Wednesday, April 24, 2002

Kissinger confesses, sort of
Henry Kissinger, today admitted... it was possible that "mistakes were made" by the US administrations he served in.

But the former secretary of state questioned whether a court was the right place to examine them, saying it would be impossible to recall every one of thousands of cases.
But whaaaaa? Apparently Kissinger believes he should be immune to prosecution because the sheer enormity of his crimes would overwhelm the judicial systems of the civilized world.
Lucid Robert Young Pelton

I caught this guy's t.v. show, Dangerous Places or something like that, on cable once and I didn't think much of him. But he offers some pretty cogent analysis of the current unpleasantness in this Salon interview.

Wednesday, April 17, 2002

Robert Fisk: Fear and Learning in America
Yes, Osama bin Laden told me he thought Americans didn't understand the Middle East. Maybe he was right then. But not any more.

Monday, April 15, 2002

Monday, April 08, 2002

Frankfurt School scholar and critical theorist Douglas Kellner gets his own blog

[via phil agre]

Wednesday, April 03, 2002

A Down Under Defense of American Exceptionalism

The U.S. is the most experienced nation:
The fact is, though, that the United states is an older country than Germany, Italy, and a dozen other European states, not to speak of Latin America, Africa, and most of Asia. It is the oldest extant democracy on earth, the oldest republic, and the oldest federal system-as well as the largest, most complex, most open and most tested (something that one might not readily have grasped from the facile attempt to ridicule and patronise America during the last disputed presidential election). Consider that during the time that this supposedly young country has existed, France, that epitome of European sophistication, has gone through five different republics, two emperors, two monarchies, and a puppet regime. How sophisticated can you get.
and the smartest nation:
Intellectually, too, the rest of the world is in no position to patronise the United States-though, of course, much of it does. The best American universities-Harvard, Stanford, MIT, Chicago, Princeton-are easily the best in the world. And there is a social club on Massachusetts Avenue in Washington-the Cosmos Club-whose members, over the years, have won many more Nobel prizes than has the whole of Asia (28 the last time I counted the names on its wall).
So stop questioning its actions:
Let me be clear: After the outrage of September 11, I do not believe that the United States could have reacted in any way other than as she did. But doing so will carry a cost. The long term significance of what happened some months ago may be that it forced American decisively along a course of action that—by emphasising her military dominance, by requiring her to use her vast power conspicuously, by making restraint and moderation virtually impossible, and by making unilateralism an increasing feature of American behavior—is bound to generate widespread and increased criticism and hostility towards her. That may turn out to be the real tragedy of September 11.
[via Arts/Letters Daily]
Imperialists: They're Out and They're Proud
"People are now coming out of the closet on the word 'empire,'" said the conservative columnist Charles Krauthammer. "The fact is no country has been as dominant culturally, economically, technologically and militarily in the history of the world since the Roman Empire."

Americans are used to being told - typically by resentful foreigners - that they are imperialists. But lately some of the nation's own eminent thinkers are embracing the idea. More astonishing, they are using the term with approval. From the isolationist right to the imperialist-bashing left, a growing number of experts are issuing stirring paeans to American empire.

The Weekly Standard kicked off the parade early last fall with "The Case for American Empire," by The Wall Street Journal's editorial features editor, Max Boot. Quoting the title of Patrick Buchanan's last book, "America: A Republic, not an Empire," Boot said, "This analysis is exactly backward: the Sept. 11 attack was a result of insufficient American involvement and ambition; the solution is to be more expansive in our goals and more assertive in their implementation."

Calling for the military occupation of Afghanistan and Iraq, Boot cited the stabilizing effect of 19th-century British rule in the region. "Afghanistan and other troubled lands today," he wrote, "cry out for the sort of enlightened foreign administration once provided by self-confident Englishmen in jodphurs and pith helmets."

Since then, the empire idea has caught on. In January, Charles Fairbanks, a foreign policy expert at Johns Hopkins University, told an audience at Michigan State University that America was "an empire in formation." Last month, a Yale University professor, Paul Kennedy - who 10 years ago was predicting America's ruin from imperial overreach - went further.

"Nothing has ever existed like this disparity of power," Kennedy wrote in the Financial Times of London. "The Pax Britannica was run on the cheap, Britain's army was much smaller than European armies and even the Royal Navy was equal only to the next two navies - right now all the other navies in the world combined could not dent American maritime supremacy. Napoleon's France and Philip II's Spain had powerful foes and were part of a multipolar system. Charlemagne's empire was merely western European in its stretch. The Roman Empire stretched further afield, but there was another great empire in Persia and a larger one in China. There is no comparison."

The most extended statement from the empire camp to date is "Warrior Politics: Why Leadership Demands a Pagan Ethos" (Random House, 2001), a recent book by the journalist Robert Kaplan.

