Friday, December 29, 2006

U.S. manufacturing expected to take hit

Recession fears grow

Peter Morton
National Post

Washington Bureau Chief

WASHINGTON - The key U.S. manufacturing sector is expected to be hit hard next year, heightening fears a recession is now much more likely than many economists had expected.

In its annual forecast, the U.S. National Association of Manufacturers said yesterday it expects factory output to slow to a mere 2.8% increase in 2007, compared with a more-robust 4.5% growth in 2006.

"The economy enters 2007 in a weakened state and a number of shocks could trigger a recession or near-recession economy," said Ethan Harris, U.S. chief economist for Lehman Bros., who pegs the possibility of a recession at 20% or higher.

David Berson, chief economist of U.S. government-backed mortgage-financing firm Fannie Mae, said he is doubtful the U.S. economy will slip into a recession in 2007, "but the risks have risen."

"Some of the Christmas spending wasn't as strong as we'd hope," Mr. Berson said. "I think we have not reached the bottom in housing yet."

David Heuther, the association's chief economist, said he believes manufacturing expansion had likely hit "a cyclical peak in the pace of growth" last year, but that the weaker U.S. dollar was helping boost U.S. exports. That, in turn, could soften the blow.

"After slowing to a 'below-potential pace' in recent quarters, the economy will continue decelerating toward a soft landing in the coming year," Mr. Heuther said, adding he expects the U.S. Federal Reserve to cut its key overnight lending rate by 50 basis points over the next 12 months to 4.75% from 5.25%.

Mr. Heuther's views are similar to those of other economists in the manufacturing sector -- it represents about 20% of total U.S. economic activity -- who feel the slowing housing market and soft automobiles sales will contribute to a sluggish start to the New Year.

Paul Kasriel, chief economist with the Northern Trust in Chicago, said yesterday he sees the chance of a recession as high as 45% unless the U.S. Federal Reserve moves quickly to cut short term interest rates.

"The goods-producing sectors -- manufacturing, construction -- still represent 45% of [gross domestic product]," Mr. Kasriel said.

"These are the part of the economy that move before the economy as a whole goes into recession and right now they're moving south."

One key gauge will come early next week when the U.S. Institute for Supply Management releases its December report on the manufacturing sector. The ISM's manufacturing index for November showed the sector had its first month of contraction since April, 2003.

Most economists expect the impact of slowing housing and energy prices to cut economic growth during the current quarter to 1.9%. But they are also calling for some rebound, with an overall growth rate of 2.3% in 2007. That should pick up to 3% by 2008.

That view is tempered somewhat by the soft retail sales during this key Christmas holiday spending season and the lingering slump in U.S. housing sales.

However, the latest numbers in the housing market show a surprising rebound in new homes sales in November as U.S. homebuilders unloaded stalled inventories.

The 3.4% increase in home sales was nearly double what economists had predicted. Meanwhile, the supply of unsold homes fell to the lowest level since May.

"We might not be at the bottom [of the housing slump], but we're getting very close to it,'' said Jason Schenker, an economist at Wachovia Corp. in Charlotte,N.C.

Financial Post

It's simple apartheid

Just as the US and Europe once opposed apartheid in South Africa, Israel's discrimination against Palestinians must be similarly exposed and dismantled, writes Jamil Dakwar

President Jimmy Carter is drawing criticism because his new book, Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid, uses the label apartheid to describe Israeli practices in the occupied Palestinian territories. As second-class citizens in their own land, the term "apartheid" often rings truer for Palestinian citizens of Israel than democracy.

Israel's Jewish majority enjoys a thriving democracy. But Israel's non-Jewish citizens -- nearly 20 per cent of the population -- live a different reality. Palestinian citizens of Israel send their children to separate but unequal schools that receive less funding than Jewish schools, they cannot buy land or lease apartments in most Jewish towns, and they must often stand in a separate line at the airport from Jewish people.

While it is in the West Bank and Gaza that the apartheid analogy holds best, in many ways Palestinian citizens of Israel live under an apartheid-like legal regime. More than 20 Israeli laws explicitly privilege Jews over non-Jews, including the law of return that grants automatic citizenship rights to Jews from anywhere in the world upon request, inviting them to settle on land that is not theirs, while denying that same right to Palestinians. Israeli housing and land policies are racially driven. Hundreds of thousands of acres of privately owned land have been expropriated from Palestinians for the establishment of Jewish settlements.

The nationality and entry into Israel law prevents Palestinians from the occupied territories who are married to Palestinian citizens of Israel from gaining residency or citizenship status. The law forces thousands of Palestinian citizens of Israel to either leave Israel or live apart from their families.

Israel's recently appointed deputy prime minister and minister for strategic threats, Avigdor Lieberman, considers Palestinian citizens of Israel to be a "demographic threat". Over the years, he has advocated ridding Israel of its indigenous Palestinian inhabitants to maintain a Jewish majority. His appointment did not elicit the same outrage as the 1999 victory of Jorg Haider's Freedom Party in Austria. Back then, Israel re-called its ambassador, Europe threatened Austria with economic sanctions and the US threatened to react swiftly to any expression of racism or anti-Semitism.

In the West Bank, though Palestinians have lived under Israeli rule for 40 years, they have no voice in Israeli politics and very limited recourse to Israel's legal system. Hundreds of checkpoints impede movement, disrupting, or blocking access to schools, jobs and medical care. As under South Africa's "pass system", Palestinians often require permission to travel from one village to the next inside the West Bank. South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu said during a visit to Palestine that the situation was "much like what happened to us black people in South Africa." At the same time, Israel has constructed a vast road system for the exclusive use of Jewish settlers living illegally in the West Bank. This network of settlements and segregated roads bisects the West Bank, furthering the Palestinians' isolation and loss of land and property.

Israel's separation wall/barrier inside the West Bank confiscates Palestinian land and separates Palestinian communities. Dwarfing the Berlin Wall, it serves not solely security, but reaches deep into the West Bank to encompass major illegal Jewish settlements. Palestinians in the West Bank are increasingly penned into ghettoes that resemble the Bantustans of apartheid South Africa.

Meanwhile, Israel "withdrew" from Gaza more than a year ago, but it continues to control Gaza's borders, airspace and coastline and continues military strikes and operations inside Gaza at will. Determining everything that gets in or out, it has turned Gaza into the world's largest open-air prison.

Though it took decades, the world (with the exception of Israel) united against the South African apartheid regime and demanded equal rights for all of that country's citizens. This same standard should be applied to Israel immediately. The discrimination against Palestinian citizens of Israel and the oppression of Palestinians in the occupied territories, as well as disinherited Palestinian refugees, demands a comprehensive solution based on international law and equal rights regardless of race, religion or ethnicity.

The United States and the EU have a pivotal role to play. The US State Department and the EU have repeatedly documented Israel's discriminatory practices. Yet while the Bush administration and the EU demanded that Palestinians under occupation develop democratic systems, no pressure has been applied to Israel to reform its exclusivist democracy for Jews to include all citizens of Israel, including 20 per cent of its citizens who are Palestinians. It is time the US and the EU hold Israel to account by making its massive economic and military aid contingent upon Israel abandoning its discriminatory policies. Americans and Europeans shunned apartheid once. It is time to do it again.

* The writer is a formerly senior lawyer with Adalah, the legal Centre for Arab Minority Rights in Israel.

© Copyright Al-Ahram Weekly. All rights reserved

Al-Ahram Weekly Online

Our Next Big Mess

Dec 29, 2006

By Ted Rall

NEW YORK--Chances are that you heard more about Rosie O'Donnell's flame war with Donald Trump than the passing of Sapamurat "Turkmenbashi" Niyazov. As seems to occur with increasing frequency, America's media ignored the most important story of the year.

A handful of news outlets that bothered to cover the 66-year-old dictator's death wallowed in the humor inherent in the extravagant personality cult he built up after Turkmenistan gained independence from the Soviet Union in 1991. Cannier obituary writers noted that the Central Asian nation "contains many of the world's largest natural gas fields, and provides gas to Russian and European countries." (Actually, the largest. Period.) But they missed the main point of the story, one with dramatic short-term consequences for Central Asia and breathtaking dangers to the United States during the first half of the new century.

The Central Asian republics of Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and--until now--Turkmenistan are all being ruled by the same former Communist Party bosses who ran them in Soviet times. Niyazov's death marks the beginning of the end for the post-Soviet authoritarian order and the beginning of a period of increasing instability, as foreign powers attempt to monopolize access to oil and natural gas resources and pipeline routes. Kazakhstan alone may possess more untapped oil reserves than Saudi Arabia and Iraq combined, and the politics and economies of the Central Asian republics are closely intertwined. What is at stake is nothing less than the security and control of the world economy.

Unless you were one of the five million desperately poor Turkmen forced to watch while your desert nation's gas wealth was systemically looted and squandered on such vanity projects as the gilt statue of Turkmenbashi that dominates the skyline of Ashkhabat and turns to face the sun (local wags say the sun turns to face it), it was easy to laugh at the ubiquitous trappings of unhinged egotism. Turkmenbashi's moon-eyed mug glared from banners hung from the façade of every government ministry and school, appeared on every denomination of currency, even on his own brands of vodka and cologne. Everything was named after him: the country's second-largest city, its airports, a large meteorite, the month of January. His not-so-little green book of aphorisms ("Time is a mace. Hit or be hit!"), the Rukhnama, became required reading for schoolchildren and motorists who sought to renew their driver's licenses.

Saddam Hussein's reputation for self-indulgence had nothing on Turkmenbashi. Niyazov's megalomania ranged from the grandiose--at the time of his death he had just completed the world's largest mosque (featuring quotes from the Rukhnama, naturally) and had ordered the construction of a man-made lake in the middle of the Karakum desert--to obsessive micromanagement. Each Turkmen student's college application was personally considered by the great man.

