Crises and Wars
I am currently preparing a course on the
Preventive war brought about the First World War in 1914.
In retrospect, given what the Serbs did with
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A historian's comments on current events, foreign and domestic.
I am currently preparing a course on the
Preventive war brought about the First World War in 1914.
In retrospect, given what the Serbs did with
Here are some excerpts, translated into English, from the shocking and sad cover story in this week's edition of the Colombian magazine Semana. It tells of thirty-five retired Colombian military officers who were recruited to serve as security guards in Iraq.
A subsidiary of Blackwater USA, the major U.S. contractor whose private guards have even protected U.S. generals in Iraq, recruited the Colombians with promises of salaries of $4,000 per month - more than most doctors or lawyers earn in Colombia. After undergoing training on a Colombian military base (!), they were rushed off to Baghdad - where they found that their salaries would be only $1,000 per month. When they complained, the U.S. company took away their return tickets.
Here is the story. There is much more in the Spanish version that is worth a read as well, such as the reaction of these officers, all of them veterans of Colombia's violence, to the incomparably worse security situation in Iraq ("This is hell: there are bombings all the time, shots, helicopters near and far, sirens day and night. There is no rest. One feels a permanent tension in his chest.")
“The group of 35 of us, and another 34 that arrived about two weeks later, we want to return to Colombia, but they won’t let us. When they find out that we’ve talked about what they’re doing to us, we don’t know what could happen. But the truth is that the people here in Baghdad are desperate,” said Esteban Osorio, a retired captain of the National Army.
… Retired Army Major Juan Carlos Forero went to an office near downtown Bogotá to submit his resumé. “The company is called ID Systems… it’s the representative in Colombia for the American firm called Blackwater. It is one of the biggest private security contracting firms in the world and they work for the U.S. government,” said Major Forero.
“[At ID Systems] we were received by Captain (Gonzalo) Guevara, who works with that firm and is retired from the Army. He told us that basically we had to provide security for military facilities. He told us salaries were around $4,000 USD per month,” Forero said.
Finally, in early June of this year, the representatives of ID Systems told the recruited Colombians that the time had come. “On the evening of the first of June, they asked twelve of us to meet at the office and told us that we were leaving for Iraq the next day. There they told us that the salary wouldn’t be $4,000, but $2,700. We didn’t like that because we had always been convinced that it would be $4,000, but there wasn’t anything we could do at that point.” Why? Because by then none of them had jobs anymore (they had quit in anticipation of the trip) and were desperate to support their families.
At midnight of June 1, Forero and his companions were made to sign contracts, and were given a copy. “We weren’t able to read anything in the contract. We just signed and left in a hurry because when they gave us the contracts they told us we had to be at the airport in four hours and since everything was so rushed, we barely had time to say goodbye to our families, get our bags together and leave for the airport,” said Forero.
From Bogotá they left for Caracas, from there to Frankfurt, where they waited for twelve hours for a flight to Amman, Jordan, and from there a last plane to Baghdad. “Since in the Frankfurt airport we had to wait so long, we started reading the contract, and there we realized that there was something wrong because it said they would pay us $34 a day. That is, our salary would be $1,000 a month, and not $2,700,” recalls Forero.
… The mission of the group… consisted in replacing a group of Romanian contractors that had finished their contracts. “When we linked up with the Romanians they asked us how much we were being paid, and we told them $1,000.” They responded with mockery. “No sane person in the world comes to Baghdad for only $1,000,” they said.
The Romanians told them that for the same work they were being paid $4,000. That fact gave way to uneasiness among the other contractors on the base. The mood turned hostile against the Colombians because if each soldier establishes his own conditions for fighting in a foreign country, there is always a benefit because in the end they are risking their lives. No one spoke to the Colombians and when they did, it was to offend them and treat them like cheap labor.
On June 9th, before they had spent even a week in Baghdad, the 35 drafted and signed a letter addressed to the ID Systems and Blackwater representatives. In the letter, they said that if they didn’t pay the $2,700 that were promised, they wanted an immediate return to Colombia for the entire group.
