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Tuesday, November 15, 2005

"Must-Reads", November 2005

Political ideology shouldn't happen in a vacuum; it should be a response to real-world problems, and tested by real-world results.

To that end, and to stimulate discussion, The Neoprogressive will post occasional stories and links to stir the pot -- showing problems that need to be addressed, examples of political courage and ideological failure, and hard facts that must be faced if we are to create a better real world and not just dig deeper holes in hopes of reaching fairyland. These stories will be posted as comments under this heading, with a new heading every month.

Unfortunately, many posts, these days, will concern the war in Iraq. We are a nation at war, and our troops deserve for that to be foremost on our minds.



Anonymous Anonymous said...


"In the past few days, the latest administration talking point on Iraq seems to be that Congress saw the same intelligence that they did before the war began. But it's just not true. Everyone knows it. Even the Washington Post knows it:

Bush and his aides had access to much more voluminous intelligence information than did lawmakers, who were dependent on the administration to provide the material. And the commissions cited by officials, though concluding that the administration did not pressure intelligence analysts to change their conclusions, were not authorized to determine whether the administration exaggerated or distorted those conclusions.

Read the whole thing. Then carefully explain it to everyone you know."


11/15/2005 7:53 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


First, some background. Article I, Section 9 of the U.S. Constitution, which defines and limits the powers of Congress, states: "The Privilege of the Writ of Habeas Corpus shall not be suspended, unless when in Cases of Rebellion or Invasion the public Safety may require it."

Strict Constructionists and fans of limited government, take note: Congress MAY NOT suspend the Writ of Habeas Corpus (lit. "show us the person", i.e., the power of a court to demand that the government produce prisoners and state the reasons for their incarceration) unless there is a "rebellion" or "invasion." Public safety alone is not a good enough reason.

We have been attacked on our own soil, on 9/11. We are in an unrelated war on foreign soil. But we are not, presently, facing a rebellion or an invasion.

In Rasul v. Bush (2004), the Supreme Court (7 Republican appointees, 2 Democratic appointees) ruled that the military may not hold prisoners indefinitely at Gitmo and elsewhere, off U.S. soil, solely for the purpose of avoiding court review of those prisoners' cases under the writ of habeas corpus. In other words, the Supreme Court has ruled that we must give our prisoners in the war on terrorism the same rights we gave, for example, Nazi war criminals and serial murderers.

Last week, after only an hour of debate, the Senate voted to amend the defense funding bill to remove the right of habeas corpus from all military detainees. The amendment basically provided that if the military decides to arrest a person and doesn't want the person to have any rights, then no court may decide otherwise. The British in 1775 would have loved it, because that's precisely what they did to colonists -- which is why the Founders believed the writ of habeas corpus was so important that they enshrined it in the Constitution.

Let's set aside debates over whether this is a good idea in practical terms, and focus on this: is this Constitutional? And, if it is not Constitutional, is it OK for our leaders to set aside the Constitution just because it seems like a good idea?

I think not: if America is anything, it is a nation of laws, not of men. Whenever we've set aside the Constitution in the name of national security, we've been embarrassed later (think Japanese internment camps: does anyone still think those were the American way?)

Ben Franklin said it best: "They who would give up an essential liberty for temporary security, deserve neither liberty or security."

Fortunately, we still have some leaders who understand the Constitution, and mounted a counterattack. Today, the Senate has voted to restore SOME detainee access to federal courts, while still stripping them of many of the basic legal rights the Supreme Court had ruled they were entitled to.

Rights compromise

I suppose the compromise is better than nothing, but it's still a tepid endorsement of the rule of law. America is better than this. I still would love to see our leaders stand up and clearly state that America is brave enough to apply the rule of law even to its enemies. That would be a good day for our nation, and a bad day for the terrorists who would frighten us into abandoning the very values that make us what we are.


11/15/2005 11:36 AM  
Blogger OsakaJack said...

"He who gives up liberty for a little security..."

Sayeth a Tory, quoth by a modern Tory, directing spittle at the 51% who voted into being our tools of erasure at me and mine.

11/15/2005 7:27 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


Here's the deal: white phosphorus is a chemical that ignites upon contact with air, sticks to whatever surface (including flesh), and burns at very high temperature until it's deprived of oxygen. When shot in the air, it provides great battlefield illumination. When shot at a field where a sniper is hiding, it burns the entire field very effectively. When shot at humans, it burns every part of the body it touches down to the bone. And it creates a poison cloud that extends 1/10 mile in every direction, so it can't be limited to one enemy position or one house in a village.

In response to a foreign news story that WP was used as a direct anti-personnel weapon in the attack on Fallujah, the Pentagon vehemently denied doing so. Our military only uses it for illumination, they said; it would be wrong to use it like napalm, they said.