Even his commonsense dictates came with a bizarre twist. During the 1990s Turkmenbashi ordered that natural gas, as a national patrimony, be supplied to Turkmen homes for free. Since most people were too poor to afford matches, however, it became common practice to leave their stoves on 24-7. Where foreigners saw hilarity, Turkmen seethed with resentment; Ashkhabati motorists saved their household garbage so they could chuck it on the lawn of one of Niyazov's pink pleasure palaces.

A power struggle is underway. Within hours of Turkmenbashi's fatal heart attack his Constitutionally-mandated successor, Majlis (lower house of parliament) chairman Ovezgeldy Atayev found himself behind bars, arrested for an unspecified "criminal investigation." An obscure deputy prime minister and former dentist, Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov, declared himself acting president and has arranged to have the Constitution retrofitted to validate his rule.

"Many Western analysts," reported The New York Times, "said the country was unlikely to change and that authoritarian rule would continue under any of Mr. Niyazov's successors." But Turkmen exiles who lead opposition parties are itching to fill the vacuum, if not of power, of charisma, left by Niyazov's demise. Leaders of the nation's five biggest tribes are jockeying for advantage. And five million Turkmen who can't afford matches want a piece of the action--and want to get even with the government thugs who shut down the country's hospitals and medical clinics.

Everyone is betting that Turkmenbashi's foreign policy of "positive neutrality" won't last long. Russia has already indicated its intent to reassert itself in Turkmenistan. Here's where we come in: no American president, Democrat or Republican, will allow Russia to gain control over the world's largest energy reserves without a fight. Moreover, neither Russia nor the U.S. will watch idly as Central Asia implodes and takes the world economy along for the ride. U.S. troops, currently based in Uzbekistan, could be sent in to restore order and keep the Russians out.

Signaling renewed high-level interest in Turkmenistan, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Richard Boucher and Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Fradkov both attended Turkmenbashi's funeral on Christmas Eve.

Uzbekistan's universally reviled despot Islam Karimov, who got away with the 2005 massacre of at least 700 civilians at Andijon because of his country's energy reserves, will almost certainly be an early casualty of civil strife in Central Asia. A witch's brew of Stalin-era ethnic gerrymandering and brutal suppression of a nascent Islamist insurgency, mixed with the collapse of Karimov's Uzbek police state, could easily take Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan--poor countries barely recovering from civil conflict and dependant on the urban-based Uzbek economy--with them. Even Kazakhstan, the most stable of a fragile lot, is susceptible to an uprising; few Kazakhs have shared in the nation's oil boom.

Whether or not Turkmenbashi's death directly affects its neighbors, it's a reminder that Central Asia's autocrats aren't getting younger. Laugh about the Leader of All Turkmen's excesses now. The storm is coming.

(Ted Rall is the author of the new book "Silk Road to Ruin: Is Central Asia the New Middle East?," an in-depth prose and graphic novel analysis of America's next big foreign policy challenge.)

The Disrespect for Truth has Brought a New Dark Age

December 29, 2006

By Paul Craig Roberts

In her historical mystery, The Daughter of Time, Josephine Tey (a pen name of Elizabeth MacKintosh), has Scotland Yard Inspector Alan Grant, while confined to his hospital bed, solve the 15th century murder of the two York princes in the Tower of London. The princes were murdered by Henry VII, and the crime was blamed on Richard III in order to justify the upstart Tudor’s violent seizure of the English throne.

Tey makes the point that if a 20th century mystery writer can detect the truth about a 15th century murder, historians have no excuse to persist in writing in school textbooks that Richard murdered his nephews. British historians remained loyal to the Tudor propaganda long after the Tudors were no longer around to be feared or served.

At the beginning of the scientific era, men had the hope that the ability to discover truth would free mankind from superstition, dogma, and the service of power. The belief in truth was powerful. Truth would deliver justice and bring an end to status-based privileges and the falsehoods propagated by privilege. The faith in truth was short-lived. Today propaganda is everywhere in the ascendency.

In the panoply of left-wing propaganda about Pinochet, it is nowhere mentioned that Allende was appointed president of Chile by the Chilean congress, which three years later called on Chile’s military to oust Allende for his totalitarian ways. Instead, Allende is portrayed as a "popularly elected president who was overthrown by a tyrant."

Every week another apologist for President Bush compares "Bush’s fight for Iraqi freedom" to Abraham Lincoln’s "fight to free the slaves." The American civil war was not fought to "free the slaves," as Thomas DiLorenzo and other scholars have thoroughly documented, any more than the purpose of Bush’s illegal invasion of Iraq was to "bring freedom to Iraqis." The freedom excuse was invented after it became impossible to maintain the fictions about Iraqi weapons of mass destruction and Saddam Hussein’s connections to Osama bin Laden. Bush has yet to tell the real reason he invaded Iraq.

In the US today, demonization and propaganda substitute for facts and analysis. Professors and journalists are quick to lend their names and voices to the untruths that rule our lives. Just as Hitler’s foreign policy was based in propaganda, so is Bush’s and Blair’s.

The success of propaganda enhances government’s illusion that it has a monopoly on truth. It is the monopoly on truth that gives the Bush regime the right to define the "Iran problem," the "Syria problem," the "Lebanon problem," and the "Korea problem" and to apply coercion in place of understanding and negotiation.

Secure in its possession of truth, the Bush administration refuses to talk to the enemies it has manufactured. It will only fight them.

When scholars, such as John Walt and Stephen Mearsheimer, or President Jimmy Carter, who has tried harder than anyone else to achieve Arab-Israeli peace, point out that Israel’s mistreatment of Palestinians is a cause of Middle East turmoil, they are immediately denounced as anti-Semites. Columnists and academics who know nothing about the Middle East or its troubles nevertheless know what they are supposed to say whenever anyone mentions Israel in any critical context. And they have no compunction about saying it, the truth be damned.

Without commitment to truth, science, justice, and debate falter and disappear.

The belief in truth is fading from our society. It is unclear that scientists themselves any longer believe in truth or the ability to discover it.

The discovery of truth is no longer the purpose of our criminal justice system. Once prosecutors believed that it was better for ten guilty men to go free than for one innocent person to be wrongfully convicted. Today prosecutors believe in high conviction rates to justify their budgets and re-election.

In the past police solved crimes. Today they round up suspects and pressure them.

There was no debate in Nazi Germany and Stalinist Russia, and none today in the US. Many Americans, who imagine themselves to be conservatives even though they have never read, nor could they identify, a conservative writer, equate truth-telling with hatred of America. They are of Bush’s mindset: "you are with us or against us." Bush supporters respond to factual articles about Iraq and the rending of the US Constitution by suggesting that as the writer hates America so much, he should move to Cuba or China.

In America today each faction’s "truths" are defined by the faction’s dogma or ideology. Each faction bans factual analysis that it doesn’t want to hear. This is as true within the universities as it is at political rallies. The old liberal notion that "we shall follow the truth wherever it may lead" has long departed from America. Think tanks reflect the views of the donors. Studies are no longer independent of their financing. In America, truth has become partisan.

All societies have elements of myth, untruths that nevertheless serve to unite a people. But many myths serve as camouflage for evil. One of the greatest myths is that "GIs have died for our freedom." GIs have died for American empire, for the American elite’s commitment to England, and for the military-industrial complex’s profits. Some may have died in Korea for the freedom of South Koreans, and some may have died trying to save South Vietnamese from the North Vietnamese communists. But it is hogwash that GIs died for our freedom.

There was no prospect of North Korea attacking America in the 1950s or Vietnam attacking America in the 1960s and none today. The Nazis were defeated by Russia before US troops landed in Europe. The US never faced any threat of invasion from Germany, Italy, or Japan.

America’s wars have created hysteria that endanger our freedom. Abraham Lincoln shut down the freedom of the press and arrested editors and state legislators. Woodrow Wilson arrested war critics. Franklin Roosevelt interred American citizens of Japanese descent. George W. Bush has destroyed most of the Bill of Rights. In 2006 Congress appropriated funds for building concentration camps in the US.

Recently, Newt Gingrich, the former Speaker of the House, said that freedom of speech is inconsistent with "the war on terror." If it takes a police state to fight terror, the country is lost even if Muslim terrorists are defeated. Americans have far more to fear from a homeland police state than from terrorists.

The vast majority of the world’s terrorists are the recent creations of Bush’s invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq and of Israel’s invasion of Lebanon and brutality toward the Palestinians. Bush is simultaneously creating terrorists and a police state. It serves no one but the police to make their power unaccountable.

On December 26 Jeff Cohen explained on Truthout how war propaganda took over TV news and demonized everyone who spoke the truth about Iraq, while pushing war fever to a frenzy. Fox "News" was the worst with its ranks of generals and colonels who sold their integrity for dollars and TV exposure. One of Fox’s loudest voices for war was a retired general who sat on the board of a military contractor.

When the Clinton administration allowed the media concentration in the 1990s, the independence of the American media was destroyed. Today there are a few large conglomerates whose values depend on broadcast licenses from the government. The conglomerates are run by corporate executives who are not journalists and whose eyes are on advertising revenues. They publish and broadcast what is safe. These conglomerates will take no risks in behalf of free speech or truth.

The challenges that America faces are not terrorism and oil supply. The challenges that we face are the police state that Bush has created and the disrespect for truth that is endemic in government, the universities, and the media. The US has entered a dark age of dogmas and unaccountable power.

Dershowitz vs. Carter: Peace Movement Is AWOL, Again

December 26, 2006

Peace Movement is AWOL, Again

Dershowitz vs. Carter in Beantown


"Jimmy Carter is to be congratulated for not having demeaned himself by debating Alan Dershowitz."

