Where do civilians get off leading us into war?

Where do civilians get off leading us into war?

The mongers among us

By Russ Wellen Online Journal Contributing Writer

March 5, 2005—While he extended his appreciation to the Iraqi people for voting in the recent election, the Grand Ayatollah received no recorded thanks from the Bush administration for whipping up the Sistani Tsunami.[1]

The likely installation of his Iran-leaning brother-in-law, Ibrahim al-Jaafari, as prime minister is sure to increase Iranian influence in Iraq (not to mention Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and Jordan). The prospect of Iraq hybridizing with Iran and producing a new strain (Iraqnids?) may work for some. But it only steels the Bush administration's resolve to shun France, Britain, and Germany's negotiations with Iran over nuclear arms.

In fact, as a government consultant close to the Pentagon told Seymour Hersh, "The civilians in the Pentagon want to go into Iran and destroy as much of the military infrastructure as possible."[2] This sentiment is seconded by a document issued by the Iran Policy Committee, "U.S. Policy Options for Iran," which, in urging military attack (not to mention regime change), appears to reflect the views of the Pentagon's civilian leadership and the vice president's office.[3]

Another civilian, Edward Luttwak of the Centre for Strategic and International Studies, warns that, "Unless European diplomacy obtains real guarantees from Iran, President Bush will soon have to decide to do to Iran what the Israelis did to Iraq. If he decides to attack, he will not announce it in advance: just a television broadcast the following morning announcing a job done."[4] No muss, no fuss—just like Iraq.

The notorious civilian military strategist Michael Ledeen, whose most recent hobbyhorse is the Center for Democracy in Iran, also holds forth: "The sparing of civilian lives cannot be the total war's first priority . . . The purpose of total war is to permanently force your will onto another people."[5]

Once again, as before the Iraq invasion, we're subjected to a display, as unsavory to the hilt as always, of civilian sabre rattling. Most prominent are the infamous chicken hawks—public figures who lobby for and plan attacks despite dodging service during the Vietnam War. In fact, Bush, Cheney, Rice, Wolfowitz, and Rove approach war as if they're still toy chest generals playing Risk in their pajamas.

Meanwhile, there has never been a shortage of commentators to goad them on. The usual cast of characters aside, listen to National Review's Rich Lowry on attacking Iraq: "If they [the Joint Chiefs of Staff] can't come up with a plausible plan for invading Iraq, they should think harder. If they can't contemplate the risks involved . . . they should get over it."[6] His impersonation of a sports fan exhorting his favorite football team to air out the offense comes off as puerile as the chicken hawks.

More troubling are those commentators—and the organs to which they're donors—who fancy themselves sober or moderate, yet still called for war in Iraq. From September 2002 to February 2003, The Washington Post not only editorialized 26 times in favor of the war, but ran twice as many op-ed columns for as against. These included "liberal" commentator Richard Cohen, who called Dennis Kucinich a "fool" because he dared to suggest oil was a driving force behind the proposed war.[7] The liberal hawk phenomenon also swooped down on The New York Times, where nested the likes of Paul Berman, Thomas Friedman, Michael Ignatieff, Bill Keller, George Packer, and Kenneth Pollack.[8]

Mike Leonard, the president of the National Society of Newspaper Columnists, was asked to comment. "Everyone has the right to whatever opinion they hold," he blandly responded. Though he added that it can be troubling when "people who were never in the military themselves are pushing us into war."[9]

Can we, in fact, identify the psychic process that enables an ostensibly analytical citizen to skate around any qualms he might have about his status as a war virgin and instead offer advice on the war-torn? (How to create them, that is.) Between the commentator and the policy maker, the former is more transparent. On the most elemental level, the commentator fears that if his views are at odds with his employer, he'll lose his job. Beyond that, as has been much documented, he fears losing access to official sources. Excluded from the official dialogue, he feels stripped of his credibility like an exile of his citizenship. In his eagerness to embrace realpolitik, though, he resembles the leading man, who, inadequate over play-acting his way through life, overcompensates with action roles and hard living.

However, it's rare for a commentator to be afforded the opportunity to serve as a policy maker. The twain meets, though, when both believe that they've been endowed with the intellect and knowledge to act like gods and decide which means are justified by what ends.

On a deeper level, the policy maker is authorized to plan and call for war by, ironically, the two forces you would think most likely to mitigate against it:

1. Predictably, upbringing. Elbowing aside Freud, George Lakoff has come swooping in from another discipline (linguistics) and staked his claim as to why bad politicians happen to good people. In one of his ubiquitous, but valuable, pre-election interviews, Lakoff said, "In foreign policy the Bush administration uses a strict father model, and it says that only force works." In other words, as most men intuitively know, a guy becomes a hard-ass when his father rides his ass. "Moreover," Lakoff continues, "it says that the strict father—in this case, Bush—is the moral authority."[10] And if a policy maker needs help in silencing any lingering pangs of conscience about calling for war, there's always that other moral authority . . .

2. The church. While a religious leader, such as Shaykh Abdul-Azeez Ibn Baz, may advise bin Laden "to leave alone this disastrous path, and to fear [and] repent to Allah,"[11] most Muslims lack either the will or the wherewithal to speak out. And while neither any objection to Shariah becoming the law of their land, the credo of an influential and deep-pocketed branch of Christianity foresees the day the Ten Commandments becomes the law of all lands.

While rank-and-file Christians gone 'gelical think they're enlisting in a campaign to overthrow secular/liberal humanism, their leadership seeks to assert dominion over other nations.[12] As R.J. Rushdoony, Reconstructionism's self-appointed scripturalist, saw it, "The word and men must be brought into captivity to Christ."[13]

To what extent, however, do policy makers embrace Reconstructionism?[14] It can't be gauged, but the Council for National Policy has been set up for the elite Neocons and Recons to meet and eat. The late Rushdoony himself, Falwell, Robertson, Ralph Reed, Tom De Lay, Trent Lott, Du Ponts and Coorses—you get the idea. Not to mention that before the 2000 election, George W. Bush treated the CNP to a confidential speech.[13]

When one of the elect is thus elected, there is no need for him to feel remorse if his quest to bring the Kingdom of God to earth results in lives lost through executions, assassinations, and invasions. A glimpse into this rationale was provided when, after a disclaimer that the president brushed off his warning about casualties in Iraq, Pat Robertson nevertheless maintained that, "the blessing of heaven is on Bush."[15]

Other clergymen saw fit to actually join civilian policy makers and commentators in the call to war. When Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Convention's Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, drafted a letter proclaiming Iraq a just war, Bill Bright, founder of Campus Crusade for Christ, and D. James Kennedy, the Coral Ridge Ministries-Evangelism Explosion magnate, made a beeline for the dotted line.[17]

Meanwhile, it's not as if a military career bestows automatic authority on a chief of staff or the CentCom commander to call for war. A citizen, however, whether compelled by God's will, his upbringing, or concerns about credibility or job security, is far less likely than a military man to comprehend the consequences of his actions. For implicit in the call to war is acknowledgment that you and yours may be struck down by the forces you've helped unleash.

Let's set aside for a moment suspicions that to the civilians in question, the rich are society's most vital cogs and it's only natural the poor die for them. Disregard, as well, that element of evangelism that courts blowback as a means to expedite the Apocalypse. The threat of retaliation is of little concern to strict-father nation, which doesn't let an enemy dictate the terms of the fight. To them the argument US policies create terrorism or that torture begets torture is speaking truth to cowards.

One can be forgiven, however, for succumbing to a vision of civilian warmongers facing the countdown to a forewarned nuclear-suitcase detonation. Their terror will be no different from that of an Iraqi child whose parents an American recruit, with the human decency deflowered out of him by the occupation experience, has just lit up.

