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14 April 2007

CBC - The Fifth Estate : The Lies That Led To War

Don't worry: like Neil Young, these are just anti-American Canadians. If anything, actually, they go way too easy on these criminals. To say nothing of the false view of what, exactly, Nixon lied about. But for mainstream media, this is pretty good.

Since the US-led invasion four years ago, The Fifth Estate has covered Iraq and the war on terror from virtually every angle--the military, media, intelligence, politics--revealing aspects of the story that you didn't find anywhere else. Now, as the White House warns about the latest threat in the region, this time from Iran, it's worthwhile looking back to examine the deception, suspect intelligence, even lies, that convinced the world of the rightness of targeting Saddam Hussein.

The political decisions behind the invasion The Lies That Led To War is drawn from these stories: In 2003's The Forgotten People, the fifth estate examined the human rights arguments used to make a case for war. We looked at the sale of technology by the US to Iraq during the 1980's despite the fact that this equipment could be, and was used eventually, in military operations by Saddam Hussein against Kurdish civilians. After the gassing of the Kurds in 1988, American business with Iraq actually increased.

In Act of Faith which aired that same year, The Fifth Estate examined how George Bush and Tony Blair struck a deal that would lead to the invasion of Iraq. It was a deal struck while UN diplomats worked to avert conflict in the weeks and months leading up to March 19, 2003.

In the widely acclaimed Conspiracy Theories and the Unauthorized Biography of Dick Cheney, which aired in 2003 and 2004 respectively, we looked at intelligence failures leading up to 9/11, Dick Cheney's power within the White House and his Halliburton connections, as well as the links between the Bush family, the Saudi Royal family and the Bin Ladens.

Selling the war in Iraq in 2005's Sticks and Stones, we turned our attention to the American media and how they covered the ongoing war in Iraq, public dissent, as well as the increasingly hostile tone between left and right in American discourse.

Now, The Lies That Led To War provides context to the events of the previous six years, showing how political, diplomatic, media spin – which sometimes crossed the line into outright lies
have been used by the those in power to further their own agendas

13 April 2007

The Israel Lobby: Portrait of a Great Taboo

Don't worry: this is all anti-Semitic tripe.

Tegenlicht, a documentary program by the Dutch public broadcast organization VPRO, allows several interesting opinion makers to speak on the future of the American and Israel relationship and the reception of John Mearsheimer and Steve Walt's article "The Israel Lobby and US Foreign Policy."

Includes interviews with John Mearsheimer, former chief of staff to United States Secretary of State Colin Powell, Lawrence Wilkerson, cofounder of the Christians United for Israel lobbying group John Hagee, neoconservative Richard Perle and historian Tony Judt express their views in Marije Meermans and William de Bruijns documentary.

Note: This ends abruptly, but Judt has the last word; that's it. Documentary over. Well done; will anyone in the US listen? Republicans? Democrats? People I know? Before or after an Iran strike? Here's what to do: call/write/fax/e-mail your elected representatives and tell them to stand up against the lobby/-ies -- "pro-"Israeli, military-industrial, Christian-right, et al. Write letters to the editor. Especially if you're Jewish, you must speak out.

Thank you.

York Dispatch - U.N. nuclear chief says Iran is operating only several hundred centrifuges

Look for this to be ignored by the US and UK regimes, and by most Democrats here at home.

Conversations with History: The Peace Movement in Historical Perspective, with Linus Pauling, 1983

Conversations with History: On Theory, with Amartya Sen, May 23, 2005

Conversations with History: Israeli National Identity, with Tom Segev, Sep 20, 2004

Vermeer, Young Woman with a Water Pitcher, ca. 1662

Bernini’s Ecstasy of St. Theresa, Cornaro Chapel, Rome (c. 1650)

I love Bernini. This sculpture, and St. Theresa herself, is basically the exemplar of the return of the repressed. For more, see Huizinga's The Waning of the Middle Ages.

Duchamp and the Ready-Made

From the good folks at smARThistory...

Garry Wills on Henry Adams

Unfortunately, on the Charlie Rose show, but Charlie keeps his mouth shut this time.


Scroll over to 19:10 for the start of Wills. The discussion shifts into Iraq after 15 minutes or so and finally returns to Adams via Napoleon and power politics. Unfortunately, and quite ironically, as Wills can't make any ironic connections between Adams' work and influence and this most recent imperial adventure.

Actually, I think that even given the constraints of the format and the breadth of the subject, Wills oversimplifies tremendously. He misses all the irony, or at least doesn't emphasize it as he should, in Adams' History of the United States During the Administrations of Jefferson and Madison (Vol. 1; Vol. 2). But kudos to him for drawing attention, including my own, to this book. I had read about it in Vidal, but I have to admit that an article on Wills' book in the NYRB got me to get the books and read them. I'm three-quarters of the way through, and I highly recommend it!

I've also read Mont Saint Michel and Chartres and Democracy: An American Novel (free online), as well as The Education of Henry Adams. Do yourself a favor and read Mr. Adams -- for the style, for the information, for the wisdom, the wit. Then, read about him in Vidal's essays and novels. Not surprisingly, Vidal understands Adams far more deeply than Wills.

ABC News: On Video: Palestinian As Human Shield

Here's the video.

Lovely. Some more information from Beautiful Israel, where one of my good, liberal friends is enjoying traipsing around the Golan Heights and Williamsburg-like recreations of what he calls "Talmudic" villages:

I doubt he'll even try to visit the OTs. What makes it interesting is that he is a truly excellent person, a fine friend, and liberal to the point of quasi-socialist. But when it comes to Israel -- and he's not Jewish, nor connected to Jews in any way -- he loses his bearings.

Meanwhile, here at home, the Freest and Best Country on Earth (my emphasis below):

Jailed Palestinian Professor Transferred, Alleges Prison Abuse
The jailed Palestinian professor Sami Al-Arian is claiming to have suffered new abuse at the hands of prison guards. Al-Arian has been transferred from North Carolina to a new prison in Virginia. He recently ended his 60-day hunger strike at the urging of his family. He had lost 53 pounds and become too weak to walk. Earlier today we spoke to Sami al-Arian’s daughter Laila for an update on Sami’s condition.

    Laila al-Arian: “On Thursday morning one day before my father was supposed to have been released from prison after his four year imprisonment [under his initial plea deal] he was assaulted by racist guards. They took away his legal materials. At one point an officer was stripping my father and asked him ‘Where are you from, Afghanistan?’ My father refused to ask the question but [the guard] kept repeating it several times. And then he finally told my father “‘It doesn’t matter where you’re from. If I had my way, you wouldn’t be in prison, I’d put a bullet in your head and get it done with. You’re nothing but a piece of [expletive].’ My father told him ‘Why do you say that? You don’t know me.’ The guard replied: ‘I know enough about all you guys. You’re all pieces of [expletive]. You can go pray to the f--- that you pray to.’ My father asked the guard what his name was, he refused to answer. His lieutenant also continued hurling obscenities at my father. He kept squeezing his handcuffs and restraints tighter and tighter till my father was numb for four hours from the trip from Petersburg to Alexandria, Virginia. They just kept telling him to shut the f--- up and each time they would tighten his shackles to increase the pain. It’s important to say that this same guard who harrassed my father yesterday back in January he told him ‘You’re a terrorist, I can tell by your name. So this is clearly a pattern from these guards and nothing is being done to stop this kind of harrasment and abuse.’”
Al-Arian remains in jail despite a jury’s failure over a year ago to return a single guilty verdict on any of the 17 charges brought against him. The U.S. government had accused him of being a leader of Palestinian Islamic Jihad. He eventually signed a plea deal with the government in exchange for being released and deported. He was scheduled to be released in April. But in January judge James Moody Jr. sentenced him to an additional 18 months in jail for refusing to testify before a Virginia grand jury.

Prosecutors: Judge Violated Al-Arian’s Plea Deal
In a new development, Al-Arian’s prosecutors are now claiming Moody has essentially violated Al-Arian’s plea deal. In a brief filed this week, the prosecutors say Moody had no jurisdiction to decide whether Al-Arian can be forced to testify in an unrelated case.

AlterNet: Blogs: Joshua Holland: Media obscures Iran's nuclear program with 'Fog Facts'

And: Algeria Attack and the al-Qaeda Penetration of Africa

"Hillary's War: The Real Reason She Won't Apologize," by Michael Crowley

A good profile on one of our "progressive" candidates. Our Iron Lady, more like it. She's against flag-burning now, too.

