Saturday, September 30, 2006

Bob Woodward abandons the sinking ship?

According to proverbial folk wisdom, one sign that a ship is really sinking is that the rats all start to jump off. Bob Woodward, the insider's insider, is famous for using exclusive access to important sources in order to write books that portray those sources in a ways that range from uncritical to fawning. Woodward's 2002 book about the Bush administration, Bush at War, was a striking example of this genre. But now Woodward seems to have noticed (long after many other people) that all is not well with the Bush/Cheney/Rumsfeld operation. In fact, they seem to be a bunch of arrogant and semi-delusional incompetents. Who would have guessed it?

I haven't yet read Woodward's new book, State of Denial, but all the reviews and other discussions I've seen indicate that its central message is the one captured in this review by Michiko Kakutani.
In Bob Woodward’s highly anticipated new book, “State of Denial,” President Bush emerges as a passive, impatient, sophomoric and intellectually incurious leader, presiding over a grossly dysfunctional war cabinet and given to an almost religious certainty that makes him disinclined to rethink or re-evaluate decisions he has made about the war. It’s a portrait that stands in stark contrast to the laudatory one Mr. Woodward drew in “Bush at War,” his 2002 book, which depicted the president — in terms that the White House press office itself has purveyed — as a judicious, resolute leader, blessed with the “vision thing” his father was accused of lacking and firmly in control of the ship of state.
[....] Mr. Woodward draws an equally scathing portrait of Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld, who comes off as a bully and control freak who is reluctant to assume responsibility for his department’s failures, and who has surrounded himself with yes men and created a system that bleached out “strong, forceful military advice.” Mr. Rumsfeld remains wedded to his plan to conduct the war in Iraq with a lighter, faster force (reflecting his idée fixe of “transforming” the military), even as the situation there continues to deteriorate.
[....] As depicted by Mr. Woodward, this is an administration in which virtually no one will speak truth to power, an administration in which the traditional policy-making process involving methodical analysis and debate is routinely subverted. [....] Mr. Woodward describes the administration’s management of the war as being improvisatory and ad hoc, like a pickup basketball game [....]
And so on. Actually, it's hard to believe that Woodward suddenly woke up to all this. A more plausible explanation is that Woodward is convinced that the Bush/Cheney/Rumsfeld ship is going down for good--and, perhaps even more to the point, he is convinced that this is hardening into the consensus of establishment conventional wisdom. So this is the time to mention all those unpleasant realities he swept under the rug before.

Woodward's judgment can't be relied on in most matters, but he does seem to have a good nose for sniffing out political winners and losers. So if he has turned on the Bush/Cheney/Rumsfeld, that's probably one more sign that they're in deep trouble.

Meanwhile, Woodward is probably lucky that Kakutani, who can be a deeply devastating reviewer, is too busy eviscerating the targets of Woodward's book to turn her full attention to its author. (She does note that "Startlingly little of this overall picture is new, of course." and that most of its disclosures "recapitulate information contained in books and articles by other journalists and former administration insiders.") Kakutani's concise roundup of the bad news is worth reading in full (below).

--Jeff Weintraub
====================
New York Times
September 30, 2006
A Portrait of Bush as a Victim of His Own Certitude
By Michiko Kakutani

In Bob Woodward’s highly anticipated new book, “State of Denial,” President Bush emerges as a passive, impatient, sophomoric and intellectually incurious leader, presiding over a grossly dysfunctional war cabinet and given to an almost religious certainty that makes him disinclined to rethink or re-evaluate decisions he has made about the war. It’s a portrait that stands in stark contrast to the laudatory one Mr. Woodward drew in “Bush at War,” his 2002 book, which depicted the president — in terms that the White House press office itself has purveyed — as a judicious, resolute leader, blessed with the “vision thing” his father was accused of lacking and firmly in control of the ship of state.

As this new book’s title indicates, Mr. Woodward now sees Mr. Bush as a president who lives in a state of willful denial about the worsening situation in Iraq, a president who insists he won’t withdraw troops, even “if Laura and Barney are the only ones who support me.” (Barney is Mr. Bush’s Scottish terrier.) Mr. Woodward draws an equally scathing portrait of Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld, who comes off as a bully and control freak who is reluctant to assume responsibility for his department’s failures, and who has surrounded himself with yes men and created a system that bleached out “strong, forceful military advice.” Mr. Rumsfeld remains wedded to his plan to conduct the war in Iraq with a lighter, faster force (reflecting his idée fixe of “transforming” the military), even as the situation there continues to deteriorate.

Mr. Woodward reports that after the 2004 election Andrew H. Card Jr., then White House chief of staff, pressed for Mr. Rumsfeld’s ouster (he recommended former Secretary of State James A. Baker III as a replacement), and that Laura Bush shared his concern, worrying that Mr. Rumsfeld was hurting her husband’s reputation. Vice President Dick Cheney, however, persuaded Mr. Bush to stay the course with Mr. Cheney’s old friend Mr. Rumsfeld, arguing that any change might be perceived as an expression of doubt and hesitation on the war. Other members of the administration also come off poorly. Gen. Richard B. Myers is depicted as a weak chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who routinely capitulated to the will of Mr. Rumsfeld and who rarely offered an independent opinion. Former C.I.A. director George J. Tenet is described as believing that the war against Iraq was a terrible mistake, but never expressing his feelings to the president. And Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice (who appears in this volume primarily in her former role as national security adviser) is depicted as a presidential enabler, ineffectual at her job of coordinating interagency strategy and planning.

For instance, Mr. Woodward writes that on July 10, 2001, Mr. Tenet and his counterterrorism coordinator, J. Cofer Black, met with Ms. Rice to warn her of mounting intelligence about an impending terrorist attack, but came away feeling they’d been given “the brush-off” — a revealing encounter, given Ms. Rice’s recent comments, rebutting former President Bill Clinton’s allegations that the Bush administration had failed to pursue counterterrorism measures aggressively before 9/11.

As depicted by Mr. Woodward, this is an administration in which virtually no one will speak truth to power, an administration in which the traditional policy-making process involving methodical analysis and debate is routinely subverted. He notes that experts — who recommended higher troop levels in Iraq, warned about the consequences of disbanding the Iraqi Army or worried about the lack of postwar planning— were continually ignored by the White House and Pentagon leadership, or themselves failed, out of cowardice or blind loyalty, to press insistently their case for an altered course in the war.

Mr. Woodward describes the administration’s management of the war as being improvisatory and ad hoc, like a pickup basketball game, and argues that it continually tried to give the public a rosy picture of the war in Iraq (while accusing the press of accentuating the negative), even as its own intelligence was pointing to a rising number of attacks against American forces and an upward spiral of violence. A secret February 2005 report by Philip D. Zelikow, a State Department counselor, found that “Iraq remains a failed state shadowed by constant violence and undergoing revolutionary political change” and concluded that the American effort there suffered because it lacked a comprehensive, unified policy.

Startlingly little of this overall picture is new, of course. Mr. Woodward’s portrait of Mr. Bush as a prisoner of his own certitude owes a serious debt to a 2004 article in The New York Times Magazine by the veteran reporter Ron Suskind, just as his portrait of the Pentagon’s incompetent management of the war and occupation owes a serious debt to “Fiasco,” the Washington Post reporter Thomas E. Ricks’s devastating account of the war, published this summer. Other disclosures recapitulate information contained in books and articles by other journalists and former administration insiders.

But if much of “State of Denial” simply ratifies the larger outline of the Bush administration’s bungled handling of the war as laid out by other reporters, Mr. Woodward does flesh out that narrative with new illustrations and some telling details that enrich the reader’s understanding of the inner workings of this administration at this critical moment.

He reports, for instance, that the Vietnam-era Secretary of State Henry A. Kissinger “had a powerful, largely invisible influence on the foreign policy of the Bush administration,” urging President Bush and Vice President Cheney to stick it out. According to Mr. Woodward, Mr. Kissinger gave the former Bush adviser and speechwriter Michael Gerson his so-called 1969 salted peanut memo, which warned President Richard M. Nixon that “withdrawal of U.S. troops will become like salted peanuts to the American public; the more U.S. troops come home, the more will be demanded.”

