Woods Shouldn't Carry Load Alone|
In Augusta dispute, it's unfair to ask him to act as golf's conscience
To listen to some folks, you would think it's Tiger Woods fault that Augusta
National has no female members. I read these diatribes criticizing Woods for not
coming out in favor of women being admitted to Augusta, even though I can think
of a half-dozen interviews in which he has said he favors women being members of
But for some folks, that's not good enough; Tiger Woods is apparently supposed
to be the caretaker of women's golf in America.
I read an editorial in Monday's editions of The New York Times that suggested
that Tiger should boycott the Masters, the most prestigious tournament in the
world, in April so that he can send the message that discrimination isn't good
for the sport.
Oh, is that right? I'll bet that the editorial pages of the Times never said
Jack Nicklaus should have boycotted the Masters because Augusta National didn't
have any black members. And if we want to make it a little more current, I
didn't see the Times suggesting in that same editorial that Phil Mickelson or
Davis Love or Ryder Cup captain Hal Sutton--all American men with wives and
daughters--should boycott the Masters, or for that matter as much as open their
mouths in protest.
Why Tiger and not, say, David Duval?
Because Tiger is black. No, the Times didn't say that. But the writer could not
have been more obvious about it. Sure, he is the best golfer in the world, and
the most influential, but even if Sergio Garcia or Ernie Els was No. 1, a whole
lot of folks -- like the editorial writer for the Times (who wrote that Tiger
should skip the Masters, Phil Mickelson?) -- would be crouching and waiting for
Tiger. I checked the clips by the Times suggesting that CBS, the U.S. network,
not televise the Masters.
Tiger, the Times suggests, needs to have a social conscience, but other golfers
-- read, white golfers -- do not. The men who run broadcast networks do not. I
didn't realize that of 248 golfers who have made money on the PGA Tour this
year, only one 26- year old black golfer is supposed to have a social
conscience, and everybody else gets a pass. The Times ought to write an
editorial explaining why that's so.
In our desperate search to find a clear and unwavering voice on social issues,
particularly as they relate to sports, we've rushed to anoint Tiger Woods.
Partly, this is his father's doing, saying that Tiger is one day going to be as
important as Gandi, which is insane and puts way too much pressure on the son.
Tiger is 26. How many 26-year-olds who grew up middle-class in Southern
California and wanted for virtually nothing because his parents gave him
everything could possibly have a fully developed social conscience and know how
to express it on the world stage? No matter how hard some folks wish it to be,
Tiger isn't Arthur Ashe and isn't ever going to be Ashe, or Muhammad Ali.
Tiger didn't grow up in the shadow of Jim Crow "whites only"signs in the South,
or on the wrong side of the tracks. The set of circumstances that produced the
Jim Browns, Tommie Smiths and John Carloses haven't come within 10,000 miles of
Woods. He has no legitimate reason, not yet anyway, to wake up every morning ín
a rage over the injustices he has faced because he hasn't faced many, If any.
He'll get there, I suspect, in time. But damn if he should be pushed there by
The New York Times.
And how is it that Tiger, by boycotting the Masters, absolves white men who play
golf from participating in the national discussion on the exclusion of women at
Augusta National? Maybe the Times hasn't noticed, despite the reporting of its
wonderful golf writer, Clifford Brown, how often the words "no comment" come
from the mouths of golfers other than Tiger who won't go on the record with
Generally speaking, I don't look to athletes for social commentary. But on this
issue, given that it's been raging for five months, I would at the very least
like to think there's a pulse. Though I disagree with golfer Len Mattiace's
position that he is fine with Augusta not admitting women, I applaud him for not
only voicing what he believes, but for saying golfers ought to open their mouths
and participate in such an emotional national discussion.
In putting all the pressure on Tiger to settle this dispute by withholding his
excellence, the Times seems to miss the fact that the South African Gary Player
has been one of the great crusaders for racial equality in sports, and that Els,
also South African, has been willing to enter the difficult and emotionally
My only real criticisms of Tiger throughout this debate have been that he had
better not allow marketers to present him as a crusader while backing off in
real life, and that his voice is far stronger than he knows.
Not only can he rock the boat, he can turn it over and shake it like a bathtub
dingy. The chief executives of Citigroup and American Express -- members of
Augusta who have denounced exclusion -- don't have 1/100th the volume Woods has
if he decides to take on an issue.
If Woods wanted to boycott the Masters, I would applaud him. But for the old
grey lady Times to suggest he should, while making no such demands on anybody
else is too arrogant and too transparent for me.
November 21, 2002
Photograph: Peter Gorwin
Poor Grades For Most Of The Sweet 16
By Frank Litsky
The New York Times
A study of how college athletes performed in the classroom showed that the
academic achievements of many of the 16 men's teams remaining in the NCAA
tournament did not match their accomplishments on the court.
At many of the 16 universities, basketball players graduated at a rate
significantly lower than for all male athletes on athletic scholarships, and the
rates were even more striking for African American male basketball players.
In six of the 16 remaining men's teams, the graduation rate for African American
basketball players was a third to three-quaters lower than the rate for all male
At only three of the universities - Kansas, Duke and Butler - did at least
two-thirds of African American male basketball players graduate. At seven of the
colleges, 30 percent or fewer of all African American players graduated.
In the period studied, no African American players graduated at two universities
in the Round of 16: Syracuse and Oklahoma. In fact, no male players of any race
graduated from Oklahoma.
The data measured whether basketball players who entered college between 1992
and 1995 had graduated within six years of beginning college.
The study, published Monday, was overseen by Richard Lapchick, director of the
Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport at the University of Central Florida
in Orlando, who has analyzed athletes'graduation rates for two decades.
"Men's basketball is the scandalous problem in college sports, with the worst
graduation rates," Lapchick said. "There are 328 colleges that play Division I
men's basketball, and 58 of those that had African American players did not
graduate even one during this last six-year period.
Anthony J. Phillips/Technical Co-ordinator
& Khadija Tarjan McKinney Griffith/Make Up
Fountainhead Tanz Théâtre/Black International Cinema Berlin/
The Collegium - Forum & Television Program Berlin
Axis Of Evil -- In Washington, D.C.
by Edward Herman
d'etat president George W. Bush has designated three poor and
unconnected states as an "axis of evil," reflecting this great
moralist's sensitivity to good and evil. He has been subjected to a
certain amount of criticism for this strong language even in the
mainstream press, but nobody there has suggested that, as so common in
this post-Orwellian world, such language might better fit its author and
IS a political axis of evil running strong in the United States that
underpins the Bush regime, which includes the oil industry,
military-industrial complex (MIC), other transnationals, and the
Christian Right, all important contributors to the Bush electoral
triumph, and each of which has high level representation in the
administration including, besides Bush himself, Cheney, Rumsfeld,
O'Neill and Ashcroft.
REAL axis of evil is using 9/11 and the "war on terrorism" to carry out
its foreign and domestic agenda on a truly impressive scale, and so far
without much impediment at home or abroad.
is notable about their agenda is that it flies in the face of all of the
requirements for peace, global democracy, economic equity and justice,
ecological and environmental protection, and global stability. It
represents the choice of an overpowerful country's elite, determined to
consolidate their economic and political advantage in the short run, at
whatever cost to global society.
are accelerating all the ugly trends of militarization and globalization
that have led to increasing violence, income polarization, and the
vigorous protests against the World Trade Organization, IMF and World
Consider the following:
New arms race:
before 9/11 the Bush government was pushing for a larger arms budget and
that gigantic boondoggle and offensive military threat, the National
9/11 and the collapse of the Democrats, they are allocating many
billions to anything the MIC wants, and with their more violent behavior
and threats abroad, other countries will have to follow. This takes
enormous resources from the civil society, and will exacerbate conflict
based on cutbacks and pain for ordinary citizens. The same will be true
across the globe.
the polarization of income effects of corporate globalization will be
increased by this diversion of resources to weapons. As Jim Lobe notes,
"Whatever hopes existed in the late 1990s for a new era of global
cooperation in combating poverty, disease, and threats to the
environment seem to have evaporated" (Dawn [Pakistan], Jan. 23, 2002).
complete irrationality and irresponsibility of this arms budget surge is
reflected in the fact that almost none of it has to do with any threat
from Bin Laden and his forces. Weapons designed to combat Soviet tanks
are going forward, as well as advanced new aircraft and a missile
defense system that are hardly answering Bin Laden, but represent
instead MIC boondoggles and a rush for complete global "full spectrum"
The new violence:
Washington Axis has found that war and wrapping themselves in the flag
is just what was needed to divert the public from bread and butter
issues, inducing the public to revel instead in the game of war, rooting
for our side while we beat up yet another small adversary, with perhaps
others to follow.
the great political economist Thorstein Veblen wrote with irony almost a
century ago, "sensational appeals to patriotic pride and animosity made
by victories and defeats...[helps] direct the popular interest to other,
nobler, institutionally less hazardous matters than the unequal
distribution of wealth or of creature comforts. Warlike and patriotic
preoccupations fortify the barbarian virtues of subordination and
prescriptive authority...Such is the promise held out by a strenuous
national policy" (Theory of Business Enterprise ).