William M. Bulger, former president of the Mass. State Senate and University of Mass. (Full text of Bulger's one-sentence Letter to the_Boston Globe,12/18/06.)

At long last the Boston Globe published an op-ed by former President Jimmy Carter, defending his book "Palestine, Peace Not Apartheid," from the predictable, scurrilous attacks (e.g.,"lie" and "blood libel") by Alan Dershowitz, Abe Foxman and David Horowitz. Quite wisely, Carter used most of his space to reiterate the main contentions of his book, making his op-ed (1) must reading for those who cannot get to the book. In perhaps the most interesting paragraph, Carter links his book to war on Iraq, thus:
"As recommended by the Hamilton-Baker report, renewed negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians are a prime factor in promoting peace in the region. Although my book concentrates on the Palestinian territories, I noted that the report also recommended peace talks with Syria concerning the Golan Heights. Both recommendations have been rejected by Israel's prime minister."

It is not hard to conclude from this that American blood is being spilled in Iraq, in part because of Israeli rejectionism. No wonder the neocons are so disturbed by Carter's book. It is also remarkable, but not surprising, that Carter has had so few champions of his important book on the "Left."

The precipitating event in the Beantown brouhaha was a speaking invitation to Carter by a professor at Brandeis University, a "traditionally Jewish college." The invitation was issued way back in the middle of November when Carter's book was publishe. Upon learning that there was opposition on the campus to the invitation, Carter consulted an old adviser Stuart Eizenstadt, now on the Brandeis board of trustees, and good old Stu offered to be an intermediary. But Stu betrayed Carter. (Shades of Menachim Begin.) Eizenstadt contacted Brandeis president, Jehuda Reinharz, and suggested that Carter only be allowed to appear if he debated Alan Dershowitz. A debate "would make this a real academic exercise," Eizenstat enthused to the Globe, adding, "The president of the university is not in the business of inviting someone, even a former president, for a book tour." (Excellent put-down, Stu.) Carter was "stunned by the proposal," according to The Globe, saying: "I don't want to have a conversation even indirectly with Dershowitz. There is no need to for me to debate somebody who, in my opinion, knows nothing about the situation in Palestine." Now let's see. Dershowitz is best know for his high-priced defense of Claus von Bulow and O.J. Simpson, and Carter for making peace between Egypt and Israel, a peace agreed to by the Israeli government and defended by such principled defenders of Palestinian rights as the late Edward Said. (That last endorsement may go some way in explaining the neocons' enduring hatred of Carter.)

The Globe did not cover the controversy in its news section until the debate topic was broached (December 15), ensuring that the content of the book receded far into the background. (Excellent job of distraction, Boston Globe.) The very next day after the news coverage the Globe ran an editorial, charging that Carter, unlike the neocons' much beloved war criminal, Harry Truman, "can't take the heat." Another put down by the Globe. And the day after Carter's op-ed finally appeared on December 20, the Globe ran an op-ed by Dershowitz, again sliming Carter and ensuring that Dershowitz had the last word. In fact the Globe, like the New York Times and other major papers, has not given "Palestine, Peace Not Apartheid," a best-selling book by a former president and Nobel Prize winner, a legitimate review. If that is not testimony to the power of the Israeli Lobby, I do not know what is.

The only opening in this anti-Carter phalanx came from the readers of the Globe themselves in the letters to the editor, which appear to run strongly in Carter's favor, if one discards the obvious plants. Here are some excerpts from letters of December 18 and 23. They should give some holiday joy to those who have recently felt despondent about the prospects for peace.

"The discussion around Jimmy Carter's new book needs to move to the central issues. Carter's detractors and the media have discussed the book's provocative title but little of its substance. Carter's book clearly lays out the current conditions in which Israel is constructing a 40-foot wall entirely inside the occupied territories and around settlements that have been constructed in defiance of international law. Americans need to decide whether our policies (or the lack thereof) are in our best interests or Israel's. Now that Carter has provoked us, let the real conversation begin." D. Weden

"Instead of correcting what he calls Carter's 'factual errors,' Dershowitz attacks the former president, saying that the man who brokered the most significant peace agreement in Middle Eastern history lacks objectivity, is guilty of a conflict of interest and is a bully. Really? The mood in America is changing quickly. American blood is being spilled in the Middle East with no end in sight, and the days when Dershowitz could get away with this type of nonsense are over." J. O'Rourke.

"I'm sure that Brandeis is just trying to be fair by allowing Carter to speak only if he debates Dershowitz. No doubt, also in the interest of fairness, the next time a blatantly pro-Israel book is published, Brandeis will only allow the author to speak if he agrees to debate Noam Chomsky. And if the author refuses, the Globe of course will run a lead editorial accusing him of not being able to 'take the heat'." A. Martin

"Thank you for printing Jimmy Carter's op-ed. He is one of only a very few Christian leaders willing to speak the truth about the Israeli occupation of Palestinian land. I have copied his op-ed and am inserting it into my Christmas cards to a hundred of my closest friends and family" J.P. Leary

Perhaps the best letter of all came from Norman Finkelstein who was the very first to defend Carter's book on the day it was published (2) right here in CounterPunch, which is one of the few publications to carry a full-throated defense of Carter. I include Finkelstein's letter in toto below (3). (In the exchange of letters and during this entire controversy, the peace and justice establishment in Beantown was largely silent, perhaps another indication of the reach of the Lobby.) As we go to press one hundred determined and principled Brandeis professors and students have signed a petition demanding that Carter be invited after all, and president Reinharz seems ready to relent. We at CounterPunch will keep you informed.

John V. Walsh can be reached at He has the burden of sharing his home town of Cambridge with Alan Dershowitz. He hopes that CP readers will buy multiple copies of Carter's book. It makes a great Hanukah or Christmas gift.

The LA Times also gave Carter some space, the only other major paper to do so. Interestingly when I tried to search for this piece through the LA Times search engine, it did not appear despite a valiant effort on this searcher's part! But it did come up on Google. See:

(2)Norman Finkelstein. Peace Not Apartheid; Jimmy Carter's Roadmap.

(3) Norman Finkelstein's letter (12/18/06) in response to the Globe's editorial put-down of Carter:

"You write that former president Jimmy Carter's use of the word 'apartheid' in the title of his new book is 'irresponsibly provocative' ('Jimmy Carter vs. Jimmy Carter,' editorial, Dec. 16). This would make for a rather puzzling list of 'irresponsibly provocative' commentators on the Israel-Palestine conflict. For example, a study by the Israeli human rights group B'Tselem concluded: 'Israel has created in the Occupied Territories a regime of separation based on discrimination, applying two separate systems of law in the same area and basing the rights of individuals on their nationality. This regime . . . is reminiscent of . . . the apartheid regime in South Africa.' The roster of irresponsible provocateurs would also include the editorial board of Israel's leading newspaper Haaretz, which observed in September that 'the apartheid regime in the territories remains intact; millions of Palestinians are living without rights, freedom of movement or a livelihood, under the yoke of ongoing Israeli occupation.' Indeed, the list apparently includes former Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon. Pointing to his 'fixation with Bantustans,' Israeli researcher Gershom Gorenberg concluded in 2003 that it is 'no accident' that Sharon's plan for the West Bank 'bears a striking resemblance to the 'grand apartheid' promoted by the old South African regime.' Sharon reportedly stated around that time that 'the Bantustan model was the most appropriate solution to the conflict."

NORMAN G. FINKELSTEIN, Chicago. The writer is a political science professor at DePaul University.

Iraq officials say U.S. behind Sadr aide killing

28 Dec 2006 13:09:51 GMT

By Khaled Farhan

NAJAF, Iraq, Dec 28 (Reuters) - Iraqi officials in the city of Najaf said on Thursday that a raid which killed a top aide of Shi'ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr was a violation of the deal that transferred U.S. control of Najaf to the Iraqi army.

Less than 10 days after the U.S. military handed control of Najaf to Iraqi forces, U.S. military spokesman Major General William Caldwell told reporters that a U.S. soldier killed Saheb al-Amiri in a raid planned and carried out by Iraqi forces.

But officials in Najaf said neither the provincial governor nor security forces in the city were warned about the raid and disputed that the Iraqis had planned the operation.

The raid led to angry protests by thousands of Sadr supporters against U.S. forces during Amiri's funeral.

Sadr controls the Mehdi Army, which U.S. forces blame for widespread sectarian killings and unrest in parts of southern and central Iraq, including a district of Baghdad which bears his family name.

Caldwell said the raid was carried out by 35 soldiers from the 8th Iraqi Army Division with the assistance of eight U.S. military advisers.

A spokesman for Najaf's governor called Amiri's killing an "assassination" and said the raid violated the handover's security agreement. Sadr aides said Amiri was head of a charity for the poor and had no links to militias.

"The governor of Najaf considers it a violation of the security treaty since the security file was officially handed over to Iraqis," Najaf governor spokesman Ahmed Diabil said.

Iraqi army and police spokesman in Najaf, Colonel Ali Numas Ijrau, also disputed the account given by Caldwell.

"We didn't have any information about an operation targeting the house of Saheb al-Amiri. It is American intelligence who collected the information and who raided the house," he said.


Iraq's Defence Ministry spokesman could not be reached for comment and Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki and his ministers were in a cabinet meeting all morning. The killing could have dire repercussions for Maliki's fractious Shi'ite-led coalition.

Sadr, nominally an ally of Maliki but whose supporters in parliament and in the cabinet have staged a boycott to protest Maliki's meeting with U.S. President George W. Bush last month, has led two uprisings against U.S. forces in the past.

U.S. commanders have put pressure on Maliki to crack down on the Mehdi Army, but Maliki is said to be reluctant to further alienate the young cleric amid efforts to lure Sadr supporters back to the cabinet. A Pentagon report this month said Mehdi Army militias were the biggest threat to Iraq's security.