As with Mr. Woodward’s earlier books, many of his interviews were conducted on background, though, from the point of view of particular passages, it’s often easy for the reader to figure out just who his sources were. In some cases he recreates conversations seemingly based on interviews with only one of the participants. The former Saudi Arabian ambassador Prince Bandar bin Sultan, Mr. Card, Mr. Tenet, Deputy Secretary of State Richard L. Armitage and Brent Scowcroft, the former national security adviser (to Bush senior), appear to be among the author’s primary sources.

Whereas Mr. Woodward has tended in the past to stand apart from his narrative, rarely pausing to analyze or assess the copious material he has gathered, he is more of an active agent in this volume — perhaps in a kind of belated mea culpa for his earlier positive portrayals of the administration. In particular, he inserts himself into interviews with Mr. Rumsfeld — clearly annoyed, even appalled, by the Pentagon chief’s cavalier language and reluctance to assume responsibility for his department’s failures.

Mr. Woodward reports that when he told Mr. Rumsfeld that the number of insurgent attacks was going up, the defense secretary replied that they’re now “categorizing more things as attacks.” Mr. Woodward quotes Mr. Rumsfeld as saying, “A random round can be an attack and all the way up to killing 50 people someplace. So you’ve got a whole fruit bowl of different things — a banana and an apple and an orange.”

Mr. Woodward adds: “I was speechless. Even with the loosest and most careless use of language and analogy, I did not understand how the secretary of defense would compare insurgent attacks to a ‘fruit bowl,’ a metaphor that stripped them of all urgency and emotion. The official categories in the classified reports that Rumsfeld regularly received were the lethal I.E.D.’s, standoff attacks with mortars and close engagements such as ambushes.”

Earlier in the volume, in a section describing the former Iraq administrator Jay Garner’s reluctance to tell the president about the mistakes he saw the Pentagon making in Iraq, Mr. Woodward writes: “It was only one example of a visitor to the Oval Office not telling the president the whole story or the truth. Likewise, in these moments where Bush had someone from the field there in the chair beside him, he did not press, did not try to open the door himself and ask what the visitor had seen and thought. The whole atmosphere too often resembled a royal court, with Cheney and Rice in attendance, some upbeat stories, exaggerated good news and a good time had by all.” Were the war in Iraq not a real war that has resulted in more than 2,700 American military casualties and more than 56,000 Iraqi civilian deaths, the picture of the Bush administration that emerges from this book might resemble a farce. It’s like something out of “The Daily Show” or a “Saturday Night Live” sketch, with Freudian Bush family dramas and high-school-like rivalries between cabinet members who refuse to look at one another at meetings being played out on the world stage.

There’s the president, who once said, “I don’t have the foggiest idea about what I think about international, foreign policy,” deciding that he’s going to remake the Middle East and alter the course of American foreign policy. There’s his father, former President George Herbert Walker Bush (who went to war against the same country a decade ago), worrying about the wisdom of another war but reluctant to offer his opinions to his son because he believes in the principle of “let him be himself.” There’s the president’s national security adviser whining to him that the defense secretary won’t return her phone calls. And there’s the president and Karl Rove, his chief political adviser, trading fart jokes.

Mr. Woodward suggests that Mr. Rumsfeld decided to make the Iraq war plan “his personal project” after seeing a rival agency, the C.I.A., step up to run operations in Afghanistan (when it became clear that the Pentagon was unprepared for a quick invasion of that country, right after 9/11). And he suggests that President Bush chose Mr. Rumsfeld as his defense secretary, in part, because he knew his father mistrusted Mr. Rumsfeld, and the younger Bush wanted to prove his father wrong.

Many of the people in this book seem not only dismayed but also flummoxed by some of President Bush’s decisions. Mr. Woodward quotes Laura Bush as telling Andrew Card that she doesn’t understand why her husband isn’t upset about Mr. Rumsfeld and the uproar over his handling of the war . And he quotes Mr. Armitage as telling former Secretary of State Colin L. Powell that he’s baffled by President Bush’s reluctance to make adjustments in his conduct of the war.

“Has he thought this through?” Mr. Armitage asks. “What the president says in effect is, We’ve got to press on in honor of the memory of those who have fallen. Another way to say that is we’ve got to have more men fall to honor the memories of those who have already fallen.”

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

George Bush on torture (2003)

Andrew Sullivan always occupied a tricky and potentially precarious intellectual and political position as a gay Catholic conservative (of a type that might be called neo-conservative in the more 1980s version of that mutating persuasion). For a while, from 2001 through mid-2004, he was even a defender of George Bush. Now all that has fallen apart. Sullivan has been getting increasingly estranged from the official hierarchy of the Catholic Church, which he sees as having taken a more homophobic and generally authoritarian turn. But that relationship remains ambivalent compared with his disillusionment and disgust with Bush and the Bush/Cheney/Rove Republicans, which is intense and fairly complete.

There are a lot of reasons for this (including their fiscal irresponsibility, pervasive incompetence, systematic dishonesty, partisan fanaticism, and so on). But among other things Sullivan is appalled--correctly, in my view--by the Bush administration's efforts to erode legal prohibitions against torture, along with the fact that the administration has attempted to push through these changes on the basis of sweeping claims for expanding arbitrary executive power. Thus, the administration itself has linked the question of torture to its agenda of eroding political and constitutional restraints on the acountability of Presidential power.

Here Sullivan has picked up an interesting item from 2003: a ringing, principled denunciation of torture by none other than George W. Bush.

--Jeff Weintraub

====================
Andrew Sullivan (The Daily Dish)
Monday, September 18, 2006
In Bush's Own Words

Agstress

(Photo of a "coercive interrogation technique": AP.)


As the debate on detention policies intensifies, it's worth reminding ourselves of what the president himself has said about torture. This blog has done us all a favor. Here is one public speech by the president from June 2003:

Today, on the United Nations International Day in Support of Victims of Torture, the United States declares its strong solidarity with torture victims across the world. Torture anywhere is an affront to human dignity everywhere. We are committed to building a world where human rights are respected and protected by the rule of law.

Freedom from torture is an inalienable human right. The Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment, ratified by the United States and more than 130 other countries since 1984, forbids governments from deliberately inflicting severe physical or mental pain or suffering on those within their custody or control. Yet torture continues to be practiced around the world by rogue regimes whose cruel methods match their determination to crush the human spirit ...

The United States is committed to the world-wide elimination of torture and we are leading this fight by example. I call on all governments to join with the United States and the community of law-abiding nations in prohibiting, investigating, and prosecuting all acts of torture and in undertaking to prevent other cruel and unusual punishment. I call on all nations to speak out against torture in all its forms and to make ending torture an essential part of their diplomacy. [My italics.]

The reason this speech is important is because it represents the president's publicly stated position that he not only opposes torture but all "Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment." He even defines torture in exactly the same terms as the U.N., and as I have defined it on this blog on many occasions:

"deliberately inflicting severe physical or mental pain or suffering on those within their custody or control"

So the president has been very clear in his own definition. He is opposed to torture "in all its forms."

Now what does president Bush believe should be done when "rogue regimes" violate the ban on "cruel, inhuman and degrading" treatment. He has also been unequivocal about that. He believes that governments that inflict "severe physical or mental pain or suffering" should be subject to investigation and prosecution for war crimes. He also said the following words at the very beginning of the Iraq war after four American soldiers had been captured:

"I expect them to be treated, the POWs, I expect to be treated humanely, just like we're treating the prisoners that we have captured humanely. If not, the people who mistreat the prisoners will be treated as war criminals."

Let's be clear here: it is the president's belief that anyone who sanctions mistreatment of military prisoners under the definition of the U.N. Convention on Torture should be prosecuted as a war criminal.

One simple question: how exactly does that now not apply to him?

Monday, September 18, 2006

Darfur - The world cannot stand by (Normblog)

Unfortunately, with too few exceptions, on the whole the world is standing by--or worse, since some governments and publics are actually supporting and protecting the genocidal Khartoum regime. But at least "the world" should be compelled to face what it is doing, rather than be allowed to hide behind evasions, distractions, and euphemisms.

