Saturday, February 09, 2008

The Difference an Hour Can Make

The Difference an Hour Can Make: Nations Ready for Earth Hour February 29th
by C. L. Cook
It may seem a diminution of the annual Earth Day commemorations held for more than 25 years in March, but the debut of Earth Hour on the 29th day of February has the immediate potential to effect a measurable change.

The difference is one of approach; where the global marches, speeches, concerts, and letter writing events integral to Earth Day events are great, besides participation levels on the street, there is little to be tangibly taken away at the end of the day. Earth hour, by contrast is a direct appeal to everyone, everywhere to synchronize their sentiments, if not their watches, and at the appointed local hour turn off the electric switch for an hour.

If all goes accordingly, a dark wave will roll from time to time zone around the planet at 8pm on this Leap Year's 29th of February. Power usage can be monitored, and for the first time, a global picture of just how much electricity is used across the planet, and from that extrapolations can be made to determine what the generation of that power requires.

More than a unique opportunity to gauge our collective power use, Earth Hour also provides us the chance to get together and recognize ourselves as a single global community, capable of common action determined to ameliorate, for one day at least, a portion of the demand our modern way of life make on the planet.

In Canada, federal, provincial, and municipal govenments are partnering with business, unions, and grassroots organizations to mazimize the benefits of the hour long recess in business as usual. Dalton McGuinty, premier of Ontario, Canada's most industrious province has signed on for the event that will see Toronto, the country's biggest city joining with other world capitals to turn out the lights. McGuinty is urging other jurisdictions to follow Toronto, and Ontario's lead, saying;

"If we can do it for one hour of one day in one year, surely there are other things that we can do around the house and through our businesses to reduce our use of energy."

From capital city, Ottawa, an ebullient city mayor, Larry O'Brien talked up the event to a meeting of the local Chamber of Commerce, saying;

"The event was such a sparkling success that it not only attracted more than 2,100 businesses and 2.2 million participants and doubled their reduction target, but their collective effort resulted in the equivalent of taking 48,000 cars off the road." Adding;
"We can all do our part, not only to reduce electricity consumption but also to send a very powerful message to the world, that as a city, Ottawa is serious about the business of the environment."
Individuals and businesses can sign up to the Earth Hour website to get more information on the event and ways to participate by visiting their website,, and Toronto's Star newspaper has comprehensive coverage of the event and issues at hand at their website, found here:, where the following slideshow appears.

Israel Apartheid Week

Israel Apartheid Week gains momentum
By SHERI SHEFA, Staff Reporter
Thursday, 07 February 2008
The fourth annual Israeli Apartheid Week (IAW) lecture series was launched at universities last week across Canada, the United States, Europe and Africa, and the event, which promotes the idea that Israel takes part in “ethnic cleansing” and the “colonization of all Arab lands,” seems to be gaining momentum.

Since IAW first launched in February 2004 at the University of Toronto, organizers – including the Arab Students’ Collective, Solidarity for Palestinian Human Rights and the Coalition Against Israeli Apartheid (CAIA) – have managed to spread the event to campuses in about 20 cities, including Ottawa, Montreal, Peterborough, New York, Oxford, London, Johannesburg and Durban, as well as in the West Bank and Gaza.

A website promoting the week-long event, which runs in Toronto until Feb. 9, provided a schedule for the events taking place at York University, Ryerson University and U of T.

The schedule included a full day of radio programming on York’s radio station, CHRY 105.5 FM, under the banner “Anti-Apartheid Frequenceies,” (sic) as well as a lecture titled “Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Movement against Israeli apartheid: Lessons from South Africa” featuring addresses from Salim Vally of the Palestine Solidarity Committee of South Africa, Katherine Nastovski of CUPE Ontario, and Heather Kere, Ryerson Students’ Union vice-president of education.

Orna Hollander, executive director of Betar Canada, said the fact that IAW is gaining momentum shows that the Jewish community can’t afford to ignore it.

“The strategy has been… from an organized community end, to not lend credibility, to be quiet about it, not bring press around it… Four years later, I think we definitely learned that we can keep our heads in the sand, but it’s going to go on with or without us. [IAW organizers] very much control the PR and rhetoric on campus, and its time to stand up and take responsibility,” Hollander said.

She said that the event’s organizers have been able to gain credibility because of their efforts to build coalitions on campus and throughout the community.

“For example, at Ryerson, you not only have the Coalition against Israeli Apartheid and the Students against Israel Apartheid, but you have environmental networks, you have black students’ associations… They’ve not only branched out with campus groups, but in community-based organizations that they can find support with as well,” she said.

“This year, for the first time, there is a founding conference for high schools against Israeli apartheid – HAIA for short. That is something that we do need to be nervous about. Not only is there support on university campuses for this, they are sponsoring a conference exclusively for high school students.”

Ben Feferman, the Hasbara Fellowships campus co-ordinator headed a program, sponsored by Betar, called Islamic State Apartheid Week.

From Feb. 5 to 7, students at York presented images and videos that depict human rights abuses such as stoning, honour killings, Muslim-only highways and executions of homosexuals in various Middle Eastern countries.

“We want to remove the connection that modern-day students have to the word apartheid and Israel and refocus it to the countries that we think really exemplify the definition of apartheid, being a policy of separation and segregation. Through a week which encompasses the themes of gender, sexual and political apartheid, we hope to get out a new message,” Feferman said in advance of the event.

“As much as it is important to talk about the fact that Israel is a democracy, we really believe that we need to talk about the… atrocities that go on [in Islamic states]. People don’t talk about them because they are afraid to upset Muslims… and it is because of our obsessiveness with being politically correct that these countries are suffering because of it,” Feferman added.

Jewish student groups say they’re also hoping to balance out the negative images of Israel on campus with positive ones.

Last week, in conjunction with the Canada Israel Experience and the Toronto Birthright Alumni Community, Zionists at U of T held an event at on the downtown campus called Israelis on Israel.

Four Israel Defence Forces soldiers who had spent time with Canadian youth in Israel as part of the birthright israel program answered questions to teach students about Israeli culture and life.

“We feel that one of the best ways to combat those hateful claims put forth by Israeli Apartheid Week is to bring forth those people who are being accused,” Hollander said.

Tilly Shames, Hillel of Greater Toronto’s associate director, said that Hillel has focused on education, dialogue and peace-building on campus to make Jewish students feel good about Israel during this week.

She said that when the IAW first launched four years ago, there was more of an opportunity to try to talk with the organizers of the event about the atmosphere they were creating on campus.

“But since then, for the last three years, dialogue is not part of their vocabulary, it is not part of their approach… It is very difficult to create a space of dialogue for those who don’t want to find that common ground,” Shames said.

“What we found is that the organizers of this event are very marginalized on campus… and we feel that it is more effective to focus on the 90 per cent of students who are not interested in politicized events and want to come together to find a common ground for dialogue.”

Shames said that this year, Hillel put months of thought into the kind of programming it wanted to present.

She said that last semester, Hillel held a program during which students could play a video game called Peacemaker, which simulates the challenges of solving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The goal is for the player, taking on the role as either an Israeli or Palestinian leader, to achieve peace.

“Our intention is to have it on three different campuses during the week in very public spaces so students can come together and try their hand at peace… It shows that these are really complex issues that can’t be narrowed down to slogans,” Shames said.

Eva Zucker, 22, a fourth-year religious studies student at York and Hillel at York’s president, said she is looking forward to the programming.

“We have a wide array of Israel advocacy programming, that is bringing forth a positive message. We’re doing a full-day teach-in at the Wolfond Centre [for Jewish Campus Life, at U of T], we’re having a wide array of different speakers on Israel advocacy to teach people about the situation, because a lot of the time, that education is kind of lacking,” Zucker said.

The teach-in – titled “Drown out the hate. Educate!” and held Sunday at the Wolfond Centre – featured professors and Jewish community leaders who led workshops including “What’s left of the Zionist left?” “Media Awareness: How to use the media to your advantage,” and “Jewish and Democratic: Diversity in Israel.”

“We obviously don’t value the negative sentiments on campus, which is why Hillel is trying to take the attention away from the negative activities and really put the focus on celebrating Israel and being proud of Israel and standing up for Israel,” Zucker said.

Friday, February 08, 2008

Whose Political Moment Is This?

Tomgram: Laura Flanders, Whose Political Moment Is This?

"Not long ago," began Wednesday's lead Los Angeles Times election piece by Doyle McManus and Peter Wallsten, "political strategists viewed Super Tuesday as a day that would likely crown the Republican and Democratic presidential nominees, a 24-state extravaganza that would bring the long primary campaign to an orderly conclusion. They were wrong." That was pretty typical of the press coverage of what ABC had labeled a "showdown coast to coast" and, while it wasn't wrong, it wasn't quite right either.

After all, there already was a winner from this primary season (other than Senator McCain): the media, which had mustered its all, campaigned extravagantly coast to coast, and installed "eye-popping technological wizardry" like CNN's MagicWall, "a huge monitor upon which newsman John King could manipulate maps and images with the poke of a finger as if handling an oversized iPhone." The good news -- for cable TV in particular, which has been getting splendid enough ratings off the "historic" primary season to generate a "ratings war" -- is that it is now guaranteed to go on and on. Okay, it's not "American Idol," but by November 4th, it is likely to be the longest running continuous "reality show" on television, which isn't bad either. As Charlie McCollum of the San Jose Mercury has written: "Television executives have reacted to these [ratings] numbers the way television executives always do when ratings spike. They have ordered more ‘episodes,' expanding the time devoted to the campaign." In fact, media enthusiasm for the primary season, as I wrote recently, has reached "feeding frenzy" proportions.

It seems that Democratic voters have also ordered a few more "episodes" of our electoral reality show. Host of RadioNation on Air America Radio Laura Flanders has spent her time in recent years considering quite a different kind of enthusiasm than the media one, an enthusiasm that has slowly been rising from grassroots activism in and around the Democratic Party and whose spirit she's caught in her book (just published in paperback), Blue Grit: Making Impossible, Improbable, Inspirational Political Change in America. Now, as the media revs up for the next set of primaries leading to the two super-Conventions and a superduper presidential election for "change" (which will put neither a Superman, nor a Superwoman in the White House), she suggests we take a breath and consider where change is really coming from and whether it will ever actually arrive. Tom

A New Moment?
The Grassroots and the Party, 1964 and 2008
By Laura Flanders

The swirl of the primary season is intoxicating and the media love it. If the ratings records set by the recent political debates are any indication, the ongoing primary battle may yet save cable TV. "Super Tuesday" -- the night that was supposed to wrap everything up -- didn't (for either party). Clearly, this extended nomination contest is getting people excited, but will that excitement translate into substantive change -- for Democrats in particular? The past offers some hard-knocks lessons worth thinking about.