Bush team is threatening to beat up anybody who "harbors terrorists" or
aims to build "weapons of mass destruction" without our approval. Israel
is of course exempt from this rule and has been given carte blanche to
smash the Palestinian civil society.
and his handlers will decide who are terrorists, who harbors them, and
who can build weapons. It is easily predictable that anybody who resists
the corporate globalization process and tries to pursue an independent
development path, will be found to violate human rights, harbor
terrorists, or otherwise threaten U.S. "national security," with dire
Because the ongoing globalization process is increasing inequality and
poverty, protests and insurgencies will continue to arise. The U.S.
answer is spelled out clearly in the "war on terrorism" and simultaneous
push for "free trade" and cutbacks in spending for the civil society at
home and abroad.
Washington Axis is also pursuing a "war on the poor" that will merge
easily into the "war on terrorism," as the poor will be driven to resist
and resistance will be interpreted as terrorism.
is in a great U.S. tradition, brought to a high level in the overthrow
of the democratic government of Iran in 1953 and installation of the
Shah, the assassination of Guatemalan democracy by Eisenhower and Dulles
in 1954, the war against Vietnam, and the U.S.-sponsored displacement of
democratic governments by National Security States throughout South
America in the 1960s and 1970s. They were wars allegedly against the
"Soviet Threat," but really against the poor and the populist threat to
Bush team obviously threatens even more violence than we witnessed in
that earlier era. The military force they control is relatively stronger
and without the Soviet constraint. With the help of the more centralized
and commercialized media they have worked the populace into a state of
have brought back into the government some of the most fervent
supporters of terrorism and death squads from the Reagan years in Otto
Reich, Richard Perle, Paul Wolfowitz, John Negroponte, Elliott Abrams,
and Lino Guterriez; men who can now work in a more killer- friendly
Escalated support for authoritarian regimes.
United States actively helped bring to power and supported large numbers
of murderous regimes in the years 1945-1990, on the excuse of the Soviet
Threat, but really because those regimes were suitably subservient to
U.S. interests and willingly provided that crucial "favorable climate of
investment" (especially, union-busting). With the Soviet Threat gone,
for a while there was a problem finding rationalizations for the
long-standing and structurally-rooted anti-populist and anti-democratic
bias, but now we have the "war on terrorism," which will do quite
Washington Axis has already leapt to the support of the military
dictator of Pakistan, the ex-Stalinist boss of Uzbekistan, and it is
clear that willingness to serve the "war on terrorism" will override any
nasty political leadership qualities.
the same time, as with Sharon in his escalated crackdown on the
Palestinians and Putin in Chechnya, cooperation with the war will mean
support for internal violence against dissidents and minorities, forms
of state terrorism that will readily be interpreted as part of the "war
on terrorism." Just as militarization and war do not conduce to
democracy, the effects of mobilization of countries to support the
Washington Axis of Evil's war will damage democracy globally.
Corporate globalization has had a major destabilizing effect in the
global economy, causing increased unemployment, civilian budget cuts,
large-scale internal and external migrations, and environmental
destruction. The more aggressive penetration of oil interests, in
collusion with local governments in Nigeria, Colombia, and now Central
Asia, and the new war on terrorism, should intensify destabilization
The fight against democracy at home.
every level the Bush team has fought against the basics of democracy and
attempted to concentrate unaccountable governmental authority in its own
hands. Militarization itself is anti-democratic, but the team has
attempted to loosen constraints on the CIA and police, reduce public
access to every kind of information, and constrain free speech.
have put in place a secret government and are moving the country toward
a more openly authoritarian government, and, if they can keep it going,
their planned open-ended war on terrorism should serve this end well.
The Bush "vision" versus the "End of History."
process does not comport well with Francis Fukayama's vision of the new
peaceful, democratic order that would follow the death of the Soviet
Union and triumph of capitalism.
Fukayama missed the boat on three counts. He failed to see that the end
of the Soviet Union and termination of a socialist threat would also end
the need to accommodate labor with social welfare concessions--in other
words, that there could be a return to a pure capitalism such as Karl
Marx described in the first volume of Capital.
Second, he failed to see that corporate globalization and greater
capital mobility would make for a global "reserve army of labor" and
weaken labor's bargaining power and political position.
Finally, he failed to recognize that without the Soviet Union's
"containment" the United States would be freer to use force in serving
its transnationals, forcing Third World countries to join the "free
trade" nexus, and preventing them from serving the needs of their
citizens (as opposed to the needs of the transnational corporate
this entire process will involve further polarization and immiseration
of large numbers, insurgencies are inevitable, justifying more
militarization and an escalated war on "terrorism" in a vicious cycle.
can be more frightening and dangerous to the world than facing the
Washington Axis of Evil as the overwhelmingly dominant holder of
"weapons of mass destruction," which it is seeking to improve and make
more usable, with the elite's longstanding arrogance and
self-righteousness at an all-time high, and with no countervailing force
in sight? Bin Laden's threat is nothing by comparison.
is more, the Bin Laden threat flows from U.S. actions, which played a
crucial role in building up the Al-Qaeda network, and policies which
have made a hell of the Middle East and polarized incomes and wealth
across the globe. The cycle of violence will only be broken if the
Washington Axis of Evil is defeated, removed from office, and replaced
by a regime that aims to serve a broader constituency than oil, the MIC,
the other transnationals, and the Christian Right.
Trona Pan Donald
Photograph: Peter Gorwin
Augustine the African
by James J. O'Donnell
Augustine was born in Tagaste (modern Souk Ahras, Algeria) in 354 and died
almost seventy-six years later in Hippo Regius (modern Annaba) on the
Mediterranean coast sixty miles away. In the years between he lived out a career
that seems to moderns to bridge the gap between ancient pagan Rome and the
Christian middle ages. But to Augustine, as to his contemporaries, that gap
separated real people and places they knew, not whole imaginary ages of past and
future. He lived as we do, in the present, full of uncertainty.
Augustine's African homeland had been part of Rome's empire
since the destruction of Carthage five hundred years before his birth. Carthage
had been rebuilt by Rome as the metropolis of Roman Africa, wealthy once again
but posing no threat. The language of business and culture throughout Roman
Africa was Latin. Careers for the ambitious, as we shall see, led out of
provincial Africa into the wider Mediterranean world; on the other hand, wealthy
Italian senators maintained vast estates in Africa which they rarely saw. The
dominant religion of Africa became Christianity--a religion that violently
opposed the traditions of old Rome but that could not have spread as it did
without the prosperity and unity that Rome had brought to the ancient world.
Roman Africa was a military backwater. The legions that were
kept there to maintain order and guard against raids by desert nomads were
themselves the gravest threat to peace; but their occasional rebellions were for
the most part short-lived and inconsequential. The only emperors who ever spent
much time in Africa were the ones who had been born there; by Augustine's time,
decades had passed without an emperor even thinking of going to Africa.
Some distinctly African character continued to mark life in the
province. Some non-Latin speech, either the aboriginal Berber of the desert or
the derelict Punic the Carthaginians had spoken, continued to be heard in dark
corners. In some of the same corners, old local pagan cults could still be
found. When Augustine became a Christian clergyman, he found Africa rent by an
ecclesiastical schism that had its roots at least partly in the truculent sense
of difference maintained by the less-Romanized provincials of up-country
Numidia, near the northern fringes of the Sahara.
So a young man like Augustine could belong irretrievably to the
world Rome had made, but still feel that he was living on the periphery of that
world. Augustine set out to make himself more Roman than the Romans and to
penetrate to the center of the culture from which he found himself alienated by
his provincial birth. But that was only the beginning of his story.
Augustine was born on 13 November, A.D. 354, in Tagaste, a town
large enough to have its own bishop but too small for a college or university.
