Most of my adult life I've been on what is called, in our degraded political language, "the left." Now, I don't know what I am.
I always thought of myself as liberal, and I still do. But people I know have taken to whispering that I'm a conservative -- or worse. Sometimes I lie awake at night and count it off in my head, just to be sure:I believe in protecting the environment.I believe in an economy that rewards people who work hard and honestly, but with safety nets and protection for those who don't make it. I believe in jail terms for executives who jilt retirees out of their hard-earned savings and foul the waters.I own a home in an urban neighborhood of mixed ethnicity. Every time I see another farm or copse chewed up for a housing development, I grit my teeth.I've spent hours and dollars working to keep religious fundamentalists from taking over local school boards.I've advocated for minorities and sick Vietnam veterans.I believe in a generous foreign policy that shares America's good fortune with the world. In the '60s they told us India and China were going to starve. I'm glad they're doing well, even if it takes some jobs from us in the short-term.I believe in Enlightenment virtues and freedoms in opposition to fundamentalist strictures and darkness.I think police should be held to a high standard in exchange for the power we grant them.I reject the notion of school prayer as a panacaea for society's ills. I think abortion is tragic, but a necessary evil. I applaud the idea of gay marriage, and would gladly leave it to the states to decide whether it should be so. I also think states should decide whether marijuana should be leagal to buy, sell, own, and smoke. I think the government has no business censoring what we see on TV or do in our bedrooms. A liberal believes change can be good, especially when guided by a spirit of free inquiry and a firm sense of what is right and when it aims to increase human freedom and let people run their own lives. A liberal believes people are basically good, and they can, and want to, make their lives better. It's a faith enshrined in Bobby Kennedy's quote (nicked from G.B. Shaw) about "seeing things that never were" and saying, "why not?"
A liberal believes the values enshrined in the Bill of Rights are true human values, not merely cultural artifacts. The West has no gift from god, and our citizens are not better than those of other lands, but we've set up these principles as our collective guide and have committed ourselves to live by them, when right, and be corrected by them, when wrong.
I grew up thinking that, and I identified myself as a liberal.
What I saw as the opposition was ... well, everything opposite to this. It was many things: Hidebound religious orthodoxy, knee-jerk refusal to think and apply one's mind to political and social problems, insistence that any change only would make things worse. These attitudes often huddled under the label "conservative."
Like a lot of people raised in my generation, I was mistrustful of U.S. military power, and selfish nationalism. Like a lot of people, I recited the litany of "stupid American" stories and jokes. In those days, I regarded America as almost God-like in its invulnerability. Thus I naturally had a root-for-the-underdog identification with any people or group I felt as a victim of U.S. power. Like you'd slap a bad kid for kicking a dog. The slap won't hurt the child, but the kick could kill the dog.
Then I saw the reeking ruins in New York city. 3,000 dead -- people just like me, who probably told the same jokes and held the same views. Why dead? Because they were Americans. The edifice of the country shook, and it made me realize, this place is mortal, like any nation. Like the moment you realize that, someday, your parents are going to die, it changes you.
Killing the Americans didn't start on 9/11. It is at least as old as the Palestinian hijacking of the '80s, when the Americans were routinely singled out on international flights and beaten to death. It's a result of resentment of American power, you say? Very well, the Germans in the 1930s started killing the Jews not because they felt the Jews were weak, but because they were terrified of the supposed power the Jews had in the world.
I'm one of those who believes America is at war, and ought to behave like it, since Sept. 11. And after much studying and soul-searching, I came to the conclusion that the world probably, and Iraqis definitely, would be better off if the U.S. used its military might for once to remove a corrupt fascist who had been occasionally useful to us. He was our mess, largely, so it was our job to clean him out.
Like a typical liberal, I prefer peaceful solutions over violent ones. But when I look at America, for all its flaws, against its enemies, and all their purposes, I know which I prefer, which side I give my whole support. After much studying and soul-searching, I came to the conclusion that the world probably, and Iraqis definitely, would be better off if the U.S. used its military might for once to remove a corrupt fascist who had been occasionally useful to us. He was our mess, largely, so it was our job to clean him out.
It strikes me as a decision a principled man could possibly make. But it doesn't strike my liberal friends that way. I understand their vexation, but it seems they can see only venality or psychopathia in people like me. And having once stood on the other side from them, and seen them in that perspective, I can't imagine going back to their camp (not that they are inviting me back).
I spent much of the '80s and '90s in active, public disputation with "the right." When I thought of "them" I pictured zealous, pious, ignorant, self-assured demagogues of crusading ideologies, inflexible mean men clad in expensive suits and cheap ethics.
Yet, as a small-town newspaper editor, the people I dealt with on the "right," with three or four odious exceptions, were fine and decent. The head of the local anti-abortion group was a soft-spoken young widowed mother of two. A school-prayer advocate was a cheerfully avuncular man who always asked about my son and would as gladly sit in my office and chat about the things we agreed on -- such as the genius of George Washington -- as the ones we didn't. The ex-mayor, a hardcore law-and-order cop, used to regale me with stories of law enforcement in the old days. I welcomed visits and phone calls from them.
On the whole, my old adversaries never forgot that their opponents were human beings. And thus they never stopped being human themselves. I wish I could say the same of the humanists around me today.
Possibly, all this is no deep matter. The evolution of a radical young man to a conservative middle-aged one is among the oldest of stories. Yet I feel neither "conservative" nor evolved. I still believe I'm upholding the values of my liberal youth, albeit in a different form. And like the aftermath of a divorce, I can't help re-examining my history on the left to look for incipient signs of a break-up.
In my youth, during the Cold War, "left" and "right" generally stood for "communist" and "anti-communist." But this was a false dichotomy and I got an early education in that.
Twice, in the late 1970s, when I was a teen-ager, I lived in West Berlin and spent some time across the wall in East Germany. It was the most "conservative" place I have ever been. Nothing changed. Ever. No one experimented. It lacked color, even on a sunny day; no discos, no pool halls. The neon decadence of the Ku-damm in West Berlin might have been on another planet, not just across the wall. In the company of other students, I took a tour of historic sites in the East -- Potsdam, Frederick the Great's palaces. Our tour guide was an employee of the state. No doubt she was chosen particularly to lead this cluster of young Americans. Perhaps the bureaucrats thought they had picked someone to convince us of the virtues of the People's Republic.
A few of us, including our American teacher guide, spent a lot of time up at the front of the bus between stops, chatting with her. She was a matronly woman, to all appearances good-natured and honest. We probed her about life in the DDR. She said she would never want to live anywhere else. It suited her just fine. In upholding the virtues of her system, she said something I'll always remember: "when my children go out of the house, I don't have to worry about where they are."
At one of the palaces on this tour, we happened to pass a line of Hungarian students of about our own age (guided by their own government-supplied minder). They practically broke through the velvet ropes to get to us and pepper us with questions about life in America. They scrawled down addresses and pressed them on us. By the time our respective guides had herded us all on, we on the U.S. side got a clear impression of their restlessness and their hunger for a way of life we took for granted.
This was odd because, back in the U.S., all the anti-com-ya-nists I knew were grumps and blue-hairs who saw the Beatles and blue jeans as evidences of socialist corruption, and all the self-professed communists were layabout bohemians with "Che" buttons on their ratty army surplus jackets. It was easy to see which of them would have found life better in the Worker's Paradise of East Germany.
I didn't see at the time how much of the "liberal" view was simply an anti-American one. Many of the people advocating it didn't really care about Marxism-Leninism, except insofar as the idea of their advocating it pissed off their parents. Many of them also didn't really care about North Vietnamese or South Africans, except insofar as those people were shaking their fists at the company daddy runs.
Communism never attracted me, I'm glad to say. I skipped Marx and read Rousseau, Kropotkin, Godwin, Paine, Gandhi, Paul Goodman, that sort of thing. I decided I was an anarchist, or at least that description came closest to what I felt. I embraced the romanticism and somehow overlooked the silliness of it. You can do that when you're 18 and there's not a shooting war on.
In Europe, I also met Kurds. I met them in taverns and hostels in Nuremburg, because, for some reason, the small town of Fürth, near there, was a center for black market passports. They were refugees who had escaped ahead of Saddam's death squads after the U.S. had pulled its support from them. This was the moment Iraq shifted from Soviet satellite to U.S. client in containing the Ayatollah. These Kurds weren't bitter against Americans. They understood war and politics and betrayal. They wanted to come to the U.S., too, to bide their time and live the life.
When I read about Kurdistan today, I wonder if any of the young men I met in Nuremburg in 1979 survived and are now among the leaders of that reborn land. I was on their side instinctively in 1979; I'm on their side now. An indigenous non-Christian tribal people, victims of decades of official repression, fascist attempts to eradicate their culture and literally wipe them off the face of the earth. Brutally murdered with the complicity -- at least -- of the U.S. government. This ought to be a no-brainer for a true "liberal."
But instead the liberals I know have no interest at all in the Kurds, because the Kurds made the unforgivable mistake of liberating themselves with the help of American military power. That makes them the bad guys, because the only indigenous people a modern liberal approves are those that burn American flags.
Sunday, Christopher Hitchens (in NYT Book Review) pointed out that the true, best heir of the 1960s youth Revolution is Vaclav Havel. Unlike the Western hippies, his revolution -- wrapped in blue jeans and non-violence and rock music -- really did overthrow a repressive, dour authoritarian state. Yet the heirs of the '60s in the West have little use for him. They cling to Castro.
In bidding farewell to the left, I find myself in interesting company. Among them is author and columnist Ron Rosenbaum, who wrote in his farewell letter:
Goodbye to a culture of blindness that tolerates, as part of "peace marches," women wearing suicide-bomber belts as bikinis. (See the accompanying photo of the "peace" march in Madrid. "Peace" somehow doesn’t exclude blowing up Jewish children.)
Goodbye to the brilliant thinkers of the Left who believe it’s the very height of wit to make fun of George W. Bush’s intelligence—thereby establishing, of course, how very, very smart they are. Mr. Bush may not be the sharpest knife in the drawer (I think he’s more ill-informed and lazy than dumb). But they are guilty of a historical stupidity on a far greater scale, in their blind spot about Marxist genocides. It’s a failure of self-knowledge and intellectual responsibility that far outweighs Bush’s, because they’re supposed to be so very smart.
Goodbye to paralysis by moral equivalence: Remind me again, was it John Ashcroft or Fidel Castro who put H.I.V. sufferers in concentration camps?
Goodbye to the deluded and pathetic sophistry of postmodernists of the Left, who believe their unreadable, jargon-clotted theory-sophistry somehow helps liberate the wretched of the earth. If they really believe in serving the cause of liberation, why don’t they quit their evil-capitalist-subsidized jobs and go teach literacy in a Third World starved for the insights of Foucault?
Goodbye to people who have demonstrated that what terror means to them is the terror of ever having to admit they were wrong, the terror of allowing the hideous facts of history to impinge upon their insulated ideology.
Goodbye to all those who have evidently adopted as their own, a version of the simpering motto of the movie Love Story. Remember "Love means never having to say you’re sorry"?
Goodbye to all that.
We live in a time when the gap between what people think has happened and what has happened is enormous. The Iraqi antiquities museums and ancient archaeological sites were carefully preserved for decades, then damaged by the wanton American attack on Saddam in 2003 and viciously looted of everything after the invasion because the U.S. did not protect them. Except they weren't, apparently. But it will take a generation at least for reality to catch up to a politically convenient topos.
We’re far enough removed from 2003 that journalism is becoming history; the rough draft is becoming a first edition. So it’s natural that the old wars flare again, as people position themselves on the high ground of morality or prescience. The war supporters tend to want to back away from their predictions about WMD, and the war opponents try to say they knew all along that all the bad things that have happened were going to turn out exactly as they have.
And each side will be watching for "history creep," for the tendency to sidle away from its real pre-war position to one that fits the narrative better and reflects more credit.
I never believed there was solid evidence Saddam had nukes. But I didn't want to trust the 5 or 10 percent chance that he did, or would soon get them, after having stood at the barricades on Greenwich Street at Rector and stared at the latticework shell of one of the demolished twin towers.
The case for Iraqi nuclear WMD always was the most deadly possibility, and it always was the most dubious. But I have yet to meet an anti-war person who said positively, before the invasion, "Saddam has no nukes" — after all, only a prophet or a lunatic could have said that before we overthrew him and found out for sure.
It’s important to know what people thought when they made a decision. I find it interesting that some people who fully believed there was a good chance Saddam had chemical, biological, and even nuclear weapons, still chose to oppose his ouster. That’s like letting a live rattlesnake nest under your bed because it hasn't bitten anyone yet. I am sure they have reasons to explain that, but I’d rather have the real reasons in the record than the false claims that war opponents all knew there would be no WMD.
We all weighed the same risks in March 2003. Risks in action, risks in inaction. We all saw the same potentials. Potentials for good or bad results. We all had the same crappy choices. Do we trust Colin Powell or Hans Blix when it comes to deciding how safe we are from nuclear incineration or an anthrax attack? Do we risk killing innocent Iraqis in the process of trying to liberate them, or do we choose to do nothing, in the certainty that Saddam WILL continue killing innocent Iraqis by the thousands each year.
None of us knew at the time what weaponry Saddam had up his sleeve. Probably not even Saddam knew. We all chose — overthrow him or leave him alone — based not on our wisdom or our ignorance but on the gap between them, the fog of uncertainty.
Just so, when we each made the ethical choice to support the war or oppose the war or take some third position on it, none of us had a clue what was going to happen once it began.
In the political center, the war’s supporters (talking about the pre-war choices; many have modified their answers since) were essentially more liberal than the war’s opponent’s. It seems to me it’s possible to break down the topics regarding the decision to go to war into three large subsets:The Humanitarian JustificationBroad Strategy in the War on TerrorismSaddam as a Direct Threat to the U.S.There’s two aspects to each of the three big questions: How important is it to you, individually, in deciding whether to support the war, and how likely is the war to make that situation better or worse?
Of the three, it seems to me the first was the strongest case — that is, the one most likely to be improved by the overthrow of Saddam. And for me, personally, it happened to be the most important consideration. My decision to support was as much ethical as geo-political.
And, as an aside, it still holds up, even amid the chaos. Bad things are happening at Abu Ghraib? Yes, and much worse things happened there under the previous ownership and still would be happening if we had done nothing but no-fly zones and sanctions. To respond “but at least it wasn’t us doing them” is to raise an important point, but it doesn’t really fit into the "humanitarian justification" category. It suggests you care who gets tortured less than you care that your hands are clean.
The third category, however, the “direct threat,” was where the administration in the White House chose to pitch its case loudest and longest. They had their reason, I’m sure. The U.N. resolutions, the perception of popular opinion in America. And that was where the case always was weakest, and has grown weaker since the revelation of the true state of Iraq in March 2003.
But the second category is an interesting one. It’s often overlooked, by people who focus on the military aspect, and dismissed as a canard by the anti-war people. But I think it was sincere, and I hope future historians won’t ignore it.
After all, it was the enlightened world opinion that told America, after 9/11, to not just go out and kill terrorists, but to “address the root causes of Muslim rage,” and to “pay attention to the legitimate grievances brought up by Osama.”
And that is what Iraq was supposed to do, in part, and has done, in part. The fact that it’s George W. Bush, written off as a strutting, smirking, cowboy-chimp moron, who is actually doing this makes it difficult for people to see. But Osama listed U.S. troop bases in Saudi Arabia and the sanctions in Iraq as major grievances. Well, the U.S. troop bases are out of Saudi Arabia, and the Iraqi sanctions are gone.
No longer can the Arab street say America only supports convenient dictators in the Middle East and never gives the people a chance to govern.
And at least one country has had the chance, and maybe still has it, to rise up and give its people good cause to live and strive and work for something and enjoy the fruits of labor. Something to aspire to besides plowing an airliner into a skyscraper and collecting the virgins.
So let me ask:WHO HERE KNEW THERE WERE NO WMDS? AND CAN YOU PROVE IT FROM THE RECORD?
I went looking once upon a time. Here’s what I found on prominent blogs of anti-war voices. Emphasis, throughout, is added by me.
Josh Marshall on March 18, 2003, described the looming war in these terms:
At this point, obviously I hope this goes quickly and as cleanly as possible. Getting rid of Saddam will be a very good thing
as will getting rid of his WMD and ambitions to get more. I was long for something like this. I changed my position because in the course of moving in this direction we incurred an even greater risk to our security than Saddam himself was.
Meanwhile, U.S. intelligence has discovered fresh evidence that, prior to the war,
Saddam moved quantities of biological and chemical weapons to Syria. When Syria denies having such weapons, the administration starts massing troops on the Syrian border.
For the record,
I’ve never doubted that Saddam probably has some sort of chemical weapons.