Give this long primary season credit: It has, at least, turned that overused word "change" from a bumper slogan pooh-poohed by all knowledgeable pundits into a fact-based phenomenon. In the closest thing the nation has seen to a countrywide primary, first term Senator Barack Obama overcame Hillary Clinton's double-digit leads in major states and national polls to win a majority of states on February 5th and draw into a tight battle over the delegate count. The two candidates closed out the evening with their spinmeisters already talking up Beltway Tuesday -- the next catch-phrase friendly multiple-primary day -- while promising more debates. Now, their operatives are off to Ohio for a March 4th primary that everyone assumes will be crucial.

The chance to be seen and heard in more than just a handful of quirky early-primary states has already made a striking difference for the Illinois Senator, who was the clear underdog when he entered the race. "What was a whisper has turned into a chorus," Obama told his hometown crowd in Chicago on Tuesday night.

But a whisper, many would like to know, of what? For more than thirty years, Democratic voters like those pouring out of their homes to get involved this primary season have doggedly trooped to their polling places with no expectation of having an actual impact. Young voters, poor voters, urban voters, anti-war voters, women, people of color, lesbian and gay (LGBT) folk, immigrants, the Democratic party's so-called base -- would turn out – and then be sent home. Come the general election, Democratic candidates typically tacked right, ignoring those reliable, old blue-base voters. Thanks to the tyranny of the two-party system, they could remain confident that the base wasn't going to defect to the -- gasp! -- ever-more rightward-tacking GOP. And mostly, they were on the mark.

For Democratic base-dwellers, in normal times there was only one party season when anyone wanted to hear from them -- this one. Primaries are the one period in the election cycle when contenders suddenly seek to curry favor with the Party's most activist -- and progressive -- part. That's one reason a primary season this long is significant; but, for those voters, will it make any difference at the level of policy? The most positive answer is perhaps.

Fuelled by frustration with the way the Party's been conducting its business and propelled by disgust at the policies of George W. Bush, base-level Party activists, with help from liberal bloggers and others, have already pulled off an organizing feat that's changed the face of the presidential race. Helped by online databases and social-networking software, volunteers can have new impact. Unpaid volunteers have been building attendance at local meetings through their own voter-initiated websites in red and blue states alike. The most significant result so far has been the record turnout. Democratic turnout was up 100% in Iowa and South Carolina, while Georgia witnessed its biggest turnout in a primary since 1992.

The presence of a nominee who was once himself a grassroots organizer and recognizes the value of such work, state by state, has had its own transformative effect. Altogether, grassroots organizers have made the candidacy of Obama, at one time a long-shot nominee, more than viable. And that's pushed Party veteran Clinton whose campaign-style is naturally more top-down and disciplined to invest her resources heavily in "field." Before this Tuesday, the candidates were both openly competing for the label "grassroots." "We've put together a grassroots campaign," Hillary Clinton told a rally the Friday before Super Tuesday. "We will call one million Californians this weekend." Obama's northern Californian spokesperson told reporters: "We are running the biggest field campaign in California since Robert Kennedy in '68."

With the campaign continuing, Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton must still compete for local support and influential endorsements. And, at the state level, that's good news for progressives. Party flacks and the traditional "black and blue" organizing machines of black churches and labor unions are no longer influential enough to turn out sufficient voters. Expanding their reach, both campaigns have been delving into non-traditional territory for community support. In South Carolina, the Obama campaign teamed up with barbers and the owners of beauty salons. The candidates are also competing for support from ethnic groups they never prioritized before -- Latinos, Asians, and Native Americans -- and everyone's competing over women and youth.

Remember 1964

"This is a moment unlike any we've ever known," Obama said in his Super Tuesday night speech. In spirit, he may turn out to be right, but there are obvious echoes from the past. This is not the first time that the Democratic Party has seen an upsurge in turnout, a newly expanded electorate, and a new generation of trained and talented organizers coming on the scene. In fact, 2008 bears a haunting resemblance to 1964, the last time the Party's political maps were remade.

Keelan Sanders is executive director of the Mississippi Democratic Party in Jackson, Mississippi. Until recently, Sanders was the only person on its payroll and the Party's "headquarters" (a renovated family home on a residential street) was open only part of the time; no presidential candidate ever came to visit. In 2004, isolated Democratic voters paid out of their own pockets to produce Kerry/Edwards yard signs. Today, thanks to an investment of funds from the Democratic National Committee, Sanders has a fulltime staff -- a beneficiary of DNC chair Howard Dean's drive to revitalize the party in all fifty states. When I asked him why he stuck with the Party so long, solo, Sanders responded quick-as-a-flash: "Because of my grandmother."

Sanders' grandmother was a member of the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party. In 1964, she risked her life to register African American voters in the Deep South; then, she carpooled her way to Atlantic City, New Jersey, as a Freedom Party delegate in hopes of taking a seat from Mississippi's all-white delegation at the Democratic National Convention. There, at the height of the civil rights era, she and the vast majority of Freedom Party delegates were locked out.

Student Nonviolent Coordinating Council (SNCC) organizer Hollis Watkins, who still lives in Mississippi, remembers believing what he'd been told -- if black people registered enough voters, they'd be given a chance to unseat the state's pro-segregation delegation. "It was like being told to scale the walls to the roof of a building on fire, and doing it, and then realizing there were no supporting beams beneath our feet," Watkins told me in 2006. "We wanted to believe it, we believed it, but we were naïve."

In 1964, the party of President Lyndon Baines Johnson wanted to talk about civil rights -- even sign the Civil Rights Act -- and position itself as the party of desegregation, but it wasn't ready to fight desegregation in its own ranks. Not yet. After a bitter stand-off, the Democratic National Convention finally offered the Freedom Democratic Party's leader, Fanny Lou Hamer, a seat where she could observe the proceedings, but not vote.

Just four years later, the picture had shifted significantly. The Voting Rights Act was law and the southern delegations had been desegregated, but the power of the old party machine hadn't passed to the grassroots activists who'd forced the transformation. It remained bottled up at the top of the Party structure.

Rather than overhaul state-level infrastructures, Party leaders gradually made an end-run around them. That's partly why state parties like Mississippi's have been in such sad shape for so many decades. Among other changes, the party altered the rules of the nomination process (and the convention) to emphasize state-wide primaries -- now generally the norm -- taking power out of the hands of local party bosses. Advertising themselves via television, candidates could "run" campaigns by communicating directly with voters without the help of embedded, state-level movements.

Actually growing the Party's base seemed to scare the establishment. Whenever the Democratic National Committee appeared on the verge of launching a massive voter registration program, they backed off. Insiders who lived through the period recall how in the 1980s, when Jesse Jackson's Rainbow Coalition showed that massive numbers of new Democratic voters could indeed be activated with just a little attention to the base, the Party's major donors refused to fund such an effort (allegedly for fear that any massive voter-registration drive would only push the Party into Jackson's hands).

Today's "outsiders" are once again working hard, organizing locally, and counting on being seated at their Party's table. Whoever the nominee may be, he or she is guaranteed to enter the general election stronger in terms of state-field operations and possible resources than any Democratic candidate in decades. In no small measure, it will be those "outsiders" the Party has to thank. When Democrats regained control of Congress in 2006, Eli Pariser, the director of the liberal mass membership group, boasted of the Democratic Party, "We bought it, we own it, we're going to take it back." If a Democrat does indeed win in November (by no means a certainty), Pariser isn't going to be the only one with bragging rights -- or expectations.

Will the "Change" Election Be About Change?

The key questions are: Will progressive activists use the continuing primary race to raise solid policy demands about peace, justice, the environment, and healthcare -- and will whoever turns out to be the Democratic candidate actually listen? Let's keep in mind that those hopeful base voters aren't doing all this work simply in order to get a change of personnel in the White House. It's change in their lives and their communities, as well as in the country at large that they need and want. Even a shift of power in both chambers of Congress in November 2006 has brought them precious little of that.

If history offers any hints, real change relies on movements very much like the one that, however inchoately, has slowly been forming, I believe, just beyond our sight in these last years. This is, of course, exactly the part of our political landscape that our media covers least well and least often (and maybe those ranks of new organizers are actually lucky for that).

It's often forgotten that the conservative movement, sidelined by President Johnson's smashing defeat in the 1964 election of the original conservative presidential nominee Barry Goldwater, spent the next decade and a half largely out of the limelight, building up its forces to challenge the Republican Party establishment. Through the use of the new technology of that moment -- especially direct-mail fundraising -- and the mobilization of new ground troops (evangelical churches) through cheap media (talk radio and cable television), they found ways for outsider candidates to mount effective primary challenges and rattle incumbents, while they moved, increasingly triumphantly, from the local to the state to the national level.

With the election of Ronald Reagan in 1980, the Right had a storyteller in the White House who could re-tell America's tale their way. His narrative threw out the 1960s and 1970s version of an all-in-the-same-boat society. It declared government the enemy and asserted that individuals (and more importantly corporations) unfettered from government regulations were what made the country great.

Reagan himself didn't deliver all that much beyond that. It was in the Bill Clinton and George W. Bush years that the Right secured the tax cuts, deregulation, and roll back of government programs they had sought so long. Eventually, they did secure many of their goals exactly because, in the 1980s, the gang that brought Reagan to office didn't rest on their laurels, having elected a President. They built their movement and mobilized every last resource, in season and out, to change the national discourse and shift public opinion inside the Beltway, in the media, and in the states.

Asked in South Carolina last month which of the Democratic contenders he thought Dr. King would have endorsed, Senator Obama responded, "He wouldn't endorse any one of us." That's because King was building a movement meant to hold all candidates -- and Presidents -- to account. It was that movement which made it impossible for LBJ to try, however feebly, to accommodate Fanny Lou Hamer at the 1964 convention, that movement which literally changed the faces in politics, that movement which made the candidacy of Barack Obama possible, as the later Feminist movement would Hillary Clinton's. It's that movement the Reagan-Right learned from so well and today's progressives would do well not to forget.

The swirl of the primary season is intoxicating -- and the media love it. But real change happens on a different timetable. If you're looking for estimated times of arrival, the problem is: We don't know that timetable yet.