--Jeff Weintraub
====================
From the weblog of Norman Geras (Normblog)
September 17, 2006
The world cannot stand by

Mary Riddell:
[T]here is now the spectre of a reprise of Rwanda and of death on such an extravagant scale that the world cannot stand by.
Desmond Tutu:
In Darfur 2m people have been ethnically cleansed since 2003, women and girls are systematically raped and tortured daily, there is cholera in the refugee camps and the violence is spilling into next door Chad, and all without the attention, or response, it deserves.
.....
We should be suspicious when people say the ethnic cleansing of defenceless civilians is in fact a civil war. They really mean: "These exotic people are all as bad as each other." How can we be expected to put our soldiers in harm's way when there is no good side to defend?

Another justification for our inaction is: "The situation is more complicated than you idealists appreciate."

Today [now yesterday --JW] is the Global Day for Darfur.

|

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Anti-semitic imagery becomes respectable again - A cartoon roundup from Engage

In some cases, of course, what's involved is simply an upsurge in hysterical anti-Zionism (i.e., systematic bias against Israel, shading off into obsessive hatred and demonization). That's bad enough, in my humble opinion. But in an increasing range of cases even the pretense of drawing a sharp line between anti-Zionist bigotry and expressions of outright anti-semitism is wearing thin.

And even where anti-Zionism really is distinct from anti-semitism (I have long argued that the two need to be analytically distinguished, and in fact they often have genuinely distinct roots in practice), that's not enough to exonerate those who peddle or accept anti-Zionist bias and bigotry. At the very least, the constant demonization of Israel and "Zionism" helps to make demonization of Jews in general increasingly respectable (or at least, as apologists see it, "understandable"), and it is often pretty tempting for the first to spill over into the second in practice ... in ways that these images help to make clear.

=> And as an addendum to the cartoon roundup below, here is another notorious cartoon that is illuminating along the same lines (taken from a useful and important analysis by Tom Gross). It appeared in La Stampa, a major Italian newspaper, as part of the Europe-wide flood of anti-Israel hysteria reacting to Israel's re-invasion of West Bank cities in the spring of 2002.



Baby Jesus: “Surely they don't want to kill me again?!”
(La Stampa, Italy, April 3, 2002)

--Jeff Weintraub
====================
From the Engage Forum
September 15, 2006
Listen to the world, not the Jew

Listen to the world, not the JewHere's a cartoon by TREMAIN from the Christchurch Press in New Zealand, 10 August, 2006. It illustrates a letter from R. Dower, who writes
"The world watches as Israel and America commit genocide in Iraq and Lebanon. Any sympathy I had for Jewish victims of the Holocaust has evaporated. Boycott all US and Israeli goods, use embargoes - it is obscene to stand by and do nothing. We must show these bullies they cannot coerce the rest of humanity into submission by force."
On the subject of cartoons, here are the pieces from President Ahmadinejad's Iranian exhibition. Interestingly, the exhibition has been a flop and very few people in Tehran have bothered to go and see them.

And here are some old favourites. The Independent Stars of David and Stripes. And the inspiration for that image, which illustrated Robert Fisk's hagiography of Mearsheimer and Walt, here.

Here is the famous New Statesman "Kosher conspiracy" graphic.
Here is the Guardian's version, showing Europe dominated by a Star of David.
Here is the Independent's Ariel Sharon as baby-eater.
Here is the Guardian's version, showing a pustuled Jewish fist smashing a child's head in.
Here are some cartoons brought to you by the ADL.

And, for comparison, some older favourites here.

(Added by David Hirsh on September 15, 2006 08:22:54 PM.Thanks to Harry's Place and Michaeul Mautner.)

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Demonstrate for Darfur

Here is a joint appeal on behalf of the people of Darfur by a set of writers who normally find little they can all agree about--some of whom spend a fair amount of time denouncing each other. They include the scholar-activist Eric Reeves, who has worked tirelessly to arouse the conscience of the world about the Darfur atrocity, several figures from the British democratic left like Norman Geras and Nick Cohen, the right-of-center "libertarian" US Republican Glenn Reynolds (aka Instapundit), the human-rights campaigner Peter Tatchell ... and, most astonishing, Inayat Bunglawala, spokesman for the Muslim Council of Britain (which has up to now had little to say about the mass murder of Muslims in Darfur).

They "urge everyone to support the the Global Day for Darfur [Sunday, September 17] For more information about the day of action visit here." And while you're at it, please sign the on-line PETITION (at the bottom of the web-page)

--Jeff Weintraub

(P.S. Most of the on-line "Comments" responding to this posted appeal on the CiF website are depressing, even at times disgusting, in their tone and content--e.g., "Why? What has it really got to do with Britain anyway? Why can't the African Union do it? Are we responsible for all the world's problems?" or "You're a group of dummies who are campaigning so that the US can continue to start civil wars in Sudan to pressure the government into cancelling China's oil contracts and signing over the oil fields to Chevron." But precisely for that reason, reading them may be illuminating and instructive.)
=============================
Guardian on-line ("Comment is Free")
September 15, 2006
Demonstrate for Darfur

A group of Cif bloggers urges people to support the global day for Darfur on Sunday.

We are a group of writers who have blogged at the Comment is free site on the conflict in Darfur. Some of us have argued with each other intensely about different aspects of the conflict, all of us agree that there is major humanitarian disaster taking place in the Darfur region of Sudan right now and that the United Nations must be supported in every way possible to bring it to an end and to reconstruct the region.

On Sunday September 17 we will be united in supporting the Global Day for Darfur. We all believe that United Nations resolutions should be upheld and that the people of Darfur be protected by the international community. If the African Union force withdraws without being replaced by UN peacekeepers then over 3 million people are at greater risk because humanitarian workers would also be likely to withdraw. The Sudanese government should now agree to UN deployment. We urge everyone to support the Global Day for Darfur. For more information about the day of action visit here.

Brian Brivati
Glenn Reynolds
Daniel Davies
Eric Reeves
Norman Geras
Alan Johnson
Inayat Bunglawala
Nick Cohen
Peter Tatchell

Friday, September 15, 2006

Burke, Bush, & "conservatism"

This statement by the conservative thinker Jeffrey Hart (quoted by Andrew Sullivan) captures a key point about our current political situation--one that has also been made by others, but rarely so succinctly. Whatever one thinks about the political orientation of the Bush/Cheney administration and its Congressional allies, even if one happens to support and applaud this orientation, it is hard to imagine how it can be called "conservative" in any intellectually or historically serious sense of the term. It is more accurately described as a version of right-wing radicalism (combined, in practice, with tactical political opportunism, partisan fanaticism, corporate welfare, and spectacular fiscal irresponsibility).

(I also concur with the rest of Hart's compact assessment of the "astonishingly feckless" Bush administration in this quoted passage--and with most of what Hart says in the piece from which Sullivan is quoting, though definitely not with all of it. For a similar assessment, still a bit more hedged and less straightforward than Hart's, see George Will jumps ship .. almost.)

--Jeff Weintraub
====================
Andrew Sullivan (Daily Dish)
September 15, 2006
Quote for the Day

"The United States has seen political swings and produced its share of extremists, but its political character, whether liberals or conservatives have been in charge, has always remained fundamentally Burkean. The Constitution itself is a Burkean document, one that slows down decisions to allow for 'deliberate sense' and checks and balances. President Bush has nearly upended that tradition, abandoning traditional realism in favor of a warped and incoherent brand of idealism. (No wonder Bush supporter Fred Barnes has praised him as a radical.) At this dangerous point in history, we must depend on the decisions of an astonishingly feckless chief executive: an empty vessel filled with equal parts Rove and Rousseau," - Jeffrey Hart, one of the true intellectual architects of American conservatism in the modern era, calling this president what he is: a dangerous, reckless, ideological incompetent.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Darfur - "tomorrow is too late"

An appeal from survivors of former genocides and other mass murders--in Rwanda, the Holocaust, and Bosnia--via Norman Geras (on Normblog).
"When I think of the people in Darfur today, it makes me sick to the stomach because I know what it's like to watch your protectors walk away and I know the fear of waiting for help that never comes," says survivor and rally organiser Freddy Umutanguha, Coordinator for Aegis Rwanda. "We survivors stand with the victims in Darfur. We are not here to tell the World's politicians how to do their job. All we say is: if you don't protect the people of Darfur today, you will have failed to do it, and never again will we believe you when you visit Rwanda's mass graves, look us in the eye and say 'never again'." [....]