What's lacking in moral authority types is the capacity to foresee incoming retribution. And if foresight is just imagination trained on the horizon, empathy is imagination focused on the intimate. In fact, imagining the indignities of daily existence to the impoverished on the other side of the world is the only known antidote to our fear of their otherness.[18]

Meanwhile, the wars civilians plot plow a swath through our respective citizenries, since twentieth-century warfare designated them fair game and penalties for poaching were reduced to a slap on the wrist. But it doesn't matter whether it's a state designating a belief system as the enemy or vice versa. No matter how many civilians are killed, our respective civilian leaders will likely survive bunkered away in their mutual halls of the mountain king, whether its Balochistan, Pakistan or "Alternate Joint Communications Center" Raven Rock in Pennsylvania.


[1] As it was called by Sharif Ali bin-Hussein of the UK-backed Constitutional Monarchist Movement. Kia, Mehdi, "Will Iran be next?" Weekly Worker, February 10, 2005.

[2] Hersh, Seymour, "The Coming Wars," The New Yorker, January 24, 2005.

[3] Lobe, Jim, "Iran War Drums Beat Harder," , February 11, 2005.

[4] Luttwak, Edward "The scariest prospect of all: Iran with the bomb," The Daily Telegraph, January 23, 2005

[5] "Neoconservative Guru Sets Sights on Iran,", May 9, 2003.

[6] Lowry, Rich, "Catastrophe: If Bush doesn't invade," National Review Online, May 28, 2002.

[7] Mokhiber, Russell and Weissman, Robert, "The Unbalanced Hawks at the Washington Post," color="#0000ff" , March 4, 2003.

[8] The subject of: Falk, Richard and Friel, Howard, The Record of the Paper: How the New York Times Misreports US Foreign Policy, Verso, 2004.

[9] Astor, Dave, "War Is Fare for Commentators," Editor & Publisher, January 30, 2003.

[10] Lakoff, George Buzzflash interview

[11] Shaykh Abdul-Azeez Ibn Baz is the former head of the Council of Scholars of Saudi Arabia. From Oliver, Haneef James, The 'Wahhabi' Myth: Dispelling Prevalent Fallacies and the Fictitious Link with bin Laden, published by the author, 2002.

[12] Yurica, Katherine, " The Despoiling of America: How George W. Bush became the head of the new American Dominionist Church/State ."

[13] Miller, Mark Crispin, Cruel and Unusual: Bush/Cheney's New World Order, Norton, 2004.

[14] Because of its conspiricist connotation, the author prefers to avoid the term "Dominionism."

[15] Cooperman, Alan, "Bush Predicted No Iraq Casualties, Robertson Says," The Washington Post, October 21, 2004.

[17] "Land Letter," Wikipedia.

[18] "Clearly, Bush/Cheney are not bothered by apocalyptic prospects, in part because they are unable to imagine them—or, concerning those catastrophes that have already taken place, unable even to perceive them." Cruel and Unusual, p. 50.

Visit Russ Wellen at Running Commentary . Write him at .

The views expressed herein are the writers' own and do not necessarily reflect those of Online Journal.
Copyright © 1998-2005 Online Journal™. All rights reserved..

Three arrested in Swiss raids on Islamist websites

Three arrested in Swiss raids on Islamist websites

05 March 2005 0304 hrs (SST)

GENEVA : Swiss police have arrested three people suspected of running Islamist sites on the Internet that carried images of hostages being killed, bomb-making instructions or ensured communications between extremist groups, authorities revealed Friday.

The arrests were made during searches carried out in Switzerland on February 22 after several months of investigations, the Federal Prosecutor's office said in a statement.

Police were obliged to use force during one of the raids in the western Swiss canton of Fribourg, it added.

Five people were detained during the raids but three extremists from Belgium and Tunisia are still under arrest on suspicion of "public incitement to crime or violence".

At least one of them was "actively" running several Arabic platforms with video of hostages being executed or people being mutilated, as well as detailed information on how to carry out kidnappings or attacks, according to the prosecutor.

"The forum of one of these Internet sites was often used by Islamist circles as a means of communication and propaganda," the statement added.

Swiss authorities said they had also formally requested that another site based abroad be shut down.

The probe followed the publication of letters claiming responsibility for a bomb attack in Pakistan last July on the chatroom of a Swiss-based website,

The same site later carried details on the kidnapping of French journalists Georges Malbrunot and Christian Chesnot in Iraq and was closed down by the Internet provider in September.

Police also seized computer equipment, software, video and sound recordings as well as a large quantity of documents written in Arabic. - AFP

Copyright © 2003 MCN International Pte Ltd.

Attack on Sregna was Intentional, says Italian Eyewitness

Rome, Mar 5 (Prensa Latina)
The more than 300 bullets shots by US soldiers on the vehicle taking Italian Journalist Giuliana Sgrena "to a safe" journey home, was a deliberate attempt to silence her, denounced her sentimental partner Piero Scolari.

In contrast with the Journalists" statements that her kidnappers were good to her despite her 30-day abduction, her friend Scolari said "Giuliana had information the US military did not want her to leave alive". He went to Irak to get her back to Italy 24 hours before her departure to this capital.

At the time of the February 4 abduction Giuliana was working on a report on the people that sought refuge ata mosque in Faluja past the Pentagon air raid against the Sunny bastion and Sgrena had questioned the invasion of the Middle East country by the US-British coalition.

Sgrena, 57, was taken straight to Celio Hospital to treat the wounds from the attack in Baghdad perpetrated 700 meters hort from the airport, meaning that the convoy had safely passed every checkpoint, added Scolari.

According to Il Manifesto Chief Editor, Gabriele Polo, a US patrol shot more than 300 hundred projectiles against Sregna´s convoy.

Agent Nicola Calipari, chief negotiator of Giuliana"s release, was killed on the sport from a shot to the head in her arms while shielding her with his body, but the US version said they tried to stop a speeding car with a warning shot since gestures and flashlight signs failed.

Italy"s Defense Ministry said it will bring home the body of Nicola Calipari while the news of the disproportionate shooting from the US troops traded Italy"s welcoming celebrations for pain and mourning.

On returning home, the journalist and her company were welcomed

by Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi and along with President Carlo Ciampi joined the national demands for explanations for the US soldiers" behavior.

Great expectation has generated reaction by the government of Berlusconi since his alliance with United States during the invasion of Iraq landed a 3,000-strong Italian force there despite adverse public opinion..

War veterans bemoan health care policies

War veterans bemoan health care policies

By Feoshia Henderson

The government is slacking on its responsibility to take care of the country's veterans, according to a group of Northern Kentucky vets intent on change.

Roger Braden, head of Northern Kentucky Democratic veterans, said vets' access to health care was one of the new group's primary issues.

"The veterans injured in combat zones should have treatment for as long as it takes. There shouldn't be co-pays for prescriptions," he said of a Bush proposal that would increase the co-payment for prescription drugs from $7 to $15 through the Veterans Administration.

That same plan would require some veterans to pay a new $250 VA enrollment fee.

Braden, a Vietnam vet, said those proposals led him and about a half-dozen other veterans to start the local organization. Its steering committee formed shortly after last year's presidential elections and meets once a month to hash out policy positions.

"Our intent is to affect change in the Vets Administration and to block anything detrimental to vets of any age in any war," said Braden, of Taylor Mill.

He said the group had about just over two dozen vets on its mailing list and is working to expand that number. After the group is more firmly established members hope to link up with other veterans advocacy groups across the country to make their voice stronger.

"It takes one small spark to light a huge fire," said John Eidemiller, a veteran of World War II and the Korean War.

Martin Mott, who served in the Vietnam War, said veteran's rights are in a fragile state.

"I don't want to see veterans' rights chipped away," the Covington resident said of his reason for joining the group.

