Conservative Rapprochement Bias

Meet the FOCRs? I’d really like to call it the FOCR Theory (Favoritism of Conservative Rapprochement), but let’s just call it Conservative Rapprochement Bias (CRB). Conservative Rapprochement Bias is the propensity for diplomatic breakthroughs to be initiated or codified by political conservatives. The phrase “Conservative Rapprochement Bias” is not an attempt to be derogatory, but to be descriptive; more moderate protagonists and those with a wider viewpoint are often already committed to change, so the gamechanger occurs when conservative or extremists commit to change or peace.

I wrote about this years ago and called it Narrowism. At the time, I defined the phenomena as a suggested political theory which recognizes the tendency for meaningful social and international decision-making must be completed only by those with the narrowest and extreme political perspective. That definition certainly describes the negotiations that led up to the 1998 Good Friday Agreement. In that situation, there were four Northern Irish political parties, as well as three nation-states party to the negotiations. The three nation-states (The US, UK, and Ireland) all wanted a deal. Among the Northern Irish, there were the more mainstream parties that desired a deal, namely the Social Democratic and Labour Party of John Hume, and the David Trimble’s Ulster Unionist Party. Those two Nobel Laureates deserve all the praise that the peacemakers received, but the deal was never a deal, until the other two parties with narrower and more politically extremist parties agreed to the Agreement, or at least participated in the result. The extremist Loyalist, Ian Paisley of the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), initially participated in the negotiations but withdrew when his ideological mirror, Gerry Adams of Sein Fein was allowed a seat at the table following his Nationalist party’s paramilitary (terrorist) affiliate the Provisional Irish Republican Army announced a ceasefire. My point is, negotiations between centrist Nationalists like SDLP, and center Loyalists like UUP, was never going to end The Troubles. The Troubles ended when the IRA announced a ceasefire, Gerry Adams and Sein Fein took their seats at the negotiating table and, post Agreement, Ian Paisley’s DUP took control of the new government after winning the plurality of seats and, ultimately, with Ian Paisley becoming First Minister in 2007.

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Yes, the Good Friday Agreement is a perfect example of Narrowism, however, when I proposed the term in 2011, I was naïve. Narrowism is certainly valid, but I now see the phenomena differently. I know believe that the more common pattern is Conservative Rapprochement Bias.

Sometimes that Conservative Rapprochement may even play out within a side of the political spectrum. Look at the US Civil Rights movement: It took a conservative Southern Democrat and master legislator like LBJ to get the Civil Rights Act passed. Would Southern Democrats ever accept a deal brokered by Northerners like JFK, had not been assassinated?

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Let’s look back at a few examples of the Conservative Rapprochement Bias:

1972, US President Richard Nixon travels to China and meets Mao Zedong. Would a President Eugene McCarthy have had enough political capital to sit down with a Communist leader?

On September 17, 1978, the Camp David Accords were signed by Egyptian President Anwar Sadat and Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin of the conservative Likud Party, not the liberal Labour Party of Yitzhak Rabin or the centrist party of Yigael Yadin.

In the 1980 Election, candidate Ronald Reagan ran for president against Jimmy Carter railing against Iran and called Russia the Evil Empire, but later the Reagan Administration coordinated the infamous Iran-Contra deal with Iran, and Reagan sits down with Mikhail Gorbachev on multiple occasions. To paraphrase my earlier rhetorical question, would President Jimmy Carter have had enough political capital to sit down with a Communist leader? Or a President Mike Dukakis?

We already discussed that in the Anglo-Irish peace process, nothing mattered -not only Gerry Adams came to the table- but moreover, the Agreement didn’t truly matter until Paisleyists took ownership of the new government. When political extremists like Ian Paisley, Gerry Adams, or even Yassir Arafat as another example, when the political extremists (or even terrorists or former terrorists) participated in peace talks, THAT’S when peace happens. Hardline soundbites like, “The US does not negotiate with terrorists” plays well on the 24-hour news and social media, but the reality is starkly different.

I would even point out that it was a conservative US Supreme Court that legalized same-sex marriage in Obergefell v. Hodges (2015), but on the other hand, there hasn’t been a liberal SCOTUS since the Warren Court ended in 1969. More to the point, it was also the transitionally conservative Burger Court that legalized abortion, banned the death penalty… most recently, it was the conservative Roberts Court that not only legalized same-sex marriage as mentioned before but also confirmed the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act in 2012.