The letter in which the Colombians demanded their rights was interpreted as rebellion, and the consequences were unexpected. “When we arrived at the base, they took away all our return flight tickets. After the letter they gathered us together and said that if we wanted to return, we should do it through our own means. Ironically, in a show of antipatriotism, one of the people who was most against us was a former captain of the Colombian Army, (Edgar Ernesto) Méndez, who is the link here in Iraq of the contractor in Colombia,” said retired Captain (Estaban) Osorio from Baghdad.
“To force us to comply with the contract, they began to pressure us. They threatened to kick us out of the base facilities to the streets of Baghdad, where you are exposed to being killed or, in the best of cases, kidnapped,” said Osorio.
…What’s more, when they were hired in Bogotá, the retired military men were told they would have eight-hour shifts. After the protest, the shifts became twelve-hour shifts. When the group complained, the response was that they would lose their potable water or that they wouldn’t receive the same food as the others on the base. At the time of recruitment in Bogotá, they were told that they would have medical insurance, dentists, and access to recreation zones within the base and life insurance for $1.5 million dollars. Just like the salary they were offered, nothing turned out to be true. Then came the health deterioration. “Several have gotten sick or have had accidents and it has not been possible for them to receive medical attention. When we asked for an explanation, the only thing we are told is that our contract does not cover that kind of services,” says Forero.
The contractors insist on the influence that the company has on the Army and the government, and that the company could close the doors for them to find jobs back in Colombia. And the threats go even further. “We are afraid for the consequences, not only that we risk being left without a job when we return to Colombia, but that they have also told us to remember that they have all the information about our families and children and that, simply put, is a threat,” said Forero.
Although the Ministry of Defense, the Army and the United States Embassy in Colombia are aware of the recruitment of retired soldiers, it has been a matter dealt with a low profile in which nobody accepts any responsibility.
The closest to it is that the Defense Ministry and Army staff accept that they’re “doing a favor” by lending (ID Systems) a Colombian military base for the training of retired soldiers that are sent to Iraq. “It’s a company endorsed by the U.S. government that asked the Army for cooperation, which consists of allowing them the use of the base, as long as they do not recruit active personnel. There is no agreement, contract or any other type of relationship with them, and therefore, the Colombian government has no responsibility. Whatever happens between retired soldiers and the company that recruits them is basically an agreement between an individual and a foreign company,” said a high-level government official.
For their part, an official from the U.S. State Department in Washington, DC, determined that “The State Deparment believes that this is a private commercial dispute between the Colombian employees and their employer.” The official said that any other comment should be made by Blackwater. Semana Magazine called Chris Taylor, vice president of that company, over ten times, and sent him a written set of questions but never received a response. It was also impossible to obtain a response from the representatives of ID Systems in Colombia, the retired captain Gonzalo Guevara or the owner of ID Systems, José Arturo Zuluaga.
(All the names have been changed for security reasons.)
Colombia, incidentally, is one of the few remaining American allies in South America.
In the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, the Founding Fathers set forth a vision of a new form of government and gave their descendants the best tools that they could to preserve it. Their work reflected their own painful experiences. Until the 1770s, they had believed that they lived under the most perfect form of government yet devised, the unwritten English constitution, which appeared to guarantee them a series of critical rights. As it turned out, however, that constitution had not prevented George III from imposing tyranny over the
From the late 1790s to the Civil War, the two world wars and the Vietnam era, the legislative, executive and judicial branches have frequently announced that the Constitution does not mean what it says and that Americans may be imprisoned for speech, forbidden to read embarrassing material in newspapers, subjected to warrantless surveillance and harassment by the authorities, or even interned with trial in concentration camps. Such experiments, however, have usually been brief, and have come to an end thanks to the political process or the Supreme Court, which has turned these blots upon our history into occasions for reaffirming the principles of the Founders and explaining how and why they came into being. In my post of December 25th last, I quoted two of the most moving such Supreme Court opinions: ex parte Milligan, in which the post-civil war court held that an accused Confederate sympathizer could not be tried and condemned to death by a military court while civil courts were sitting, and Justice Hugo Black’s magnificent 1971 opinion in the Pentagon Papers, in which he commended the Washington Post and the New York Times for doing exactly what the Founders had hoped and trusted they would do.
Something similar happened last week, in my opinion, when Judge Anita Taylor of the
V. The Fourth Amendment
The Constitutional Amendment which must first be discussed provides: The right the of people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers,and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.