On Wednesday Sadr urged calm, but said: "We know that Bush, God's enemy, cries for the deaths of his soldiers in Iraq. We ask God to prolong his crying and suffering."

Caldwell said Amiri resisted arrest, fled to the rooftop and was shot dead by a U.S. soldier who saw him pointing an assault rifle at Iraqi soldiers. But a son of Amiri, aged about 13, said his father was unarmed when he was killed.

"My dad went to the roof and tried to escape over the wall to the neighbours. He didn't have time to take his gun out and he ran upstairs unarmed. They came in and ran upstairs after him and we heard four shots," Ahmed Amiri told Reuters.

"When they left we went upstairs and saw he had three bullet wounds in the chest and one in the head."

Households: Worst Financial Shape Since WWII: Bonddad

It’s been awhile since I have written about the issue of consumer debt. Please don’t take this as a sign that consumer debt in the US is not an issue anymore. Far from it – the consumer debt issue is still alive and well. In fact, it’s reaching historic levels – as in levels not seen since WWII levels. Paul Kasriel of Northern Trust has done some digging into the most recent Federal Reserve’s Flow of Funds report and found some pretty scary developments. The report is available in PDF format here, under the title Festivus Flow-of-Funds Stocking Stuffers. I would encourage everyone to download this report. The excerpts below reference some of the charts in the report.

Also – a big thanks to the Big Picture economic blog for highlighting this report.

Despite the fact that household mortgage borrowing has slowed in recent quarters, the leverage in owner-occupied real estate reached a record high 46.4% in the third quarter of 2006, as shown in chart 8. If mortgage borrowing slowed, why the increase in leverage? Because, as shown in chart 9, there has been a sharp slowdown in the growth of the total market value of residential read estate. With a still sizeable excess inventory of homes for sale, continued weak growth, perhaps even a contraction, in the market value of residential real estate could reasonably be expected in 2007.

While all of this may sound a bit complicated, it’s really simple when you rephrase the eco-geek language with everyday English. All Mr. Kasriel is doing is to compare the total outstanding household mortgage debt with total household real estate holdings. This is the leverage ratio, and economists or financial people use this ratio to determine if a household has enough assets to cover all its liabilities. For comparison purposes, let’s use the first three quarters of 2005 from the Fed’s Flow of Funds report. Total household residential real estate holdings increased from $17.6 trillion in the first quarter of 2005 to $18.9 trillion in the third quarter of 2005 – or an increase of 7.38%. For the same quarters in 2006, residential real estate increased from 19.9 trillion to 20.5 trillion or an increase of 3%. In other words, residential real estates’ upward appreciation for the first three quarters of 2006 was half the rate as the first three quarters of 2005. Because real estate is slowing in appreciation, the incredibly high amount of outstanding mortgage debt at the national level – 9.5 trillion in the third quarter of 2006 – takes a larger percentage of the value of real estate. Just as importantly, residential real estate now comprises the largest percentage of household assets since 1955.

Conversely, homeowner’s equity – which represents the amount a person actually owns in real estate –- is at a post WWII record low.

Household liquidity fell to a post-WWII low in the third quarter of 2006. I am using as a measure of liquidity household deposits and money market mutual funds as a percent of total household liabilities. Some might respond that with all the different sources of credit available to households today, they do not need to hold as large a ratio of liquid assets as in the past. To this I would respond with three counter-arguments. Firstly, households already have borrowed so much that their level is at a post-WWII high (see chart 13). Secondly, households have already borrowed so much that their debt service burden is at a 25-year high (see chart 14). And thirdly, residential real estate which accounts for 30.5% of the total market value of households assets (see chart 15), is the single largest asset in households portfolios compared with deposits, credit market instruments, corporate equities and other tangible assets. Of these other asset categories,, residential real estate probably is the least liquid. In sum, household have never been as highly leveraged as they are now or as illiquid as they are now, and their single largest asset is in danger of actually falling in value.

What we are looking at above is how much cash on hand do households have to pay off their debts. And the answer is – a record low amount. As Kasriel points out, alternative means of financing -- home equity loans for example -- would require additional debt which is already at historically high levels. This is where the US savings situation – which is essentially a savings crisis – really comes into play. Just for the sake of argument, suppose a homeowner has an adjustable rate mortgage (not they anyone would ever consider that option). Now suppose the payments on that ARM increase at a high rate. Does the homeowner have the necessary savings to make the payment? The answer is maybe not. And that’s a huge problem. It implies that if there is a sudden shock to the US economy that causes a drastic slowdown (like a lot of central banks dumping dollars because of a record trade deficit), homeowners will be scrambling to make their payments.

Just as important note the absolute household debt level and debt payment levels are now at record highs -- as in highs not seen for 25 or more years.

Remember these graphs, because you've seen them before and you'll see them again:

Total household debt outstanding:

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Household's debt service ratio as a percentage of disposable income:

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An excerpt from the above paragraph sums up the problem:

In sum, households have never been as highly levered as they are now or as illiquid as they are now, and their single largest asset is in danger of actually falling in value.

For Market and Economic Commentary, go to the Bonddad Blog

Bonddad December 28, 2006 - 8:00am

I Witness the Israel Lobby in Action

the new york observer

A few weeks back at Columbia, I watched with amazement as the former Israeli soldier Yehuda Shaul, who started the group Breaking the Silence, gave his presentation on the horrors of the occupation to about 75 students in a darkened hall. My amazement had to do with the fact that Shaul's visit was sponsored by a largely-Jewish group at Columbia—Pro-Israel Progressives—and was attended by members of the Hillel chapter at the school. Kudos to them.

After Shaul's speech, representing "my comrades and not just myself," he was bombarded by hostile questions from Israel supporters in the audience. Shaul handled them with strength and ease. (Q. "Do you know of a counterpart organization where Palestinians question their moral decisions?" A. "I really don't care—I am an Israeli who has to raise his children in Israel...")

Just as gripping to me was the discussion that took place after the event between Rachel Glaser, the campus coordinator of the rightwing Zionist Organization of America, and the students who had organized the event.

"What did this accomplish? What did it accomplish?" Glaser barked at the organizers.

"It achieved something important," one of the Jewish students said. "People perceive pro-Israel groups as monolithic. They think that we are not able to take responsibility for the bad things that happen."

Fine, Glaser said, but the students should have organized "a panel," in which Shaul was just one voice. "Have someone else," she said. (Just as the New York Theatre Workshop wanted to "contextualize" the Rachel Corrie play with pro-Israel voices.)

It was one thing to have Yehuda Shaul give a talk inside Israel, Glaser said. "Outside of Israel, you're playing with fire."

This chilling statement was a candid expression of the goals of the Israel lobby. A member of a Jewish organization was saying that it's OK to have a wide-open discussion of these issues in Israel, but it's dangerous to have such a discussion here. Why? Because America is the mainstay of support allowing Israel to continue its policies in the Occupied Territories. The Israel lobby fears that Americans, if left to their own devices, will abandon Israel, out of indifference, or antisemitism. So Americans must be influenced—in this case by having the information they get about Israel/Palestine vetted, and by pressuring Jews on campus to toe the party line.

I bring this up because Glaser's group, the Zionist Organization of America, is now trying to have the Jewish group that sponsored Shaul's tour, the Union of Progressive Zionists, kicked out of a consortium of campus groups that promote Israel's image on campuses. Why? Because (per the Jewish Telegraphic Agency) "Jewish money should not be spent on programming that provides fodder for Israel's most virulent critics."

This is shameful news. Jews are better than this, America is better than this...

FILE UNDER: U.S. Policy in the Mideast

Posted by Phil Weiss on December 26, 2006 12:46 PM |

Why Is HUD Bulldozing Public Housing Apts in New Orleans When It's Cheaper to Fix Them?


New Orleans officers charged with murder
Dec 28, 2006

Tale of Two Sisters: Why Is HUD Using Tens of Millions of Katrina Money to Bulldoze 4534 Public Housing Apartments in New Orleans When It Costs Less to Repair and Open Them Up?

By Bill Quigley

Gloria Williams and her twin sister Bobbie Jennings are 60 years old. They are two of the over 4000 families who lived in public housing in New Orleans before Katrina struck who are still locked out of their apartments since Katrina. Their apartments are two of 4534 apartments that the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has announced plans to demolish. Demolition is planned even though it will cost more to demolish and rebuild many fewer units than it does to fix them up and open them. Ms. Williams and Ms. Jennings, and thousands of families like them, are fighting HUD, they want to return.

Gloria and Bobbie started working early. As children they picked cotton, strawberries, snap beans and pecans before and after grade school every day in rural Louisiana. "We were raised up to work," they said.

They moved to New Orleans after their father drowned. Their home was marked by regular domestic violence. A few years later, their mother was murdered by a boyfriend.

As teens they moved in with an abusive relative. They ran away, came back, and stayed with other relatives. They can even remember nights when they slept under their aunt's bed in a hospital while waiting for her to recuperate.

As young women they continued working. They worked in restaurants before starting careers as Certified Nursing Assistants. Then they worked for years in nursing homes and in private homes caring for the elderly and disabled. They fed people, cleaned people, bathed people, cared for people. Each married and raised children and grandchildren. Like 25% of the households in New Orleans, neither owned a car.

Both sisters are now 60. In the past few years, their years of physical work took its toil and they could not longer work. Ms. Jennings had back surgery and suffers with high blood pressure. Ms. Williams has heart and lung problems, high blood pressure, and clots in her legs that prevent her from standing or walking for long periods. Each lives solely on about $600 a month from disability. No pensions.

When Katrina hit, they had been living in the C.J. Peete apartments for years. Ms. Bobbie Jennings had been there for 34 years. Her twin sister, Ms. Gloria Williams lived there for over 18 years.

