Let's start with realism, stark and vicious. George Kennan departed this life at the age of 101, amid respectful eulogies in the press. In his advanced years his prime rostrum was the New York Review, where he advocated policies of genteel internationalism and detente markedly different from his ferocious Cold-War postures of earlier years, so crucial in setting the terms of the Cold War in the years following World War II.

In fact, Kennan's self-rehab was one of the wonders of the late twentieth century. Not conspicuous in his memoirs were such important aspects of his service to the state as his salvaging of Nazi war criminals for use by the United States in its post-war engagements, or such documents as his wartime memo apropos de-Nazification. Chris Simpson quoted it in his book "Blowback": "Whether we like it or not, nine-tenths of what is strong, able and respected in Germany has been poured into those very categories which we have in mind" for purging from the German government -- namely, those who have been "more than nominal members of the Nazi Party." Rather than remove "the present ruling class of Germany," as he put it, it would be better to "hold it [that class] strictly to its class and teach it the lessons we wish it to learn."

Kennan will probably best be remembered for his self-consciously "realistic" assessment in those post-war years, in State Dept. Policy Planning Study No. 23 that "We have about 50 percent of the world's wealth, but only 6.3 percent of its population. . In this situation, we cannot fail to be the object of envy and resentment. Our real task in the coming period is to devise a pattern of relationships which will permit us to maintain this position of disparity.

... To do so, we will have to dispense with all sentimentality and daydreaming; and our attention will have to be concentrated everywhere on our immediate national objectives. ... We should cease to talk about vague and ... unreal objectives such as human rights, the raising of the living standards, and democratization. The day is not far off when we are going to have to deal in straight power concepts. The less we are then hampered by idealistic slogans, the better."

Contrast that bleak endorsement of "realistic" national interest with the twittering of today's neocons about establishing democracy in Iraq, when in truth the game -- control of oil -- is exactly what Kennan was writing about.

Now for hypocrisy, as with the Republicans and Terri Schiavo. Here are the crusaders for states rights rushing to federal courts. I said as much to Ralph Nader the other day, after congratulating him for putting on an excellent show on CNN's "Crossfire," making an a-- out of Bob Novak. Nader agreed. "Here you have Republicans pouring out speeches on the Hill expressing deep compassion for human life, and yet these same speechmakers are mostly savage opponents of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Highway Safety Administration, the Food and Drug Administration, and of regulations designed to reduce the hundreds of thousands of Americans who are killed, injured or sickened through medical malpractice, occupational disease and traumas, air pollution and raw poverty."

Maybe some of these cold-hearted Reps, having gone through their Terri Schiavo epiphany, will expand their newly discovered compassion for adult human life.

So as the rights and wrongs of the Schiavo case are concerned, I think Nader has it right. "Her parents want to take care of Terri. There is no state interest in letting her die. As far as the 'persistent vegetative state' is concerned, Terri is not on life support, heart pump or ventilator. If her biological family wants to take care of her, why should Michael Schiavo retain the power to pull the feeding tube from his spouse? For the last 10 years he has been living with another woman -- essentially, his common law wife -- who has brought him two children. So it seems to me that the equity of the situation is to have Michael withdraw as guardian and let Terri's parents be guardians and take care of her. That's the crux.

As far as I'm concerned, there's no legitimate state interest. Why is it assumed that her spouse has the right to pull the plug?

Nader faults the Republicans. "They should have pushed for legislation to allow removal from state to federal courts, as with criminal law habeas corpus suits. Instead they wrote this specific bill and somehow left out the kind of certainty they wanted. They should have let her parents have the right to have standing to file in federal court and above all to have a de novo review of the case. By leaving that out they insured what the federal district court judge did on March 22, which was to decline to hear the case."

Alexander Cockburn is coeditor with Jeffrey St. Clair of the muckraking newsletter CounterPunch. He is also co-author of the new book "Dime's Worth of Difference: Beyond the Lesser of Two Evils," available through To find out more about Alexander Cockburn and read features by other columnists and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at COPYRIGHT 2005 CREATORS SYNDICATE, INC.