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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
Is anyone else uncomfortable with how fast we have cozied up with Libya? A few weeks ago Tony Blair visited Libya and met with Muammar Gaddafi. It was a picture I couldn't stand. There was Tony Blair, possibly the greatest statesman of today meeting with a man who had personally sponsored terrorism.
It's great that Libya has sworn off weapons of mass destruction and wants to reenter the world community, but that doesn't change the past. Much of Libya's leadership had a hand in killing 270 people on a Pan Am flight over Lockerbie, Scotland in 1988. That hasn't changed.
But to the Bush administration, it looks like all it takes is a public change of heart by a terrorist to make the past go away:
"WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Eager to tout improved relations with Libya for abandoning its weapons programs, the White House omitted the 1988 Lockerbie airliner bombing from the list of terrorist attacks cited on Thursday by national security adviser Condoleezza Rice angering victims' families.
"Dan Cohen of New Jersey, whose 20-year-old daughter, Theodora, died in the bombing, said Rice's omission -- in testimony before the commission investigating the Sept. 11 attacks -- made him feel "sick."
"This was the largest terrorist attack against American citizens prior to 9/11 and they're pretending it didn't happen," Cohen. "It's bad enough when you lose a child and then to have this whole thing swept away," he said.
Next we'll have Osama declaring he wants to be cool with the international community again and Bush will go have a photo-op with him in Islamabad. At least then those pesky Democrats will stop talking about al-Qaeda and we can focus on Iraq, right?
Bill Safire just does not get it. Thomas Friedman, on the other hand, does. Let's compare and contrast:
In his column yesterday, Safire wrote your basic Bush apology (in the Greek sense of the word). He wants to "stay the course" in order to "turn the tide" and "impress on the minds of millions" that there is no "free ride to freedom." Fine. Hyperbole is fun sometimes, but what about the facts? For example, I am more convince than ever that Safire has no real understanding of the Kurds.
"In the northern group, we can see success: rival Kurdish parties have come together to work within an Iraqi parliament when elections come. "Kirkuk is our Jerusalem," they say, and that oil-rich area — long the center of Iraqi Kurdistan, before Saddam's ethnic cleansing — should be their regional capital in unified Iraq."
That sounds great, doesn't it? All the unified Kurds living in their own region of unified Iraq. Aww.
But Safire clearly is overlooking the not so distant history of the Kurdish people of Iraq. For one these are not a unified people, and any alliance between the two rival Kurdish groups for the time being is destined to collapse with a shift of the wind. These are parties that were fighting each other and assassinating each other's leaders during the 1990's, while the West was busy protecting them with No Fly Zones.
In this aspect the Kurds are worse than ancient Greece in their ethnic unity. When given the peace from abroad, they fight within. The Kurds of Iraq are not what Safire makes them out to be. Yes they are far more politicized than the Kurds of Turkey or Syria or Iran, but they still lack any overarching collectivity.
But then Safire really hits his stride in the clueless department:
"We should take up the Turks on their offer of 10,000 troops to fight on our side against two-front terror. The Kurds, who have patched things up with Ankara and know which side of the two-front war they and we are on, would withdraw their ill-considered earlier objection."
No, we shouldn't take the Turks up on their offer. But more importantly, it shouldn't be our decision to make anyway. The Iraqis, and not just the Kurds, did not want their next door neighbors and former imperial masters as foot soldiers in their country once again. Safire clearly underestimates the potential for incredibly long grudge-holding. Few countries in the region want anything that looks like the Turkish military near or in their country. Too many bad memories.
The Kurds need not patch things up with Ankara. It is Ankara that has patched things up with the Kurds. It's about time. But regardless, the ideology of the Turkish government will forever prevent it from seeing the potential for good that a strong and prosperous Kurdish people could have. As a result, the Turks will forever insist that the Kurds of Iraq be prevented from gaining the autonomy that has allowed them to grow in the past decade. There are more issues here than Safire is willing to investigate. That's too bad, because it makes for a very poor article.
Now let's contrast Safire with Friedman's take on the war. Different topic, but much clearer comprehension of what will be needed for our objectives, and the dreams of a free Iraqi people, to be realized
"From the start, this has always been a Karl Rove war. Lots of photo-ops, lots of talk about "I am a war president," lots of premature banners about "Mission Accomplished," but totally underresourced, because the president never wanted to ask Americans to sacrifice. The Bush motto has been: "We're at war, let's party — let's cut taxes, forgo any gasoline tax, not mobilize too many reserves and, by the way, let's disband the Iraqi Army and unemploy 500,000 Iraqi males, because that's what Ahmad Chalabi and his pals want us to do."
"From the day the looting started in Baghdad, it has been obvious that we did not have enough troops to create a secure framework and to control Iraq's borders. As a result, local militias began to spring up everywhere. If you turn on your TV, you can see how well armed they became while Donald Rumsfeld was insisting we had enough troops there to control Iraq.
"I know the right thing to do now is to stay the course, defeat the bad guys, disarm the militias and try to build a political framework that will hold the now wavering Shiite majority on our side — because if we lose them, the game is over. But this will take time and sacrifice, and the only way to generate enough of that is by enlisting the U.N., NATO and all of our allies to make the development of a decent state in Iraq a global priority."
Exactly. What he said.
Safire has devolved and has left his readers with lofty phrases, but little substance or understanding. Friedman on the other hand backs up his vision for Iraq with a plan. Now if only the Bush administration had one...
Since the War on Drugs was such a smashing success, and we have clearly shown our dominance and determination in the War on Terror, what with the destruction of al-Qaeda's ability to commit acts of ter, uh, er... and our capture of Osam, er, oh nevermind.
Anyway, the Justice Department has decided that since it has nothing better to do with its computer experts during the War on Terror, it might as well start up a War on Pornography.
That's right. Judge people as you may, but now the government wants to make it illegal too. Seriously, what is with this Bush administration? Why don't we just scrap the Bill of Rights all together? Clearly religious fundamentalism isn't only a problem for the people of Afghanistan.
Said Fun Police Captain Ashcroft in a 2002 speech:
"[P]ornography "invades our homes persistently though the mail, phone, VCR, cable TV and the Internet," and has "strewn its victims from coast to coast."
How many people have ever been forced to watch something by their VCR? Honestly, this is ridiculous.
"Ashcroft, a religious man who does not drink alcohol or caffeine, smoke, gamble or dance, and has fought unrelenting criticism that he has trod roughshod on civil liberties in the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks, is taking on the porn industry at a time when many experts say Americans are wary about government intrusion into their lives.
"The Bush administration is eager to shore up its conservative base with this issue. Ashcroft held private meetings with conservative groups a year and a half ago to assure them that anti-porn efforts are a priority."
Ah, there it is. It's all about the conservative base.
Equal rights for all Americans regardless of sexual orientation? No way! That would upset The Base!
Watch and do what you want in a free society as long as it causes no harm to others? No way! People might try to have FUN. The Base can't stand that thought.
Ashcroft can live his puritanical life if he wants to. That's fine. But in the meantime we still have a Bill of Rights that promises us freedom. The Justice Department, of all people, should know that.
With Nader factored in things look a little different:
Bush - 45%
Kerry - 43%
Nader - 3%
Undecided - 9%
One thing in particular about this poll struck me as somewhat important to the dynamics of the race. Of those who say they support Kerry, 11% said they voted for Bush in 2000. Meanwhile of Bush supporters, only 4% were Gore voters in 2000. Interesting.
For the record, no Republican has ever won the presidency without winning Ohio. Ever.