The New Republic Online


Hillary's War

by Michael Crowley
Post date: 03.26.07
Issue date: 04.02.07
The New Republic

In October 2000, Hillary Clinton was entering the home stretch of one of the most unusual Senate campaigns in American history. Although her husband still occupied the Oval Office, she had decamped to a Dutch Colonial in Westchester County to run for the seat of retiring New York Democrat Daniel Patrick Moynihan. To compensate for the fact that she had never actually lived in the state she intended to represent, she immersed herself in Empire State minutiae. Brooks KraftOff the top of her head, she would describe in detail the virtues of the Northeast dairy compact and the rate of upstate job growth. The aggressiveness of her New York provincialism tended to obscure the rare occasions on which Clinton would actually unfurl a broader worldview.

One such occasion took place on October 10, a few weeks before the election, when Clinton spoke before a group of investment bankers, magazine editors, and the sundry wonks who populate the Council on Foreign Relations. Although her address received little attention at the time, it outlined a clear vision of American power, one perhaps better-suited to a candidate for president than for the Senate. Many of the details were anodyne--she implored the United States to lead alliances against global problems like aids, poverty, and repression--but, when she came to the use of U.S. military force, her speech took a bracing turn:

There is a refrain ... that we should intervene with force only when we face splendid little wars that we surely can win, preferably by overwhelming force in a relatively short period of time. To those who believe we should become involved only if it is easy to do, I think we have to say that America has never and should not ever shy away from the hard task if it is the right one.

These words, unthinkable for any Democrat to utter today, are revealing of the mindset that led her to support George W. Bush's confrontation with Iraq, a policy choice that has steadily corroded her presidential ambitions. And, even on that day nearly a year before September 11, her words struck one listener as alarming. During a question-and-answer session that followed, an audience member who identified himself as a banking executive rose to challenge her. "I seem to hear that we should pay any price, bear any burden, to spread our way of life abroad," he said. "I wonder if you think that every foreign country--the majority of countries--would actually welcome this new assertiveness, including the one billion Muslims that are out there? And whether or not there isn't some grave risk to the United States in this--what I would say, not new internationalism, but new imperialism."

This was perhaps an overreaction to Clinton's point, and she challenged it as "an extreme statement I do not subscribe to." Through the lens of recent American foreign policy, however, her inquisitor's words do have an eerily prescient ring. However accidentally, he had foreshadowed the events that would follow Clinton's infamous 2002 vote granting President Bush the authority to invade Iraq.

Courtesy Special Collections, University of ArkansaHillary Clinton's entire political identity has become defined by that vote and her subsequent refusal to apologize for it. To most observers, her positioning on Iraq is simply the latest example in a long career of venal political calculation. In a zeitgeist-capturing "Saturday Night Live" sketch earlier this year, an actor playing Clinton appeared on a mock "Hardball" segment. "I think most Democrats know me," the faux Hillary cloyingly explained. "They understand that my support for the war was always insincere."

But was it? The truth about how Clinton came to support Bush's war (albeit with reservations), and how she has thought about it since, has always been shrouded in mystery. People assume that Clinton is playing politics, that she voted for the war to look tough or because Bush was popular and that she won't apologize now for fear of looking like a flip-flopper. Political observers scour her daily statements--her head-nodding, even, in one recent New York Times article--for clues to her thinking. Or they speculate about what she might do in the future. But the key to understanding Hillary Clinton's foreign policy lies in the past. And, as one probes her inner circle and reconstructs her record, an alternative reading emerges: What if the hawkish Hillary of 2002 wasn't just motivated by political opportunism? What if she really believed in the war?

It's hard to get a handle on Clinton's foreign policy. That's partly because it's hard even to get a handle on the identity of her foreign policy advisers. "Look, I don't fucking know!" barks one former Clintonite when queried about whom Clinton relies on. "No one knows!" The topic breeds deep paranoia, as Hillary's campaign has been known to rebuke those who speak publicly without explicit license. The result is a confounding omertà code: Whereas other politicians eagerly expound on their worldviews and policy deliberations, asking Democrats about Hillary's foreign policy consultations sometimes feels like inquiring after Whitey Bulger in Irish South Boston. "Please don't take this conversation as confirming anything," pleaded one person I contacted, who would only identify himself as being in the "very distant, outermost, orbital region" of the campaign. "I don't know how they want us to handle it." Such nervousness is a testament to the continued belief, despite the rise of Barack Obama, that Hillary will probably be the Democratic nominee--and that, if she wins, she'll have an administration full of jobs to fill. "This is one of those subjects where people are disinclined to say anything," explains Les Gelb of the Council on Foreign Relations. "People are very cautious when jobs are at stake."

As a result, it's not easy divining how Clinton thinks about national security in general, much less what factors led to her support for the Iraq war resolution. Her aides allowed me only a fleeting hallway encounter with Clinton herself. So I set out to unravel the mystery by calling dozens of former Clinton officials and Democratic aides. I also dug into her past, from her college career through eight years in the White House and six in the Senate. Sifting through Hillary's life, a portrait begins to emerge of a woman who has always been more comfortable with the military than many of her liberal boomer peers. I found that Clinton had aggressively pushed her husband to use force when he was president; that one of her most influential new advisers was a former senior aide to hawkish Senator Sam Nunn of Georgia; and that, although she opposed President Bush's Iraq "surge," she has consulted regularly with one of its prime architects. I even found that, in her late twenties, Hillary Rodham Clinton briefly attempted to enlist in the U.S. Marines.

That last fact--reported in 1994 but largely forgotten since--underlines the degree to which, unlike many of her peers, Clinton has never allowed Vietnam to define her vision of foreign policy. It's true that the war helped pull her from her roots as a Goldwater Girl and a president of Wellesley College's Young Republicans and drive her into the Democratic Party. During her junior year at Wellesley, she even knocked on doors for Eugene McCarthy's antiwar campaign. But Vietnam apparently didn't imbue Hillary with a loathing for the military. In 1975, just months after the last U.S. troops returned home, Hillary was living in Arkansas with Bill, who had mounted a failed bid for Congress the previous year. The young couple, who would marry later that year, were both teaching law at the University of Arkansas, when Hillary, for reasons never made entirely clear, decided to enlist in the Marines. When she walked into a recruiting office in Little Rock and inquired about joining, the recruiter on duty was unenthusiastic about the 27-year-old law professor in thick, goggle glasses. "You're too old, you can't see, and you're a woman," Clinton recalled him saying. "Maybe the dogs"--Marine slang for the Army--"would take you." Deflated, Clinton said she decided to "look for another way to serve my country."

From there, the trail seems to go cold. Hillary's geopolitical opportunities were limited in Arkansas, where she focused on her law career and advocacy on such domestic issues as children's rights. And, when she moved with Bill into the White House in 1993, in contrast to her public stewardship of health care, she had no formal foreign policy role. She was rarely, if ever, present at her husband's official national security meetings, and when she traveled abroad it was typically to promote relatively uncontroversial issues like women's rights and religious tolerance. "My staff used to tease me, suggesting that the State Department had a directive: If the place was too small, too dangerous or too poor--send Hillary," she writes in her memoir, Living History.

Behind the scenes, however, Hillary was an important figure in her husband's overseas agenda. "Much more than is usually the case with a first lady, she was interested in and knowledgeable about foreign policy," says Strobe Talbott, a former State Department official and longtime friend of the Clintons. In informal settings, "she was very much a part of the conversation."

That's no surprise, given how close Hillary was to Bill's top foreign policy mandarins. She had bonded with National Security Advisor Sandy Berger years before, while working for the presidential campaigns of George McGovern and Gary Hart, and remained close to Berger and his wife, Susan, ever since. As first lady, she talked regularly with Sandy, who she has said took an active interest in her overseas trips. More recently, in 2001, Susan, a Washington realtor, helped Hillary choose her $2.85 million brick Georgian house and even found her a posh interior decorator.

Hillary was tighter still with Madeleine Albright. Both had attended Wellesley (albeit a decade apart), and the pair famously hit it off on a 1996 trip to Eastern Europe when Albright was still ambassador to the United Nations. News reports painted a portrait of gal pals on a European holiday--window-shopping in Prague, sharing dumplings in a café, laughing hysterically as the wind turned their umbrellas inside-out. Their personal bond reportedly led Hillary to insist that Bill choose Albright for secretary of state in 1997. It also gave Hillary an informal line to America's top diplomat. The women met regularly, often with their top aides, for frank conversations about policy and politics in Albright's State Department dining room. In her memoir, Madam Secretary, Albright describes the relationship as an "unprecedented partnership." "I was once asked whether it was appropriate for the two of us to work together so closely," Albright writes. "I agreed that it was a departure from tradition," but she saw no problem with the first lady having a hand on the ship of state.