Laura Flanders is the author of Blue Grit: Making Impossible, Improbable, Inspirational Political Change in America, just out in paperback from Penguin Books, and the host of RadioNation on Air America Radio. For more information on her click here.

Copyright 2008 Laura Flanders

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Excerpt 1. Mea Culpa of the Militant Liberal

Excerpt from Stephen Marshall's 'Wolves in Sheep's Clothing: The New Liberal Menace

by Stephen Marshall

1. Mea Culpa of the Militant Liberal

Michael Ignatieff retracts his war cry

This weekend’s New York Times Magazine featured an article by the former Harvard liberal – and now Canadian politician – Michael Ignatieff. Titled Getting Iraq Wrong: What the War Has Taught Me About Political Judgment, Ignatieff offers a breezy mea culpa for his earnest support of the overthrow of Saddam in the earliest days of the Bush administration’s campaign for regime change. But if the title infers a deep sense of regret over the use of his A-list liberal pulpit to spur on the lefty war cause, the substance of the article betrays a different motive altogether. Last year, Ignatieff lost in his bid to become leader of Canada’s Liberal party, due in part to his strident support of the Iraq war. So this is a bit of well-positioned damage control that ends up coming off more as naïve self-pity than anything authentically remorseful. The problem, it seems, had less to do with him than the political spotlight which robbed his war-cry of the nuance and half-meanings it was embedded with.

Halfway into the essay, Ignatieff explains that “among friends and family, we also cut one another some slack. We fill in one another’s sentences. What we mean matters more than what we say. No such mercies occur in politics. In public life, language is a weapon of war and is deployed in conditions of radical distrust. All that matters is what you said, not what you meant. The political realm is a world of lunatic literalism. The slightest crack in your armor — between what you meant and what you said — can be pried open and the knife driven home.”

Granted, public life reduces thoughtful discourse to lowest-common denominator soundbites. But in Ignatieff’s case, he simply cannot blame the glaring lights for the banalization of his complicated thinking. I know this because it was Ignatieff, and his public statements on Iraq, who launched me on an 18 month journey into the hearts and minds of the Vietnam-era liberals who betrayed the anti-war stance to support the surge into Iraq. That journey became a book, Wolves in Sheep’s Clothing (released this summer from Disinformation and available from Amazon and GNN), and the following is an excerpt from my impressions of that seminal encounter:

On a blustery fall evening, one month before the 2004 presidential election, I stood at a packed reception at the Overseas Press Club in New York. The crowd was diverse. Young college students mingled with greyer, tweed-jacketed types. In the corner, I saw an elderly man in a wheelchair being helped into an elevator so that he could get an advance seat for the show.

We’d gathered to hear a discussion between Paul Berman and Michael Ignatieff, two leading liberal intellectuals. The subject: how the War on Terrorism was impacting liberal society. Berman, a journeyman writer of the New Left generation that came of age during the glory days of 60s era student activism, was undoubtedly the star of the event. His latest book, a slim polemic titled Terror and Liberalism, quickly emerged as the bible for liberal hawks who were conflicted over the election of George Bush but supported his brisk military response to 9/11. Recounting the history of radical Muslim icon Sayyid Qutb, a leader of Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood who was hanged in 1966, Berman depicts the Islamist philosophy as one directly borne out of a reaction to liberalism. Qutb had studied in the West and come to realize that the most evil aspect of American society was the separation of Church and State; a toxic virus of sacrilegious secularism that would eventually penetrate and destroy Islam. Moreover, he saw European imperialism and American foreign policy as extensions of the Crusades. Thus, for Qutb, the jihad was defensive. It was the only viable response to the insidious creeping influence of Western culture and ideas, and the all-reaching hand of the exploitative free market. Qutb declared a theological war against liberalism itself, one that found its ultimate heroes in Osama bin Laden and the 19 suicidal hijackers of September 11.

Given the ferocious nihilism of the terrorists and their jihadi creed, Berman invokes the spirit of the great emancipator, Abraham Lincoln, who warned that a liberal society would have to be warlike in order to endure the challenges of its enemies. Berman calls for a multi-front campaign against the Islamists and chides George Bush for focusing the world’s anger and fear on Osama bin Laden, giving the false impression that “our enemy was merely a single person, or a band of desperadoes, and not anything larger.” Because the enemy is, he warns, much larger. It is, according to Berman, a totalitarian death cult that has its roots in the “apocalyptic and phantasmogorical movements that have risen up against liberal civilization ever since the calamities of the First World War.” This is powerful stuff and you can see why Berman, who watched the smoldering World Trade towers from his Brooklyn apartment, surfed the zeitgeist of the post-9/11 reactionary moment. Imbued in all of his writing is an unmistakable sense of fear; a realization that the War on Terror has nothing to do with left or right, it is simply a battle for the survival of liberal civilization. And that this is a time that demands us to shelve some of the most sanctified elements of the optimistic liberal outlook on human nature. Reminding us that, in the past, “forward-thinking and well-educated people with the most generous of ideals sometimes found it hard in those days to believe that Nazis and Stalinists were as bad as they seemed,” Berman calls on his fellow leftists to see evil for what it is and embrace the coming fight. Citing the anti-fascist ethos that had once galvanized the New Left in the sixties, he urges a unified front to back a liberal revolution in the Middle East, one that will birth freedom “in places where the worst of the totalitarian plague had wreaked its damage.”

Suffice it to say, Berman – once a staff writer at the Village Voice and an esteemed contributor to Mother Jones – became instantly popular with conservatives. But not only them. His book was also tailor-made for the new pro-war left who needed something more coherent and articulate than George Bush but less belligerent and pugilistic than Christopher Hitchens. As a result, Terror and Liberalism was a hit, riding the bestseller lists for several weeks and inspiring heated debate amongst readers across the world.

But not everyone was a fan. Lending his well-established liberal cred to the war effort rankled those on the left who felt he was giving unwarranted sanction to the neo-conservatives who only touted liberal values as a superficial front for their acquisitive foreign policy objectives. Others accused Berman, who is a Zionist and made the inherent anti-Semitism of the Islamists a centerpiece of Terror and Liberalism, of latent neo-conservatism himself. In the Introduction to the soft cover edition, Berman challenges those who had begun to question his ideological leanings. To his readers, some of whom still clung to the archaic template of political identities and demanded to know whether his views should be considered left-wing or right-wing, Berman responds, “the question dismays me. I mean, what difference should it make?” In the new paradigm of endless war, he implied, echoing the words of George Bush, you are either with the free world or against it.

Mingling with some of the other audience members in the reception hall at the Press Club, I quickly discovered that a few of them were Canadian and, despite Berman’s high profile, were here to see their fellow countryman Michael Ignatieff “rub one on the nose of the pro-war crowd,” as one ostentatiously bejeweled woman told me. Her remark was surprising. Though Ignatieff, a professor at Harvard, had emerged as one of America’s leading liberal ethicists and champions of rights-based society, he had been as openly pro-war as Paul Berman. In fact, it was Ignatieff, writing in the Guardian on the one-month anniversary of 9/11, who first defined the terrorists as “apocalyptic nihilists” and compared them to European fascists, arguments that later became pillars of Berman’s Terror and Liberalism. And while most liberals were still grappling with the significance of the attacks and how they should respond to Bush’s vengeful militancy, on October 1, 2001, Ignatieff was clear: “Since the politics of reason cannot defeat apocalyptic nihilism, we must fight. Force is legitimate to the degree that it is discriminate, and to the degree that it is discriminate, it is just.”

Just as I began to clarify Ignatieff’s position, we were suddenly interrupted by the five-minute warning. The sparkling woman excused herself, explaining that she wanted to get a good seat. Watching her move cat-like through the crowd, it struck me that many of the people here probably held similar false conceptions that Ignatieff was anti-war and they were here to see a debate. For most Canadians, it is a default position, so why wouldn’t one of their leading lights bolster the conventional wisdom? But Ignatieff was careful to isolate himself from the critics of American foreign policy who imputed sympathetic justifications to the terrorist attacks, writing “it is an adolescent fantasy to assign the injustice of the world to a single address.” Yet he was not so judicious with his alliance to other, equally fantastic claims. A year after 9/11, Ignatieff cautiously pushed the Bush administration’s Saddam-Osama hypothesis in the Financial Times, cloaking it in a reasonable-sounding deliberation over “how much assistance terror receives from rejectionist states, chief among them Saddam Hussein’s Iraq.”

When the time came for war, however, Ignatieff’s measured uncertainty was replaced with hesitant acquiescence. Sounding like a man severely compromised by the pressure Americans were foisting on prominent liberal academics, he described his position as a surrender to “the least bad of the available options.” And one year after the invasion, Ignatieff confessed to be a “reluctant yet convinced supporter” of the war. Hardly the full-throated support that other pro-war liberals like Paul Berman had mustered by that time. But Ignatieff was mining a theme that would become central to his thinking throughout the post-9/11 period. In each successive article and public speech since his original backing of Bush’s military response to 9/11, Ignatieff had increasingly portrayed himself as a philosophic yet embattled participant in the national dialogue; a deep-thinking intellectual, troubled by the dirty prospects of war on terror but conscious of the need for America to defend itself. As a champion of civil liberties, Ignatieff soon found that he had been forced into the difficult position of trafficking in what he termed “lesser evils”: the recognition that defeating terror may not only require violence, but also coercion, deception, secrecy, and violation of rights. How would a liberal society maintain its standards when its enemies had none, he asked. It is a question that ultimately became the thesis for his own book, The Lesser Evil: Political Ethics in the Age of Terror, and which formed the inspiration for our gathering at the Press Club that night.

Hanging back as the crowd funneled into the small staircase, I thumbed through my copy of Ignatieff’s The Lesser Evil. Thick double blue lines connected his text to my own notes, scribbled in the margins, highlighting the major thrusts of his argument. Unlike Berman’s bossy polemic, Ignatieff’s is a soul-searching meditation on the kind of responses we should expect, and permit, from a liberal society that is threatened by terrorism. A passionate advocate of ethics and civil rights, Ignatieff reminds us that the value of our modern liberal democracy lies beyond its respect for institutional procedure and civil rights. Rather, what makes us unique in the world is the premium we place on each individual human life and the extent to which we will create laws to protect and preserve them. At least, in theory. In reality, Ignatieff observes a troubling shallowness among average Americans when it comes to the discussion of protecting the civil liberties of terrorists. Where liberal intellectuals regard these rights as non-negotiable, the mass populace and their governmental leaders have remorselessly placed them on the block, effectively trading civil rights for national security and reverting to the old caveat of authoritarian regimes that in a state of emergency there are no sacred cows, only golden calves and paper tigers, ready to be sacrificed and immolated at the first sign of trouble.