How does the US know that Iraq has biological weapons?
Easy. Because we sent them the equipment and anthrax spores to build them. [Sept. 26, 2002]
by shelling them with chemical weapons
On Feb. 12, 2003, Markos, who is a military man, laid out his own set of possible Iraq war scenarios. WMD figured in them: “And if Saddam is going to use chemical weapons, this would be a good time — with US troop concentrations exposed in the open desert. … There’s no doubt that Kuwait is sufficient for staging purposes, but having a single supply line is problematic. Not only is it exposed to dehabilitating [sic] guerilla attacks, but Saddam could hamper the entire resupply operation by either detonating a nuke (if he has one) or contaminating wide swaths of the logistical lines with chemical and/or biological weapons.”
Here’s Daily Kos from September 2002:
Iraq has weapons of mass destruction? Join the line. About a dozen nations have such weapons these days. Only the US has deigned to use them, and that was when it was the sole nuclear power. The threat of annihilation through retaliation has checked any subsequent use of such weapons.
The failure of the British or US troops to turn up any stockpiles of chemical or biological weapons is striking. Perhaps it is the case that they are well hidden or that they are hidden in Baghdad or to the north.
It is dangerous to get out on a limb here and say they just don't exist. But the possibility that they just don't exist now has to be taken increasingly seriously.
Here's another form of the error that keeps coming up in discussions around me. Many of my peers in journalism take it as self-evident that certain Democratic politicians who opposed the Iraq War from the beginning did so because they were "right" about the reality of Iraq and the consequences of an invasion, and they were "not fooled" by the Bush Administration sales pitch for regime change then and there.
It looks like this, from a "progressive" blog:
In the end, 156 members of Congress from 36 states had enough information and personal insight and wisdom to make the correct decision for our national and the world community.
These discerning, courageous leaders are exactly what our country needs to lead us out of the present abyss in Iraq under the Bush Administration. We can trust their judgment!
The resolution passed the Senate Oct. 11, 2002, by a vote of 77-23. The 23 who voted against it -- and who now have taken on an aura of "discerning" "courageous" "rightness" to my anti-war friends -- were:
Daniel Akaka (D-HI)
Jeff Bingaman (D-NM)
Barbara Boxer (D-CA)
Robert Byrd (D-WV)
Kent Conrad (D-ND)
Jon Corzine (D-NJ)
Mark Dayton (D-MN)
Richard Durbin (D-IL)
Russ Feingold (D-WI)
Bob Graham (D-FL)
Daniel Inouye (D-HI)
Ted Kennedy (D-MA)
Patrick Leahy (D-VT)
Carl Levin (D-MI)
Barbara Mikulski (D-MD)
Patty Murray (D-WA)
Jack Reed (D-RI)
Paul Sarbanes (D-MD)
Debbie Stabenow (D-MI)
Paul Wellstone (D-MN)
Ron Wyden (D-OR)
Lincoln Chafee (R-RI)
Jim Jeffords (I-VT)
American leaders who were not fooled by Shrubbie McChimplerburton's propaganda on Saddam's non-existent WMD
Here's what I can find on the Senate's anti-war immortals and their opinion on Saddam and WMD as of October 2002. Most are from floor speeches or debates during the discussion of the resolution. In all cases, emphasis is added by me:
Akaka: "Saddam Hussein is not the only dictator who oppresses his people, attacks his neighbors, and
is developing weapons of mass destruction (WMD)."
Now, you can parse that and reply, "he does not say Saddam HAS the weapons; only that he is developing them." (Even that turns out to have been an exaggeration of Saddam's capabilities in 2002.) But I submit that is not a legalistic cleverness on Mr. Akaka's part, simply a casualness of rhetoric. As you will see, his fellow die-hard opponents of the 2002 Iraq measure had no qualms about making positive assertions at this point about Saddam's WMD. And Akaka continued to vote alongside them for resolutions that made positive assertions about them.
And if Senator Akaka or any of them had had an inkling that no WMD at all would be found, rather than hinting at it in Akaka's soft phrase they would have brayed it from the rafters, since they had already emptied every possible point of argument in the bin, including but not limited to Bob Byrd's Loeb Classics library, Herman Goering, and the D.C. Beltway sniper.
Later (Oct. 10), Akaka said:
Congressional testimony, reports by the intelligence community and outside analysts, state that Iraq’s WMD capability is much less now than it was before the Gulf War. A recent CIA public report states that Iraq’s chemical weapons capability "is probably more limited now than it was at the time of the Gulf war ..." Although it is probable that Iraq’s biological weapons program is more advanced than it was before the war, its delivery capability, according to the respected Londonbased International Institute for Strategic Studies, "appears limited."
I agree that we must neutralize Iraq’s WMD threat. The question is how to do that most effectively while minimizing the loss in American lives.
The argument that an inspection system cannot guarantee the elimination of Iraq’s WMD program is certainly true but misses the point. There are few absolutes in this world. Defense Secretary Rumsfeld insists that we need American troops on the ground, rummaging through every Iraqi nook and cranny for evidence of WMD. Even with our troops doing so, there would be no guarantee that every item would be uncovered or how long it would take. ....
But what aggressive inspections can do is destabilize the Iraqi WMD program, keep it bottled up, frustrate efforts at gaining new technologies and additional supplies, and force Iraqi technicians to hide and keep moving constantly. It will not be disarmament, but, if implemented effectively, it will be dismemberment of the Iraqi WMD program, splitting it in parts and preventing it from becoming whole.
The argument has its merits. But for my inquiry here, it hardly sounds like the words of someone skeptical over the prevailing intelligence about Saddam's WMDs. Rather than being right about them, Akaka was wrong like everyone else in the Senate and the Administration. Unlike the supporters of the resolution, who embarrassed themselves with absolutist "slam-dunk" rhetoric, his statements were more tempered. But they were aligned to the prevailing wisdom, and thus as wrong as it turned out to be.
Akaka also ponders what sort of Iraqi government might follow Saddam and asks some questions about it, such as: "Can we be assured that the new regime will be committed to getting rid of Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction, especially as Iraq’s traditional adversary, Iran, has an even more advanced program of weapons of mass destruction?"
The positions of the other nay-saying senators turn out to be essentially the same.
Boxer: said in a Senate floor speech Oct. 3, 2002: "I do not doubt that Iraq is up to no good. I know they are. That is why I voted for the Iraq Liberation Act.
We know that Iraq has biological and chemical weapons and that they used them against Iran and against its own Kurdish minority. We know that following the Persian Gulf war, Iraq promised to abide by the demands of the U.N. but failed to live up to its commitment. They have not allowed unfettered inspections. They have lied about chemical and biological weapons programs. And they continue to seek the capability to produce nuclear weapons."
Byrd: said in a Senate floor speech on Oct. 3, 2002: "The last U.N. weapons inspectors left Iraq in October of 1998.
We are confident that Saddam Hussein retains some stockpiles of chemical and biological weapons and that he has since embarked on a crash course to build up his chemical and biological warfare capability. Intelligence reports also indicate that he is seeking nuclear weapons but has not yet achieved nuclear capability."
And also, later in the same speech: "Iraq may be a weaker nation militarily than it was during the Persian Gulf war, but its leader is no less determined and its weapons are no less lethal. During the Persian Gulf war, the United States was able to convince Saddam Hussein that the use of weapons of mass destruction would result in his being toppled from power. This time around, the object of an invasion of Iraq is to topple Saddam Hussein, so he has no reason to exercise restraint."
He seems to have forgotten his own words by the time of this interview:
But shouldn't they have questioned more vigorously the administration's rationale for the war?
Well, I have no reason to doubt that they did question it. In our conferences, I don't remember any senator who did not question to some degree -- but [it was] not enough. As far as I was concerned, I didn't believe it, and said so at the time. But this administration misled senators and House members. I think the stories this administration told -- I remember the vice president, I believe it was on Aug. 26, 2002, when he spoke before the VFW national convention, said something like, "Simply stated there is no doubt that Hussein now has weapons of mass destruction." That's the vice president of the United States, and he's saying, "There is no doubt that Hussein now has weapons of mass destruction." And Rumsfeld said, "We know where they are. They're outside Baghdad, in the north, in the east, in the west." Now, that's what I'm sure John Kerry and all the other senators who voted that way [based] their decisions on.
And so did the senators who voted against giving the president the authorization to use the U.S. armed forces to deprive Saddam of such weapons. They had their reasons, some of them good, patriotic, Constitutional, American, Christian reasons. But I think they should not pretend a knack for seeing through Bush & Co. lies, or a godly judgment about what is hidden in foreign lands, is among them.]
Conrad: "Saddam Hussein is a menace to the whole region of the Middle East, and a vicious tyrant who harms and oppresses his own people. He has waged war against neighboring nations, and he has attacked the people of his own country.
He has acquired chemical and biological weapons. He is attempting to acquire nuclear weapons, and the means to deliver those weapons using ballistic missiles."
Again, it is possible to raise the Akaka objection, that he is not saying anything about Saddam in the present tense. But Conrad, too, never even hints toward a positive assertion that Saddam may now have no WMD, and that that assertion was a propaganda fiction published by the White House.
Dayton: Submitted an amendment (SA 4870) to the joint resolution S.J. Res. 45, to authorize the use of force against Iraq, reading in part: "Since Iraq both poses a continuing threat to the national security of the United States and international peace and security in the Persian Gulf region and remains in material and unacceptable breach of its international obligations by, among other things,
continuing to possess and develop a significant chemical and biological weapons capability, actively seeking a nuclear weapons capability, and supporting and harboring terrorist organizations." The amendment never came up for a vote.
Durbin: "There is no one in this Senate Chamber making apologies for
Saddam Hussein or his weapons of mass destruction."
Feingold: "And with regard to Iraq, I agree that Iraq presents a genuine threat,
especially in the form of weapons of mass destruction: chemical, biological and potentially nuclear weapons. I agree that Saddam Hussein is exceptionally dangerous and brutal, if not uniquely so, as the President argues. And I agree, I support the concept of regime change."
Feingold also said, in a floor speech Oct. 9, 2002:
"Before we vote on this resolution, we need a credible plan for securing WMD sites and not allowing materials of concern to slip away during some chaotic course of action. I know that is a tall order, but it is a necessary demand."
An appeal to the danger posed by Saddam's WMD as a reason to proceed cautiously before going to war against him: An argument used almost universally by the opponents of the Bush-approved authorization resolution.
Saddam Hussein’s regime has chemical and biological weapons and is trying to get nuclear capacity. But the briefings I have received suggest our efforts, for instance, to block him from obtaining necessary nuclear materials have been largely successful, as evidenced by the recent intercept of centrifuge tubes, and that he is years away from having nuclear capability."
Kennedy: "The question is not whether we will disarm Saddam Hussein of his weapons of mass destruction but how. And it is wrong for Congress to declare war against Iraq now before we have exhausted the alternatives."
And in a Senate floor speech on Oct. 4, 2002, he said: "We have known for many years that Saddam Hussein is seeking and developing weapons of mass destruction."
Leahy: "The question we face is not whether Saddam Hussein is a menace to his people, to his neighbors and to our national security interests. The Iraqi regime has already invaded Iran and Kuwait, gassed members of its own population, and repeatedly flouted international conventions against armed aggression. It is clear that Iraq has tried to develop a range of weapons of mass destruction, including nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons, with which Iraq might threaten the entire Gulf region."
Levin said in a Senate floor speech Oct. 4, 2002: "At the outset, it must be noted that, whatever differences there may be among us, the one thing on which we can all agree upon is that Saddam Hussein is a tyrant and a threat to the peace and stability of the Middle East. He has used weapons of mass destruction against his own people and against Iran; he has launched invasions of Iran and Kuwait; and for the last eleven years
he has defied the will of the entire world as expressed in United Nations Security Council resolutions by refusing to destroy his weapons of mass destruction and prohibited ballistic missiles."
Mikulski, in a Senate floor speech Oct. 8, 2002, in support of the Levin amendment, said:
But make no mistake, I firmly believe that Saddam Hussein is duplicitous, deceptive, and dangerous. I despise him. Saddam is a brutal, totalitarian dictator and history shows us how dangerous Iraq is under his rule. He invaded Kuwait and used chemical weapons against his own people.
I do believe he has developed chemical and biological weapons, and I also believe he is pursuing nuclear weapons, defying the will of the international community and also denying the agreement that he made at the end of the gulf war.
In voting against the authorization, she said:
"Iraq has grim and ghoulish weapons to carry out his evil plans. As part of the Gulf War cease-fire agreement, Saddam Hussein committed to destroying its chemical and biological and nuclear weapons programs and longerrange missiles. Instead,
Saddam Hussein is trying to add nuclear weapons to an arsenal that already includes chemical and biological weapons and ballistic missiles."
Stabenow said in a Senate floor speech Oct. 4, 2002: "The issue before the Senate is not whether the regime of Saddam Hussein is good or evil. We know, in fact, that he is a despicable dictator. He has gassed and poisoned thousands of his own people. He rules not by choice but by decree, backed by brutal force, and he blatantly defies United Nations resolutions by
his continual development of weapons of mass destruction. I strongly oppose his regime. He is a growing threat to the United States and our allies, and his policies have devastated the lives of his own Iraqi people."
And later in her speech she asked: "Given the widely supported belief that Saddam Hussein has biological and chemical weapons, how do we assure he will not use them against us when we attack him first?"
Wellstone: "I support ridding Iraq of weapons of mass destruction through unfettered U.N. inspections, which should begin as soon as possible. Only a broad coalition of nations, united to disarm Saddam, while preserving our war on terror, is likely to succeed. Our primary focus now must be on Iraq's verifiable disarmament of weapons of mass destruction. This will help maintain international support, and could even eventually result in Saddam's loss of power."
Jeffords: "Once again, we need a strong United Nations to step up to Saddam Hussein. The United Nations must take the lead in enforcing
its demands that Iraq give up its biological and chemical weapons stockpiles and production capabilities. The United Nations also demanded that Iraq dismantle its nuclear weapons program."
In the four years since the inspectors left, intelligence reports show that Saddam Hussein has worked to rebuild his chemical and biological weapons stock, his missile delivery capability, and his nuclear program. ... It is clear, however, that if left unchecked, Saddam Hussein will continue to increase his capacity to wage biological and chemical warfare, and will keep trying to develop nuclear weapons.
Iraq has continued to seek nuclear weapons and develop its arsenal in defiance of the collective will of the international community, as expressed through the United Nations Security Council."
Here's Joe Biden on the WMD question:
For two decades, Saddam Hussein has relentlessly pursued weapons of mass destruction. There is a broad agreement that he retains chemical and biological weapons, the means to manufacture those weapons and modified Scud missiles, and that he is actively seeking a nuclear capability. It remains less clear how effective his delivery vehicles are, whether they be the al-Hussein missiles, with a 650 kilometer range, short-range missiles, or untested and unmanned aerial vehicles for the dispersion of chemical and biological weapons.
Shifting weather conditions, the likely incineration of much of the chemical or biological agent in a warhead explosion, and the potential blowback on Iraqi forces, all complicate the Iraqi use of these weapons. But we are right to be concerned that, given time and a free hand, Saddam would improve this technology.
"This appears to suggest that an attack on Iraq could trigger the very thing that our president has said he is trying to prevent, the use of chemical or biological weapons by Saddam. In view of this report, the policy of a pre-emptive strike is troublesome. Haste in attacking Iraq would place untold numbers of people in harm's way."
Boxer, in her Senate floor speech cited above, included among the reasons to be cautious about authorizing war:
Will Iraq use chemical or biological weapons against our troops?
Will Iraq launch chemical or biological weapons against Israel? How will Israel respond? What impact will that have?
How will we secure Iraqi chemical and biological weapons once the fighting starts? How do we make sure such weapons do not get into the hands of terrorists or terrorist nations? How do we make sure that Iraqi weapons experts, from Iraq, do not migrate to terrorist organizations or terrorist states?
a week later
"Will weapons of mass destruction be launched against our troops? Against Israel? If you read the CIA declassified report—declassified report—they are telling us that the chance that he will use them is greater if he feels his back is up against the wall. Everybody knows the underlying resolution implies regime change. It implies regime change. What I think is important about the Levin resolution is that it goes to the heart, the core of the matter, which is dismantlement of the weapons of mass destruction. If Saddam knows his back is against the wall, he will use these."
Kennedy, too, raised this specter in his floor speech: "Such a war would also pose great risks to our armed forces. Some who advocate military action against Iraq assert that air strikes will do the job quickly and decisively, and that the operation will be complete in 72 hours. But there is no persuasive evidence that air strikes alone over the course of several days will incapacitate Saddam and destroy his weapons of mass destruction. Experts have informed us that we do not have sufficient intelligence about military targets in Iraq. Saddam may well hide his most lethal weapons in mosques, schools and hospitals. If our forces attempt to strike such targets, untold number of Iraqi civilians could be killed."