Perhaps most importantly, Hillary clearly helped to shape some of her husband's key foreign policy decisions. In March 1999, for instance, as Slobodan Milosevic's Serbian forces conducted a rising campaign of ethnic cleansing against Kosovar Albanians, her husband considered a series of airstrikes to stop the killing. His generals were nearly unanimous in opposition: Bombing wouldn't work, they said, and, in any case, military engagement wasn't worth the risk of American casualties. Russian opposition also guaranteed a lack of U.N. sanction for the mission; any military action would have to be a NATO operation of debatable international legitimacy. Hillary didn't care. As she later explained to Talk magazine, while on a trip in North Africa she phoned her husband in Washington and pleaded with him to unleash the military. "I urged him to bomb," she said. "You cannot let this go on at the end of a century that has seen the major holocaust of our time. What do we have NATO for if not to defend our way of life?"

Bill Clinton, of course, wound up agreeing with his wife. The subsequent 78-day bombing campaign was an astonishing success. The United States suffered zero casualties, and the Serbs capitulated, beginning the process of Milosevic's downfall. It was the third time Hillary had spoken up in favor of intervention. The first had been in 1994 in Haiti, according to one former Clintonite. The other had been the 1995 campaign of airstrikes to bring an end to the Bosnian conflict. Her memoir recounts hearing a speech by Elie Wiesel in April 1993 in which he invoked the Holocaust as he pleaded with the president to take action in the former Yugoslavia. "Sitting in the gray drizzle," Hillary writes, "I agreed with Elie's words, because I was convinced that the only way to stop the genocide in Bosnia was through selective air strikes against Serbian targets." This was more than two years before her husband finally brought himself to commence the bombing.

Courtesy AP Photo/Greg GibsonBy the end of their reign, the Clintonites seemed to have demonstrated that the United States could flex its muscles with ease and precision--even without U.N. approval--and be loved for it. U.S. bombs had restored peace and stability to central Europe, and American values were on the march. Hillary's memoir recounts her 1996 meeting with an American peacekeeping soldier in Bosnia: "[W]herever we go, the kids wave at us and smile," he told her. "To me, that's reason enough to be here." Not only was it righteous, it held a certain glamour as well. As Hillary recounts in a typical passage, "Sheryl Crow, Sinbad and Chelsea and I flew in Black Hawk helicopters to visit soldiers in forward positions. ... Chelsea had been a big hit with the soldiers and their families throughout the trip, shaking hands and signing autographs with her usual warmth and grace." All this filled her with a vivid optimism. On a flight back from the region, she recalls, "I remember thinking what a perfect day it was for flying and what a perfect moment to be alive."

Little wonder that, by 1999, Hillary was proclaiming in speeches, "I am very pleased that this president and administration have made democracy one of the centerpieces of our foreign policy." Or that, during her Senate campaign a year later, she would argue that America's military involvements should not be limited to "splendid little wars."

In the fall of 2002, Bush officials were having their own troubles divining what Hillary Clinton thought about Iraq. Although she was a regular attendee at Capitol Hill briefings conducted by senior administration officials like Colin Powell and Paul Wolfowitz, she listened far more than she spoke, recalls one former Bush official. (She was more open with then-deputy National Security Advisor Stephen Hadley, an old friend from Yale Law School, pulling him aside for private chats.) But in general, says the former Bush official, Clinton seemed more comfortable with confronting Iraq than some other Democrats. "I was kind of pleasantly surprised by her attitude," he says. "Not that she was jumping up and down waving flags and saying, 'Hey, let's go after these guys.' But you take a John Kerry--he would sit back with his arms folded and a skeptical look."

At one point that fall, Clinton visited the White House, along with several other senators, to hear National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice make her case for the Iraq resolution. Once again, Hillary kept her views largely to herself, leading Rice to call her personally afterward. Did the senator have any questions she might answer, Rice asked? Clinton asked Rice for assurance that Bush really intended to push diplomacy to the limit, that the resolution was not a de facto vote for war. On the contrary, Rice said, it was the best hope for peace: Only the clear threat of force could compel Saddam to accept the intrusive weapons inspections that might avert war.

Clinton says now that she took Rice at her word. She expected the administration to make a good-faith effort at diplomacy and to give arms inspectors ample time to do their work. According to her, it did neither. Her critics deride that as a naïve view, of course. A few weeks before, even her confidante Sandy Berger had noted that "the smell of gunpowder" was already in the Washington air. But a vote based on the notion that diplomacy required the threat of force behind it was entirely consistent with the worldview her husband's administration had developed. "I think there is a connection to her vote," says James P. Rubin, a former Clinton assistant secretary of state, "which is recognizing that the right combination of force and diplomacy can achieve America's objectives. Sometimes to get things done--like getting inspectors into Iraq--you do have to be prepared to threaten force. But you have to get the combination right. And, in Iraq, Bush got the combination wrong. To get it right means not dispensing with either force or diplomacy."

But, by 2002, some Clintonites seemed resigned to the inevitability of force as a solution. Iraq had been a persistent fly in the ointment during the latter years of the Clinton administration. Few things terrified the Clintonites more than the chemical and biological arsenal they were convinced Saddam possessed. Their phobia was illustrated in 1997, when Defense Secretary William Cohen appeared on television holding up a five-pound sack of sugar to illustrate how a small payload of Saddam's anthrax could kill half of Washington. Late in his presidency, Bill Clinton told one interviewer that the thought of a crop-duster spraying biological agents over the National Mall literally "keeps me awake at night." Thoughts like these led to an ever-more aggressive posture toward Saddam. In November 1998, the president signed the Iraq Liberation Act, making Saddam's ouster a stated goal of U.S. policy for the first time; a few months later, Albright toured the Middle East explaining to Arab governments that the United States was serious about "regime change." When Saddam kicked out U.N. weapons inspectors that year, Clinton ordered Operation Desert Fox, a four-day campaign of bombing and cruise-missile strikes. "So long as Saddam remains in power, he threatens the well-being of his people, the peace of his region, the security of the world," he explained at the time. "The credible threat to use force, and, when necessary, the actual use of force, is the surest way to contain Saddam's weapons of mass destruction program, curtail his aggression, and prevent another gulf war."

Whatever role Hillary played in her husband's Iraq policy remains a mystery. But it's clear that the Clintonites left office deeply frustrated at the unsolved problem of Iraq and perhaps believing that some final reckoning was inevitable. "President Clinton recognized, as did I," Albright writes in her memoir, "that the mixture of sanctions, containment, Iraqi defiance, and our own uncertainty about Saddam's weapons couldn't go on indefinitely."

Bush's approach was clearly blunter than what Clintonite foreign policy would have dictated. But, even as the "smell of gunpowder" turned into a stench, the foreign policy experts to whom Hillary was closest remained supportive of war with Iraq. "Most of the top [Clinton] national security team had sympathy for what Bush decided, in the broadest terms," says a Democratic foreign policy analyst.

The most hawkish among them was former U.N. Ambassador Richard Holbrooke, with whom Clinton conferred that fall. "If all else fails, collective action against Saddam is, in my view, justified by the situation and the record of the last decade," Holbrooke told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in September 2002. Holbrooke's standard for "collective" seemed to include only the British and perhaps a handful of other allies. And Holbrooke made clear that a war to topple Saddam was unlikely to be easy and that U.S. forces might have to spend years in a postwar Iraq. Nor was Holbrooke alone. Varying degrees of support for the Bush resolution came from the likes of Rubin, former Defense Secretary William Perry, and former Deputy National Security Advisor Jim Steinberg. And, though she raised red flags about the war's risks, Hillary's close friend Albright ultimately concluded that Bush "should have this authority." This was hardly shocking: Albright's relatives had fled both Hitler and Stalin, instilling in her a belief that dictators must be challenged. "My mindset is Munich," she once said. "Most of my generation's is Vietnam." It may have been such thinking that once led Albright to query a stunned Colin Powell, "What's the point of having this superb military you're always talking about if we can't use it?" (In his memoir, Powell recalls, "I thought I would have an aneurysm.")