This Amendment “. . . was specifically propounded and ratified with the memory of . . .Entick v. Carrington, 95 Eng. Rep. 807 (1765) in mind”, stated Circuit Judge Skelly Wright in Zweibon v. Mitchell, 516 F.2d 594, 618 n.67 (D.C. Circ. 1975) (en banc) (plurality opinion). Justice Douglas, in his concurrence in the Keith case, also noted the significance of Entick in our history,stating:
For it was such excesses as the use of general warrants and the writs of assistance that led to the ratification of the Fourth Amendment. In Entick v. Carrington (citation omitted), decided in 1765, one finds a striking parallel to the executive warrants utilized here. The Secretary of State had issued general executive warrants to his messengers authorizing them to roam about and to seize libelous material and libellants of the sovereign. Entick, a critic of the Crown, was the victim of one such general search during which his seditious publications were impounded. He brought a successful damage action for trespass against the messengers. The verdict was sustained on appeal. Lord Camden wrote that if such sweeping tactics were validated, then the secret cabinets and bureaus of every subject in this kingdom will be thrown open to the search and inspection of a messenger, whenever the secretary of state shall think fit to charge, or even to suspect, a person to be the author, printer, or publisher of a seditious libel.’ (citation omitted) In a related and similar proceeding, Huckle v. Money (citation omitted), the same judge who presided over Entick’s appeal held for another victim of the same despotic practice, saying ‘(t)o enter a man’s house by virtue of a nameless warrant, in order to procure evidence, is worse than the Spanish Inquisition . . .’ See also Wilkes v. Wood (citation omitted),
. . . [t]he tyrannical invasions described and assailed in Entick, Huckle, and Wilkes, practices which also were endured by the colonists, have been recognized as the primary abuses which ensuredthe Warrant Clause a prominent place in our Bill of Rights.
U.S. District Court, 407
Justice Powell, in writing for the court in the Keith case also wrote that:
Over two centuries ago, Lord Mansfield held that common-law principles prohibited warrants that ordered the arrest of unnamed individuals who the officer might conclude were guilty of seditious libel. ‘It is not fit,’ said
The Fourth Amendment, accordingly, was adopted to assure that Executive abuses of the power to search would not continue in our new nation.”
After reviewing the history and provisions of the FISA law, the act governing wiretaps of communications with foreign governments which the Administration claims the right to disavow, she turned to another basic constitutional principle.
VII. The Separation of Powers
The Constitution of the United States provides that “[a]ll legislative Powers herein granted shall be vested in a Congress of the United States. . . .” It further provides that “[t]he executive Power shall be vested in a President of the United States of America.” And that “. . . he shall take care that the laws be faithfully executed . . . .”
Our constitution was drafted by founders and ratified by a people who still held in vivid memory the image of King George III and his General Warrants. The concept that each form of governmental power should be separated was a well-developed one. James Madison wrote that:
The accumulation of all powers, legislative, executive, and judiciary, in the same hands, whether of one, a few, or many, and whether hereditary, self-appointed, or elective, may justly be pronounced the very definition of tyranny. The Federalist, 47, at 301 (James Madison).
The seminal American case in this area, and one on which the government appears to rely, is that of Youngstown Sheet & Tube v. Sawyer, 343 U.S. 579 (1952) in which Justice Black, for the court, held that the Presidential order in question, to seize steel mills, was not within the constitutional powers of the chief executive. Justice Black wrote that:
The founders of this Nation entrusted the law-making power to the
Congress alone in both good and bad times. It would do no good to recall the historical events, the fears of power and the hopes for freedom that lay behind their choice. Such a review would but confirm our holding that this seizure order cannot stand.
Justice Jackson’s concurring opinion in that case has become historic. He wrote that,although the Constitution had diffused powers the better to secure liberty, the powers of the President are not fixed, but fluctuate, depending upon their junctures with the actions of Congress. Thus, if the President acted pursuant to an express or implied authorization by Congress, his power was at it maximum, or zenith. If he acted in absence of Congressional action, he was in a zone of twilight reliant upon only his own independent powers.