And later: "We cannot go it alone in attacking Iraq and expect Saddam to keep his weapons of mass destruction at bay against us or our ally Israel."
Others among the opponents of the authorization spoke in similar terms:
Wellstone: "Unlike the gulf war, many experts believe Saddam would resort to chemical and biological weapons against our troops in a desperate attempt to save his regime if he believes he and his regime are ultimately threatened."
Durbin: "As we know—it has been declassified this week—our intelligence community tells us the most likely scenario of weapons of mass destruction to be used against Americans is if we launch an invasion of Iraq. Saddam Hussein knows today if those weapons move or are used in any way against us and our allies, he will pay a terrible price."
Then there is the Levin amendment (SA 4862), a Democratic alternative to the joint resolution authorizing use of military force to disarm Saddam, requiring that first all diplomatic means be exhausted. It would have required President Bush to get approval from the U.N. Security Council or Congress before launching an attack.
Its language on WMD was unequivocal: Congress supports: "the President's call for the United Nations to address the threat to international peace and security posed by Saddam Hussein's continued refusal to meet Iraq's obligations under resolutions of the United Nations Security Council to accept the destruction, removal, or rendering harmless of its weapons of mass destruction, nuclear weapons-usable material, ballistic missiles with a range in excess of 150 kilometers, and related facilities, and to cease the development, production, or acquisition of such weapons, materials, and missiles;"
The text was “To authorize the use of the United States Armed Forces, pursuant to a new resolution of the United Nations Security Council, to destroy, remove, or render harmless Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction, nuclear weapons-usable material, long-range ballistic missiles, and related facilities, and for other purposes.”
The language here is blunt:
Iraq continues to develop weapons of mass destruction, in violation of its commitments under United Nations Security Council Resolution 687 (1991) and subsequent resolutions, and the regime of Saddam Hussein has used weapons of mass destruction against its own people and other nations.
I have not found significant speeches from Bingaman, Chafee, Corzine, Inouye, Murray, Reed, Sarbanes, or Wyden in the period leading up to the vote. If they thought differently from their peers quoted above, apparently they did not say so in public. They voted for the same measures as the others.
Since the war, these conclusions have emerged:
Iraq had preserved some technological nuclear capability from before the Gulf War, but had taken no significant steps after 1998 toward reconstituting its nuclear weapons program.
The Fallujah II plant, which intelligence officers believed was Iraq's principal site for making chemical weapons, turned out to be abandoned, under 10 years of dust.
Iraq tried hard to keep some capabilities for biological warfare. It maintained an undeclared network of laboratories and other facilities within the apparatus of its security services.
Saddam since 2000 had been trying to build proscribed ballistic missiles. Iraq negotiated with North Korea to buy technology for No Dong missiles, which have a range of 800 miles.
Iraq did retain prohibited WMD programs, but those programs were not the threat the Administration said they were. The nuclear threat, always the most chilling, was the furthest from reality. No doubt Saddam still cherished his dream of being a nuclear menace. But his program was a shambles.
Here are some other points to bear in mind:The war was one of the great liberation acts of the last half-century. It brought the long-overdue demise of a murderous fascist regime. Average Iraqis are less concerned than anyone else in the world about Iraqi WMD. They're simply glad to be rid of that bastard.
The U.S. belief that Saddam had reconstituted his nuclear program and was aggressively pursuing other types of WMD dates from the Clinton years. Intelligence services in other nations -- Israel, Russia, Britain, Germany, China and even France -- held similar views.
The evidence now indicates that the solidarity of international containment in the mid-1990s was what finally convinced Saddam to give up trying to hold on to a WMD program. Yet the performance of the United Nations Security Council, especially France and Germany, in 2002-2003 proved that that containment had broken down; Saddam eventually would have got his WMD.
Saddam's nuclear program, unlike what we feared and he led us to believe, was deader than a doornail. Not that he wasn't looking every day for ways to revive it. But the combination of inspections and the sanctions were keeping that out of his reach. The sanctions also were killing innocent Iraqis in batches, but that's another story. And Saddam was rapidly undermining them by exploiting the greed of French and Russian leaders, but that's another story, too.
And while nukes weren't the only WMD Bush and Blair talked about, and WMD wasn't the only topic in their brief in favor of overthrowing Saddam, it was the nukes that disturbed people most and produced money lines about "mushroom clouds" and "14-minute warning."
So people who are obsessed with what Bush said will be fixated on the fact that the administration oversold its case for Iraqi nukes. Never mind that it was never a terribly convincing case, once the administration's claims were held up to examination, which usually occurred within days of their being made.
I'm not obsessed with what Bush said, or what Ted Kennedy said. That's a domestic political fixation. I'm very interested, however, in what Saddam did. And I'm glad we don't have to be worrying about it any more except in an abstract past tense.
If you can’t show me where you said that, at least show me where someone you admire said it. It can’t be that hard to find if it’s true. If it's not, you're just rewriting history.Duncan Black (Atrios), on March 27, 2003, quoted this Josh Marshall passage from Washington Monthly predicting the situation six months after the war:Later (April 4, 2003) Atrios went on the record about Saddam’s weaponry: Same thing at Daily Kos. Skeptical of specific administration claims and evidences, but not of the existence of Iraqi WMD. And willing to invoke them, if they could be used to make the White House look bad. On Jan. 17, 2003, he quotes approvingly a “Christian Science Monitor” piece that claims “Iraqi forces defending the cities could try to halt invading troops ,” and predicts, “Americans will die — lots of them.”The "where are the WMD?" posters at anti-war rallies began to turn up after the invasion, not before. Here's Juan Cole on April 1, 2003:And so on and so on. I'm not blaming these people; I held about the same estimation of the likelihood that Saddam had WMD of some sort. So Juan Cole was as surprised as the rest of us by the lack of any sort of WMD stockpile? So was every intelligence agency in Europe.Most often, in 2008, this has been brought up to scold Hillary Clinton, who voted in favor of the Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Iraq Resolution of 2002, which opened the door for the overthrow of Saddam.So I went looking to see if they truly were among that perhaps mythical sect of . Of course anyone can claim that -- now. The trick is to prove you really knew it back then. With senators, their stated opinions are on the record.They voted "no" in spite of believing that. In fact, their language regarding Saddam's WMD is not all that different from that used by Democrats who voted for the authorization. Hillary Clinton's vote on that measure haunted her through the campaign of 2008. But was not much different than those who were held up as wiser heads on the issue:Or, for that matter, the position taken (and later repudiated) by : "Saddam Hussein’s regime represents a grave threat to America and our allies, including our vital ally, Israel. For more than two decades, Saddam Hussein has sought weapons of mass destruction through every available means. We know that he has chemical and biological weapons. He has already used them against his neighbors and his own people, and is trying to build more. We know that he is doing everything he can to build nuclear weapons, and we know that each day he gets closer to achieving that goal.In fact, the belief in Saddam's WMD was a key part of the argument for voting against the war: Rep. Donald M. Payne, D-N.J., "a leader of the effort to defeat the war resolution."And : All of which were good, legitimate questions at that time.The co-sponsors were: Reed, Bingaman, Boxer, Mikulski, Stabenow, Akaka, Jeffords, and Corzine. The amendment was postponed indefinitely, but voting "yea" on it were the sponsors, as well as the rest of the 23 naysayers to the authorization (along with Feinstein, Harkin, Kohl, and Rockefeller). In the wake of this war, some new form of international order must be built. And a Western alliance must be reborn. As a first-step in that re-building, the U.S. government should admit to the world that it probably was wrong about Iraq's WMD. It should change internal policies that led to the errors. When the next world crisis arises, the United States will have to confront, in addition, the doubts about its truthfulness which now are firmly set in foreign lands -- and among many in America -- both in the circles of power and on the street. One way to start to regain the world's trust is to demonstrate that we understand our mistakes and have changed our ways. Just as we did last year when we removed our former client from his throne in Baghdad.
Civil War: CornerstoneIt is a common assertion nowadays that the Confederacy had no purpose or justification but perpetuating racist slavery.
That argument can be made intelligently, and has been made, but the lazy debater wants to treat it as a settled proposition above discussion. Any objection to it, or any suggestion of Southern legitimacy, is automatically dismissable because it amounts to a defense of the Confederacy, and even if someone who is not an outright racist or slavery-apologist would defend the Confederacy, the debater on the other side has the option to not be bothered with that distinction. Far easier to dismiss the opposition as crypto-racist.
It's the old fallacy of arguing in a circle. Yet people choose this tactic, perhaps in part because they find it frustratingly difficult to pin down American history or any part of it to such a simplistic idea as "it was all about slavery."
Naturally, some people do want to regard all this as settled before they plow into their opponents. The easy expedient is to go in search of one zinger of a quote that will seem to prove the case. In Internet debates, those willing to be convinced will look no further, and those who disagree will be required to build up the cathedral of context, a tedious process. By the time they finish, the audience will have wandered off with the zinger lodged in their heads.
So they pick through the sources. Any quote will do, by anyone remotely prominent in the Confederacy, saying, more or less, "it was all about slavery." Jeff. Davis's inaugural speech? No, it makes nary a mention of slaves or slavery. Robert Toombs' report to the Georgia legislature in 1860? No, that outlines how anti-slavery agitation in the North was exploited by political powers there to disguise economic motives.
The "Cornerstone Speech" by Alexander Stephens is the usual bludgeon of choice. Stephens, a Georgian who had served in Congress, was the new vice president of the CSA in the spring of 1861, and in this speech he explained the new Confederate constitution and the prospects of the new nation, as he saw them, to an audience in Savannah. Here is how one commentator cherry-picks the usual cherries from it:
Stephens said that the American Revolution had been based on a premise that was “fundamentally wrong.” That premise was, as Stephens defined it, “the assumption of equality of the races.” Stephens insisted that, instead, “our new [Confederate] government is founded upon exactly the opposite idea. Its foundations are laid, its cornerstone rests upon the great truth that the Negro is not equal to the white man. Slavery — subordination to the superior race — is his natural and normal condition. This, our new government, is the first, in the history of the world, based upon this great and moral truth.”
Stephens's post-war writings downplayed the importance of slavery in the sectional conflict, and they formed much of the foundation of the first generation of defense of the Southern nation -- the so-called "Lost Cause" view of the war. That reasonably can be dismissed as a convenient revisionism.
The Savannah speech exists in transcripts. There is no original version of Stephens's speech, because he spoke extemporaneously. His words were jotted down and printed in the Savannah newspapers. Stephens sometimes complained of the inaccuracy of such reporting, and singled out Savannah reporters in at least one instance, "who very often make me say things which I never did" [speech to the Georgia Legislature, Nov. 14, 1860]. But I have not found that he said at any time after the Cornerstone Speech that they got any part of it fundamentally wrong.
Stephens was educating the people of his state and preparing them for a fight he had tried to keep them out of. In the state legislature in July 1860, he fought hard against Georgia's call for a secession convention, then at that convention Stephens spoke out against secession so vehemently that the North circulated copies of his speech as propaganda during the Civil War.
The "Cornerstone Speech," in its praise of slavery, is a personal justification of Stephens's career. His post-bellum history book that downplays slavery's role ("Constitutional View of the Late War Between the States") is another. They both are public, political rhetoric. Yet commentators tend to treat the one as an utter lie and the other as absolute truth. To see the offhand paragraph in the speech as some defining Genesis moment of the Confederacy, out of the mouth of the eternal spirit of the nation instead of one political man, is a gross exaggeration.
[In many of these essays, the date matters. Probably in none more than in this series. These were written in the winter of 2002-03. I had been instinctively opposed to an invasion of Iraq until then, going so far as to sign a petition to that effect and writing several columns critical of the rhetoric and logic of politicians urging war. But I began to be persuaded by the "humanitarian justification" and, to a lesser extent, the "drain the swamp" idea, and, least but not negligible, the "how much risk is too much" argument. This series of columns is a picture of that turning point. None of them is what I thought before, nor fully what I came to think soon afterward, about the whole Iraq adventure. I publish them as an archival record of a mind being changed.]
The FIRST CASUALTY
Tom Daschle, the U.S. Senate's top Democrat, probably cooks a perfect soft-boiled egg. He knows just how high to turn up the heat, and just when to cut it.
For a month, Daschle made formal objections to President Bush's drive to start a war with Iraq. Then, when it came to a vote, he dropped them, like a Good American, and gift-wrapped the President's bipartisan support.
If the invasion goes well, Daschle can say he rallied 'round the flag. If it goes poorly, he can say, we warned you. It's the kind of democracy you can expect from statesmen who look no higher than the next election. And Daschle's sound-byte, when -- surprise, surprise -- he decided to back the President, was the basis for the afternoon paper's banner headline in my town. "Because I believe it is important for America to speak with one voice at this critical moment -- I will vote to give the president the authority he needs," Daschle said.
"One voice." The mainstream media stories I read and saw were all about closing the ranks, getting on America's team. It was a textbook lesson in Chomsky's "manufactured consent."
Yet the news reporting was sandwiched around quotes, excerpts from speeches on the floor of Congress, that seemed at times to be the words of madmen.
There was Sen. John McCain, saying Saddam Hussein is a "threat to every nation that claims membership in the civilized world by virtue of its respect for law and fundamental human values."
OK, so Saddam's a bastard (albeit, until not too long ago, our bastard). So, America should prove its membership in the club of "law and fundamental human values" by starting a war with another nation, snubbing international legal organizations, and bombing the slaves of Iraq because we don't like their master.
There was GOP whip Rep. Tom De Lay, digging right into the rhetoric of Dec. 8, 1941: "The question we face today is not whether to go to war, for war was thrust upon us. Our only choice is between victory or defeat."
Yes, with Iraqi paratroopers dropping over Dallas, war has truly been thrust upon us. Nobody, in any of the "one voice" articles I read that quoted De Lay, pointed out that Iraq has not attacked America, has not declared war on America, has not even asked the international community to clear the path for it to rain bombs down on America.
America speaks with one voice? If this is the voice, it's not a very observant one.
Democratic Rep. Dick Gephardt, the minority leader, invoked Sept. 11. "If you're worried about terrorists getting weapons of mass destruction or their components from countries, the first candidate you worry about is Iraq."
No it isn't. Start with Pakistan, or some of the former Soviet republics. As a Missourian, Gephardt does a piss-poor job of showing me. He makes no attempt to genuinely connect Iraq and al-Qaida.
Republicans, of course, are even more emphatic than Gephardt in asserting a connection, and even less interested in proving it. Dick Armey, majority leader in the House, plowed on about Saddam's "ongoing working relationship with a myriad of evil terrorist organization."
De Lay called Saddam "the world's leading purveyor and practitioner of terror." By the time De Lay finished, he'd left not an inch of space between Saddam and the Sept. 11 killers. "We'll defend our country by defeating terrorists wherever they may flee around the world," he shouted over the rattle of his sabre.
And, in what he evidently thought was a ringing conclusion, De Lay urged his fellow legislators to "put faith in freedom and raise your voices and send this message to the world: The forces of freedom are on the march, and terrorists will find no safe harbor in this world."
According to those who have followed the situation, Bin Laden and Saddam don't break bread on any level, which is logical because Osama seeks a return to a medieval Islamic community of the faithful, and Iraq is a modern strong-arm secular state that ruthlessly represses every Islamist or fundamentalist movement that crops up in its borders, as it would any group that could threaten Saddam's monopoly on power.
Yet U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and his deputy, Paul Wolfowitz, endlessly hint at a link between al-Qaida and Saddam Hussein. What's frightening is to think that they may be diverting resources of the CIA and other intelligence agencies, in a bid to prove what isn't true, for a political purpose. The certainty that, somehow, Saddam must have been behind Sept. 11 is the domestic equivalent of the insane belief in many Muslim lands that, somehow, it was all the work of the Jews.
Who knew that Saddam was such a bad guy? Not Dick Gephardt. "In 1991," he said, "no one knew the extent to which Saddam Hussein would sacrifice the needs of his people in order to sustain his hold on power." But Baghdad's 1988 genocide of its own ethnic Kurdish population was no secret. Saddam's troops had orders to kill every adult Kurdish male in northern Iraq, and they may have succeeded to the tune of more than 100,000. Some 60 villages were attacked with chemical weapons, in incidents well documented by international human rights and physicians' groups.
So far from being concerned, in those days, about Iraq's chemical arsenal, the Reagan administration secretly supplied Iraqi generals with bomb-damage assessments and information on Iranian troop deployments. Soon after the Kurdish attack, Washington signed off on the export to Iraq of virus cultures and a $1 billion contract to design and build a petrochemical plant that would make mustard gas.