Hillary also conferred with Kenneth Pollack, the former Clinton national security aide whose book, The Threatening Storm, helped convince many Democrats that Saddam could not be peacefully contained indefinitely. (Although, in one encounter after the 2003 invasion, according to several sources, Clinton needled Pollack for his mistaken beliefs about Saddam. "Ken, where are those WMDs you were telling me about?" she said.)

To be sure, policy and politics have always been inexorably intertwined in Clintonland, and, while some close to Hillary made a principled case for supporting the war, others clearly billed it as a political winner. Among them was surely her pollster, Mark Penn, who has been a member of the Clinton inner circle since 1995. The disheveled, Harvard-educated Penn has long been obsessed with the political center. After September 11, he fixated on foreign policy, repeatedly warning Democrats that they needed to show voters that, as he put it in one essay, they are "capable of managing national security issues." For Penn, supporting the Iraq war was a fine opportunity to demonstrate this. In the 2004 Democratic primaries, he attached himself to a candidate who believed likewise, joining the ill-fated campaign of Joe Lieberman. According to one former Lieberman adviser, even as Iraq slid toward chaos Penn believed war supporters would be vindicated: "Penn was telling Lieberman he would be right about the war." It hardly seems a stretch to assume he told Hillary Clinton the same thing.

Courtesy AFP Photo/Stephen JaffeOf course, no Clintonite likely held more sway with Hillary than Bill himself, whose war position has never attracted the same scrutiny. Indeed, befitting the man who said of the 1991 gulf war debate that he "agreed with the arguments of the minority," but "would have voted with the majority," Bill's views on the second Iraq war remain murky. When talk of a confrontation with Iraq first began brewing in 2002, he seemed wary about a possible distraction from the pursuit of Al Qaeda. "I don't have any use for Saddam Hussein," he said in a speech that June. "But I do think you have to ask yourself in what order do we have to do this." But, as the war drums grew louder, he grew increasingly supportive. While he stressed the importance of diplomacy and arms inspections, he seemed to value them more as a way to legitimate an invasion than to avoid one. On October 27, for instance, Clinton said in another speech that "I do think it would be better if we can go through the U.N. and try the inspections, even though if past is prologue, they'll fail." Though he regularly warned against acting without broad support, this, too, seemed less a critique of Bush administration aggressiveness than of U.N. timidity. In a mid-February speech, he told a Texas audience that Bush "deserves a lot of credit for saying we can't just ignore [Iraq] forever; it's time to deal with this again," before going on to argue that the credibility of the United Nations was at stake and urging recalcitrant European countries to show that they were serious about Iraq.

More strikingly, Clinton even seemed to embrace the neocon notion that, by toppling Saddam, the United States might reshape the Middle East. "[I]t's going to take years to rebuild Iraq," he said. "If we do this, we want it to be a secular democracy. We want it to be a shared model for other Middle Eastern countries. We want to do what a lot of people in the administration honestly want, which is to have it shake the foundations of autocracy in the Middle East and promote more freedom and decency. You've got to spend money and work hard and send people there to work over a long period of time." These could have been the words of Paul Wolfowitz. But, to Bill Clinton, this wasn't a blinkered fantasy--it was a legitimate and realistic U.S. foreign policy objective.

Still rotating in Hillary's orbit are many of the Clintonites who advised her prior to the war. "There's no way when you look at who's around her that you can't see it as a continuum" from her husband's administration, says representative and former Clinton White House aide Rahm Emanuel. But, when I pressed Hillary's advisers on the subject of whom she consults on foreign policy, they were eager to portray her--in convenient contrast to, say, Barack Obama and John Edwards--as an experienced foreign policy hand who doesn't need anyone telling her what to think. "This is not like Bush and the Vulcans," explains one, referring to the (supposed) policy titans who schooled the geopolitically clueless Texas governor. By contrast, Clinton advisers note, as first lady she visited 82 nations--each trip accompanied by a detailed briefing. "You'd be hard-pressed to say that there's anyone in this race with that experience," says one. The flattering image presented by Hillary's circle is of a policy mastermind who mainly calls in people with specific expertise when she needs to fill small gaps in her knowledge on particular regions or threats. (I learned the names of some of these experts--uncontroversial figures with high media profiles--but the paranoia in Clintonland runs so deep that I was not given permission to cite them.)

Hillary Clinton still talks regularly with her husband's senior foreign policy team, whose generally hawkish slant may help to explain why Hillary has been far slower than her Democratic rivals to shift left on the war. (It's telling that the three well-known former Clinton foreign policy officials who have signed up with Obama's campaign--former National Security Advisor Anthony Lake, State Department African affairs expert Susan Rice, and Greg Craig, a lawyer and onetime adviser to Albright--are more dovish than many of their old colleagues.) Hillary's campaign still lacks a formally structured foreign policy team, perhaps in part because her lasting personal friendships provide much of the advice she needs. A month after Hillary's election to the Senate in 2000, for instance, Holbrooke hosted a gala dinner for her at his private residence in Manhattan's Waldorf Astoria Towers, featuring attendees like Robert DeNiro and Harrison Ford. When Hillary traveled to Munich in 2005 for a speech about the United Nations, Holbrooke was there, taking notes in the front row. He's also inside enough to have recently solicited recommendations for a new full-time foreign policy aide to join Clinton's campaign. "He's obviously gunning for secretary of state," a Democratic foreign policy expert told me. "He's putting all his eggs in this basket."

Hillary is also still close to her former café-hopping buddy Albright, whom she recently named to a "rapid reaction" team of women who will defend her against attacks in the press. And she is said to confer constantly with Berger, her friend of more than 30 years, who, despite his opposition to the Iraq war, still defends the utility of force. In a 2004 Foreign Affairs essay calling for a return to internationalism, he nonetheless noted that "[a] Democratic administration will need to reaffirm the United States' willingness to use military power--alone if necessary--in defense of its vital interests." (That said, some Democrats suggest that Berger's involvement in the campaign will be limited--or at least concealed--thanks to his ham-fisted attempt to smuggle documents from the National Archives in 2003.)

Newer additions to Hillary's fold also suggest that her hawkish profile is about more than just polls. One is her Senate foreign policy staffer Andrew Shapiro. The 39-year-old Shapiro is affable but charged with nervous energy. (Sitting in the audience at a recent Clinton speech on the military, he rocked steadily back and forth like Rain Man at Wapner time.) A Gore-Lieberman campaign aide and Justice Department lawyer, Shapiro was also briefly a research assistant at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, a center-right think tank. Shapiro is "a mainstream foreign Democratic policy establishment moderate," says a congressional foreign policy aide. "He's hawkish on defense issues and Israel." It is Shapiro, Hillaryites say, who is in the room for most of her important foreign policy decisions.

Hillary has also recruited a new and relatively unknown adviser: longtime defense establishment insider Jeffrey Smith. "When she went on Armed Services, she telephoned me and asked if I would come up and give her a sense of the issues she'd encounter," says Smith, who served as general counsel to the CIA in the mid-'90s and is now a partner at the Washington law firm Arnold & Porter. Though Smith has civil libertarian views on intelligence (he strongly opposes the Guantánamo Bay detainee program), he is a West Point graduate with roots in military culture who spent several years working for Nunn on the Senate Armed Services Committee. During the 2004 campaign, Smith said he had found John Kerry's 1971 charges of U.S. war crimes in Vietnam offensive. Smith has been a harsh critic of the Iraq war from the start, but, like Hillary, he has argued that the United States can't summarily withdraw. "[N]o one should question how difficult--or how important--it is to achieve our mission," he wrote in a 2003 op-ed.

Smith told me he's been surprised at the kinship Hillary finds with military and ex-military men. A case in point is her camaraderie with retired General Jack Keane, a gruff former vice army chief of staff and co-architect of Bush's Iraq "surge" plan. Keane, a New Yorker, contacted his new senator after her 2001 election and offered to keep her up to speed on the state's Fort Drum Army base and military issues generally. In 2003, Keane escorted Clinton on a visit to West Point to address students there. (A private chat about Iraq on the flight home prompted Clinton to take her first trip there two months later.) When Clinton joined the Senate Armed Services Committee in 2002, Shapiro says, Keane was among the first people she contacted. Although Clinton opposed Keane's surge plan, her aides say she still thinks enough of his opinion that she has debated it with him. It's hard to imagine many other leading Democrats would have done the same.

