George A. Sprecace M.D.,
J.D., F.A.C.P. and Allergy Associates of New
RESPONSE (Archives)...Daily Commentary on News of the Day
This is a new section. It will
quick reactions by myself to news and events of the day, day by day, in
this rapid-fire world of ours. Of course, as in military
a rapid response in one direction may occasionally have to be followed
by a "strategic withdrawal" in another direction. Charge that to
"the fog of war", and to the necessary flexibility any mental or
campaign must maintain to be effective. But the mission will
be the same: common sense, based upon facts and "real politick",
by a visceral sense of Justice and a commitment to be pro-active.
That's all I promise.
to return to the current Rapid Response list
WEDNESDAY, April 25 through 30, 2008
- You can say a lot about the Reverend Wright...and
Barack Obama has finally done so today. But this Reverend's most
outrageous - if not surprising - statement was his assertion yesterday
that the entire flap about his beliefs and remarks were really a
frontal attack on Black churches in general. Now, there's a 24
carat demagogue in action.
- And more about a "church". We now learn
that 31 of the 53 teenaged girls from the polygamous sect in
Texas. some as young as 13 years old are either already
mothers or are now pregnant. What religion eats its young?
And why is the American taxpayer supporting such flagrant abuses of
- Today we learned that a Federal Court in Connecticut has
rejected several specious suits brought by teacher organizations
against the No Child Left Behind Act. Will that
end their obstructionism? You've got to be kidding.
- The U.S. Supreme Court has this week upheld the legality
of States to require photo ID before accepting a would-be
voter. Now, let's see which States are interested in reducing the
existing substantial voter fraud. This should not be a partisan
issue...but don't hold your breath.
- My comment made earlier this month regarding the
increasing acceptance by the Military of
released felons into active duty receives support from
a recent study on the subject. Please see the
recruits who get in despite bad conduct promoted faster
By LOLITA C. BALDOR, Associated Press Writer Tue Apr 29, 4:44 PM ET
WASHINGTON - Soldiers who need special
waivers to get into the Army because of bad behavior go AWOL more often
and face more courts-martial. But they also get promoted faster and
re-enlist at a higher rate, according to an internal military study
obtained by The Associated Press.
The Army study late last year concluded
that taking a chance on a well-screened applicant with a criminal, bad
driving or drug record usually pays off. And both the Army and the
Marines have been bringing in more recruits with blemished records.
Still, senior leaders have called for additional studies, to help
determine the impact of the waivers on the Army.
"We believe that so far the return
outweighs the risk," said Army Col. Kent M. Miller, who headed the team
that conducted the study.
The information has not been released to
the public, but the AP obtained a copy of the study.
The statistics show that recruits with
criminal records or other drug and alcohol issues have more discipline
problems than those without records. Those recruits also are a bit more
likely to drop out of the Army because of alcohol.
On the brighter side, those with waivers
earn more medals for valor and tend to stay in the Army longer.
In a key finding, the study said that
nearly one in five — or 19.5 percent — of the soldiers who needed
waivers to join the Army failed to complete the initial term of
enlistment, which could be from two to six years. That percentage is
just a bit higher than the 17 percent washout rate for those who didn't
need a waiver to get in.
About 1 percent of those with waivers
appeared before courts-martial, compared with about 0.7 percent of
those without waivers.
Overall, soldiers with waivers appear
more committed to their service once they get in. Statistics show they
tend to stay in the Army longer and re-enlist at higher rates. Also,
infantry soldiers with waivers were promoted to sergeant in an average
of about 35 months, compared with 39 months for those without waivers.
The Army study compared the performance
of soldiers who came in with conduct waivers against those who did not
during the years 2003-2006.
In that time, 276,231 recruits enlisted
in the Army with no prior military service. Of those 6.5 percent, or
nearly 18,000 had waivers.
In a comparison of both groups the study
found that soldiers who had received waivers for bad behavior:
• Had a higher desertion rate (4.26
percent vs. 3.23 percent).
• Had a higher misconduct rate (5.95
percent vs. 3.55 percent).
• Had a higher rate of appearances before
courts-martial (1 percent vs. 0.71 percent).
• Had a higher dropout rate for alcohol
rehabilitation failure (0.27 percent vs. 0.12 percent).
But they also:
• Were more likely to re-enlist (28.48
percent vs. 26.76 percent).
• Got promoted faster to sergeant (after
34.7 months vs. 39 months).
• Had a lower rate of dismissal for
personality disorders (0.93 percent vs. 1.12 percent).
• Had a lower rate of dismissal for
unsatisfactory performance (0.26 percent vs. 0.48 percent).
Waivers have been a controversial issue
for the military in recent months, with the news that the Army and
Marine Corps have increased their use of the exemptions to bring in
more recruits with criminal records than ever before.
The Army and the Marine Corps are under
pressure to attract recruits as they struggle to increase their size in
order to meet the combat needs of war in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The last time the active-duty Army missed
its recruiting goal was 2005. Last year it set a target of 80,000
recruits and signed up 80,410. It is shooting for another 80,000 this
Some critics outside the Defense
Department say the military is lowering its standards in order to fill
its ranks. And lower-level officers have raised concerns with their
leaders that the trend may trigger an increase in disciplinary problems
within their units.
Rep. Henry Waxman,
chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform
Committee, asked the Pentagon
recently for more data on troops who receive conduct waivers.
He said he recognizes "the importance of
providing opportunities to individuals who have served their sentences
and rehabilitated themselves." But he also noted concerns that the
practice could be undermining military readiness.
Army officials say getting a waiver is a
long and difficult process, particularly for those who have been
convicted of a serious offense. Serious offenders have their records
reviewed and must get approval from as many as nine different analysts
and officers — up to the rank of general.
Gen. William Wallace, commander of the
Army's Training and Doctrine Command at Fort Monroe, Va.,
dismisses the notion that waivers are creating more disciplinary
problems in today's Army.
Instead, he said, when the Army brings in
a young person who made a mistake and got past it, most likely "they
will be a better person for having made that mistake and learned from
it, than perhaps somebody who didn't make the mistake and didn't have
the opportunity to learn."
Wallace speaks from experience.
As a teen he was taken into custody in
his hometown of Louisville, Ky., when — as he put it — "I took an
expensive baseball and put it in a not-so-expensive baseball box, and
tried to check out with it."
He remembers the black and white police
car pulling up, loading his and his friend's bicycles in the back and
taking him downtown to the station where his father had to pick him up.
He laid out the sobering experience on
his application for West Point
several years later and, he recalled this week, "somebody looked at
that application and said 'he apparently learned something from the
experience and we'll give him an opportunity.'"
Wallace, a four-star general whose chest
full of awards now includes two Distinguished Service medals, five Legion of Merit
awards and an Army Commendation
Medal for valor, said the Army has an obligation to give young
people a second chance to make something of themselves.
"I am less concerned about the raw
material that we receive than I am about the product that we produce,"
THURSDAY, April 18 through 24, 2008
From famine to feast; news cycles are like
- The Democrats in the New London, Ct. City Council
are showing hubris approaching arrogance in their recent dealings with
the people's business, including their handling of the sale of city
property and in their proposal to gut the Office of Planning and
Development. And they are still so young as a group.
Perhaps they are too close to their elders in the party, as described
by David Collins in his column in The Day (Wednesday, April 23, Region,
pB1), entitled:"A Political Dig In New London".
