’s.
But look at how Hume mixed and matched the original Roosevelt quotes on February 4th (and we’re quoting this verbatim from Fox’s website) “…it turns out that FDR himself planned to include private investment accounts in the Social Security program when he proposed it. In a written statement to Congress in 1935, Roosevelt said that any Social Security plans should include, ‘Voluntary contributory annuities, by which individual initiative can increase the annual amounts received in old age,’ adding that government funding, ‘ought to ultimately be supplanted by self-supporting annuity plans.’”
Roosevelt said no such thing. The “voluntary contributory annuities” are the IRA’s and Keoghs and 401k’s. What “ought to ultimately be supplanted” was the special government contributions to Social Security on behalf of people born in the 1870’s and earlier, and the “self-supporting annuity plans” constitute Social Security itself.
It’s premeditated, historical fraud, but you will not see Hume nor Fox News backpedal from it (as Jordan did for his misdemeanor), nor apologize for it (as Jordan did), nor save their masters from its shame (as Jordan did — of course there is no shame at Fox).
The Ward Churchill case, of course, is the most complex of them all (until the saga of “Jeff Gannon” resurfaces some time this week, when it could turn into the political scandal of the year — more in a subsequent blog).
Free speech in this country seems to have been created almost specifically to protect people like Churchill. He’s a tenured professor at a public university. He made outrageous statements about what is the symbolically still-burning pyre of The World Trade Center. When a baseball general manager (Jim Bowden, of the Cincinnati Reds), made two tasteless jokes about 9/11 in 2002, I wrote and broadcast repeatedly that he should be fired.
But universities and colleges — particularly public ones — are designed to collide popular, mainstream ideas, with contentious, contrarian ones (and unlike ballclubs, they are not private institutions, from which anybody can be fired for just about anything that embarrasses or harms said institution — also known as the ‘boomerang’ caveat to free speech). Hell, I had a professor at Cornell whose version of American history started with his explanation that the constitution was the elite’s successful attempt to co-opt the rights of the citizens. Students stood up in the lecture hall and swore at him. Now that was a marketplace of ideas.
It’s galling to know that Churchill’s oversimplified, insensitive vision of the horrors of September 11th are being underwritten by tax dollars. But it would be more galling to know that there is a line somewhere past which a professor at a public university can’t go. Where would that line be drawn? Our hypothetical professor could say that people at the Pentagon had always thought of themselves as a military target, even if the “military” consisted of a bunch of terrorists, but he couldn’t say that in the minds of the terrorists, the U.S. might have provoked them by its actions in the Middle East? The first wouldn’t get you fired, but the second would?
You gotta live with this guy (just as you gotta live with Lieutenant General Mattis, also known as “The Way Too Happy Warrior”) and hope that students stand up and scream at him in class, or boycott him, or respond in the way you’re supposed to respond to free speech - with more free speech, not less.
Posted by politicalstuff at 11:03 AM
The New York Times
February 15, 2005
The Fighting Moderates
By PAUL KRUGMAN
"The Republicans know the America they want, and they are not afraid to use any means to get there," Howard Dean said in accepting the chairmanship of the Democratic National Committee. "But there is something that this administration and the Republican Party are very afraid of. It is that we may actually begin fighting for what we believe."
Those words tell us what the selection of Mr. Dean means. It doesn't represent a turn to the left: Mr. Dean is squarely in the center of his party on issues like health care and national defense. Instead, Mr. Dean's political rejuvenation reflects the new ascendancy within the party of fighting moderates, the Democrats who believe that they must defend their principles aggressively against the right-wing radicals who have taken over Congress and the White House.
It was always absurd to call Mr. Dean a left-winger. Just ask the real left-wingers. During his presidential campaign, an article in the muckraking newsletter CounterPunch denounced him as a "Clintonesque Republicrat," someone who, as governor, tried "to balance the budget, even though Vermont is a state in which a balanced budget is not required."