Gephardt's feigned surprise is almost as transparent as Armey's sudden pathos for the poor suffering Iraqis: "The atrocities are beyond belief, beyond tolerance. And those poor people in Iraq live with each day, afraid to leave their home, afraid to speak at their own dinner table, frightened for their children that might be tortured in order to punish the parent's careless moment." For a guy who's been in Congress since well before the Kurdish atrocities, Armey, too, seems to be a bit slow to get in touch with his anger.
Armey said he "struggled" with the "hurdle" of whether a pre-emptive strike would be "compliant with the character of our great nation." But evidently it was a hurdle he was determined to get over. And when he couldn't, he decided it didn't exist. "It all gets involved with this question of pre-emptive strike," he said. "First of all, it is not a pre-emptive strike." Because, like De Lay said, we're already at war!
Saddam, Armey explained, "has consistently been in violation of his own commitments to the world for 11 years." That means he's declared war, see. I just hope nobody's keeping track of America's "commitments to the world."
As for working within the United Nations and the wisdom of building multinational coalitions, that's just so much sissy talk, as far as Sen. Phil Gramm is concerned: "I reject that. And I reject it because when we're talking about American lives, when we're talking about the security of our nation and the lives of our people, I am not willing to delegate the responsibility of protecting them to the U.N."
Gephardt waffled that issue, pointing out correctly that, "Completely bypassing the U.N. would set a dangerous precedent that would undoubtedly be used by other countries in the future to our and the world's detriment." Yet he went on to support a resolution that pleads with the President to play by the rules, while giving him permission not to.
Gephardt perhaps summed up his position with unintended irony when he said, "Exhausting all efforts at the U.N. is essential."
Armey's speech also drifted toward the Christian Right's morbid fixation with Israel: "And nations such as Israel, not exclusively Israel but right now, in the world, today, at a level of danger that is unparalleled by any other nation of the world, Israel struggles for its freedom, its safety and its dignity and it is in imminent, immediate danger by a strike from Saddam Hussein. And that represents a responsibility we have not only to what role we have played in the world, not only to our heroes who have acted it out in sacrifice, but to the character of this nation that we cherish and protect."
By the time Armey got this far into the rambling, it wasn't clear whether "this nation that we cherish and protect" meant Israel or America. In fact, he makes no distinction. "I've said as clearly as I can, to me an attack on Israel is an attack on America." It's a scary hint of how often U.S. foreign policy is driven by kooky Christian "End Times" fixations. Conservative American Christians fiercely support Israel, in large part so that all the Jews can go back there and 144,000 of them get converted to Christianity while the rest are slaughtered by the anti-Christ. That will usher in the Second Coming. No wonder, as the AP recently reported, "Many Israelis have mixed feelings about the support of the Evangelicals."
Even the opponents of the resolution often talked like idiots. Rep. Nancy Pelosi, California Democrat, urged a "no" vote because, if we start a war, our soldiers might get hurt (imagine that). And to make matters worse, our pension funds might take a hit. "The markets do not like war," she said. "They do not like the uncertainty of war."
But leave it to my own Rep. Joe Pitts to point out the next target in the war on terror: those '60s peaceniks. He's even got the ghost of John Lennon at his side. "Years ago, when I was a world away fighting to contain the scourge of Communism in Southeast Asia, a movement grew up here at home to protest what we were doing," he said before the vote. "Late in the war, one of the anthems of that movement was a song by John Lennon called 'Give Peace a Chance.' Now, we’re not here to debate the Vietnam War. But we are discussing war and peace. Peace is a precious thing, and we should defend it and even fight for it. And we have given peace a chance, for 11 long years."
He didn't study those '60s anti-war protesters closely enough, I guess. If he had, he would have seen the signs that said, "Fighting for peace is like f---ing for virginity."
So America is ready to rush off, with "one voice," to a new war, when it still has a ton of unfinished business in Afghanistan. A year ago, we were led off to war against Islamist terror groups, and they're still are not beaten -- whether al-Qaida or those who shake hands with them. They're likely behind the revolting carnage in Bali, the bombing of a French oil tanker off the coast of Yemen, the attacks on Christians and Westerners in Pakistan, plots to attack U.S. or British warships in the Straits of Gibraltar, and the elaborate plan to hit western targets throughout Singapore.
The Congressional debate was a sham. The final scene of it was a contest to see who could call Saddam a "terrorist" more times than anyone else, without being able to prove it at all. It was all done with a skillful eye to marketing for the next election and no regard -- Sen. Robert Byrd excepted -- for whether history will regard this as the moment America gave up the pretense of being part of the world, instead of the boss of it.
[October 15, 2002]
WHAT MUST BE DONE
The U.N. likely will pass a new Iraq resolution Friday. Inspectors will pack their bags for Baghdad, and Saddam will waste no time in resuming his "cheat and retreat" game with them -- if he even accepts the resolution at all. Either way, it's a countdown to a showdown and the rest of the world will have to get serious about whether to back the Bad Cop against the Murderous Thug.
There's a lot to dislike about this. The Bush administration's Saddam obsession clearly carries some psychological baggage left over from the last movie. The Saddam-Osama connection is unproven. Control of Israel is a tug-of-war between two ultra-hawks, while Pakistan teeters on the edge of Islamist control, and the head of the American FBI warns of a resurgent al-Qaida. An Iraq attack looks like a sideshow distraction from a War on Terror getting longer and harder by the day.
But what if Bush is right?
What if it's a tragic mistake to let a vicious tyrant in the middle of the Middle East acquire weapons of mass destruction? What if the cost of pulling the world along on another Iraq war is less than the cost of doing nothing?
Even if it's a matter of a few years, not a few months, Iraq is undoubtedly racing to make a nuclear bomb. Well, so what? Other countries who have been America's enemies have held such weapons. But Iraq isn't the old Soviet Union, from whom, even in the depths of the Cold War, the U.S. could count on more or less conservative, self-interested decision-making. Saddam is no Khrushchev. He won't do something that will get himself killed, true, but he'll go as far as he can before he swerves. And that's sure to be farther than anyone else wants to go. According to Khidhir Hamza, one of Iraq's defecting nuclear scientists, soon after invading Kuwait Saddam ordered a crash program to build at least one nuclear weapon to fling at Israel if the coalition attacked him.
And he's not very good at understanding where that point is, when his own survival is at risk. Saddam's cabinet is a pack of sycophants as ignorant as he is about the outside world. As Kenneth Pollack recently noted, “For more than 30 years, Saddam's pattern has been to coldly miscalculate the odds, with disastrous results for Iraq and its neighbours.” Having an A-bomb up his sleeve is not likely to sharpen his gambling skill.
I sort of look at things in a neighborhood context. Maybe you don't like your beat cop. Maybe you even suspect he's on the take. But when a crack dealer moves into the house next door to you and your family, flashing handguns, is your fear of the cop a reason to do nothing? Maybe he's a rich crack dealer and you think the cop will steal his stuff. Is that a reason to do nothing? Maybe you can talk yourself out of it if you say, "Well there's a lot of crack dealers out there, and if I get the authorities to chase this one out, another will just move in and maybe shoot my family."
Many in the Arab world hate Saddam, but they hate America more. Think of the yearning to claim revenge, to deal out punishment, to feel validation. And Saddam personally may be a secularist, despised by Islamic clerics, but he knows how to play to the faithful. When you think of a nuclear-armed Iraq, think of the “Mother of all Battles” mosque, built outside Baghdad to celebrate Saddam's birthday in 2001. Each of the minarets is 43 meters high -- for the 43 days of the 1991 war in Kuwait -- and is designed to represent the Scud missiles fired at Israel. A copy of the Koran displayed inside is said to have been written entirely in Saddam's blood, which he is said to have donated to the tune of 24 liters over three years.
I don't understand the view that the U.S. pressure on Iraq is killing internationalism. The pressure on Iraq is coming via the United Nation. Bush didn't call the U.N. the League of Nations. He dared it to not be the League, by doing something about Iraq. The odd thing is, many of the ideologues who typically line up behind Bush want nothing more than for the U.N. to be an effete, 21st-century League of Nations. If anything, after the past weeks of U.S. negotiations with France, Russia, Syria, and China, the framework of international law is stronger. Tommorow's another day. But pressuring the U.N. to pressure Iraq to disarm seems to me the perfect sort of internationalist involvement that Bush père once stood as the heir to, before Reagan ate his brain.
But the Bush Administration is muddling its message about Iraq. Its aggressive bid to re-write the basic rights of Americans frightens many at home, and its first-strike military policy angers our old allies as well as neutral nations. The Iraq pressure from the White House looks like bullying, and at times it is. It will make us even more of a magnet for attacks than we already are.
America might as well accept that we are the new Rome. Illusions of our essential innocence ought to end. Being the world's sole hyperpower is a job that can be done well, or it can be done poorly. But it's too late to decide not to do it. We can be Republican Rome, with its self-conscious virtues, or imperial Rome. (Hint: which Roman, Cato or Nero, would have driven an SUV and Supersized his meals?)
We should, however, take this job on behalf of civilization and of human rights. And that will take a lot of change. We need to take a closer interest in being part of the world, and to willingly share the wealth we've hoarded. We also need to exercise a muscular commitment to the values we talk about. One small step toward that would be for the administration to admit that American leaders, including some still in power, backed the bad guy in Iraq for too long.
As for the American voices now gathering to protest the coming war, they have choices, too. They can claim a role in the new Rome, if they seek it. The just-ended election dashed their hope of turning aside the attack. But they can still take up the cause of the Iraqi people after it comes. Iraqis are in hell now, and it will only get worse after their government is wrecked again and stray U.S. bombs have found their neighborhoods and markets. Post-war Iraq may offer Americans the chance to prove their oft-boasted munificence, which was lacking in Afghanistan. Where was "Trick-or-Treat for Afghan Kids" this year?
It's not a pretty business, sweeping up after a war. But the world's a better place for every effort of those who do it. The choice is to see the coming conflict as a chance for liberation in Iraq, or to blindly oppose it just because it comes from George W. Bush, which runs the risk of seeming to back Saddam, just as many seemed to prefer the Taliban in Afghanistan.
Meanwhile, until I see more than "no war for oil" on the banners, and war opponents at least make an effort to convince me that Saddam is something we can ignore and it will go away, I'm going to stay clear of the protests.
[November 7, 2002]WITH YOU SO FAR
Every morning I get out of bed (afternoon, actually) and check the news to see if this is my stop. Maybe this is the day I get off the bus. So far it isn't. I'm still riding with the President on the matter of Iraq.
Clearly I've crossed the bar into middle age, because the polls say I'm riding with the majority of Americans, too. We agree that Saddam Hussein is a threat to world peace and a plague on his own people. We want him disarmed, and removed from power, and we're willing to see lives lost if that's what it takes to accomplish it -- but only so long as it is done within the context of an international effort, and with the sanction of the United Nations.
We take a lot of crap over this position, but frankly I'm proud of my fellow Americans. This is not a cowboy mentality. I also am pleased with the way the Iraq crisis has been dealt with on the world stage. The United Nations is a restraining force on the administration of the world's superpower-du-jour. Despite the lurid posters of the protesters, diplomacy is still in the driver's seat.
Not only that, but nations such as Spain and Chile and Bulgaria have an important say in a world crisis. People old enough to remember the Cold War will be, I trust, broad-minded enough to applaud that change.
I was one of the generally anti-military Americans who had a change of heart over time after the death of Yugoslavia. I read the news wire day after day as a brutal thug slowly strangled Sarajevo -- the kind of multi-cultural, multi-ethnic community we all supposedly aspire to in America. When the U.S. used its military power to stop him, at his next attempt, I applauded that, and I realized that not every extension of American power is a bad thing.
Always innocent lives will be lost, always women and children will suffer most. War is always a tragedy, and that can't be too often remembered, which is why I'm glad the protesters are out there on Penn Square -- though I respect the ones who show up every day and who actually live in the city, among the dark faces, more than the ones who only drive their SUVs downtown for the weekends to chant and shout.
I'm a Republican who voted for Gore in 2000. I'd probably do it again. I don't think Bush is at all stupid, though I think he enjoys being underestimated. I disagree with him on most social and domestic issues, and I'm furious at watching John Ashcroft bitch-slap the Bill of Rights. And I think the U.S. diplomacy during the current crisis has been appalingly amateurish -- by turns high-handed and incompetent -- and the President and his inner circle of stumble-bums are squarely to blame for the mess in the Security Council and the Americans being spat on in cities around the world.
But when the Chomskyites embrace Milosevic as a victim of Yankee imperialism, I realize I'm on the other side. And I haven't seen too many Muslim Kosovars shouting down America as an anti-Islamic evil empire. Have you? Frankly, for as long as I've been paying tax dollars, I've watched them prop up one megalomaniac rapist dictator or another. It'll be nice to see them used to bring one down, for a change. Especially because he's one of our messes.
Yet somehow some folks make a stunning leap into the conclusion that, because I'm not holding up one end of the "no blood for oil" banner, I'm a gung-ho Bushite, slavering for Iraqi blood. What I see when that happens is what a co-worker calls "a bunch of liberal Bob Barrs." They hate Dubya so much, they're reflexively against any idea he has, and never bother to check if this is one of the two times a day when a broken clock is right.
I think Bush is watching those polls. And the people who have been against him all along, just because he's him, have maneuvered themselves out of any influence on his policies. He can't lose them, because he never had them to lose.
Die Bombe fragt im Flug geschwindSinds gute Kind? Sinds boese Kind?
Da rat ich euch sagt Gute KindDie nur für jene Freiheit sind
Die auch die Bombe selbst bejahtDann tut sie keine blutge Tat
Sinds gute Kind fliegt sie zurückUnd wünscht den Kindern nur viel Glück
Sie kriecht ihn den BombenschachtDie Kinder schlafen gut bei Nacht
Doch heisst die Antwort Boese KindDann seht nicht hin dann stellt euch blind
Erich Fried (1921-1988)
(A bad, rough translation by me, with help from Markus, who drew my attention to this poem)
The Children's Bomb
The bomb in flight swiftly asksAre the children good? Are the children bad?
Then I urge you to say good childrenWho want only the kind of freedom
That affirms the bombs themselvesThen she does no bloody deed
Good children, she just flies backAnd wishes the kids good luck
She crawls back up the bombshaftThe children sleep well through the night
But if the answer is bad childrenthen don't look pretend to be blind.
And, finally, a word on hubris. Too many people here talk and write about the war to come as though it will be a televised football game. "We're gonna kick Iraq's ass!" Makes me think of Bill Murray's pep-rally speech to his hapless fellow recruits in the middle of "Stripes" (right before the place where you can switch off the movie and know you've seen all the good stuff). "We're ten and one!" he proclaims. I wonder if the Brits are right, and my fellow Americans are blind to satire.
Today, I'm looking at wiredesk pictures of smiling U.S. soldiers, in their desert uniforms, boarding the planes that will take them to the Gulf. And I'm thinking of this:
The same winter the Athenians resolved to sail again to Sicily, with a greater armament than that under Laches and Eurymedon, and, if possible, to conquer the island; most of them being ignorant of its size and of the number of its inhabitants .... The Athenians, and such of their allies as happened to be with them, went down to Piraeus upon a day appointed at daybreak, and began to man the ships for putting out to sea. With them also went down the whole population, one may say, of the city, both citizens and foreigners; the inhabitants of the country each escorting those that belonged to them, their friends, their relatives, or their sons, with hope and lamentation upon their way, as they thought of the conquests which they hoped to make, or of the friends whom they might never see again, considering the long voyage which they were going to make from their country.
Indeed, at this moment, when they were now upon the point of parting from one another, the danger came more home to them than when they voted for the expedition; although the strength of the armament, and the profuse provision which they remarked in every department, was a sight that could not but comfort them. As for the foreigners and the rest of the crowd, they simply went to see a sight worth looking at and passing all belief.
... The ships being now manned, and everything put on board with which they meant to sail, the trumpet commanded silence, and the prayers customary before putting out to sea were offered, not in each ship by itself, but by all together to the voice of a herald; and bowls of wine were mixed through all the armament, and libations made by the soldiers and their officers in gold and silver goblets. In their prayers joined also the crowds on shore, the citizens and all others that wished them well. The hymn sung and the libations finished, they put out to sea, and first out in column then raced each other as far as Aegina, and so hastened to reach Corcyra, where the rest of the allied forces were also assembling.