Yet Ignatieff is a realist. He understands that in cases where the threat is inarguably dire, the democratic state must engage in his titular “lesser evils” – preventative or investigative detention, intensive interrogation, torture, targeted killing, and even pre-emptive military strikes. At any time, these may represent a nation’s first line of last defense. But, Ignatieff writes, the pursuit of these tactics is always an exercise in “moral risk.” And this is where he differs from Paul Berman. Where Berman’s take-no-prisoners battle cry comes from a very real fear of the annihilation of liberal society, Ignatieff, though not ruling it out, warns that America stands to lose its soul even as it defends its borders. The demands of a life-or-death struggle, he argues, could reduce democratic society to one that mirrors that of the terrorists; in which violence becomes “an end in itself.” Moreover, fighting an enemy that has no respect for the Geneva conventions, nor the basic tenets of liberal society, poses great challenges to the constitutional republic which is inherently constricted by the laws of its civil code. There are certain things the liberal democratic state cannot do without sacrificing its claim to liberal democracy. So it’s not a fair fight, and the terrorists know this. Hence, their strategy is less dependent on military conquest than psychological torment. They wage a patient and spectacularly horrific guerrilla war, designed to force the democrats into committing illiberal acts that ultimately, Ignatieff writes, “erode the moral identity of the state, together with its will to resist.” And in this way, the terrorists will not have to win the war in order to defeat liberal democracy because the foundation of the society would already have been destroyed. This is the dark side of the War on Terror; one that could ultimately entrap Americans in a downward spiral that would leave nothing of their once sacrosanct rights-based liberal system.*

Walking into the jammed lecture hall, I took the last seat in the second row reserved for press. Despite the negative impact of television on the popularity of public discussions, I was not surprised to see such a large crowd. Michael Ignatieff and Paul Berman are two of America’s most respected liberal intellectuals. Both have written persuasive and provocative books, each identifying a major crisis being faced by American liberal democracy. Scanning the earnest faces, waiting patiently for the intellectuals to make their appearance, I wondered which one is of greater concern to the people gathered here: the internal conflict described by Ignatieff or the external threat posited by Berman? I knew that in the marketplace of ideas it is books like Berman’s Terror and Liberalism, with its stern warning that a people who underestimate the Islamists could find themselves extinct, which resonate with the buyers. Americans have proven to respond well to fear, and Berman has expertly peddled vigilant dread. Ignatieff’s Lesser Evil, on the other hand, offers a sobering reflection on the weakened stature of modern liberalism, showing that it has as much to lose in its reaction to terrorism than to terrorism itself. But fear, he warns, is the means with which terrorism seeks to undermine democracy. “A people living in fear are not free,” he wrote in The Lesser Evil, causing me to wonder what state he imagined Americans were living under, if it was not one of fear. In any case, his was a message that, if it was indeed true, would be the last thing a terrorized public would want to read. Which is exactly why I had come out to see him tonight.

All heads turned as the two men entered the room. Had I not seen the photographs on their respective book jackets, I would have confused them. Berman, the nervy dragon-slayer, is diminutive and bookish while Ignatieff, the judicious worrier, resembles a former college quarterback. Perhaps relieved to see his relative size, the Canadians gave Ignatieff a slightly louder applause. But any hopes their man would intimidate Berman and emerge as the champion of pacifism were quickly dashed. Instead, he opened with a soft rebuke to the anti-war movement, which he condescendingly described as “otherwise well-meaning people protesting against the overthrow of a homicidal, genocidal, maniacal dictator.” Beside him, Berman nodded approvingly. I felt the audience titter. Ignatieff continued, raising the issue of Abu Ghraib. The crowd nodded in unison at the scandalous mark against the invasion. But, again, Ignatieff swerved away from any flat-out condemnation of the American campaign. He described the revelations of torture as a “catastrophic geo-strategic defeat,” limiting it to the context of a major PR disaster. Further, he warned, despite the controversy Americans would need to avoid any kind of “moral perfectionism” that would hinder the war on terror. Behind me, a woman sighed. I felt warm air on the back of my neck.

Peering sullenly at the audience through wire-framed spectacles, Berman grabbed the baton from Ignatieff. He too believed that the war was being lost on the intellectual front. But while Abu Ghraib was the current hot-button issue, Berman located the problem in how the administration presented the war to the American public. Bush, he explained, failed to prepare them for a long-term struggle and now that it had dragged on, returning a high number American casualties, public opinion had soured. Worse, he continued, in all the Pentagon’s bungling, the essential message – that America offers the world a model of liberal society, equal and just, while the Islamists have nothing to counter it with – had been lost. Instead, all eyes and ears are focused on the crimes of America, which has lost a great deal of ground with those millions of people who could have been brought to our side.

Like much of the audience, I wanted to witness the clash of two intellectual titans who see vastly different dangers looming in America’s war on terror. But it never came. Perhaps under some tacit agreement, the men steered away from points of contention in favor of pressing the case that wartime necessarily places strains and poses challenges to liberal democracy. They never questioned the primary forces that drove America into Iraq, only the failures of the Bush administration in making its case to the public. They shirked any truly radical desire to get to the root of the conflict between Islam and the West, beyond the narrative we have been given by the White House and mainstream press. In this way, they came off more as apologists for the war and its ill effects than incisive political scientists charged with the responsibility of exploring every angle.

I kept waiting for Ignatieff and Berman to jump through the mirror and look at the Iraq war from the outside in. But they never did. Even though it has been one of the major contentions of the anti-war crowd, not once did they openly consider that the prosecution of the war may be linked to the same economic factors that so many in the anti-war left have asserted. As pro-war liberal academics, it simply wasn’t part of their lexicon. They limited their focus to the threat that terrorism, and America’s response to it, pose to liberal society. And in this way, themselves became the biggest threat to American liberalism. Not only because they failed to include in their analysis the very real potential that America has reached a point of economic vulnerability that its leaders will twist facts and manipulate fears until they produce the necessary political and military outcome. But because they failed to read the more tangible clues to the true intent of the war. Listening to Ignatieff’s lament of the torture at Abu Ghraib, I was astonished that he made the lazy case of compartmentalizing it from the war, isolating it from the character of the invasion. It seemed obvious to me that Abu Ghraib was a direct product of the unilateral spirit of the war, indicative of just how little regard its planners held for the Iraqi’s lives and future. I ached to put up my hand and challenge him, but the discussion droned on without any sign from either man that they were interested in what the audience had to say.

Instead I scribbled notes and stole furtive looks at the crowd, who had woken from their glassy-eyed resignation and suddenly perked up. Berman was in his element, speaking in graven tones about the fascistic nature of the bin Ladenite Islamicists who are the enemies of reason and little more than a glorified “death cult.” It is his trademark slogan, one that crystallizes the violent nihilism of the suicide bombers’ jihad. It has the dual effect of evoking fear and manufacturing consent; his listeners can’t help but be titillated by the terrifying image. Sensing this, Ignatieff played the good cop, rejoining with a hopeful realism. The West can survive the War on Terror, he explained, but “we have to be very, very tough.” In the end, the solution must be political, and for that reason we cannot back out until liberal democracy has been delivered to the Iraqi people. Then, he declared without the slightest hint of irony, “I can think of no more noble a sacrifice than for US soldiers to die defending an Iraqi polling station.”

Initially, I just processed the sentence, jotting it down on my pad. But then I noticed the words a line above, scrawled in menacing letters, “death cult” and it all fell into place. Ignatieff’s simple words – “I can think of no more noble a sacrifice than for US soldiers to die defending an Iraqi polling station” – were a wonderful sentiment, on the surface. But that is just the point. It’s only once the words are scraped with a blunter edge that their true significance can be uncovered. If al Qaeda represents a death cult for Islamicism, then highly influential and well-placed liberals like Ignatieff, many of whom originated in the New Left that emerged from the anti-Vietnam movement, have become part of a death cult for democracy. At first it sounds silly to say. Of course we are willing to sacrifice everything for our liberal system: soldiers have always died for democracy and freedom. It’s what free persons are naturally drawn to fight for.

But now look deeper. This has always been the rationale presented by politicians seeking public support for their military interventions. We fight to protect the free world from fascism. It was the same in 1961. But in those days, it was Berman and Ignatieff’s generation that got famous for protesting a war their parents started. For exhibiting what became their defining trait, a critical skepticism of the state’s motives to wage unilateral, unprovoked campaigns. In their prime, they had always viewed the state’s military interventions through a proto Marxist economic lens. But now, paralyzed by the mortal fear of annihilation, they have abandoned that questioning impulse to become highly influential supporters of a military enterprise that has cost thousands of innocent Iraqi lives. Not to mention the ever increasing number of America soldiers wounded and injured in the guerrilla war. The same boys and girls Michael Ignatieff has just offered to the to the pyre as “noble sacrifices.” Exactly who’s child is Ignatieff – a Canadian let’s remember – offering up in the name of an Iraqi democracy? One that may inevitably provide institutional consensus for a society built on Sharia law that contravenes the very core of his views as a social liberal. And, more importantly, just who does he think is out there fighting in Iraq anyway?

At least in the 1960’s and 70’s, there was a draft. As unpopular as it was, the lottery system offered the illusion of democratizing the act of service, of randomly selecting those who would die in the conflict. Today there is no such pretense.* The young soldiers I met at the small “forward operating” bases in the Sunni Triangle, the front line of the War on Terror, were all volunteers. But the great majority of them had opted for National Guard or full enlistment out of a direct financial need. They were the poor and lower middle class kids who slipped through the safety net of America’s failed liberal project, choosing military service as a one-way ticket out of the slum or trailer park. This precisely the kind of socio-economic pre-determination, a form of serfdom in itself, that the original liberal revolution was launched to destroy. That no person would be forced into any exploitive situation solely on the basis of class or race.

Now here was Michael Ignatieff, a professor at Harvard who has a 1/10 chance of ever teaching a kid who’s parents make less than $100,000, offering up their bodies as shields against car bombs. Ignatieff, who wants people to die for democracy, but has never once sought to impose a draft to make sure those who serve are not self-selected out of financial need. Who have only found themselves in the military because of the harsh economic realities of the very free market system that is now being imposed on the Iraqis. Does he not realize the insanity of this situation? That he has simply become another adult who has never fought in a war, and who’s children will probably never fight in a war, sending other people’s kids out to die for an ideological goal: the protection of liberal democracy which once promised to deliver the American dream, that has categorically failed in the United States. He has simply become everything his generation once fought against.

