Sunday, January 30, 2005


By William Fisher

Good news! The Prince of Darkness has morphed into The Prince of Peace.

Having fixed Iraq, Richard Perle is now ready to advise us on Iran. The former Assistant Defense Secretary in the Reagan Administration, and Neocon darling, appeared on a recent Charlie Rose show on PBS, following his nemesis, Seymour Hirsch of The New Yorker magazine.

When Perle appeared, Rose quoted Hirsch: “The Neocons believe that if we take out Iranian nuke sites with precision airstrikes, the people will rise up and overthrow the mullahs.”

Perle demurred.

He said: “Before we face war, there are things we can do today. Tens of millions of people are unhappy with Iran’s theocracy. We should be providing material support to the opposition…Broadcasting…helping young Iranians who want to publish…helping students, trade unions…(This could) bring about regime change by Iranians for Iranians…(and it) could well take out the Mullahs…We should spread the demand for good governance.”

Perle seemed eager to assign blame for the Iraqi occupation, which he said is "sadly misguided." The US "should have turned over Iraq to the Iraqis immediately" following Saddam's overthrow. We "should have been working with Iraqis" to expedite a quick and bloodless regime change.” He added, “Failed military actions often can lead to destructive occupations.”

Excuse me, but isn’t “working with” Iraqis how we found Ahmed Chalabi?

Perle believes the US "can't exclude the possibility of military action elsewhere in the Middle East," he said, adding, “The Middle East is producing the vast amount of terrorists in the world. " He focused specifically on Syria, which he said is funding and encouraging the insurgency in Iraq.

Perle suggested that an Iraqi Shia government would be Iran’s rival -- not its ally -- despite their religious, ethnic, and cultural similarities. His reasoning was that the Iraqi government will have been elected legitimately.

The jury on the Iraqi government, some would argue, is still out.

But regardless of how our Iraq adventure turns out, one has to feel a sense of profound loss: The Prince of Darkness has become the Prince of Peace. Gone is the man who gave us “If we just let our vision of the world go forth, and we embrace it entirely and we don't try to piece together clever diplomacy, but just wage a total war... our children will sing great songs about us years from now.”

Or is he?

A few years ago, many of those who now serve George W Bush launched their “Project for the New American Century (PNAC)”. Its stars included names like Elliott Abrams, Dick Cheney, Paul Wolfowitz, Donald Rumsfeld, James Woolsey, John Bolton, Douglas Feith and, of course, Perle. Its ideology was the proactive assertion of American power in the world. It believed that the kind of rhetoric we heard in the President’s inaugural address was for real.

The PNAC said what America needed was "a new Pearl Harbor.” A wake-up call to arms and manifest destiny. They wrote, they spoke, they circulated policy papers, they lobbied the corridors of Washington power. And absent 9/11, they might all just be doing the same old things. But Usama Bin Laden was the greatest gift the neocons ever got.

Then came Iraq.

But Iraq was far from Perle’s first bout with controversy -- though it was probably his biggest. His career has been marked by big ups and big downs. Among them:

He is credited with bringing to the Pentagon a number of staunchly pro-Israel activists who dramatically increased weapons sales to Israel.

In 1996, he simultaneously advised both the Dole campaign in the United States and the Netanyahu campaign in Israel.

He was the principal author of a widely circulated policy paper that advised Netanyahu to cancel the Oslo accords concluded with the Palestinians.

During the Camp David negotiations, Perle advised the Israeli delegation to prepare to leave to keep it from appearing to be a pawn of Vice President Gore's campaign. Perle's statements drew a harsh rebuke from the White House, which criticized him for injecting politics into international diplomacy. The Bush camp quickly disavowed the remarks, claiming that Perle had been 'speaking for himself.'

In an article he wrote while he was a member of Donald Rumsfeld’s Defense Policy Board, he lauded the Pentagon plan to lease tankers from the Boeing Company but failed to disclose that Boeing was a major investor in his venture capital company. "It takes a special government green-eyeshade mentality to miss the urgency of the tanker requirement," Perle and a coauthor wrote in the Aug. 14 article in the Wall Street Journal.