[As I said, hardline soundbites like, “No ‘bamacare” and “Repeal Obamacare” plays well on the 24-hour news and social media, but the reality is starkly different when a person or a party has to govern, not just criticize. Heck, the repeal shouters even changed their mantra to “Repeal and Replace,” and it’s still the law of the land… but I digress.]

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Back in 2008, former Presidential candidate William J. Bennett wrote in the National Review: “Barack Obama’s position on negotiating with U.S. enemies betrays a profound misreading of history,” adding that if Obama were to meet with Iranian officials, “he will lower the prestige of the office of the president.”

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And now we have, not kimchi, but Kim-Trump: The Singapore Summit. The reclusive leader of one of the most reclusive regimes in the world, travelled 3,067 miles to meet with the man who has described Kim as:

“North Korea where you have this maniac sitting there and he actually has nuclear weapons.”
~Sept. 16, 2015~

“Rocket Man [who] is on a suicide mission for himself and for his regime.”
~September 19, 2017~

“Kim Jong Un of North Korea… is obviously a madman who doesn’t mind starving or killing his people”
~September 22, 2017~

And, finally, on November 11, 2017, the President of the United States referred to Chairman Kim as “short and fat.” Perhaps even the same words General George Washington used to describe King George III or perhaps it was what Abraham Lincoln called Robert E. Lee and Jefferson Davis?

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When US President George W. Bush uttered that infamous phrase ‘axis of evil’ in his State of the Union address on January 29, 2002, it got all of our attention. For some of us who follow international relations closely, personally I wondered why “W” baited the Iranians since the Iranian government had just shared their intelligence on Afghanistan with the US military in September and October of 2001… just 3 months earlier… but anyway…

Most people, and the media, we knew what he meant, the Iraqis, the Iranians, the Libyans, and the North Koreans… the Bush Administration was serving notice to these rogue states. In fact, one of those rogue-states, Libya, straight-up capitulated and offered to give up its WMDs programs. To an extent, it hurts me to admit it, but the Libyan reaction to the 2002 speech is an example of saber-rattling actually working as an instrument of peace, to an extent.**

  • Libya, neutralized as a member of the so-called Axis of Evil. Done. Credit given to Bush 43.
  • Saddam’s Iraq, neutralized as a member of the so-called Axis of Evil by the 2003 US invasion of Iraq. Done. Credit (as it were) given to Bush 43.
  • Iran, neutralized by the Iran Nuclear Deal Framework. **Done. Credit: none.

What???? The Iran Nuclear Deal Framework was a multinational agreement between the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Germany, the European Union, and Iran… six parties! And they were *all* somehow duped?

Under the Corker-Cardin framework establishing oversight of the Iran deal, Congress could vote to approve or disapprove of a final deal, determining whether Obama has the authority to temporarily lift Iran sanctions needed to implement the Agreement. If Congress fails to pass disapproval of the deal — or if Congress does pass a disapproval measure, then fails to override Obama’s veto of it — the deal would move forward.

And it did. The Corker-Cardin framework provided Congress with the right to review the Iran Agreement, regardless of what you’ve heard spun by the pundits.

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No sitting-President of either political party has ever met with the leaders of North Korea. This policy was to avoid legitimizing a rogue-state as well as to hold onto that strategic carrot in order to draw concessions from North Korea. And now, like the US Embassy move in Israel, the United States has given up a negotiating item, for apparently nothing in return. But, the reaction to Trump’s meeting with the dictator of North Korea?

Senator McConnell praised the “historic first step” and noted that it was “the beginning of the arduous process,” but he said, “I support the goals contained in the statement and I remain supportive of the administration’s mission.” On the Iran Agreement, Mitch McConnell criticizes Iran nuke deal as “windfall” for Tehran…

On the Iran Agreement, Sen. Mike Rounds (R-SD) said, “It is an agreement that will reward a violent, terrorist regime. Instead of stopping the Iranians from ever obtaining a nuclear weapon, it merely delays it. This deal is shortsighted and dangerous for our security.” But of the Trump-Kim Summit, Rounds said: “Good news coming from Singapore. @POTUS has made early strides in making our world a safer place. A lot of work to do yet.”