His parents, Patricius and Monica, belonged to the financially imperilled middle
class. They were well enough off to have educational ambitions for their son,
but too poor to finance those ambitions themselves. The fourth century was an
age of mixed marriages at this level of society, in which devout Christian women
like Monica were often to be found praying for the conversion of their
irreligious husbands. Her prayers were not unavailing; Patricius accepted
baptism on his deathbed. Though Patricius offered no direct impulse towards
Christianity for his son, he must not have been much more than a passive
Of Augustine's childhood we know only what he chooses to tell us
in the highly selective memoirs that form part of the Confessions. He depicts
himself as a rather ordinary sort of child, good at his lessons but not fond of
school, eager to win the approval of his elders but prone to trivial acts of
rebellion, quick to form close friendships but not always able to foresee their
consequences. He studied Latin with some enthusiasm but never loved Greek. While
he was leading what he wants us to think was a rather conventionally boisterous
adolescence (it is best to imagine him in a crowd of conformists, but edging
towards the quieter fringes of the crowd), his parents were worrying about
paying for his education. Finally, with the help of an affluent family friend,
they managed to scrape together enough to send him to the nearest university
town a dozen miles away, Madaura, the home of the famous second-century sophist
and novelist Apuleius, which was the second city in the life of the mind in
After a time at Madaura, the youth's talents made Carthage
inevitable. There he seems to have gone at about the age of seventeen. Not long
after, his father died and his mother was left with modest resources and nothing
to tie her to Tagaste. Augustine himself quickly set up housekeeping with a
young woman he met in Carthage, by whom a son was born not long after. This
woman would stay with Augustine for over a decade and, though we do not know her
name, he would say that when he had to give her up to make a society marriage in
Milan "his heart ran blood" with grief as she went off to Africa--perhaps to
enter a convent. The son, Adeodatus, stayed with Augustine until premature death
took him in late adolescence.
So far the conventional outward events of Augustine's young
manhood. His intellectual life was a little more remarkable. The education he
had received in Tagaste and Madaura had made him a typical late Roman pedant,
with a comprehensive knowledge of a few authors (especially Cicero and Vergil)
and a taste for oddities of language and style. Only at Carthage did his
education show any signs of breaking the usual molds, but even then only in a
conventional way. In the ordinary course of the curriculum, he had to read a
work of Cicero's called the Hortensius. This book, since lost and known only
from fragments quoted by Augustine and other ancient writers, was a protreptic,
that is, a treatise designed to inspire in the reader an enthusiasm for the
discipline of philosophy. Through all his other vagaries of interest and
allegiance, until the time of Augustine's conversion to Christianity Cicero
would remain the one master from whom the young African learned the most;
Augustine is in many ways the greatest of Cicero's imitators in point of Latin
The zeal for philosophy led first in what may seem a strange
direction. Fired with the love of wisdom from his reading of the quintessential
Roman politician, Augustine immediately joined a religious cult from Persia that
had planted itself in the Roman world as a rival of Christianity: Manicheism.
This sensual but sensitive young man, brought up around but not exactly in
Christianity, took his Ciceronian enthusiasm with the utmost seriousness on the
moral plane. He knew his own life did not in fact match his noble ideals. He was
torn between the conventional pleasures of adolescence and the conventional
rigors of philosophy. For this tension, Manicheism offered soothing relief.
Augustine was not to blame that he felt this way, the Manichees told him, for he
was only the pawn of greater forces that could, because Augustine was lucky and
clever, be propitiated. Security could be had without sacrifice, and guilt
removed without atonement.
The world the Manichees imagined was torn between two contrary
powers: the perfectly good creator and the perfectly evil destroyer. The world
seen by human eyes was the battleground for their cosmic conflict. The Manichees
and their followers were the few who were on the side of the good spirit and who
would be rewarded for their allegiance with eternal bliss. In the meantime all
sorts of misfortune might befall the individual, but none of the wicked things
he found himself doing were his fault. If the devil does compel sin, then guilt
does not ensue. A few Manichees, the inner circle, were said to live perfect
lives already, but the claim was hard to verify since the many disciples were
kept busy waiting on the perfect few hand and foot, to keep the few from being
corrupted by contact with the evil world of matter. The many were thus kept on a
leash with easy promises and a vague theology.
Augustine was too clever to settle for vague theology for long.
His most poignant moment of disillusion is recounted in the Confessions, when he
finally met Faustus, the Manichee sage who would (Augustine had been promised)
finally answer all the questions that troubled Augustine. When the man finally
turned up, he proved to be half-educated and incapable of more than reciting a
more complex set of slogans than his local disciples had known.
But while Augustine soon dissented privately from the Manichees,
he did not break with them publicly. Even when he had decided the slogans were
nonsense, they still provided the assurance that all the evil in Augustine's
life was not his own fault and could not be let go of easily. Augustine
associated with Manichees who thought he was one of them as late as 384, more
than a decade after his first involvement with the sect.
Once initial enthusiasm faded, Augustine's attention drifted
from the niceties of metaphysics to the realities of his career, which
preoccupied him through his twenties. At about age twenty-one, after four years
or so in Carthage, he went back to his home town to teach. He could well have
stayed there forever, but his talent encouraged him to entertain loftier
ambitions. He left again the next year.
From this decisive return to Carthage can be traced a career to
which the adjective "brilliant" scarcely does justice. Seven years in Carthage
matured the young teacher into a formidable scholar and orator. Education in a
university town like Carthage at that time was a free-market enterprise, with
each teacher setting up independently around the city center to make a
reputation and inveigle students into paying for his wares; it was a competition
in which many young men like Augustine must have fallen by the way. Augustine
prospered, however, for when he became unhappy with conditions there (the
students were rowdy and tried to cheat the teachers of their fees), he could
think only of one place to which to move--Rome.
Rome of the fourth century was no longer a city with political
or military significance for the Roman empire, but nobody at the time dared say
such a thing. By common consent, the pretense was maintained that this was the
center of civilization--and so the pretense became self-fulfilling prophecy.
Academic prestige, the emptiest of glories, is a matter of reputation rather
than reality; Rome had a reputation stretching back for centuries.
Understandably it took Augustine a few months to find a place there, but when he
finally found his feet, he could not have done better.
Some Manichee friends arranged an audition before the prefect of
the city of Rome, a pompous and inept pagan named Symmachus, who had been asked
to provide a professor of rhetoric for the imperial court at Milan. The young
provincial won the job and headed north to take up his position in late 384.
Thus at age thirty, Augustine had won the most visible academic chair in the
Latin world, in an age when such posts gave ready access to political careers.
In the decade before Augustine's rise another provincial, Ausonius of Bordeaux,
had become prime minister in the regime of a teen-aged emperor whose tutor he
had been. Our estimate of Augustine's talents is based largely on his later
achievements; but that judgment together with his swift climb to eminence as a
young professor makes it safe to assume that if Augustine had stayed in public
life, he would have found very few limits to his advancement.
Augustine saw his prospects clearly. When his mother followed
him to Milan, he allowed her to arrange a good society marriage, for which he
gave up his mistress. (But then he still had to wait two years until his fiancee
was of age and promptly took up in the meantime with another woman.) He felt the
tensions of life at an imperial court, lamenting one day as he rode in his
carriage to deliver a grand speech before the emperor that a drunken beggar he
passed on the street had a less careworn existence than he.
Thus the strain of rapid advancement began to tell. His old
perplexities rose again to plague him. He had tried Manicheism and it had
failed; he owed some allegiance to Cicero, but in his day Cicero stood for
little more than style and skepticism. He settled for ambivalence and prudent
ambition. He had been enrolled as a catechumen (pre-baptismal candidate) in the
Christian church by his mother when he was a child; he acknowledged this status
publicly (it was good for his career) to conceal anxiety and doubt.
His mother was there to press the claims of Christianity, but
Augustine could probably have held out against her will alone indefinitely.
Because, however, Monica was in Milan, and because Augustine was in public life
and needed connections, he was soon caught between her and the most influential
man in Milan, the bishop Ambrose. At first their encounters seem to have been
few and perfunctory, but soon (due regard for his career probably required it)
Augustine began to sit through a few of the bishop's sermons. Here Christianity
began to appear to him in a new, intellectually respectable light. As before,
his most pressing personal problem was his sense of evil and his responsibility
for the wickedness of his life; with the help of technical vocabulary borrowed
from Platonic philosophy Ambrose proposed a convincing solution for Augustine's
oldest dilemma. Augustine had besides a specific objection to Christianity that
only a professor of belles-lettres could have: he could not love the scriptures
because their style was inelegant and barbaric. Here again Ambrose, elegant and
far from barbaric, showed Augustine how Christian exegesis could give life and
meaning to the sacred texts.