[Thucydides, "The History of the Peloponnesian War," Book VI, 431 B.C.E., translated by Richard Crawley]
[From the leader in today's "Guardian"]:
Mr Blair has invaded Iraq for different reasons from Mr Rumsfeld. In Mr Blair's world, Saddam is a moral outrage, both for the way that he treats his own people and for the threat that he poses to others, especially if he were to use weapons of mass destruction or to put them into the hands of terrorists. Putting Iraq to rights, in Mr Blair's view, should be the whole world's business. The more that all the nations make common cause to do this, the better. The less this happens, the more vital it is to balance any absence of common cause with a series of equitable and humanitarian initiatives - on the Middle East and on reconstruction in particular - which can help to establish what Disraeli, seeking to justify the British invasion of Abyssinia in 1867, called "the purity of our purpose".
[February 25, 2003]SOME WHO GOT IT RIGHT
Yes, it's been a roller-coaster ride, and yes, it's not over yet. As a journalist, I think my fourth estate colleagues are doing overall a heroic job. I've been reading the commentaries, too, and I feel special empathy for those who accepted this war with reluctance, as a last resort, and have been execrated for it by reactionaries who wouldn't lift a gun to fight Hitler if America was his enemy.
The wisdom and justice of this war will be proven by the thirty-year rule. It will take that long to know if the follow-up America puts into its new client is worth the blood spilled. We need to be big enough to know how big we are, and approach the problem with a calm enthusiasm and an open heart.
I'm rooting for the soldiers and the innocent Iraqis, and I'm rooting for these men and women -- colleagues of mine in a way, some of them intellectual, some workaday -- who raised their heads above the anti-war herds in their newsrooms and saw the chance in this moment to shape a real future for the world, by facing painful and ugly choices now. Here are some excerpts from what they've written, along with bits of other pieces that, I think, are making sense in this crazy time:
Who wants to live in a world where there are no stable rules for the use of force by states? Not me. Who wants to live in a world ruled by the military power of the strong? Not me. How will we oblige American military hegemony to pay "decent respect to the opinions of mankind?" I don't know. When the smoke of battle lifts, those who support the war will survey a battle zone that will include the ruins of the multilateral political order created in 1945.
To support the war entails a commitment to rebuild that order on new foundations. To support the war entails other discomforts as well. It means remaining distinct from the company you keep, supporting a swift and decisive victory, while maintaining your distance from the hawks, the triumphalists, the bellowing commentators who mistake machismo for maturity.
...During Vietnam, I marched with people who thought America was the incarnation of imperial wickedness, and I marched against people who thought America was the last best hope of mankind. Both positions seemed hopelessly ideological, and at the same time, narcissistic. The issue was not fundamentally about our souls; it was about what was right for the people of Vietnam. Just as in Vietnam, the debate over Iraq has become a referendum on American power, and what you think about Saddam seems to matter much less than what you think about America.
But the fact is that America is neither the redeemer nation, nor the evil empire. It isn't always right, but it isn't always wrong. Ideology cannot help us here. In the weeks and years ahead, the choices are not about who we are or what company we should keep nor even about what we think America is or should be. They are about what risks are worth running, when our safety depends on the answer, and when the freedom of 25 million people hangs in the balance.
Michael Ignatieff, "The Guardian," March 24
What we’ve seen in the last few weeks is that for Europeans the real clash of civilisations is not between Islam and the West but between what the French call "Anglo-Saxon" capitalism and Eurostatism. I was amused by the sheer snobbery of Martin Amis’s analysis in the Guardian last week: the condescension to Bush’s faith, the parallels between Texas and Saudi Arabia, both mired in a dusty religiosity. America’s religiosity, now unique in the Western world, is at least part of the reason it reproduces at replacement rate, also uniquely in the Western world. Besides, for all Amis’s cracks, Texas doesn’t seem as fundamentalist as the radical secularism of post-Christian Europe. Why would anyone think a disinclination to breed or to defend oneself is the recipe for success?
Mark Steyn, "The Spectator," March 17
Who are the real imperialists here: those who want to carry out the wishes of the Iraqi people, or those who want to ignore them in the name of a non-existent peace? And, yes, it was non-existent. There is no peace if, at any time, people can be captured, tortured, burned or raped. Read the Amnesty reports. This was the everyday reality of Saddam's Iraq. Only the dishonest can say that British and American soldiers are interrupting "peace"; they are interrupting a decades-long war, waged by Saddam against the Iraqi people, to bring it to an end. Do not weep that this happening; be proud.
...It might seem perverse to seek to spread peace at the barrel of a gun; but the peace we enjoy here in Europe exists only because we (along with the Americans) acted with weaponry to banish tyrants. The Iraqi people want and deserve the same. If their wishes -– as reported unambiguously by Kenneth Joseph and many more like him –- are not compatible with international law, then an urgent priority once this war is over must be to reconstruct international law to make it encourage, not hinder, the overthrow of tyranny.
Johann Hari, "The Independent," March 26
Slowly, obscurely, enunciated with difficulty in thick Texan accents, a new doctrine of international order is emerging, of which the imminent war is a crucial outing. It is the doctrine of humanitarian intervention —- or, to give it its proper name, neo-colonialism. This doctrine is driven by the firm belief -— uncluttered by relativist self-loathing —- in the universal principles of liberty and justice. It gives expression to our sense that everyone, not just the West, has a right to live in a decent country — and that the West has a duty to help them do so. In particular, it gives substance to the vacuities of the "ethical foreign policy."
...Let there be no talk of "imposing" "Western" values here. As President Bush says, the values of liberty are universal, not Western. They only seem Western because the West has applied them most successfully, and grown rich on the proceeds. Liberty might just as easily have flourished in the Korean peninsula or at the junction of the Tigris and the Euphrates. Then it would be Koreans and Iraqis, to the dismay of limp do-gooders among them, exporting "Eastern" values to us, the benighted nations of the world.
Daniel Kruger, "The Spectator," March 19
Nobody wants war, me included. The question is, is there something worse than war? I have been answering "yes" for years. One thing that is worse than war is genocide –- that is, the extinction of a whole people. Many people said this before Auschwitz. In Greek tragedy, it is revealed in the destruction of Troy. This is indeed the horizon of western history. That is why I don’t believe that the refusal to take part in a war against Saddam should be seen as an expression of humanism, but of a blindness that exists not only in Europe, but in all civilisations. We all want to live peacefully, oblivious and happy. That wish already existed in ancient Athens, and there is nothing wrong with it as such, except that it is not very realistic.
Interviewer: Do you think France will stick to its opposition against the US?
Longer than in Germany. Here in our country, the rivalry with America is more prominent. But at the moment, the people in the street are only asking themselves, how can we stand up against Bush? Saddam Hussein doesn’t come into the equation, and that is where my whole objection lies. Because the issue here is actually Saddam.
Bush is a challenge for American democracy; Aznar, the challenge for Spanish democracy. Why are there fewer protestors in France than in Spain, England or Italy? Because in Italy they fight Berlusconi, in Britain they fight Blair –- and in France they fight nobody.
But the overriding question remains: what about Saddam Hussein? If I may be a little moralistic here: I could not look at myself in the mirror if Saddam Hussein were still in power because I have been to a demonstration against Bush, and as a result, the people in Iraq had to live in this totalitarian regime for another twenty years.
André Glucksmann, French philosopher, interview on German Web site Info 3, March 31
This war for me has always been a fine judgment call, a choice between deeply shitty alternatives (my big argument with some in the anti-war campaign has been their belief that there are -- or were -- No-Die options in Iraq). Agnostic on the threat of weapons of mass destruction (though believing that Saddam would develop them if permitted to), sceptical on alleged Iraqi links with new Osama bin Laden-type groups, it finally came down to the lesser of these three evils: Saddam unchained; a "contained" Saddam plus sanctions and endless inspections; invasion and no Saddam. In the end, I chose the latter.
Even so, there has always been the possibility of a war that was worse even than another 20 years of Saddam, Uday, Qusay, Chemical Ali and Dr Germ. And there have been moments in the past few days when I have wondered whether we aren't fighting it.
... Kosovo was, most of us agree, "worth it." Worth it even though we hit the train on the bridge at Leskovac, killing 10, and the refugee convoy at Prizren in Kosovo which slaughtered more than 70. "Worth it" to both Robin Cook (then foreign secretary) and me. As was the bombing of the Chinese embassy in Belgrade in 1999 or, in Afghanistan, the infamous missile attack on the gun-toting wedding party.
If this sounds callous, my answer is that we make choices like this all the time. Except no one rushes to the scene of motorway crashes to report on how an ill-timed phone-call, speeding, or pre-drive joint has left body parts scattered along the fast lane of the M6. We know it, but you still couldn't get 500 people to London to call for the end of the motor car. In Kosovo the scenes from the border justified our actions to us at a time when the action seemed most pointless and brutal. Right now, there are no pictures from Baghdad of the summary executions and the beheadings; Rageh Omar has not been taken to see those. Yet. But if we could see inside those buildings and speak to some of the families of victims, the calculation might change.
David Aaronovitch, "The Guardian," April 1
As a way to encourage democratization, an extended American occupation of Iraq would be just policy. Would a long-term occupation also be wise policy? That is the more difficult question. Since democratization will be more lengthy and difficult in Iraq than in postwar Japan, America will have to marshal its will and resources for a stressful and challenging enterprise. If the Iraqi returnees turn out to be poor democratizers, or if America finds it difficult to exercise great and lasting influence without quite seeming to do so, the chances of an Arab nationalist reaction or internal American divisions are high. Certainly, one reasonable response to this scenario is refusal to engage in a long-term occupation at all.
Yet the argument for a venture in democratic imperialism is also strong. In the long term, it may be our best insurance against the deadly and ever-spreading combination of terrorism and weapons of mass destruction. Particularly in the early stages, such a venture should concentrate on building up a modernizing and liberal class through education. An end-run around traditional structures will be more successful than direct assault. Someday, however, the time for a limited assault will come. Shifting administrative strategies are a feature of successful democratic imperialism. Only circumstances can dictate the balance between relatively indirect rule and reformist transformation.
Above all, should America undertake an extended occupation of Iraq, the dichotomy between realist caution and reformist liberalism will have to be transcended. Authentic democracy develops slowly. The trick is to encourage electoral experiments on the local level while still keeping hold of national power. Gradualism is not a betrayal of democratic principle. On the contrary, it is an insight bequeathed to us by the founders of liberalism itself.
Stanley Kurtz, "Policy Review," April 6
I understand why some dislike the idea, and fear the ramifications of, America as a liberator. But I do not understand why they do not see that anything is better than life with your face under the boot. And that any rescue of a people under the boot (be they Afghan, Kuwaiti or Iraqi) is something to be desired. Even if the rescue is less than perfectly realised. Even if the rescuer is a great, overmuscled, bossy, selfish oaf. Or would you, for yourself, choose the boot?
Michael Kelly, "New Republic," Feb. 26 (died April 2003 covering war in Iraq)
[April 7, 2003]
Civil War: Hodgson The American press was as querulous about the government in 1861 as it is now, and the attitudes of editors did not always agree with that of the administration. Only five of New York City's 17 daily newspapers were firmly behind the Lincoln Administration's war effort. But perhaps the most important free press case of the Civil War played out, not in New York, but in the small town of West Chester, Pennsylvania.
The town at the time had barely 4,000 citizens, but it was the seat of prosperous Chester County, which explains how it supported four weekly newspapers. Two were Republican -- the Village Record, an old, conservative Whig sheet and the most-read newspaper in Chester County; and the Chester County Times, which represented the more radical elements in the new Republican Party. The American Republican was the conservative Democratic newspaper, and the Jeffersonian was the blazing, unabashed standard-bearer of the Democratic Party of 1860.
Its editor since 1843 was John Hodgson, a strikingly handsome man who inherited his mother's fine features and his father's slimness. Hodgson turned the Jeffersonian into the voice of the pro-southern and pro-slavery wing of the Democratic Party. When the northern Democratic Party began to warp and splinter in the 1850s under the stress of supporting slavery, Hodgson rivaled George W. Pearce, editor of the older American Republican, for control of the local organization. Whether measured by newspaper circulation or voter tallies, Hodgson buried Pearce.
With his arrogant, beautiful head, he must have cut quite a figure in the uniforms he wore in the (largely ceremonial) state militia, an appointment that enabled him to claim the title “Major Hodgson.” Hodgson had been born in Yorkshire, and had come to America with his family as a child. Apprenticed to Charles Miner at the Village Record, he had finished his training at 17 and gone to work as a compositor, then had bought the old-fashioned Norristown Herald newspaper. But he couldn’t make any money with it and gave it up after a few years to open a dry-goods store on Market Street in Philadelphia. He hated mercantile life, however, and longed for the rough-and-tumble of political editorship. After his wife died and left him with five young children, he had returned to West Chester and got back into newspapering.
His father had been a Methodist preacher and his brother Francis was a Methodist minister. John chose the paper, not the pulpit, but he went about his work for the Democratic Party with a missionary zeal, and he was an active leader in the West Chester Methodist Church. Hodgson doesn’t seem to have felt that politics sullied religion, and he was the ideal opposition editor during the years the Whigs held sway in West Chester, asking pointed questions about the conduct of the men they elected, whether on the West Chester borough council or the state Assembly. On national questions, he backed the party’s position unquestioningly, with a faith in its essential righteousness that was remarkable, even for a partisan newspaper editor. The Methodists in those years were the church of the American workers and a bastion of the Democratic Party. Methodists increasingly identified themselves with political causes, even more so than other faiths. As an active Odd Fellow, Hodgson would have opposed the Anti-Masonic strain in the Whig Party, and as an immigrant himself -- though he was only 9 when his family came to America, his enemies never let him forget his English birth -- he despised the anti-foreigner activities of the “Know-Nothing” Republicans in West Chester in the 1850s.
But Hodgson carried on his politics more than anything else, as a Christian. He seems to have held a personal dislike for the philosophy and politics of the abolitionists. He was deeply alarmed by the atheist and freethinking tendencies of the religious liberals who made up much of the abolitionist societies, and when those men and women entered the political mainstream as the core of the local Republican party, Hodgson saw it as nothing short of satanic. He fought them with every weapon he could muster, in the name of saving America’s soul. He was a racist, but perhaps no more so than more moderate Democrats or even many Whigs. That he chose to express his racism in the bluntest terms was a political decision, not a personal one. His political rivals, who attacked him at every opportunity, never said he went too far in his anti-black rhetoric. They evidently felt no need to distance themselves from it. Hodgson was a Christian politician first, and his Jeffersonian embraced the racist justification of slavery with an ardent, yet purely political, passion.
Many lifelong Democrats in West Chester joined the war for the Union, or lent it their support, with unfeigned enthusiasm; Harry Guss, who led the National Guards militia into the 97th Pa. Infantry, and Henry McIntire, who led the Brandywine Guards into the 1st Pa. Reserves, were both Democrats. However, some of the party’s older leaders -- Hodgson, Nimrod Strickland, Robert E. Monaghan, and John M. Brinton -- persisted in seeing the war as a partisan sham, an inevitable effect of electing a man like Lincoln to the White House, and a national tragedy caused by the abolitionists who had perverted the government and rabidly driven the South to desperate measures in its own defense and in defense of the intent of America’s founders. The South may have broken the compact of the Constitution, but these men felt the blame rested with Lincoln and the fanatical Northern abolitionists who ran the Republican Party. They said so in party meetings, on the streets of West Chester, and in the columns of the Jeffersonian. West Chester, panicked by fear, furious over the rending of the Union, and with a pent-up war lust that had been brewing for almost a decade, was in an intolerant mood.
Under the headline “Traitors in West Chester,” the Chester County Times of April 27, 1861, carried this communication from an anonymous reader: “Every man who will not give his money to support the brave boys who have gone to the field to defend their country against the most diabolical and wicked attempt to overthrow the best government in the world is a traitor. There is some loud talk about certain men at home. IF THEY PREFER THE WAR SOUTH THAT IS WAGED BY THE CONSPIRATORS, THEY MUST BE MADE TO LEAVE FOR THAT CAMP. We cannot and will not have spies and enemies in our camp. The law of treason must strike down and put down all babbling traitors.”
Three weeks later, the American Republican printed an inflammatory, rambling column by a correspondent signed “Wayne” (the name of the county's Revolutionary War hero), describing a public meeting at the Courthouse during which “Major! Hodgson was given to understand pretty plainly that his secession paper would not be endured much longer.” “Wayne” also thundered against the anti-war faction in West Chester in a column in the Chester County Times, threatening that a “day of retribution will come.” A private letter written the day after Fort Sumter surrendered put the matter more precisely: “Hodson [sic] & Monaghan & one or two others have been talking pretty strong here within a few days for Secession; Now as war has begun if they don’t come out for the Union or at least keep quiet they will be -- hung I was going to say -- mobbed I will. The Jeffersonian building will not stand long unless Jno. Hodson dries up.”