- And then there are the national Democrats.
Led by Howard Dean, they have still to come up with a plan to
re-enfranchise the people of Michigan and Florida.
They speak like true isolationists in order to curry
favor with - rather than to inform and help - "blue collar
workers". Their Black supporters have yet to
realize that their lack of broad educational and economic progress in
the last decades is the diredt result of the plantation mentality of
their Party towards them. And how else to explain their
blind support for Barack Obama, the Elmer Gantry of this election
cycle, the empty suit? The only person speaking truth to
irrational hopes is John McCain, who told the auto workers of
Detroit and the steel worlers of Ohio that their old jobs were not
coming back - and that he would work to re-train them for a real
future. Now, that's leadership. People of all races and
backgrounds.should value that.
- Former President Carter, whom I have in the
distant past identified as one of the better former Presidents,
relinquished that position when he began his current career as a loose
cannon aboard the American Ship of State. Not only a shame,
but damaging to our efforts at world diplomacy. Perhaps we should
not be surprised about this turn of events, given that his presidency
was one of the worst in living memory.
- The Military is taking more felons into active duty.
Good. If those felons had been drafted at the ages
of 16-18, they most likely would not have become felons. Now,
that should be what we need: real rehabilitation for this massive
- As discussed recently by the CEO of the Kipplinger Report, much
of this panicky talk about recession and depression
is, as I have already said in this section, Wall Street's efforts
to "cry 'Fire' in a crowded theater" in order to stampede Main
Street into bailing them out from the results of their greed and
stupidity. But what is true - and is being totally ignored by
all, is the fact that the "fundamentals" of the Economy are
wrong. Who will deal with them...before this really becomes
- Talk about "crisis". What is happening to the world food
supply, distribution and cost is a real crisis, with an estimated 800
million people at or near starvation. The corrupted U.N.
"Oil For Food" program was never supposed to be so cynically converted
to "oil instead of food", as is now taking place with the diversion of
corn and wheat to ethanol. How long will it take to reverse this
folly and greed?
- Europe, the home of a nation that decades ago
was wise enough to convert 70% of its energy source to nuclear, is now
considering a massive return to use of coal.
Have we gone from "THe Age of Reason" to an age of rampant
- The No Child Left Behind Law has
been fought mightily by the Teachers' Unions since its passage.
"WHAT...GUIDELINES, ACCOUNTABILITY, CHOICE??" Evidentally, one of
the favored areas of dissembling has been with regard to "percentage of
students graduating highschool". Should be simple, right?
Wrong. The "educators" have been using a "new Math". That
has just been corrected by new Federal requirements. And while
we're at clarifying that mystery, let's learn about how many of those
"graduates" should have gotten out of the 8th grade.
- The United Nations and Darfur...and all the
other disasters in Africa. Here is that gang at its
best/worst. What a terrible disappointment.
Dear reader, I'm sorry if all of the above has put you into a deep
funk. The antidote lies in the section of this web-site entitled "A Bit Of Whimsey".
it. You'll like it!"
THURSDAY, April 14 through 17, 2008
This is about Religion, and "Religion".
- Pope Benedict XVI is providing a needed tonic
for the American Catholic Church...some of it bitter as addressed to
the Church leaders who participated in hiding the clergy sex
outrage. He also seems to value knowing directly what issues of
Catholic Church magesterial opinion, as opposed to ex
cathedra doctrine, are really vexing the Faithful...The Body of
the Church. He is not getting it nearly as clearly from Poland or
Ireland, and much less so from increasingly secular Europe. He
also values America as a primarily faithful, God-worshiping,
Judeo-Chrustian country. True Islam is part of that
fabric...excluding the so-called fundamentalist cults using "religion"
as a front for their devilish tactics.
- Freedom of Religion is alive and well here, and
is defending itself pretty well from the distortion of "freedom
from religion". One manifestation of this is in the stupid
argument regarding "Darwinism vs Creationism"...as if they were ever
mutually exclusive. The truth is that the pure Darwinians are
athiests; and the pure creationists are poor students.
- Then there are the "religions" and "mega-churches" whose
primary goal is passing the basket and promoting political goals.
Where is the IRS when you need them.
- And then there are the "religions" accorded that
designation even when they refuse to follow the basic
laws of the land. Polygamy is against American Law, for
many worthwhile reasons. So, what was going on in Texas?
Why did it take so long for that "religious group" to be attacked
for child abuse? Why, even now, do we not hear of the
"religion" itself being disbanded as related to its practice of
polygamy, forced marriages and other abuses? If this is allowed
to continue, would it be protected under "Freedom of Religion" for
a "religious group" to establish slavery, complete with cotton fields,
on their "coumpound"? And why are the children of these people
not to be allowed, each and every one, to testify in his or her behalf,
related to their experiences and to whether or not they wish to return
to their mother? That would be the ultimate rape of American
Law, fundamental fairness, and common sense.
SUNDAY, April 13, 2008
I have no way of knowing...but does the
following remind us of the Soviet Union in the 1980's? GS
ITEM 13: Gordon Chang: Fragile China
Beijing struggles with
unrest in Tibet.
by Gordon G. Chang
04/10/2008 12:00:00 AM
THREE WEEKS AFTER THE
outbreak of violence in southwest China, Beijing's officials have
apparently restored order. Before they were able to do so, they often
spoke in grim terms. Tibet Communist party chief Zhang Qingli, for
instance, stated that the country was locked in "a life or death
From the perspective of
today, that assessment appears overwrought. Yet there was good reason
for Chinese officialdom to be worried. Although the Tibetans clearly
could not gain their independence or destroy the one-party state, their
uprising exposed the fragility of the regime in Beijing.
Fragility? The global
consensus is that China owns this century and will soon push the United
States off center stage. Yet the violence instigated by Tibetans last
month called into question the stability of Chinese governance. As an
initial matter, the disturbances shattered not only the cultivated
image of ethnic harmony but also the cherished notion that economic
development was molding the nation together. China remains a
multicultural empire of many ethnicities--Beijing officially counts 55
minority groups--and not all of them are content remaining inside the
Chinese tent. Those who want their independence from Beijing's "Han"
rule are indicating that the Communist party's formula for
nation-building is deeply flawed. "The central government invests
billions in Tibet each year hoping for stability in return," a Chinese
source familiar with Beijing's thinking on Tibetan matters told
Reuters. "But money cannot buy stability."
Largely as a result of this
blind faith in modernization, officials in the horribly misnamed Tibet
Autonomous Region and their
bosses in Beijing believed their own propaganda on the benevolence of
their minority policies and the righteousness of their actions. "The
problem is that in the Party, they delude themselves by thinking that
Tibetans don't have legitimate grievances," says Tsering Shakya of the
University of British Colombia. Due to this perception, Chinese leaders
were convinced that Tibetans should have been happy and that problems,
when they occurred, were fomented from the outside. Therefore, Beijing
quickly came to the conclusion that the recent unrest must have been
orchestrated by the revered Dalai Lama, whom state media smeared as "a
devil with a human face but the heart of a beast." Yet any casual
visitor to Tibet could see that, even in the calmest of times, the
Tibetans deeply resented Han rule. No independent observer endorses
Beijing's charges that the Dalai Lama was behind this year's
The self-delusion in this
instance led to Chinese officials, both in Beijing and the Tibetan
capital of Lhasa, being taken by complete surprise when they should
have been prepared. The protests started on an especially sensitive
date-March 10, the 49th anniversary of the failed 1959 uprising in
Tibet--and Tibetan lamas often take to the streets to commemorate the
event. Moreover, the violence did not start until the fifth day of the
disturbances, giving the state plenty of time to get ready. As a result
of the almost complete paralysis of the government in Lhasa, the "scum
of Buddhism"--Beijing's term for angry Tibetans--fought police and went
on a rampage, attacking Hans and burning their property. They even
managed to take control of the center of the capital city. "The whole
day I didn't see a single police officer or soldier," said one American
woman to the New York Times. "The Tibetans were just running free."