Resolution of his purely intellectual problems with Christianity
left Augustine to face all the pressure society and his mother could bring to
bear. More will be said below about the inner journey of his conversion, but the
external facts are simple. In the summer of 386, not quite two years after his
arrival in Milan, Augustine gave up his academic position on grounds of ill
health and retired for the winter to a nearby country villa loaned by a friend
in a place called Cassiciacum. He took along his family (son, mother, brother,
and cousins) and friends, plus a couple of paying students who were the sons of
friends. There they spent their days in philosophical and literary study and
debate. Some of their conversations were philosophical and religious and come
down to us in philosophical dialogues, and we know that they spent part of every
day reading Vergil together. Though Augustine says he often spent half the night
awake in prayer and meditation, the dialogues themselves are not dramatically
theological. They seem to have been modest attempts to use the professional
expertise of a rhetorician and philosopher to clarify technically the questions
that had perplexed him. (The dialogues show a charming modesty about the powers
of philosophical argument. In the midst of a long, abstract argument among the
men, Monica would come into the discussion and in a few words, often quoting
scripture, summarize an argument more clearly and concisely than the men had
been able to do.)
In the spring of 387, Augustine and his friends returned to
Milan for the forty days of preparation for baptism that preceded Easter. Then
at the Easter vigil service on the night of Holy Saturday Augustine was baptized
by Ambrose. Many people at that time, when Christianity was the fashionable road
to success in the Christian empire, may have taken such a step casually and
returned to their old ways, but Augustine was not one of them.
The great world of Rome had to be given up. Ambition now seemed
hollow and sterile. Instead, Augustine and his friends decided to return to
Africa, where they could still command a little property at Tagaste, to live in
Christian retirement, praying and studying scripture. For a time their return
home was held up by military disorders: a usurper came down out of Gaul and
killed the emperor who resided at Milan, with ensuing disruption to the ordinary
flow of commerce and travel in the western Mediterranean. While Augustine's
party was at the port of Ostia near Rome, waiting for a boat back to Africa,
Augustine returned to Africa at about the same age at which
Dante found himself in the dark wood--thirty-five, halfway to the biblical norm
of threescore and ten. He settled down at Tagaste in 389 with a few friends to
form what we call, somewhat anachronistically, a monastery; it was probably very
like the household at the villa at Cassiciacum in the winter of 386-87, but
without the Vergil. Augustine would gladly have stayed there forever.
But such talent and devotion could not be left alone. Two years
later, while on a visit to the coastal city of Hippo Regius, he found himself
virtually conscripted into the priesthood by the local congregation. He broke
into tears as they laid hands on him in the church and his fate became clear.
Cynics in the audience thought these were tears of ambition and disappointment
at not being made bishop straight off, but they were only tears of deeply felt
inadequacy. Augustine had for some time been avoiding cities that needed bishops
in fear of just such a fate.
He soon enough accepted his fate. He asked his new bishop,
Valerius, for a little time to prepare himself for his duties. Now, if not
before, he devoted himself to the mastery of the texts of scripture that made
him a formidable theologian in the decades to come. His first expressly
theological treatises come from this period, devoted mainly to attacking the
Manichees he knew so well. (Not only did his experience make him an astute
critic of the cult, but it was politic for him to take a stand publicly, to
thwart the inevitable innuendoes from other Christians that perhaps he had not
truly abandoned the Persian cult but was some kind of Trojan horse sent to
subvert the church.) His abilities were quickly recognized, and by 393 he was
being asked to preach sermons in place of his bishop, who was a Greek speaker by
birth. The old man passed on in 395 and Augustine assumed responsibility for the
church at Hippo. He would remain at this post until his death thirty-four years
Conventional accounts sketch Augustine's episcopal career in
terms of the controversies in which he took part. This brief sketch will do
likewise; but I must first point out the main inadequacy of this approach.
Augustine's first order of business through the decades of his episcopate was
the care of the souls entrusted to him. Most of his life was an endless round of
audiences with his clergy and his people. He was constantly called upon to
adjudicate all kinds of disputes that had arisen in a world where the man of God
was more to be trusted as judge than the greedy magistrate sent from abroad to
represent Roman justice. The real focus of his activity lay elsewhere still: the
The early church was an institution centered upon the worship of
the community. Of a Sunday, every orthodox Christian in Hippo could be found
jammed into Augustine's basilica, standing through a service that must have
lasted at least two hours. We know from the hundreds of sermons that survive how
much care and imagination Augustine put into preaching, tailoring his remarks to
suit the needs and capacity of his audience. The man who had been orator enough
to declaim for emperors must have been a spellbinding preacher.
But even the homiletics of Augustine did not efface the dignity
of the central act of worship. God was present on the altar for these people and
this event was the center of Christian community life. Lukewarm believers in the
throng attended out of respect for social pressure and a fear of divine wrath
and were not much moved, but for Augustine, this was his central task. The
controversies were only sideshow, important only when they threatened to disrupt
the unity of the community's worship.
But we know Augustine for his writings, and many of them were
controversial. Three great battles had to be fought: the first was an
ecclesiastical struggle for the very life of his community, the second a
philosophical battle to effect the Christianization of Roman culture, and the
last a theological quarrel of great subtlety over the essentials of faith and
salvation. The first is the most obscure to moderns, while the second and third
will be treated in more detail in the chapters that follow. Here we will
concentrate on the ecclesiastical war that Augustine fought and won in his first
decade and a half as bishop.
Donatism is the movement Augustine opposed, named after a bishop
at Carthage some eighty years before Augustine's time to Hippo. In those days
the church had just recovered from the last bitter wave of persecution begun in
303 by the emperors Galerius and Diocletian. When fear subsided, Christians
could breathe again and indulge in recriminations over the lapses of some of
their number in time of trial.
The official position of the church was that those Christians
who had compromised their religion in time of persecution could, with due
repentance and atonement, be readmitted to full membership in the religious
community. But there was a minority faction of enthusiasts who insisted that
cooperation with the authorities in time of persecution was tantamount to total
apostasy and that if any traitors wanted to reenter the church they had to start
all over again, undergoing rebaptism. Evaluation of the credentials of those who
sought reentry would be in the hands of those who had not betrayed the church.
The logical result of the Donatist position was to make the
church into an outwardly pure and formally righteous body of redeemed souls. The
orthodox party resisted this pharisaism, seeing in it a rigorism inimical to the
spirit of the gospels. But Africa was known for its religious zealots and the
new Donatist movement proved a resilient one. Even after official imperial
disapproval had been expressed, the schismatic church continued to grow and
prosper. By the time of Augustine's consecration as bishop, in fact, it looked
as if the "orthodox" party was on the wane. In Hippo itself the larger church
and the more populous congregation belonged to the Donatists in the early 390s.
A constant state of half-repressed internecine warfare persisted between the
communities. Popular songs and wall posters were pressed into service in the
cause of sectarian propaganda. In the countryside, Donatist brigands ambushed
orthodox travelers in bloody assaults.
Augustine began his anti-Donatist campaign with tact and
caution. His first letters to Donatist prelates are courteous and emphasize his
faith in their good will. He assumed that reasonable men could settle this
controversy peaceably. But Augustine quickly discovered that reason and good
manners would get him nowhere. In the late 390s, then, Augustine resigned
himself to a course of action others in the church had long been urging: the
invocation of government intervention to repress the Donatists. Augustine was
dismayed at coercion in matters of religion, but consented to the new policy
when he became convinced that the perversity and obtuseness of the Donatists
were complete. Even charity itself demanded that the Donatists be compelled to
enter the true church in the hope that at least some would genuinely benefit
from the change. They could not be worse off than they were.
Even when this policy had been settled upon, another decade of
instability remained. Finally, in 411, an imperial commissioner conducted a
detailed hearing into the facts of the matter, attended by hundreds of bishops
from both orthodox and Donatist factions, and decided in favor of the orthodox
party. From this time on Donatism was illegal and, though the schismatic
community apparently showed some signs of life in remote parts of Africa until
the Moslem invasions centuries later, the back of the movement had been broken,
and at least the security and position of the orthodox party had been
The principle for which Augustine fought deserves emphasis.