The example of such unlimited executive power that must have most impressed the forefathers was the prerogative exercised by George III, and the description of its evils in the Declaration of
And if we seek instruction from our own times, we can match it only from the executive powers in those governments we disparagingly describe as totalitarian. I cannot accept the view that this clause is a grant in bulk of all conceivable executive power but regard it as an allocation to the presidential office of the generic powers thereafter stated.
After analyzing the more recent experiences of
This contemporary foreign experience may be inconclusive as to the wisdom of lodging emergency powers somewhere in a modern government. But it suggests that emergency powers are consistent with free government only when their control is lodged elsewhere than in the Executive who exercises them. That is the safeguard that would be nullified by our adoption of the ‘inherent powers’ formula. Nothing in my experience convinces me that such risks are warranted by any real necessity, although such powers would, of course, be an executive convenience.
Justice Jackson concluded that:
With all its defects, delays and inconveniences, men have discovered no technique for long preserving free government except that the Executive be under the law, and that the law be made by parliamentary deliberations.
In conclusion she addressed the other favorite argument of the Bush Administration, that of the inherent power of the Commander in Chief.
IX. Inherent Power
Article II of the
The duties and powers of the Chief Executive are carefully listed, including the duty to be Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy of the United States, and the Presidential Oath of Office is set forth in the Constitution and requires him to swear or affirm that he “will, to the best of my ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.”
The Government appears to argue here that, pursuant to the penumbra of constitutional language in Article II, and particularly because the President is designated Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy, he has been granted the inherent power to violate not only the laws of the Congress but the First and Fourth Amendments of the Constitution, itself.
We must first note that the Office of the Chief Executive has itself been created, with its powers, by the Constitution. There are no hereditary Kings in
We have seen in Hamdi that the Fifth Amendment of the United States Constitution is fully applicable to the Executive branch’s actions and therefore it can only follow that the First and Fourth Amendments must be applicable as well. In the
Finally, although the Defendants have suggested the unconstitutionality of FISA, it appears to this court that that question is here irrelevant. Not only FISA, but the Constitution itself has been violated by the Executive’s TSP. As the court states in Falvey, even where statutes are not explicit, the requirements of the Fourth Amendment must still be met. And of course, the Zweibon opinion of Judge Skelly Wright plainly states that although many cases hold that the President’s power to obtain foreign intelligence information is vast, none suggest that he is immune from Constitutional requirements.
The argument that inherent powers justify the program here in litigation must fail.
I first heard of Ex Parte Milligan from Senator Sam Ervin, a North Carolina Democrat who had been a determined opponent of civil rights legislation, who called it the greatest opinion in the history of the Supreme Court during the Watergate hearings. I find it a moving tribute to the universality of the principles of the American government that Judge Taylor, a black woman of 73 years old who grew up in the era of segregation, would also cite that magnificent opinion in affirming the limitation which the Founders wanted to put upon all executive power for all time.
The recently uncovered terror plot in
Americans have also hoped, since the Revolutionary War, that they might establish new and more humane standards of warfare. News today also raises that issue, but I shall have to leave it for later. This is the second long post of this weekend. I am gratified by the recent increase in visitors and I hope you all will do what you can to continue it.
Last week I decided not to discuss the newly agreed cease-fire in
There are two possible explanations of what happened. Either State Department officials got through to their boss, who in turn got through to the White House, that the American position in the Arab world would collapse completely if the fighting continued much longer, or else the Israelis decided that further indecisive conflict with 100 rockets falling in
Rice began her interview by claiming that the international force was a crucial element of the agreement and claiming that it had the right to defend itself if Hezbollah stood in its way, but she quickly had to backtrack and admit that no one expected the international force physically to disarm Hezbollah. Instead, she postponed the day of reckoning, citing once again the UN resolution (1559) that has already asked for the disarmament of Hezbollah and counting upon the international community. To wit:
“And that the Lebanese Government has already undertaken an obligation to do that. Now we will see whether Hezbollah, which is — after all, has ministers in the Lebanese Government, is prepared to live up to those international obligations. We will see who is for peace and who isn't. We will see whether Hezbollah has taken the lesson that everyone in the international community understands, that you can't have one foot in politics and one foot in terror.
“But this time, we'll make it very clear; if there is resistance to the obligations that the Lebanese Government has undertaken, then there will be a problem and Hezbollah will have to face the international community and Hezbollah supporters will have the face the international community.”
