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imperialism & war

What Would Genghis Do?

As the brazen Bush imperialists try to install a new democracy in Iraq, they are finding the old democracy of our reluctant allies inconvenient.
It's easy to picture Rummy in a big metal breastplate, a skirt and lace-up gladiator sandals.

Rummius Maximus Pompeius.

During the innocent summer before 9/11, the defense secretary's office sponsored a study of ancient empires Macedonia, Rome, the Mongols to figure out how they maintained dominance.

What tips could Rummy glean from Alexander the Great, Julius Caesar and Genghis Khan?

Mr. Rumsfeld would be impressed, after all, if he knew that Genghis Khan had invented the first crude MIRV (a missile that spews out multiple warheads to their predetermined targets). As David Morgan writes in "The Mongols," when the bloodthirsty chieftain began his subjugation of the Chinese empire in 1211, he had to figure out a way to take China's walled cities:

"Genghis Khan offered to raise the siege if he were given 1,000 cats and 10,000 swallows. These were duly handed over. Material was tied to their tails, and this was set on fire. The animals were released and fled home, setting the city ablaze, and in the ensuing confusion the city was stormed."

In her new book "The Mission," about America's growing dependence on the military to manage world affairs, Dana Priest says that the Pentagon commissioned the study at a time when Rummy did not yet have designs on the world.

To the dismay of his four-star generals, the new secretary was talking about pulling American soldiers out of Saudi Arabia, the Sinai Desert, Kosovo and Bosnia. He thought using our military to fight the South American drug trade was "nonsense."

He hated to travel and scorned "international hand-holding," Ms. Priest writes, adding that the defense chief was thinking that "maybe the United States didn't need all these entanglements to remain on top." He canceled multinational exercises, and even banned the word "engagement." His only interest in colonization was in putting weapons in space.

Then 9/11 changed everything. At the Pentagon, Paul Wolfowitz talked about "ending states who sponsor terrorism." He and Richard Perle said our best bet for stomping out Islamic terrorism was to take over Iraq, rewrite those anti-American textbooks and spur a democratic domino effect.

Now, with the rest of the world outraged at the administration's barbed and swaggering style, the Bushies have grown tetchy about the word "empire." They insist they are not interested in hegemony, even as the Pentagon proconsuls prepare to rule in Iraq, the ancient Mesopotamian empire.

Bernard Lewis of Princeton, Newt Gingrich and others worked on the August 2001 report on empires, which noted: "Without strong political and economic institutions, the Mongols and the Macedonians could not maintain extensive empires. What made the Roman Empire great was not just its military power but its `franchise of empire.' What made the Chinese Empire great was not just its military power but the immense power and might of its culture.

"If we can take any lesson from history it is this: For the United States to sustain predominance it must remain militarily dominant, but it must also maintain its pre-eminence across the other pillars of power."

Some demur. A classical scholar, Bernard Knox, said, "Empires are pretty well dead; their day is gone."

Niall Ferguson, a professor at Oxford and New York University who wrote the coming book "Empire," said that while "it was rather sweet" that the Pentagon was studying ancient empires, he thought the lessons were no longer relevant.

"The technological and economic differences between modernity and premodernity are colossal," he said.

Besides, he says Americans aren't temperamentally suited to empire-building. "The British didn't mind living for years in Iraq or India for 100-plus years," he said. "Americans aren't attracted to the idea of taking up residence in hot, poor places."

He's right. America doesn't like to occupy. We like to buy our territory, like the bargain Louisiana Purchase and the overpriced amount we were going to pay Turkey (the old Ottoman Empire) to use its bases, before its Parliament balked. At the outside, we prefer to time-share.

As the brazen Bush imperialists try to install a new democracy in Iraq, they are finding the old democracy of our reluctant allies inconvenient.
wisdom 05.Mar.2003 20:34


"Every gun that is made, every warship that is launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold, and are not clothed. This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children....This is not a way of life at all in any true sense. Under the cloud of war, it is humanity hanging on a cross of iron."
- Dwight D. Eisenhower, 1953

10 best vs the worst pres. ever 05.Mar.2003 20:44


America's Top 10 Presidents vs. 'the Worst President in All of American History'

by Maureen Farrell

In recent weeks, former presidents Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter have been vilified for criticizing a sitting president. And veteran reporter Helen Thomas has been targeted by the Republican National Committee, whose members were instructed to "call her out" for deeming G. W. Bush "the worst president in all of American history." But if former presidents can't speak out and 82-year-old icons are intimidated, who will champion the America we love?