Arguing that "times have changed less than we think," Kaplan suggests the nation's leaders turn to ancient Greek and Roman chroniclers - as well as Winston Churchill's 1899 account of the British conquest of the Sudan - for helpful hints about how to navigate today's world. He devotes a chapter to the Second Punic War ("Rome's victory in the Second Punic War, like America's in World War II, made it a universal power") and one to the cunning Emperor Tiberius. Granted, the emperor was something of a despot, writes Kaplan. Still, he "combined diplomacy with the threat of force to preserve a peace that was favorable to Rome."

If that sounds familiar, you've got the right idea. "Our future leaders could do worse than be praised for their tenacity, their penetrating intellects and their ability to bring prosperity to distant parts of the world under America's soft imperial influence," Kaplan writes. "The more successful our foreign policy, the more leverage America will have in the world. Thus, the more likely that future historians will look back on 21st-century United States as an empire as well as a republic, however different from that of Rome and every other empire throughout history."

Classicists may scoff at the idea that democratic America has much in common with the tyrannical Rome of Augustus or Nero. But the empire camp points out that however unlikely the comparison, America has often behaved like a conquering empire. As Kennedy put it, "From the time the first settlers arrived in Virginia from England and started moving westward, this was an imperial nation, a conquering nation."

America's imperial behavior continues today. "The United States has bases or base rights in 40 countries," he said. "In the assault on Al Qaeda and the Taliban, they moved warships from Britain, Japan, Germany, Southern Spain and Italy."

Today, the empire scholars acknowledge that America tends to operate not through brute force but through economic, cultural and political means. The idea seems to be that it is easier to turn other people into Americans than for Americans to make war on them.

"We are an attractive empire, the one everyone wants to join," Boot said.

And that, empire enthusiasts say, is the reason to root for a Pax Americana. In an anarchic world, with rogue states and terrorist cells, a globally dominant United States offers the best hope for peace and stability, they argue.

"There's a positive side to empire," Kaplan said. "It's in some ways the most benign form of order."
[via New World Disorder]

Tuesday, April 02, 2002

War on Terror trumps War on Drugs
Bush to allow Afghan opium to market
The Bush administration has decided not to destroy the opium crop in Afghanistan. President Bush, who previously linked the Afghan drug trade directly to terrorism, has now decided not to destroy the Afghan opium crop.(...)

Several sources inside Capitol Hill noted that the CIA opposes the destruction of the Afghan opium supply because to do so might destabilize the Pakistani government of Gen. Pervez Musharraf. According to these sources, Pakistani intelligence had threatened to overthrow President Musharraf if the crops were destroyed.(...)

The CIA decision not to stop the Afghan opium production has been greeted silently by U.S. allies. According to intelligence sources, both the U.K. and French governments have quietly given their approval of the American policy by not acting in accordance with the U.N. global ban on opium traffic.

Monday, April 01, 2002

Professor Francis Boyle v. Wedgie the Kangaroo

Yale law professor Ruth Wedgewood defended President George W. Bush's military tribunals to protesters who believed these courts violate human rights.

Wedgewood helped draft proposals to prosecute about 150 detained, suspected terrorists in military tribunals rather than jury trials. She explained in a Thursday afternoon lecture that tribunals provide more options for submitting evidence. It is easier to build a case, so the process is faster than the traditional trials, Wedgewood said. Detainees cannot appeal the decision.

University law professor Francis Boyle gathered students in Amnesty International and the American Civil Liberties Union to protest the lecture. A kangaroo-costumed person stood outside the Max L. Rowe Auditorium in the Law Building. They passed out flyers encouraging audience members to ask Wedgewood questions not addressed in the lecture.

"I felt we needed to make a statement," said Boyle. "These kangaroo courts are un-American."
Henry Kissinger: Fugitive
Kissinger wanted for questioning in Chile, cancels speaking engagement in Brasil out of fear of capture.
In perhaps the most prominent of the cases, an investigating judge here has formally asked Mr. Kissinger, a former national security adviser and secretary of state, and Nathaniel Davis, the American ambassador to Chile at the time, to respond to questions about the killing of an American citizen, Charles Horman, after the deadly military coup that brought General Pinochet to power on Sept. 11, 1973.(...)

In another action, human rights lawyers here have filed a criminal complaint against Mr. Kissinger and other American officials, accusing them of helping organize the covert regional program of political repression called Operation Condor. As part of that plan, right-wing military dictatorships in Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Paraguay and Uruguay coordinated efforts throughout the 1970's to kidnap and kill hundreds of their exiled political opponents.

Argentina has also begun an investigation into American support for and involvement in Operation Condor. A judge there, Rodolfo Cancioba Corral, has said he regards Mr. Kissinger as a potential "defendant or suspect." But lawyers say it is virtually impossible for a foreign court to compel former American officials to answer a summons.(...)

The uproar appears to have forced Mr. Kissinger to cancel a trip to Brazil. He was scheduled to make a speech and receive a government medal in São Paulo on March 13, but withdrew after leftist groups there said they would demonstrate against him and also called on judges and prosecutors to detain him for questioning about Operation Condor.