Pressed again on what would happen if Hezbollah did not disarm, she claimed they had been dislodged from their positions in the South (as indeed they have in the small strip occupied by the Israelis), and added:
“And then I think there will be a lot of pressure on Hezbollah to make a choice and if, in fact, they make the wrong choice, one would have to assume that there will be others who are willing to call Hezbollah what we are willing to call it, which is a terrorist organization.
In other words, although not enough of the world agreed with the
“Already, we hear Hezbollah trying to claim victory. But others, in
The problem, of course, is that virtually every report out of
President Bush, in his news conference on August 14, began more directly by blaming Hezbollah for the whole conflict (with much justice, since they clearly intended to incite it), and blaming
“ First of all, if I were Hezbollah I'd be claiming victory, too. But the people around the region and the world need to take a step back and recognize that Hezbollah's action created a very strong reaction that, unfortunately, caused some people to lose their life, innocent people to lose their life. But on the other hand, it was Hezbollah that caused the destruction.
“People have got to understand -- and it will take time, Andrea, it will take time for people to see the truth -- that Hezbollah hides behind innocent civilians as they attack. What's really interesting is a mind-set -- is the mind-sets of this crisis.
“And so, Hezbollah, of course, has got a fantastic propaganda machine and they're claiming victories and -- but how can you claim victory when at one time you were a state within a state, safe within southern Lebanon, and now you're going to be replaced by a Lebanese army and an international force? And that's what we're now working on, is to get the international force in southern
“None of this would have happened, by the way, had we -- had 1559, Resolution 1559 been fully implemented. Now is the time to get it implemented. And it's going to take a lot of work. No question about it. And no question that it's a different kind of war than people are used to seeing. We're fighting the same kind of war. We don't fight the armies of nation states; we fight terrorists who kill innocent people to achieve political objectives. And it's a hard fight, and requires different tactics. And it requires solid will from those of us who understand the stakes.”
. . . . . .. .
“And you asked about
Q I'm sorry. How can the international force or the
THE PRESIDENT: “The first step is -- and part of the mandate in the U.N. resolution was to secure
“But, as well, there's a diplomatic mission that needs to be accomplished. The world must now recognize that it's Iranian sponsorship of Hezbollah that exacerbated the situation in the
“I know they claim they didn't have anything to do with it, but sophisticated weaponry ended up in the hands of Hezbollah fighters, and many assume, and many believe that that weaponry came from
“And so the task is more than just helping the Siniora government; the task is also -- and the task is not just
And we'll continue working with our partners to do that, just that.”
The President’s statement, like so many of his statements on
Ironically, these statements begin to recognize, in a backhanded fashion, that the United States cannot accomplish all that much in the world without an international consensus behind it. That is why the foreign policy establishment has opposed the thrust of Bush Administration foreign policy from the beginning, and events are proving them right. Unfortunately, the neoconservatives in and around the Administration still hold a strong contempt for international opinion, and I am wondering, indeed, how long it will take for Bill Kristol, Charles Krauthammer and company to start blasting the deal as appeasement. (So far Kristol has been silent and Krauthammer, while disappointed, clearly remains hopeful.) Rather than actually take internatonal opinion seriously, however, the Bush Administration will probably continue to assume, rhetorically, that the rest of the world is bound to see the light.
What does all this mean for the future? I see two possibilities. In the first, the
But the second possibility is that the President and Secretary of State take seriously the implication of their statements (and the President’s accidentally recorded remarks to Tony Blair) that the real problem is not Hezbollah, but
In a famous interview about two years ago, a high White House official—my guess would be Karl Rove, but this has never been confirmed—told Ron Suskind that he, Suskind, belonged to “the reality-based community,” which habitually analyzed the day’s events carefully and judiciously to reach a reasonable conclusion. “But we’re an empire now,” the official said, “and we create our own reality.” Some months after that, I heard indirectly that Rove had told a reporter that the truth was what he said it was, and that if he could convince 51% of the American people he was right that was all that mattered. (When I reached the man who reportedly had heard Rove make this statement, however, he declined to confirm it.) Those of us hoping to keep the country on track would do well to keep those quotes in mind, in order to remember that our leadership is essentially running a propaganda operation rather than actually trying to govern. Some of the bitterest controversies of the last six years have involved its attempts to control reality. The leak of Valerie Plame’s name, I have been told authoritatively, was not designed to publish a former Ambassador, her husband, but rather to intimidate her Agency, the CIA, from leaking any more unpleasant truths that would reflect badly upon the White House. But what is more frightening is that, based upon what one reads and does not read in the news today, Rove was right.