Anecdotally, the men said they've seen veterans injured in war underserved upon their return home.

Mott said of a VA hospital patient in California, "He was injured a year ago by a land mine. He still doesn't have a prosthetic and that's crazy to me."

Ron Cropper of Covington, who fought in the Persian Gulf War, said that though defense spending has risen dramatically under the Bush administration, it's not benefiting troops.

"It's going to defense contractors like Halliburton. It's not going to the men and women being sent over there," Cropper said.

Braden said the group wants to be positive and pro-active, not merely reactive. Among the group's goals is to push for an increased death benefit for troops killed in Iraq and Afghanistan. That's something on which they agree with the president. The current benefit is $12,420. Bush has pushed for an increase to $100,000.

"When you lose the breadwinner of a family it can take a toll. That's one we're willing to fight for," Braden said.

The group also wants to start a pilot program to care for homeless vets. They hope it will become a national model.

The men, who are all Democrats and volunteered for Democratic campaigns last year, were quick to point out they were fighting for all veterans' rights.

"You see Republicans pushing for these co-pays. The Democrats in Congress are advocating for the soldiers and the sailors," Braden said, adding, "If we can afford to send robots to Mars then you should be able to afford the things that you need to do. It's a matter of priorities."

Anyone interested in the group should call Roger Braden at (859) 431-5144 or John Eidemiller at (859) 441-0740.


Threshold Fears and Unanswered Questions about 9/11

Threshold Fears and Unanswered Questions about 9/11

By Peter Phillips

For many Americans, there is a deep psychological desire for the 9/11 tragedy to be over. The shock of the day is well remembered and terrorist alerts from Homeland Security serve to maintain lasting tensions and fears. The 9/11 Commission report gave many a sense of partial healing and completion - especially given the corporate media's high praise of the report. There is a natural resistance to naysayers who continue to question the US government's version of what happened on September 11, 2001. This resistance is rooted in our tendency towards the inability to conceive of people we know as evil; instead evil ones must be others, very unlike ourselves.

We all remember, as young children, scary locations that created deep fears. We might imagine monsters in the closet, dangers in a nighttime backyard, and creepy people in some abandoned house down the street. As we get older we build up the courage to open the closet, or walk out into the backyard to smell the night air. As adults there are still dark closets in our socio-cultural consciousness that make it impossible to even consider the possibility of the truthfulness of certain ideas. These fearful ideas might be described as threshold concepts in that they may be on the borders of discoverability, yet we deny even the potentiality of implied veracity - something is so evil it is completely unimaginable.

A threshold concept facing Americans is the possibility that the 9/11 Commission Report was on many levels a cover-up for the failure of the US government to prevent the tragedy. Deeper past the threshold is the idea that the report failed to address sources of external assistance to the terrorists. Investigations into this area might have lead to a conclusion that elements of various governments - including our own - not only knew about the attacks in advance, but also may have helped facilitate their implementation. The idea that someone in the Government of the United States contributed support to such a horrific attack is inconceivable to many. It is a threshold concept that is so frightening that it brings up a state of mind akin to complete unbelievability.

Philosophy/Religion professor David Ray Griffin has recently published his findings on the omissions and distortions of the 9/11 Commission report. Griffin's book brings into question the completeness and authenticity of the 9/11 Commission's work. Griffin questions why extensive advanced warnings from several countries were not acted upon by the administration, how a major institutional investor knew to buy put-options on American and United Airlines before the attack, and why photos of the Pentagon immediately after the attack show damage inconsistent with a crash of a 757 airliner.

Additionally, Griffin notes questions remain on why the 9/11 Commission failed to address the reports that $100,000 was wired to Mohamed Atta from Saeed Sheikh, an agent for Pakistan's Inter-Service Intelligence (ISI), under the direction of the head of ISI General Mahmud Ahmed. General Ahmed resigned his position less than one month later. The Times of India reported that Indian intelligence had given US officials evidence of the money transfer ordered by Ahmad and he was dismissed after the "US authorities sought his removal."

Also, the 9/11 Commission report failed to address the reasons for the collapse of World Trade Center (WTC) building 7 more than six hours after the attack. WTC-7 was a 47-story steel frame building that had only small fires on a few floors. WTC buildings 5 & 6 had much larger fires and did not collapse. This has led a number of critics to speculate that WTC 7 was a planned demolition.

Overall concerns with the official version of 9/11 have been published and discussed by scholars and writers around the world including: Jim Mars, Nafeez Ahmed, Michael Ruppert, Cynthia McKinney, Barrie Zwicker, Webster Tarpley, Michel Chossudovsky and many others. The response to most has been to label these discussions as conspiracy theories unworthy of media coverage or further review. Pursuit of a critical analysis of these questions is undermined by the psychological barrier about 9/11 issues as threshold concepts - too awful to even consider.

We may be on the borders of discovery regarding the possibility of a great evil within our own government, and perhaps others outside as well. We must step past the threshold and have the courage to ask the questions, demand answers, and support research into all aspects of this American tragedy. Perhaps the closet isn't as dark and as fearful as we envision. If we don't courageously look and search into the deepest regions of our fears how can we assure our children and ourselves a safe and honest future?

Peter Phillips is a Professor of Sociology at Sonoma State University and Director of Project Censored a media research organization.

David Ray Griffin's book "The 9/11 Commission Report: Omissions and Distortions" is available from Olive Branch Press.

Peter Phillips Ph.D.
Sociology Department/Project Censored
Sonoma State University
1801 East Cotati Ave.
Rohnert Park, CA 94928




Eli Shupak
Eli Shupak says ignored his repeated complaints about poor care.
Photo By Kathryn Gaitens

ome came into my home with an attitude. Others showed up when they pleased. A few arrived not wanting to do any work but demanding their time sheets be signed anyway.

These were incidents I chose to bite my tongue over during the 13 months the Canadian Paraplegic Association (CPA) provided my daily physical care.

But it's hard to keep quiet after being mailed the results of a client survey by CPA telling me their "caregivers" received an overall satisfaction rating of 96 per cent from users. I can't imagine that level of satisfaction, given the rough treatment I received.

I started using CPA on an interim basis last February. On one occasion, I made what should have been a simple enough request to a caregiver – that he not be so rough when washing my face in the morning. He proceeded to rub my face especially hard, telling me that he was "the general" and the one in charge.

I'd spent many days wanting to speak up, dreading the time each day when my face was about to get scrubbed, but I just didn't feel comfortable.

When I brought this incident to the CPA's attention, a manager suggested he'd just been kidding around, but did grant my request that he not return.

This fellow, who admittedly liked to joke around, had stepped over the line, and it greatly disturbed me that my complaint wasn't taken all that seriously.

I continued to put up with another CPA staff member coming when it suited him. He'd arrive upwards of an hour earlier or later than the scheduled time, depending on when he had to be in church. He came when it was convenient for him, without so much as asking if it was OK or calling to let me know.

Another caregiver asked why I was dropping things on the ground, whether it was intentional so she'd have to pick them up.

When I asked this same individual to wash a couple of dishes, she complained about doing "other people's work" – even if that was the only thing I needed her to do in the hour she was booked to be with me.

CPA tells me attendants are supposed to do what they're asked to do in the time permitted. But I've had a mighty struggle getting the majority of them to do anything besides giving me my meals.

Asking one caregiver to dry my hair with a hair dryer turned into a major issue. I notified the CPA week after week without receiving any satisfaction, even after going to bed with wet hair one night and waking up sick the next morning. It got to the point where I just gave up.

Yes, the CPA spoke to him, but he came back the next week wanting to know why I was being a "nuisance."

On one of his subsequent visits, he told me I could stop calling to complain about his work habits because "these managers weren't the ones that hired (him) and they won't be the ones that fire (him)."