"After the Holocaust, the World said 'never again' but genocide has happened again and again," says Susan Pollack. "A year ago I travelled to New Delhi to help send the message that 'never again' would mean nothing until world leaders accepted their responsibility to protect people at risk of mass murder. They did so; now they must honour their word for the people of Darfur."

"Darfur's Africans are being murdered. How can we leave them without protection?" says Kemal Pervanic. "I ask people everywhere; remember how Bosnia suffered and end the bloodshed in Darfur now. You don't have to be a politician to take up the responsibility to protect. Just start to make your voice heard. The World's leaders have to know we care."
How many of us actually do care? If you care, make your voice heard and demand action. (Some places to start are here and here and here.)

=> This appeal is not directed only, or even primarily, at Americans. Public and governmental response to the Darfur genocide in the US has been inadequate, but at least there has been some (intermittent) response. From most of the rest of the world, with just a few exceptions, there has largely been indifference. Or worse than indifference. Some governments--especially those of China, Russia, and members of the Arab League--are actively supporting and protecting the genocidal Khartoum regime in the arena of international politics and diplomacy (including the UN Security Council). But part of what makes this complicity so effective is the absence of countervailing pressures from elsewhere.

For the victims in Darfur, the most deadly absence is the almost complete failure of European public opinion (with the partial exception of Britain) to become at all aroused about this massive ongoing atrocity. This means that that European governments, which were not inclined to take strong action in the first place, feel little public pressure to do anything serious to stop the Darfur genocide, but instead are encouraged to focus eclusively on the potential risks of action, political and otherwise.

This failure was emphasized as far back as 2004 by former US Presidential candidate Howard Dean in a powerful, eloquent, but evidently ineffective appeal that Europe should act on Darfur. In the spring of 2006, after the "Save Darfur" rally in Washington DC, Samantha Power (author of A Problem from Hell: America and the Age of Genocide) ended her piece "The Void," which included some sharp criticisms of US government policies, by re-emphasizing this even more depressing wider perspective.
But, at this juncture, U.S. pressure is not sufficient to do the job, and other countries must be brought around. And, for that to happen, the burgeoning endangered people's movement must spread beyond U.S. shores.
Walking away from the [Save Darfur] rally in Washington, a British friend of mine shook his head and said, "You'll never hear me say this again, but today made me want my kids to grow up American." When I asked why, he said, "What happened today could never, ever happen in Europe." Europeans fond of denouncing both the Rwandan genocide and American imperialism had better prove him wrong.
Those of you who are citizens of other countries, particularly European countries, should try to prove him wrong. Find ways to urge your governments to do something serious about this catastrophe.

--Jeff Weintraub
====================
From Norman Geras (Normblog)
September 14, 2006
Darfur: 'tomorrow is too late'

Here's a press release from the Aegis Trust, dated 14 September 2006:
Survivors Say: Stop Genocide in Darfur
London: Rwandan, Bosnian and Holocaust survivors speak out

In September 2005, Survivors Susan Pollack (Holocaust), Beatha Uwazaninka (Rwanda) and Kemal Pervanic (Omarska, Bosnia) travell[ed] to Islamabad, New Delhi and New York to lobby for international commitment to the 'responsibility to protect.'

One year on, they will address Sunday's demonstration outside [the] Sudanese Embassy and open an exhibition about Darfur, calling on World leaders to honour their promises. They will be joined by survivors from Darfur, including Ismail Jarbo, who in 2003 saw his father killed during a Government attack.

"After the Holocaust, the World said 'never again' but genocide has happened again and again," says Susan Pollack. "A year ago I travelled to New Delhi to help send the message that 'never again' would mean nothing until world leaders accepted their responsibility to protect people at risk of mass murder. They did so; now they must honour their word for the people of Darfur."

"Darfur's Africans are being murdered. How can we leave them without protection?" says Kemal Pervanic. "I ask people everywhere; remember how Bosnia suffered and end the bloodshed in Darfur now. You don't have to be a politician to take up the responsibility to protect. Just start to make your voice heard. The World's leaders have to know we care."

"The Janjaweed and the Army are ready to finish the job they started," says Ismail Jarbo. "For the sake of my people, do whatever it takes to ensure UN protection. Protect them today, because tomorrow is too late."

Kigali: vigil at site of massacre which followed UN Pull-out

On Sunday 17 September, hundreds of Rwandan genocide survivors will march from a school where 2,000 Tutsis took refuge in 1994 to the site, several miles away, where they were massacred after UN peacekeepers protecting them pulled out. Their march will call on the World not to abandon Darfur to its fate today in the way that they were abandoned twelve years ago.

As the Belgian troops drove out of the Ecole Technique Officiele (ETO) on 11 April 1994, Hutu militia waiting at the gates walked in. The Belgians at ETO had little firepower and no back-up. They were ordered to leave. And yet it was obvious that their withdrawal would be followed by a bloodbath. The survivors draw chilling parallels with Darfur today.

"When I think of the people in Darfur today, it makes me sick to the stomach because I know what it's like to watch your protectors walk away and I know the fear of waiting for help that never comes," says survivor and rally organiser Freddy Umutanguha, Coordinator for Aegis Rwanda. "We survivors stand with the victims in Darfur. We are not here to tell the World's politicians how to do their job. All we say is: if you don't protect the people of Darfur today, you will have failed to do it, and never again will we believe you when you visit Rwanda's mass graves, look us in the eye and say 'never again'."

Donning blue berets as part of the 'Global Day for Darfur' call for UN protection in Darfur, the survivors will also wear T-shirts bearing the words, "I Survived Genocide in Rwanda. Stop Genocide in Darfur."
It's on Sunday 17th September, 11.00 am to 1.30 pm - the Global Day for Darfur.

Posted by Norm at 02:29 PM |

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Antisemitism is Back - Denis MacShane, MP

An all-party Parliamentary commission (none of whose members is Jewish, incidentally) has just released an important report on anti-semitism in Britain. Its conclusions are neither panicky nor sensationalist, but definitely concerned. The basic picture is summed up below in an on-line Guardian "Comment is Free" web-page by the Chair of the All-Parliamentary into Antisemtism, Denis McShane (reproduced on the Engage website).

As McShane notes in this piece, "I know what the comments below this short blog will be before they are posted."

Already the emails are pouring into my parliamentary inbox denouncing Israel in terms that will be familiar to all readers of Cif and Guardian comment pages. [....] But please, will those already gearing up to attack the report, read it? It is not about Israel and the Middle East. It is not about the behaviour of Israel in Lebanon. It is not about 1948, or 1967, or 1973. Nor is it about Hamas, Hizbollah, the intifadas. [....]
Can I just respectfully ask [....] readers to hold back a while and read our report. If you write to me at the House of Commons I will send a hard copy or you can look at it on http://www.thepcaa.org.

=> Of course, as I noted in another recent post (Britain - "Attacks on Jews soar since Lebanon"), many people will have no trouble seeing through these excuses. Obviously, if there is an increase in anti-semitic attacks, the Jews themselves must be to blame somehow--if not the Jews in Britain, then the Jews in Israel & the US, or if not all Jews, at least the Zionists. But read the report anyway.

--Jeff Weintraub
=========================
Guardian on-line, "Comment is Free" (via Engage)
September 7, 2006
Antisemitism is back
Denis McShane


[This piece, by Denis MacShane, the Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Inquiry into Antisemitism, is on Comment is Free.]

Our parliamentary report finds that many British citizens who happen to be born Jewish face unacceptable harassment, intimidation and assault

Anti-semitism is back. Today an all-party commission of enquiry has published a report on anti-semitism which sets out in stark terms the problem. The Commission had 14 MPs on it. None is Jewish. None is active in Middle East politics. The work was carried out in a traditional parliamentary manner - open witness sessions, scores of written submissions, visits outside London.

The conclusion is inescapable. Too many British citizens, who happened to be born Jewish, now face harassment, intimidation, and assault that is unacceptable in democratic Britain. Their synagogues are attacked. Their children jostled and insulted going to school. Their social events requiring levels of security protection that no other faith or community has to undertake.

There are not that many Jews in Britain - a total community of between 250,000 and 300,000. The Chief Rabbi told the Commission that Britain was the best country in Europe to live in. But unlike other faiths or diaspora groups in Britain, British Jews are not allowed to live easily and freely with their religion, their culture, their history and their affiliation to other Jews in other countries, notably Israel.