Or so I thought.

These are the words I wrote, hunched over my knees, leaning on the far edge of my chair. I barely noticed the talk had ended. I heard the audience asking questions, challenging the intellectuals’ blanket support of the war. One man asked if they had ever considered that it was simply about oil, Berman answered that while it may be an element of the strategic value of Iraq, it was never a driving force when placed next to the very real threat of liberal extinction. I kept writing. Moments later, they were gone and the room erupted into an agitated chorus of murmurs.

I finished my notes and walked out into the blustery October night. Warm wind blew on my face and I felt energized; a challenge had been set before me. Not to attack the brilliant minds of Berman and Ignatieff, that could only end in humiliating failure. Besides, I didn’t feel anger or contempt for either of them. Rather, I saw them as members of a fascinating and unique social grouping who should be questioned and studied. For they are a part of that generation of Baby Boomers (those born between 1943 and 1961) who have dominated the political and social discourse in America since their voices began to change in the early 1960s. Conceived during the halcyon days following World War II when the prevailing sense of optimism got everyone in the mood, the Boomers have always represented the most populous generation in America. And now, as they have grown into the loosened skin and graying hair of middle age, they have begun to take on the same fearful, protective psychology as their parents. Naturally, there are many who still champion the virtues and values of their revolutionary youth. But for the most part, the generation who set the example for building mass movements and challenging entrenched, social, political and economic power have become part of that establishment themselves. After thirty years of accumulation, now they have something to lose. Even the liberals have become conservative.

In their prophetic book, The Fourth Turning, Neil Howe and Bill Strauss outline a system of 80-100 year cycles in which major, transformative crises, or turnings, occur every 20-25 years. Writing in 1997, Howe and Strauss predicted the fourth turning to come around 2005. It is one in which the Boomers will “occupy the upper echelons of worldly power through a likely Crisis Era that will not end until about 2020.” Though they do not attempt to foretell the nature of the calamity, they offer terrorist attacks, domestic economic collapse, and plague as likely scenarios. On how we will survive it, they are more specific. The responsibility for shepherding America through the crisis, Howe and Strauss write, will be in the hands of the Baby Boomers and their own children, Generation X, who will be responsible for reigning in the more destructive tendencies of the adults; arrogant selfishness and a propensity for despotism among them.

As a member of that younger generation, the words I heard that evening suddenly crystallized the source of this great threat to our future. It is not the ideological conservatives like Paul Wolfowitz and Bill Kristol – who have been so brazenly forthright about their global objectives – that worry me. No, it occurs to me that it is the quiet, respectful liberal academics like Michael Ignatieff and Paul Berman who present the most insidious danger. Because they come cloaked in the veil of humanitarian reformism and democratic activism, the proponents of a fair society. But underneath that flimsy fabric, they are just as much the members of an American elite as George Bush and Bill Kristol. And they have everything to lose when the United States finally begins the ugly tumble down from its imperial perch.

Excerpt 2. Hitchens on Wye

The Hay festival grounds are buzzing with excitement. Elevated above the verdant earth on wooden platforms, green-carpeted floors connect a network of pristine white tents and open-air restaurants. Sequestered in a remote corner, off the more trafficked gangways, is a quiet room with French doors that open to its own private garden. It is here, far from the madding crowd, in the exclusive Green Room, that small clusters of VIPs gather between events to drink tea, eat biscuits and swallow fresh strawberries.

During the rush and tumble of the festival, A-list authors and their well-groomed agents mix with politicians, actors and the children of British aristocracy. There is a Guinness and a Rothschild. Alexander Waugh, the grandson of Evelyn, sits near Barney Broomfield, son of famed British documentary film-maker Nick, with his girlfriend actress Mary Nighy. In the center of the room, a group of men are gathered around the beautiful violinist/actress/journalist Clemency Burton-Hill, who’s concert performance the night before reportedly brought many in the audience to tears. But there is one person conspicuously absent. All the more so because he has recently been the subject of yet another controversy, this time at the hands of an irate Scottish politician who publicly called him a “drink-sodden ex-Trostskyite popinjay.” Which makes him all the more central to the gossip of the day.

If Hay is to books what Glastonbury is to music, then Christopher Hitchens is the festival’s resident Liam Gallagher. Like the lead singer of Oasis, who lit up crowds with his zeitgeist lyrics, epic rudeness and raised middle fingers, Hitchens is the primary draw of Hay’s opening weekend, pulling crowds of one and two thousand strong to see him chain smoke his way through a debate about religion, war or literature with some other chart-topping intellectual of the day. If they’re really lucky, they’ll get to see him tell a member of the audience to fuck off.

I see Hitchens standing with a few people who are preparing to leave. Sensing a chance to get him in Hay-mode, I step in and ask for an interview for my book. Looking at me, he hardens his lips and shrugs his shoulders. “Why not?”

A few moments later, Hitchens is seated again, looking at me through brown-tinted aviators. I ask him what it’s like, the world seen through a brandy bottle. “Sherry,” he corrects me and lights a Rothman cigarette. Sitting next to me on a floral patterned wicker chair, he looks tired. I ask him if perhaps we should postpone the interview to another time.

“No, I find this topic rather energizing.”

In the next hour Hitchens will smoke seven cigarettes and beckon twice for the girls in the Green Room to bring him more “apple juice” and fizzy water while I struggle to avoid asking a stupid question. It begins with a simple one: “Do you call yourself a liberal?”

“A few people have introduced me as or referred to me as a ‘former’ liberal and I’ve never been one, and in fact, I’ve hung on calling myself a socialist probably a little longer than I should have. Partly because it was a way of stating one wasn’t merely a liberal. And that’s because I was brought up, politically, at least, a lot in England where liberal suggested simply middle-class compromising.”

Hitchens’ major inspiration to become a writer came while sitting in a public library in Devonshire, reading an essay* by Connor Cruise O’Brien, the Irish diplomat and historian. In it, O’Brien refers to liberalism as “the word that makes the rich world yawn and the poor world sick.” Being labeled it was a charge considered “damaging” in Africa, Asia and Latin America where, O’’Brien explains, “the American and European liberal has too often been – and is perhaps increasingly – a false friend.” Casting the Kennedy-era American UN ambassador Adlai Stevenson as the liberal voice par excellence, O’Brien describes how the liberal state’s benevolence looked to its recipients:

“From this viewpoint, Mr. Stevenson’s face, with its shiftily earnest advocate’s expression, is the ingratiating moral mask which a toughly acquisitive society wears before the world it robs: ‘liberalism’ is the ideology of the rich, the elevation into universal values of the codes which favoured the emergence, and favour the continuance, of the capitalist society.”

It was an indictment that resonated with Hitchens, then a budding eighteen year-old socialist.

“Actually, if you read that essay,” he explains, “it was exactly what I felt for us on the left in Britain: The word liberal was a very rude thing to call somebody. Liberalism was an attempt to drape capitalism with some kind of pious social conscience…It used to be preceded almost always with the term ‘wishy-washy.’”

Hitchens takes a long drag on his cigarette, adding, “In America now, liberal is the word that the right uses to defame secularism, welfarism, anti-militarism and so on. I think because it’s no longer plausible to attack communism. There used to be two ways of attacking liberalism. One was to say ‘limousine liberal’ – it’s very much what one would call myself – and the other was as ‘soft on’ communism.”

In fact, these were both identifiers that could have been pinned on the pre-9/11 Hitchens. As far back as his student years at Oxford, he was adept at playing both sides of the class line, between revolutionary socialists and high class fashionistas. As Martin Walker, one of his classmates, recalls, “He was criticized for being a ‘champagne socialist’ or a ‘country-house revolutionary.’” And this flirtation with elite groups wasn’t lessened by his status as a Washington journalist, even when he was still writing for the Nation. As early as 1999, the Washington Post described Hitchens as belonging to “a rarefied world where the top pols and bureaucrats sup with the media and literary elite at exclusive dinner parties. It’s a cozy little club of confidential sources and off-the-record confidences…”

For many of his critics, the most damning evidence of his duplicitous turn-coatism hinges on the articulate case he made for the indictment of authoritarian statesmanship in The Trial of Henry Kissinger (2001). For younger readers, myself included, this was our introduction to Hitchens the polemicist. And the understanding, though simplistic, was that he was against government agents who used their power selectively, justifying any use of covert or widescale military force as necessary for the preservation of the American interests. But for Hitchens, his contempt for Kissinger not only made sense in terms of his socialist politics, but also as a foundation for his support of the invasion of Iraq.

“When I wrote the Kissinger book, where would I have been then? If someone would’ve said ‘are you a socialist’ I would have been reluctant to deny it. And I certainly wrote it from – it’s the outcome of years and years of struggling against Kissinger, trying to expose him from the left. As for me being in support for regime change in Iraq, that to me is a direct extension of the critique of Kissingerian realism. Or neo-realism.”

In fact, this was the very point on which he found consensus with the neo-conservatives, who were newly installed in Washington just as Trial was being released. Hitchens recalls his first meeting with Paul Wolfowitz – “I was very flattered, I suppose, some might say I had been unduly impressed” – in which the Deputy Secretary of Defense was “at pains to make it clear to me that he regarded himself he as the opposition to, the opposite of Kissinger.”

Clearly, for the neo-cons, whom we later learned had their eyes set on Iraq long before they took power in the Bush administration, Hitchens was a perfect ally. As one of the highest profile leftist writers in America, and a sympathetic comrade of Ahmad Chalabi, the former head of the Iraqi National Congress who once bragged of feeding the U.S. intelligence false information about WMD in order to bolster the case for invasion, he would prove to be one of their greatest assets in prosecuting the war.

But while the case can be made that Hitchens, like New York Times martyr Judith Miller, became an unwitting channel for the Pentagon’s pre-war propaganda, he sees it differently. Writing in the preface to Regime Change, his 2003 collection of essays on Iraq, he argued his position for U.S. military intervention from the “viewpoint of one who took the side of the Iraqi and Kurdish opposition to Saddam Hussein, who hoped for their victory, and who then had come to believe that the chiefest and gravest mistake of Western and especially American statecraft had been to reconfirm Saddam Hussein in power in 1991.”

So for him, the issue* was always one of liberation for the Kurds and Shia first, the rest of the country second. The ends would justify the means, even if that meant racking up a hundred thousand Iraqi casualties in the military action and subsequent occupation. It almost sounds… Kissingerian.