I recently informed Vera Harris, CPA attendant services manager, that I was not at all satisfied with how this whole situation had been handled.

Shockingly, she blamed me for not following up on the matter.

"As far as we're concerned, we did our part," she tells me. "We can only continue with an investigation or with any sort of discipline if we're told what's happening."

I was running out of breath.

Incredibly enough, Louie Mosca, director of data collection, sales and service for Walker Information, the marketing outfit that came up with those glowing survey results for CPA, tells me that of 50 CPA clients who responded to the survey, only "about four or five were outright not very happy with their service."

Mosca says the CPA also scored very high on solving client problems, and that compared to past surveys, the 96 per cent approval rating is not even the best he's seen.

But it's a lot easier to speak out against an agency when you're no longer associated with it and there's no chance of retribution. As someone who is totally reliant on others for my most basic needs, I'm not sure I'd be writing this if I still needed CPA's help to get out of bed each morning.

NOW | APR 8 - 14, 2004 | VOL. 23 NO. 32


The Million Dollar Interview

The Million Dollar Interview

Talking to Mary Johnson about Clint Eastwood,
Hunter Thompson and the "Right to Die"

“Does anyone need another million dollar movie?
Does anyone need another million dollar star?” -Lou Reed, "Straw Man"

Journalist (and crip) John Hockenberry recently wrote that the same critics heaping praise on Clint Eastwood and "Million Dollar Baby" have "failed millions of Americans with disabilities by accepting as utterly plausible the plot-twist that a quadriplegic would sputter into medical agony in a matter of months and embrace suicide as her only option in a nation where millions of people with spinal cord injuries lead full long lives." Thus, as the Oscars threatened to become a lovefest for Dirty Harry, I posed some questions to Mary Johnson, editor of The Ragged Edge.

"I started a little publication back in 1980 in Louisville called The Disability Rag because one of the big problems locally was you couldn't get crips in one place to do consciousness-raising," Johnson recalls. The Rag became The Ragged Edge because of a successful anthology by that name and is now totally digital and online only.

A self-described "garden-variety non-disabled person," Johnson got involved in disability issues in the 70s. "I got hooked," she says. "What I've learned and seen over the years reporting on this stuff has convinced me that disability rights issues are the quintessential rights issues for this nation. We all face disability issues sooner or later. Hiding our heads in the sand just leads us to the sad conclusion Hunter Thompson drew. Tragic to have that kind of fear."

Mary replied without hesitation to my questions...but did make one agreeable request: "Let us not bring up Christopher Reeve in this article, okay? I am really tired of him being brought up as the sine qua non of cripdom."

Mickey Z.: The response of some to the recent suicide of Hunter S. Thompson got me thinking: How is it that the 67-year-old Thompson (or anyone non-disabled who exercises their right to die) can be seen as having "so much to live for" but it's so readily accepted by critics and audiences alike that the character of Maggie (half HST's age) in the film, "Million Dollar Baby," had nothing to live for?

Mary Johnson: George Tobia Jr., the lawyer who has represented Thompson for the past 15 years, told the Boston Globe that Thompson's suicide was "definitely not spur of the moment.... He arranged to have things dealt with, and he wanted his family close by, but he didn't want anyone to know. He didn't want anyone to try to stop him....The best explanation, perhaps, is that in recent months Thompson had chronic pain from back surgery and an artificial hip. He also broke his leg on a recent trip to Hawaii and was limping, which made it difficult for him to travel. He didn't want to waste away. He did not want to exist as an invalid or as someone who needed constant care. It wouldn't suit his sense of self."

The Not Dead Yet folks say: when someone who's not disabled wants to die, or actually commits suicide, everyone thinks it's such a tragedy-but when a quad does it then it's "understandable" and the death is "a blessing" rather than "a tragedy." No one ever stops to think what this might be saying to the crips who don't decide to off themselves, do they? What it says is that non-disabled people, who control the standards in society, think unequivocally that life with a severe disability is a fate worse than death, i.e. death is preferable. And it also is at the root of all those "brave" and "courageous" monikers that routinely get applied to crips who don't kill themselves, who just keep plodding on.

MZ: What's really going on in all this?

MJ: Cripdom is the big bogeyman in our society today. We non-disabled folks are projecting our own fears about disability onto the people who actually have the severe disabilities. And we can't hear what they say because our heads are full of what we WOULD say/think/do if we were in that "condition." I believe the fear of living with severe disability is far worse than the actual doing of it-as countless quad friends I've had over the years have convinced me. But you sure can't convince the public. If a quad says, "my life is really OK" they're just discounted as being brave or courageous and what they say isn't believed. Talk about dissing someone! To me it's the ultimate form of dissing, and it goes on all the time in regard to disability issues in this country. Non-disabled people always set the terms of the debate. And we must not forget that many, many people who acquire disabilities like Maggie's are simply non-disabled people in paralyzed bodies-they feel the same way about it they did before they'd become paralyzed. It takes a while to sort things out. One of the best recent statements of this fact was written by Canadian Ed Smith for CBC News and it's online at:

MZ: When I criticized Eastwood's snuff film in a recent article, I was accused of not supporting the "right to die." Your thoughts?

MJ: People believe it's about autonomy. In my article, "The Scribes Who Mistook The Crips for The Right", I wrote: "The 'right to die' may sound egalitarian; it may sound as though it's about nothing more than choice. In application, though, it applies only to people who are living disabled lives. And the disability rights movement continually returns to this central truth. "Since virtually all people who request hastened death have old or new disabilities, we're essential to the debate," wrote the late Barry Corbet, longtime editor of New Mobility. Right to die, and death with dignity laws, Corbet wrote, "are about us."

Attorney Diane Coleman, founder of Not Dead Yet says: "Many of our allies in the civil rights and health care movements have found this hard to understand. Isn't this about individual autonomy and rights, they ask? No, we say, it's about disability discrimination, a profit-oriented health care system, and a legal system that does not guarantee the equal protection of the law."

Or, as a sticker for sale from Mouth Magazine says, "I support the right to die. You go first."

MZ: What about the concept of "assisted suicide"?

MJ: Actively helping someone end their life is illegal in every state. But laws permitting a doctor to provide lethal medication are being contemplated in California, Vermont, Hawaii and Arizona (such a law is in force only in Oregon.) Proponents insist safeguards exist. But those safeguards, says Harriet McBryde Johnson, whose articles have appeared in the New York Times Magazine, "are about defining a class whose desire to die may be presumed rational, because of illness or disability so 'bad' that no 'reasonable' person would want to endure it." Right to die laws, says Johnson, have "the power to validate and structure prejudice -- to tell suicidal newbies that yes, it really is as bad as it feels, and don't expect it ever to get better. They tell the larger society that disability and illness equal misery, so there's no need to bother about making our lives good. There's an easy way out."

MZ: Tell us more about Clint Eastwood's history, vis-à-vis disability rights?

MJ: The disability rights movement has never forgiven Clint Eastwood for his celeb blitz against the ADA in the spring of 2000. His campaign was heralded by a May 9 article on page 1 of The Wall Street Journal by reporter Jim Vandehei ("Clint Eastwood Saddles Up For Disability-Act Showdown"): "These 'sleazebag lawyers,' the veteran actor says, his voice constricting, messed with the wrong guy when they 'frivolously' sued him and hundreds of other small-business owners for failing to comply quickly enough with the Americans with Disabilities Act. Mr. striking back with a Washington lobbying campaign for new legislation to modify the law. 'I figure I won't back down because of all these people...who can't defend themselves.' "

Eastwood had been called in by Rep. Mark Foley who was pushing a bill called the ADA Notification Act, which would require crips who were suing access violators to give the violator 90 days' notice before suing them (no matter that the business had had since 1992 to correct the violations). The disability rights movement unilaterally opposed the bill, and ultimately succeeded in keeping it from moving out of committee that year-but the bill keeps re-surfacing in every session of Congress and I'm sure a version will be re-introduced again soon. California has just had a state version introduced.

