AUSTIN, Texas -- See if this doesn't make you wince. The
Washington Post reported last Saturday on how the Bush administration's
attempts to bully Turkey had backfired. Courtesy of John Marshall's website,
TalkingPointsMemo.com, I found this paragraph: "But one senior U.S. official
acknowledged that U.S. pressure in recent months has backfired, saying that
at one point Pentagon officials insinuated to Turkish politicians that they
could get the Turkish military to back the request for U.S. troop
deployments in Turkey. 'It was stupid stuff. These are proud people,' he
said. 'Speaking loudly and carrying a big stick wins you tactical victories
from time to time, but not a strategic victory.'"
Marshall explains, "The backdrop here is that the military
pushed out an Islamist government only a few years back. Going over the
civilians' heads to the Turkish General Staff would inevitably raise the
specter of a repeat of those events."
Think about it. We're supposedly fighting a war to bring
democracy to Iraq, and we threaten one of our strongest democratic allies
with a potential military coup? Is this nuts, or what?
A decent respect for the opinions of mankind seems to have
escaped many of us lately. A pop-eyed reporter on the Fox network, assigned
to watch the war on Arab television, said: "They are reporting it completely differently. They are reporting this as an unprovoked
war of aggression to gain control of the Iraqi oilfields and dominate the
Middle East." Just like when Iraq invaded Kuwait, and we headed a worldwide
coalition to repeal that invasion. Gee, I wonder where people in that region
could have gotten the impression that we don't give a rat's behind about
Marshall also reports the head of the Turkish General Staff -- a
pro-American outfit -- Gen. Hilmi Ozkok, saying, "I have difficulty
understanding those who claim there is a threat to them across the ocean.
And when Turkey says the same threat exists on the other side of our border,
this is found to be unbelievable."
From reading newspapers in French and Spanish, as well as
round-ups of opinion from other countries, I would have to say we are not
winning the battle for hearts and minds around the world, and we'd better be
prepared to deal with that when this is over.
Meanwhile, back at the ranch ... President Bush has issued an
executive order that will delay the release of millions of government
documents, and make it easier for presidents and their administrations to
keep historical records secret. President Clinton had signed an order that
would have required automatic declassification by April 17 of most
government documents 25 years old or older. According to Elizabeth Bumiller
of The New York Times, "Vice President Dick Cheney has been the
administration's leading advocate of retaining and restoring presidential
prerogatives, including keeping private deliberations confidential and
barring scrutiny of administration actions by Congress and the news media."
But this is not even about contemporary government transparency
and accountability. This is about history -- our history. We the people
elect our government, own our government, pay for our government and
sometimes some of us are called upon to die for it. We have every right to
know what our government has done and is doing, and why.
Speaking of rights, how'd you like them apples from Antonin
Scalia, justice of the Supreme Court of the United States? In a speech to
the Cleveland City Club (where he received the Citadel of Free Speech Award
although he refused to allow C-SPAN to broadcast his remarks), Scalia said
that government can scale back individual rights during wartime. "The
Constitution just sets minimums. Most of the rights that you enjoy go way
beyond what the Constitution requires."
Good grief. This man's job is to uphold and defend the
Constitution. Absolutely nothing in the Constitution limits rights in
wartime. (Unless you want to count Amendment III: No soldier shall, in time
of peace, be quartered in any house, without the consent of the owner, nor
in time of war, but in a manner to be prescribed by law.) Neither the text
nor the original intent of the Founders bears any resemblance to this man's
notion that the Bill of Rights is a set of minimums, and Amendment IX
specifically says so. It is appalling that a Supreme Court justice would say
such a thing.
The weblogger Mickey Kaus refers to these nightmarish little
steps toward fascism as the "Jo Moore effect," in honor of the British civil
servant who sent out a memo on Sept. 11 saying, "Today would be a good day
to put out any bad news you have."
Kaus also points out that dictators around the world are taking
advantage of the Jo Moore effect, including crackdowns in Cuba, Myanmar,
Zimbabwe and other garden spots of freedom.
To find out more about Molly Ivins and read features by other
Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate web
page at www.creators.com.
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