Even on Iraq, many moderates, including moderate Republicans, quietly shared Mr. Dean's misgivings - which have been fully vindicated - about the march to war.
But Mr. Dean, of course, wasn't quiet. He frankly questioned the Bush administration's motives and honesty at a time when most Democrats believed that the prudent thing was to play along with the war party.
We'll never know whether Democrats would have done better over the past four years if they had taken a stronger stand against the right. But it's clear that the time for that sort of caution is past.
For one thing, there's no more room for illusions. In 2001 it was possible for some Democrats to convince themselves that President Bush's tax cuts were consistent with an agenda that was only moderately conservative. In 2002 it was possible for some Democrats to convince themselves that the push for war with Iraq was really about eliminating weapons of mass destruction.
But in 2005 it takes an act of willful blindness not to see that the Bush plan for Social Security is intended, in essence, to dismantle the most important achievement of the New Deal. The Republicans themselves say so: the push for privatization is following the playbook laid out in a 1983 Cato Journal article titled "A 'Leninist' Strategy," and in a White House memo declaring that "for the first time in six decades, the Social Security battle is one we can win - and in doing so, we can help transform the political and philosophical landscape of the country."
By refusing to be bullied into false bipartisanship on Social Security, Democrats have already scored a significant tactical victory. Just two months ago, TV pundits were ridiculing Harry Reid, the Senate minority leader, for denying that Social Security faces a crisis, and for rejecting outright the idea of diverting payroll taxes into private accounts. But now the Bush administration itself has dropped the crisis language, and admitted that private accounts would do nothing to improve the system's finances.
By standing firm against Mr. Bush's attempt to stampede the country into dismantling its most important social insurance program, Democrats like Mr. Reid, Nancy Pelosi, Dick Durbin and Barbara Boxer have, at a minimum, broken the administration's momentum, and quite possibly doomed its plan. The more time the news media spend examining the details of privatization, the worse it looks. And those Democrats have also given their party a demonstration of what it means to be an effective opposition.
In fact, by taking on Social Security, Mr. Bush gave the Democrats a chance to remember what they stand for, and why. Here's my favorite version, from another fighting moderate, Eliot Spitzer: "As President Bush embraces the ownership society and tries to claim that he is the one that is making it possible for the middle class to succeed and save and invest - well, I say to myself, no, that's not right; it is the Democratic Party historically that created the middle class."
For a while, Mr. Dean will be the public face of the Democrats, and the Republicans will try to portray him as the leftist he isn't. But Deanism isn't about turning to the left: it's about making a stand.
Posted by politicalstuff at 10:50 AM
Ex-Aide Questions Bush Vow to Back Faith-Based Efforts
By Alan Cooperman and Jim VandeHei
Washington Post Staff Writers
Tuesday, February 15, 2005; Page A01
A former White House official said yesterday that President Bush has failed to deliver on his promise to help religious groups serve the poor, the homeless and drug addicts because the administration lacks a genuine commitment to its "compassionate conservative" agenda.
[Note: Complete David Kuo article can be found below this one]
David Kuo, who was deputy director of the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives for much of Bush's first term, said in published remarks that the White House reaped political benefits from the president's promise to help religious organizations win taxpayer funding to care for "the least, the last and the lost" in the United States. But he wrote: "There was minimal senior White House commitment to the faith-based agenda."
Analyzing Bush's failure to secure $8 billion in promised funding for the faith-based initiative during his first term, Kuo said there was "snoring indifference" among Republicans and "knee-jerk opposition" among Democrats in Congress.
"Capitol Hill gridlock could have been smashed by minimal West Wing effort," Kuo wrote on Beliefnet.com, a Web site on religion. "No administration since [Lyndon B. Johnson's] has had a more successful legislative record than this one. From tax cuts to Medicare, the White House gets what the White House really wants. It never really wanted the 'poor people stuff.' "
Kuo's remarks were a rare breach of discipline for an administration that places a high premium on unity among current and former officials, and they mark the second time a former high-ranking official has criticized Bush's approach to the faith-based issue.