Free-running Tibetans exposed another fundamental flaw in Beijing's
governance. The Communist party's inflexible top-down political system
is especially ill-suited to respond to fast-moving events. As a senior
police officer in Lhasa told a Han businessman whose properties were
damaged in the rioting, "We could not act without orders from above."
Although the Chinese state is massive, its size is as much a
disadvantage as a strength, as we saw last month--and in every crisis
in China this decade.
While Chinese officials
deliberated during the breakdown of order in Tibet, the protests spread
fast throughout Tibetan areas in southwest China. Within a day of the
initial outbreak on Monday, similar demonstrations had taken place in
Qinghai and Gansu provinces. By Sunday, the 16th, Tibetans in Sichuan
province burned down a police station and engaged in other disruptive
acts. Neighboring Yunnan province was also scarred by Tibetan unrest.
And now ethnic protests have
jumped from Buddhist Tibetan lands, in China's southwest, to Muslim
Uighur areas, in the country's northwest. Although authorities in the
so-called Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region have taken extraordinary
precautions in recent weeks, such as banning weddings, they were not
able to prevent the bombing of a bus in the capital city of Urumqi on
March 18. Since then, there have been scattered incidents, most notably
a demonstration, beginning on March 23 in the city of Hotan, of nearly
600 Uighurs. At the end of last week, authorities in the northwestern
part of Xinjiang, also known as the "other Tibet," reportedly found
bombs and made arrests. Fu Chao, an official there, said that Uighur
protesters "want to echo the things in Lhasa."
Beijing has employed the
same harsh--and abhorrent--tactics to repress both its Uighur and
Tibetan populations. The forceful Chinese methods have stopped the
worst rioting, but they have not been entirely successful. Some
demonstrations continue even in the presence of hundreds of troops. In
the past week, despite repeated government pronouncements of victory,
sporadic disturbances continue to occur.
And at this time, it appears
that the government's increased reliance on force is itself creating
even more public dissent. Fresh violence, for instance, occurred in
Sichuan province on April 3 when almost 800 monks and other Tibetans
marched to seek the release of a monk and a monastery worker who had
been incarcerated for possessing photographs of the Dalai Lama. The
pictures were seized when 3,000 paramilitary troops invaded a remote
monastery. Police opened fire on the protestors, killing as many as 15
and wounding dozens. Others have been reported missing. The incident is
bound to fuel even more resentment and ultimately unrest. As Nicholas
Kristof noted last week, China's repressive policies in Tibet have
It's true that force has so
far succeeded in keeping Tibetans and Uighurs from breaking away from
the People's Republic, and almost no one thinks they will prevail in
the foreseeable future. After all, Tibetans number approximately six
million and the Uighurs about eight in a nation of approximately 1.5
Yet the recent Tibetan
disturbances show what may happen in other circumstances and in other
times. In the last few weeks, protests flared, escalated quickly, and
spread uncontrollably. Central and local officials were surprised,
reacted slowly, and now employ tactics that cause further unrest. In a
future crisis, over different issues and involving different peoples,
we will likely see the same themes we witness today, but then the
mighty one-party state may not succeed.
Gordon G. Chang is the
author of The Coming Collapse of China and Nuclear Showdown: North
Korea Takes On the World (both Random House). He blogs at contentions.
SATURDAY, April 11 and 12, 2008
The most important Amendment in the Bill
of Rights is the First Amendment, protecting freedom of speech and
expression. That allows us to speak Truth to Power and facts to
politics, pessimism and hysteria. In that vein, the following
article warrants the broadest readership at this time. GS
ITEM 14: Fred
Kagan: Why Iraq Matters
Why Iraq Matters
National Review Online
Publication Date: April 7, 2008
Losing wars is always bad. One of the major reasons for America's
current global predominance economically and politically is that
America doesn't lose wars very often. It seems likely, however, that
the American people are about to be told that they have to decide to
lose the Iraq war, that accepting defeat is better than trying to win,
and that the consequences of defeat will be less than the costs of
continuing to fight. For some, the demand to "end this war" is a
reprise of the great triumph of their generation: forcing the U.S. to
lose the Vietnam War and feel good about it. But even some supporters
are being seduced by their own weariness of the struggle, and are being
tempted to believe the unfounded defeatism--combined with the unfounded
optimism about the consequences of defeat--that hyper-sophisticates
have offered during every major conflict. Americans have a right to be
weary of this conflict and to desire to bring it to an end. But before
we choose the easier and more comfortable wrong over the harder and
more distasteful right, we should examine more closely the two core
assumptions that underlie the current antiwar arguments: that we must
lose this war because we cannot win it at any acceptable cost, and that
it will be better to lose than to continue trying to win.
The hyper-sophisticates of the American foreign-policy and intellectual
establishment direct their invective at the whole notion of winning or
losing. What's the definition of winning? If we choose to withdraw from
an ill-conceived and badly executed war, that's not really losing, is
it? We can and should find ways to use diplomacy rather than military
power to handle the consequences of any so-called defeat.
Less-sophisticated antiwar leaders on both sides will ask simply why
the U.S. should continue to spend its blood and treasure to fight in "a
far-off land of which we know little," as Neville Chamberlain famously
said in defense of his abandonment of Czechoslovakia to the Nazis. We
have, after all, more pressing problems at home to which the Iraq war
is only contributing. As is often the case, there is a level between
over-thinking and under-thinking a problem that is actually thinking.
Yes, in the world as it is, whatever line we sell ourselves, there
really is victory and there really is defeat, the two are different,
and their effects on the future diverge profoundly. And yes, the reason
we must continue to spend money and the lives of the very best
Americans in that far-off land is that the interests of every American
are actually at stake.
Deciding that we made a mistake in 2003 or that we don't like what has
happened in the intervening five years does not make it possible to hit
some global rewind button and start again from scratch.
We will consider below just how much of a diversion of resources away
from more desirable domestic priorities the Iraq war actually is, but
the more important point is simply this: Unless the advocates of defeat
can show, as they have not yet done, that the consequences of losing
are very likely to be small not simply the day after the last American
leaves Iraq, but over the next five, ten, and 50 years, then what they
are really selling is short-term relief in exchange for long-term pain.
As drug addicts can attest, this kind of instant-gratification
temptation is very seductive--it's what keeps drug dealers in business
despite the terrible damage their products do to their customers. "Just
end the pain now and deal with the future when it gets here" is as bad
a strategy for a great nation as it is for a teenager.