And how about this for sarcastic bitterness:

Of Obama and the Iran Agreement, Jim Risch (R-ID) said: “This deal falls disastrously short of what the Obama Administration originally promised and gives the Iranian government what it desires.”

And of Trump and North Korea? Risch said “If Barack Obama had accomplished what Donald Trump just accomplished, they’d be calling for the stonemasons to get out to Mount Rushmore and put off his head on Mount Rushmore. This is a historic occasion.”

Hahahahahaahhaha…..

Personally, I’m kinda wondering what exactly Trump *has* accomplished besides a handshake that North Korea has been seeking for decades, and now the regime received without capitulating on anything.

On Trump and North Korea, Sen. James Inhofe (OK) said “I do not trust Iran who has been the leading state sponsor of terrorism for generations, and I have no faith that President Obama’s deal will change the irrational and dangerous behaviors of Iran’s government leaders,” so I guess I’m really curious how Inhofe feels about Kim and his country’s history of bank fraud, cyberterrorism, saber-rattling and breaking of promises to South Korea as well as US Presidents of both political parties….

Here ya go: Of Trump and North Korea, Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-OK) even said “I’m so convinced that good things are going to happen,” and even praised Trump for being the first person to ever get Kim Jong-un’s attention and for playing him “like a fiddle.”

Really? Inhofe knows this already? Isn’t it equally possible that Kim played Trump like a fiddle?

The truth is that we won’t know for a long time whether President Trump gave away the cow for free, or if he was the one who started the North Koreans down the road to peaceful coexistence. John Delury, a North Korea watcher and professor at Yonsei University, thinks that it’s even possible that Kim Jung Un is creating a détente with the United States to pivot out of China’s orbit. At this point, who knows? Certainly not I…

But what I do know, is that there is a hypocrisy in the rightwing media (not that there’s not a blindness in the leftwing media on other issues), that there is a selectivity in history and an inconsistency in opinion on international rapprochement initiatives.

Perhaps it’s just partisanship? Or perhaps it’s just that the worst of partisanship is what ultimately becomes the dominant narrative in history. I hope not.

As I said, the Iran Nuclear Deal Framework was a multinational agreement between the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Germany, the European Union, and Iran… six parties! And somehow *all* six parties are incompetent and have somehow duped?

To be fair, North Korea and Iran are not in the same place in their nuclear research and capabilities. And that’s some of the reason for the confusing messages out of some conservatives. After all, North Korea’s research has been entirely weapons-based, so *if* (and that’s a huge if) North Korea stopped its nuclear weapons research, then it would be stopping all of its current nuclear work.

Iran’s nuclear research is much more sophisticated and more of a dual-tracked research. Iran has civilian nuclear research programs as well, so the Agreement honors civilian research.

So, on Trump and North Korea:

Sen. Jon Ernst (R-IA) can say that she was “excited about the opportunity.”

Sen. David Perdue (R-GA) can say the “critical summit is happening because of President Trump’s leadership and unwavering resolve to make the world a safer place,” and added that “[t]he Trump Administration has my full confidence as they move forward in these key talks.”

Sen. Dan Sullivan (R-AK) can say a “big opportunity” and “clearly there has been progress.”

But on Iran, the same three said:

Ernst: “This to me is a pathway to nuclear armament for Iran…This deal does not stop them from developing nuclear capabilities.”

Purdue: “This deal won’t prevent Iran from becoming a nuclear weapons state — it just delays it,” and “As I’ve said all along, I cannot support any deal that allows Iran to become a nuclear weapons state. Not now, not in 10 years, not ever.”

Sullivan: “Principal objective of Iran negotiations was to keep Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon. This #IranDeal does NOT do that.”

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These statements, to me, are a lot more consistent than the statements by Inhofe, Risch, Rounds, and McConnell…

Ernst, Purdue, and Sullivan are correct. The Iran Agreement does not prevent Iran from developing a nuclear weapon in 10 years if the Iranians want to. It was never intended to. The Agreement was intended to create breathing room, for Iran to be integrated into the world economy for a period of ten years, so that, as a member of the world economy, there would be a disincentive for Iran to throw those incentives away after ten years of participation in the international system.