In the week between the May 9 WSJ article and the May 18 hearing, Eastwood took part in a media blitz against the law. One sound bite got picked up a lot: "What happens is these lawyers, they come along and they end up driving off in a big Mercedes, and the disabled person ends up driving off in a wheelchair." It was designed to sound as though he wasn't against the disabled (nobody is ever openly against the disabled-note Clint's current remarks in the "Million Dollar Baby" flap) but the "money-grubbing lawyers." So the real story never did get out. The May 18 hearing had reporters there in droves to listen to Eastwood's statement. Their jam of microphones and cameras had forced many disability rights advocates to remain out in the hall-but as soon as he'd finished, they all left. Naturally, he got to speak first, being a celebrity whose time was valuable. His complaint to the committee was, naturally, about the attorneys: "In my opinion they are perverting the law by going around and filing these broadside, sand-bagging type suits where they hit you broadside from nowhere, with absolutely no warning. "I was hit by one in an old hotel I was trying to restore" -- he was referring to his Mission Ranch resort -- "just on an allegation that somebody was there, and a year earlier they had been denied access. They waited a whole year to file this suit. They claimed that some employee told them that we did not have handicapped bathrooms. Well, the truth is we did have handicapped bathrooms. But once they file a suit on you, they keep adding everything. Every time they come back they keep upping the ante, adding many more problems to be solved which they can collect fees on. And it is really not very fair."

MZ: What happened after Eastwood and the media left?

MJ: The real story began to emerge. Ragged Edge reported on it in 2000 and you can read some very good comments from disability activists about why a "Notification Act" was such a terrible idea at:

The real clincher was the testimony of Fred Shotz, an ADA consultant. Shotz testified: "I reviewed photos of Mr. Eastwood's Mission Ranch, andwas able to read the entire inspection report by the plaintiff's consultant in that lawsuit. All it said are the violations; not violations of an old building that people want removed, but the new steps that got built so that people in wheelchairs could not get up, because with the steps came no ramp; the restroom removed from the building to enlarge the public space, or the restrooms being placed over 200 feet away from that building. If you are not disabled, restrooms are just around the corner."

Eastwood was forced to admit that he was being sued under California's access law as well as the federal law, and it was the California law that allowed plaintiffs to sue for damages. None of this got reported either. There's a neat Quicktime tape on our website of these snatches of the hearing (it's about 10 minutes). It's linked from:

That fall, the trial Eastwood alluded to occurred in San Francisco. At its end, the jury noted that Eastwood's Mission Ranch had indeed broken the law. There was no ramp to the registration office. An "accessible" guest room wasn't. No signs pointed to the accessible public restroom. All were violations of the ADA and California law. However, Eastwood, standing before the cameras outside the courtroom, declared victory. The lack of access was a mere technicality: those "improvements" were already in the works. It is true that the jurors did not award the plaintiff the money that California's Unruh Civil Rights Act would have granted someone who had suffered as a result of access denial. It was the state law, not the ADA that allowed for damages anyway. So Eastwood crowed to reporters that he had "won." He made light of the fact that it was the lawsuit that had impelled him to finally provide the access. He also failed to say that in making his choice to fight the charges, rather than simply comply, he had paid out tens of thousand of dollars to his own attorneys (which, evidently, were not "unscrupulous" ones). "If you're right, you've got to hold your ground," Eastwood told the San Francisco Chronicle. "I also fought for the businessmen and businesswomen who own small businesses who are trying to get by and they get worked over by those people."

It is a sad but typical note that the federal courtroom in which the Eastwood trial took place was not accessible, either. People in wheelchairs had to be brought in through an exit door. Neither the witness stand nor the jury box was accessible. "Court officials had to remove a bench to allow room for observers in wheelchairs," said the Chronicle.

MZ: Why have progressives/radicals been so hesitant and/or resistant to aligning with the disability rights movement? It seems like a natural fit.

MJ: This is a theme I seem to return to over and over, for it is very painful for me-and for most of the disability activists I know-to realize that progressives are rarely any better on our issues than conservatives, and sometimes actually much worse. The concepts of individual rights and an egalitarian society, concepts that drive disability rights thinking, are borrowed from liberal ideology, and most of the activists in the movement today come from backgrounds in the civil rights, women's rights, anti-war movements of the 60s and 70s. Yet, get any group of disability activists together for more than a few minutes and you'll start hearing the familiar griping about how liberals don't "get" disability rights.

In my book, "Make Them Go Away," I keep coming back to this theme. I wrote that free-market conservatives were against disability rights, but that could have been expected; but that what was not expected was that almost no liberal groups spoke out in support of disability rights.

Most liberals and progressives believed that the problems racial minorities, women, and gays faced were the result of animus, the work of a discriminatory society. When it came to disabled people, though, liberals' views were similar to those of the anti's. They believed disabled people faced essentially private, medical problems rather than problems of discrimination. What a disabled person needed, they felt, was medical intervention-a cure. Lacking that, they should be given help, through private charity or government benefits programs. Almost everyone instinctively felt that "rights" was simply the wrong lens through which to view the disability situation.

This concept-that disability belongs to the realm of the private, not the political-was noted originally by disability scholar and historian Paul Longmore. I think he's right on the money. But equally important is the belief that "no one is against the handicapped"-that no animus is involved. Completely inaccurate, but people cling to this belief, even crips. It's probably the biggest obstacle to organizing. At least when you're gay, you know folks hate you. That's empowering, actually, within your own community. Crips have "no enemies" thus no reason to form community-this is the most pernicious thing going for the crip nation (which doesn't exist, and this is why).

MZ: What is the biggest myth you'd like to dispel about disability rights?

MJ: That the problems disabled people face are primarily caused by their disabilities, and that nobody is against the handicapped (I know, that's two). The truth is that the real problems a disabled person faces are caused by a society that refuses to see the condition of disabled people as being a result of bigotry, discrimination, and flawed social policies emanating from the belief that nothing can really be done for a disabled person if they can't be cured or made "better" physically. In fact the struggles that most disabled people face that make life unbearable have to do with not being able to hire decent attendants (no money; no program to pay decent wages) housing you can't even get out of, buses you still can't ride, employers who still don't want to hire you. If you don't read any other link I've provided, do read this one: [duckdaotsu readers watch for this article then next on blog] It's an article by a crip who writes for Toronto Now alternative paper, about the problems he's had with having someone come in and help him bathe and dress. These kinds of things, happening daily, over and over, to quads everywhere, are the real reasons people get discouraged sometimes and think of suicide-but as one should be able to tell from Shupak's article, the problem here isn't being disabled, per se, but the conditions under which society forces crips to live. A fine distinction, but a vital one. Why do we keep missing this?

These kinds of things are easily within society's power to change. Unlike The Cure, which is elusive (and people rarely take time to realize that the cure for spinal cord injury isn't going to help me if I have ALS; that the cure for ALS isn't going to help me if I have osteogenesis imperfecta), providing decent in-home services is very much within the power of society to do. If only the political will were there. But rather than take up this issue, liberals would rather worry about guaranteeing the Right To Die. Funny, eh? It would be if it weren't so tragic.

For more on Mary Johnson, please visit:

Mickey Z. is the author of four books, most recently: "The Seven Deadly Spins: Exposing the Lies Behind War Propaganda" (Common Courage Press). He can be found on the Web at

Interview with Fadi K. Agha

March 5 / 6, 2005

What's Happening in Lebanon

An Interview with Fadi K. Agha,
Foreign Policy Advisor to President Emil Lahoud


Mr. Fadi K. Agha is a foreign policy adviser to Lebanese President Emile Lahoud. I conducted the following interview with him via email following the assassination of former prime minister Rafik Hariri and the resignation of his successor, Omar Karami. The capitalizations/emphases are his, and this is completely unedited.