From the distance of more than a century, the “traitors” of West Chester seem a harmless lot. Brinton was “a unique figure, big-headed, big-bodied, full of blood, iron and Democracy.” Muscular and eccentric, he kept boxing gloves in his law office, and when he felt he needed a workout, he pulled them on for sparring matches with his black janitor. He also had a habit of offering to duke it out with country farmers who refused to pay his fees. Monaghan, the moon-faced lawyer who headed the Democratic flock, was overly proud of his distant Irish ancestry. Strickland, with his crippled leg and pursed lips, squinted at the world through rectangular spectacles from under a broad-brimmed low-crowned hat. His squashed look was made the more ridiculous by tall collars and a billy goat beard under his chin. A proud member of the Odd Fellows society, he made his living by artfully dancing from one political appointment to another. If the Democrats had ever gone totally out of power on the state and national levels, he would have starved. A West Chester writer explained Strickland to Philadelphia readers by saying he had “acquired some little position as the former editor of the ‘Republican and Democrat’ at this place, but, as you very well know, is ever running after small offices.”
At their annual party convention in Horticultural Hall on Aug. 13, 1861, the hard core of the local Democrats opposed the war and bid defiance to the government, but even as they affirmed their radicalism, the ranks of the hard-core shrank. Among the approved resolutions Strickland offered was:
That the American democratic government is founded not upon the sword, but upon the intelligence and virtue of the people. Public measures are to be brought to the test of the Constitution and finally settled by the appropriate civil tribunals. To resort to armies is a fundamental error, and must result in establishing a military despotism. This meeting is opposed to war movements whether by popular assemblies, state legislatures, or Congress. The People are competent for self-government, and if a Convention of the States be called, under the Constitution, we feel assured that our difficulties can be peacefully and satisfactorily adjusted.
Longtime Democrat Joseph Hemphill led the moderates, and he put forth a different preamble and a set of alternate resolutions. He blamed the war on “the disunionists of the Southern States,” sustained the administration, and called on the party “to maintain and perpetuate our union, Constitution and laws at all hazards of toil, treasure and blood.” Hemphill tried to bring these to a vote late in the meeting, but was hissed and defeated. The Jeffersonian supported the resolutions that had passed: “The resolutions of Mr. Hemphill ... express no condemnation of, but, by their silence and general tenor, would be construed to endorse, the unconstitutional and corrupt doings of Lincoln, Curtin, and the Legislature.”
Hodgson found himself the brunt of most of the backlash. As editor of the Jeffersonian, his was the most public position among the anti-war Democrats. After the word "copperheads" came into vogue to describe them, Hodgson relished it (“There is an applicability about it which speaks out boldly and has a palpable meaning,” he wrote), but his life in the town became increasingly difficult. Not long after Fort Sumter he was chased from a local oyster cellar after an altercation with one besotted Unionist. The old nativist charges were flung against him again, with redoubled fury. The Chester County Times of May 15 printed a letter from a correspondent, scolding the Jeffersonian’s editor as “The Tory Hodgson true to his English tory instincts.” The Times still carried Know Nothing venom in its veins from its nativist days.
Hodgson also occupied an awkward position as the enthusiastic head of the county militia. Hodgson, “although holding a military office in the militia, is sneaking about West Chester, grinning occasionally a ghastly smile over news he may hear unfavorable to the war for the Union!” the Times correspondent wrote. “If he has any soul or heart in favor of his adopted country that has fed and clothed him, why is he not found now where his holiday profession as a soldier should place him -- in the ranks?”
Hodgson’s rivals did their part in whipping up popular furor. “There is an impudent boldness in the highwayman, who presents you the alternative, ‘your money or your life,’ which, at least, commands a kind of admiration for frankness;” the Chester County Times wrote of Hodgson, “but the Spanish stilletto, stabbing by masked traitors, the ‘masked batteries’ of cowardly tories, are as far beneath the bold bandit, as the vilest reptile that crawls on the earth is beneath the glories of the noonday sun.” A month later, the Times wrote, “The last number of the Tory organ in this place was filled with illy concealed treason. The leniency of the people has emboldened the traitor editor and the frequent meetings of the small coterie of Tories who almost daily meet for mutual sympathy and mutual plotting, keep him in countenance .... Let them be constantly exposed to public gaze, and when they have their secret conclave, for rejoicing over the defeat of national arms, let them be treated as enemies of the community.”
Yet the Jeffersonian’s tone had been basically positive through the first three months of the conflict. Hodgson had printed some criticisms of the administrations and some poetry lamenting the destructiveness of war, but he also ran enthusiastic reports of the military work being done, and upbeat, patriotic letters from soldiers. The newspaper turned negative in July, however. On July 27 the entire front page was given over to the text of a speech by Clement Vallandingham, the copperhead congressman from Ohio. A week later Hodgson devoted the front page to a reprint of an address by John C. Breckenridge, the radical Democrat who had run against Lincoln in 1860. The full account of the Bull Run disaster appeared in his August 10 edition, while in the same issue on inside pages devoted to political news he ran strident anti-administration editorials with headlines like: “WAR! WAR! WAR! TAXATION AND POVERTY!” and letters bearing titles like “THE FOLLY OF THIS WAR.”
The Hodgson editorial that most inflamed the loyal citizens of West Chester (or so they said later) appeared in his July 27 edition, and was titled “The Purpose of the War.” It claimed that “Abolition demagogues” had steered the country into war, “not to restore harmony and peace, and consequent union, between the two sections of the country, but to subjugate the South and ‘wipe out’ Slavery. In brief, ITS PURPOSE IS TO BENEFIT THE NEGRO AT THE EXPENSE OF THE WHITE MAN.” As proof of this, the Jeffersonian cited resolutions that had been introduced in the Senate calling for an emancipation of Southern slaves. “To effect this object -- or rather to attempt to effect it -- thousands, and tens, perhaps hundreds of thousands of Northern lives are to be destroyed, and millions of dollars of weighty and crushing debt, with its never-ending taxation, are to be fastened upon Northern citizens and Northern property.”
Published immediately after the Northern military disaster at Bull Run, with the government menaced and the people expecting to hear any day of Washington in flames, the claim that the war was about slavery was just too much for people to swallow. “An editor who would coin as many lies as is embodied in that one short article, and published it with the criminal purpose of making his readers believe that the war was an abolition war, got up to benefit the nigger at the expense of the white man, was saying that our army deserved their defeat, and that he rejoiced over the victory of the rebels at Bull’s Run,” replied an American Republican correspondent who signed himself “Westtown” (the name of a nearby township). “The English scoundrel did, I have no doubt, rejoice. If the doctrine of his editorial is right, our army ought to be defeated.” Hodgson’s offensive predictions ultimately proved correct; it wasn’t yet a war about slavery, but it would have to become one before it could be won. In any case, Northern loyalists in 1861 still rejected the notion that the conflict had anything to do with slavery or blacks.
The editorial had a more immediate consequence, however. The three-month troops had been discharged and were back in town, forming new regiments to go off for three years’ service. Before they did this, however, they showed their feelings against the Jeffersonian. By the moonlight at about 1 a.m. on the morning of August 20, a few hours before the Jeffersonian was to go to print again, a gang of men quietly and efficiently destroyed the office. The newspaper’s building on High Street was broken into, “and the newspaper press broken, the hand press pitched out of the window and the type knocked into pi and thrown into an adjoining sink,” the Village Record reported. “On Tuesday morning the office presented a desolate looking spectacle. Nothing but a few bundles of paper was to be seen in either the first or second stories of the office.” Henry S. Evans, the Record's editor, said he had no idea who had done this, but “it is believed they came from the country.”
A historical account of the incident written in the 1930s by a professor from Philadelphia reported, “While no public revelations were ever made as to the personal identity of any of the members of the mob, the townspeople knew that the participants were connected with a newly formed secret Republican organization in West Chester.” This information he ascribed, in a footnote, to a “statement to the writer by Squire Paxson who lived in West Chester at the time,” and it has often been said that the inspiration for the vandalism was Congressman John Hickman. Hickman was a devotee of the theater, and a friend and fan of Edwin Forrest, the great American actor. There is something theatrical and appropriate in the image of Hickman as Henry II, discovering that his minions had taken him at his word in attacking the man who was his Becket.
"Mobbing" of unpopular groups or institutions was a fact of life in American communities in the mid-19th century. Philadelphia, a mere 26 miles from West Chester, was notorious for it. In the 1830s and 1840s, Philadelphia's anarchic wards were ruled by vicious bosses and utterly corrupt police. Notorious street gangs like the Killers, the Rats, the Blood Tubs, and (unaccountably) the Dock Street Philosophers terrorized the city, killing citizens and destroying property. At the same time, the city was wracked by ethnic violence. Irish mobs sacked whole neighborhoods that were home to African-Americans. Protestant “nativists” attacked immigrant Irish Catholics and burned their churches. There were nine major mob attacks against blacks in Philadelphia between 1834 and 1849. During the Kensington and Southwark anti-Catholic riots in 1844, twenty people had been killed. It got so bad that newspapers like the Philadelphia Bulletin of May 3, 1847, contained the news item, “no rioting yesterday.”
Generally it was a phenomenon of the big cities, but it could hit small towns like West Chester, too. The first big abolitionist meeting in the town, in 1837, was driven out of the courthouse by a mob attack, and thereafter the abolitionists had to meet in the open, or under the eaves of the market house, because no one would rent them space. The townsfolk were acutely aware of the dangers of mobs. The borough had no police, just a constable and a night watchman or two, and it would be helpless in the face of a major civil disorder.
West Chester's Horticultural Hall was built in 1848 as a public meeting place. It was designed by the architect Thomas U. Walter, who was known for Greek Revival buildings. The Greek Revival style was more than just a fashion; it was an aesthetic that reflected the values that America’s founders wanted it to absorb: the qualities of civic responsibility, reason, and enlightened discourse represented by classical figures like Cicero. They tried to inculcate these values in the fledgling democracy.
Walter was a Philadelphian, born and raised in the city. He would almost certainly have felt deeply discouraged by the breakdown of civic life in his hometown. Perhaps he had seen the smouldering ruin of Pennsylvania Hall, burned by the anti-abolitionist mob a decade before. In West Chester, his design for Horticultural Hall (right) harked back to the Dark Ages, the realm of brutality, barbarism, and the death of classical culture under waves of Viking marauders. Nothing bespeaks the concept of culture under siege more than the windowless building’s recessed doorway that (falsely) advertised the thickness of the walls. Horticultural Hall was not only Walter’s last commission in West Chester; it was the only one without a hint of Greek revival style. It is a statement about a fragile culture with classical aspirations under siege by “mobocracy.”
In 1861, the Village Record, so far from being chilled by the image of a mob attack on a newspaper, expressed only the mildest disapproval, and was inclined to blame the Jeffersonian for its own troubles. “It is lamentable that the settled law of the land should be violated in a manner so calculated to produce violence -- or rather, that the imperfections of the law should be such that the offenses against society, or calculated to effect its very existence, should not be punished by due process of law.” At the American Republican, in the days after the attack, editor George Pearce took pains to point out that when people had asked him what should be done about the Jeffersonian, he had “counseled patience, and deprecated in the strongest language all resorts to violence.” He seemed to have forgotten that in his issue just before the attack, he had pointed out to the public that the Jeffersonian “only maintained its existence by the forbearance of those whose loyal opinions it outraged in every one of its pestiferous issues."
In the wake of Bull Run, the mood across the North had changed. The big battle was over, the Confederacy had not crumbled, and Washington had not fallen. The giddy excitement of the first three months dissipated, as the seriousness of the conflict became apparent. It was time to take stock and prepare --militarily, politically, and psychologically -- for a war that was going to take a few more months at least. The defeat left the North more united, more grimly determined, and the critics of the war found themselves very much on the outside. The Jeffersonian was not alone in suffering for its Southern sympathies. On August 8 the office of the Concord, N.H., Democratic Standard had been mobbed by soldiers who didn’t like what had been written about them. The same day the Jeffersonian was sacked, a secessionist newspaper in Easton was mobbed, and a publisher in Haverhill, Massachusetts, was tarred and feathered by a mob.
“Can we wonder,” Henry S. Evans wrote, “that a proud and patriotic people, jealous of their country’s honor, burning at the defeat of her armies, incensed at the vile conduct of traitors, and trembling for the safety, not only of their government but of their fire-sides, should chafe at an opposition in their midst which is calculated, however honest its motives, or whatever specious pretenses may veil it, to defeat all their efforts and sacrifices?”
What happened next, however, was certainly attributable to John Hickman. Hodgson missed his Tuesday edition, but the attempt to shut him down only inspired him to greater effort, and he prepared to print up his next edition Friday evening, come hell or high water, to have it to readers as usual on Saturday. Hodgson was “busy during the week running up and down to Philadelphia,” where another pro-secession newspaper, the Christian Observer, had offered him the use of its presses. However, on Friday, Aug. 23, 1861, United States marshals seized the office of the Christian Observer, along with what was left of the Jeffersonian. “Two officers arrived by the train at 4:00 p.m., who proceeded at once to the establishment on High street, and took the secession concern out of the hands of its treasonable conductors.” John Jenkins and William Schuyler -- two assistant marshals sent by U.S. Marshal William Millward -- padlocked the office under a warrant from George A. Coffey, the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District. They also seized Hodgson’s types, presses, and books.
Hodgson and his son visited Coffey in Philadelphia on September 10, and again about a week later. “I told him that if he would agree not to oppose the war ... I certainly would not oppose the restoration of the paper,” Coffey recalled in later testimony. Hodgson’s reply was, “I would die rather than give my pledge to a paper of that kind in order to get my property back.”
Hodgson was not alone in this, either. In August the federal government had begun to crack down on the opposition press. Court martials were authorized in the cases of newspapers that printed information considered to have aided the enemy. Telegraph wires out of Washington, which the major daily newspapers relied on for their news of the war and the government, were subject to State Department censorship. On August 16 charges of disloyalty for alleged pro-Southernism had been brought in United States Circuit Court against the New York Journal of Commerce, Daily News, Day Book, Freeman’s Journal, and the Brooklyn Eagle. On August 21 the federal government ordered that copies of the New York newspapers that had been suppressed should not be carried by the mails. Suppressions continued August 22 in New York, New York; Canton, Ohio; and Philadelphia. On September 18 the Louisville, Kentucky Courier was banned from the mails, and its offices were seized the next day by federal authorities. Among the newspapers suppressed by the government were the Philadelphia Evening Journal and the Chicago Times. Despite claims in the North of tit for tat, there were relatively few instances of press suppression by the South.
Once again, Hodgson’s fellow editors rejoiced, this time at the sight of their government curbing a free press. “The suppression of this infamous paper gives great joy to all loyal men in our Borough, and we are sure this energetic movement on the part of the government will be hailed with the liveliest satisfaction elsewhere,” Pearce wrote. “Hodgson will realize the great truth, ‘that the way of the transgressor is hard.’ It will scarcely be a tall feather in the cap of his children, and children’s children, that their ancestor was a traitor, and that his newspaper was seized for promulgating sedition against a government that gave him ample and generous protection. There is no doubt that some men were very mad at this proceeding, but they will cool off and get in a good humor. Let the maddest of them beware, for there is a bolt in the cloud that might light on their heads before they are many days older.” Pearce was prepared to deflect some of the attention from the defeated Hodgson, but only to prepare West Chester for the next set of targets:
Hodgson, every one in this community knew, was the merest cat’s paw of other men. Characterless as he is and always has been, we do not believe he would have wrapped himself in the cloak of infamy that now hangs upon him in enduring disgrace, but for the madness and desperation of the disappointed politicians who wrote his editorials and culled the treasonable articles that offended and insulted every good man in the community. Nimrod Strickland, John H. Brinton, and their supple tool, Monaghan, are the guilty parties in this case. ... When these men play the bully on our streets, and impudently try to fix the charge of violence on those who stand by the country and its old and honored flag, fling the truth in their faces, that they are the instigators and the authors of these infractions of law and order.
The next week, the Chester County Times noted that the pugilistic John H. Brinton had been bound over on charge of assault and battery on the Times’ editor. “John’s wrath was all about the Jeffersonian,” he wrote. “He said the influence of the Times had caused its sudden suspension, and he wanted to get up a kind of wake over its dead carcass. We hope he is satisfied with his attempt. If Toryism had continued as rampart [sic] as it was a few weeks ago, we are not sure that other suspensions would not have taken place, more disagreeable and causing worse contortions than the newspaper’s demise.”
The Philadelphia Bulletin, meanwhile, laid out the best possible case for why the Jeffersonian’s anti-government editorials were dangerous to the national safety:
The principal circulation of the Jeffersonian was in the lower part of Chester County and along the Maryland line. Many of the people even upon this side of the line are touched with Secession sentiment. They take but one newspaper, frequently, and they are, of course, greatly influenced by its statements and opinions. The mischief that can be accomplished by a persistent enemy of the Government, under such circumstances, will be appreciated.