Their combined families, 18 in all, evacuated to Baton Rouge to ride out the storm. When it was clear they would not be going home any time soon, their host family told them it was time to move on. In September 2005, the family of 18 moved into one daughter's damaged home in Slidell, about 30 miles away from New Orleans - all sleeping on the first floor because the roof was still damaged.

One of their sisters, Annie, was in the hospital with cancer when Katrina hit. It took the family weeks before the finally found her in a hospital in Macon, Georgia.

When the city opened, they got rides into town and checked on their apartments. No water had entered their apartments at all. But their doors had been kicked down and all their furnishings were gone. The housing authority told them they could not move back in for a couple more months while their apartments were secured and fixed up. The housing authority started fixing up and painting apartments in her complex, but abruptly stopped after a few weeks.

Slidell was getting tight, so they accepted an offer to relocate to California. After a month, they returned. Being 3000 miles apart from family was too heartbreaking. A four day bus ride brought them back to Slidell in January 2006. After hitching rides into New Orleans, Ms. Williams found a subsidized apartment. The only way the landlord would accept her, though, was if she paid him an extra $400 under the table. Otherwise, he would rent it to someone else who would.

So Ms. Williams paid the extra money and moved in with her grandchildren while she waited for her old apartment to reopen. She used FEMA money to buy new furniture. In late February 2005, Ms. Williams was hospitalized for three weeks for surgeries on her legs.

In June 2005, HUD announced they were not going to let any residents back in her apartment complex and three others (Lafitte, St. Bernard and BW Cooper) because they were going to be demolished. Over one hundred maintenance and security workers for the housing authority were let go. HUD took over the local housing authority years ago and all these decisions are being made in Washington DC.

The demolished buildings would make way for much newer and many fewer apartments which would be built by private developers. The demolition and private development would be financed by federal funds and federal tax breaks designed to help Katrina victims!

Nearly $100 million in Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funds were designated for the private developers. Another $34 million in Katrina Go-Zone tax credits were also donated to the developers.

In July 2005, Ms. Williams apartment caught fire and again she lost everything. Her landlord did not want to let her out of her lease. He told her that she and her grandson could still live there, all they had to do was clean the soot off the walls and ceilings.

At this, Ms. Williams broke down and went back into the hospital.

Ms. Jennings got an apartment and allowed her daughter and her grandchildren to live there because they have no place to stay. She also took her in her little sister, Annie, who was dying of cancer. Annie died on August 17, 2005.

Both sisters have severe problems every month making ends meet. Utility bills eat up most of their monthly checks. With no car and their apartments across the river from New Orleans, they cannot get to the doctor.

Christmas was very tough. Ms. Williams said "We didn't have a Christmas. We didn't have food to put on the table." Her grandson went to her sister's house to get a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.

Ms. Jennings cried as she said "Behind Katrina and my little sister dying, my life just stopped. This is the second year we didn't have a Christmas. It is so hard to try to start over. I let my daughter and her two grandchildren sleep on the bed. I sleep on a pallet on the floor. Before Katrina I was on blood pressure medicine once a day. Now I take 4 blood pressure pills three times a day. I also take pills for depression, nerves and stress."

"We just want to go home," Ms. Williams said. "People knew us in our neighborhood. They never messed with us. I could leave my back door open when I went to the grocery. People don't understand that was our home. We want to go home."

Why would people want to go back into public housing? Aren't the developments dangerous and crime-ridden? Isn't this an opportunity to start over and make something better?

Public housing residents know full well the problems of public housing, but still they want to return.

Why? Start with the fact that New Orleans is in the worst affordable housing crisis since the Civil War. Tens of thousands of houses still remain in ruins after Katrina. Rents for the rest have gone up 70-80 percent since Katrina. Even before Katrina, there was a waiting list of 18,000 families seeking to get into public housing - now it is much, much worse. HUD's demolition plans target 4,534 apartments of public housing in the community. They plan to demolish 1546 apartments in BW Cooper, 723 in C.J. Peete, 1400 in St. Bernard, and 865 in Lafitte.

These are not the dense high-rise towers. Public housing in New Orleans is made up of development clusters of mostly two and three story buildings with six to eight apartments in each. New York Times Architecture critic Nicolai Ouroussoff, criticized plans to demolish these apartments, saying on November 19, 2006: "Modestly scaled, they include some of the best public housing built in the United States....Solidly built, the buildings' detailed brickwork, tile roofs and wrought-iron balustrades represent a level of craft more likely found on an Ivy League campus than in a contemporary public housing complex."

Most of the public housing apartments rented for very modest rents tied to the resident's incomes. Most did not pay separate utility charges. Leases were essentially for life, unless someone in the family was caught breaking the law.

HUD initially said they had to demolish because the buildings were so damaged they were dangerous to the residents.

That was not true.

John Fernandez, an Associate Professor of Architecture at MIT, inspected 140 of these apartments and concluded in papers filed in court that "no structural or nonstructural damage was found that could reasonably warrant any cost-effective building demolition...Therefore, the general conclusions are: demolition of any of the buildings of these four projects is not supported by the evidence of the survey, replacement of these buildings with contemporary construction would yield buildings of lower quality and shorter lifetime duration; the original construction methods and materials of these projects are far superior in their resistance to hurricane conditions than typical new construction and with renovation and regular maintenance, the lifetimes of the buildings in all four projects promise decades of continued service that may be extended indefinitely."

Residents promise to fix up their apartments themselves if given the chance. "I clean for a living," said one young woman resident at a recent public hearing where 100% of the residents opposed demolition. "I clean for a living and I am proud of it. I clean every body else's houses, I will sure clean up my own house - just let me back in to do it!"

After it the public understood that the buildings were not actually in such bad shape, the authorities then said it would cost much more to repair the buildings than to demolish and start over.

That too was not true.

The housing authority's own documents show that Lafitte could be repaired for $20 million, even completely overhauled for $85 million while the estimate for demolition and rebuilding many fewer units will cost over $100 million. St. Bernard could be repaired for $41 million, substantially modernized for $130 million while demolition and rebuilding less units will cost $197 million. BW Cooper could be substantially renovated for $135 million compared to $221 million to demolish and rebuild less units. Their own insurance company reported that it would take less than $5000 each to repair each of the CJ Peete apartments.

HUD suggests that less-dense "mixed income" communities are the way to go.

But residents and the community knows that if HUD has its way, only about 20% of the families who lived in these developments will be allowed to return.

New Orleans has suffered through the experience of HUD's "mixed income" policies before. The St. Thomas housing development, once home to 1510 families, was demolished with promises that people would be returning to a beautiful redeveloped community. Instead, there is now a Wal-Mart on the site and hundreds of cute gingerbread pastel houses. How many of the 1510 families who used to live in St. Thomas have been allowed to move back in? About a hundred. A few of these families have had to force their way in with litigation by the Greater New Orleans Fair Housing Action Center. The demolition of St. Thomas is hailed as a mostly-good outcome by nearby developers and some of the young professionals who moved into the surrounding neighborhood knowing what was coming. What do the 1400+ families who were moved out and not allowed to return think? Don't ask - no one else is.

HUD has the same plans for the neighborhoods where they are trying to demolish housing. According to documents filed with the Louisiana Housing Finance Agency: St. Bernard will go from 1400 apartments to 595 apartments, only 160 of which will be for low-income public housing residents. There will be 160 tax credit mixed income and 145 market rate units; CJ Peete will go from 723 units to 410, 154 will be public housing eligible, 133 mixed income and 123 market rate; BW Cooper will go from 1546 to 410, 154 public housing eligible, 133 tax-credit mixed income, and 123 market; And Lafitte will downsized in the same way.

As a result HUD plans to spend tens of millions of Katrina assistance funds to end up with far fewer affordable apartments.

The new Congress is looking into this. Representatives Barney Frank and Maxine Waters chair the committee and subcommittee with oversight of HUD. There is also a federal class action lawsuit filed by the Advancement Project, Jenner & Block, and local attorneys.

Residents of the St. Bernard housing development and their allies plan are not waiting any more. On Martin Luther King day, January 15, 2007, they are going in with or without permission. "What better way to celebrate Martin Luther King day than to risk going to jail for justice?" says Endesha Jukali, a neighbor who lived and worked in St. Bernard for years.

But the clock is still ticking. HUD, who has not "officially approved" its own announcement, says the demolition needs to get started to take advantage of the Katrina tax credits. Neither the Congress nor the federal courts have yet stepped in to stop the demolitions.

What do the sisters think about this? Ms. Jennings says: "I lived there for 34 years. That is my home. I just cannot afford to live outside the development. I don't know how else to explain it. I have the tears, but I do not have the words." Her twin sister, Ms. Williams cries and says: "That was my home for over 18 years. I never gave them no trouble. My home never flooded. I will clean it myself, just please let me back in. I wish I could make people understand. I just want to go home."

For more information about this matter see or contact the Advancement Project at (202) 728-9557.

Bill is a human rights lawyer and law professor at Loyola University New Orleans. Bill is one of the lawyers representing thousands of families who want to return to their apartments in New Orleans.

Jerry Ford's legacy: The dark side, Rummy and Cheney, "healers"

Thursday, December 28, 2006
7:52:05 PM EST
Jerry Ford's legacy: The dark side (3), Rummy and Cheney, "healers"

President Ford chats with Chief of Staff Donald Rumsfeld and Rumsfeld’s assistant Richard Cheney in the Oval Office 04/28/1975 (no doubt planning new ways to promote national healing)

(White House Photograph Courtesy Gerald R. Ford Library)

Back in Jerry Ford's administration, as we all now know, "healing" was the business of the President. But not single-payer health insurance or any such socialistic deviance. No, it was spiritual or psychological or political or, heck, some kind of healing.