Whereas the Trump Administration has, at this point, not offered North Korea the path to peaceful nuclear technology as Iran has been guaranteed, and at this point North Korea is still expected to terminate its nuclear weapon programs in perpetuity as South Africa, Brazil, Argentina, and the former Soviet Republics outside of Russia have all done.

Two different nation-states. Two different nuclear programs.

So, the issue isn’t so much about the “deal” but about the reception of engagement with rogue leaders and rogue states.

  • Nixon meets Mao, and is praised.
  • Reagan meets Gorbachev, and is praised.
  • But Clinton normalizes relations with Vietnam, and its criticized.
  • Clinton allows Gerry Adams a visa to the US as part of the Northern Irish Peace Process, and its criticized.
  • Bush pressures UK PM Tony Blair to release the PanAm 103 bombers to reward Libya, and its ignored by the public.
  • Obama normalizes relations with Cuba, and its criticized.

Yes, President Barack Obama shakes hands with Raul Castro, and it’s the end of the world, but President Donald Trump shakes hands with the leader of a rogue state one called a member of the Axis of Evil by President George W. Bush and…

Sen. Jim Inhofe says “I’m so convinced that good things are going to happen.”

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The two most consistent voices have been Ben Shapiro and Jim Geraghty:

“I’m not certain why meeting with Kim without preconditions is suddenly a grand coup when we would have gone nuts had Obama done the same,” said conservative pundit Ben Shapiro, who criticized Obama back in 2009 and is now often critical of Trump.

National Review’s Jim Geraghty wondered the same. “Remember how much we condemned then-senator Barack Obama’s pledge to ‘meet separately, without precondition, during the first year of your administration, in Washington or anywhere else, with the leaders of Iran, Syria, Venezuela, Cuba and North Korea, in order to bridge the gap that divides our countries?’ That wasn’t wrong,” Geraghty wrote.

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Yes, Conservative Rapprochement Bias is a suggested political theory which recognizes the tendency for meaningful social and international decision-making must be completed only by those with the narrowest and extreme political perspective. While “not fair” it is none the less true that there is a pattern in politics, sociology, psychology, and religion that the seminal events are most often decided when those with the narrowest perspective agree to change or compromise.

As Yogi Berra said, “Déjà vu all over again.” And here we go again…

May 7th ~ Mass Graves in Iraq and the Rohingya

~May 7~

  On this day, May 7, 2016, UN Special Representative Ján Kubiš said more than 50 mass graves have so far been found in parts of Iraq that were previously controlled by so-called Islamic State (IS).  Ján Kubiš is a Slovak diplomat and was formerly Secretary-General of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).

“I condemn in the strongest possible terms the continued killings, kidnapping, rape and torture of Iraqis by ISIL (IS), which may constitute crimes against humanity, war crimes, and even genocide.”

Ján Kubiš

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Mass graves and ethnic cleansing is not new in Iraq. After the deposing of Saddam Hussein, International Experts found an estimated 300,000 victims in mass graves of Shia Muslims and ethnic Kurds killed for opposing the regime between 1983 and 1991.

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In April 2007, a bus in Mosul was hijacked, Muslims and Christians were told to get off, the remaining 23 Yazidi passengers were driven to an eastern Mosul location and murdered.

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Then ISIS/ISIL/IS came to town… Hawija, Kirkuk, Mosul… you name it….

…2014, the peak of the Yazidi Genocide. Civilians trapped on Mount Sinjar… hundred of Yazidi women were taken as slaves and over hundreds more men, women, and children were killed, some beheaded or buried alive in the foothills, as part of an effort to instill fear and to supposedly desecrate the mountain the Yazidis consider sacred.