Christianity was not, he claimed, something external and visible; it was not to
be found in obedience to certain clearly-defined laws. Christianity was a matter
of spirit rather than law, something inside people rather than outside. Most
important, the church had room within itself for sinners as well as saints, for
the imperfections of those in whom God's grace was still working as well as for
the holiness of the blessed. Augustine drew the boundary of the church not
between one group of people and another but rather straight through the middle
of the hearts of all those who belonged to it. The visible church contained the
visible Christians, sins and all; the invisible church, whose true home lay in
heaven, held only those who were redeemed. Charity dictated that the visible
church be open to all, not lorded over by a few self-appointed paragons choosing
to admit only their own kind.
In A.D. 410, the city of Rome, with all its glories, was taken
by barbarians under the leadership of the Visigoth Alaric. It is customary to
say that shock waves ran throughout the Roman world at this event, but it is
more correct to say that shock waves ran through those citizens of the Roman
world prosperous enough to care about expensive symbols of Roman grandeur. A
fair number of wealthy Romans fled the city to country estates in Campania, in
Sicily, and in north Africa. Enough of them showed up in Hippo for Augustine to
warn his flock that they should receive the refugees with open arms and charity.
Not long after the refugees settled on their African estates and
began to frequent the salons of Carthage, the more intellectual among them began
to wonder aloud whether their new religion might not be to blame for the
disaster they had suffered. After all, the argument ran, Rome had been immune
from capture for fully eight hundred years; but now, just two decades after the
formal end of public worship of the pagan gods (commanded by the emperor
Theodosius in 391), the city fell to the barbarians. Perhaps it was true what
pagans had said, that the new Christian god with ideas about turning the other
cheek and holding worldly empires in low esteem was not an efficient guardian of
the best interests of the ruling class. Most of the people who indulged in these
idle speculations were themselves Christian. The "paganism" of these people was
no revival of ancient religion, but only the persistence of the ancient notion
of religion as a bargain you struck with the gods in order to preserve your
health, wealth, and complacency.
Augustine was invited by a friend, the imperial commissioner
Marcellinus, who was in Africa to look into the Donatist quarrel for the
emperor, to respond to these charges. He knew that it was more than a question
of why Rome fell; here were Christians who still did not know what Christianity
was about, how it differed from the Roman religions it had replaced. His
response was a masterpiece of Christian apologetics, City of God, whose
composition stretched over fifteen years. The first books, consoling those the
Visigoths had frightened, were published quickly and seem to have done their
job. But the work as a whole continued to come forth in installments, revealing
a broad vision of history and Christianity.
Marcellinus, a devout layman, also played a part in the the last
great controversy of Augustine's life. One of the refugees from Rome had been an
unassuming preacher named Pelagius, who had stirred up a moral rearmament
movement at Rome. Pelagius seems to have appealed particularly to affluent
ladies whom he urged to set an example through works of virtue and ascetic
living. He apparently had a considerable effect for the good on the conduct of
those with whom he came in contact. But Augustine saw in Pelagius and his
followers an extreme position exactly opposite to the one he had just rebuked in
the cultured critics of Christianity, but one no less dangerous. Pelagianism, as
we shall see in more detail later on, was theologically rather similar to
Donatism, in that it assumed that people could, by their own virtue, set
themselves apart as the ones on whom God particularly smiled.
Augustine never met Pelagius, though the latter had passed
through Hippo in late 410. Instead, he had to deal at all times with the
"Pelagians," the most notorious of whom, Caelestius, was apparently a good deal
more tactful and restrained than his teacher had been. While Pelagius went off
to the Holy Land, where he became an unwilling center of controversy as he
visited the sacred sites, Caelestius and others back in Africa waded into the
fray with Augustine. Whatever the merits of the case, Augustine's side prevailed
in the ensuing controversy. The authority of the papacy was invoked
eventually--not without difficulty--and later that of the ecumenical council of
Ephesus in 431. Pelagius and his disciples were clearly and soundly defeated.
But the controversy did not end with the defeat of Pelagius.
Augustine had to face further questions, as the logical consequences of the
positions he took against Pelagius were examined by friend and foe alike. Both
in Africa and in Gaul, monks and their leaders protested that the Augustinian
theology of grace undermined their own ascetic efforts in the cloister. In
Italy, the young bishop of Eclanum, Julian, engaged Augustine in a bitter debate
that tainted the last decade of the old bishop's life. A deep poignancy marks
the old man's dogged defense of himself and his belief against a young,
resourceful, and resilient foe.
Old age and pressing concerns at home eventually delivered
Augustine from the necessity of answering Julian. By 430, a band of barbarians
had found its way even to Africa. The Vandals, who had first come from Germany
into Roman Gaul in 406 and later passed through Gaul into Spain, had been
invited into Africa by a Roman governor in rebellion against the emperor. The
Vandals, like the Saxons later in the same century, proved to be deadly allies.
In the summer of 430 they were besieging the city of Hippo as the aged bishop
lay dying within. Shortly after his death they captured the city. Not long
after, they captured Carthage and established a kingdom that lasted a century.
Photograph: Peter Gorwin
TEXAS COUNTS DOWN TO EXECUTION NO. 300
by Bob Herbert
The war trumps all other issues, so insufficient attention will
be paid to the planned demise of Delma Banks Jr., a 43-year-old man who is
scheduled in about 24 hours to become the 300th person executed in Texas since
the resumption of capital punishment in 1982. Banks, a man with no prior
criminal record, is most likely innocent of the charge that put him on death
row. Fearing a tragic miscarriage of justice, three former federal judges
(including William Sessions, a former director of the FBI) have urged the U.S.
Supreme Court to block Wednesday's execution.
So far, no one seems to be listening.
"The prosecutors in this case concealed important impeachment
material from the defense," said Sessions and the other former judges, John
Gibbons and Timothy Lewis, in an extraordinary friend-of-the-court brief.
Most reasonable people would be highly disturbed to have the
execution of a possibly innocent man on their conscience or their record. But
this is Texas we're talking about, a state that prefers to shoot first and ask
no questions at all. The fact that the accused might be innocent is not
considered sufficient reason to call off his execution.
(One of the most demoralizing developments of the past couple of
years is the fact that George W. Bush has been striving so hard to make all of
the United States more like Texas.)
Delma Banks was convicted and sentenced to death for the murder
of 16-year-old Richard Whitehead, who was shot to death in 1980 in a town called
Nash, not far from Texarkana. There was little chance that this would have been
a capital case if both the accused and the victim had been of the same race. Or
if the accused had been white and the victim black.
But Banks is black and Whitehead was white, and that's the
jackpot combination when it comes to the death penalty. Blacks convicted of
killing whites are the most likely to end up in the execution chamber. In Texas
this principle has been reinforced for years by the ruthless exclusion of jurors
who are black.
Just two weeks ago the Supreme Court handed down a ruling that
criticized courts in Texas for ignoring evidence of racial bias in a death
penalty case. Lawyers in the case noted that up until the mid-1970s prosecutors
in Dallas actually had a manual that said, "Do not take Jews, Negroes, Dagos,
Mexicans or a member of any minority race on a jury, no matter how rich or
The significant evidence against Banks was the testimony of two
hard-core drug addicts. One was a paid informant. The other was a career felon
facing a long prison term who was told that a pending arson charge would be
dismissed if he performed "well" while testifying against Banks.
The prosecution deliberately suppressed information about its
arrangements with these witnesses - information that it was obliged by law to
turn over to the defense.
And prosecutors made sure that all the jurors at Banks' trial
were white. That was routine. Lawyers handling Banks' appeal have shown that
from 1975 through 1980 prosecutors in Bowie County, where Banks was tried,
accepted more than 80 percent of qualified white jurors in felony cases, while
peremptorily removing more than 90 percent of qualified black jurors.
The strongest evidence pointing to Banks' innocence was
physical. He was in Dallas, more than three hours away from Texarkana, when
Whitehead was killed, according to the best estimates of the time of death,
based on the autopsy results.
Prosecutorial misconduct. Racial bias. Drug-addicted informants.
If the authorities walk Banks into the execution chamber on Wednesday, and strap
him to a gurney, and inject the lethal poison into his veins, we will be taking
another Texas-sized step away from a reasonably fair and just society, and back
toward the state-sanctioned barbarism we should be trying to flee.