The Healer-in-Chief had Rummy as his chief of staff, and Rummy brought in Dick Cheney as his deputy. Later, Rummy moved to be Secretary of Defense and Cheney became White House chief of staff.

In Vice: Dick Cheney and the Hijacking of the American Presidency (2006) by Lou Dubose and Jake Bernstein, we get the following glimpse at how Rummy and Cheney practiced the healing arts. Ford selected former New York Gov. Nelson Rockefeller as his Vice President. Rockefeller was the bogeyman of the Reagan wing of the Republican Party, having been Barry Goldwater's chief primary opponent in 1964 in a bitter intra-party contest. Dubose and Bernstein write:

Cheney did more than write memos to Ford. Working with Rumsfeld, Cheney took the vice president [Rockefeller] out of the White House policy process. When the vice president proposed an idea to Ford, the president would hand it off to Rumsfeld, and later Cheney, who would then insure it died somewhere in the bureacracy. "We built in a major institutional conflict with Nelson Rockefeller, a strong dynamic political leader in his own right," Cheney would later acknowledge. "The Vice President came to a point that he was absolutely convinced that Don Rumsfeld and I were out to scuttle whatever new initiatives he could come up with." Rockefeller was right about that.

"They were two little throat slitters," says a journalist who knew Cheney and Rumsfeld socially at the time. (my emphasis)

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6:45:00 PM EST
Jerry Ford's legacy: The dark side (2)

President Ford with George Harrison and Billy Preston in the Oval Office.

(White House Photograph Courtesy Gerald R. Ford Library/Photographer: David Hume Kennerly)

Yes, Ford occasionally hung out with hippies. At least for photo-ops.

But another important aspect of Ford's legacy as President that is very much with us today is his role in creating and perpetrating the "stab-in-the-back" mythology of the US and South Vietnamese defeat in the Vietnam War. Ford was of course President during the last months before Saigon fell to the North Vietnamese Army (PAVN).

Ford was instrumental in enabling more constructive lessons from the Vietnam War to be developed by the government and the military. Part of Ford's "healing" process was to try to get people to shut the hell up about the war and its lessons. John Schaar wrote in The American Amnesia New York Review of Books 06/24/75 issue (behind subscription):

Surely the most striking aspect of the present [1975] political scene is the absence of the recent past from it. There seems to be something like a tacit agreement among the presidential contenders, and between them and the public, that the record of recent events has no bearing on our present condition and future prospects. The closest Ford comes to touching the past is in vague allusions to some dragon called détente, which he will guard us against just as he will preserve our ethnic treasures here at home. Those fronts secured, we can move forward into the third century, which is to be the century of American Individualism. Ronald Reagan sounds like Teddy Roosevelt, all teeth and bluster, about to lead the Rough Riders in another charge, this time into the Panama Canal. Jimmy Carter overleaps the recent past by centuries, and assures us that America still stands in a covenant of nations with God. The people and their leaders agree: let's forget the recent past and get on with the business of building a brighter future. That, of course, is exactly the advice Nixon gave the nation at the height of Watergate.

This silence is all the more remarkable when one remembers that among the events unspoken are a constitutional crisis greater than any since the Civil War, absolute proof that for years national law enforcement and intelligence agencies violated law and elementary decency here and abroad, and a desolating war in Southeast Asia. The constitutional crisis has been reduced to an exciting film entertainment about the thrills and triumphs of investigative reporting, and to something like court scandal based on dubious research methods and ethics. Behind the scenes, the war continues to exist in the same basic doctrines and inflated military budgets that produced and sustained it in the first place. Out front, it exists only in occasional stories about the affairs of Lieutenant Calley and the difficulties of adjustment experienced by the Vietnamese refugees.

As the Mayagüez incident showed, not even the most obvious "lessons" of Vietnam have been accepted. In that episode, President Ford replayed Vietnam in miniature. He unleashed force against a small Asian country without consultation outside the Executive. The force was vastly greater than any sensible appraisal of the situation would have recommended. The affair was misrepresented to the public and casualty lists were falsified. The president crowed that the encounter was a victory for America, proving once again that we would stand behind our word and use our arms to back our interests.

Ford's distinguished predecessor, Tricky Dick himself, laid out his version the stab-in-the-back theory with his distinctive venom and dishonesty in No More Vietnams (1985). Focusing specifically on the 1974-75 period, he wrote:

I was shocked by the irresponsibility of the antiwar majority in Congress. South Vietnam was a small country that depended on the United States for help in order to survive against a brutal onslaught from a totalitarian power. Senators and congressmen who demanded that our South Vietnamese allies stand alone were being totally unfair. None would expect South Korea to be able to deter an attack from North Korea without the presence of 50,000 American troops. None would expect the countries of Western Europe to hold off the Soviet Union without the help of 300,000 of our troops and a threat of American nuclear retaliation to back them up. None would expect Israel to be able to survive attacks from its enemies without massive military assistance from the United States. Yet they were unwilling to allow us to retaliate against a North Vietnamese invasion or even to provide the South Vietnamese with enough ammunition for their guns.

I could understand their desire to put the Vietnam War behind us. But I could not understand why they seemed so determined to see South Vietnam conquered by North Vietnam. Whatever their intentions, that was the effect of their actions. ...

Hanoi's leaders could not believe their good fortune as the antiwar majority in Congress did their work for them. ...

Congress turned its back on a noble cause and a brave people. South Vietnam simply wanted the chance to fight for its survival as an independent country. All that the United States had to do was give it the means to continue the battle. Our South Vietnamese friends were asking us to give them the tools so they could finish the job. Congress would not, so our allies could not. (my emphasis)

Nobody could lie quite the way Dick Nixon could. It's amazing. Rush Limbaugh will never come close, no matter how much OxyContin he takes.

I addressed the stab-in-the-back myth here back in July 2005. I'll refer you to that post for a fairly long discussion of the whole thing, focusing in particular on the 1974-75 period.

There were many problems that led to the collapse of the South Vietnamese regime. In those last months, massive corruption problems and abuse of the local population by ARVN (South Vietnamese Army) forces were major factors undermining the Saigon government.

This article, Vietnam: After the Debacle by Jean Lacouture New York Review of Books 05/01/75 issue (behind subscription), from the time just before the end of the South Vietnamese regime noted a major problem generated by the ARVN itself. Reporting on the refugees being generated during what would prove to be the last weeks of the fighting, Lacouture wrote:

If few reports of the exodus have made clear how many of the refugees are tied to the government, some reports, especially in US papers, have at least given us some idea of another factor, showing us that the South Vietnamese army itself has caused terrible disorder, pillaging, extorting, terrorizing helpless local populations. One can imagine the hysteria of people who see turned against them the weapons of their own defenders.

Jeffrey Record of the Air War College in The Wrong War: Why We Lost in Vietnam (1998) looks carefully at the various options open to the United States. He writes that the PAVN and the NLF (Vietcong) were unable to defeat the American military while they were in the lead combat role:

Yet such a solution could never endure against a determined Hanoi and capable PAVN absent a permanent and significant U.S. force presence in South Vietnam and to a constant U.S. willingness to reenter the war whenever it was necessary to forestall a decisive South Vietnamese defeat. The United States could not have picked a more intractable enemy and a feebler ally than it did in Indochina, and while the United States was never prepared to accept the Vietnam War's permanent Americanization, neither was it able to build a South Vietnamese nation capable of surviving without a massive U.S. military presence. (my emphasis)

The North Vietnamese and the NLF probably surpassed the Iraqi insurgents in tenacity and commitment to their cause. But when it comes to feeble allies, the Thieu regime in South Vietnam was a rock-solid ally compared to the Al-Maliki government in Baghdad or the Karzai regime in Kabul. But those are other stories.

Record expands on the history of the South Vietnamese government as he evaluates military claims that more bombing, or more this or that would have made a difference in the outcome:

[N]ot even an early grant of the broadest operational ladtude to the military could have compensated for what in the long run Vietnam War historian George C. Herring has correcdy identified as the single greatest obstacle to the preservation of a noncommunist South Vietnam: the "fundamental and apparently unsolvable problem" of "the weakness of the South Vietnamese government." Unless communist military forces, especially the PAVN, could have been permanently crushed, or unless the United States was prepared to stay in the war indefinitely, the GVN was ultimately in a an irremediable situation. John Prados has rightly recognized that "any victory had to utilize what was there, what was available in South Vietnam, and since the national identity and the aspirations of the Vietnamese favored the other side, any potential strategy had an extra obstacle to overcome." As noted, if the United States could not have picked a tougher and more obstinate adversary anywhere in the world than it did in the communist Democratic Republic of Vietnam, it also could not have chosen a more feckless ally than it did in the noncommunist Republic of Vietnam. "The war not only had to be won in South Vietnam, but it had to be won by the South Vietnamese. Unfortunately, to the end the South Vietnamese performance remained the Achilles' heel of the allied effort," concludes Guenter Lewy. Even the Chinese in the Korean War proved more politically tractable than did their counterparts in North Vietnam in the 1960s, and the South Korean government and military forces had considerably more vitality and staying power than did their counterparts in South Vietnam. Clark Clifford, who in 1965 counseled President Johnson against intervention in Vietnam and later replaced McNamara as secretary of defense, observed after the war that, "From its beginning,. . . we were constrained by the fact that our South Vietnamese allies were corrupt, inefficient, and poorly motivated. This was critical: in the final analysis, American objectives in Vietnam depended more on the capabilities of our allies in Saigon than on our own efforts. And the more we did for them, the more dependent and ineffectual they became. It was on this very point that our policy would ultimately fail." (my emphasis)

Record also has some harsh words for our infallible generals of those days:

Finally, it should be observed that the military's desire to increase U.S. forces' operational effectiveness via greater operational authority was not accompanied by a willingness to tackle its self-imposed obstacles to operational effectiveness. It was — and remains — disingenuous of the military and their conservative political supporters to whine about civilian intrusion upon potential U.S. military effectiveness in Vietnam when the U.S. military itself was hobbling that effectiveness through disunity of command, a faulty attrition strategy, rear-area bloat, and idiotic personnel rotation policies. The military's appeal to civilian authority for more operational latitude in Indochina clearly would have carried with it greater moral force had the military first put its own house in order. (my emphasis)

Whine? Did he say our holy generals that lead our sacred military "whine"? And that they made actual mistakes? Even maybe at least one "idiotic" one? The warbloggers will be shocked!