These and other appearances of conflicts of interest resulted in his resigning the chairmanship of the Pentagon advisory group, but he remained a member until he fell off the radar just before the 2004 presidential campaign.

Despite these ups and downs, don’t count Perle out. He’s still with us, looking for another Peal Harbor. Maybe it will happen in Tehran.


By William Fisher

While the Commentariat was scratching its collective head trying to figure out what exactly President Bush meant in his ‘spread freedom’ Inaugural speech, he did it for us.

And the answer appeared to be: “Nothing”.

Reporting on a hastily convened White House press conference last week, Peter Baker wrote in The Washington Post: that the president sees his Inauguration Day goal of 'ending tyranny in our world' as a long-term ideal rather than a new policy redefining U.S. relations with repressive governments, as he ratcheted back expectations of a more muscular approach to spreading freedom abroad.

He went on to note, "While saying he had 'firmly planted the flag of liberty' in Iraq, Bush offered no tangible plans for how he would plant it in other countries, suggesting instead that the stirring words of last week's inaugural address were meant as a statement of principles recapitulating his first-term practices."

" 'I don't think foreign policy is an either/or proposition,' Mr. Bush said in answer to a question about how a country's progress in advancing freedom might be balanced against other American interests, such as securing China's aid in disarming North Korea."

This should come as no great surprise. The kind of Olympian rhetoric we heard at the Inauguration has been used by many other American presidents – including Woodrow Wilson, Franklin Roosevelt, Harry Truman, John Kennedy and Jimmy Carter, and Ronald Reagan.

But, as former Senator Gary Hart points out, “the evocation of Woodrow Wilson as the standard-bearer for the export of democracy neglects the important distinction that Wilson believed this to be a mission for the entire democratic world, not just America, and one carried out peacefully, not through the use of force.” When Franklin Roosevelt said “the only thing we had to fear is fear itself”, he immediately started to tackle to the despair of the Great Depression. When in 1947 Harry Truman announced the “Truman Doctrine” for containment of the Soviet Union, he said, “I believe that it must be the policy of the United States to support free peoples who are resisting attempted subjugation by armed minorities or by outside pressures.” He did exactly that. John F. Kennedy’s 1961 “ask not” speech -- “pay any price, bear any burden” -- was followed by the Peace Corps, the Alliance for Progress in Latin America, and the beginning of the end to racial discrimination in the U.S. And when Ronald Reagan called the Soviet Union an ‘evil empire’ and said, “From here on in we tell the truth”, the U.S. changed policy, and that in part led to the implosion of the USSR.

In other words, these presidents tried to narrow the chasm between idealistic rhetoric and the world as we find it.

Why the world didn’t immediately recognize Mr. Bush’s speech for what it was is in retrospect a no-brainer. First, he is the first born-again evangelical in American history. And his speech, in cadence as well as content, was clearly informed by scripture in which he deeply believes. Who could know how far his faith would take the nation? Second, his record. Most American presidents have not found themselves being inaugurated on the heels of two invasions to effect regime change. And with neither the Afghanistan nor the Iraq adventures anywhere near finished, the world was entitled to wonder ‘who’s next?’

That’s still an open question. During the presidential campaign, neoconservatives like Paul Wolfowitz and Richard Perle virtually fell off the radar. Now they’re back, and their subject of choice is Iran. Perle is saying, “Before we face war, there are things we can do today. Tens of millions of people are unhappy with Iran’s theocracy. We should be providing material support to the opposition…Broadcasting…helping young Iranians who want to publish…helping students, trade unions…(This could) bring about regime change by Iranians for Iranians…(and it) could well take out the Mullahs…We should spread the demand for good governance.”

That’s pretty much what the neocons were saying publicly before the Iraq invasion, while privately urging much more muscular action from the Administration. And it should be remembered that it was “working with the opposition” that brought us Ahmed Chalabi.