March 11, 2003
If George W. Bush and his government were serious about mobilizing support for
the coming war against Iraq, they would make every effort to seize the moral
high ground by proving their political system and society to be superior to
others. That they refuse to do so, and that states such as Texas keep on
executing prisoners whose actual or legal guilt is in doubt, or whose crime was
to be of the wrong color, is just another sign of the arrogance that
characterizes the current administration. This strategically unwise behavior
alienates potential allies.
Bert de Bruin, Nesher, Israel
March 13, 2003
Dante's Other View
Photographer: Peter Gorwin
The Iraq debate I
by William Pfaff
THE UN MAY CHECK U.S. POWER
The impending Iraq war has become a watershed event. It will
permanently alter the American relationship to the Islamic Middle East. It has
already provoked serious change in Europe's relations with Washington. It may
have lasting influence on what becomes of American society.
American troops already operate inside Iraq, and President
George W. Bush and his people insist that nothing short of Saddam Hussein's
abdication will now stop them.
Nonetheless, the Turkish Parliament's failure to permit an
attack on Iraq by way of Turkey came as a staggering and unexpected blow to
Even if the Turkish Parliament, under intensified pressure, were
to reverse its decision, an old and important American alliance has broken.
The scale of international demonstrations against the war has
shocked the White House.
No one may have to veto the Anglo-American-Spanish resolution.
It simply will fall short, possibly badly short, of the nine votes needed to
Some in the White House are said to argue that the recent
capture of a senior Al Qaeda figure could be spun so as to shift attention away
from Iraq and back to terrorism, while UN inspections were allowed to continue.
This could save Tony Blair, who was reported on Thursday to want more time for
the inspectors. It could mean wider support when and if the war does come.
But such a backdown before the French, Germans and Russians,
after Washington's six-month buildup to war, and after all that the president
has said, would itself alter the perceived international balance.
Bush, in any case, seems much too committed for anything now to
stop him. Anyway, he doesn't have to go to the United Nations. He claims the
right to go to war without further Security Council action - even if that would
mean too bad for Tony Blair and the president's other foreign allies.
His neo-conservative desk strategists assure him that the
geopolitical consequences of victory in the Middle East and the effect on
American relations with Muslims will be positive. It will promote democracy as
the way to go, while providing an intimidating display of U.S. power.
Pessimists, such as myself, say the consequences will be bad for the Middle
East, for American interests and, in the long term, bad for Israel (as well as
for the Palestinians, as if anyone still cared about the Palestinians).
On past odds, pessimism is where the smart money should go.
Certainly, the trans-Atlantic relationship will not be the same after this. If
the administration's Iraq gamble succeeds, Washington intends to divide Europe
and build a new alliance with Central and Eastern Europe as the base for U.S.
power-projection in the Middle East and Central Asia.
If the gamble fails, there probably will be a general American
fallback toward an embittered version of the anti-internationalist and
America-first policies with which Bush began his term two years ago. A policy
metaphor recently popular in Washington has been that of European Lilliputians
unsuccessfully trying to tie down an American Gulliver. The effort supposedly is
led by politically craven of vainglorious Lilliputian politicians, unwilling to
share the burden of global responsibility, ungrateful, longing for lost national
The recent Washington-inspired campaign against the motivations,
persons and moral character of individual German, French and even Belgian
leaders has been the most vicious in postwar trans-Atlantic relations.
The whole affair nonetheless has served to clarify a number of
things. One is that the Bush administration has, without understanding what it
was doing, created a situation in which the majority of nations see the United
Nations as the only institution that has the possibility of checking American
power and limiting the consequences of American unilateralism.
In the future, shifting coalitions of the willing are likely to
work through the United Nations and other major international institutions, and
use the unprecedented means the Internet provides for mass mobilization
(including inside the United States itself) to counterbalance or contain the
United States on many economic and politico-military issues.
It may also be that America will no longer be entirely free to
set the international agenda. Rogue states, war against terrorism,
anti-proliferation, trade globilization and other American causes may not
automatically dominate international political and media attention.
Washington only now is discovering that its efforts to override
or divide oppositions to what it wants on Iraq have created a coherent
international opposition that before was not there. It has diminished rather
than affirmed its old international leadership.
March 11, 2003
A Window Rock
Photograph: Peter Gorwin
BUSH'S CALL TO WAR IS INCOHERENT
by Maureen Dowd
You might sum up the president's call to war last week as
"Message: I scare." As he rolls up to America's first preemptive invasion,
bouncing from motive to motive, Bush is trying to sound rational, not rash.
Determined not to be petulant, he seemed tranquilized.
But the Xanax cowboy made it clear that Saddam was going to pay
for Sept. 11. Even if the fiendish Iraqi dictator was not involved with Al
Qaeda, he has supported "Al Qaeda-type organizations," as the president fudged.
We Americans are scared of the world now, and the world is
scared of us. (It's really scary to think we are even scaring Russia and China.)
Bush officials believe that making the world more scared of us
is the best way to make us safer and less scared. So they want a spectacular
show of American invincibility to make the wicked and the wayward think twice
before crossing us. Of course, our plan to sack Saddam has not cowed the North
Koreans and Iranians, who are scrambling to get nukes to cow us.
It still confuses many Americans that, in a world full of
vicious slimeballs, we're about to bomb one that didn't attack us on Sept. 11
(like Osama); that isn't intercepting our planes (like North Korea); that isn't
financing Al Qaeda (like Saudi Arabia); that isn't home to Osama and his
lieutenants (like Pakistan); that isn't a host body for terrorists (like Iran,
Lebanon and Syria).
I think the president is genuinely obsessed with protecting
Americans and believes that smoking Saddam will reduce the chances of
terrorist's snatching catastrophic weapons. That is why no cost - shattering
alliances, Tony Blair's career and the U.S. budget - is too high.
Even straining for serenity, Bush sounded rattled at moments:
"My job is to protect America, and that is exactly what I'm going to do."
"I swore to protect and defend the Constitution; that's what I
swore to do. I put my hand on the Bible and took that oath, and that's exactly
what I am going to do."
But citing Sept. 11 eight times in his news conference was exploitative, given
that the administration concedes there is no evidence tying Iraq to the Sept. 11
plot. By stressing that totem, Bush tried to alchemize American anger at Al
Qaeda into support for smashing Saddam.
William Greider writes in The Nation, "As a bogus rallying cry,
'Remember Sept. 11' ranks with 'Remember the Maine' of 1898 for war with Spain
or the Gulf of Tonkin resolution of 1964." A culture more besotted with inane
"reality" TV than scary reality is easily misled. Greider pointed out that in a
New York Times/CBS News survey, 42 percent believe Saddam was personally
responsible for the attack on the World Trade Center and Pentagon, and in an ABC
News Poll, 55 percent believe he gives direct support to Al Qaeda.
The case for war has been incoherent due to the overlapping
reasons that conservatives give for wanting to get Saddam.
The president wants to avenge his father and please his base.
Donald Rumsfeld wants to exorcise the post-Vietnam focus on American
imperfections and limitations. Dick Cheney wants to establish America's primacy
as the sole superpower. Richard Perle wants to liberate Iraq and remove a mortal
threat to Israel. After Desert Storm, Paul Wolfowitz posited that containment is
a relic, and that America must aggressively preempt nuclear threats.
And in 1997, conservatives published a "statement of
principles," signed by Jeb Bush and several future Bush officals. Rejecting 41's
realpolitik and shaping what would become 43's preemption strategy, they
exhorted a "Reaganite policy of military strength and moral clarity," with
America extending its domain by challenging "regimes hostile to our interests
Saddam would be the squealing guinea pig proving America could impose its will
on the world.
With W., conservatives got a Bush who wanted to be a Reagan. With Sept. 11, they
found a new tragedy to breathe life into their old dreams.
March 12, 2003
Photograph: Peter Gorwin
The U.S. and Turkey
by Hakan Altinay
REASSESS THE STRATEGY
When a closely divided Parliament voted this month against allowing the United
States to launch an attack on Iraq from Turkish soil, it stunned this country's
leaders and disappointed American military planners who argue that Turkish
cooperation will mean a shorter war.
It also highlighted how the United States haste to subdue Saddam Hussein is
claiming other victims. The North Atlantic alliance may be one casualty.
Turkey's bid to demonstrate that Islam, democracy and the Western alliance are
compatible may be another, equally important, casualty.
In November, upstart Justice and Development Party won a landslide victory in
parliamentary elections that eliminated most of the political class of the time.