I wonder if the neo-conservatives have the same compassionate register for the victims of Saddam’s brutal regime of which, even Hitchens admits “the worst atrocities, mass murder with genocidal intent, torture, aggression, and so forth were committed when Saddam Hussein was the recipient of Western favor and protection.” Or if that even matters.

For Hitchens the war represents a kind of dual regime change for both Iraq and the United States. In the past, they were linked by a status quo policy that protected men like Saddam. It was in American interests to have strong leaders who were allied to them. But with the neo-cons all that has changed.

“I think it’s a good thing that American national interests are present in, and can apparently be made congruent to, the spread of democracy. It doesn’t happen without people fighting for it. It’s not just objectively true. You have to fight to make it true, so that it becomes so. It comes to a very interesting point that a lot of people don’t recognize, where the U.S. realized that, especially in the Middle East, it couldn’t go on wanting this political slum, where they’re using proxy leaders and client regimes, or movements, and picking up and dropping different clients according to shifting allegiances. Investing themselves in the survivors, that they would have to take the risk that even though more democracy might not make people act in pro-American ways, it’s much better than status quo.”

Hitchens sips quickly from his glass and lights another cigarette. “We went to war on the status quo in the Middle East. Which is a pretty amazing thing for an isolationist republic. It was mainly because a couple of people, Wolfowitz among them, won that argument in the White House, and in the Republican Party. They converted Cheney. Which is very important.”

Important because for corporatist political leaders like Cheney, the only use for Iraq was under the sand.

“Cheney wanted to lift the sanctions.” Hitchens leans forward and affects a sterner expression, channeling ogrish VP: “Fuck this, this is liberal humanitarianism. Let’s get back to doing business. Buying and selling a bit of oil, that’s what we do. The rest of it can go fuck itself. They can’t drink the oil. In the end, they’ll come around to see things our way.’”

So the neo-cons converted him. Shook out the selfish short-sightedness and got him on board for the bigger vision thing. But I’m curious about something. In all of the reading I have done on Hitchens’ advocacy of the regime change, he never intimates that there is any economic benefit in the occupation. I take a broad swipe at it.

“The word neo-liberal is often used to describe the way America asserts itself economically in the world.”


“Do you feel that is a relevant term and how would you describe its nature and relationship to U.S. world power?”

“The U.S. needs access to everyone else’s markets. And that world order is often described as neo-liberal, yeah.”

I wonder if Hitchens, the former socialist, has really questioned the role of free market neo-liberalism in the prosecution of this war. Because for many in our generation, the American promise of liberal democracy is also part of a negotiation in which US corporate interests, who the American government essentially represents, are looking to expand the perimeter of their marketplace and enfranchise new people in it as both cheap labor and consumers.

“Isn’t that system itself riddled with inherent inequities and unfairness that may actually contravene the essential liberal values?” I ask.

Hitchens leans in and speaks very quietly.

“It seems to me to be true. Though I don’t think the hegemonism of what America wants to say in the Middle East or in Venezuela is the only thing to notice about the policy – because there are so many other authorities, some of them positive. But it is quite clear that one form of liberalism, market liberalism, is very much identified with the American way and the American state.”

I suggest the natural extension of that is the neo-liberal belief in a connection between free market and a free society. Hitchens agrees. “There appears to be one. And this includes a respect for law and respect for individuals as well as human rights for groups or minorities. And there are many, many places in the world where the adoption of a liberal policy, so defined, would be a step up. A big one.”

I look over at Hitchens and I see him speaking out his thoughts. He is now engaging in a confession of his own loss of faith in the great socialist dream, the one that once offered a glimmer of hope in the face of capitalism’s all out assault on the virtues of a communitarian society.

“There’s obviously been a great trial that could’ve been about social democracy… And you see, that’s what people don’t believe anymore. That’s what made me give up. There is no other plausible internationalist movement with a socialist agenda, nor is there a plausible theory of power; that capitalism could be challenged. There isn’t. For the first time in its history, capitalism doesn’t have an ideological enemy.

“So in effect, capitalism is having another revolution. So you have to go back to the original Marxism and look at the Manifesto and remind yourself, ‘That is what the old boy said.’ This is the greatest revolution in human history, all we need is to have it run by workers, not by the owners. We need to have those who produce, making the production decisions. Extremely powerful and attractive ideology.”

“It is,” I submit.

“But now Quixotic. Some of these contradictions replicate themselves. In South Korea, at least until recently, there were a huge numbers of workers who had, a generation before, been peasants. And now in newly assembled cities and factories and plants, generating an enormous amount of wealth, and working very hard in very repressive conditions, making things they couldn’t afford to buy. The moment comes when the workers want to buy the cars. Now South Korea has more or less past that point. It did happen. But for a while, as in Brazil, you were looking at the early stages of industrialization. But as Marx would’ve done, noticing it means environmental degradation, short-termism, pollution, terrible labor exploitation, huge social dislocation, miserable cities full of cowed, overworked people. But in the end it produces enough wealth to make people want to press on until they have a share in it.”

Hitchens pauses and drinks from his glass. The Green Room has suddenly gotten very quiet. The most quiet since I arrived. Looking around, I realize that we are among the last people remaining.

I wonder if he is finished with his thoughts, since he has almost ceased to look at me, it is as if he is talking to himself. Taking out another cigarette, he continues.

“I think the verdict of history is in, one may feel a little wistful about it, but wistfulness is no good as a dialectical method. At all. So, in fact, capitalism is reasserting itself as the only revolution. And it takes a Marxist to see it, sometimes.”

“Asserting itself as what kind of revolution?” I ask.

“As the only dynamic revolutionary force in the world, reasserting itself after having gone through terrible decay; after all capitalism led to imperialism, to fascism, to war. Led to the great crisis in the 20s and 30s. It’s true, don’t let’s forget. And not just morally true, it’s politically true. It looked as if it were dead-ended. It really did. And to most of its supporters it did too. And that’s why they went Keynesian. They thought, we can only save it this way. You had to buy [the workers] off. That’s what’s happened since: you’ve got to give these guys a health service, protection of work, and this and that. And also give them some money so they can go on buying things.

“It will never get to the point of stasis, it will keep on consuming itself.” Hitchens looks up at the ceiling. He waves his hand at the wall, searching for something in his memory, “What’s umm… for crying out loud, I can’t –”

It’s a rare moment that he forgets anything of importance. I shift in my seat, unsure of what to say, and afraid to have him terminate the interview at this point.

“Don’t worry,” I try to reassure him.

“But I do.” Hitchens puts his glass down and begins moving methodically toward the name.

“One of the great theorists who wrote about the clash between capitalism and socialism was instinctually, himself, a socialist, but had great respect for capitalism. Schumpeter.”

I breathe a quiet sigh of relief. Hitchens takes a hard drag from his cigarette and continues.

“Joseph Schumpeter called it creative destruction: capitalism needs to go on devouring things and making things unstable and dangerous in order to keep on existing. Finding shorter and more scientific routes to production, productivity, demand, efficiency, discarding waste or competition, creating and then breaking up monopolies. It creates a destructive force. But anyone can recognize it as a revolution. It’s the only revolution in town.”

He says it with a kind of swagger that almost feels triumphant and then declares the inevitable: “But now we think it’s very unlikely that its workers will become its managers. That doesn’t seem as if that’s ever going to happen. They can become its beneficiaries.”

In his essay that so inspired the young socialist Hitchens, Connor Cruise O’Brien* chronicles a conversation between himself and Kwame Nkrumah, the pan-Africanist leader who became the first Prime Minister of Ghana. Nkrumah was then involved in trying to make Ghana into a socialist society. Of this effort, O’Brien writes, he believed “this government had been right to reject the façade of liberalism,” and that he saw in it a “greater sense of responsibility to the people – not in a formal sense but in a profound one – than [in] neighbouring states with more apparently liberal constitutions.”

When Nkrumah asked O’Brien, who was there to work with the government, if he was a socialist, the Irishman replied that he was, understanding that to be a liberal in Africa was a to be a “false friend.” But driving home after the interview, Connor explains, he realized that a liberal was in fact what he was.

“Whatever I might argue, I was more profoundly attached to liberal concepts of freedom… than I was to the idea of a disciplined party mobilizing all the forces of society for the creation of a social order guaranteeing more real freedom for all instead of just for a few.”

I wonder if Hitchens is aware at just how much he echoes the reluctant admission of his literary polestar in his own acquiescence to the fatality of the socialist ideal. As one of the highest paid writers in the United States, what else can he do but accept his own latent capitalism.

“It means we’ve conceded,” he says, “that capitalism has embarked on another revolution. It’s not only survived the battle with socialism but it’s replenishing and extending and strengthening itself, without a viable or plausible alternative.”

With the daylight now flirting with the crimson hues of sunset, Hitchens rises from his chair. Bidding me goodbye, he wishes me luck in discovering my own path, away from the Left he now sees as reactionary defenders of the status quo.

“There’s no longer any Left and I can’t be any part of it. It took a lot for me to get to the realization that it was,” he pauses for effect, “conservative. I wasted so much time… you could save yourself the trouble. You’ll feel better.”

Excerpt 3. Bittersweet Symphony

This summer, concert goers will get a chance to save the world by rocking out to loud music and buying Earth-friendly cotton t-shirts. The Live Earth concert for our “climate in crisis” will surely raise the profile of environmentalism, but will it actually drive its audience to understand the root causes of the problem? After all, it’s been nearly two years since ten simultaneous Live 8 concerts were held across the world to raise awareness for African poverty, and if that event is any indicator, we shouldn’t expect much beyond the hype and sparkle that does more for aging rockers than the designated cause du jour.

Timed to coincide with the twentieth anniversary of his original Live Aid concert, Bob Geldof hoped the Live 8 event would pressure leaders of the G8 countries (U.K., France, Germany, Italy, Japan, U.S., Canada and Russia) into canceling the debt of the world’s most impoverished nations. Though it has never been easy to get politicians to do anything for the poor, Geldof felt his chances were good since he had the ear of the G8’s new president, U.K. prime minister Tony Blair.