The antiwar party has continually adapted its arguments, but not its
conclusions, to the changing circumstances on the ground. At the end of
2006, the argument was that Iraq was in full-scale sectarian civil war,
that no conceivable additional American forces could reduce the
violence, that the whole notion of having American troops try to do so
was foolish, and that we should instead slash our forces dramatically
and turn to diplomacy with Iraq's neighbors. When the surge began, the
antiwar party crowed loud and long that success was impossible, rising
violence inevitable, and the whole business doomed to failure. When
Coalition operations brought the violence under control, the antiwar
party admitted that security had improved but insisted that the
political progress the surge was supposed to enable had not occurred
and would not occur. Additional arguments popped up to explain that the
fall in violence had nothing to do with the surge anyway--it resulted
from the Anbar Awakening, which had preceded the surge; or,
alternatively, from the fact that American troops were simply buying
and arming former Sunni insurgents; and from Moqtada al Sadr's
ceasefire that he could lift at any moment, plunging Iraq right back
into complete chaos. The antiwar party rather gleefully seized upon
recent Iraqi Security Forces operations against Sadr's militia and
other illegal gangs as proof of this--the general glee with which the
antiwar party has greeted any setback in Iraq is extremely distasteful
and unseemly, whatever domestic political benefits they believe they
will receive from those setbacks. Even if one believes that defeat is
inevitable and withdrawal necessary, no American should take pleasure
in the prospect of that defeat. But the key talking points now seem to
be two: that the war costs too much, and that it is already inevitably
lost whatever temporary progress the surge may have achieved. What
follows is an exploration of these and a few other key antiwar talking
The War Costs Too Much
An increasingly popular talking point of the antiwar party is that the
war simply costs too much and that we must end it and refocus on
domestic priorities. This talking point has a number of variants:
The "$3 trillion war." Simplistic economic analysis declares that the
war has cost the taxpayers $3 trillion since its inception, implying
that this is a $3 trillion dead loss to the economy--a price too high
Modern economics has long understood that the notion of a one-for-one
guns-versus-butter trade-off is simply wrong. A high proportion of
money spent on defense goes back into the U.S. economy in the form of
salaries paid to the more than 5 million Americans employed directly or
indirectly by the Defense Department, and payments to the defense
industry and the long and complex supply chains from which they draw
their raw materials. Military spending has traditionally been a form of
economic stimulus, and wars more commonly end recessions or depressions
than start them. That's not a good reason to start a war, but neither
is it a good reason to lose one. The impact of the current war on the
U.S. economy, finally, is far smaller than the impact of previous major
conflicts. Military spending in World War II ranged from 17.8 percent
of GDP to 37.5 percent; in Korea from 5.0 percent (in 1950--7.4 percent
in 1951) to 14.2 percent; in Vietnam from 7.4 percent to 9.4 percent.
Current expenditures on the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars bring total
defense expenditures to something well below 5 percent of GDP. Even
granting the simplistic and misleading $3 trillion figure, $3 trillion
is about 5 percent of the nearly $60 trillion American GDP over the
five years of the war.
The war has caused the upcoming recession. Using mercantilist arguments
common in the 18th century but subsequently shown to be wrong, war
opponents have successfully spread the notion that military spending is
causing the economy to slow and contract--they have been successful
enough that a large majority of Americans believe this falsehood to be
In line with the points made above, the burden of the war on the
American economy has simply not been heavy enough to have caused a
recession on its own. The collapse of the housing bubble, the sub-prime
mortgage crisis, rising oil prices (which losing the war will not
lower), and a variety of other factors have been far more important in
slowing the economy than any brake the war might have put on it.
Defense spending as a percentage of total federal spending is now
around 20 percent. In World War II, it ranged from 73 percent to 89.5
percent; in Korea it ranged from 32.2 percent (1950--51.8 percent in
1951) to 69.5 percent; and in Vietnam from 42.8 percent to 46 percent.
In more context: at the height of spending on this war, defense
spending was only 12.3 percent of all public spending (including
federal, state, and local expenditures); in World War II the high was
82.1 percent; in Korea, 52.5 percent; and in Vietnam 31.3 percent.
While it is true that security spending (including Homeland Security
and many costs not related to the Iraq war) is the largest single
line-item in the 2008 Federal budget at $656 billion, mandatory
programs like Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and S-CHIP, and
other non-security discretionary programs received $610 billion, $391
billion, $211 billion, and $481 billion respectively. The $100 billion
or so of direct war costs that could theoretically be recouped by
withdrawing all of our forces from Iraq and Afghanistan is less than 6
percent of the $1.7 trillion spent on mandatory and discretionary
domestic programs. The financial cost of the war, high though it is, is
simply not a large enough part of the federal budget, to say nothing of
the GDP, to have played a significant part in the American economy,
particularly considering the fact that a high percentage of defense
dollars go back into that economy. The argument that the Iraq war has
caused the recession is just wrong.
High gas prices are the result of the war--and ending the war would
lower gas prices.
There is a huge failure of logic here. Oil prices do not rise because
American forces are in the Middle East--they rise because of
instability and fighting in the Middle East. One of the most dramatic
increases in oil prices in history occurred during the Iran-Iraq War in
the 1980s, when no American forces were present. The antiwar party
argues that American failure in Iraq is inevitable and the violence
will inevitably increase whatever we do. That is not true, but if it
were, then it makes this talking point silly. If violence in Iraq is
destined to increase, then the oil premium is destined to remain at
least this high if not higher. In the real world, American forces are
playing a key role in keeping the violence in Iraq down and preventing
it from engulfing the region--if they are withdrawn prematurely,
violence will spike and so will the price of oil.
The war is consuming money that would otherwise be spent on more
important domestic programs.
If only our schools were fully funded and the Air Force had to have
bake-sales to buy bombers. . . . Well, the Air Force is just about at
the bake-sale level thanks to consistent under-spending on defense
since 1991. But if we stopped the war tomorrow, would our schools get
all the money those who make this argument think they need? Of course
not. The war is being funded on an emergency basis (for good or ill)
and its cost has not been offset by tax increases (as the antiwar party
periodically points out). In the real world, there is no way that even
a Democratic Congress would spend $100 billion a year in non-offset
emergency authorizations for education or health care, even if some war
critics think that they would like it to do so. As for increasing
domestic spending, those who believe that we should raise taxes and
spend more money on domestic programs can still advocate that policy,
whatever its wisdom. This isn't an argument about the cost of the
war--it's an argument about whether we want to have higher taxes to pay
for increased domestic spending. Alternatively, it can be an argument
about the cost-benefit of government borrowing versus tax increases, or
of government borrowing versus economic stimulus in the form of
government spending. It is not about the one-for-one tradeoff of
dollars spent on the war versus dollars spent on schools and health
America just can't afford this war any more, whatever the outcome.