While the bulk of the party's membership has an Islamist lineage, the party has
distanced itself from its religious roots to take a conservative democratic
Immediately after the elections, the party's leader, Recep Tayyip Erdogan,
traveled to European capitals to lobby for putting Turkey on an irreversible
path to join the European Union. Erdogan, despite his Islamist background, was
more energetic in his campaign than his secular predecessors were.
This government's determination to ease restrictions on freedom of expression
and lift the immunity of perpetrators of torture seems stronger than that of any
previous government. Last but not least, it has been working towards a solution
of the Cyprus conflict with unprecedented vigor.
The Justice and Development experiment may prove conclusively that a pious
Muslim worldview is compatible with a first-rate democracy. The course the party
charts is being closely watched in the Muslim world - not least by reformers in
Iran. Few things would encourage peace in the world and support long-term
American interests more than homegrown democracy thriving in the Middle East.
While much rides on the fate of the Justice and Development experiment, the
party itself is still a work in progress. The leadership, Erdogan and Prime
Minister Abdullah Gul, are ahead of the party and pulling it to the center. But
by pressing them to take deeply unpopular positions, the United States runs the
risk of thwarting this invaluable experiment whose results would be in America's
interest. The context in which the Parliament made its decision needs to be
understood. As it met in closed session to deliberate whether to allow in
American troops, 100,000 people were demonstrating against the resolution in the
streets of Ankara.
The realpolitik argument that the United States will wage war with or without
Turkey, so why not join the winning side and get some money in the bargain? -
sounded profoundly immoral.
In short, Washington asked the Justice and Development Party to do something
quite extraordinary, possibly more extraordinary than it may have realized.
Pushing it to open Turkey to American troops could hurt the democratic
experiment in one of several ways: The party may lose its resolve to reposition
itself and go back to its old ways, a permanent rift may emerge in the party, or
worse, demagogues of the right may capitalize on the party's difficult
predicament. The Turkish Parliament's agony should remind the United States what
is at stake and lead it to reassess its strategy.
The writer is director of the Open Society Institute - Turkey.
March 11, 2003
Photograph: Peter Gorwin
The Iraq debate
by William Pfaff
THE REAL ISSUE IS U.S. POWER
The door to war is not yet opened, but the unexpected has already struck. Donald
Rumsfeld's announcement Tuesday that British forces might not take part in the
initial intervention against Iraq suggests that Britain may be out of the
The reason is that the United States and Britain will almost certainly fail to
get a Security Council resolution this week authorizing invasion of Iraq.
Without that, if Tony Blair goes to war he could lose the prime ministership.
Neither event was imaginable in Washington as recently as late February.
President George W. Bush finds himself in a huge international controversy that
he thinks is about policy towards Iraq. Everyone else knows that it is about the
Bush administration, and beyond that, about the future place of the United
States in the international system.
Washington is unwillingly and uncomprehendingly grappling with the possibility
that the United Nations is not irrelevant. Kofi Annan said on Monday that the
United States really does need the legitimacy Security Council approval could
provide. Without it, the United States may have to well and truly go it alone.
Critics are perfectly right to ask why the United Nations, this organization of
governments, few of them democratic, many if them lamentable in their respect
for civil liberties and human rights, should pass judgment on the United States.
The answer is that the United Nations is the only forum where the world's
nations can make any collective judgment on international matters.
The international system rests on the principle of absolute sovereignty of
states, which has nothing to do with the merits or morality of governments. By
trial and error, this has been found the least bad of international diplomatic
and legal systems. The United nations is the agent of this system for exercising
The United States, in the Iraq crisis, is proposing to break the system. This is
what the current crisis is really about. The Bush administration says that
unless the Security Council gives the United States what it wants, America will
ignore the United Nations and from now on do whatever it thinks right. In this,
a different international order is implicitly proposed. The United States making
a claim to the sovereign right to intervene in, disarm, and carry out "regime
change" in other countries, subject to no external restraint. In its national
strategy statement last fall, it stated its intention to maintain overwhelming
global military superiority and take whatever action is necessary to prevent the
emergence of a rival.
The logic in this is open to negative or positive appreciations. The hostile
interpretations are all around us at the moment. The Iraq intervention is said
to be a step towards seizing global engergy control, or hegemonic world economic
and trade domination, or to assure Israel's expansion.
There is even a claim that Bush sees himself acting out prophesies concerning
the Biblical Apocalypse and the Second Coming, as interpreted by certain
marginal American Protestant fundamentalist groups that have his ear.
The positive interpretaion of American intentions, the one made by most
Americans themselves, is that the United States is a responsible nation with
benevolent intentions, and in cooperation with its close democratic allies it
would use its great power to protect democracy and peace.
Iraq is a crisis for the United States because UN members see this prospect of
unchecked American world power being tested. What they have seen is a United
States that insists on its way and no other.
They have seen it unable to provide a rationale for its Iraq policy that can
convince the majority of the democracies, its natural supporters. They have seen
it intemperately denounce those who criticize it, and threaten serious and
damaging material retaliation against the democracies that actively oppose it on
the Iraq issue - France, Germany, Belgium, and Turkey.
They have, in short, seen Washington demand submission, and take steps to obtain
this through force. This, to the rest of the world, is not very reassuring, to
put it mildly.
Unchecked American global power has precipitously lost appeal. From World War II
to the collapse of the Soviet Union, the United States exercised international
leadership with responsible policies and sensitivity to the demands of alliance.
For this reason there has until now been relatively little concern at its
emergence as the world's sole superpower. The United States continued to possess
the confidence of the international community. The Bush administration has
managed in this Iraq affair to undermine, if not destroy the American offer of
benevolent and responsible international hegemony. It has made the United
Nations seem more relevant than ever.
One may add by so doing, it has perhaps done a favor not only to the world but
to the United States itself. I myself am not of the opinion that the values of
the American republic would survive the possession of absolute power.
March 13, 2003
Photograph: Peter Gorwin
by Bob Herbert
THE WAR MAY BE QUICK BUT STILL NOT WISE
Now that U.S. strikes against Iraq have begun, Americans should get rid of one
canard immediately, and that's the notion that criticism of the Bush
administration and opposition to this U.S.-led invasion imply in some sense, a
lack of support or concern for the men and women who are under arms.
The names of too many of my friends are recorded on the wall of the Vietnam
Memorial for me to tolerate that kind of nonsense. I hope that the war goes
well, that American troops prevail quickly and that casualties everywhere are
kept to a minimum.
But the fact that a war may be quick does not mean that it is wise. Against the
wishes of most of the world, we Americans have plunged not just into war, but
toward a peace that is potentially more problematic than the war itself. Are
Americans ready to pay the cost in lives and dollars of a long-term military
occupation of Iraq?
To what end?
Will an occupation of Iraq increase or decrease our security here at home? Do
most Americans understand that even as they are launching one of the most
devastating air assaults in the history of warfare, private companies are lining
up to reap the riches of rebuilding the very structures the United States is in
the process of destroying?
Companies like Halliburton and Schlumberger and the Bechtel Group understand
this conflict a heck of a lot better than most of the men and women who will
fight and die in it, or the armchair patriots who'll be watching on CNN and
cheering them on. It's not unpatriotic to say that there are billions of dollars
to be made in Iraq and that the gold rush is already under way. It's simply a
matter of fact. Back in January, an article in The Wall Street Journal noted:
"With oil reserves second only to Saudi Arabia's, Iraq would offer the oil
industry enormous opportunity, should a war topple Saddam Hussein.
"The early spoils would probably go to companies needed to keep Iraq's already
run-down oil operations running, especially if oil-services firms such as
Halliburton Co., where Vice President Dick Cheney formerly served as chief
executive, and, and Schlumberger Ltd. are seen as favorites for what could be as
much as $1.5 billion in contracts."
There is tremendous unease at the highest levels of the Pentagon about this war
and its aftermath.
The president and his civilian advisers are making a big deal about the
anticipated rejoicing of the liberated populace once the war is over.
Iraq, however, is an inherently unstable place, and while the forces assembled
to chase Saddam from power are superbly trained for combat, the military is not
well prepared for a long-term occupation in the most volatile region in the
world. What's driving this war is President George W. Bush's Manichaean view of
the world and messianic vision of himself, the dangerously grandiose perception
of American power held by his saber-rattling advisers, and the irresistible lure
of Iraq's enormous oil reserves.