However, some blogger dug up the March edition of the U.S. Army's official magazine, Field Artillery Monthly, which describes the PSYCHOLOGICAL effectiveness of using WP to burn enemy personnel in "shake and bake missions." The Pentagon has recanted and now admits, yes, it has used WP as an antipersonnel weapon. No admission yet on whether civilians were caught up as well, though there is evidence that they were.


And, because we should not be afraid to look unflinchingly at what is done in our name, here are Pictures

You know what bothers me most? Not that we still unnecessarily use the modern equivalent of napalm. Not that the Army denied using WP without even checking whether it did or not. Not even PR shortsightedness involved. (Again, the Army says it's using WP for psychological reasons; but when we demoralize the enemy this way, and the photos show up on al Jazeera, we're not exactly winning the hearts and minds of the rest of the Arab world, are we?)

No, what bothers me most is that it's NOT illegal. 77 countries, including us, have signed the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons. However, four of those countries, including us (along with France, Monaco, and Israel) have not signed Protocl 3 of that Convention, which covers incendiary weapons like napalm and WP.

Is it "liberal" to ask why our country, which has the capacity to drop 500 lb bombs with individual-house accuracy, refuses to abstain from using much less accurate, and militarily less effective, old-school incendiary weapons?

Progressivism holds that humanity is capable of improvement over time. Even in war. We once used mustard gas; we no longer do. We twice used the atom bomb; we haven't since then. We have perfectly lethal, accurate weapons; why retain the right to use weapons that burn people's flesh to the bone, and cause gas clouds that can drift to noncombatants?

I don't know which President or Congress refused to sign Protocol 3. Maybe they were Democrats. I haven't researched it; it doesn't matter; I don't care. I do know that burning the flesh off our enemies, when there are conventional alternatives, is not American, and every American should stand up and say so.


11/16/2005 11:01 AM  
Blogger OsakaJack said...

Give them cigarettes and whiskey and eventually introduce Playboy. That will surely destroy their culture and eventually destroy them. Until they discover casinos. And then we both make bank.

11/16/2005 5:31 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Actually, I'm open to the suggestion. Except that here, the Native Americans get to keep the profits of their own casinos and spend them on their own health clinics, schools, etc. In other words, they scalp the white men for their own profit, which just seems fair.

But, as Jack Abramoff proved, the current Administration is committed to getting the money back into non-Indian hands, which makes the "casinos" idea a nifty microcosm of what we're doing in Iraq. Help them start their own businesses, and invest the profits in their own country? Great! But we're trying to interject American corporate interests, to make sure the natives don't actually get to make the profits. Like Abramoff, our policy is to make sure the natives work the tables, but the $$ go to white guys in New York and Houston, like always.


11/17/2005 10:33 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


I've been adamant that Neoprogressivism is and must be a bipartisan movement. We stand for fundamental American values. Here are great words from the Nebraska senator doing precisely that, from

"Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.) strongly criticized yesterday the White House's new line of attack against critics of its Iraq policy, saying that "the Bush administration must understand that each American has a right to question our policies in Iraq and should not be demonized for disagreeing with them." ***

Bush has suggested that critics are hurting the war effort, telling U.S. troops in Alaska on Monday that critics "are sending mixed signals to our troops and the enemy. And that's irresponsible."

"To not question . . . is unpatriotic," Sen. Chuck Hagel said.

Hagel, a Vietnam War veteran and a potential presidential candidate in 2008, countered in a speech to the Council of Foreign Relations that the Vietnam War "was a national tragedy partly because members of Congress failed their country, remained silent and lacked the courage to challenge the administrations in power until it was too late."

"To question your government is not unpatriotic -- to not question your government is unpatriotic," Hagel said, arguing that 58,000 troops died in Vietnam because of silence by political leaders. "America owes its men and women in uniform a policy worthy of their sacrifices."

*** "At one point, while answering a question from the audience about Syria, Hagel suggested that the Middle East is worse off after the invasion because the administration failed to anticipate the consequences of removing Iraqi President Saddam Hussein. "You could probably argue it is worse in many ways in the Middle East because of consequences and ripple effects," he said."

Kudos to one willing to speak with the courage of his convictions! (And to a "potential Presidential candidate for recognizing that most Americans, R and D, understand what America really stands for.)

11/17/2005 2:56 PM  
Blogger OsakaJack said...

I'm not for immediate pull out. In fact, I think this is political shell gaming manship. Its a political shell game. There, fixed it.

What was I saying? Oh. More troops or find ways to involve the UN and offer support to the UN. The way we are doing it is inefficient. But that is not what these people are thinking. They want to exert some influence for their fifteen minutes of "I'll show you and look how neat I am". Dick waving. And Hagel is spot on the money but he, too, is a dick waver.

We need Colin Powell back in the game. Where is he?

11/18/2005 4:51 PM  

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