Backtalk, March 5, 2007

Murder, Inc.

Dear Justin,

I am an adjunct political philosophy professor at the University of Notre Dame. I gave a lecture on Abu Ghraib a few years back in which I basically expressed the ideas that you articulated in this column. So, thanks for putting it in print.

When I was in college back in the late 1980s and early 1990s, I had a history professor who warned us about the mess that would happen, beginning with the first Iraq war. He was a bit of a quixotic fellow who very few students or other professors took seriously. When I found last summer, I was pleasantly surprised to find some real journalism for the first time, perhaps since my college days.

Despite my meager resources, I made a contribution…. I do wish you the best of success.

~ Jeffrey J. Langan, Ph.D., Department of Philosophy, University of Notre Dame

Dear Mr. Raimondo:

As an antiwar Catholic conservative who deeply admirers and depends upon your Web site for the truth, I am very sorry that I have no means of contributing anything to its survival. I was once eastern director of the Intercollegiate Studies Institute (1978-1979) and then saw how contributions dropped after Ronald Reagan was elected president in 1980. Conservatives seemed to feel that “the problem” was over once their man was in office. Apparently antiwar Americans today believe that “the problem” is finished because of the election of a Democratic Congress and do not want to cough up what is needed to finish the job of defeating the warmongers. It was a mistake for conservatives to believe what they believed then. It is a mistake for shortsighted peace lovers to entertain illusions now. Please remember that there are many of us without financial means who are at least praying for your continued survival. Courage!

~ John Rao, D. Phil., Oxford; associate professor of history, St. John’s University

The Colonial Stag in Rutting Season

Ann Berg writes contemptuously that “the one stable democratic ally in the region, Turkey (with 98 percent Muslim population), awaits chastisement from Pelosi’s House in the form of a resolution declaring it guilty of genocide against the largely Christian Armenians in 1915.”

If Turkey is Ann Berg’s example of “democracy” and “stability” in the region, then one cannot help but seriously question her judgment and worldview, since Turkey is neither democratic nor stable. Incidentally, neoconservative luminaries such as Richard Perle, Douglas Feith, Frank Gaffney & co. wholeheartedly agree with Ann Berg on this issue: even a cursory check would reveal that whitewashing Turkey’s past and present atrocious human rights record has been one of the central tenets of neoconservative foreign policy.

Also, Ann Berg may find it useful to learn that when Raphael Lemkin coined the word genocide in 1944 he cited the 1915 annihilation of the Armenians as a seminal example of genocide. Again, Berg has some influential like-minded company as far as the denial of the Armenian genocide is concerned. Yes, years ago the very same Richard Perle and Douglas Feith, were peddling an identical denialist line on the Armenian genocide – and making lots of dough while perpetuating Turkish governments’ revisionism and doublespeak.

~ Robert Adontz

Ann Berg replies:

In the article’s one mention of Turkey, I was neither disputing nor confirming the language contained in Congress’s non-binding resolution (these date back to 1960, I believe) to recognize the Ottoman Empire’s genocide against 1.5 million Armenians. Rather, I was expressing my cynicism over Congress, led by House Speaker Pelosi, which is flexing its muscle to oppose Bush’s appointment of ambassador to Armenia and reverse the posture of the previous Speaker Dennis Hastert (who mysteriously flip-flopped on the resolution in 2000). In general, I oppose extra-country resolutions – should Turkey propose a resolution recognizing centuries of U.S. genocide against Native Americans?

I don’t believe my description of Turkey (a NATO member) as “democratic” is a wacky worldview. Turkey was officially declared a secular republic in 1923 – renouncing the Caliphate and giving women the vote a year later. Indeed, it was Turkey’s parliamentary decision not to allow the U.S. military to plan its invasion through its eastern territory that so irked Defense Secretary Rumsfeld that two years later he was blaming Turkey for the Iraqi insurgency. Because of its improving economic position, it has become more responsive to its citizenry than to IMF strong-arm tactics.

As for stability, I have lived and worked on and off and traveled extensively in Turkey for over 10 years. I also plan to teach there (without hesitation) this year on economics and derivatives markets at a university in Izmir, a booming town where capital markets are thriving. It has its share of issues – black markets, human rights abuses, corruption, etc., but is economically and politically better positioned than any of its neighbors to help restore some stability to the region if the U.S. wanted to forge a “peace coalition.”

Habeas Corpus

On Tuesday, Feb. 20, as reported in the press, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit court upheld a portion of the recently enacted congressional Military Commissions Act that stripped Guantanamo detainees of their right to habeas corpus. Writing for the majority, Judge A. Raymond Randolph stated that to overrule the legislation is to “defy the will of Congress.” Writing in dissent, Judge Judith Rogers wrote the Congress may only suspend habeas corpus “When in cases of rebellion or invasion the public safety may require it,” but since Congress did not invoke such powers, it had in fact “exceeded the powers of Congress.” Both sides agree that this case will be reargued before the U.S. Supreme Court.