Already the emails are pouring into my parliamentary inbox denouncing Israel in terms that will be familiar to all readers of Cif and Guardian comment pages. (By the way, why was the Guardian's coverage of our report quite as titchy as it was? The other broadsheets gave it full whack but it was a surprise to me that the Guardian reduced an important report based on a year's parliamentary work to a tiny news story.)

But please, will those already gearing up to attack the report, read it? It is not about Israel and the Middle East. It is not about the behaviour of Israel in Lebanon. It is not about 1948, or 1967, or 1973. Nor is it about Hamas, Hizbollah, the intifadas.

What we did is what Parliament exists to do. We examined a problem. We heard witnesses. We read submissions. One MP, the West Midlands Labour MP, Bruce George told one witness : "You are describing a Britain that my constituents do not know exists."

Precisely. There is a tiny slice of Britain - less than a quarter of a per cent of the population - who feel the quality of their lives, their right to their religion, their sense of history, the causes they support is being denied to them because they were born Jews, not Catholics, or Anglicans, or Muslims or Hindus.

I understand all the anger that people may feel about what happens overseas. Many hate America. But we do not throw bricks through schools for Americans in London or seek to desecrate the graves of Americans in Britain. My constituents of Kashmiri origin feel passionately about the behaviour of India in Kashmir. But this does not lead them to attack British Indians, or jostle a British Indian citizen who wears the marks of faith or community.

We make clear that criticism of Israel is to be expected. There is a double-standard at work, in that criticism of other regimes with terrible records of human rights abuses against Muslims (or whose planes have killed scores of children as Sri Lankan air force warplanes recently did in attacks on Tamil areas of the island) never get the same front-page coverage.

We are where we are with Israel. But we know of no mechanism that visits upon a community in Britain the responsibility for the actions that a sovereign state and UN member takes, however angry many are over Israel's behaviour. Our universities should be as open to Jewish students to say what they want as they are to other faiths. Our newspapers should watch language and images so that there is not a crossing of a line into attacking Jewishness. In the 1930s, the language was of the Jewish "cabal." Today, it is the Jewish "lobby" that is all-powerful. The demonisation of Jews was meant to have died in 1945. Alas it did not.

Instead we have to examine the acts against Jews and see them for what they are: racist attacks on individuals of a faith. We need to look at language and images especially those available on the internet, or via satellite and DVDs. Libertarians will have no problem with copies of the hideously anti-semitic Protocols of the Elders of Zion being on sale in Arab shops in London's Edgware Road.

But as someone who has fought against racial prejudice and language that demeaned British citizens of black or Asian backgrounds, and as someone who denounces and exposes islamaphobia, I cannot stand silent when I see anti-semitism back in 21st century Britain.

I know what the comments below this short blog will be before they are posted. Can I just respectfully ask Cif readers to hold back a while and read our report. If you write to me at the House of Commons I will send a hard copy or you can look at it on http://www.thepcaa.org.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

People who don't like jazz ..

... have often, historically, been people who don't like blacks or Jews, either. Maybe it's just a coincidence? The sexual overtones of jazz (real or imagined) also bother them. This is a well-known story, but it never hurts to remember some things ... especially since, in some circles, this past isn't that far away.

--Jeff Weintraub

=====================
Marcus (at Harry's Place)
September 12, 2006
Don't Mean a Thing if It Ain't Got That Swing


Norm doesn't like Ur-Islamist Sayyid Qutb's attitude to one of his favourite types of music - jazz:
... a type of music invented by Blacks to please their primitive tendencies - their desire for noise and their appetite for sexual arousal...
Qutb wasn't the only one not to approve:
Jazz music was offensive to Nazi ideology because it was associated with the American enemy and worse, was often performed by African American (or Jewish) musicians. They called it "nigger music" or "degenerate music"—coined in parallel to "entartete Kunst" (degenerate art).

Perhaps Norm should set up a Manchester branch of the Swingkids:
They organised dance festivals and contests, and invited jazz bands. These events were occasions to mock the Nazis, the military and the Hitlerjugend -- hence the famous "Swing heil!", mocking the infamous "Sieg Heil!". Swings kids wore long hair, hats, umbrellas and met in cafés and clubs. They developed a jargon mostly made of Anglicisms.
Posted by Marcus at September 12, 2006 03:51 PM | TrackBack

[P.S. For some further details on the Nazi analysis of jazz and its links to "The Danger of Americanism", see HERE.]

Update on the "freedom of expression and tolerance" front

Another sign of the times, not that surprising or even unusual but still, in its way, astonishing if one actually thinks about it for a moment. This little story (to which I was first alerted by Norman Geras on Normblog) is either grimly amusing, exceptionally outrageous, or nauseatingly normal--or all of them, depending on one's mood. Anyway, it's a gem.

The article below does not bother to spell out that Yossi Sarid, the Israeli journalist and former Member of Parliament (MK) involved in this story, was the long-time head of the left-wing Meretz Party and continues to be a major figure in the Israeli peace camp.

--Jeff Weintraub
====================
Haaretz
August 27, 2006
Sarid rejects Norway's offer of citizenship to bypass boycott
By Amiram Barkat

Former MK and Haaretz journalist Yossi Sarid has declined an official offer from the Norwegian government to grant him citizenship so he can attend an international conference on freedom of expression and tolerance in Bali, Indonesia. His invitation was rescinded because he is Israeli.

Three months ago, Sarid was invited by the Norwegian foreign ministry to attend the Global Inter-Media Dialog in Bali, which is being co-sponsored by the prime minister of Norway and the president of Indonesia. Sarid was among 60 journalists invited to take part in the conference, whose stated goal is "bridging gaps between different religions, cultures and peoples."

However, three weeks ago the Norwegian embassy in Israel informed Sarid that Indonesia refuses to grant him a visa "in the existing circumstances." According to Sarid, the Norwegian foreign ministry assured him that a solution would be found since Norway considers it "a matter of principle."

On Friday the Norwegians offered their solution: Sarid could travel to Indonesia on a Norwegian passport.On Saturday, Sarid rejected the offer in a letter addressed to the Indonesian president and Norwegian prime minister.

"I almost fell out of my chair with astonishment," wrote Sarid in reference to the offer. "The more thought I gave to the offer, the angrier I became. I have no other country and I have no other nationality. No self-respecting person in the world, no person who respects his nationality, would accept such a twisted offer."

Sarid again urged other participants invited to the conference to decline their invitations in protest of his rejection.

[JW: Yes, under the circumstances, how could other people invited to this conference, which is allegedly about "freedom of expression and tolerance," participate with a straight face? Well, we can be sure they'll manage somehow.]

Euston USA - "American Liberalism and the Euston Manifesto"

I want to join in announcing and endorsing an initiative by a group of US intellectuals who are signers or supporters of the Euston Manifesto--specifically:

Jeffrey Herf, University of Maryland
Russell Berman, Stanford University, Editor, Telos
Thomas Cushman, Wellesley College, Editor, Journal of Human Rights
Richard Just, The New Republic
Robert Lieber, Georgetown University
Andrei Markovits, University of Michigan
Fred Siegel, Cooper Union College

They have drafted a companion statement entitled American Liberalism and the Euston Manifesto which has been posted on the main Euston Manifesto (UK) website and also on the website of Telos magazine.

This statement extends and deepens some themes from the original Euston Manifesto and directs them more specifically to US political debates. I believe that the issues it raises are important and that the perspective it lays out is cogent and valuable. I therefore feel great satisfaction in being among the first signers. Commentaries, arguments, and further signatures can be directed to the version posted at the main Euston Manifesto website.

Further details, and the text of the statement, are below. But let me start with the background.

=> I said in April 2006 in my discussion of The Euston Manifesto: For a Renewal of Progressive Politics:
I am proud to be a signer of The Euston Manifesto, a statement of principles for a genuinely democratic, egalitarian, humane, and libertarian progressive politics put together by a group of people belonging, in one way or another, to the British democratic left. This is in part a response to the moral, political, and intellectual derangement of much of the so-called "left" in recent years, but the drafters focused on trying to set forth a positive agenda. I myself would not have formulated every detail in precisely the same way, but I fully endorse its central thrust and animating spirit. [....]
Let me emphasize that although the Euston Manifesto makes a lot of substantive and controversial points, its tone and approach are deliberately non-sectarian. For example, a number of people I know who consider themselves conservative might well find themselves in sympathy with many of its principles [....]. Most of the authors supported the 2003 Iraq war (primarily on anti-fascist and humanitarian grounds), but many people who opposed the Iraq war (an opposition for which I have always recognized there were good as well as bad reasons) should not necessarily find that an obstacle to signing this Manifesto. Read it and see. [....]
Since it was issued on April 13, 2006 the Euston Manifesto has been widely reprinted and otherwise reproduced, and it has drawn supporters and stimulated discussion in a range of countries. For those of you who are not yet acquainted with the Euston Manifesto, I strongly urge that you read it now and consider signing it.