It's also worth noting that before the final collapse and surrender of the ARVN at the end of April, 1975, North Vietnam made an offer to return to the framework of the Paris Agreement of 1973 if Gen. Thieu would step aside and allow Gen. Duong Van Minh to step in as head of the South Vietnamese government. Gareth Porter provided a look at the cynicism of Jerry Ford's "healing" administration during those weeks in A Peace Denied: The United States, Vietnam, and the Paris Agreement (1975):

But the offer to return to the Paris Agreement's political formula was ignored by Washington and the US Embassy in Saigon. State Department officials had gone out of their way in late March to make it clear to the press that the Peace Agreement was, in their view, "inoperable," and that there was no possibility of a negotiated settlement. In mid-April, Ambassador Graham Martin said in an interview, "There has been no advice from Washington for Thieu to step down." At the same time, Martin was actively discouraging a military coup against Thieu, assuring former Vice-President Ky that Thieu would soon step down. This attitude of determined disinterest in a political solution was consistent with earlier reports from State Department sources familiar with [Secretary of State] Kissinger's thinking emphasizing that a North Vietnamese military victory was already considered inevitable and that Kissinger's only concern was to appear to be a "good ally" to the very end.

Instead of trying to end the killing as soon as possible by pressing for a change of regime in Saigon, therefore, the Ford administration went through the motions of asking for an additional $722 million in military aid on April 11. Kissinger, in a background briefing for the press, suggested that the administration understood thatthe war was already lost, and hinted that the posture of all-out support for the Thieu regime was necessary in order to have its cooperation in the evacuation of Americans from Saigon. Kissinger spoke of trying to establish a perimeter around Saigon in the hope of negotiating a cease-fire and evacuating large numbers of Vietnamese from the city. But he did not indicate any intention to work for a political solution by replacing Thieu. (my emphasis)

And part of this pantomine, perhaps the most important part from the viewpoint of Ford, Kissinger and the Republicans, was to be able to say until the end of time that they had stuck it out with the plucky South Vietnamese government until the end but those evil Democrats in Congress refused to go along with that last infusion of aid that would have saved the day.

And we hear part of the results of that part of Ford's "healing" every time a war fan or Republican politician smears war critics as traitors or allies of The Terrorists.

With "healing" like that, what would it look like if the Republicans set out to wound us?

Oh, yeah. It would look like the Cheney-Bush administration.

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6:18:35 PM EST
Jerry Ford's legacy: The dark side (1)

President Ford (r) meeting in the Oval Office with Dick Cheney (l) and Rummy (c)

Seeing the obituary tributes in the press to Gerald Ford, pre-written to "accentuate the positive" and to be inoffensive to Republican Party conventional wisdom, made me think more specifically about the Ford administration. This is a case where the good ole days were much better than they used to be.

So, yes, I'm taking the "Bah, humbug!" approach on the late President Ford's career.

I looked up some contemporary articles in the New York Review of Books (archive is behind subscription, unfortunately). Ah, the memories!

In Just Plain Jerry by Nicholas von Hoffman New York Review of Books 09/19/74 issue, an article from just after Ford assumed the Presidency, Von Hoffman reminds us of one of the seedier episodes in Ford's career, his attempt to impeach liberal Supreme Court Justice William Douglas:

Nevertheless, the formal biographies in both The New York Times and The Washington Post omit discussion of Ford's attempt to impeach Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas for frisking about with a twenty-three-year-old girl. The formal charges Ford laid against Douglas were hardly more serious than that, involving as they did publication of an excerpt of a book in a magazine containing dirty pitchers and an innocent connection with a foundation that may or may not have had dirty money in its treasury.

I.F. Stone also wrote about newly-installed President Ford in The Fix New York Review of Books 09/12/74 (10/03/74 issue).

He begins by criticizing the deal that Ford made with outgoing President Nixon to allow Nixon to control access to the Nixon White House tapes during his lifetime and even to destroy any he chose after five years. Fortunately, this agreement was later set aside. Stone reported on Ford's appearance before the Senate Rules Committee during which he testified about the Nixon tapes, suggesting he would be opposed to allowing Nixon to suppress them:

This is of a piece with [Ford's] conduct on the pardon. He gave the Senate committee and the country the clear impression, without saying so directly, in that disingenuous style of the Nixon and Lyndon Johnson eras, that he would not issue a pardon to Nixon. "I do not think the public would stand for it" has proven to be his most accurate prediction.

Ford made another implied pledge at the same hearing which also deserves more notice than it has received. "The attorney general," he said, "in my opinion, with the help and support of the American people, would be the controlling factor." This implies that the attorney general would be consulted in advance of a decision on pardon—otherwise how could his views possibly be "controlling" and how could public opinion help him block a pardon? But the attorney general said the day the Nixon pardon was announced and has repeated several times since that he was never consulted on the Nixon pardon.

If this is true, and Saxbe's press aides keep repeating it, then the attorney general was as much taken by surprise as Congress and the country. The surprise was all the stronger because at Ford's press conference of August 28 he over and over again gave the impression that he would take no action on a Nixon pardon until legal process had run its course. Yet we now learn that only two days later he disclosed to a few intimates that he had decided to pardon his predecessor. Duplicity is the only word for that sequence.

Stone's verdict of Ford's decision on the tapes was harsh:

This was Nixonism, pure and undefiled.

An honorable man in Ford's shoes before entering into his tapes agreement with Nixon would have consulted the attorney general, the special prosecutor, and the judges who have cases involving Watergate or the tapes. He would have sought the advice of Chairman Ervin of the Senate Watergate investigation committee and Chairman Rodino of the House Judiciary Committee, both of which still have outstanding subpoenas for tapes which Nixon refused to honor.

At his confirmation hearing Ford over and over again expressed disagreement with the withholding of these tapes by Nixon. That he has now acted so differently, and so covertly and so swiftly, speaks for itself about the true character of Gerald Ford. Tricky Dicky has been replaced by Foxy Ford. All this will deepen the suspicion that the pardon was part of a prenomination deal. If not, Ford could have plainly said so before the Senate committee last November instead of evading the issue with his disingenuous remark that "the public wouldn't stand for it." Was he then telling the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth—so help him the God he evokes as effusively and frequently as did Nixon before him?

Stone picked up his reporting on Ford's Presidency in Mr. Ford's Deceptions New York Review of Books 10/24/74 (11/14/74 issue). Ford appeared before the House Judiciary Committee as President to testify about his pardon of Nixon. Stone was downright scornful of the performance of the Democratic-majority Committee. The Committee, he complained, wasted time "in fulsome obeisance to His Imperial Majesty".

This is a reminder of the roots of the Democrats' style of bipartisanship, of which Joe Lieberman has become a sad caricature. The Democrats had been the majority party in Congress and held the Presidency most years from 1933 to 1974 (when Ford became President). They expected that a Republican President would have to work with the Democrats in Congress on key legislation. And they also expected to keep winning the Presidency most of the time, so they had a stake in setting a precedent of cooperation between President and Congress. In addition, still in 1974 there were many conservative Southern Democrats who would often vote with Republicans in support of conservative issues and still some moderate and even liberal Republicans (yes, liberal Republicans) who would vote with liberal Democrats on many issues. Today's Republicans have put those days behind them. But the Democrats, even though they no longer have a segregationist Southern wing to worry about, can't quite let go of that bipartisan inclination, which under Cheney and Bush translates into more "fulsome obeisance to His Imperial Majesty".

I.F. Stone is considered one of the great investigative reporters, a rapidly-disappearing phenemenon in American journalism. (Not just the "great" ones, but investigative journalism itself.) But Stone didn't do his work through the kind of "access" for which Bob Woodward sold his journalistic soul to the Cheney-Bush administration. Stone got much of his material by carefully studying public documents, such as government reports and Congressional testimony, and then teasing out connections between them. In this article, we see that process at work. Building on revelations provided by Ford himself, Stone asks some reasonable questions:

Ford says he did not make a deal. Nobody asked him what he meant by a deal. He certainly didn't make a deal in the sense of saying, "Dick, if you resign and give me the presidency, I'll pardon you for any crimes you may have committed." But in the conversation with Haig could they not very naturally and urgently have said to each other that anything would be better for the GOP and the country than a general self-pardon? Was there not a kind of political blackmail in Nixon's implied threat to pardon himself? Did Ford mention to Haig that for him to pardon Nixon would also be embarrassing in view of the position he had taken at his confirmation hearing? Was this Nixon threat "the reality" Ford said at one press conference he had to contend with when asked about his earlier implied pledged not to pardon - the pledge he dismissed as "hypothetical"?

He proceeds to elaborate on the circumstantial evidence suggesting that Ford indeed made a deal with Nixon over the pardon, which I'm convinced he did.

But would Ford actually need to keep such an agreement a secret? Stone explains, in a passage worth remembering in light of more recent circumstances:

One thing is clear, and was almost certainly brought to their attention by their lawyers in studying the pardon question. Criminal liability attaches to an agreement to grant a pardon except where the contract serves some law enforcement purpose. Section 2 of the chapter on pardons and parole in American Jurisprudence says, "Where, however, personal interest enters into the success of the contract, or the use of personal influence is contemplated, the general rule is that the contract is illegal as against public policy, and so unenforceable." A pardon tainted by fraud is revocable in the courts under a rule already old at the time of Blackstone, who wrote, "Any suppression of truth, or suggestion of falsehood, in a charter of pardon, will vitiate the whole." It may not be merely public relations or propaganda which leads Ford now to stress that the pardon was given not to help an ailing Nixon but to help an ailing country.