This talking point is nothing more than a disingenuous attempt to make
recent successes and the probability of future successes irrelevant. If
the U.S. and its Iraqi allies can build on recent progress and move
toward a situation in which Iraqi is stable, peaceful, and a U.S.
ally--thereby avoiding the collapse of Iraq, the explosion of violence,
and the likely increased intervention of Iraq's neighbors that serious
historical studies as well as facts on the ground show are very
likely--then the U.S. can afford the price as put in its proper context
above. If success is not possible, then we must discuss the best course
of action to extricate ourselves. In no circumstance is it appropriate
to argue that the probability of success or failure in Iraq has become
irrelevant. This is not an argument over how best to secure America's
interests--it is an argument that ends discussion by appealing to
emotion and short-term thinking. Can America afford the consequences of
an immediate withdrawal? What would they be? What would they cost? If
those costs include the possibility of re-engaging against al-Qaeda or
regional instability in the future--as Sen. Obama has bizarrely
hinted--what will that undertaking cost? The antiwar party has the
obligation to explain to the American people the probable and possible
costs of its own proposals, something it has so far utterly failed to
The War Is Inevitably Lost, Recent Progress Notwithstanding
This argument, one of the most common among the antiwar party,
recognizes that the situation in Iraq has improved significantly over
the past 15 months, but asserts that further efforts in Iraq will lead
only to inevitable failure. The credibility of many making this
argument suffers from the conviction with which they declared early
(and, in some cases, even late) in 2007 that no progress of any kind
was possible. And arguments from historical inevitability are
problematic either to prove or to disprove (except for Marxists and
other historical determinists). To the extent that this argument is
anything other than an assertion of superior abilities to predict the
future, it generally rests on one of a handful of bases:
Iraq is a made-up state: Iraqis hate each other, and only armed might
can keep the peace.
The high degree of Sunni-Shi'a intermarriage in the mixed areas of
Iraq, the large numbers of such mixed areas, and the increasing anger
with which many Iraqis in those areas now denounce the idea of
sectarian conflict all run against this argument. Those who closely
followed the evolution of the sectarian civil war in 2006 noticed the
surprise and resentment with which many Baghdadis greeted the idea that
they had to interact with one another on the basis of sect. The fact
that many reacted by acquiring dual identity cards--one with a Sunni
name and one with a Shi'a name--suggests that they did not see sect as
a core identity that must be defended at all costs. The alacrity with
which Iraq's Shi'a shifted their condemnation from the "Sunni" to
"al-Qaeda" in 2007 as the Sunni Awakening marked the Sunnis' revolt
against the terrorists is another indicator. In truth, it appears now
that most Shi'a who do not live in the vicinity of Sunnis really don't
care very much about them. And many Sunni, even those who still call
the Maliki government "Persians," are increasingly more concerned about
local political developments and what they can get out of that
government than about the sectarian split. The Sunni-Shia fault-line is
important and likely will be for a long time. In particular, it will
continue to provide the potential to rally the Iraqi masses in internal
strife that suits external actors. But its existence in Iraq does not
condemn Iraq to endless sectarian violence any more than the
once-volatile Protestant-Catholic divide in Germany continues to
generate violence today.
Iraqis are not ready for democracy; it was an error for Bush ever to
imagine that the U.S. could impose Western values on an Arab (or
As for the notion that democracy is incompatible with Islam, tell it to
the hundreds of millions of Muslims in Turkey, India, Indonesia, and
Europe who have embraced it. As for the notion that democracy is
inappropriate for Arabs, the enthusiasm with which the liberal elite
that insists on the universality of its own moral relativism engages in
such overtly racist argumentation is astounding. More concretely, the
millions of Iraqis who risked their lives to vote in previous elections
and the polls showing that upwards of 90 percent of Iraq's Sunni Arabs
intend to vote in upcoming provincial elections suggest that Iraqis
don't agree. Many of the other counts of the inevitability argument
spring from some version of this hyper-sophisticated racist
viewpoint--Iraqis are too corrupt for legitimate government; they won't
fight because they're weak, lazy, or just would rather have us do it;
they won't take responsibility for their state or security; and so on.
To each argument there is an on-the-ground rebuttal (like the tens of
thousands of Iraqis who have died fighting al-Qaeda and Iranian-backed
militias, for instance), but this talking point isn't really about
on-the-ground realities; it's about preconceptions that can be very
hard to sway.
Recent Progress Really Has Little To Do with the Surge Anyway
This has become one of the favorite talking points of the antiwar
party, and it has three major components:
The Anbar Awakening began before the surge, had nothing to do with the
surge, and will continue (or not) with or without U.S. forces present.
This argument is a bit like saying that the French people, finally
tiring of the Nazis' occupation, rose up of their own accord in 1944,
engaging in increasing partisan and insurgent activities culminating
with the re-appearance of the Free French military units that liberated
Paris--and that none of this had anything to do with the Normandy
invasion, since the Free French movement and partisan activity within
France predated that invasion. One interesting thing about this
argument is that it requires a real detachment from the scene to
believe in--Anbaris don't say this, American troops and leaders who
were in Anbar in 2006 don't say it, Americans who oversaw the full
blossoming of the Awakening in 2007 don't say it. It's a good argument
to make from 6,000 miles away, but it isn't true. Resistance to
al-Qaeda in Iraq's presence had been growing steadily throughout 2005
and 2006, and local leaders had begun both developing resistance
movements and reaching out to Coalition forces for help before the
surge. But al-Qaeda in Iraq had responded with fearsome brutality that
greatly slowed and restricted the speed and scope of the movement.
American forces in Ramadi in 2006 fought hard to establish the
preconditions in the city for a clearing operation that would make
possible the dramatic turn of the tribes in 2007, but they were not
able to conduct that operation until reinforcements arrived with the
surge. The exponential expansion of the Awakening movement--and
particularly its spread to areas outside of Anbar that had shown no
inclination to resist al-Qaeda before the surge--is testimony to the
synergy between these two phenomena.
The violence in Iraq has fallen not because of the surge's success, but
because of its failure: sectarian violence is down only because the
sectarian cleansing has largely been completed.
This argument doesn't even work from 6,000 miles away. There has been
sectarian cleansing in and around Baghdad, but it has not resulted in
homogeneous cities, let alone provinces, and it has not generated
stable dividing lines between communities. Traditionally, Shia have
dominated Sadr City, of course, as well as its various neighboring
areas of Shaab, Ur, and much of 9 Nissan. Shia have also predominate in
Khadimiya, west of the Tigris River, around an important Shia shrine
there. Sunni have historically been the majority in the Mansour and
Rashid Districts west of the river and in parts of Adhamiya to the
east. The central areas of Karkh, Rusafa, and Karada have generally
been mixed. This sectarian division of the city remains stable
today--the Sunni are still in Adhamiya; Shia still in Khadimiya; the
center of the city is still mixed; and there remain Shi'a enclaves in
Rashid and Sunni enclaves in 9 Nissan. In other words, the river does
not form a sectarian boundary, individual districts remain mixed, and
there are plenty of sectarian edges to create the basis for sectarian
fighting if anyone wanted to engage in it. The same is true in areas
south and northeast of Baghdad, such as the former "triangle of death"
(that is now a triangle of relative peace where Sunni and Shia both
live) and up the Diyala River into Baquba, still a mixed city despite
ferocious fighting in 2007. The completion of sectarian cleansing did
Violence fell only because Moqtada al Sadr ordered a unilateral
cease-fire. But he's as strong as ever and can and will end the
relative calm at any moment that suits him.