William J. Ridings and Stuart B. McIver offer a solution. Authors of "RATING THE PRESIDENTS: A Ranking of U.S. Leaders, From the Great and Honorable to the Dishonest and Corrupt," they polled hundreds of academics and historians throughout the U.S. and Europe and rated presidents in terms of leadership, political skill, appointments, accomplishments and crisis management and character and integrity. As is the case with any such list, it's open for nitpicking, but even so, delving into the lives and words of our nation's finest connects us to America's beacons. And though reminders of our noble birth and traditional values underscore how far we've fallen, these sentiments remain in the hearts of patriots everywhere. Here, then, is a sampling of ideals set forth by our best and brightest, in contrast to those we presently endure:

#1 - America's Top-Ranked President, Abraham Lincoln

"I am a firm believer in the people. If given the truth, they can be depended upon to meet any national crisis. The great point is to bring them the real facts." --Abraham Lincoln

Last fall, Congressman Jim McDermott shocked American pundits by suggesting President Bush would mislead the American people in order to drag them into war. Since then, the Guardian's Simon Tisdall called Bush "America's great misleader," CIA officials accused the president of using "cooked information" to falsify Iraq's threat, and U.N. inspectors said the administration's weapons of mass destruction evidence amounts to "garbage after garbage after garbage." Bush has been caught lying about everything from Iraq's nuclear capabilities and Al Qeada links to blue chip economists' phantom reports. And as the rationale for war has morphed from "weapons of mass destruction" to "regime change" to "disarmament," to "Iraqi liberation," a recent Gallup poll shows that 58% of Americans believe Bush would conceal evidence or lie to win public support for his war. Honest Abe, he's not.

#2 - America's 2nd Greatest President, Franklin Delano Roosevelt

"The only thing we have to fear is fear itself." - FDR

Remember when we learned that the president had received warnings of possible terrorist attacks prior to Sept. 11 -- and headlines screamed, "Bush Knew"? Or when Colleen Rowley gained fame explaining ways FBI officials thwarted agents' attempts to investigate suspected terrorists? Though those events were monumentally noteworthy, they were overshadowed by terror alerts that this administration, and the complaint media, interrupted coverage to issue. Even the latest elevation of the country's terror alert, which was based partly on fabrications, was, according to one White House source, "a political decision as much as anything else." This also falls under the presidential rating category of "dishonest and corrupt."

#3 - America's 3rd Greatest President, George Washington

"The nation which indulges towards another a habitual hatred, or an habitual fondness, is in some degree a slave. It is a slave to its animosity or to its affection, either of which is sufficient to lead it astray from its duty and its interest." -- George Washington

From the "Axis of Evil" to President Bush's description of Kim Jong Ill as a "pygmy" to Donald Rumsfeld's dismissal of "old Europe," bellicose bullying and habitual hatred have become standard diplomatic fare. When Richard Perle, of the Pentagon's Defense Advisory Board, suggests that Germany's Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder should step down and says France is no longer an ally, it's easy to see why the world is developing a habitual hatred towards us.

On the other hand, examples of habitual fondness include our $15 billion friendship with Turkey and a relationship with Israel that's caused Robert Fiskian reactions in mainstream America. When Israel's Haaretz newspaper reported that Undersecretary of State John Bolton promised Ariel Sharon the U.S would "deal with threats" from Syria and Iran, Chris Matthews protested. "Sharon, the right wing prime minister of Israel has now issued a list of other countries we're supposed to attack and liberate," he said. "Iran, then Libya and Syria after that. Doesn't it take a certain kind of guts to tell the Americans who we're supposed to attack next? That takes a lot of nerve."

Why isn't this administration leveling with the American people about its pre-election, pre-packaged war plan to re-map the Middle East?

#4 - America's 4th Greatest President, Thomas Jefferson

"I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just; that his justice cannot sleep forever. . . the Almighty has no attribute that can take side with us in such a contest." - Thomas Jefferson

Though Jefferson was addressing slavery in this passage, his concerns extend to our impending war as well. And whether one calls it karma or blowback, America's spiritual leaders understand "God's justice," too.