This occurred to me again last week as I finished Peter Galbraith’s new book, The End of Iraq, which I mentioned last week. A long-time adviser to the Kurds, Galbraith has been deeply involved in the occupation of
Buried earlier in the book, however, is a truly extraordinary fact. Galbraith describes a meeting in early 2002 between President Bush and three prominent Iraqis living in
Ron Suskind has also discovered that the market for revelations about the Bush Administration has plummeted since he and Paul O’Neill wrote The Price of Loyalty in 2003. His new book, The One Per cent Doctrine, is an inside account of the development of the Bush Administration’s anti-terror policies. Buried within it is a story, which Suskind claims to have definitely confirmed, that the
There is every reason to believe, in short, that Rove and company may successfully keep control of reality within the
As long-time readers know, I believe in the theory of fundamental crises in the lives of nations every eighty years or so. The last such period of crisis extended from the late 1920s (in
Certainty, ironically, breeds crisis. The American and western European establishments from about 1870 to 1929 were certain, as Herbert Hoover wrote Woodrow Wilson in 1919, that they had created an unrivalled, almost miraculous system for the production and distribution of goods and services. Even the economic turmoil of the First World War did little to shake their basic faith. Then came the Depression, which swept away the German government, made way for Nazism, and split the industrialized world with disastrous consequences. Franklin Roosevelt's great achievement was to prevent the economic catastrophe in the
As I have noted before, especially in my review of Kevin Phillip’s new book, we have plenty to worry about economically today, but it seems to me that the real crisis we are going to face during the next twenty years will be more political than economic. Here again, certainty is leading us to disaster. I quote once again from that most revealing document, the current national security strategy of the
Just fifteen years after
The most obvious symptom of the crisis is in the Arab world, where traditional authoritarian regimes have obviously lost touch with their peoples and where radical movements like Hezbollah and Hamas clearly seem to have the upper hand in the struggle for popular allegiance. Although no reporter had the temerity to ask President Bush and Prime Minister Blair about this during their joint press conference recently, democratic elections in
That, however, is only one symptom of a much broader problem. Most of the governments of the successor states of the
It seems amazing to me that no one wants to discuss this very much, but we are certainly at a low point politically unmatched since--strikingly--the 1920s. A totally pro-business Republican administration (albeit far less successful at the polls than Harding and Coolidge were) has relentlessly cut taxes and regulations without any thought of what this means for the future. The Democratic Party, now as then, seems unable to offer any alternative. The Republican Party itself is controlled by a juggernaut of well-0rganized minorities who most certainly do not represent the American people as a whole. In many states the Republicans are trying to cement their hold on power by making it more difficult for poor people to register or to vote. And the media seems extraordinarily unwilling to go deeply into the corruption of
When I first became aware of Strauss and Howe about twelve years ago, I was initially intellectually excited. Later, as the Republican Party began to exploit (and exacerbate) the crisis in domestic and foreign policy, I was frightened. I still am, but I am learning to see the bright side as well. All the great political achievements of the past were, in one way or another, responses to crises. Yes, it is sad that my generation has done so much to land us in the mess we are in; but getting out of it will open up unparalleled opportunities both for a few of us and for the younger generation to put things back together. The Boom generation never had the opportunity to create a new world, much as they dreamed of doing so. Their parents and grandparents had bequeathed a relatively just one to them, and their only means of distinguishing themselves, sadly, has been to tear it down. Our own children, like our parents the GIs, will have the chance to put it back together, and 20 years hence, they, like our parents around 1950, may have a great deal to be proud of. Just as oppression breeds nobility, disaster breeds greatness. Such is my hope. Of course, by then our children, too, will have children of their own whose ingratitude will one day burst forth--but that will be another story altogether, one which few of us are likely to see.