Q:Lebanon is a complex society, about 40% Christian, 40% Shiite Muslim, the rest Sunni Muslim, Druze, etc. For those unfamiliar with the country, could you say something about the historical relationships between these communities and their ties with the former colonial power, France, and with Israel, the Palestinians, Syria and so on?

A: Let me just say that, regardless of what a Lebanese would think of Lebanon as a Nation, whether it was "carved out," "gerrymandered" by the French mandating power, or "rightfully" bequeathed on the deserving Maronites, they came to agree on a Lebanon's "final status" as an Arab country well within its actual boundaries. It took2 major civil conflagrations (1958 and 1975) and many civil skirmishes for the Lebanese to finally come to terms at Taef in 1989. The relationship between the sects of Lebanon remains that between the "dominant," the "newly assertive" and the "intolerably assertive." This relationship will remain precarious as long as Lebanon remains a purely sectarian domain. Cohesion in Lebanon will remain oh so elusive, as long as the opportunistic, highly corrupt and self serving communities' leaders perpetrate this system of sectarian spoils. I would add that many of the leaders of the so called "Cedar Revolution" (a term coined in Washington) are those who took Lebanon to 17 years of civil strife.

Q:The point driven home relentlessly by the Bush administration, and echoed in the U.S. press, is that Syria must get out of Lebanon. Why are 14 or 15,000 Syrian troops in Lebanon, and what do Lebanese in various communities think about their presence?

A: The remaining Syrian troops in Lebanon (out of a 45,000 contingent) were part of a peace keeping force that entered Lebanon at the REQUEST OF THE LEBANESE GOVERNMENT, and ended the civil war in Lebanon. They have since 1990 been gradually diminished by a series of withdrawals. These withdrawals were determined and conducted by joint Lebanese and Syrian authorities, as they fit the needs of both countries. A vociferous minority has always opposed the presence of Syrian forces (making much less of a deal when ISRAEL OCCUPIED parts of Lebanon.) Today, this minority has seen its ranks swell by the joining of a few opportunists who were until YESTERDAY the beneficiaries of Syrian "largesse." They have seen the wagons are circling, and are hoping to live for another day. These are the same warlords, sectarian barons and opportunists who lead us once before to ruin. They have aligned themselves with the sincere "boy scouts," exploiting their grief and concerns. Since day one of his presidency, President Assad has committed himself to withdrawing the troops from Lebanon, and we have since seen a series of withdrawals. The remaining contingent's withdrawal was very much on the table, but it's timing is determined by the leaderships in Beirut and Damascus.

Q:Why do you suppose that France, at loggerheads with the U.S. over the Iraq invasion, cosponsored UN Security Council resolution 1559, implicitly demanding withdrawal of Syrian troops from Lebanon?

A: For France, it was obviously an opportunity to "manage" the crisis with the United States, while recapturing some of the lost luster of their Middle East presence. This comes against a background of lost dominions in Africa, and amid a growing American unilateralism. The US, on the other hand, gained a much needed support, a sort of fence mending, when only yesterday the UN declared the War in Iraq "illegal" and France spearheaded a world opposition to the US adventure in Iraq. However, if one wants to play Devil's advocate, we have to remind ourselves that France's "laundry list" includes only one item: Lebanon, while the US's is wide, complex and subject to "variance."

Q:To some of us, it looks like the U.S. is looking for excuses to produce "regime change" in Damascus, and the presence of Syrian troops in Lebanon is just one such excuse. What do you think?

A: I hate to agree here, but the inexplicable and ever increasing animosity towards Syria, is leading many to believe that the "decision to harm" has been taken in the US Administration. It is the US that has suspended ALL SECURITY cooperation as it pertains to the Iraqi theater, even against the advice of the top American brass, preferring to up the tempo on Hezballah (also) to do Israel's bidding. I recall that ONLY TWO YEARS ago, President Chirac of France (from the pulpit of the Lebanese Parliament) lauded the Syrian presence a very positive element, and said that Syrian troops should withdraw only when a comprehensive peace settlement is reached in the area. Basically, you are right, Syrian troops in Lebanon are a multi pronged excuse.

Q:There've been some large demonstrations in Lebanon, well-reported in the U.S. press, demanding a Syrian pullout and a new government. We know that U.S. NGOs and official bodies have been deeply involved in what are depicted as "democratic" upheavals in Georgia, Ukraine and elsewhere. Do you see any foreign hand in these demonstrations?

A: Images of American and French Presidents, Ambassadors and envoys running the full gamut of the so called opposition leaders in Beirut and elsewhere, are pretty reminiscent of the days of China's "privileges and concessions." Listen. Until today, Lebanon remain a country where the fate of the liberties and rights (so dear to the US) fares much BETTER than in any country in the Middle East, Israel included. Such "items" as open economy, women empowerment, freedom of the press ... are leaps and bounds ahead of other Arab countries where cosmetic reforms are sources of praise in Washington. This leads us to one conclusion: The daily harassment is beyond the presence of Syrian troops, beyond civil liberties ... It is the ulterior motives that disturb us.

Q:I believe that the initial Syrian deployment was requested by or welcomed by the Christian community. Is that right?

A: Absolutely. The Christians were on the verge of defeat. Guided by realpolitik and by a belief that any alteration in the fragile Lebanese fabric, would have dire consequences for Lebanon, Syria and the REGION AS A WHOLE, Syrian troops entered Lebanon to correct an aberration. What a few in Lebanon seem to ignore today is that, Syria is not a "waste management" service, and that Syria and its Lebanese allies are seeing and hearing sounds and images reminiscent of 1975.

Q:Why were the Syrians welcomed?

A: The Syrian initial intervention in 1976 was a blessed endeavor by all international and regional powers. It was an Arab and American recognition of Syria's strategic interests As SYRIA PERCEIVES THEM, and later, an acceptance of a Syrian exclusive role when it comes to the safeguard of a cohesive and peaceful Lebanon. The Syrians tried very hard (and to a certain extent, were successful) in stabilizing the war torn country, by preventing the (imminent) military defeat of the so called Christian forces. The preservation of an equilibrium remains a top priority for Syria in Lebanon. However, there are those "opportunists" few who believe that an American Tsunami is overtaking the Region with a strong "neo-conservative anti-Syrian" bias, and who are seeing in this an occasion to turn back the clock.

Q:Can you tell us more about the Israeli involvement in Lebanon, and the current state of relations with your southern neighbor?

A: Israel on the other hand, has always mounted murderous, unprovoked campaigns against Lebanon, culminating in a full scale invasion in 1982. You have to remember that Lebanon still "hosts" over 350,000 Palestinian refugees, adding further tear to the Lebanese social fabric. Our current relations with Israel, is that between an aggressor and aggressed. Israel STILL occupies Lebanese territories in the Shebaa Farms, still performs all types of incursions into Lebanese territory, while its secret services are still hard at work in their attempts to undermine our stability.

Q:What is the general sentiment in Lebanon towards the U.S. at this point?

A: Borrowing from a brilliant Lebanese Journalist, Joseph Samaha who writes in the Lebanese daily As Safir, he likened the attempt to transfer Lebanon from its Camp A (rejecting American hegemony) to Camp B (affiliation with Pax Americana, with ALL ITS ULTERIOR MOTIVES) to "a fast moving river." It would be rather easy to imagine what the folks in Camp A feel towards the US, its disastrous involvement in Iraq and its endemic bias towards Israel in its continued occupation of Arab lands. However, Camp B includes a large majority of sincere (and exploited) "boy scouts," who are unfortunately lexpolited by a horde of highway robbers. Unfortunately, it is mostly in these opportunistic sectarian warlords, that America finds its springboard towards a "new Middle East." The Lebanese in general have never felt enmity towards the United States. However, "weary and distrustful" cannot begin to describe their feelings towards the US's foreign policy. If this is how the US believes it will win "hearts and minds" in our Region, then it better num these minds because it will not find many takers. However, we are still hopeful (no harm here) that saner heads in the US Administration (and they DO EXIST) will prevail. One day.