Moreover, those of us who dislike theocracies have to wonder whether, even if the Iranian reformers rise up and “take out the Mullahs”, Iran is likely to scrap its nuclear program. Perle and his buddies didn’t seem to understand much about the strength of nationalism before Iraq and they don’t seem to have learned much since.

Thankfully, a reality check on the state of the U.S. military should signal that an armed invasion of Iran is highly unlikely in the foreseeable future. Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice told us at her confirmation hearing that diplomacy will be her number one priority. She could have no more urgent start-point than Iran. And joining the Europeans in their current negotiations would signal the Administration’s intention to try to resolve the Iran problem multilaterally.

But Dr. Rice also told Senators that the U.S. has “other issues” with Iran that might block agreement on the nuclear issue.

Most observers think she meant its abysmal human rights record. But applying this kind of double standard would be funny if it wasn’t so serious. Many countries that America is proud to call its allies (read: partners in the ‘war on terror’) have equally abysmal human rights records. Thus, the U.S. turns a blind eye to the authoritarian regimes and the human rights atrocities they consistently commit in Pakistan, Egypt, Algeria, Yemen, Uzbekistan, China, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, and Libya (which has become the Administration’s poster child for ‘reform’ because it turned over its weapons of mass destruction).

In these countries – many of which receive large amounts in U.S. aid – the real weapons of mass destruction are the police and the security services. Does the president intend to deny America’s blessing and America’s aid to these countries? Not likely. The CIA keeps its fleet of Gulfstream jets busy ‘rendering’ prisoners to many of these countries – where they can do to prisoners what is supposed to be unconstitutional in the U.S.

There is also another kind of double standard today that places the Bush speech squarely in the realm of fantasy. The world no longer believes the United States, thanks to Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo Bay, and raids on the civil rights of citizens, immigrants and visitors alike.

So what we can expect from the administration in the next four years?

Richard Haass, president of the Council of Foreign Relations, writes that no one would suggest that the U.S. “should conduct an amoral foreign policy that ignores what governments are doing to their citizens. We should encourage the rule of law, human rights, and meaningful economic and political participation. But as President Bush acknowledged, ‘The great objective of ending tyranny is the concentrated work of generations’. In the interim, the U.S. needs a foreign policy that deals with the world as it is.”

So the near-term future will be far more about realpolitik than inaugural rhetoric. Given President Bush’s inclination to ‘bring it on’, the status quo may be a blessing.


Mary Pitt is a septuagenarian Kansan who is self-employed and active in the political arena. Her concerns are her four-generation family and the continuance of the United States as a democracy with a government "of the people, by the people, and for the people". Comments and criticism may be addressed to .

by Mary Pitt

The assault on our freedoms by the "Old Testament Christians", those who use the Ten Commandments as their lodestar and place great faith in Jewish Law, the advocacy of Holy War, and the justifications of the ancient prophesies in their missionary zeal to control the world, are finally getting some opposition from the devout followers of the example of Jesus Christ. With Jim Wallis of Sojourner Magazine at its head, the horde of "Quiet Christians" is finally on the march, espousing their belief in "a kinder, gentler" religion and the teachings of Jesus as He walked the earth.

For the Bibliophiles among you, Mr. Wallis refers you to Matthew 25 and the words of Christ Himself as regards the standards on which we will be judged by our treatment of our fellow man. Also in the Book of Matthew, Chapter 5, Jesus makes it very clear that He was the "fulfillment" of the Law and set an even higher standard for the Christians than that which had governed the Jews. Taking "one-tenth of our increase" to the altar is no longer enough! Not if we drive by in our nice cars on the way to do our "Christian duty" past the homeless who are sleeping in the streets, not if there are hungry children, trying to learn in a seedy, under-funded school or mothers reduced to begging or worse, to keep food in the house for her babies. He tells us, first, to make peace with our adversary, to be reconciled with our brethren, and to give what is asked by those in need. The mandatory stonings and beheadings of the Old Testament were replaced with the eternal forgiveness of a loving God. This was depicted by the statement, "If there be any among you who is without sin, let him cast the first stone."