If the press failed to appreciate the need to protect itself, the justice system did so in its behalf. The Jeffersonian matter became a test case for the government’s authority to shut down any newspaper it didn’t like. A congressional act of Aug. 6, 1861, had authorized the President to direct the seizure of anyone who was “aiding, or abetting, or promoting ... insurrection.” The Jeffersonian seizure failed to meet the terms of this act in its two essential qualities; Hodgson had printed no government secrets or committed any espionage for the Confederacy, and the President had never authorized the seizure of the paper. Lincoln had hesitated before signing the August 6 order, and he likely never meant it as an instrument to suppress unfriendly newspapers.
Hodgson finally got a hearing on October 7, in Philadelphia, before an U.S. Circuit Court judge. The legal discussion centered on whether Coffey, the district attorney, had had the authority to issue the order he signed, dated Aug. 23, 1861, to Millward: “According to the provisions of the Act of 6th of August, 1861, I hereby request you to seize upon all copies of ‘The Jeffersonian’ newspaper, published in the borough of West Chester, Chester county, Pennsylvania, as well as all property of every kind whatsoever in and about the publication of said newspaper, that may be found in your bailiwick, for confiscation and condemnation, according to law -- I being authorized by the President of the United States.” It transpired that Wayne McVeagh, Chester County’s district attorney, had sent Coffey copies of the paper, asking if the government could put a stop to it, and the two men apparently had corresponded about it.
Coffey admitted under cross-examination that before he had issued this warrant, he had sent telegraphs to the president and to the Secretary of War, requesting authority to seize the Christian Observer and the Jeffersonian. “I spoke of the Jeffersonian as publishing articles inflaming or disturbing the minds of the people.” He had gotten a reply only from the War Department, saying, as he recalled, “Your action is approved -- be temperate and firm.” But there was no warrant or affidavit from the government authorizing the seizure. Coffey had acted on his own, and his order to Millward was the first paperwork in the case. Coffey explained, rather lamely, that he had wanted to test whether the act applied to such cases.
In the absence of the necessary authority, and with the failure to produce any specific charges against the Jeffersonian except printing opinions unfavorable to the government, Coffey eventually abandoned the case. The matter was formally dropped through a terse notice from Coffey to the court, dated Oct. 14, 1861. The Jeffersonian resumed publication with a notice to readers on October 17, but when Hodgson took his stacks of fliers to the West Chester post office for the Philadelphia mails, he was told they would not be handled. U.S. Postmaster General Blair had put him on the list of papers that the government would not move. Other Democratic newspapers around the state and in New York expressed sympathy and watched the case with interest. The mail privileges were restored, evidently without a word of explanation, on Jan. 18, 1862.
Hodgson, meanwhile, pressed his point. In late October he filed a lawsuit against Millward and his assistants for lost profits. Hodgson was represented by two sympathetic Philadelphia attorneys, George W. Biddle and William B. Reed. (Reed distinguished himself after the war as the lawyer who represented Jefferson Davis at his trial.) On Feb. 3, 1863, case of Hodgson v. Millward et al was called for trial in U.S. Circuit Court, and the jury returned an award of $512. It was retried on a technicality on Oct. 29, 1864, and the jury reached the same verdict, though the reward this time was $504.33.
In both cases, the judges made strong statements to the jury about the government’s lack of authority to clamp down on dissent in this way. In the second trial, Supreme Court Justice Robert C. Grier (right), who presided over the circuit, charged the jury that there was no justification for the seizure, and that the DA had no power to issue a writ ordering the seizure. The power to issue writs, he told them, belongs to the courts alone. None of the evidence submitted suggested that the President or a member of the cabinet had authorized the seizure, and it wouldn’t have made any difference had there been:
No one can pretend that our law was changed by the mere fact of the rebellion. The very purpose of law is to set a rule that may remain fixed and immovable among the disturbances of society, and that shall be the standard of judging them. ... If it yielded to excitements it would be judged by them, instead of being their judge.
When Chester County's emergency militias of 1862 passed through West Chester on their way to stem Lee's threatened invasion of the state (they arrived much too late), they smashed the windows of the county's most pro-administration newspaper, the Chester County Times. "There was a great time in W. Chester today," Southern sympathizer Jennie Sellers wrote in her diary for Sept. 7, 1862. "Before the soldiers left, they run most all the niggers out of W. Chester. ... The office of the Times was riddled last six day night by the soldiers. The editor of the Times wanted the soldiers to break up the office of the Jeffersonian, but instead of that they broke up his own."
In the Florida Keys, a place I love, you appreciate the fragility of nature and the vulnerability of the world we know. The land there is practically flat, and if you turn left or right, you see open water. Any rise in sea level would swallow the whole chain.
But if you stop and read the soil, you know you're standing on the fossil of a dead reef. Sometimes, as above, in a road cut in Key Largo, you can see whole huge coral skeletons still standing in place. Only 120,000 or so years ago, this was a thriving undersea oasis. Then the sea level dropped as the climate cooled and the ice advanced, and this precious ecosystem died a terrible, desiccating death. Everything in the middle Keys, from the restaurant parking lot gravel to the 1935 Hurricane memorial in Islamorada, is built from the rubble of an ecological catastrophe.
The earth is delicate, but it endures. Nature is cruel, but man is part of nature. Man is not the only destructive force on the planet.
I saw a photo like the one above on the AP news wire a couple years back (sorry; I can't find the original anymore), showing a glaciologist and a botanist "examining deposits of ancient alpaca moss recently exposed by the retreat of the Quelccaya ice cap in the Peruvian Andes."
Rapidly melting glaciers in the Andes in Peru have uncovered moss and grasses that have been covered by ice since they first grew about 6,500 years ago, said the Ohio State researcher who has predicted global warming will erase mountain ice caps that are a valued water source for many communities around the world.
That would be a catastrophe. And that prediction continues to twist the cranks of climate-change cassandras. But think about it (like the AP didn't). That hunk of moss was growing there 6,500 years ago. That's about 6,490 years before the first SUV. Climate then in that place was warmer than it is now (no moss grows there today).
That doesn't mean we can stop thinking about the role of man-made factors in the Earth's shifting climate. It means we can start thinking about them. Without the passion and the politics.
Yes, the world seems to be getting warmer in recent decades. What does that mean? Is human activity the only reason? What if it turns out that CO2 pollution from cars and lawnmowers is heating up the planet, but that, say, farming is heating it up ten times more?
What if deep ocean currents are shifting for no man-made reason, and actually turning the northern hemisphere back to another ice age, but human pollution is counterbalancing that? [In the 1991 science fiction novel "Fallen Angels," environmentalists have taken over earth's governments and imposed luddite laws, which end global warming, only to unleash a new ice age, which had been held in check, we learn too late, by global warming caused by human pollution. Fiction, but at least within the realm of possibility.]
Go ahead and monkey with the world's economies to reduce carbon emissions, but realize that a single major (unpredictable) volcanic eruption could crank back the global thermostat 5 degrees or more overnight. As happened in 1783 or 1816. Make it a more serious eruption -- like an acne rash of volcanoes, but within the realm of the possible -- and you literally could wipe out all life on earth.
Long before climate change became a polemical pet of Al Gore, it was a matter of historical scholarship. Since I concentrated my college studies on northern Europe in the Middle Ages, I read years ago about droughts that drove the great horde migrations out of central Asia, the summer of rain that caused the famine of 1215 in England, and the punishing storms that re-drew the coastlines of Flanders, Holland and Friesland in the 13th century. All because of climate change.
The coast of Holland and Friesland c. 500 C.E. (left) and 1555 C.E. (right)
The North Sea incursions were catastrophic on a Hollywood scale: sea surges punched through the dunes (you can see the relics of the old coast in the line of islands off the west coast of Holland, Germany, and Denmark), killed perhaps 100,000 people, and turned vast agricultural districts into reed seas. In 1231, the sea flooded up river channels into the inland lake of Holland and by 1300 it had become a bay. In 1287, thirty villages in the lower Ems basin were drowned and the Dollart formed. In floods in 1240 and January 1362, sixty parishes in the diocese of Schleswig were overwhelmed, amounting to half the agricultural land of the realm, and perhaps 30,000 people died. The 1362 stormflood was the Grote Mandrenke, the "Great Drowning." The island of Heligoland was 60 kilometers across in C.E. 800; by 1325 it was only 25 kilometers in diameter at the widest, half the loss having come in a single storm in January of that year. Today it is only 1.5 kilometers at the widest. The English ports of Ravenspur and Dunwich drowned about the same time.
Two 17th century maps of Schleswig, the one on the left showing the coast and lands as they were c.1240, compiled from parish records and reliable local information, the other showing the contemporary view and the outline of the drowned lands. Heligoland is the island at lower left in both maps.
And all that was before the internal combustion engine, the Frigidaire, the Industrial Revolution. The Earth's climate changes over time. The change can be catastrophic. Some scientists and some historians always have been aware of this, but most people aren't, because the temperatures in the last 500 years have been remarkably stable. The Europeans of the Middle Ages saw the last dramatic phase of warming and cooling, but even that was a blip compared to what can happen.
We still don't know what makes it change; probably a combination of processes including everything from volcanic eruptions to deep sea currents to, possibly, interstellar dust. What we know for sure is the Earth has been much warmer in its recent past, and much cooler. There's no guarantee on the climate you see around you.
We ought to pay more attention to this. The discussion we ought to be having about climate change would take into account both human agency and other, potentially much more serious, forces. Even if we know for sure we're having an impact on the climate, that doesn't answer the question of how that impact flows into the ongoing changes that will occur with or without us.
But instead, the debate has shrunk into a chirping contest between name-calling factions: "eco-freaks" and "tree-huggers" vs. "fossil fuelers" and "corporations."
I wish the people who expect me to join this religion would take the time to make it palatable to common sense and to admit that intelligent people of good will might not be convinced by their doomsday movies.
Explain, don't hector. And acknowledge for a change that the environment confronts us with complicated choices; we're hooked into an energy system that fuels a prosperity unrivaled in human history; that prosperity keeps poverty, disease, and starvation at bay. The seers of the 1960s predicted India and China would collapse into overpopulation chaos, and drag the world with them, but instead they have grown toward stability and even affluence, and their consumption of fossil fuel has grown dramatically at the same time. That's not a coincidence.
Yet to Peter Matthiessen, to quote one environmental zealot, the current energy system is nothing but a plot by the "hardened apostles of material progress," and a shadowy cabal of "fossil fuelers." Ross Gelbspan decries“greenhouse skeptics” as “criminals against humanity.”
Start the discussion by acknowledging that the Earth's climate fluctuates, and that's just nature's way. On the Alaskan North Slope, where Matthiessen frets about how much snow falls on the musk oxen, three-ton duck-billed dinosaurs once grazed in herds year-round on lush river-valley vegetation.
Go thumb through a paleoclimatology textbook (or find something like one online). Look at the charts and graphs.
Here's one that a climate-change alarmist will love. This is the average global temperature from 1860 to 2000. Runaway global warming for sure.
Now take 100 steps back. Over on the left you can see the temperature rising up out of the depths of the last Ice Age, about 12,000 years ago. The "climate optimum" of about 4,000 to 8,000 years ago corresponds to the moss under the Quelccaya ice caps. The "Little Ice Age" happened in medieval times; it came on shortly after the series of storms that redrew the map of the Netherlands. The whole of the previous graph is contained in the pinhead of pixels at the far right edge of the graph.
Here's a still longer view. The second graphic is squeezed into the pink bar and what's beyond it at the far right end of this one. Here you can see the whole of the last Ice Age.
So it looks like we live in one of the warmest ages in global history, right? Now step all the way back.
This very rough graph plots the likely temperature through geological time. Time flows the other way in this one (sorry; I couldn't find a graph that was consistent with the others). The present is way over on the left here. The distant past is on the right. And it's distant indeed: about the time life first was recorded on earth. Looks like we're in one of the chilliest epochs of world history.
But it suits us. And any change in it -- toward the hot or the cold, by human agency or natural forces -- would be a disaster.
Why were there Ice Ages after millions of years without them? Why were there dramatic warm spikes in the middle of them? Why has world climate been relatively stable for the past 4,000 years? Nobody knows. No good scientific model of world climate change yet has been constructed.
That's a scary thought. No wonder it's so much easier to approach the topic as pure politics.
Human beings right now have much invested in the stability of weather patterns and coastlines, and we ought to pay careful attention to what can cause catastrophic climate changes. Better to investigate and learn and adopt, rather than shut down discussion in advance because you don't like the people who want to hijack the issue and pour their personal manias into it.
Environmentalists often share with creationists the unscientific view that at the creation a perfect world was set spinning. They presume a steady, stable world ecology humming along for millennia in perfect balance like a Swiss watch, until evil Anglo-American corporations come along and vandalize it. They write as though it all would continue in ecological harmony if only man would leave it alone. Like creationists, they view the human race as something non-natural, though in their case it seems to be sub-, not supra-, naturam, and its impact is entirely baleful.
It's a common complaint of the secular left that their opponents put dogma above science. But the underlying fallacy of much of the climate-change alarmist rhetoric is that it is the left's equivalent of creationism. What we need now is serious scientific work, not a pseudo-religion.
Civil War: Secession2"The compound government of the United States is without a model, and to be explained by itself, not by similitudes or analogies," James Madison said late in his life.
For all the truth of that, the Founders had models and ideas in mind as they hashed things out in Philadelphia in 1787, and the notes taken that summer by Madison and others are full of them. The Founders were practical men, almost all of whom had had some experience in government. But they also were keen readers and alert to history, as it was known in their day.
Among the models or theories they often brought up in debate or correspondence are the writings of John Locke and Charles Montesquieu; the works of Hume and other writers of the Scottish Enlightenment; British history; and the accounts then available of the confederacies, democracies and republics of ancient Greece and Rome and the Germanic tribes.
All these sources tended toward common conclusions:
1. The laws should rule the government, not the other way around.
2. The government should be the servant of the people, not the other way around.
3. The best defense against danger of monarchial and democratic excesses was a "mixed government" of clearly prescribed spheres and balanced authorities.
The Federalists built the notion of mixed government into the U.S. Constitution. In many details, they strove for a balance between the one president, the few Senators and the Representatives of the many. Something that is lost and forgotten today is the pivotal role of the States in all this.
The conceptual breakthrough that allowed the United States to build a Constitution on the model of Britain's was the one that saw American states as the equivalent of hereditary baronies in the British system. That allowed the Senate -- whose members were appointed by the states under the original Constitution -- to form on the model of the British House of Lords. The power and independent authority of the states were essential elements in the mixed, balanced government formed in 1787.
The respect for them extended even to non-coercion. In the Convention that framed the Constitution it was proposed to give the government power to call out the army to force a wayward state to fulfill its duty. Madison said: "The more he reflected on the use of force the more he doubted the practicability, the justice and efficacy of it when applied the people collectively and not individually. -- A union of the States containing such an ingredient seemed to provide for its own destruction. The use of force against a State would look more like a declaration of war than an infliction of punishment, and would probably be considered by the party attacked as a dissolution of all previous compacts by which it might be bound."
There is a misleading delicacy in the word "balance." The balance of powers in the original Constitution of the United States was like the balance of an engine made for hard, fast work. The essence of that Constitution was this: The laws rule the government, the constitution embodies those laws, and the people -- in part on their own agency, in part through the states -- tune and drive the Constitution.
"The basis of our political systems is the right of the people to make and to alter their constitutions of government," Washington said in his "Farewell Address." "But the Constitution which at any time exists, till changed by an explicit and authentic act of the whole people, is sacredly obligatory upon all."
And that includes the president who is elected under it and sworn to uphold it. It was built to stand the test of a crisis, and it did so; in 1814 the capital itself was burnt, American armies suffered defeat in the field and a populous section of the nation met to consider secession. Yet the Constitution still ruled.
So far from envisioning powers of government beyond the Constitution, even in times of "necessity," Hamilton went so far as to say that a Bill of Rights was unnecessary, "For why declare that things shall not be done which there is no power to do? Why, for instance, should it be said that the liberty of the press shall not be restrained, when no power is given by which restrictions may be imposed?"
The presidency in particular, as the most "monarchical" aspect of the Constitution, was given extremely limited direct power. Where the "life, liberty or property" of a private citizen is concerned, the president's only power is that prescribed in the third section of the second article, which requires, "that he shall take care that the laws be faithfully executed."