Back in 1985, when he was still an aspiring socialist and junior member of the British Labour party, Tony Blair attended Live Aid. Years later, he told Geldof that the experience had shaped his vision of African policy and so, in 2004, Geldof persuaded Blair to head an examination of African poverty and the role the international community has played in its tragic history. The study was titled the Blair Commission for Africa and focused on debt relief and increased aid as the most direct means of alleviating the “living wound” of Africa’s plight. The next step, Blair and Geldof decided, would be to convince the leaders of the world’s seven richest nations (G7 plus Russia = G8) to commit to the Blair Commission program. And what better way to force these politicians into a deal than to get a billion people involved in the process. So, as Blair got set to host the G8 summit at a golf course in Scotland, Geldof called Bono, Madonna and Pink Floyd, trucked his speakers into London’s Hyde Park and invited the world to the show.

I sat among “thousands of millions,” as Bob Geldof put it, watching the concerts from their homes. Switching between MTV and AOL’s live-to-net broadcast of the concerts in London, Paris, Berlin, Toronto, Philly, Rome, I hummed along with a roster of stars that, as much as they tried, just couldn’t muster the earnest save-the-world insurgent spirit that had made Live Aid such a global phenomenon. Watching Kate Moss’ then-boyfriend Pete Doherty wander deliriously onto the stage and then barely get through a shrill rendition of T-Rex’s classic Children of the Revolution seemed like the symbolic moment. For a generation that has the world at its fingertips, which truly lives in a virtual global village, they have less sensitivity and connection to the plight of starving Africans than the kids did 20 years ago.

Sure, everyone wore their white wristbands, cosmetic evidence of their unity with the campaign to Make Poverty History. But in a development that was symbolic of the disconnect between the glossy, star-driven first world campaign and the soul-draining struggle of the global poor, it was later reported that millions of the bands were produced in Chinese sweatshops where workers are paid 25 cents an hour. As usual, the intentions were good, but you know what they say about the road to hell. And the irony wasn’t lost on many in the Western media. When Geldof announced the concerts on CNN, declaring they were “dealing with the roots of that poverty,” critics assailed him for assembling a “hideously white” roster that only included two African-born performers. Many saw it as a ploy to raise the sagging profile of old, unfashionable rock stars like The Who, Paul McCartney and Duran Duran, while others charged that it was the rock stars who were being used by the G8 politicians.

Bono brushed off the latter criticism, saying “Is there some degree of being used here? Yes. But I am not a cheap date, and neither is Bob Geldof.” Which may well be true. As a result of the Live 8 and Make Poverty History campaigns, the G8 agreed to cancel the debt of the world’s eighteen poorest nations and double 2004 levels of aid to Africa from U.S.$25 to U.S.$50 billion by the year 2010. But when this failed to impress the very Africans Live 8 was created to benefit, neither Bono nor Geldof had any snappy comebacks.

“One should not be surprised,” wrote the African scholar Samir Amin in his The Liberal Virus, “that at the very moment when capitalism appears to be completely victorious, ‘the fight against poverty’ has become an unavoidable obligation of the rhetoric of the dominant groups.”

It’s something that the Western media missed entirely. Here we were, fifteen years after end of the Cold War, long after capitalism has been declared the world’s ideological victor, still focused on world poverty. And, with a situation in Africa no better than twenty years ago when the last world aid music event was held. Now, of course, many would say that it is not the fault of liberalism that African countries have not been able to institute sustainable fiscal policies. And that would be true if there wasn’t a long legacy of liberal economic intervention on the continent of Africa, much of it designed around the goal of relieving poverty. So what’s wrong with this picture?

Samir Amin claims that for representatives of the World Bank, IMF and rock stars like Bono and Bob Geldof, poverty is only ever seen as an empirical measurement, one that can be conquered through mathematical reasoning. Increase aid, remove the debt… problem solved. But this is just rock star economics. The reason nothing has changed for Africans since the last time Geldof and Bono beamed their message into hundreds of millions of homes worldwide is that they have been sucked into playing the game of the G8 leaders. They discuss poverty without challenging the methods and mechanisms that generate it.

Now, for Amin the Marxist, the foundations of African poverty are deep and advancement is a treacherous road, obstructed by the evils of capitalism. But it wasn’t just the far left that was questioning Live 8. Two weeks after the concerts, the New York Times published an op-ed by Cameroonian journalist Jean-Claude Shanda Tonme which essentially built on Amin’s criticism, but from a different perspective.

“Our anger is all the greater because,” Tonme wrote, “we didn’t hear anyone at Live 8 raise a cry for democracy in Africa. Africa’s real problem is the lack of freedom of expression, the usurpation of power, the brutal oppression… Don’t they understand that fighting poverty is fruitless if dictatorships remain in place?”

At a time when the armies of America and Britain are supposedly fighting anti-democratic insurgents in Iraq and Afghanistan, these words should have stung the eyes of pro-war liberals who applauded the debt relief program as a crucial step toward ending poverty.

“Neither debt relief nor huge amounts of food aid nor an invasion of experts will change anything,” wrote Tonme in the Times. “Those will merely prop up the continent’s dictators… We would have preferred for the musicians in Philadelphia and London to have marched and sung for political revolution.”

But revolution is hardly the kind of thing that Geldof’s government-friendly spectacle was designed to inspire. The closest anyone got was a Versace-clad Madonna singing “Music makes the people come together. Music makes the bourgeoisie and the rebels come together.” And there’s good reason for that. Because revolution in countries like Cameroon, Chad and Togo would demand overthrowing leaders who have a long relationship with the IMF and World Bank. Leaders who, according to John Perkins, the “Economic Hit Man” turned best-selling author, are given huge sums of money that are never expected to be repaid “because the nonpayment is what gives us our leverage, our pound of flesh.”

Working for the international consulting firm of Chas T. Main, Perkins’ job was to create optimistic financial projections for developing countries that would justify huge IMF and World Bank loans. Though the money was supposedly lent to recipient nations for infrastructural development, much of it never left the United States since it went directly to Main or other U.S. construction and engineering companies like Bechtel or Halliburton which were contracted to do the work. More importantly, Perkins writes in Confessions of an Economic Hit Man, he would bring in such high loans that it would drive the countries bankrupt and they would be “forever beholden to their creditors, and… would present easy targets when they needed favors, including military bases, U.N. votes, or access to oil and other natural resources.”

“It’s a sham, it’s a subterfuge,” he says solemnly.

Perkins views the recent pledges by the G8 to Make Poverty History as the latest chapter in this legacy of economic entrapment.

“This program to forgive debt in eighteen nations, with another twenty-two on the back burner, that’s an amazing tool of economic hit men. I believe totally in debt forgiveness, but this is not about debt forgiveness. Every one of those countries is being asked to allow American corporations or international corporations to privatize their electric and water systems and many of their other resources. They are asked to accept the trade barriers we have in the United States and the other G8 countries and yet not keep their own trade barriers to protect their markets from our products. So we are using this debt forgiveness ploy as a way to get them more entrenched in the empire. It’s a very, very subtle and effective economic hit man tool and yet, most people don’t seem to realize that.”

Just one month after the G8 leaders made their highly publicized vow to cancel debt for the poorest eighteen countries, a document leaked from the World Bank severely undermined the credibility of their promise. Penned by Geoff Lamb, the bank’s vice president for concessional finance, the document explained that “most countries receiving 100 per cent debt cancellation would be classified as ‘green light’ and therefore become eligible for new borrowing.” Even more damning is Lamb’s reference to a G8 document instructing that those nations receiving debt relief should be “eased into new borrowing.” According to Perkins, this borrowing will then funnel right back into projects earmarked for Western companies.

Commenting on the leak, Dave Timms of the World Development Movement (WDM) said the World Bank was essentially “asking the executive directors how quickly they can get the countries that receive debt relief back into patterns of borrowing and back into debt.” A World Bank spokesman dismissed the controversy, describing the document as “an informal and preliminary presentation.”

But what about Perkins’ assertion that, as a condition of the debt relief, these countries would be forced into privatizing their resources and lowering trade barriers? A quick glance at the Blair Commission report, the U.K. government’s analysis of African poverty that formed the basis for Bob Geldof’s partnership with Tony Blair in Live 8, is telling. Its opening line states that, “for its part, Africa must accelerate reform.” Reform, of course, is a code word for privatize. Clearly, despite all the nice talk, this is still the modus operandi for the neoliberal forces of globalization. In September 2005, a report published by WDM showed that of the IMF and World Bank’s official poverty reduction strategies (P.R.S.P.’s), which enforce conditions for debt relief, loans and aid on a country-to-country basis, “90 per cent contain privatisation measures… and over 70 per cent include trade liberalisation.” Trade liberalization is another euphemism for lowering of trade barriers.

A report from Council on Hemispheric Affairs explained the G8 “debt relief” scheme this way: “Candidates seeking debt relief are caught in a classic Catch-22 dilemma: in order to relieve poverty they must institutionalize the circumstances that created it in the first place. This compromise does not end when external debts are finally relieved. Rather, countries must continue to conform to IMF/World Bank expectations in order to win the good credit ratings that are the password for attracting foreign investments.”

Finally, I decided to do a random check on one African country that was scheduled for debt relief – the New York Times op-ed writer Jean-Claude Shanda Tonme’s beloved Cameroon. In October 2005, just four months after Live 8, Cameroon announced that it “plans to privatise its state airline, water utility and telecommunications company as part of an IMF-backed economic reform programme aimed at obtaining debt relief.”

Looking in Hillary's Closet

I worked hard on this story on Hillary's secrets. As many of you know, I'm a proud Green, not a Democrat. And this is not an endorsement of Obama.

But still, it's important that all progressives know certain supressed truths about Hillary Clinton. Those truths show just how ineffective the Democratic party has become, as a strategy for real change.

My editor at a leading "left" news site refused to publish this. So, I put it up at my blog, on GNN. And I printed 40,000 copies of this as a leading headline piece, in the new New York Megaphone, about to come off press. In that issue, we have a donated advertisement for Cynthia McKinney for President, the great hope of the Green Party.

My speaking tour of the West Coast starts tomorrow, so spread the word!

And read all about Hillary's Secrets, here, below! Please comment at the GNN site, too....

Hillary's Secrets
By Sander Hicks
Published 2/4/08 by New York Megaphone

Whether it's her background at the Rose Law Firm, her role in the Clinton White House pardons, her little-known testimony at the Iran/Contra hearings, or her silence about the suspicious death of friend Vince Foster, Hillary's ability to keep secrets from the public has been her political currency. Secrets are the source of her power. With the candidacy of Barack Obama, Hillary has a real rival. One who didn't vote to unleash the US war machine in Iraq, and one who has beaten her in two major political primaries. It's time to take a comprehensive look at Hillary's greatest hits.