Sadr's cease-fire has always been less of a free choice than many
imagine. When the surge began, the Sadrist movement had seats in the
Council of Representatives and a number of key ministries in the
government. The government, despite his objections, developed the
Baghdad Security Plan in conjunction with the U.S. forces stationed
there. From that point on, Sadr faced a dilemma--if he called on his
people to fight the U.S. and Iraqi forces executing the government's
plan, he was casting himself explicitly outside the Iraqi political
system and relying on his military abilities to prevail. Since his last
effort to rely on force (the uprising of 2004) had been a disaster for
him and his fighters, Sadr was not attracted to this option. But the
alternative of continuing to play a role in Iraqi politics required
that he at least nominally accept the government's decision and at
least nominally order his followers to comply. Since the Maliki
government has held firm to its original intent and decision, Sadr has
never been able to escape from this dilemma. But his reaction in
January 2007 created yet another dilemma for him. Coalition and Iraqi
forces began to attack elements of the Jaysh al Mahdi and affiliated
Special Groups that were continuing to fight--Sadr declared that any
such JAM groups were "rogue elements" violating his orders. As U.S.
forces moved into Baghdad's neighborhoods, they gained visibility not
only on these "rogue JAM" members, but also on the "regular JAM"
leaders who were adhering to Sadr's order. In addition to having to
abandon any pretext of participating in Iraqi politics if he ended the
ceasefire, therefore, Sadr also had to face the likelihood that
well-informed U.S. and ISF troops would take out his key leadership
cadres the moment he ordered them to fight. And that is what happened
when Maliki launched his offensive in Basra and JAM and Special Groups
began to fight in Baghdad--which is one of the main reasons Sadr
ordered his people again to stand down.
The degree of Sadr's influence and power--even of his control over his
own movement--is increasingly open to question, but his ability to make
Shi'a Iraq explode at will appears to be substantially diminished. One
need only think back to the bad days of 2004, when U.S. forces had to
clear Sadrist fighters methodically from around the Imam Ali Shrine in
Najaf and it took an entire American Cavalry Division to subdue Sadr
City with great loss to see that the most recent combat was not even a
pale echo of that cataclysm.
Now that the Surge Is Ending, We'll Be Right Back Where We Started
For those who believe the myths that the violence has dropped only
because Sadr ordered a cease-fire and because the Americans have been
"buying" the Sunni insurgents with arms and money, this talking point
makes sense. The repeated assertion that American troops are "arming"
Sunni militias is flatly untrue, as the military command and
independent observers have stated repeatedly. One of the defining
characteristics of an insurgent is that he is armed--at all events, one
usually doesn't have to worry too much about unarmed insurgents. To the
extent that U.S. forces are bringing former insurgents into the "Sons
of Iraq" movement, the one thing we don't need to do is arm them--and
we don't. As for paying them, we do, and we should continue to do so.
But the tribes in Anbar and elsewhere did not turn to us because we
offered them money. They turned to us because they knew that if they
continued to fight us we'd kill them. We started to pay them only after
they turned, and this continues to be the sequence of events as the
movement spreads--first they abandon the insurgency, then they are
vetted and some are paid, but none are armed.
The worst flaw in this argument, however, is that it naively assumes
that the situation in Iraq today is the same as it was in January 2007
apart from the temporary increase in U.S. forces and the (supposedly)
temporary drop in violence. In fact, the situation has changed
profoundly both in the provinces and in Baghdad itself, where the
central government has made remarkable progress even on the
"benchmarks" that Congress set for it last year. It is conceivable that
the Sunni Arab community could again become so disenchanted with or
frightened of the Shia-dominated government that it took up arms
against it (although it is much harder to see how or why that community
would start to attack Americans again, unless we do something
egregiously stupid), but the resulting insurgency will not be the same
one that we have already defeated. New power blocs, new political
organizations, new social movements have changed the dynamic within the
Sunni community, and a similar phenomenon is also occurring in the Shia
community. We can't say with certainty that current positive trendlines
will hold, but we can say with a lot of confidence that, if they don't,
we'll see something new and not just a return to the problems we had
before the surge. In other words, we have defeated the Sunni Arab
insurgency we faced, and we are on the road to defeating al-Qaeda,
which suggests that broader success is possible with those foes out of
We Should Never Have Fought this War in the First Place
There are no do-overs in the real world. Deciding that we made a
mistake in 2003 or that we don't like what has happened in the
intervening five years does not make it possible to hit some global
rewind button and start again from scratch. Historians and partisans
will debate the merits of the decision to invade, the nature of the
invasion, post-war planning, weapons of mass destruction, the legality
of the operation, and many other things for decades. But George W. Bush
is not running for president in 2008, nor is Dick Cheney or Donald
Rumsfeld. Senators McCain and Clinton both voted to authorize the use
of force in 2003; Senator Obama had an opinion then but not a vote.
Today it just simply doesn't matter who was right. What matters is what
we should do now, in the current situation, to advance our interests
and ensure our security. The American people will make the 2008
election another referendum on George Bush's 2003 decision-making at
their great peril. For those who want to judge the candidates'
judgment, their predictions about the likely results of the surge--when
all three candidates had the same information available and the same
rights to speak and vote--are more informative than their attitudes
toward the invasion. And for those who want to apply a
"commander-in-chief test," the coming days will see all three
presidential candidates take a report in their official senatorial
capacities from the overall commander of the war and the ambassador.
Let's see who's willing to listen to and accept reporting and
recommendations from a military commander that conflicts with their own
positions and who isn't.
Iraq Is a Distraction from the Real War on Terror
Is it? Let's see what al-Qaeda leaders have had to say. (For more
detail, see "Iraq: The Way Ahead," Phase IV Report of the Iraq Planning
Group at AEI).
At the end of March 2007, al-Qaeda senior leader Abu Yahya al Libi
My brothers, the jihad fighters in Iraq, today you are the avant-garde,
the vanguard of the caravan; you are on the front-lines, and there will
be implications to your victory. Therefore, strengthen the attack and
fortify your determination. . . . and know that your [Islamic] nation
in its entirety stands behind you. . . . Do not let it down. Your
glorious war is not the jihad of the Iraqi people alone, nor of one
group or sect. It is the jihad of all the Islamic nation. . . . Oh
jihad-fighting brothers, today you are at the crossroads, since your
occupying enemy is showing signs of breakdown and defeat in the
military arena. . . . [and the enemy] knows well that it has lost the
By the end of last year, al-Qaeda's tone was not remotely as
optimistic. In a December 2007 address, Osama bin Laden declared that
when America was stopped by its army's inability, it increased its
political and media activity to trick the Muslims. It sought to seduce
the tribes by buying their favors by creating damaging councils under
the name of the ‘Awakenings,' as they claimed them to be. . . . What is
unfortunate is that groups and tribes that belong to people of
knowledge and the call and Jihad are participating in this great
betrayal, and have confused right with wrong, and people have seen
these groups cooperate directly with the Americans, like the leader of
the so-called ‘Islamic Party,' as he publicly called for longterm
security agreements with America.
Bin Laden added that Zarqawi
and his brothers have already helped to thwart these people and stop
their advance and expose them. But instead of supporting them, you [the
Sunni insurgents who joined Awakenings] turned against them and stopped
the Mujahideen from attacking these people, dividing the fighting into
two parts. Fighting against the Americans alone is honorable
resistance, but fighting these apostate groups and the members of the
[Iraqi] police and army, who are the supporters of America and the
tools of its occupation of Iraq and the killing of its free people, has
become for you a dishonorable resistance of which you wash your hands.
These divisions were not laid down by Allah, and the Prophet . . . used
to fight his own tribesmen who were from Quraish, for religion trumps
blood, and not race nor nation. . . . I remind my precious Muslim Ummah
that there are many lessons in what has pas[sed], so stop playing
around and become alert for the matter is dangerous. Where are you
heading?! What are you waiting for?!" (Translation from the SITE Intel
A posting on an al-Qaeda forum in February 2008 presented a similar
message even more strongly:
Brothers, the truth is that I admire the intelligence of the present
Crusader, General Petraeus, for through his intelligence and cleverness
he was able to achieve in one month what his colleagues couldn't
achieve in five years. . . . After the sly Petraeus became in charge,
he started to play his game with us unfairly. We established the
Islamic State of Iraq, so he established the Awakening Council to fight
it by the method of guerilla warfare, and they started setting up booby
traps for the Mujahideen and detonated the explosive packages on them.