"It is important, likewise," Washington wrote, "that the habits of thinking in a free country should inspire caution in those entrusted with its administration, to confine themselves within their respective constitutional spheres, avoiding in the exercise of the powers of one department to encroach upon another. The spirit of encroachment tends to consolidate the powers of all the departments in one, and thus to create, whatever the form of government, a real despotism."
The Founders all knew war first-hand; war on American soil, with a full third of their own countrymen against them, often in arms alongside the enemy. They built into their work machinery to handle treason and rebellion. But they also knew that crisis and war were favorite tools of demagogues. Hamilton reminded his readers of "the celebrated Pericles," leader of Athens, motivated by fear and personal pique, who led his nation into a bloody and ruinous war to save his own political skin and to escape the economic damage he had helped visit upon the state.
Hamilton saw that a leader who took America into war could use the circumstance to rob her of cherished liberties: "The violent destruction of life and property incident to war, the continual effort and alarm attendant on a state of continual danger, will compel nations the most attached to liberty to resort for repose and security to institutions which have a tendency to destroy their civil and political rights. To be more safe, they at length become willing to run the risk of being less free."
"If, in the opinion of the people, the distribution or modification of the constitutional powers be in any particular wrong," Washington wrote, "let it be corrected by an amendment in the way which the Constitution designates. But let there be no change by usurpation; for though this, in one instance, may be the instrument of good, it is the customary weapon by which free governments are destroyed. The precedent must always greatly overbalance in permanent evil any partial or transient benefit, which the use can at any time yield."
In Washington's "Farewell Address," the connection between perpetual voluntary union, and obedience to the Constitution, is explicit. His prayer for the country, he said, was, "that your union and brotherly affection may be perpetual; that the free Constitution, which is the work of your hands, may be sacredly maintained."
The cult of the union, as it evolved in the Civil War era, identified "liberty" and "union" as essentially identical. But to the Founders, "liberty" was tied to the balance of powers they had carefully woven into the Constitution: "Liberty itself will find in such a government, with powers properly distributed and adjusted, its surest guardian," Washington wrote. "It is, indeed, little else than a name, where the government is too feeble to withstand the enterprises of faction, to confine each member of the society within the limits prescribed by the laws, and to maintain all in the secure and tranquil enjoyment of the rights of person and property."
Civil War: Draft
The Conscription Act that passed Congress on March 3, 1863, is often cited as "the first draft in the North" or words to that effect. Drafting in the North, under this act, began more than a year after the Confederate conscription act, which was approved April 16, 1862. This has been cited as evidence of different abilities or enthusiasm on the two sides in the Civil War. But this ignores the fact that the drive to draft in the North began less than three months after the Confederate conscription act, that in at least five states in the North an extensive draft took place in the fall of 1862, and that all the Northern volunteers in that season signed up under threat of being drafted.
The mistake by non-historians is easy to understand when popular reference books on the war contain misleading or mistaken passages like this one, from "The Civil War Dictionary" [N.Y., 1959, reprint 1988]:
"DRAFT RIOTS - On Aug. '62 the President called on the states for 300,000 militia to serve nine months and ordered the governors to draft from the militia if the quota could not be filled by volunteers. This precipitated riots in Wis., Ind., and threats of riots in Pa. Stanton then postponed the draft."
Or this one, from "Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War" :
"DRAFT RIOTS - Draft riots broke out in response to the Union's first national conscription act, passed 3 Mar. 1863. Prior to that law the North had obtained its troops from volunteers and state militia called into Federal service."
The Northern 1862 draft was an attempt to let the states handle their own conscriptions, based on the antiquated militia system. It taught the federal government much about drafting American men into the army, and it was in some ways a dress rehearsal for the large-scale draft of the following year, complete with organized resistance, lucrative bounties, and hired "substitutes" who were the bane of enlistment officers. Most importantly at the time, it was a spur to volunteerism in crucial months when enthusiasm in the North was at an ebb. And for tens of thousands of men who were drafted, and for their families, it was a life-changing event.
The Northern government entered 1862 with a foolish expectation of impending victory. In December 1861, then-Secretary of War Simon Cameron had instructed the Northern governors not to send any more regiments unless they were called for. His successor, Edwin Stanton, sent out a telegraph on April 3, 1862, ordering the federal recruiting offices closed [General Order 33]. Historians have puzzled over the motive for this, sometimes crediting it to a desire to save money. Others feel it was only intended as a temporary measure, but the communication does not support this reading. It ordered recruiting officers to sell off their furniture and return to their regiments. The troops in the undermanned regiments in the field grumbled and newspapers criticized the confusion.
It seems that Stanton, like many in Lincon's government, thought the war was about to be won, and the North would require only a few more men to finish it. On May 1, Stanton directed the army commanders to requisition troops through the states; and on May 19 he asked the governors to begin raising a few new infantry regiments. On May 27, after some vacilation, he directed that only three-year men would be accepted, but indicated they would probably serve less time than that because the war would be over within a year.
In the late spring of 1862, however, the leadership in Washington began to understand the gravity of the army's situation in Virginia. The closing of the recruiting offices was formally rescinded on June 6, and on June 18, Adjutant-Gen. Lorenzo Thomas wired all the state governors in the North: "We are in pressing need of troops. How many can you forward immediately?"
The answer can't have been encouraging. New Hampshire's Gov. Nathaniel S. Berry replied June 19 that "our Ninth Regiment is now recruiting. The field, staff, and a portion of the line officers are appointed. Every exertion is made and inducement offered to forward enlistments; still, owing to the season of the year, recruiting progresses much slower than heretofore." Berry thought it would be another 30 or 40 days till this regiment could be sent.
Pennsylvania Gov. Andrew Curtin wired back on June 18: "In view of the approaching harvest and the consequent difficulty attending the recruiting service, it has been considered better to confine our efforts to filling up the old than to attempt to recruit new regiments." Vermont said it was recruiting one regiment, but it wasn't yet ready. Iowa said it had one in process, but would require another 40 days at least. Illinois replied it had a regiment on the way and might manage another one, in three months or so. Ohio's governor thought he could have three regiments ready by Aug. 1, and two more by Sept. 1. Connecticut said it could round up 2,000 or 3,000 men for three months. New York, Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Missouri said they had no troops available.
Gov. O.P. Morton of Indiana wired the War Department an extensive reply on June 25: "The five regiments called for from this State for service during the war are progressing very slowly. I have just issued a special proclamation with reference to them and hope to succeed in getting them up during the summer, but the difficulties from the causes mentioned are greatly increased." Those "causes mentioned" included "newspapers of extremely doubtful loyalty" and "a secret political organization in Indiana, estimated and claimed to be 10,000 strong," which had as a leading objective, "to embarrass all efforts to recruit men for the military service of the United States."
Lincoln and his cabinet had realized they would need more volunteers -- many more volunteers. The trick was to call them up and yet avoid the appearance of acknowledging defeat outside Richmond. Secretary of State William Seward provided the answer. He went home to New York, drew up an appeal to the President to call up fresh troops to finish the war, and sent it by telegraph to all the Northern governors, asking their permission to attach their names to it as petitioners.
Most of them replied, more or less approving of the sentiments in the appeal, and Seward promptly attached their names to the appeal, back-dated it from June 30 to June 28, and presented it to the President. "The recent victories (real or fancied) were mentioned, and the men were asked for, not to retrieve disaster but to hasten to a speedy conclusion a victory already in immediate prospect."
The next day, Lincoln wrote to the governors, "Fully concurring in the wisdom of the views expressed to me in so patriotic a manner by you in the communication of the 28th day of June, I have decided to call into the service an additional force of 300,000 men. I suggest and recommend that the troops should be chiefly of infantry. The quota of your State would be ______." The formal call for fresh troops was made July 2.
The quotas were sent out July 7. They can be seen, broken down by states, here. But the call to arms in the North was greeted with nothing like the enthusiasm of 1861. The governors, into whose laps this recruiting drive had fallen, knew they faced a steep road in getting men into the ranks for three years now that the public knew the realities of war. They urged Lincoln to call up troops for shorter terms, in keeping with Washington's "victory is imminent" tone.
"Recruiting for three years is terribly hard," Gov. Israel Washburn of Maine telegraphed the White House in the wake of this announcement. "Shall be obliged to resort to drafting unless I can be authorized to take volunteers for three or six months." Gov. Samuel Kirkwood of Iowa, like all the loyal governors, thundered mightily in public to whip up enthusiasm and urge recruiting down to the last man: "Our old men and our boys, unfit for war, if need be, our women must help to gather harvests," and so forth. But privately he wrote to Lincoln and suggested three-month enlistments would be better; Gov. Curtin of Pennsylvania argued in favor of six months, while Adj.-Gen. John W. Finnell of Kentucky requested that he be allowed to raise a portion of his men for 12 months.
The administration made one important concession to the governors, though it had to be strong-armed into it. On June 30, Seward wired Stanton from New York, "Will you authorize me to promise an advance to recruits of $25 of the $100 bounty? It is thought here and in Massachusetts that without such payment recruiting will be very difficult, and with it probably entirely successful."
Massachusetts was the arm-twister in this case. In late May 1862, Gov. John Andrew had begun an effort to force a change in federal policy by allowing advance payment of bounties. Stanton rejected him, so Andrew turned to Henry Wilson, his junior senator, who was chair of the Senate Committee on Military Affairs and the Militia in the 37th and 38th Congresses. On June 21, Wilson secured congressional approval of the practice of advance payment of bounties. Andrew held out from the governors' call for troops until he got Stanton to approve what Congress had authorized: advance payment of $25 of the $100 federal bounty.
This was the cause of Seward's frantic telegram. Stanton replied that this was a "judicious" plan, and that he would see to it that the necessary legal changes were made to allow this, which was done, and the advance was ordered on July 1. Andrew was responsible for other changes in government policy; on July 21, Stanton answered a request from Andrew, "you are authorized to say that new recruits for old regiments will be mustered [out] with the regiment." In other words, the "three year" volunteers might only end up serving two years. The offer was soon extended to the other states.
Massachusetts, wealthy and well-organized, could affort to play the quota game. Other states could not. Morton, the Indiana governor, in a "confidential" July 9 letter to Lincoln (also signed by Indiana's state officers), strongly suggested the administration consider a draft. "The undersigned would urge upon you the vital importance of procuring the passage of a law by Congress by which men can be drafted into the Army. If Congress shall adjourn without doing this you will doubtless have to call them together for the purpose. We send you this as the result of our conclusions from what we know of the condition of the Northwest."
On July 14, Gov. E.D. Morgan of New York also wrote to the administration, expressing the same sentiment. "Congress should not adjourn without providing by law, if it has the power to do it, for filling up the volunteer regiments in the field and those now organizing by a draft."
"It was now recognized that the previous year's enlistment of 700,000 represented the full, hard core of patriotic citizenry," one historian has written. This was recognized in the camp tents, as well as in the White House. The volunteers of '61 were jaded to army life and resentful of the incompetence of their generals. By the end of July, they could add to their list of gripes bitter feelings toward those still at home.
Maj. Octavius Bull in the 53rd Pa. Infantry Regiment wrote home to his brother on Aug. 1, 1862. The letter is more eloquent and witty than most, but the sentiment is that of hundreds of letters and diaries from the Army of the Potomac in those months:
"What has become of the much vaunted bravery and stubborn will of the 'Northern Freemen' which we were wont to hear during every political campaign? How is it that, beside the bounty of $100 given by the U.S., the state must add half as much more? And then how very rapidly recruiting progresses -- truly 'Northern Freemen' do love their country! Yes, so much that no inducement except positive force can get them over state lines! Oh, what patriotism. Ain't you proud of your birthright?
"We can never conquer the South in this way, don't you begin to realize it? How now about the war being over in three months? But I'm sick of this subject. We've been here, begging for reinforcements from a population of twenty millions, and have received two brigades, the aggregate of which is probably three thousand men, not more."
Those close to the Northern war effort had awakened to reality by the start of summer. On July 8, Seward wrote privately that he feared a draft would be necessary, but he cautioned that "we ... first prove that it is so, by trying the old way." 
ColdWarCOLD WAR NIGHTMARES
When World War II ended, Germans began to speak of 1945 as the Year Zero. Time began again. And all across Europe was a hell's carpet of burned cities, from Coventry to Kiev. Some Americans entered Nagasaki at night after the bombing, driving for miles, waiting to see the city, then realizing they had been in the city all along, and the silent crags and spars around them were not rocks and trees but the ruins of the place.
The wound showed. But when the Cold War ended, we congratulated ourselves at having got through it without more than a few flare-ups and no major detonations. All the cities stood intact. Yet the wound, like a series of concussions, bloomed below the skin, in the bone.
When I was 18, opinion surveys of my age group began to appear in print for the first time. There we were, a collective voice, a slice of a generation. It was enlightening to measure myself against my peers in some sort of objective way. And so I saved them, in a manila file, in a filing cabinet. [Nowadays, you'd just copy the file to your computer, of course, but this was circa 1979.]
Last night, I went up to the attic and pulled this one down and dusted it off. I sat at my desk and read through the articles and reports in it, while my wife went up in the attic to rescue the cat, which I had accidently locked up there.
I wanted to see if something I remembered was true.
It was. In one 1982 poll of high school seniors, 30 percent said they "worried often" about the chance of nuclear war. That figure was the same across the board -- men and women, college-bound and non-college-bound.
Some friends and I have discussed this before. Our memory of one thing is strong and plain: We grew up thinking there was a pretty good chance, maybe 50:50 or worse, that the whole world was going to go up in a nuclear holocaust some day in the near future, without any warning to any of us.
The 30 percent figure appeared in the tables of the Institute for Social Research at the University of Michigan's annual survey of 17,000 high school seniors in 130 schools nationwide. Yet it rated only a single sentence in the report's text. Probably the figure was so self-evident as to be uninteresting. Instead, the authors, like good academic children of the '60s, bemoaned my generation's lack of sit-ins. The title of the report was "Fewer Rebels, Fewer Causes."
Forty-five percent of us agreed that there would essentially be a world war in the next ten years. Newsweek's "On Campus Poll" in 1982, conducted by Gallup, showed 21 percent of college students (I was one that year) "frequently think and worry about chances of nuclear war," and 49 percent said, "While concerned about the chances of nuclear war, I try to put it out of my mind."
Only 29 percent said they thought the chance of nuclear war was remote. The same polls showed very few of us thought we could survive even an initially limited nuclear war. As recently as 1987, 62 percent of American adults "worried often" about the chance of all-out nuclear war.
In the Michigan poll, 36 percent of high school seniors agreed nuclear or biological annihilation "will probably be the fate of all mankind within my lifetime."
However bad the world is now, whatever fears haunt my children's nightmares, however necessary the Cold War was -- I am grateful to have outlived a time when more than one-third of the children go to bed at night expecting their parents to blow up the whole world and them in it.
Up in the attic I also found a dream journal I kept when I was a teen-ager. More than a few of the nightmares I wrote in it involved the missiles coming down out of the clouds, the sun blooming on my street, the desperate sprint for some sort of shelter and the certainty that there really was nowhere to run.
Like all dreams, perhaps, they were symbolic. But what better way to know a person's realities, his times, than by the metaphors the unconscious mind reaches for in dreams?
People in every generation may have a notion of an impending end of the world. Religions with apocalyptic stories woven into their texts, Christianity or Norse god-worship, have them more prominently.
But here, with us, the fear was clear, specific, and immediate. There was no rapture. It was an open question of debate among my friends and me, whether it would be luckier to die in the first flash or to manage to survive it and linger in the wasted world.
And it would be an act not of god, but of us.
This, I am sure, had its effects on us, on me. They may be different in different people. But perhaps they are too little appreciated now in considering the generation that grew up with fallout shelter placards on our school walls and that now rises to power in the world.
The Cold War severely warped America, and our minds have not yet stopped flowing through the channels it carved in them. U.S. journalism's fixation with the present tense overlooks even recent historical influences. So the Cold War is often the obvious thing left out in discussions of modern America and its policies.
I'll tell you one time I felt it affect me as an adult: When I was young, it seemed the whole point of American military might and the billions we poured into it was to be able to survive just long enough to bring down the hammer on the people of Russia, to kill all of them as they killed all of us. Submarines parked silently on the Arctic Sea floor, missiles hidden among grain fields in the Dakotas, army radar dishes scanning north from Maine. Trigger fingers in the ultimate Mexican standoff. To save the world by being forever one phone call away from obliterating it.
The Cold War warped the rest of the world, too. The modern geopolitical landscape is a post-Cold War battlefield, littered with rusting artillery and unexploded mines. Saddam Hussein was a bit of both.
During the Iraq War, and Afghanistan, and the Asian tsunami, when the U.S. military poured its might into setting people free, giving them a hand up, redeeming old wrongs, I felt it, in a small part, like a personal joy. The sense of re-waking from the Kissinger realist nightmare was exhilarating.