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The mass flight and expulsion of ethnic Assyrians from Iraq…  beginning before ISIS, back during the Iraq War in 2003, but continues to this day. Leaders of Iraq’s Assyrian community estimate that over two-thirds of the Iraqi Assyrian population has fled or been internally displaced. Reports suggest that whole neighborhoods of Assyrians have cleared out in the cities of Baghdad and Basra; and that Sunni insurgent groups and militias have threatened Assyrian Christians over the years. Following the campaign of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant in northern Iraq in August 2014, one-quarter of the remaining Iraqi Assyrians fled, finding refuge to Iraqi Kurdistan, and, ironically in Turkey…

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On February 3, 2016, the European Union recognized the persecution of Christians by Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant as genocide. The vote was unanimous. The United States followed suit on March 15, 2016, declaring these atrocities as genocide. The vote was unanimous. On April 20, 2016, British Parliament voted unanimously to denounce the actions as genocide. And where are those voices today as the Rohingya are murdered, assaulted, and exiled in Burma?

The ability of the predominantly Christian countries and the mostly Christian members of the US Congress’ to recognize a Christian genocide but not Muslim genocide is almost as self-serving as those perpetrating religious and ethnic violence against civilians around the world. It is a manifestation of the selective indignation, selective application of legal principals, and the inability to see all men and women as sisters and brothers.

If you’ve never read it, read Jeff Stein’s piece from October 17, 2006, in the New York Times. Still, to this day, one of the best and most disturbing journalistic articles. Willie Hulon, chief of the FBI’s national security branch, Congresswoman Jo Ann Davis, Chair of the House intelligence subcommittee charged with overseeing the C.I.A.’s performance in recruiting Islamic spies and analyzing information, Congressman Terry Everett, Vice Chair of the House intelligence subcommittee on technical and tactical intelligence. The very people who voted to invade Iraq. Don’t know the difference between Sunnis and Shi’as. Do we think they know the difference between an Assyrian-Iraqi, a Kurdish-Iraqi, a Yezidi-Iraqi, and an Arab Iraqi?

https://www.nytimes.com/2006/10/17/opinion/17stein.html

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It’s easy to blame the crimes against humanity on the sectarian violence in Iraq, but those same pointing fingers seem to avoid asking the question of who destabilized the region and who armed Saddam Hussein with all those weapons in the 1980s. Perhaps it’s time to think more about American national responsibility, than labeling other acts of violence as genocide. After all, those Americans who identified the Assyrian Genocide so correctly are woefully silent on asking what happened to the pre-Columbian Native Americans population of the United States or even, if you want to stick to a more recent century, what happened to the Armenians in 1915. The same Administration that labeled the Assyrian, Yazidi crimes against humanity as a genocide, has not called the 1915 massacres by our Turkish allies a genocide… I mean, sure, they call it a genocide on the campaign trail while pandering for votes, but Trump, Obama, Bush, and Clinton all seem to have genocidal amnesia once entering the Oval Office.

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Yes, on this day, May 7, 2016, UN envoy Ján Kubiš condemned the continued killings, kidnapping, rape, and torture of Iraqis which he said might constitute crimes against humanity, war crimes, and even genocide. Would that he was wrong. Would that the ethnic and religious genocides in Iraq and around the world were limited to time and space. Sadly, humanity’s propensity to kill itself, is matched only by our ability to be blind to the blood on our own hands and deny genocide when it’s insignificant. After all, its not 2016 anymore. Its 2018, and genocide has now reared it’s evil in Burma, where are the same clamoring voices speaking out against the Rohingya Genocide now?

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That’s all for today’s segment of This Day in Today, and remember,

Today’s Tomorrow’s yesterday.

Thank you for listening!

The Psychology of Diplomacy

In message 720 on Wednesday, January 11, 2006 8:27pm, Shelton Williams writes:
Rhetoric, not policy and it is an incomplete guide to what a Government is “thinking.” Sometimes you have to deduce what a state was really up to after the fact. Sometimes leaders miscalculate how their actions or rhetoric will affect others’ behavior. That does not mean that rational calculation is absent their actions. Apply Realism’s clever aphorism to Iran’s behavior: “The Strong do what they can; the weak do what they must.” Deter the US; balance Israel; stir up nationalism in a society that suffers economically, or gains the most out of tense negotiations before essentially giving in. Are any of these possible? Or like this week’s question suggests, are other social and psychological factors at play? Well, Alexander George’s piece covers a lot of the psychology.