=> I now want to offer a similar endorsement to the companion statement described above: American Liberalism and the Euston Manifesto.

Jeffrey Herf, one of the chief drafters of this document, made it clear (in a message from which he gave me permission to quote) that this statement is offered as a starting point and a basis for further constructive debate rather than as a finished platform or party line.
The text was authored by myself as well as Russell Berman, Andrei Markovits, Robert Lieber, Fred Siegel, Thomas Cushman and Richard Just. [....] The statement is the result of considerable discussion and negotiation amongst people who know each other or know each other's public interventions. [....]

I think some of you on the US Euston listserve will find the statement very much to your liking. Others will think it is too long and some will think it is not left-wing enough. We hope many of you will see enough in it you can agree with to support and sign it. [....] If the statement evokes the response we hope for, we would consider organizing a meeting to discuss the issues we raise.

I want to stress very emphatically that we intend this as "a," and definitely not "the" American reply. We do not claim to speak for anyone but ourselves. We are very aware that there are signers of the Euston Manifesto who might prefer a different statement. For those of you who find fault with what we wrote I would say that we tried very, very hard to be as inclusive as possible but that we cannot satisfy everyone. Very importantly--we would urge any of you who wish to comment, criticize, debate or perhaps support the statement to do so if and when it is posted on the main Euston Manifesto website--or to write a statement of your own.
=> You may not agree with every idea and formulation in the statement below. I don't myself. For example, the statement indicates that "The key moral and political challenge in foreign affairs in our time stems from radical Islamism and the jihadist terrorism it has unleashed." Well, I wouldn't really describe this as the "key moral and political challenge in foreign affairs of our time." I see it as one of several. So I would have felt more comfortable with a (possibly more wishy-washy) formulation that identified it as "A crucial moral and political challenge ..." (Also, to be honest, I have some mixed feelings about fully identifying myself with "liberalism," but I suppose that in the practical context of everyday US political terminology there isn't really another term available that makes more sense.)

But I am definitely convinced that, on balance, the overall thrust of this statement is right and important. Read it and decide for yourself. If you feel the same way, then please consider adding your signature.

Yours for democracy & political sanity,
Jeff Weintraub
====================

American Liberalism and the Euston Manifesto
September 12, 2006


We are signers or supporters in the United States of the Euston Manifesto and its reassertion of liberal values. Our views range from those of centrists and independents to liberals of varying hues on to the democratic left. We include supporters of the decision to go to war in Iraq in 2003 as well as people who opposed this war from the beginning. However, we all welcome and are heartened by the decision of the writers of the Euston Manifesto in Britain to reassert and reinvigorate liberal values in the present context. Now we confront the issue of how to respond to radical Islamism. Some of us view this ideology and its political results as the third major form of totalitarian ideology of the last century, after fascism and Nazism, on the one hand, and Communism, on the other. Others regard it as having a history in the Arab and Islamic world that eludes the label of totalitarianism. We all agree however that it fosters dictatorship, terror, anti-Semitism and sexism of a most retrograde kind. We reject its subordination of politics to the dictates of religious fundamentalists as well as its contempt for the role of individual autonomy and rationality in politics, a rejection not seen on this scale in world politics since the 1940s. We understand that the United States must continue to take the lead with our allies in confronting this danger.

Our views in foreign policy are rooted in the traditions of Franklin Roosevelt as well as Harry Truman, who battled dictatorships of the right as well as the left respectively. For their generation, the key questions of international politics concerned totalitarianism in Europe and Asia. They led the country in war to defeat fascism, Nazism, and Imperial Japan and then founded the institutions that led to the peaceful victory in the Cold War over Communism. The key moral and political challenge in foreign affairs in our time stems from radical Islamism and the jihadist terrorism it has unleashed. We favor a liberalism that is as passionate about the struggle against Islamic extremism as it has been about its political, social, economic and cultural agenda at home. We reject the now ossified and unproductive political polarization of American politics rooted as it is in the conflicts of the 1960s, not the first decade of this century. We are frustrated in the choice between conservative governance that thwarts much needed reforms at home, on the one hand, and a liberalism which has great difficulty accepting the projection of American power abroad, on the other. The long era of Republican ascendancy may very well be coming to an end. If and when it does, we seek a renewed and reinvigorated American liberalism, one that is up to the task of fighting and winning the struggle of free and democratic societies against Islamic extremism and the terror it produces.

We regard anti-Americanism as a low and debased prejudice, not the mark of political sophistication or wisdom. We reject all forms of racism, including antisemitism, and also invoke the leaders of the American civil rights movement who won great political victories because they understood that hatred and terror would produce only more of the same. In the face of the retrograde attitudes about women and homosexuals emerging from the Islamic fundamentalists, and as advocates of the universality of human rights, we support equality for women and gays. Though most of us oppose much of the Bush administration's domestic policies and have many criticisms of how it has conducted its foreign policy, we believe that some facts about international politics are not a matter of left and right. It is true that the knowledge about how to develop and deploy chemical, biological and most importantly nuclear weapons has [been], is and will be spreading around the globe and thus potentially into the hands of rogue states and terrorists deeply hostile to liberal democracy and respect for human rights. Indeed, the experience of fascism and Nazism showed us that it was possible for Germany, Italy and Japan to embrace modern technology yet at the same time reject liberal democracy and embrace policies of racism, chauvinism, aggression and mass murder. In our time, this paradoxical embrace of technological and scientific modernity that goes hand in hand with rejection of liberal democracy and human rights is taking place among radical Islamists, including those in the government of Iran, supported as well by non-Islamic states such as North Korea.

Even though we may differ on the proper response, we view the prospect of a nuclear armed Iran with alarm. Such a state with these weapons would be a grave danger for the Middle East, Europe and the United States. It would increase the danger that such weapons might wind up in the hands of radical Islamist terrorist groups immune to the calculations of nuclear deterrence. In contrast to the Communists during the Cold War, who wanted to change, not depart from this world, the cult of death and martyrdom of the terrorists inspired by Islamic fundamentalism raises deeply troubling questions about the prospects for peace and security in the future. We take very seriously and find utterly repugnant the threats of Iran's political leaders to "wipe out" the state of Israel. We will not remain silent in the face of these genocidal threats to implement what would amount to a second Holocaust. We note as well that the vast majority of victims of the jihadist fanaticism have been other Muslims. Yet the passions of too many liberals here and abroad, even in the aftermath of terrorist attacks all over the world, remain more focused on the misdeeds and errors of our own government in Iraq than on the terrorist outrages by Islamic extremists. Anger at the Bush administration, however justified, should not trump opposition to all aspects of jihadism.

We stress that the efforts of liberal and free societies to defeat the radical Islamists is not a clash of civilizations, just as the war against Nazism, Italian Fascism and Imperial Japan was not a war against the totality of the cultures and history of Germany, Italy and Japan. Each of these societies had multiple traditions other than those of dictatorship and aggression. Fundamentalist Islamists do not speak for Muslims as a whole. Yet we soberly observe that, as Arab liberals and Muslim moderates have pointed out, democratic values and critical reflection on religious belief that have long been part of Western modernity remain comparatively weak in the Arab and Muslim world. Moreover, some Arab states have used wealth from petrodollars to finance religious fundamentalism, rather than to fully enter into the modern world. We agree with and lend our support to those Arab and Muslim liberals and modernists who argue that the internal modernization and liberalization of the Arab and Islamic societies are essential. But we do them no favor by moderating our criticism of the extremists in their midst who threaten and attack them.