This is the true test of Christianity. Jesus did not tell us to go forth into the world and kill those who refuse to agree with us. His instructions were that we go forth in peace, teaching and nurturing, to bring souls to Him by example. He told us not to lust for power and earthly kingdoms or riches, but to aspire to a higher goal of peace and brotherhood. We are admonished to let Caesar be Caesar and neither to support nor oppose worldly governments other than in a non-violent manner, with dignity and love. He specifically enjoins us from the type of radical evangelical militant "Christianity" that is evident in the "religious right" of our time. Indeed, he admonished against the practices of "shouting prayers on the street" in order to vaunt our own piety to the passers-by, but instead to pray in private and to let our behavior testify to our relationship with God. This does not mean that we must deny our faith, only that we must demonstrate it by our actions.

How many of us would open our homes to an orphan, less a subsidized program of reimbursement by a social service agency? Who would open the door to a hungry, homeless beggar? Who would offer to meet the needs of a stranger if it involved a real sacrifice of our own money, our time, or our privacy? That is the true test of our Christianity! It has become so easy to "give to the church" or to "donate to charity" those things which we feel we can spare. We have institutionalized charities so that we do not have to become personally involved, but they cannot fill all the needs. We have made government programs which still fall short of being sufficient and then we snarl at the cost because we are unwilling to make the sacrifice of paying sufficient taxes to fund them. We consider poverty, squalor, and illness as not being our concern but somebody else's problem. "We take care of our own", we cry, "and others could, too, if they would only apply themselves." But, in both testaments, we are adjured that we are not only "our brother's keepers" but that anyone we meet should be treated as our "neighbor" and we must love them as ourselves. In His Book, God tells us that greed and selfishness are as deadly as the other sins which we must avoid..

While we may boast of the "surge" of professed Christianity in our great nation, we have become unforgiveably selfish. We want it all and we want it now! At the time of the greatest affluence in the history of the world we, as a nation, have become more acquisitive and more personally greedy than any since the days of ancient Rome. We send our "all-volunteer army" to destroy innocent familes in Iraq, holding them in involuntary servitude in the manner of the Roman Legions while the sons of the rich and powerful lounge at home, establishing lucrative careers and surviving above the fray. We loot the resources of the world, leaving the inhabitants in poverty while we celebrate our "chosen" position as their "betters". And then we go to church and praise God for His "gifts" as if we truly deserve them.

While those who disapprove of the actions and the proclamations of certitude by the Christians on the right would find it much easier to love them were we not constantly bombarded by those who would befuddle our minds and threaten our souls by telling us that they have a "direct line" to God and that He is telling them things that are at odds with the instructions that He left for us in His Book. We find no place in His Word that we are to persecute those who do not live in our ways, to treat them as less than human, or to hound them to their graves with signs proclaiming, "GOD HATES FAGS"! At no place do we find instructions that we are to mistreat and neglect children who are born out of wedlock, in no place are we commanded to commit such violence as to bomb abortion clinics, and in no place are we commanded to impose our beliefs on others by law or by public condemnation. At no time were we given permission or adjuration to hate the "sons of Ishmael" who live under the same protections of God as do the "sons of Israel". These are transgressions that are hard to acknowledge, much less to forgive and we will leave that forgiveness to God Who, alone, has the ultimate power to do so.

These "Quiet Christians" are performing their responsibility under the charge left us by Christ Himself when they speak out against the godless policies of the current government and advocate for peace rather than war and love rather than hate. We may be able to vanquish the armies of those who dislike and disrespect us, but war will not necessarily bring peace and the threat of death will not create love. We need to begin to think on a higher plane and ask ourselves, with our minds open to truth, "What WOULD Jesus do?" The answer is in His words and in His example.