Clinton's aides wouldn't grant me an extended interview with her, but I was afforded a brief, on-the-fly encounter. On a recent March morning, I merged into Clinton's bubble as she left a press conference on children's health care in the Russell Senate Office Building. Even on Capitol Hill, Clinton has massive star power, and it took her five minutes to work her way out of the room in her methodical style, head slowly turning this way and that like a giant radar dish as her pale blue eyes locked onto each new supplicant. Finally, Clinton greeted me warmly as we stepped onto an elevator closed to the rabble by her Secret Service detail.

Courtesy AP Photo/Global bus iness coalition, Chris GreenbergI had time for two questions. First, I asked her about the influence her husband's foreign policy experience had on her Iraq vote: whether his successful use of force, even without U.N. approval, had shaped her decision. "It certainly did influence my thinking," she told me in her matter-of-fact tone. "What many of us thought was, the use of diplomacy backed up by the threat of force--that is a credible position for America to take in the world." But, she added, "there were those in the Congress who thought that the United States should never even threaten force--or certainly take force--in the absence of U.N. Security Council approval. Well, I had seen during the Clinton administration that sometimes, that's not even possible. Sometimes, it's not even possible for the president to get congressional approval to pursue vital national security interests." This does not sound like someone who, in her heart, had at the time thought George Bush's confrontation was a terrible mistake.

Then we were on the street. Clinton's black sedan was waiting with an open door. Though she was starting to look impatient, I wedged in my second question: What should people make of the fact that she had briefly tried to enlist in the military? At this her eyes narrowed and she threw me a glare of mistrust. "I have very deep and quite broad relationships with people in the military," she said. As for the meaning of the recruiting visit, "I can't tell you," she said with a dismissive wave. "You go look at that." And at that, the door shut, and she was gone, a faint silhouette behind tinted windows.

In her October 2002 speech explaining her vote for President Bush's war resolution, Hillary was clearly conflicted. She listed several reasons why war might be necessary, including the Iraqi chemical and biological arsenal--which she called "undisputed"--and her purported special perspective, as a New Yorker after September 11, on the "risks of action versus inaction." She also offered several counterarguments, including her fear that Bush might make a dangerous precedent of "preemption."

But, in concluding that she would support Bush, Clinton offered another rationale of a very different sort. She argued that she was inherently predisposed to grant the benefit of the doubt to a president asking Congress for support in matters of war. In the '90s, Clinton had watched congressional Republicans undermine her husband's foreign policy for political gain. They mocked his interventions in Haiti, Bosnia, and Kosovo--Tom DeLay called it "Clinton's war"--and they cried "wag the dog" when he launched a cruise-missile attack on Iraq in the midst of the Lewinsky scandal. "[P]erhaps," Hillary mused in her floor speech, "my decision is influenced by my eight years of experience on the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue in the White House, watching my husband deal with serious challenges to our nation. I want this president, or any future president, to be in the strongest possible position to lead our country in the United Nations or in war."

In short, Clinton was arguing that Congress should have an innate deference to presidential authority in matters of diplomacy and war. As she explained to ABC's George Stephanopoulos in December 2003, "I'm a strong believer in executive authority. I wish that, when my husband was president, people in Congress had been more willing to recognize presidential authority." To this day, when Clinton refuses to apologize for her war vote, she explains that she doesn't regret deferring to Bush's authority, but rather "the way he used that authority."

Thanks to the excesses of the Bush administration, the phrase "executive authority" has a dirty ring to it these days, and Hillary rarely talks much about it in public. But her advisers say it remains a guiding principle of her thinking. It also explains why Hillary, despite the vitriol of Cindy Sheehan and harassment by antiwar protesters, has been so much slower than Democratic primary rivals like John Edwards to call for a swift U.S. withdrawal.

Of course, there is another prominent Democrat, one beloved by the left, who has also shared Hillary's moderation on the question of exiting Iraq: Al Gore. Though he opposed the war full-throatedly, the former vice president has yet to endorse a quick withdrawal, saying that to do so would be to consign Iraq to complete anarchy. Clinton advisers note that the key thing Hillary and Gore have in common is eight years together at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. "On his press tour, Gore sounded like Hillary," says one Clinton adviser. "And it's probably because those two understand the presidency better than anyone." Or, as Les Gelb puts it, "She thinks more like a president than a candidate."

Ultimately, perhaps the strangest thing about Hillary Clinton's war vote is that she actually seems to have related to George W. Bush's predicament. She remembered the feeling of being in the White House, looking at a dangerous and unstable world, and imagining that the United States had the power to make it safer and more humane. She knew the feeling of having a powerful military on call. She not only believed that Saddam had WMD, but also that, by deposing him, the United States could promote freedom and democracy.

Those beliefs made Clinton receptive to Bush's arguments for war, even if it was almost certainly not one she would have initiated. But the final straw for her decision may have had less to do with a vision of U.S. power than with a vision of herself. She had seen her husband in Bush's shoes, confronting a Congress that didn't trust his foreign policy leadership. And she knew that, someday, she might find herself in those same shoes as well. In that sense, for Hillary Clinton, supporting the Iraq war may have been as much about her future as it was about her past.

Correction: This article originally reported that Hillary Clinton "needled" Kenneth Pollack about the absence of WMD in Iraq at a birthday party for Sandy Berger at the French Ambassador's residence. A Clinton spokesman says she did not attend such a party. The spokesman said he would not discuss Clinton's private conversations, though he did not specifically dispute that such an encounter occurred, as multiple sources say it did. Pollack had declined to comment on this account before publication.

Michael Crowley is a senior editor at The New Republic.

12 April 2007

"Iran: the war ahead, " John Pilger

Just in case anyone cares...

"Awful Truth About Hillary, Barack, John... and Whitewash," by Norman Solomon

As if you needed one more reason to realize that MoveOn.org has been absorbed by the Borg.

Gore Vidal Interview, KUOW, 11/9/2006

I feel the need to compensate for the loss of our Twain by posting a recent interview with our Henry Adams.

Here's one from the following day with Leonard Lopate at WNYC. Probably some overlap, as both were part of his promotional tour for Point-to-Point Navigation, his second memoir. But we should all be so lucky to have such material for overlap!

Ah, and some video -- on his novel Creation, perhaps his finest.

Our Mark Twain is Dead

All respect to Kurt Vonnegut, a true artist and a fine writer. One of the irrepressibly sane; few in number in any age, but nowadays the loss is more keenly felt.

Update: A hilarious interview of Vonnegut and Joseph Heller....

Part 1:

Part 2:

Part 3:

Part 4:

Part 5:

Part 6:

Part 7:

Part 8:

11 April 2007

Rutgers U. Press Conference

Update: I almost didn't post this because I'm sick of the wall-to-wall coverage on Imus, when far more important things are happening, as I describe here. I didn't want my post to be part of the problem; ah, well. Check out the comments: some good points are made...but my main reaction to this is still that it is an overblown distraction from critical issues, one of which is discussed at length in the link above, another of which is alluded to at the end.

Well, I think it should be obvious that I didn't think Imus' comments were funny, and the comments themselves were sexist and racist. Whether Imus himself is, I don't know; let's say, sure.

OK, has everyone forgotten about freedom of speech?

Why is Imus piled on for "nappy-headed hos" (and not the far worse "jigaboo," btw), which was unfunny, offensive, but killed no one, yet Michael Gordon and Judith Miller -- and many of the same pundits tsk-tsking now -- whose lies have helped lead to nearly a million deaths, are A-OK? Not to mention that Glenn Beck, Coulter, Limbaugh, Hannity, Michael Savage, et al, are just fine. They actually pretend to be news people.

Don't like Imus? Don't listen! I never do; what do you expect from Imus? What's worrying is his huge audience, which implies what we all know: the pervasiveness of racism and sexism. Silencing Imus won't do a damn thing about that.

This is the biggest story now? Iran? No big deal. Pure Chomskyan "flak".

What bothers me is the rush from left and right to hinder speech. Yes, even hateful speech. Unless you defend the right of speech you despise, you're not for free speech. It's easy to defend speech you agree with or which doesn't offend you.

Listen carefully to this press conference. "I want to suggest that right-thinking people give thought before they speak." The coach. Right-thinking people? Sounds like what so-called liberals rightly shrank from when Bushites said that after 9/11.