In both World War II and the Cold War, liberals, centrists and conservatives found moments of commonality. Indeed, if those efforts had been borne exclusively by the left or the right they very well might have failed. For us, part of the Euston Manifesto's importance lies precisely in bringing this insight to bear on our current dilemma and in recalling the traditions of American liberal anti-fascism and anti-totalitarianism that remain important today. In the United States, the struggle against Islamic extremists should not be the preoccupation for conservatives alone nor can it be waged successfully by liberals alone. The challenge we face from Islamic extremism is one to values and institutions that Americans across a broad political spectrum hold dear. Unfortunately, President Bush did not seize the moment after 9/11 to bridge the political divide. Rather than govern from the center, he has governed from the right in the realms of taxation, energy policy, global warming, social security, the role of religion and culture war issues.

In light of the tragedies of the war in Iraq and the ineptitude in the Bush administration that helped to produce them, the partisan divide has deepened even more. We know that in the preparation for the war in Iraq the Administration did not listen to many of its own diplomats and military officers who called for a larger invasion force and anticipated the problems and disasters that have enveloped Iraq after the initial phases of the war in 2003. We recognize that in the management of the war, the Bush administration has erred egregiously in ways---at Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo and elsewhere---that undermine the very values for which this war must be fought and won. Tolerance for torture or ambiguity about the application of the Geneva conventions is both wrong and self-defeating. We agree with the implications of decisions by the United States Supreme Court, former high ranking military officials and many members of Congress that the Geneva conventions concerning treatment of prisoners of war should apply wherever the United States is holding prisoners captured in the effort to contain, thwart and defeat the terrorism inspired by Islamic extremism. We support higher mileage per gallon requirements for cars and a national gasoline tax (with relief for low income drivers) to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and the amount of petrodollars now fueling Islamist radicalism and to contribute to slowing and reversing global warming.

The signers of this statement include supporters of the decision to go to war in Iraq and others who opposed this decision from the beginning. Despite our agreement about many things in this manifesto, our differences on this issue remain. Our group includes signatories who view the war as a failure and a diversion from the struggle against radical Islamists. They therefore advocate an American withdrawal at the earliest possible time, especially in light of Sunni-Shia sectarian violence enveloping that country. However others amongst us point to the fragile beginnings of democracy after dictatorship and think success there is still possible and essential. In their view an American exit before stability and security are established would be a disaster for international and national security and would be seen in many parts of the world as a victory for radical islamists and unreconstructed Baathists.

We realize that the path to a new and reinvigorated liberalism in foreign policy will be difficult. The political habits of the post-Vietnam era are hard to break. Yet we think that the terror unleashed by the radical Islamists has begun to refocus some liberal minds. We have authored this statement and urge other like-minded citizens to join us in the hopes that this rethinking will become clearer and more vigorous as a result of debate and discussion we hope to stimulate. We believe liberals have important contributions to make in the struggle against the Islamic extremists. Indeed, we believe that this struggle's successful outcome depends in part on our engagement on the basis of deeply held values and traditions.

The statement "American Liberalism and the Euston Manifesto" can also be read at the website of the journal Telos. You can sign it here.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Dylan returns

The word on Bob Dylan's latest album, "Modern Times," from my friend Erik Ringmar in his weblog "Forget the Footnotes". I haven't heard this album myself yet (though I certainly plan to soon), but I expect that everything Erik says here is right.

For Norman Geras's take on this album, see Bob's your uncle. ("Well, he's back at the top anyway")

--Jeff Weintraub
====================
Modern Times
Posted by Erik on August 27th, 2006

modern times

I just got hold of Dylan’s new record, Modern Times, thanks to … errr … my connections in the record industry. Three days early, the official U.S. release is on Tuesday. I’m listening to it now.

“Thunder on the Mountain” is a pretty standard blues rocker; “Spirit on the Water” is of those jazzy 1930s songs Bob has been doing lately; “Workingman’s Blues” is a super-simple Dylan tune — a bit like “Make You Feel My Love” — which sounds terrible at first but which grows on you very quickly and eventually ends up as the best song you ever heard; “I Ain’t Talkin’” is apocalyptic, haunting — a grand closing number. All in all, it’s a superb album. No duds and with a couple of instant classics.

All my loyal and my much-loved companions
They approve of me and share my code
I practice a faith that’s been long abandoned
Ain’t no altars on this long and lonesome road

Btw, the lyrics are here. As for reviews, even the grumpiest of Dylanophobes are handing out four stars, Dylan agnostics are reaching for five stars, and the fans are over the moon. In general the blogosphere seems to be exploding with Dylan references.

Compare the excitement over this album with the embarrassment that accompanied the latest Rolling Stones and Paul McCartney releases. Jagger et al belong thoroughly in the 1960s; Dylan is for ever.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Darfur - Waiting for the end at "Camp Rwanda"

The edge of the Rwanda camp in Tawila, Sudan, a precarious refuge for uprooted villagers in Darfur.

An "extraordinary dispatch," as Eric Reeves properly calls it, by Lydia Polgreen in the New York Times.
Many who live here say the camp is named for the Rwandan soldiers based here as monitors of a tattered cease-fire. But the camp’s sheiks say the name has a darker meaning, one that reveals their deepest fears.
“What happened in Rwanda, it will happen here,” said Sheik Abdullah Muhammad Ali, who fled here from a nearby village seeking the safety that he hoped the presence of about 200 African Union peacekeepers would bring. But the Sudanese government has asked the African Union to quit. “If these soldiers leave,” Sheik Ali said, “we will all be slaughtered.” [....]
Tawila is an apocalyptic postcard from the next and perhaps the grimmest chapter in Darfur’s agony, a preview of the coming cataclysm in the conflict the United Nations has called the world’s gravest humanitarian crisis.
Thousands of people in this squalid camp fear that their annihilation will be the final chapter in this brutal battle over land, identity, resources and power, which the Bush administration and many others have called genocide.
“We beg the international community, somebody, come and save us,” Sheik Ali said. “We have no means to protect ourselves. The only thing we can do is run and hide in the mountains and caves. We will all die.”
--Jeff Weintraub
====================
New York Times
September 10, 2006
Darfur Trembles as Peacekeepers' Exit Looms
By Lydia Polgreen

TAWILA, Sudan, Sept. 8 — They call this place Rwanda.

Darfur's Agony
Photographs by Jehad Nga for The New York Times

Little help is available now at the Rwanda camp for displaced people near Tawila, Sudan. All but one of the aid groups that had been working in the camp have been forced to pull out.

A year ago it was a collection of straw huts, hastily thrown together in the aftermath of battle, hard by the razor-wire edge of a small African Union peacekeeper base.

Today it is a tangle of sewage-choked lanes snaking among thousands of squalid shacks, an endless sprawl that dwarfs the base at its heart. Pounding rainstorms gather fetid pools that swarm with mosquitoes and flies spreading death in their filthy wake. All but one of the aid groups working here have pulled out.

Many who live here say the camp is named for the Rwandan soldiers based here as monitors of a tattered cease-fire. But the camp’s sheiks say the name has a darker meaning, one that reveals their deepest fears.

“What happened in Rwanda, it will happen here,” said Sheik Abdullah Muhammad Ali, who fled here from a nearby village seeking the safety that he hoped the presence of about 200 African Union peacekeepers would bring. But the Sudanese government has asked the African Union to quit Darfur rather than hand over its mission to the United Nations. “If these soldiers leave,” Sheik Ali said, “we will all be slaughtered.”

Tawila and the sprawling, makeshift camp of displaced people at its edge sit astride a deadly fault line in Darfur. This small but strategic town has been the front line of some of the deadliest battles in a conflict that has killed hundreds of thousands of people and sent 2.5 million fleeing.

It is a place where a grim struggle between the government and its Arab allies, and non-Arab rebel factions, has given way to a fractured struggle that pits non-Arab tribes against one another, fanning centuries-old rivalries and setting the scene for a bloodbath of score-settling vengeance should the African Union soldiers withdraw, as demanded, at the end of this month.

Tawila is an apocalyptic postcard from the next and perhaps the grimmest chapter in Darfur’s agony, a preview of the coming cataclysm in the conflict the United Nations has called the world’s gravest humanitarian crisis.

Thousands of people in this squalid camp fear that their annihilation will be the final chapter in this brutal battle over land, identity, resources and power, which the Bush administration and many others have called genocide.

“We beg the international community, somebody, come and save us,” Sheik Ali said. “We have no means to protect ourselves. The only thing we can do is run and hide in the mountains and caves. We will all die.”