Over and above the actual constitutional questions raised in this important case, the issue of government intentionality remains. What, it may be asked, is the government’s intention in denying detainees the right to petition for redress? In response, government lawyers argue that in times of war, the commander in chief has the constitutional right and obligation to prevent enemy combatants from returning to the battlefield, an obligation that has informed every American president since George Washington. Indeed, President Bush is doing nothing more than any other wartime president has done in the past. Accordingly, the suspension of habeas corpus for Guantanamo prisoners is consistent with the traditional powers of the commander in chief during war.

Were this in fact the case, there would be no public alarm, but unfortunately the government’s arguments miss one crucial difference: previous wars have been of a specific duration and were fought by “legal” uniformed enemy combatants who represented internationally recognized sovereign states. Guantanamo detainees, as is well known, have been designated “illegal” enemy combatants of no internationally recognized state. Rather, the detainees were rounded up on the battlefields of the war on terror, and herein is the problem: when captured, none of the detainees claimed to be affiliated with the armed forces of a sovereign state. They were not wearing any recognized uniforms and were not affiliated with any government, thus the designation “unlawful enemy combatant.” They were, in short, picked up in a U.S. military dragnet, and because of their proximity to the fighting, were assumed to have been targeting Americans. By designating these men illegal enemy combatants and putting them in Guantanamo, the government asserts that we have removed terrorist threats from the global community, and as a consequence, American are safer.

Yet without the right to petition, how exactly does the government know that these detainees are actually terrorists? What proof is there that these men specifically targeted Americans? That they were in proximity and were arrested is not in and of itself proof that they shot at U.S. soldiers or that they are members of al-Qaeda. Such knowledge can only be determined in a federal court of law where one can challenge and present evidence on both sides, thus upholding the time honored principle of innocent until proven guilty. Furthermore, by the government’s own admission, the War on Terror may last a generation or longer, and absent the basic right to challenge, imprisonment may be indefinite. How does this make us “safer”? The denial of habeas corpus will thus only fuel the War on Terror because such a denial reinforces the belief among those who would harm us that it is the U.S. which is evil, and as a result, the government’s publicly stated intention of reducing the terrorist threat to the U.S. is challenged.

But if this is true, what then is the actual intent of the Military Commissions Act? I submit that the actual intention is intimidation: if you are anywhere near the sight of suspected terrorists, you will be thrown into a black hole with no legal protections whatsoever, a sort of imperial “caveat emptor,” certainly no way to win the hearts and minds of those who would attack us.

~ Jay Hatheway, Ph.D., associate professor and chair, Department of History, Edgewood College, Madison, Wisc.

Americans Have Lost Their Country

Bravo for Paul Craig Roberts. He gets better and better. It is not just his open contempt for the crude “new Pearl Harbor” propaganda cartoon of 9/11 that recommends this latest essay. … What really distinguishes the political literature Roberts is single-handedly creating is its relentless focus on the contemporary American condition – not the endless distraction of random occurrences in our far-flung, ever changing war zones. Others ramble on about this and that distressing confrontation; Roberts tells us where our wars come from.

His refreshingly conservative analysis – almost apple-pie commonplace (Cochran, Mencken, Barnes, Beard) once upon a time before the Pax Americana – seems to have vanished entirely from the mainstream national policy debate today. In a post-constitutional welfare and warfare state that can no longer countenance its own founders’ sensible aversion to interventionism, Roberts is downright revolutionary to imply that the incubator of foreign conflicts is most likely to be domestic politics. It’s so much easier to blame imperial crimes on the foreign victims. …

~ Edward Roby

Paul Craig Roberts replies:

It is people like Edward Roby who justify my hope and determination that Americans will overcome the neoconservative evil that is a scourge upon the world

Congratulations! The above article is the best one written with the least amount of space. It covers just about everything. Let’s hope the people of America wake up before their country is in total ruins. The way it stands now they have to change their national anthem, because the land of the free ceased to exist with the implementation of the PATRIOT Act. The only thing left to do now is to bring the guilty to justice to set an example and show the world that there is still a shred of decency left in America.

~ Robert E.

Paul Craig Roberts replies:

Robert is right. It is deplorable that Americans continue to tolerate the Bush-Cheney regime.

Is there any chance this could be sent to each member of Congress and Senate? It should be required reading, and for those in Washington who can’t seem to read and understand, it should be read to them – word for word.

~ David Zimmerman, Glendive, Mont.

Paul Craig Roberts replies:

I agree with the reader’s sentiments. However, I am unsure that the cowards in Congress would act even if they understood.


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