Al-Furqan Media Foundation was formed, so he established a media
council to defame the S[t]ate and to erase it media productions."
This posting went on to address proper al-Qaeda responses to the new
American tactics and strategy, beginning with "Possess weapons of mass
destruction as a mean[s] to the balance of terrorizing" and "Carry out
a counter attack in the depth of the enemy's land with great accuracy"
as well as "build strong and very modern trenches." (Translation from
the SITE Intel Group).
Is there really any question about whether or not al-Qaeda in Iraq is
part of the global al-Qaeda movement? Considering, then, that there are
very few and very small al-Qaeda bases in Afghanistan, that al-Qaeda in
South Asia is mostly in Pakistan, and that none of those insisting that
the U.S. abandon Iraq to fight the "real" enemy in Afghanistan have
proposed any meaningful plans for dealing with Chitral and Waziristan
where that "real" enemy actually is--considering, finally, that the one
place American soldiers are actually fighting al-Qaeda every day and
decisively winning is Iraq, how, exactly, is Iraq a distraction from
the war on terror? This is the war, and we're winning it. Let's not
decide that we'd rather lose.
Frederick W. Kagan is a resident scholar at AEI.
THURSDAY, April 8 through 10, 2008
Short and to the point.
- Student beatings are outrageous enough.
The perps and their videographers should be expelled from school and
their parents subject to civil and criminal law...as should school
personnel who cover this up. And the media that publicise this
stuff should be heavily fined.
- The Surge...and the Invasion itself. What
if we had not gone into Iraq? Has anybody addressed that
scenario? Meanwhile, Obama continues to be a baritone in an empty
- Texas in the news...again. Must the
sunstroke perpetually affecting the South continue to skew this
country's common sense? 100 years of post-Civil War idiocy over
racism...followed by decades of idiocy posing as "religion" - and
tax deductible "religion" at that.
- The Magnet School District for New London, Ct. passes in
the referendum. HURRAY for the kids in
this city...who otherwise don't have a chance - thanks to the teachers'
unions. See also the editorial in the WSJ April 5-6, pA8: "School
Choice--Now More Than Ever".
MONDAY, April 5 through 7, 2008
As the world continues to be tied in that
Gordian Knot called "Israel / Palestine", we cannot
know from what direction Alexander and his sword will come. GS
The world seen from Rome
Jerusalem Prelate Speaks on Mideast Conflict
Main Obstacle to Peace Is the Fear of Peace
APRIL 1, 2008 (Zenit.org).- The retiring patriarch of Jerusalem has
completed his mission as the leader of the Latin Church in the Holy
Land, a mission he characterized as very difficult for his entire
Michel Sabbah offered an interview to the news service of the Custody
of the Holy Land reflecting on the conflict that has plagued the region
he led as pastor since his appointment in 1987.
Nazareth-born prelate, who turned 75 on March 19, contended that it is
the fear of peace that is the main obstacle for peace in the land of
Beatitude, what is your message to the Israelis and the Palestinians
Sabbah: As a Christian, Easter in the celebration of the resurrection
of Our Lord Jesus Christ and this means the victory over death and over
every sort of evil.
in this country, which is the country of the Resurrection, which is a
land of God and which is the Holy Land, we continue to be at the heart
of a conflict and in a situation of death and hatred. Our message to
the Israelis and to the Palestinians is this: "Up to the present time,
and for almost 100 years, you have walked in the paths of violence and
despite this, after 100 years, you have not reached peace or security.
Take different paths, find other ways and you know them: talks,
dialogue, understanding the needs of others, putting oneself in the
place of the other to reach an agreement that [you] can find and give
everything that is due to each of the parties."
Israelis want security and they want peace; the Palestinians want their
independence, their security as well, and peace. And they are capable
of attaining it. There is much opposition for ideological reasons, for
political reasons because of a fear of peace. In my opinion, the main
obstacle to peace is the fear of peace.
Israel, peace is a risk that the Israelis consider it premature to
take. It is a risk that would expose them to allowing the Palestinians
to become stronger and to develop their means of resistance and
violence. This is why the Israelis are afraid of peace.
advice is not to be afraid. Fear does not let any person or people live
their lives to the full. Quite simply, they have to run the risk of
peace. And this is the only means to obtain real and total security.
The political powers have an alternative: either peace, and they will
have security, or no peace and extremism will grow and insecurity will
increase. They have to choose. And they should choose peace.
choosing peace may be a risk for the personal life of the head of state
who signs a peace agreement. But if a political leader is there to
serve his people and not to keep hold of his seat, he has to accept the
risk of giving his life for his people.
As the first Palestinian Latin patriarch in centuries, do you have a
different interpretation of what is happening in the region?
Sabbah: I simply have the interpretation of the facts that occur. There
are the Israelis with their needs and the Palestinians with their
needs. For me, in both cases, they are human beings with the same
dignity, rights and duties. As a Palestinian and as a Christian, each
ought to have what is due to them: Israel its state recognized, its
security, its peace, no longer needing its soldiers and reservists who
kill or are killed. For the Palestinians it is the same thing. It is a
question of walking toward peace, to put an end to everything that is
militia, irregular arms and every form of violence on their side.
Now that you are at the conclusion of your long career as the Latin
Patriarch, is there hope for peace?
Sabbah: There must always be hope, because we believe in God, and here
in this country, in the whole of the Middle East, everybody is first
and foremost religious and a believer, although not all are practicing.
The Jew is first Jewish and then Israeli, the Palestinian is first a
Muslim and then Palestinian, the Christian is Christian first and then
Palestinian. We believe in God. We hope because we believe that God is
good, that he is watching over us, that he is providence.
You say that courage is needed to make peace. Is it the Israelis who
ought to have more?
Sabbah: Both, but the greatest decision is in the hands of the
Israelis. If the Israelis say: "We have decided to make peace," there
will be peace. The Palestinians are ready. The Arab world is ready to
normalize relations with the state of Israel. The Palestinians have
already chosen peace. They are holding talks to obtain peace. Israel
still hasn't decided. There is a lot of opposition against this
In Israel, is there a political will to make peace?
Sabbah: No, there isn't. It doesn't exist yet. The Israelis are afraid
of peace, for them it is a risk. They would be throwing themselves into
the unknown and this could increase insecurity for them. In my opinion,
the only future for Israel lies in peace. Violence is a permanent
threat for their security, and even for their existence. The
Palestinian population is growing. Twenty percent of Israeli Arabs with
full citizenship rights are Palestinians. Tomorrow 20% of Palestinians
will become 40% or 50% and the Jewish character of the state will
disappear, and therefore it will be Israel that disappears as a Jewish
state. It is up to them to make a decision, and their salvation is only
in peace. The risk of their death or their insecurity does not lie in
peace but in the continuation of this situation of war.
Do you think that the Annapolis peace process really does not offer any
hope of peace?
Sabbah: It simply offers it; it has to be acknowledged and accepted.