The excerpt on Democracy Now piqued my interest: somehow Comedy Central (!) and rap music is responsible? And on NPR, I heard someone say that Imus' comments were organically related to the reported fifth-grader sex in an empty classroom in Florida.

It's very easy to say, "Bad speech!" It's a lot harder to do what's necessary to fight the root causes of racism and sexism. Since all that matters is what "it's about," it's not about being offended, it's about higher black infant mortality, it's about 1 in 3 black males incarcerated or to be incarcerated, it's about women making 80% of men's salaries, still. It's about any number of economic and social realities, the solutions to which require major changes. Tough changes. Changes that the commentariat that is up in arms about Imus wouldn't support for two seconds. The hypersentimentality over how awful Imus' words were doesn't have the space or time for these larger issues. Of course.

No, I'm not taking the rightwing position of screeching "political correctness" as a cover for agreeing with speech such as Imus'. I defend chocolate Christs and all such things. Not that it makes a difference, strictly speaking, but avant-garde (political or artistic) expression is the first up against the wall when speech is limited.

Two Interesting Conversations: Tagore and Einstein; Tagore and H.G. Wells

Tagore and Einstein met through a common friend, Dr. Mendel. Tagore visited Einstein at his residence at Kaputh in the suburbs of Berlin on July 14, 1930, and Einstein returned the call and visited Tagore at the Mendel home. Both conversations were recorded and the above photograph was taken. The July 14 conversation is reproduced here, and was originally published in The Religion of Man (George, Allen & Unwin, Ltd., London), Appendix II, pp. 222-225.

TAGORE: I was discussing with Dr. Mendel today the new mathematical discoveries which tell us that in the realm of infinitesimal atoms chance has its play; the drama of existence is not absolutely predestined in character.

EINSTEIN: The facts that make science tend toward this view do not say good-bye to causality.

TAGORE: Maybe not, yet it appears that the idea of causality is not in the elements, but that some other force builds up with them an organized universe.

EINSTEIN: One tries to understand in the higher plane how the order is. The order is there, where the big elements combine and guide existence, but in the minute elements this order is not perceptible.

TAGORE: Thus duality is in the depths of existence, the contradiction of free impulse and the directive will which works upon it and evolves an orderly scheme of things.

EINSTEIN: Modern physics would not say they are contradictory. Clouds look as one from a distance, but if you see them nearby, they show themselves as disorderly drops of water.

TAGORE: I find a parallel in human psychology. Our passions and desires are unruly, but our character subdues these elements into a harmonious whole. Does something similar to this happen in the physical world? Are the elements rebellious, dynamic with individual impulse? And is there a principle in the physical world which dominates them and puts them into an orderly organization?

EINSTEIN: Even the elements are not without statistical order; elements of radium will always maintain their specific order, now and ever onward, just as they have done all along. There is, then, a statistical order in the elements.

TAGORE: Otherwise, the drama of existence would be too desultory. It is the constant harmony of chance and determination which makes it eternally new and living.

EINSTEIN: I believe that whatever we do or live for has its causality; it is good, however, that we cannot see through to it.

TAGORE: There is in human affairs an element of elasticity also, some freedom within a small range which is for the expression of our personality. It is like the musical system in India, which is not so rigidly fixed as western music. Our composers give a certain definite outline, a system of melody and rhythmic arrangement, and within a certain limit the player can improvise upon it. He must be one with the law of that particular melody, and then he can give spontaneous expression to his musical feeling within the prescribed regulation. We praise the composer for his genius in creating a foundation along with a superstructure of melodies, but we expect from the player his own skill in the creation of variations of melodic flourish and ornamentation. In creation we follow the central law of existence, but if we do not cut ourselves adrift from it, we can have sufficient freedom within the limits of our personality for the fullest self-expression.

EINSTEIN: That is possible only when there is a strong artistic tradition in music to guide the people's mind. In Europe, music has come too far away from popular art and popular feeling and has become something like a secret art with conventions and traditions of its own.

TAGORE: You have to be absolutely obedient to this too complicated music. In India, the measure of a singer's freedom is in his own creative personality. He can sing the composer's song as his own, if he has the power creatively to assert himself in his interpretation of the general law of the melody which he is given to interpret.

EINSTEIN: It requires a very high standard of art to realize fully the great idea in the original music, so that one can make variations upon it. In our country, the variations are often prescribed.

TAGORE: If in our conduct we can follow the law of goodness, we can have real liberty of self-expression. The principle of conduct is there, but the character which makes it true and individual is our own creation. In our music there is a duality of freedom and prescribed order.

EINSTEIN: Are the words of a song also free? I mean to say, is the singer at liberty to add his own words to the song which he is singing?

TAGORE: Yes. In Bengal we have a kind of song-kirtan, we call it-which gives freedom to the singer to introduce parenthetical comments, phrases not in the original song. This occasions great enthusiasm, since the audience is constantly thrilled by some beautiful, spontaneous sentiment added by the singer.

EINSTEIN: Is the metrical form quite severe?

TAGORE: Yes, quite. You cannot exceed the limits of versification; the singer in all his variations must keep the rhythm and the time, which is fixed. In European music you have a comparative liberty with time, but not with melody.

EINSTEIN: Can the Indian music be sung without words? Can one understand a song without words?

TAGORE: Yes, we have songs with unmeaning words, sounds which just help to act as carriers of the notes. In North India, music is an independent art, not the interpretation of words and thoughts, as in Bengal. The music is very intricate and subtle and is a complete world of melody by itself.

EINSTEIN: Is it not polyphonic?

TAGORE: Instruments are used, not for harmony, but for keeping time and adding to the volume and depth. Has melody suffered in your music by the imposition of harmony?

EINSTEIN: Sometimes it does suffer very much. Sometimes the harmony swallows up the melody altogether.

TAGORE: Melody and harmony are like lines and colors in pictures. A simple linear picture may be completely beautiful; the introduction of color may make it vague and insignificant. Yet color may, by combination with lines, create great pictures, so long as it does not smother and destroy their value.

EINSTEIN: It is a beautiful comparison; line is also much older than color. It seems that your melody is much richer in structure than ours. Japanese music also seems to be so.

TAGORE: It is difficult to analyze the effect of eastern and western music on our minds. I am deeply moved by the western music; I feel that it is great, that it is vast in its structure and grand in its composition. Our own music touches me more deeply by its fundamental lyrical appeal. European music is epic in character; it has a broad background and is Gothic in its structure.

EINSTEIN: This is a question we Europeans cannot properly answer, we are so used to our own music. We want to know whether our own music is a conventional or a fundamental human feeling, whether to feel consonance and dissonance is natural, or a convention which we accept.

TAGORE: Somehow the piano confounds me. The violin pleases me much more.

EINSTEIN: It would be interesting to study the effects of European music on an Indian who had never heard it when he was young.

TAGORE: Once I asked an English musician to analyze for me some classical music, and explain to me what elements make for the beauty of the piece.

EINSTEIN: The difficulty is that the really good music, whether of the East or of the West, cannot be analyzed.

TAGORE: Yes, and what deeply affects the hearer is beyond himself.

EINSTEIN: The same uncertainty will always be there about everything fundamental in our experience, in our reaction to art, whether in Europe or in Asia. Even the red flower I see before me on your table may not be the same to you and me.

TAGORE: And yet there is always going on the process of reconciliation between them, the individual taste conforming to the universal standard.

Excerpted from: A Tagore Reader, edited by Amiya Chakravarty.

Tagore and H.G. Wells met in Geneva in early June, 1930. Their conversation is reported here.

TAGORE: The tendency in modern civilization is to make the world uniform. Calcutta, Bombay, Hong Kong, and other cities are more or less alike, wearing big masks which represent no country in particular.

WELLS: Yet don't you think that this very fact is an indication that we are reaching out for a new world-wide human order which refuses to be localized?

TAGORE: Our individual physiognomy need not be the same. Let the mind be universal. The individual should not be sacrificed.

WELLS: We are gradually thinking now of one human civilization on the foundation of which individualities will have great chance of fulfillment. The individual, as we take him, has suffered from the fact that civilization has been split up into separate units, instead of being merged into a universal whole, which seems to be the natural destiny of mankind.

TAGORE: I believe the unity of human civilization can be better maintained by linking up in fellowship and cooperation of the different civilizations of the world. Do you think there is a tendency to have one common language for humanity?

WELLS: One common language will probably be forced upon mankind whether we like it or not. Previously, a community of fine minds created a new dialect. Now it is necessity that will compel us to adopt a universal language.