For example, Iran (and for that matter the other two members of the ‘Axis of Evil’), put a lot of value on “Calculated Procrastination. As George puts it: “leaders go so far as to conclude that the best strategy of leadership is to do as little as possible” (Kaufman, 684). Playing the UN, Russia, and France off of the US in Iraq and Iran or playing the UN and China off of the US in Korea is textbook ‘calculate procrastination.’ George also covers bolstering which might be exemplified by NK’s launching of missiles over Japan and the near-simultaneous attempt to negotiate for peaceful nuclear technology. In bolstering, the North Koreans “increase the attractiveness of a preferred option and do… the opposite for options which one is inclined to reject. Thus, the expected costs/risks are minimized. Similarly, the expected gains from rejected alternatives are downgraded; their expected costs/risks are magnified” (Kaufman, 685). If NK just asked for non-military technology, no one would give it to them; however, if they shoot a missile over Japan and then ask for non-military technology, then SK, Japan, and the US scramble to negotiate. Thus, the spoiled child is taught to scream.

Diplomacy and War: Vietnam, and Iraq

At what point does a nation have the right to go to war without the blessing of the international community? Russia did not ask anyone if it could go to war with Chechnya or Afghanistan. Yet, Russia was adamantly against the use of force in Iraq. Jordan, Syria, and Egypt never asked permission to invade Israel. Did the United Kingdom ask permission to retake the Falkland Islands, when Argentina declared they wanted them back? Do you think that China will go before the U.N. to annex Taiwan?

Interesting points, but I would question comparisons to other wars.

1) Chechnya is an internal/civil war

2) The invasion of Afghanistan was an unjust, aggressive war perpetuated by a declining power in order to artificially mask internal problems and project a greater sphere of influence forcibly. The current government of Russia, while it has not made a complete break from its past is a significantly different country…would you say it was inconsistent for France to resist Nazi aggression since France itself sought to aggressively conquer Europe under Napoleon? I wouldn’t.

3) When Egypt, Jordan, and Syria invaded Israel, there was no “Israel” sort-of-speak…Israel was a paper creation of non-Middle Eastern powers by imposing UN Resolution 181. Nearly every new country was created by a conflict with its neighbors and/or previous owners of the land (perhaps with the exception of the Czechoslovakian Velvet Revolution). Of course, they wouldn’t ask the UN, since it was the UN which had imposed Israel on the Middle East.

4) Again, the Falkland Island War, the UK was responding to an aggressive war by the Argentinians. A better point might have been to ask if Argentina asked to invade the islands, however, its worthy to note that many believe Argentina was baited into taking the Falkland Islands (http://www.psychohistory.com/reagan/rp91x100.htm)

5) As for any possible mainland Chinese invasion of Taiwan, no China would not ask the UN because (as in the case of Chechnya) the tension between mainland China and Taiwan is technically an internal matter. In fact, there is no country in the world that recognizes both “countries,” even the UN itself recognizes only one.

Most importantly though, the invasions of Chechnya and the Falkland Island were a response to attacks by the Chechnyans and Argentinians respectfully. Therefore it is nearly impossible to compare these conflicts to the Iraq War in which there was no prior attack by Iraq.

Also, we did not fight Vietnam alone. How about Australia, New Zealand and The Republic of Korea? Likewise, we are not going it alone in Iraq. How about Australia, England, Spain, Italy, Poland, Czech Republic, and Japan? Saying the United States is fighting alone is misleading. The United States is not going it alone; it is going it without the United Nations and there is a difference. Just throwing some food for thought out there. Nothing personal.

Technically you are correct and so I obviously agree with you. On the other hand, it is my understanding that when the comment “going it alone” is made, it is meant figuratively rather than literally. Waltz (p.302) points out that at any given point, there are only eight powers. Only one of the world powers backed the US invasion, while the others opposed it. One of the best differences between the two coalitions in 1990/91 versus 2003 is that in 1990 the US received active military support from regional (and Muslim) powers. No regional powers or countries gave any military support to the war in 2003. Turkey, a member of NATO, even refused the US access to Iraq through Turkey.

I also don’t believe the US use of force in Iraq is not deterrence because Art goes on to say that “If a threat has to be carried out, deterrence by definition has failed” (Kaufman, p.81). I believe Art would call the Iraq War compellence, not deterrence.