And in light of the sachrine homages to how Ford "healed" the nation with his Nixon pardon, Stone's following observation is worth quoting at some length:

A similarly naïve question might be asked of Ford. If he truly wanted to save the country from more divisiveness and suspicion in the wake of Watergate, why didn't he "touch all bases" before pardoning Nixon? How different the effect would have been if Ford had consulted the attorney general, as he implied he would last November, and Jaworski and the eight congressional leaders who are supposed to be consulted before any step to limit or abolish the special prosecutor's office.

How impressive, how healing it would have been if the Nixon pardon had been countersigned, as it were, by the attorney general, the special prosecutor, and the eight congressional "watchdogs" set up by his charter! How impressive indeed! But even a latter-day Hans Christian Andersen would find it hard to imagine any of these other public officials counter-signing so preposterous and unprecedented a pardon before investigation and prosecution of the Watergate affair, up to and including the Oval Office, had been completed.

To have consulted the attorney general would have been most embarrassing. Under the Code of Federal Regulations—and the Supreme Court in US v. Sirica has just held that such regulations, until repealed, have "the force of law"—a "pardon attorney" in the Department of Justice is in charge "of the receipt, investigation, and disposition of applications to the president for pardon."

The code sets up an elaborate machinery for investigating such applications. It also provides that no petition for pardon can be filed until three years after release of the petitioner from confinement, or three years after conviction if no prison sentence is imposed. But in cases of violation of "income tax laws, perjury, violation of public trust involving personal dishonesty…a waiting period of five years is usually required." That would seem to cover any and all Watergate defendants including unindicted co-conspirator Nixon.

Of course a president can pretty much do as he pleases and get away with it in exercising the pardoning power, as in many other matters. But if the White House or the attorney general had inquired of the pardon attorney, as we did, they would have been told that the present occupant of the office had never heard of a presidential pardon outside these channels, that he had asked his predecessor who took office in 1950, and that the latter too could not recall such a presidential pardon. That covers the last quarter century at least.

Stone proceeds to follow the precedent even farther back.

Ford's pardon of Nixon was precedent-setting, in more ways than one:

The only way for a president to grant a swift pardon outside these time-honored channels is by proclamation, and that is the method adopted by Ford in the case of Nixon. But those at the National Archives to whom we put the question were unable to find a single precedent for the pardon of one man by proclamation. Pardon or amnesty proclamations have mostly been issued in connection with wars and have covered a whole class of persons. The earliest was issued to reward Jean Laffite's pirates for their aid to Andrew Jackson in the War of 1812. The famous pardon and amnesty proclamations of Lincoln and Johnson were issued on special statutory authority from Congress under a law repealed in 1867.

One of the things that Ford revealed at that hearing was that Nixon had considered issuing a blanket pardon for himself and all the other Watergate criminals. Stone also focused on the fact, which Ford had revealed at the hearing, that "Nixon's main concern during his last days in office was how to avoid prosecution". That's something that we should keep in mind about the current Vice President and President. Journalists almost never mention it. But it's clear that the possibility of serious legal trouble is a major concern on their minds. (See Bush is bracing for new scrutiny: White House hiring lawyers in expectation of Democratic probes by Julie Hirschfeld Davis Chicago Tribune 12/26/06 for an exception to press silence on that matter.)

Gary Wills expressed his own dissent from Ford's nice-guy reputation in He's Not So Dumb New York Review of Books 10/16/75 issue:

He has even turned a half-joking reputation for dimwittedness to political advantage. When he performs hack work or malicious hatchet jobs—even the Douglas campaign, which lasted more than a year and sank to vicious tactics—he remains "good old Jerry" just doing someone else's dirty work. That is how members of the confirmation committee treated the affair, even though Ford renewed his Douglas trouble with unconvincing stories under oath. No one suspects him of being tortuous or Machiavellian; an engaging simplicity absolves him from ability to scheme. He intuitively plays on this. As Nixon blundered down, Ford took Pollyanna flights around the country, delivering pep talks on Republicanism. Some advised him to stay in Washington, to bone up on his future job. They did not reflect that the first thing he did, after being chosen to supplant Charles Hoeven as chairman of the Republican Conference, was to leave the country. He managed three vacations while his backers managed his coup.

He will do almost anybody's dirty work - Dirksen's, or Nixon's, or Mitchell's, or Agnew's - but he is careful to have others do his own. Even his lies before the committee were received as exercises in doomed loyalty to Nixon rather than in personal mendacity. Ford knows when to let others do the ground work for him. He only needs a wink, and then he can relax - a rare gift among politicians, who like to be doing something about their careers all the time. Ford credibly repeated that he was making no preparation to be president while Nixon fought the sheriff off. Bob Hartmann and Phil Buchen were doing the preparing. They assembled the transition teams, without Ford's formal acknowledgment (much like the "draft" campaigns for candidates, undertaken without the formal approval of their beneficiaries).

"He will do almost anybody's dirty work ... but he is careful to have others do his own." I'm sure he and Dick Cheney got along just fine.

Wills also includes the LBJ quote that I screwed up a bit in my comments to Wonky Muse's post about Ford's passing:

When he has to, [Ford] can change his story on the stand. Those who think Jerry Ford "too dumb to fart and chew gum at the same time" ... need only read the confirmation hearings to see he can maneuver inch-by-inch to save his skin.

Juan Cole recalls Ford's foreign policies in his post, Ford and Foreign Policy: Snapshots from the 1970s, Informed Comment blog 12/27/06. He writes:

All presidents make errors, and some abuses occurred on Ford's watch, though they often were initiated by [Ford's Secretary of State Henry] Kissinger. But Ford faced with no illusions the challenges of his era, of detente with the Soviet Union, continued attempts to cultivate China, the collapse of Indochina, the fall-out of the 1973 Arab-Israeli War, and the beginnings of the Lebanese Civil War. Ford was right about detente, right about China, right about Arab-Israeli peace, right about avoiding a big entanglement in Angola, right to worry about nuclear proliferation (one of his worries was the increasing evidence that the Middle East had a nuclear power, Israel, and India was moving in that direction).

Ford's challengers on the Reagan Right were wrong about everything. They vastly over-estimated the military and economic strength of the Soviet Union (yes, that's Paul Wolfowitz). They wanted confrontation with China. They dismissed the Arab world as Soviet occupied territory (even though the vast majority of Arab states was US allies at that time) and urged that it be punished till it accepted Israel's territorial gains in 1967. They insisted that the Vietnam War could have been won.

But despite its illusions and Orwellian falsehoods, the Reagan Right prevailed. Ford only momentarily lost to Carter. Both of them were to lose to Reagan, who resorted to Cold War brinkmanship, private militias, death squads, offshore accounts, unconstitutional criminality, and under the table deals with Khomeini, and who created a transition out of the Cold War that left the private militias (one of them al-Qaeda) empowered to wreak destruction in the aftermath. The blowback from that Reaganesque era of private armies of the Right helped push the US after 2001 toward an incipient fascism at which Ford, the All-American, the lawyerly gentleman, the great Wolverine, must have wept daily in his twilight years.

Cole is being generous to Ford in the last sentence. And his thought may be accurate. But I don't recall hearing anything about Ford expressing any great reservations about the Cheney-Bush policies at home and abroad. Declining health may have affected his ability and willingness to do so. But Ford was a loyal Republican. And if he didn't express such doubts, well, no evidence is no evidence.

Cole is right that the difference betweenn Ford Republicans and Reagan Republicans was significant. But it's easy to overdraw that distinction. The "moderate" Republicans like Ford hardly bolted the party as it went farther and farther in the direction of rogue operations, to the point where today's Cheney-Bush foreign policy is basically one big set of rogue operations.

Ford also appointed Old Man Bush as CIA director, strenthening the Bush's dynasty's intelligence ties. Some of Old Man Bush's actions as CIA director and later in using his intelligence connections have never been adequately investigated, specifically the Iran-Contra affair and the "October surprise" deal with the Iranian theocratic government in 1980 to delay release of American hostages until after the Presidential election.

Update 12/28/06: Via Laura Rozen, I see that Ford did speak out against Dear Leader Bush's Iraq War. Although speak "out" may be the wrong term, since it was in an "embargoed" interview. God forbid that denouncing an unjust war terribly damaging to the United States should take precedent over avoiding embarassment for the Republicans in an election year. And what Bob Woodward is reporting hardly counts as a ringing denunciation. From Ford Disagreed With Bush About Invading Iraq by Bob Woodward Washington Post12/28/06:

Former president Gerald R. Ford said in an embargoed interview in July 2004 that the Iraq war was not justified. "I don't think I would have gone to war," he said a little more than a year after President Bush launched the invasion advocated and carried out by prominent veterans of Ford's own administration.

In a four-hour conversation at his house in Beaver Creek, Colo., Ford "very strongly" disagreed with the current president's justifications for invading Iraq and said he would have pushed alternatives, such as sanctions, much more vigorously. In the tape-recorded interview, Ford was critical not only of Bush but also of Vice President Cheney -- Ford's White House chief of staff -- and then-Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, who served as Ford's chief of staff and then his Pentagon chief.

"Rumsfeld and Cheney and the president made a big mistake in justifying going into the war in Iraq. They put the emphasis on weapons of mass destruction," Ford said. "And now, I've never publicly said I thought they made a mistake, but I felt very strongly it was an error in how they should justify what they were going to do."

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