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The Future of Freedom: Illiberal Democracy at Home and Abroad by Fareed Zakaria
Polyarchy by Robert Dahl
The Nazi Seizure of Power by William Sheridan Allen
Terror and Liberalism by Paul Berman
The Moon Is Down by John Steinbeck
Archbishop Desmond Tutu has written an interesting opinion piece in the International Herald Tribune about the similarities of apartheid in South Africa and the Israeli treatment of Palestinians in the occupied territories. He argues that just as the end of apartheid needed an overwhelming moral disapproval, so does the Israeli actions in Palestine. Not until Palestinians are seen as equal people worthy of their own voice due to international moral judgement, will any peace be possible. Tutu argues that an end of apartheid in South Africa was a major step in international pressure and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict can't be resolved until the same sort of moral pressure is applied on Israel.
During apartheid the South African government claimed to be providing everything necessary for blacks, but it made it such that nothing was actually available because of road blocks and strategic hassles. Israel does much of the same thing in the West Bank and Gaza. While Israel offered Arafat something like 99% of what he demanded for peace in terms of land, much of it was broken up by huge Israeli roads that effectively made all of that land stagnant for economic growth. Physical loss of land is replaced with economic suffication. Such treatment should not be tolerated by the international community.
This article gave me a laugh for its titles for various administration officials. John Ashcroft as "Minister of Fear" and Ari Fleischer as "Minister of Propoganda" are titles that, I think, should be used much more frequently. Mockery can often be the best outlet for the truth.
Here's an article that sorts out what the government's real problem is. William Safire attempts to focus on how hindsight can, and should, benefit us in the future. He writes: "Publicity about how great we are now is being used to overwhelm publicity about how dismal we were last year." This is the exact thing that is going on right now. Every time blame starts to shift towards the government, a miraculous new burst of threats and subsequent warnings go public to divert attention to panic mode. FBI lapses come public and the next day we get word that the Golden Gate Bridge, Empire State Building, and every other landmark in the country are "more than likely" to be attacked. Stop it! Stop insulting our intelligence. Granted, almost 50% of the nation was ignorant enough to elect a clueless president, but cmon. Give us some credit. We all see the pattern of blame and divert. We're not being fooled.
The other op-ed column from the New York Times today also argues this point. In it Bob Herbert stresses that more information from the Bush administration is needed and respect for our intelligence should be required. He eloquently states:
"The periodic terror-related announcements by top Bush administration officials often seem calculated not to educate or to illuminate, but rather to frighten the public and intimidate the political opposition. That is not acceptable in a free society. Despite the preferences of the administration, which likes to operate behind closed doors with the windows shut and the shades drawn, the public has a right to more information, not less."
What a great series of op-ed's from the New York Times. A mass-audience voice with a conscience. How refreshing in these times.
With all sorts of legal issues arising from who the enemy is in our "War on Terror," the Bush administration has dipped into a very dangerous area of constitutionality. It started with John Walker, the so-called American Taliban. With his American citizenship but apparent devotion to America's enemies, his case brought light on the shades of grey that an "enemy" can be. Soon after that, a detainee being held at Camp X-ray in Cuba claimed that he had been born in Mississippi. His case was just as bad but made the situation even more difficult to find definitive answers since he was almost exclusively raised outside of the U.S. In both those cases the Bush administration had found a way to take away their rights as citizens.
The recently announced arrest of Abdullah al Muhajir, or Jose Padilla the former Latin Disciples street gang member, for his part in a "dirty bomb" plot makes the refusal of constitutional rights to those in custody even more obvious. The administration chose to call this former Chicago resident an "enemy detainee" and has held him in military custody. While it's tough to doubt the need to keep such people off the streets, to treat them as foreign enemies is dangerously close to treating the Constitution as nothing more than a crinkly, old piece of paper and nothing more. The Bush administration is using the "War on Terror" for all it's money's worth.
Oppress, deny, and refuse. These are words that could apply to the Bush administration's treatment of the Constitution. It's too bad these words are not defend, uphold, and protect.
To read two very good assessments of the recent developments by the Bush administration against the rights of American citizens read this New York Times editorial, and an equally well put editorial from the Washington Post.
Here's a commentary by a guy I usually don't agree with. Chris Matthews offers a good look into why Bush has recently changed American foreign policy so drastically simply to justify an attack on Iraq. Having failed to prove any connection between Saddam Hussein and the events of September 11, and also having fallen short on evidence of an Iraqi connection to the Anthrax letter scares, Bush has done the last thing possible. He has taken everything that America has fought wars for in the past, namely self-interest, necessity and drastic self-defense, and has abandoned it in favor of a reason to attack anything and everything that moves that strikes America the wrong way.
Sure, the U.S. spends about 40% of the world's total military spending alone and could certainly muscle its way over any nation, but why would we want to? Why risk alienating everyone who supports us and giving up on everything we've fought so hard to prove that we stand for? "Pre-emptive action" against Iraq, or any other "enemy" nation, is not worth the costs of such a gamble with our reputation. The situation should dictate appropriate policy, not hawkish dreams determining future gamblings.