The United States wants that. President Bush is determined. But we have
to ask whether Israel has decided. The Palestinians are ready.
When you met [Israeli Prime Minister Ehud] Olmert (before Christmas),
did you get the impression that he had a political will?
Sabbah: Mr. Olmert has a real political will. He has decided to make
peace but, as he has said, he encounters obstacles. It is his job to
convince his opposition and then we will have peace.
What are these obstacles?
Sabbah: The far right, the religious extremists, the religious party
that believes that the whole land should remain Israeli and not an inch
of this land should be given to the Palestinians. And the religious
party has political power, they have seats in the Knesset. They are the
opposition Mr. Olmert has to deal with.
You said that the Arab world was ready to normalize its relations with
Israel. But we cannot ignore -- and Israel cannot ignore -- that Hamas
continues to refuse to recognize Israel. Moreover, fundamentalist Islam
is growing in Arab countries.
Sabbah: Hamas exists. Hezbollah exists. They are a threat. But what
makes Hamas exist and what makes it grow is this situation of war in
which there are injustices, there is poverty and misery and as long as
this situation exists, there will always be Hamas and all its
declarations and its will to have it destroy Israel. But when there is
serious and lasting peace, the influence of Hamas and Hezbollah will
decrease and in the end they will lose it.
will always be extremists on the Palestinian side, as on the Israeli
side, but these parties will be reduced to a minority without influence
on the future of the country. If there is peace, there will be fewer
extremists and people will no longer need them.
Do you think that Israel should speak to Hamas? Should dialogue with
Hamas be by Israel and the United States and the European Union?
Sabbah: Israel, the European Union and the international community must
speak to the Palestinian Authority and accept that the Palestinian
Authority reconciles with Hamas. But as soon as Hamas enters the
Palestinian government, the international community boycotts everything
that is Palestinian. It is a question of recognizing that the
Palestinian Authority has the possibility of forming an alliance again,
because peace cannot be made only with a part of the Palestinian people.
are more than 1.5 million people in Gaza. That has to be taken into
account. Therefore the two groups have to unite and become a single
Palestinian entity, representing together the Palestinian will so that
the international community and Israel can make peace agreements. But
as long as Hamas is subject to a boycott and, as soon as it enters the
government, there is a boycott against the whole Palestinian people, we
are in a blind alley.
When you met Abu Mazen [Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas], did you
advise him to resume dialogue with Hamas?
Sabbah: This is our advice. The two parts of the Palestinian people
have to be put back together again. This alliance does not depend only
on Abu Mazen, but on the international community. Once the union has
been made and as Hamas has the right to be part of the government, the
international community will again boycott everyone.
What advice can you give to the international community?
Sabbah: To leave the Palestinians in peace, to let them be united and
simply to act together. And if ever Hamas were in the Palestinian
government, then that the Palestinian will be respected.
You have been Patriarch for 20 years. What was the most difficult time?
Sabbah: All the times have been difficult because we have never ceased
living in the same conflict. Each day is a repetition of the other.
Each year in the repetition of the previous year: violence and victims
on the Palestinian side and on the Israeli side.
have been times of truce; we were able to celebrate the Jubilee in
2000, the visit from the Pope. This was the least difficult time.
Otherwise, at all other times, we have experienced difficulties and
difficult life has become our vocation and our routine.
In your pastoral letter you said you have no money or a bank account.
How will you live now?
Sabbah: I will live in the patriarchate. I do not have a salary or a
bank account, but the patriarchal institution takes care of this as it
does for every other priest of the patriarchate. It is the patriarchate
that looks after the health, the food, the home etc. of retired
priests. We are part of a community which never abandons any of its
Are you sorry to retire?
Sabbah: Sorry? But when you are at the service of God, you don't want a
job! We live a mission. A mission is assigned to us. When it is over,
we put it into the hands of [the one] who assigned it to us, simply.
There is a difference between a religious leader and a political leader.
You were the first patriarch of Palestinian origin since the times of
the Crusades: Does being a Palestinian patriarch change anything?
Sabbah: It changes something in the sense that the Church has had a
pastor chosen from its clergy. Having a Palestinian patriarch in a
Palestinian church is a normal fact, not an extraordinary one. It is
the situation of all the churches in the world. Pastors are chosen from
their clergy and their people.
could change here in our situation, which is a situation of conflict,
is that the Palestinians are on one side and the Israelis on the other
-- the fact that all the Palestinians, Christian and Muslim, feel
supported they have felt that a new figure could speak on their behalf,
share with them and act for peace.
always being careful. Because if we say to the Israelis: "You are in
your full right to serve and protect your people," to the Palestinians:
"You are Palestinians, you are in your full right to serve and protect
your people," a priest, a bishop, whether Palestinian or something
else, is for everyone.
is not confined to his people, he is for his people, but at the same
time he is for every human being with whom he lives; and here we live
with two peoples. Therefore our responsibility as a bishop and as
Christians extends and covers and includes Palestinians and Israelis.
Now, the Palestinians are the oppressed, they are under an occupation
and we say: "The occupation has to come to an end." We say to the
Israelis: "You are the occupiers and you have to put an end to this
What will your role be now?
Sabbah: The bishop has three functions: to sanctify, to teach and to
govern. With retirement, the function of governing passes on to
another; the other two remain; sanctifying and teaching. So there will
still be a great deal to do.
Will you give your mission a more political role?
Sabbah: Not so much political as Christian. But a Christian who will
step into the political field. Because here politics is human life. It
is not the politics of left- or right-wing parties; it is human lives
that are threatened. Whether they are Palestinian or Israeli. It will
be the continuation of the commitment for every human person in this
country, Israeli and Palestinian together.
FRIDAY, April 3 and 4, 2008
- Another dark day in our national history: the day
Reverend Martin Luther King was assassinated.
This country has depended too much on revolution, wars and
assassinations to prod it in the right direction. Neither we nor
the world can any longer afford that. Will leaders who can show
us a better way be finally accepted?
- The Day (www.theday.com)
has been producing some strong editorials of late: strong, and wrong.
Its positions on the Wall Street bail-out, on
Governor Rell's belated efforts to strengthen the connection between
"Crime and Punishment", and on the proposed
sale of New London waterfront property all miss the
mark. But at least that assertive approach gives some of us a
sometime target. Keep up the good work.
- One area where we certainly agree is regarding the Magnet
School District proposal which goes to referendum next
Tuesday. Thanks to the investigative and analytical efforts of my
son, Councilor Adam Sprecace, and to those who helped him, the proposal
makes financial sense...whether the program proceeds
according to plan, or not. And there is enough evidence, from
Magnet School efforts both in New London and elsewhere, that it makes
educational sense...carrying the opportunity to improve the
progress of all students in those school, not only the more
fortunate transplants. Certainly, the status quo in New London
schools is unacceptable. And to leave them without hope or
opportunity would be unpardonable.
- Everytime I see an article or editorial regarding Health
Care Costs, I will remind the readers of the other side of the
equasion, without which this problem will not be solved: Health
Care Demands...and Needs!
WEDNESDAY, April 1 and 2, 2008
us freedom of religion.
has given us freedom of the press.
has given us freedom of speech.
the campus organizer,
has given us freedom to assemble.
has given us the right to a fair trial.
has given us the right to vote.
REST GRANT THEM O LORD, AND LET PERPETUAL LIGHT SHINE UPON THEM.
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