The Bishop of the Episcopalian Church in America, Frank Griswold, for example, wisely notes how "the voices that are being raised up now are equivalent to the prophets of old," while the U.S. National Council of Churches is running ads warning that this war "violates God's law." The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops also issued a statement disproving of any war without "clear and adequate evidence of an imminent attack of a grave nature" and the Vatican has issued similar condemnations.

Though proponents of military action cite the liberation of the Iraqi people as a moral justification for war, the Pentagon's murderous "Shock and Awe" plan and Iraqi's ardent distrust of American occupation significantly weaken their argument. Moreover, if America's motivation is liberation, why does it look as if the Kurds, once again, are being sold down the river?


#5 - America's 5th Greatest President, Theodore Roosevelt

"No Man is justified in doing evil on the grounds of expedience." -- Theodore Roosevelt

"It is not reassuring to be told we are going to war because [Bush] 'has already seen this movie' and is bored by it." - Molly Ivins

#6 - America's 6th Greatest President, Woodrow Wilson

"The history of liberty is a history of the limitations of governmental power, not the increase of it." - Woodrow Wilson.

Though the PATRIOT Act was initially deemed the biggest government power grab in recent history, the Homeland Security Act was criticized by lawmakers for expanding "the federal police state" and "culture of secrecy" even further. Recently leaked draft legislation, the "Domestic Security Act of 2003," indicates that the Justice Department is proposing ways to strip Americans of their citizenship, considering secret arrests for the first time in U.S. history, and trimming judicial oversight while increasing the government's power. The latest warning concerning "anti-American extremists" makes an interesting semantic leap, too. By focusing on "extremists" instead of "terrorists," everyone is now suspect -- making citizens more likely to welcome a loss of liberty in exchange for security.

# 7 - America's 7th Greatest President, Harry S. Truman

"When even one American - who has done nothing wrong -- is forced by fear to shut his mind and close his mouth, then all of Americans are in peril." -- Harry S. Truman

Would Harry give Ari Fleischer hell for saying that Americans "need to watch what they say, watch what they do?"

#8 - America's 8th Greatest President, Andrew Jackson

"It is to be regretted that the rich and powerful too often bend the acts of government to their selfish purposes." - Andrew Jackson

During George H. W. Bush's presidency, G.W.'s Harken Energy, which had no international oil experience, trounced Amaco and Chevron to land an exclusive contract with the government of Bahrain. Neil and Marvin Bush struck up sweet post-Gulf War deals and Junior's insider trading charges were kindly swept aside. Today, Poppy Bush and former Secretary of State James Baker benefit "from acts of government" through the Carlyle Group.

While serving as Secretary of Defense, Dick Cheney vilified Saddam as "Hitler revisited," but later conducted $73 million worth of business with him as CEO of Halliburton. Halliburton currently has contracts for building Gitmo cells and military bases and is certain to benefit from the projected $2 billion cost of rebuilding Iraq's oil infrastructure. And now that the GAO has dropped its law suit, we the people will never find out the role Enron played in dictating policy. Because with 300 rollbacks in the Freedom of Information Act, we can only speculate on which way the government bends.

#9 - America's 9th Greatest President, Dwight D. Eisenhower

"Every gun that is made, every warship that is launched, every rocket fired signifies in the final sense a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and not clothed" -- Dwight D. Eisenhower

Rep. Dennis Kucinich illustrated Eisenhower's point brilliantly during a recent Crossfire appearance. Saying that the unnecessary bombing and occupation of Iraq would "cost this economy $1 trillion," he added, "We have money to blow up bridges over the Tigress and Euphrates and we don't have money to build bridges in our major cities. We have money to destroy the health of the Iraqi people and we don't have enough money to repair the health of our own people in this country."

#10 - America's 10th Greatest President, James Madison

"The truth is that all men having power ought to be mistrusted." - James Madison

Compilation of Bush quotes (courtesy of Buzzflash.com):

"You don't get everything you want. A dictatorship would be a lot easier." Describing what it's like to be governor of Texas. (Governing Magazine 7/98) -- From Paul Begala's "Is Our Children Learning?"

"If this were a dictatorship, it would be a heck of a lot easier, just so long as I'm the dictator." -- CNN.com, December 18, 2000

"A dictatorship would be a heck of a lot easier, there's no question about it." Business Week, July 30, 2001