Q:President Lahoud must be under considerable pressure, represented in the western press as a Syrian puppet at a time when Syria is labeled an "outpost of tyranny." Could you please explain how he himself sees his position?

A: President Lahoud has been a subject for political sniping since his election in 1998, and that for many reasons. Firstly, the President is a staunchly secular man in a country ruled by sectarian warlords. Secondly, the numerous tries to "coopt" the President (when he was Commander of the Armed Forces) have failed miserably. Thirdly, the President remains a most sincere Arab nationalist, at a time when the breed is under siege. Fourthly, the President has hedged his bets and gone out of his way to protect the "national resistance" against Israeli occupation. This culminated in an Israeli withdrawal in 2000'. It should be noted that this was the first time ever, that Israel withdrew from Arab territories "UNDER DURESS." Today, when the "whirling Dervishes" of hegemony have reached an unprecedented tempo, President Lahoud has become enemy number one. He remains a major obstacle to the hegemons designs, hardly a trait of puppets. However, I can say that the shadow puppets of the hegemons are precisely those figures who are calling for his resignation.

Q:The Lebanese Shiite organization Hizbollah is characterized by the U.S. government and corporate press as "terrorist," which is a way of associating it with al-Qaeda. How would you describe that organization, to Americans who don't know much about the Middle East?

A: The US's qualms with Hezbollah are purely a product of bias. This is a political party with the biggest constituency, part and parcel of the Lebanese polity. Characterizing it as "terrorist" is characterizing over 1.8 million Lebanese citizens as "supporters of terrorism." Hezbollah's achieved what ALL OTHER Lebanese parties never tried. It refrained from entering the fray of Lebanon's political stampede, and MOST IMPORTANTLY, it lead to the first Israeli withdrawal from occupied Arab lands UNDER DURESS. This, and the fact that Hezbollah has been emblematic of a "culture of resistance" in the Middle East, has never been forgiven.

Q: Some of us who've followed the neocons (top-ranking of whom is perhaps Paul Wolfowitz) think they have a plan to topple, one by one, the governments of Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Iran, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia---not necessarily in that order. Do you, and/or President Lahoud, share that assessment?

A: Incidentally, one of the leaders of the so called "opposition," namely Mr. Walid Jumblat, was not so long ago, if I recall, very vitriolic about Mr. Wolfowitz. With a strike of a magical wand, Mr. Jumblat (still persona non grata in the US) has become Washington's long shot horse. The gods of neo-conservatism move in mysterious ways. But seriously, one does not have to go far back in time to get a glimpse of Washington Hawkish thinking. "Clean Break: A New Strategy for Securing the Realm" dispels any notion that today's US Foreign Policy is NOT guided by those who seek to "solve" Israel's "problems." Basically, this would be achieved by "rolling back ... destabilizing" Israel's threatening neighbors. Closer to home, and after "doing Iraq," it spells the steps for Israel vis-a-vis Syria and Lebanon when it calls upon Israel to seize the "strategic initiative along its borders by engaging Syria Hizballah and Iran." With American presence on Syria's borders in Iraq, Israel hopes that US blood and money would do the trick. As I recall, a great American journalist and patriot told me that when the US boots entered Baghdad, Israel's foreign minister silvan Shalom called him to tell him this was "indeed a glorious day in Israel, because America was ALSO to the east of Israel."

Q:Most Americans don't recall very clearly the Reagan-era intervention of U.S. troops in Lebanon, that led to disaster. Your thoughts on that episode?

A: It took us decades to revive, reunite and solidify our Armed Forces in Lebanon. But one has to remember that in 1984, a nucleic Lebanese Army took the bait of a highly unpopular (American blessed) adventure, and in order to subdue the "Shiites" forces in South Beirut, the Army shelled the suburbs, becoming the SOLE casualty of this American mis-adventure as it splinted along sectarian lines. In a nutshell, we need to remember that the last time "anyone" tried to shove a solution down the throat of the Lebanese, without reaching a National consensus, it lead to disaster. We are seeing such attempts today with the adoption of UN Security Council Resolution 1559, and its most DANGEROUS stipulation, namely the disarming of our National Resistance. Needless to say, that the Lebanese are also NOT entirely united on the mechanisms and schedules of a Syrian military withdrawal, as MANY in the so called "opposition" have selectively read the Taef Accords, when in reality it calls for withdrawals to coincide with reforms and the ABOLITION of political sectarianism.

Q:Could you characterize the present relationship between Lebanon, Syria and Iran? Both Lebanon and Syria are secular societies, while Iran is an Islamic republic. What interests do you have in common?

A: With Syria, Lebanon shares a plethora of historical, social, cultural, familial and geographic commonalities. It is certainly a unique relationship. Most Lebanese, few even in the opposition understand these factoids well. However, there are also those emboldened few who found commonalities with the American siege of Syria to implement shortsighted agendas. They believe that once the Tsunami (American) waves have receded, they will go back dividing the sectarian spoils, concluding (perhaps too well) that the US's qualms with Syria have nothing to do with Democracy and Liberty.

Q:Why did Prime Minister Karami resign? Apparently he took even members of his own party by surprise.

A: PM Karami's resignation came rather swiftly, when he was geared to prevail in the vote of Confidence. The PM acted on an impulse, having been subjected to a relentless campaign of vilification since Day 1. In a nutshell, PM Karami became "sensitive" to the fact that PM Hariri's assassination happened during his watch. It was his way in trying to diffuse the volatile situation that arose after the assassination. What is striking here, is the speed of the US response to the PM's resignation. He believes that by qualifying the resignation (within less than an hour) as a "positive" event, shows, without a shred of a doubt that the US is "once again" taking sides in Lebanon.

Q:Israel is attributing the recent suicide bombing in Tel Aviv to Islamic Jihad, and asserting (rightly or wrongly) that since Damascus supports Islamic Jihad, Syria is responsible. If Israel again attacks Syria, as it did in October 2003, how would the Lebanese government and people react?

A: Tel Aviv, will not miss an opportunity to blame any calamity that befalls it on Syria and Hezballah. The sad part is that Israel produces "evidences" that are always "bought" in Washington. Listen, Israel remains the only world occupying force who gets away with murder. Constantly blaming Syria, Hezbollah ... is a sorry attempt by Tel Aviv to shift the blame for its unsuccessful policy of "security first." Basically, one need not be a wizard to determine that a despaired people, a humiliated people a people in CONSTANT MOURNING, will go to any length in extracting vengeance from those who dislocate , humiliate and murder his brethren.

Gary Leupp is Professor of History at Tufts University, and Adjunct Professor of Comparative Religion. He is the author of Servants, Shophands and Laborers in in the Cities of Tokugawa Japan; Male Colors: The Construction of Homosexuality in Tokugawa Japan; and Interracial Intimacy in Japan: Western Men and Japanese Women, 1543-1900. He is also a contributor to CounterPunch's merciless chronicle of the wars on Iraq, Afghanistan and Yugoslavia, Imperial Crusades.

He can be reached at:

Troops Wound Journo, Moving U.S. Closer to 'Pariah' Status

Troops Wound Journo, Moving U.S. Closer to 'Pariah' Status

by James Ridgeway
March 4th, 2005

WASHINGTON, D.C.—It is a bitter irony that while George Bush tours the Mideast trumpeting the American-French rapprochement and the administration's P.R. version of "democracy," U.S.-led forces shoot at and wound Giuliana Sgrena, the Italian journalist who had just been released by her captors after being held hostage for a month, killing the Italian intelligence officer who rescued her.

