Friday, May 07, 2004

5/7/2004 8:06 AM

You cannot be surprised that when George Bush finally decided to apologize for the Iraqi prison abuses, that he would apologize to the King of Jordan. Bush seems to feel that people are not his peers, and he does not owe them apologies. Kings, however …

I thought I read everything about it, every obvious point that could be said, but how systematic do the abuses have to be, how upside down does the culture have to be, to have GIs pose for those pictures? I don’t see a lot of Kodak moments of smiling guards at the Gulag or Auschwitz.


This is like that moron juror – with a law degree, natch --- who said that Dennis Kozlowski can not be convicted of a crime because despite the fact that he managed to become the CEO of a major corporation, he did not have the moral compass TO UNDERSTAND THAT TAKING WHAT DOES NOT BELONG TO YOU IS A CRIME.

Interrogating prisoners of war is a core military function. It is not, to paraphrase the other Donald, wussy little social work. If you do not have enough soldiers to do interrogation, then you do not have a military. If you do not have a military. you do not need a Secretary of Defense, and this one should go. The Department of Commerce should take over.

A more paranoid notion would be this: the Military is a function of the United States government of the people, by the people and for the people. The current mess in Iraq is, in large measure, the work of independent contractors, whose only loyalties are to the crown. Rumsfeld probably knows too much to be released before he wants to go.

Krugman makes the point in today’s Times that oil prices are spiking not simply because there is not enough oil coming out of Iraq, but because the demand from East Asia (read: China) is increasing. A more paranoid notion would be this: Bush went into Iraq not to capture the Iraqi oil supply (which I have always said was a good and sufficient reason), but to destroy it so the Saudis could have a windfall.

I expect that if we ever see Michael Moore’s “suppressed” documentary, he will say much the same thing. I hate George Bush as much as the next fellow, but putting any reference to Michael Moore in my brain makes me want to take a shower.

By the way, I expect that this whole business with Michael Moore was written down by Eisner and Weinstein in last year’s marketing plan. Maybe Jeb Bush goes along for the campaign contribution

I have opinions on the communion controversy swirling around Senator Kerry and Governor McGreevey, but it is a family fight, and it’s not my family. I must admit some old fears are bred in the bone, and it makes me highly uncomfortable when I see other members of my family commenting on that fight.

I will make the following very basic points that I am quite sure will appear in someone else’s op-ed pieces within the next few days:

a. Separation of church and state is not a one-way street. The Founding Fathers were far more fearful of what is going on now, the establishment of a powerful cross-denominational religious institution that finds itself obligated to adopt certain political views --- or else --- than they were over whether or not we pledge allegiance to “one nation under God” or pay for the odd crèche here and there.

b. Like you faithful blog readers expect me to say -- we have all been here before. One of the harbingers of the Civil War was the break-up of three of the four most powerful denominations of the era -- Methodist, Baptist and Presbyterian -- into its Northern and Southern components. Calhoun, and to a lesser extent, Webster, both felt that once the churches split, then seccession had already taken place in people's minds. Splitting the country apart was a much less important matter. I have never read a scholar say it, but I will say, that when Lincoln, in his first Inaugural Address, referred to the "cords" binding the sections together being strained, but not broken, that Lincoln was responding to Calhoun. (Who did not answer -- having been dead for 10 years by then)

c. Those of you who have heard me rant for decades now know that I feel an underlying agenda of the Conservatives has always been to re-fight the Civil War, and win this time. Although I do not know how a victory would be defined. I do know that in order for the entire episode to play out, two wars have to be fought.

First is the battle between liberalism and conservatism.

If liberalism wins, than the war is between American particularism, certain notions of civic religion and the ways that liberal Protestantism has imbued large segments of the culture versus internationalism, the notion that the American experience has been by and large worse than the European experience, certain notions of the way Roman Catholicism is actually practised in every day life by those who came here from Spanish speaking countries. Having written it out the short way, I realize that it is, at its core, a racial war. My understanding is that Professor Huntington goes through all this in his new book.

If conservatism wins, than the war is easier to understand, and it is the war between taking fundamentalist Protestantism seriously, on the one hand, and those who would only pay it lip service in the worship of their real God -- money --- on the other hand.