The "Very Special" Vince Foster: Israeli Spy?

Most progressives tend to think of the sordid topic of Vince Foster's death as the exclusive domain of the Rush Limbaugh right wing radio circuit. But did you know that Vince Foster, Hillary Clinton, and Jonathan Pollard were all simultaneously partners at Rose Law Firm? Yes, that Jonathan Pollard, the unrepentant spy for Israel, arrested and sentenced to life in 1986 for espionage. Did you know that Vince Foster was under CIA scrutiny for the exact same crime at the time of his "suicide" in 1993?

Forbes magazine reported Foster had ties to Systematics, Inc., a software firm doing business with the NSA. Systematics was a Rose Law Firm client, which had acquired (some say stolen) a program to monitor the world's international banking transactions. According to Troy Underhill of Media Bypass magazine, Foster had $2.73 million stashed in a Swiss account, payment perhaps for sharing this software with Israeli intelligence. When the CIA started to close in, that $2.73m was seized by the U.S. Treasury-just weeks before Foster's death.

Foster had been a long-time friend and companion to Hillary. The two shared a brokerage account called Midlife Partners. When Barbara Walters asked Hillary if she had been having an affair with Vince Foster, Hillary lowered her eyes and told the 20/20 cameras, "He was a very special man." When he died, Hillary said publicly that Vince Foster was the last person who would have committed suicide. Friends reported she was genuinely shocked and aggrieved.

Why, then, did Hillary lie under oath about the last time she saw Vince Foster?
Testifying before the Office of the Independent Counsel (OIC) in 1994, she claimed that the last time she had spoken to Vince Foster was on the phone "the Friday or Saturday before Father's Day." Yet documents from the National Archives, acquired by the New York Megaphone, show that Foster's assistant, Tom Castleton, reported he "saw Hillary Clinton in Foster's office approximately four times during the five weeks he was employed." Castleton didn't start working for Foster until after Father's Day, 1993.
According to Ambrose Evans-Pritchard in a 1996 Telegraph (UK) article, Hillary Clinton asked Vince Foster to help her spy on her libertine husband in 1990. Foster hired Jerry Parks, an Arkansas investigator who later worked as the head of security for the Clinton/Gore campaign. According to Parks's widow, "Jerry asked Vince why he needed this stuff on Clinton. He said he needed it for Hillary." When Vince Foster showed up dead in a Washington-area public park in the summer of 1993, Parks was terrified. Two months later Parks was shot nine times at close range, at a stoplight, in his SUV, in Little Rock. Parks's home was then raided by eight Federal agents, including officers from the FBI, IRS, Secret Service, and (unusual for a domestic case) the CIA.

The same night that Foster died, White House staff working for Hillary raided Foster's office. Hillary may have been upset by the news of Foster's death, but, as claimed by Senator Alfonse D'Amato (R-NY) in the comments related to the Whitewater scandal, Hillary's chief of staff Margaret Williams removed certain files from Foster's office.
The official story of Foster's death is highly problematic. Supposedly upset at three critical Wall Street Journal editorials, Foster drove to Fort Marcy Park in Arlington, VA, and shot himself in the mouth with his revolver. However, when EMTs and Park Police found him, they couldn't locate his car keys in his pockets. Eyewitness Patrick Knowlton, who had been trained as a private investigator, reported that Foster's car was not in the parking lot during his time of death. But there had been a mysterious man there, glaring at Knowlton. Other eyewitnesses reported they saw men "in red vests" fleeing the area as Foster's body was discovered. A search of the National Archives FBI files later showed the FBI deleted details of the men in "red vests."

If Hillary Clinton was truly surprised and upset at the death of her friend, she has done a poor job of discovering why he died. The U.S. Court of appeals ordered Starr, over his objections, to include a 20-page statement by eyewitness Patrick Knowlton. There, Knowlton related how he had undergone a terrifying ordeal of FBI and OIC harassment for testifying about the car and the peculiar glaring man in Fort Marcy Park. Knowlton had voted for Bill Clinton. If Hillary had questions about Foster's "suicide" then why didn't she publicly recognize a Clinton supporter in the Starr Report who had been intimidated for saying what he saw?

The Clinton Pardon Frenzy

Ambassador Leo Wanta, a former arms dealer who worked for the Reagan White House as a kind of "off the books" operative, told this reporter that Vince Foster traveled to Switzerland to meet with billionaire fugitive (and pro-Israeli operator) Marc Rich in 1993.

It's no surprise then that Marc Rich was later pardoned by the Clinton White House. While Hillary was campaigning in New York in 2001, Bill was emptying prisons, staying up all night with pardon appeals from hundreds of sentenced criminals. In some cases, the pardons had a direct positive effect on Hillary's political career, or made her brother some cash. The President ultimately pardoned over 100 convicted criminals. The ones linked to Hillary were colorful, including a man with a baldness cure scam and a group of Hasidic Jews who had defrauded the school system.

Bill Clinton was so enthusiastic about pardoning, the Clintons transformed the standard process into a maddening frenzy of get-out-of-jail-free passes for their friends. According to Barbara Olson's book The Final Days, "Phones rang constantly, as if the White House was conducting some kind of pardon telethon... The mounting cases led to friction with pardon attorneys at the Justice Department. The White House resolved this by simply bypassing the Department of Justice altogether."

Towards the end of the Clinton pardoning streak, on the advice of an assortment of figures including influential Israelis and Jewish-American intellectuals, Clinton pardoned billionaire commodities trader Marc Rich, who had traded with then apartheid South Africa. Rich was close to Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak despite Rich's business deals with rabidly anti-Israel dictatorships world-wide. Lewis "Scooter" Libby was one of the attorneys who lobbied for Rich.

But while the Rich pardon came to represent the shadiness of Clinton's last-minute political favors, less-mentioned were his pardons of a group known as the New Square Four - four Hasidic Jews who were elders of an exclusively Hasidic community in upstate New York. The Four had created a fictitious school to defraud the government of millions of dollars.

In August 2000, Hillary visited the secluded village and met with Grand Rabbi David Twersky. Three months later, Clinton received 1359 out of the village's 1369 votes for US Senate. Previously, the community had always voted Republican. Two months later, the New Square Four got their Clinton pardon. "I did not play any role whatsoever" in the pardons, said Hillary.

The pardon-fest became even more tangled when her brother, the lawyer Hugh Rodham, joined the fray. Word had gotten out he was willing to use his family ties to plead the cases of convicts in front of the president.

Though he had once been a respectable lawyer, Hugh's fortune had fallen since an unsuccessful Senate run and an even more unsuccessful scheme to sell hazelnuts from the Republic of Georgia. He had taken to hanging around the White House, mostly unwelcome, with his brother Tony. Two of Rodham's clients included L.A. drug kingpin Carlos Vignali and fraudulent "baldness cure" quack Almon Braswell. Vignali, the son of a Democratic donor, gave Rodham $400,000 to petition the president for clemency. Wire transfer records recorded Braswell paid $200,000 for his shot at freedom.
When the evidence came out, Hillary's brother returned the money and dropped out of the public eye altogether.

Meanwhile, Hillary, now the junior senator from New York, continued to make statements similar to her defense in the New Square Four case, saying, "I love my brother. I'm just extremely disappointed in this terrible misjudgment that he made. I knew nothing about my brother's involvement in these pardons. I knew nothing about the money for his involvement. I had no knowledge of that whatsoever." Federal prosecutor Mary Jo White opened an investigation in 2001, but was soon replaced in her post by James Comey, who found no wrongdoing by anyone in or out of the administration, including Rodham. Soon afterwards, Comey was named Deputy Attorney General by George W. Bush.

"Absolutely More Conservative"

In January 2008, the New York Times surprised no one by endorsing Hillary Clinton in the Primaries. They lauded her for "using her years in the Senate well to immerse herself in national security issues." Hillary, claimed the Times, "has won the respect of world leaders and many in the American military."

As Stephen Marshall, author of Hillary-critical "Wolves in Sheeps' Clothing" wrote recently on his blog, "What the Times, and no other mainstream publication, has had the inclination to say is that Hillary has been in the Pentagon's good books for a lot longer than her time in the Senate... It seems that these journalists cannot recall Iran-Contra. Where was it that the infamous drug planes, carrying cocaine from Colombia and returning with weapons for the right-wing Nicaraguan Contras, were landing? Answer? Mena Air Force. In Arkansas."

Marshall reminds us of the little-known testimony Clinton gave in a closed-door session of the Iran-Contra hearings, as a partner in the Rose Law Firm. Rose allegedly negotiated contracts for "tenants" at Mena Airport, including disgraced Clinton associate, and Rose partner, Webb Hubbell. Clinton wasn't testifying about "old airplane parts being stored at the airport" quips Marshall.

In a shocking campaign development, conservative pundit Ann Coulter endorsed Hillary as "absolutely more conservative" than John McCain, in an interview on Fox News, on February 1, 2008. "She's smarter than John McCain, so when she lies she knows it." Coulter might be onto something: Clinton was President of the College Republicans at Wellesey. At a recent speech to the powerful, pro-Israel lobby, AIPAC, Clinton claims, "We must not permit Iran to build or acquire nuclear weapons. And in dealing with this threat, as I have said for a very long time, no option can be taken off the table." Translated from DC-speak, this means that nuking Iran first is among Hillary's considerable "options." She won applause for that at AIPAC.

"Why didn't I hear about any of this in the debates?"

As political campaigners, Obama and Hillary have much in common. Both share the same ideological set of centrist, moderate advisors. Few are willing to hold Hillary accountable for inconsistencies and stonewalls. Obama's opposition research director, Devorah Adler, is a DNC-tied Democrat who developed policy for the Clinton White House. Reached on the phone, Adler refused to talk to the Megaphone on the record.
In a Hillary campaign commercial, released to YouTube to promote a campaign theme song contest, Bill and Hill satirize the Soprano's final episode, with Hillary in the part of Tony. Hillary meets the cold stare of a hit man from a rival mafia family. She stares back, nonplussed and ready for business. Is that the real Hillary, the "casa-nostra" power-broker? The keeper of family secrets?

Sander Hicks runs the Vox Pop coffeehouse/media center/activist house in Brooklyn.

Davis Dunavin contributed reporting and research on the Clinton Pardons Frenzy section.

Thanks to Justin Stec, Matt Colbourn, and Jill E. Williams for editing help on this piece. Thanks to Joshua Holland, and Stephen Marshall, for feedback, and inspiration, respectively.