Sgrena, who is back home in an Italian hospital, got shot because the car in which she was driving paid no heed to flashing lights and warning shots as it approached a U.S. checkpoint, according to the U.S. military. As the car sped on, say American officials, the G.I.'s shot into the engine block to stop the automobile. Unexplained is how you kill one and wound two others—Sgrena and another Italian security agent—by shooting into an engine block. And there are strong suggestions Sgrena would have been killed had not the agent thrown his body on top of her and taken what appears to have been a direct shot. Bush has promised the Italians to make an investigation.

It will turn out to be an even more bitter irony if the shots came from the Fighting 69th, the National Guard unit from New York City (profiled in Friday's New York Times) whose duty it is to guard Baghdad airport road.

When is enough enough? Must Americans endure their country steadily sinking in world stature until we become even worse than a laughing stock. We're fast turning into a pariah. We send out prisoners to be tortured in countries whose human rights records we attack. We run military prisons unfit beyond any description. We send men and women to fight without decent equipment. Worst of all, we put them into combat under leaders who would be ridiculed out of office anywhere else. Rumsfeld, the bumbling goofball of a defense chief. Gonzales, the smiling attorney general who endorsed torture. Cheney, whose former employer Halliburton rips off the Iraqi people as we promote our occupation under the banner of phony democracy.

Who's kidding who here? It's long past time to get out of Iraq. The exit plan is simple: Pack up and leave.

But let Ms. Sgrena say it, in her recent tense and emotional plea for mercy while she was being held prisoner: "You must end the occupation, it's the only way we can get out of this situation. I'm counting on you."



Columbia Still Unbecoming

Columbia University President Lee Bollinger continues to compromise his beleaguered administration
by Nat Hentoff
March 4th, 2005

In December, with the approval of Columbia University president Lee Bollinger and Provost Alan Brinkley, Nicholas Dirks, vice president for Arts and Sciences, appointed a committee, composed of members from his faculty, to investigate charges by a number of students in the Middle East studies department that certain of its professors bullied and humiliated students who wanted to question in class those professors' insistently biased views of the state of Israel.

Commenting on the composition of this special committee, Judith Jacobson, an assistant professor of clinical epidemiology in Columbia's Mailman School of Public Health, told The New York Sun (which has led all the dailies in coverage of this by now international controversy):

"I don't understand Bollinger's handling of the situation. If I were naming a committee to investigate a problem in a particular department, then I would select people who didn't have a conflict of interest with respect to the subject matter or the people involved." She added that the student complaints that led to the formation of the committee are "just the tip of the iceberg."

Indeed they are. In March 2003, John Corigliano, a classical music composer of deserved repute, said, on receiving an award at Columbia, "There has been an enormous amount of publicity about the various departments of Middle Eastern studies [around the country] and about the fact that the anti-Israel policy in these is enormous. And one can say that about the department of Middle Eastern languages and cultures at Columbia."

Corigliano and others made that point before the film Columbia Unbecoming—with charges by students in the Middle East department—created the current intense focus on the department.

In addition to Professor Judith Jacobson, students who would appear before the committee also questioned its fairness. She calls the student critics of the Middle East department "the brave ones." In a letter to President Bollinger, they noted that "the committee is composed of faculty members who are either personally or professionally close to the professors accused of abuse . . .

"We would not want to speak to [either] a predominantly Zionist nor anti-Zionist committee. Both would shift the issue from what we care about—the rights of students [to academic freedom]."

Judith Jacobson is vice president and coordinator of the Columbia chapter of Scholars for Peace in the Middle East. What follows is its assessment of the Columbia administration's investigating committee. (These critiques comport with what I've learned from other sources.) The assessment begins:

"The new committee reports to Nicholas Dirks. . . . In 2002, when he chaired the Department of Anthropology, he and 19 colleagues in that department initiated a petition calling on Columbia to divest itself from companies conducting business [selling arms to Israel]."

On the committee: Lisa Anderson, dean of the School of International and Public Affairs. The committee's critics point out that she "was the dissertation advisor of Joseph Massad, the faculty member who has been most frequently mentioned as having . . . suppressed expression of pro-Israel views in class. . . . [Massad], her student and protégé . . . is currently being reviewed for tenure."

On the committee: Jean Howard, professor of English and vice provost for Diversity Initiatives, who signed the petition for divestment, as did another committee member, Farah Jasmine Griffin, professor of English and comparative literature and director of the Institute for Research in African-American Studies.

The two signers of the divestment petition have, of course, the right of conscience to use that method of criticizing Israel. What is significant, however, in their being selected for this special investigating committee is that while they were among 106 faculty members who put their names on that divestment petition, 360-plus faculty members opposed that petition in writing. How come President Bollinger appointed not a single one of those 360-plus to the committee? Or any others from Columbia's 3,224 full-time faculty?

Bollinger himself said of the divestment petition: "I want to state clearly that I will not lend any support to this proposal. The petition alleges human rights abuses and compares Israel to South Africa at the time of apartheid, an analogy I believe is both grotesque and offensive."

But two faculty members making that very analogy are on a committee to decide whether certain members of the Middle East studies department do not respect dissent by students in class who disagree with professors' views paralleling those in the divestment petition.

On the committee: Mark Mazower, professor of history and program director of the Center for International History. The Scholars for Peace in the Middle East notes that Professor Mazower "has also compared Israel's 'occupation' of the 'West Bank' to the Nazis' occupation of Eastern Europe."

On the committee: Ira Katznelson, professor of political science and history. He has presided over some of the committee sessions during which students claimed their academic freedom had been denied in some of the Middle East studies classes.

This is an e-mail that Professor Katznelson sent to a prospective student witness before this purportedly objective investigating committee: "I know you have discussed the possibility of meeting with the committee. . . . My colleagues and I wonder if you might be prepared to do so, as you can shed light on the circumstances and origins of [the film] Columbia Unbecoming." (Emphasis added.)

It does appear, as another student said to me, that part of "the thrust of their questioning is into the origins of the film [that brought public attention to this controversy] rather than the incidents in the film." (Emphasis added.)

As Scholars for Peace in the Middle East reasonably concludes: "If the purpose of the committee is to protect MEALAC (Middle East studies) faculty, it seems likely to achieve success. If its purpose is to conduct a serious investigation, it appears doomed to failure."

Columbia president Lee Bollinger is a notable First Amendment scholar. If a committee were charged with investigating some of his utterances—and its members were clearly weighted against those views of his—would he appear before such a committee without his own tape recorder?


Court drops its shield for online journalists

<>Court drops its shield for online journalists
<>Apple can demand documents from publishers

by OfficialWire NewsDesk

SAN JOSE, CA -- (OfficialWire) -- 03/05/05 -- James Kleinberg—a California state court judge in San Jose—has refused to protect journalists who have published articles about Apple Computers. In December 2004, Apple sued unknown individuals, identified in court documents as "Does," to determine who might have given them information about GarageBand—Apple's latest software used to record and mix music.

The tentative ruling, Friday, permits Apple Computers to force three online publishers to disclose where they got the confidential information.

The three publishers are Jason O'Grady, publisher of O'Grady's PowerPage; Monish Bhatia, publisher of Mac News Network and the editor of AppleInsider, identified online and in court documents as Kasper Jade.

Kurt Opsahl, a lawyer with the Electronic Frontier Foundation who represented the online publishers, argued that the defendants are journalists whose sources are protected by the California Constitution and the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. Both shield journalists from having to disclose sources.

"We're disappointed that the tentative ruling was a denial," said Opsahl.