Finally, I agree with the basic problem you’ve identified…”At what point does a nation have the right to go to war without the blessing of the international community?” It seems to me that there three types of war: formation, aggression, and defense/response. The US has fought eleven major wars and I would divide them as follows: Formation (AmRev, 1812, Civil War), Aggression (MexAm, SpanAm, Vietnam, Iraq), and Defense/Response (WWI, WWII, Korea, Persian Gulf). Few people question wars fought (if it’s successful) or in defense/response. Nor do I believe a country needs international blessings. But to initiate an aggressive war without an international blessing is what seems questionable.

Fair or not, the comparisons between Vietnam and Iraq start early in that they were both begun with lies…The Tonkin Gulf Resolution and Colin Powell’s Presentation to the UN.

Dangers of "Mishistory"

The editorial page is my favorite section of the paper. One can read the editorial opinion of the newspaper on a wide range of issues. One can see the editorial cartoons that satirize and lampoon issues and people in creative ways. And you can read the letters-to-the-editor. Some people write in once in a lifetime; others write in more frequently. Many are political: lauding Bush or attacking Bush. Condemning or defending the American presence in Iraq…

There is nothing wrong with civil disagreement of opinion. It’s both interesting and entertaining to watch (and maybe be involved with) the back and forth in the paper. However, I am increasingly concerned with the ease in which people get “mishistory” into print.

In less than a one week period (November 8-13), there were three letters-to-the-editor that misrepresented the facts in order to disseminate the authors’ opinions. To have an opinion based upon fact is respectable. To twist history or omit history to achieve a subjective agenda is harmful. When “mishistory” is disseminated, it gives credence to the letters’ contents. After all, if it’s in the paper, then it must be true, right? The editorial staff of any paper receives so many letters, that many cannot be printed. This I know. Unfortunately, when “mishistory” is printed and is left unchallenged –then some may be swayed. When such letters involve xenophobia, people can be hurt.

For example, Patrick Clark (“French wages of sin,” 11/13/05) suggests that the rioters in France are “the same groups that we have been engaged within Iraq for the last several years.” Point of fact: the rioters are Algerian-French citizens who are complaining about unemployment and racism. Yes, many are Muslim, but no they are not Iraqi-Sunni nationalists fighting against a government that they believe to be imposed and nor are they radical fundamentalists who purport to support a religion whose very teachings they violate.

Luckily, after I began writing this piece, Naomi Herzfeld had a letter printed in the paper which corrected Clark’s ignorance:
French riots about poverty, not religion
01:00 AM EST on Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Did Patrick Clark consult anything except his prejudices when he claimed, in his Nov. 13 letter (“French wages of sin”), that the French rioters are fanatic Muslim terrorists, “the same groups” as those in Iraq? Does he also believe that every Irish Catholic who commits violence is a member of the IRA?

Read your newspaper, Mr. Clark. The rioters are native French citizens, angry at a government that keeps them living in slums, lacking educational and employment opportunities, treated like second-class citizens because of their immigrant descent.

I don’t condone their violence, but these men are no more religious terrorists than the African-Americans who rioted in Watts and Los Angeles under similar conditions.
The only thing the French rioters have in common with Islamic extremists is that they call God by the same name — as do a billion peaceful, hard-working people throughout the world.

Let’s go with the facts, not bigoted stereotypes.

Bad News for Outside Washington, Good news Inside Washington

Iraq, Oil Prices, Katrina. George Bush’s poll numbers are sinking as fast as oil prices are rising. We are witnessing devastation eerily similar to 9/11, the destruction zone of the Southeast tidal wave, and the parts of the world affected by war and famine. In all of this Chief Justice Renquist has died. Bush’s inability to accomplish any “mission” is good news for defenders of the Bill of Rights. Bush has lost so much political capital that the likelihood of his elevating Clarence Thomas, Antonin Scalia, or their like has diminished. These are tough times personally, humanly, economically, and internationally. Perhaps there is a chance though for a more balanced bench on the highest court inside Washington.

Bush’s Theocracy

Now that George W. Bush has agreed to let the Shi’ite majority have its way with the new Iraqi constitution, he can answer Cindy Sheehan’s question, “For what noble cause did you send my son to die in Iraq?” It was to set up an Islamic theocracy, just like the one in Iran.