TAGORE: I quite agree. The time for five-mile dialects is fast vanishing. Rapid communication makes for a common language. Yet, this common language would probably not exclude national languages. There is again the curious fact that just now, along with the growing unities of the human mind, the development of national self-consciousn ess is leading to the formation or rather the revival of national languages everywhere. Don't you think that in America, in spite of constant touch between America and England, the English language is tending toward a definite modification and change?

WELLS: I wonder if that is the case now. Forty or fifty years ago this would have been the case, but now in literature and in common speech it becomes increasingly difficult to distinguish between English and American. There seems to be much more repercussion in the other direction. Today we are elaborating and perfecting physical methods of transmitting words. Translation is a bother. Take your poems - do they not lose much by that process? If you had a method of making them intelligible to all people at the same time, it would be really wonderful.

TAGORE: Music of different nations has a common psychological foundation, and yet that does not mean that national music should not exist. The same thing is, in my opinion, probably true for literature.

WELLS: Modern music is going from one country to another without loss - from Purcell to Bach, then Brahms, then Russian music, then oriental. Music is of all things in the world most international.

TAGORE: May I add something? I have composed more than three hundred pieces of music. They are all sealed from the West because they cannot properly be given to you in your own notation. Perhaps they would not be intelligible to your people even if I could get them written down in European notation.

WELLS: The West may get used to your music.

TAGORE: Certain forms of tunes and melodies which move us profoundly seem to baffle Western listeners; yet, as you say, perhaps closer acquaintance with them may gradually lead to their appreciation in the West.

WELLS: Artistic expression in the future will probably be quite different from what it is today; the medium will be the same and comprehensible to all. Take radio, which links together the world. And we cannot prevent further invention. Perhaps in the future, when the present clamor for national languages and dialects in broadcasting subsides, and new discoveries in science are made, we shall be conversing with one another through a common medium of speech yet undreamed of.

TAGORE: We have to create the new psychology needed for this age. We have to adjust ourselves to the new necessities and conditions of civilization.

WELLS: Adjustments, terrible adjustments!

TAGORE: Do you think there are any fundamental racial difficulties?

WELLS: No. New races are appearing and reappearing, perpetual fluctuations. There have been race mixtures from the earliest times; India is the supreme example of this. In Bengal, for instance, there has been an amazing mixture of races in spite of caste and other barriers.

TAGORE: Then there is the question of racial pride. Can the West fully acknowledge the East? If mutual acceptance is not possible, then I shall be very sorry for that country which rejects another's culture. Study can bring no harm, though men like Dr. Haas and Henri Matisse seem to think that the eastern mind should not go outside eastern countries, and then everything will be all right.

WELLS: I hope you disagree. So do I!

TAGORE: It is regrettable that any race or nation should claim divine favoritism and assume inherent superiority to all others in the scheme of creation.

WELLS: The supremacy of the West is only a question of probably the past hundred years. Before the battle of Lepanto the Turks were dominating the West; the voyage of Columbus was undertaken to avoid the Turks. Elizabethan writers and even their successors were struck by the wealth and the high material standards of the East. The history of western ascendancy is very brief indeed.

TAGORE: Physical science of the nineteenth century probably has created this spirit of race superiority in the West. When the East assimilates this physical science, the tide may turn and take a normal course.

WELLS: Modern science is not exactly European. A series of accidents and peculiar circumstances prevented some of the eastern countries from applying the discoveries made by humanists in other parts of the world. They themselves had once originated and developed a great many of the sciences that were later taken up by the West and given greater perfection. Today,
Japanese, Chinese and Indian names in the world of science are gaining due recognition.

TAGORE: India has been in a bad situation.

WELLS: When Macaulay imposed a third-rate literature and a poor system of education on India, Indians naturally resented it. No human being can live on Scott's poetry. I believe that things are now changing. But, remain assured, we English were not better off. We were no less badly educated than the average Indian, probably even worse.

TAGORE: Our difficulty is that our contact with the great civilizations of the West has not been a natural one. Japan has absorbed more of the western culture because she has been free to accept or reject according to her needs.

WELLS: It is a very bad story indeed, because there have been such great opportunities for knowing each other.

TAGORE: And then, the channels of education have become dry river beds, the current of our resources having been systematically been diverted along other directions.

WELLS: I am also a member of a subject race. I am taxed enormously. I have to send my check - so much for military aviation, so much for the diplomatic machinery of the government! You see, we suffer from the same evils. In India, the tradition of officialdom is, of course, more unnatural and has been going on for a long time. The Moguls, before the English came, seem to have been as indiscriminate as our own people.

TAGORE: And yet, there is a difference! The Mogul government was not scientifically efficient and mechanical to a degree. The Moguls wanted money, and so long as they could live in luxury they did not wish to interfere with the progressive village communities in India. The Muslim emperors did not dictate terms and force the hands of Indian educators and villagers. Now, for
instance, the ancient educational systems of India are completely disorganized, and all indigenous educational effort has to depend on official recognition.

WELLS: "Recognition" by the state, and good-bye to education!

TAGORE: I have often been asked what my plans are. My reply is that I have no scheme. My country, like every other, will evolve its own constitution; it will pass through its experimental phase and settle down into something quite different from what you or I expect.

Gandhi on Jews & Middle-East: A Non-Violent Look at Conflict & Violence

This article is quite interesting. The strengths and weaknesses of Gandhi's political and moral thought are much in evidence. Orwell had his own view of Gandhi, especially on the topic of Jewish non-violent resistance to the Nazis, with which I quite agree. Nonviolence doesn't work too well against those who have no problem with genocide.

However, on the issue of Palestine, there is much wisdom in this article. I'm sure many will reject it as "anti-semitic" and move on. (Others have a more balanced view; others...well, I note that Fred Thompson has weighed in on this; doesn't look very serious to me.) Here's a list of Gandhi's statements on Jews, Palestine, etc. I don't know whether it's complete, but it's a start.

I am not too sure that Gandhian resistance would work too well against the IDF in Palestine, though, as is often suggested. (What the result was you can read in the just-linked article, and see for yourself once more -- you no doubt saw this footage on every major news show, right?) As the previous example has just shown, when Gandhian acts have happened -- another apt example being the recent action in Gaza in which dozens of unarmed women used their bodies to retrieve men hiding inside a mosque from the IDF -- even Human Rights Watch condemned the act as "the use of human shields." I'm not sure what the difference between Gandhian nonviolence and "the use of human shields" actually is. (See the first comment to this post for my e-mail exchange with HRW looking for clarification; what's posted there is all there was, and it is also on the webpage linked above.)

I'm not at all sure that the Israeli army, as well as much of the Israeli populace, would mind much if Palestinians walked into gunfire as one. (And I'm not alone.) Outside of Israel, it's not clear to me that the United States would suddenly abandon Israel, or whether there'd be any Palestinians left to protect (Gandhi did have a few hundred million people behind him, and the British didn't live in India), even if there were an ethical and political sea change brought about by Palestinian Gandhism. And of course for such a sea change to occur, it'd have to: first, get on the TV news accurately; second, make a dent in enough Americans' moral sensibility to cause outrage; and third, that outrage would actually have to be translated into political action. How likely is that series of events, especially in the face of the huge opposition to anything remotely pro-Palestinian among elites and the fully conventionalized, fully sanctioned prejudice against all Muslims (many Palestinians are Christian, of course) and Arabs, post-9/11?

In other words, Israel/Palestine aside, the wisdom and efficacy of nonviolence seems to rely, as most things do, on the context within which that option is suggested. In the context of Nazi-occupied Europe in the 1940s, it's pretty clear that nonviolence would have equaled suicide. In the context of today's situation in the occupied territories? Unclear, to me at least, though at least one Palestinian sees merit in it.

But the last thing Palestinians need are speeches by self-important, rich, flatheaded pundits -- such as the nearly invariably off-the-mark Tom Friedman, much loved by the simple-minded on many a topic -- about how they should walk into fire. Friedman ought to put his fat ass (try to read that well-meant profile without retching) on the line in Palestine; I'd like to see that. We'll see the second coming first.