The portents of violence have become so ominous, and Sudan’s stonewalling of international intervention so complete, that Kofi Annan, secretary general of the United Nations, warned last week that the Sudanese government would be “held collectively and individually responsible for what happens to the population in Darfur.”

Death is no stranger here. Malaria and diarrhea course through the camp, picking off children first, then the old. There are no doctors or nurses or medicine. There is no clean water. There are no toilets or latrines. And yet the conflict, unchecked even by the presence of the African peacekeeping force, drives more people from their homes into the camp each day.

Mariam Ibrahim Omar buried her son Ismail in a graveyard near here Wednesday. She was not sure what had killed him, only that he burned with fever, heaved and vomited. She took him to a clinic run by the aid organization Relief International in town, carrying him on her back swaddled in rags, only to find its doors locked and its doctors and nurses long gone. The lone aid organization still operating here is the United Nations World Food Program, usually the last to go in even the direst situation.

“We bought medicines in the market but none of them helped him,” Ms. Omar said, her face swathed in black. “He died yesterday and we buried him.”

Ismail was 21 months old. They buried him in a growing graveyard on a small rise above the camp. Two bricks stood atop his grave, indicating where his tiny head lay, pointed toward Mecca, as Islamic custom demands.

Next to his fresh coverlet of earth, men in white robes dug a new pit, deep and wide, to hold the camp’s latest casualty. No one was sure how old Halima Batwal was — some said 80, others 90. They dug the loose sand with shovels until they hit hard-packed earth, and then switched to pickaxes to carve a narrow trench for her slender, wasted body.

The rituals of a Muslim burial are simple, easily satisfied even by the destitute — the body must be washed, then wrapped in unbleached cloth. The men gently placed her in the trench, then stacked bricks atop the body, a makeshift crypt in a makeshift graveyard.

Ms. Batwal was from Tina, a village just a few miles away, but she had to flee when rival rebel factions clashed there this spring. Her relatives said she would have preferred to be buried nearer to home, as tradition demands. But it was too dangerous to carry her body there.

“She will have to stay here,” said Adam Ali, a distant relative who teaches mathematics to children at the camp. “We have no choice.”

Whether the living will remain here, too, is an open question.

A United Nations Security Council resolution authorized a force of more than 22,000 troops and police officers to take over peacekeeping duties from the African Union. But Sudan has refused to allow the new force to deploy, and it says the African Union must leave by the end of this month, when its mandate ends, if it cannot work on its own.


The work of people in the camp includes digging graves. Diarrhea and diseases like malaria are rampant.


Tawila has felt the blows of some of the deadliest battles in Darfur.

If the African Union troops leave, the residents of the camp say, they, too, will flee. But there are few places for them to hide — in the mountains or hundreds of miles west, across the border with Chad.

For the moment the peacekeepers are still here, the contingent of 200 Rwandan troops led by a Ghanaian lieutenant colonel named Wisdom Bleboo. But there is little they can do to help the people living in the Rwanda camp.

“People are dying here,” Colonel Bleboo said. “Children are dying. They come to us thinking that we can help them, but we have no means to help them.”

Similarly helpless is the sole Red Cross worker still permanently based here, a slender 29-year-old with a faint goatee named Issa Ahmed Muhammad Sraj. His job is to help families separated by the war to stay in touch.

In a dusty black nylon briefcase he carries forms that camp residents fill out to send to relatives elsewhere in Sudan, simple messages of greetings — news of weddings, births and deaths. He is originally from Tawila, but like most of its residents, he had to abandon his home and move into the camp.

He has nothing else to offer but his forms, yet residents of the camp come to him anyway with their endless problems — sick children, stolen goats, leaky huts and empty food bowls.

“I have nothing to help them, so I just explain to them, ‘I am living here in the camp just like you, suffering together,’ ” Mr. Sraj said. “I sympathize with them and listen to them. I report back to headquarters what is happening here, but no one comes.” The local Red Cross headquarters is in El Fasher, the state capital.

Aid organizations have always found Tawila a difficult place to operate in. Nestled in the foothills of the rich and fertile farmland of the Jebel Marra mountains and home to a mix of Arabs and non-Arabs, herders and farmers, it sits along a crucial livestock migration route and next to the main east-west road in Darfur, stretching from Chad to the main north-south road leading to Khartoum, the capital. Tawila is a strategic prize all sides in this increasingly complicated conflict have tried to win.

On Feb. 27, 2004, hundreds of Arab tribesmen in military uniforms attacked Tawila, led by Musa Hilal, the leader of the Arab militia known as the janjaweed.

Mr. Sraj was in his house when the assault began, but at the first crack of gunfire he fled with his family to a nearby valley, where they hid for three days.

When they returned to survey the damage, much of the town was leveled, including his house. Their furniture and livestock had been stolen, their store of grain burned. Dozens of people had been killed, and many women and girls had been raped. The attack on Tawila and its surrounding villages was to become one of the most notorious of the Darfur conflict.

Mr. Sraj fled to El Fasher, where he and his family lived in the vast Abu Shouk camp. The rebels regained control of Tawila from the Arab militias, and last year its residents started to return, planting their fields and resuming their lives.

A cease-fire agreement seemed to bring some modicum of tranquillity. Mr. Sraj came back, this time as a worker for the Red Cross.

This spring the troubles started again, this time between the non-Arab tribes that had previously been the champions of the people of this area, mostly Fur villagers who lived as farmers and Zaghawa herdsmen and traders.

The Sudanese Liberation Army, the main rebel group fighting the government for greater autonomy in Darfur, split in two along tribal lines. The two sides fought for control of this crucial territory in advance of a peace agreement with the government that one of the factions, the Zaghawa-led group, signed in May.

The peace agreement has only made things worse here. The Fur-led faction of the Sudanese Liberation Army did not sign, and violence between the factions increased. The Rwanda camp, estimated in May to have had 9,000 residents, now holds perhaps double that number.

As the battle between the factions has intensified, ethnic lines in the camp have hardened. The Fur majority is suspicious of Zaghawas, who it claims have joined with the government to oppress the Fur.

Most of the displaced people at Argo, another camp just outside Tawila, have fled to the Rwanda camp to be closer to the African Union soldiers.

Those who remain at Argo are the most destitute. Under a thorn tree in the center of the camp sit a few old men, so poor that they lack the most basic furniture for any Darfurian household — a woven plastic mat on which to sit, eat and pray. They sat on empty wheat sacks, their foreheads sprinkled with dust and gravel from praying on the naked earth.

As the men talked, a dozen women on donkeys laden with water jugs, cooking pots, sacks of grain and children approached. One woman, Leimoun Ali Ahmed, said she had fled her village, Kalma, after bandits attacked to steal her livestock. She loaded her four children on two donkeys and was headed for the Rwanda camp.

“We don’t have anything so we hope they will help us there,” Ms. Ahmed said, referring to international aid organizations. She had heard that food, health care and clean water were available in the Rwanda camp.

But she will find little food and none of the rest. Relief International and Save the Children pulled out after attacks on their workers and vehicles. Relief International had offered health services, but its midwives, nurses, vaccinators and nutrition counselors have been evacuated to El Fasher. A dozen aid workers have been killed since May, all of them Sudanese, so aid organizations have had to curtail their activities in many areas. A World Health Organization car traveling with the World Food Program was hijacked Thursday by rebel gunmen.

That has left hundreds of thousands of people across Darfur without food, shelter, medicine and clean water. Disease and hunger are rampant.

“It is painful to think of those I left behind,” said Halima Muhammad Ahmed, a midwife who had been working for Relief International in Tawila and who is now in El Fasher, waiting to return to the expectant mothers she left. Like so many of the aid workers in Darfur, she, too, is a victim — her village, Umo, was attacked by janjaweed in March 2004.

“We only think of going back,” Ms. Ahmed said. “We are helpless here.”

At the Rwanda camp, babies arrive, midwife or no. In a straw hut at the edge of the camp, Hasima Abakar sat with her month-old baby, a boy she named Hamid. The birth had been hard, and she lost a lot of blood. But she was more worried about Hamid — pus oozed from his navel. Radiant with fever, he squirmed and turned away from her breast.

I don’t know my future,” she said, her face blank as she gazed down at Hamid. “Only God knows.”