In August 2001, John J. DiIulio Jr., then-director of the faith-based office, became the first top Bush adviser to quit, after seven months on the job. In an interview with Esquire magazine a year later, DiIulio said the Bush White House was obsessed with the politics of the faith-based initiative but dismissive of the policy itself, and he slammed White House advisers as "Mayberry Machiavellis."
White House spokesman Trent Duffy said yesterday that Kuo is wrong about the president's commitment.
"The faith-based and community initiative has been a top priority for President Bush since the beginning of his first term and continues to be a top priority," Duffy said. "The president has mentioned the initiative in every State of the Union and fought for full funding."
In his first major policy speech as a presidential candidate in 2000, Bush proposed an $8 billion program to promote religious charities and other community groups. The idea quickly became the centerpiece of his call for compassionate conservatism. But it met stiff resistance in Congress, where Democrats said it threatened the separation of church and state, while Republicans showed little enthusiasm for new welfare-related spending.
After Congress balked at allowing religious groups to receive government funding and still hire, fire and promote employees on the basis of their faith, Bush issued executive orders to make it easier for religious groups to compete for government grants to run homeless shelters, counseling centers for teenagers and a wide range of other social programs.
"I think some good progress has been made, especially administratively," said John Bridgeland, White House director of domestic policy during Bush's first term. He added that Bush's decision to give chief speechwriter Michael J. Gerson responsibility for expanding the initiative should give the effort a lift in the second term.
In his Beliefnet column, Kuo said it was "a dream come true for me" when Bush promised in 2000 that in his first year in office he would provide $6 billion in tax incentives for private charitable giving, $1.7 billion for groups that care for the poor and $200 million for a Compassion Capital Fund to assist local faith-based organizations.
"Sadly, four years later these promises remain unfulfilled in spirit and in fact," he wrote.
In June 2001, the promised tax incentives were stripped at the last minute from the $1.6 trillion tax cut legislation "to make room for the estate-tax repeal that overwhelmingly benefited the wealthy," Kuo said. The Compassion Capital Fund has received a cumulative total of $100 million in the past four years, and new programs for children of prisoners, at-risk youth and prisoners reentering society have received a little more than $500 million over four years, he said.
"Unfortunately, sometimes even the grandly-announced 'new' programs aren't what they appear," Kuo wrote, citing as an example the three-year $150 million "gang prevention" effort Bush announced in this year's State of the Union address. In reality, Kuo said, that money is being taken out of the "already meager" $100 million request for the Compassion Capital Fund.
Kuo, 36, served as a special assistant to the president for 2 1/2 years and was deputy head of the faith-based office from February 2002 to December 2003. Before joining the White House, he worked for several prominent conservatives, including John D. Ashcroft and William J. Bennett. But before that, he had been a campaign volunteer for former representative Joseph Kennedy (D-Mass.) and an intern for Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.).
"I have always sought to try and figure out what's the best way for government to care for the poor. I went to the left and to the right, and I've ended up pretty much in the center," he said in a telephone interview yesterday.
In the Beliefnet column, Kuo said that he continues to have "deep respect, appreciation and affection for the president." Kuo added: "No one who knows him even a tiny bit doubts the sincerity and compassion of his heart."
Asked whether that meant he believes that Bush was sincere about the faith-based initiative but other White House officials were not, Kuo said he would "let the column speak for itself."
"The point of the column is that the poor need to be dealt with by everybody. There was phenomenal promise in the original vision for compassionate conservatism . . . and to try to pin blame on any one institution, one person, one body, one policy, is wrong," he said. "It's not about the White House, it's not about the Congress, it's not about interest groups. It's about everybody."
Posted by politicalstuff at 10:44 AM