In any event, what is the difference between your likely repulsion at Gandhi's suggestion that the Jews of Germany walk into a massacre knowingly and Friedman's suggestion to the Palestinians? I mean, aside from the astronomical difference in stature between the two suggestors. If you accept that widespread Palestinian Ghandhism would likely lead to their more efficient slaughter and ghettoization, then upon what do you rest your difference in reaction, then? Not a pleasant question to answer; most will cover up by insisting, against the evidence of the past 40 years, that the Israeli government forces will not crush such a resistance movement to dust, with full Amercian diplomatic cover.

Article Written on November 20, 1938
Published in Harijan on November 26, 1938
This Web Page Last Updated: March 19,2007

It is of utmost importance to remember the time of this writing. It is 1938, Hitler is ruling Germany, and the clouds of a terrible conflict have begun to form. Gandhi's article shows his incredible sense of right and wrong, his blind faith in his methodology, and his profound vision of things to come. -Ed.

by Mohandas K. Gandhi

Several letters have been received by me asking me to declare my views about the Arab-Jew question in Palestine and the persecution of the Jews in Germany. It is not without hesitation that I venture to offer my views on this very difficult question.

My sympathies are all with the Jews. I have known them intimately in South Africa. Some of them became life-long companions. Through these friends I came to learn much of their age-long persecution. They have been the untouchables of Christianity. The parallel between their treatment by Christians and the treatment of untouchables by Hindus is very close. Religious sanction has been invoked in both cases for the justification of the inhuman treatment meted out to them. Apart from the friendships, therefore, there is the more common universal reason for my sympathy for the Jews.

But my sympathy does not blind me to the requirements of justice. The cry for the national home for the Jews does not make much appeal to me. The sanction for it is sought in the Bible and the tenacity with which the Jews have hankered after return to Palestine. Why should they not, like other peoples of the earth, make that country their home where they are born and where they earn their livelihood?

Palestine belongs to the Arabs in the same sense that England belongs to the English or France to the French. It is wrong and inhuman to impose the Jews on the Arabs. What is going on in Palestine today cannot be justified by any moral code of conduct. The mandates have no sanction but that of the last war. Surely it would be a crime against humanity to reduce the proud Arabs so that Palestine can be restored to the Jews partly or wholly as their national home.

The nobler course would be to insist on a just treatment of the Jews wherever they are born and bred. The Jews born in France are French in precisely the same sense that Christians born in France are French. If the Jews have no home but Palestine, will they relish the idea of being forced to leave the other parts of the world in which they are settled? Or do they want a double home where they can remain at will? This cry for the national home affords a colorable justification for the German expulsion of the Jews.

But the German persecution of the Jews seems to have no parallel in history. The tyrants of old never went so mad as Hitler seems to have gone. And he is doing it with religious zeal. For he is propounding a new religion of exclusive and militant nationalism in the name of which many inhumanity becomes an act of humanity to be rewarded here and hereafter. The crime of an obviously mad but intrepid youth is being visited upon his whole race with unbelievable ferocity. If there ever could be a justifiable war in the name of and for humanity, a war against Germany, to prevent the wanton persecution of a whole race, would be completely justified. But I do not believe in any war. A discussion of the pros and cons of such a war is therefore outside my horizon or province.

But if there can be no war against Germany, even for such a crime as is being committed against the Jews, surely there can be no alliance with Germany. How can there be alliance between a nation which claims to stand for justice and democracy and one which is the declared enemy of both? Or is England drifting towards armed dictatorship and all it means?

Germany is showing to the world how efficiently violence can be worked when it is not hampered by any hypocrisy or weakness masquerading as humanitarianism. It is also showing how hideous, terrible and terrifying it looks in its nakedness.

Can the Jews resist this organized and shameless persecution? Is there a way to preserve their self-respect, and not to feel helpless, neglected and forlorn? I submit there is. No person who has faith in a living God need feel helpless or forlorn. Jehovah of the Jews is a God more personal than the God of the Christians, the Musalmans or the Hindus, though, as a matter of fact in essence, He is common to all the one without a second and beyond description. But as the Jews attribute personality to God and believe that He rules every action of theirs, they ought not to feel helpless. If I were a Jew and were born in Germany and earned my livelihood there, I would claim Germany as my home even as the tallest gentile German may, and challenge him to shoot me or cast me in the dungeon; I would refuse to be expelled or to submit to discriminating treatment . And for doing this, I should not wait for the fellow Jews to join me in civil resistance but would have confidence that in the end the rest are bound to follow my example. If one Jew or all the Jews were to accept the prescription here offered, he or they cannot be worse off than now. And suffering voluntarily undergone will bring them an inner strength and joy which no number of resolutions of sympathy passed in the world outside Germany can. Indeed, even if Britain, France and America were to declare hostilities against Germany, they can bring no inner joy, no inner strength. The calculated violence of Hitler may even result in a general massacre of the Jews by way of his first answer to the declaration of such hostilities. But if the Jewish mind could be prepared for voluntary suffering, even the massacre I have imagined could be turned into a day of thanksgiving and joy that Jehovah had wrought deliverance of the race even at the hands of the tyrant. For to the god fearing, death has no terror. It is a joyful sleep to be followed by a waking that would be all the more refreshing for the long sleep.

It is hardly necessary for me to point out that it is easier for the Jews than for the Czechs to follow my prescription. And they have in the Indian satyagraha campaign in South Africa an exact parallel. There the Indians occupied precisely the same place that the Jews occupy in Germany. The persecution had also a religious tinge. President Kruger used to say that the white Christians were the chosen of God and Indians were inferior beings created to serve the whites. A fundamental clause in the Transvaal constitution was that there should be no equality between the whites and colored races including Asiatics. There too the Indians were consigned to ghettos described as locations. The other disabilities were almost of the same type as those of the Jews in Germany. The Indians, a mere handful, resorted to satyagraha without any backing from the world outside or the Indian Government. Indeed the British officials tried to dissuade the satyagrahis (soldiers of non-violence) from their contemplated step. World opinion and the Indian Government came to their aid after eight years of fighting. And that too was by way of diplomatic pressure not of a threat of war.

But the Jews of Germany can offer satyagraha under infinitely better auspices than Indians of South Africa. The Jews are a compact, homogeneous community in Germany. they are far more gifted than the Indians of South Africa. And they have organized world opinion behind them. I am convinced that if someone with courage and vision can arise among them to lead them in nonviolent action, the winter of their despair can in the twinkling of an eye be turned into the summer of hope. And what has today become a degrading man-hunt can be turned in to a calm and determined stand offered by unarmed men and women possessing the strength of suffering given to them by Jehovah. It will be then a truly religious resistance offered against the godless fury of dehumanized man. The German Jews will score a lasting victory over the German gentiles in the sense that they will have converted that latter to an appreciation of human dignity. They will have rendered service to fellow-Germans and proved their title to be the real Germans as against those who are today dragging, however unknowingly, the German name into the mire.

And now a word to the Jews in Palestine. I have no doubt that they are going about it the wrong way. The Palestine of the Biblical conception is not geographical tract. It is in their hearts. But if they must look to the Palestine of geography as their national home, it is wrong to enter it under the shadow of the British gun. A religious act cannot be performed with the aid of the bayonet or the bomb. They can settle in Palestine only by the goodwill of the Arabs. They should seek to convert the Arab heart. The same God rules the Arab heart, who rules the Jewish heart. They can offer satyagraha in front of the Arabs and offer themselves to be shot or thrown in to the Dead Sea without raising a little finger against them. They will find the world opinion in the their favor in their religious aspiration. There are hundreds of ways of reasoning with the Arabs, if they will only discard the help of the British bayonet. As it is, they are co-sharers with the British in despoiling a people who have done no wrong to them.

I am not defending the Arab excesses. I wish they had chosen the way of non-violence in resisting what they rightly regarded as an unwarrantable encroachment upon their country. But according to the accepted canons of right and wrong, nothing can be said against the Arab resistance in the face of overwhelming odds.

Let the Jews who claim to be the chosen race prove their title by choosing the way of non-violence for vindicating their position on earth. Every country is their home including Palestine, not by aggression but by loving service. A Jewish friend has sent me a book called The Jewish Contribution to Civilization by Cecil Roth. It gives a record of what the Jews have done to enrich the word's literature, art, music, drama, science, medicine, agriculture, etc. Given the will, the Jews can refuse to be treated as the outcaste of the West, to be despised or patronized. He can command the attention and respect of the world by being man, the chosen creation of God, instead of being man who is fast sinking to the brute and forsaken by God. They can add to their many contributions the surpassing contribution of non-violent action.

© 1987 Navajivan Trust.