Polls show that the public is terribly confused about what's going on , so much
so that some 40 percent believe Saddam Hussein was personally involved in the
Sept. 11 attacks.
That's really scary.
Rather than correct this misconception, the administration has gone out of its
way to reinforce it.
I think the men and women moving militarily against Saddam are among the few
truly brave and even noble individuals left in U.S. society.
They have volunteered for the dangerous duty of defending the rest of the
American people. But I also believe they are being put unnecessarily in harm's
way. As a result of the military buildup, there is hardly a more hobbled leader
on Earth at the moment than Saddam Hussein.
A skillful marshaling of international pressure could have forced him from
power. But then the Bush administration would not have had its war and its
occupuation. It would not have been able to turn Iraq into an American
protectorate, which is as good a term as any for a colony.
Is it a good idea to liberate the people of Iraq from the clutches of a
degenerate like Saddam?
Sure. But there were better, less dangerous ways to go about it.
In the epigraph to his memoir, "Present at the Creation," Dean Acheson quoted a
13th-century king of Spain, Alphonso X, the Learned:
"Had I been present at the creation, I would have given some useful hints for
the better ordering of the universe."
March 21, 2003
Manichaeism, n. the religion founded by Mani (ca. 216 - ca. 276), a Persian who
held that the universe is dually controlled by opposing powers of good and evil,
which had become intermingled in the present age, but at a future time would be
seperated and return to their own realms. Mani's followers were to aid this
seperation by leading an ascetic life. The religion spread widely in Asia and
around the Mediterranean, but died out in the West by the 6th century, although
it was a major religion in the East until the 14th century. It influenced
several early Christian heresies.
Photograph: Peter Gorwin
Bush planned Iraq 'regime change'
before becoming President
By Neil Mackay
A SECRET blueprint for US global domination reveals that President Bush and his
cabinet were planning a premeditated attack on Iraq to secure 'regime change'
even before he took power in January 2001.
The blueprint, uncovered by the Sunday Herald, for the creation
of a 'global Pax Americana' was drawn up for Dick Cheney (now vice-president),
Donald Rumsfeld (defence secretary), Paul Wolfowitz (Rumsfeld's deputy), George
W Bush's younger brother Jeb and Lewis Libby (Cheney's chief of staff). The
document, entitled Rebuilding America's Defences: Strategies, Forces And
Resources For A New Century, was written in September 2000 by the
neo-conservative think-tank Project for the New American Century (PNAC).
The plan shows Bush's cabinet intended to take military control of the Gulf
region whether or not Saddam Hussein was in power. It says: 'The United States
has for decades sought to play a more permanent role in Gulf regional security.
While the unresolved conflict with Iraq provides the immediate justification,
the need for a substantial American force presence in the Gulf transcends the
issue of the regime of Saddam Hussein.'
The PNAC document supports a 'blueprint for maintaining global US pre-eminence,
precluding the rise of a great power rival, and shaping the international
security order in line with American principles and interests'.
This 'American grand strategy' must be advanced for 'as far into the future as
possible', the report says. It also calls for the US to 'fight and decisively
win multiple, simultaneous major theatre wars' as a 'core mission'.
The report describes American armed forces abroad as 'the cavalry on the new
American frontier'. The PNAC blueprint supports an earlier document written by
Wolfowitz and Libby that said the US must 'discourage advanced industrial
nations from challenging our leadership or even aspiring to a larger regional or
A Report of
The Project for the New American Century
ABOUT THE PROJECT FOR THE NEW AMERICAN CENTURY
Established in the spring of 1997, the Project for the New American Century is a
nonprofit, educational organization whose goal is to promote American global
leadership. The Project is an initiative of the New Citizenship Project. William
Kristol is chairman of the Project, and Robert Kagan, Devon Gaffney Cross, Bruce
P. Jackson and John R. Bolton serve as directors. Gary Schmitt is executive
director of the Project.
"As the 20th century draws to a close, the United States stands as the world’s
most preeminent power. Having led the West to victory in the Cold War, America
faces an opportunity and a challenge: Does the United States have the vision to
build upon the achievement of past decades? Does the United States have the
resolve to shape a new century favorable to American principles and interests?
"[What we require is] a military that is strong and ready to
meet both present and future challenges; a foreign policy that boldly and
purposefully promotes American principles abroad; and national leadership that
accepts the United States’ global responsibilities.
"Of course, the United States must be prudent in how it exercises its power. But
we cannot safely avoid the responsibilities of global leadership of the costs
that are associated with its exercise. America has a vital role in maintaining
peace and security in Europe, Asia, and the Middle East. If we shirk our
responsibilities, we invite challenges to our fundamental interests. The history
of the 20th century should have taught us that it is important to shape
circumstances before crises emerge, and to meet threats before they become dire.
The history of the past century should have taught us to embrace the cause of
PROJECT FOR THE NEW AMERICAN CENTURY
1150 Seventeenth Street, N.W., Suite 510, Washington, D.C. 20036
Telephone: (202) 293-4983 / Fax: (202) 293-4572
Photograph: Peter Gorwin
REBUILDING AMERICA’S DEFENSES
Strategy, Forces and Resources for a New Century
The Project for the New American Century was established in the spring of 1997.
>From its inception, the Project has been concerned with the decline in the
strength of America’s defenses, and in the problems this would create for the
exercise of American leadership around the globe and, ultimately, for the
preservation of peace. Our concerns were reinforced by the two
congressionally-mandated defense studies that appeared soon thereafter: the
Pentagon’s Quadrennial Defense Review (May 1997) and the report of the National
Defense Panel (December 1997). Both studies assumed that U.S. defense budgets
would remain flat or continue to shrink. As a result, the defense plans and
recommendations outlined in the two reports were fashioned with such budget
constraints in mind. Broadly speaking, the QDR stressed current military
requirements at the expense of future defense needs, while the NDP’s report
emphasized future needs by underestimating today’s defense responsibilities.
Although the QDR and the report of the NDP proposed different policies, they
shared one underlying feature: the gap between resources and strategy should be
resolved not by increasing resources but by shortchanging strategy. America’s
armed forces, it seemed, could either prepare for the future by retreating from
its role as the essential defender of today’s global security order, or it could
take care of current business but be unprepared for tomorrow’s threats and
Either alternative seemed to us shortsighted. The United States is the world’s
only superpower, combining preeminent military power, global technological
leadership, and the world’s largest economy. Moreover, America stands at the
head of a system of alliances which includes the world’s other leading
democratic powers. At present the United States faces no global rival. America’s
grand strategy should aim to preserve and extend this advantageous position as
far into the future as possible. There are, however, potentially powerful states
dissatisfied with the current situation and eager to change it, if they can, in
directions that endanger the relatively peaceful, prosperous and free condition
the world enjoys today. Up to now, they have been deterred from doing so by the
capability and global presence of American military power. But, as that power
declines, relatively and absolutely, the happy conditions that follow from it
will be inevitably undermined.
At present the United States faces no global rival. America’s grand strategy
should aim to preserve and extend this advantageous position as far into the
future as possible.
Preserving the desirable strategic situation in which the United States now
finds itself requires a globally preeminent military capability both today and
in the future. But years of cuts in defense spending have eroded the American
military’s combat readiness, and put in jeopardy the Pentagon’s plans for
maintaining military superiority in the years ahead. Increasingly, the U.S.
military has found itself undermanned, inadequately equipped and trained,
straining to handle contingency operations, and ill-prepared to adapt itself to
the revolution in military affairs. Without a well-conceived defense policy and
an appropriate increase in defense spending, the United States has been letting
its ability to take full advantage of the remarkable strategic opportunity at
hand slip away.
With this in mind, we began a project in the spring of 1998 to examine the
country’s defense plans and resource requirements. We started from the premise
that U.S. military capabilities should be sufficient to support an American
grand strategy committed to building upon this unprecedented opportunity. We did
not accept pre-ordained constraints that followed from assumptions about what
the country might or might not be willing to expend on its defenses.
In broad terms, we saw the project as building upon the defense strategy
outlined by the Cheney Defense Department in the waning days of the Bush
Administration. The Defense Policy Guidance (DPG) drafted in the early months of
1992 provided a blueprint for maintaining U.S. preeminence, precluding the rise
of a great power rival, and shaping the international security order in line
with American principles and interests. Leaked before it had been formally
approved, the document was criticized as an effort by "cold warriors" to keep
defense spending high and cuts in forces small despite the collapse of the
Soviet Union; not surprisingly, it was subsequently buried by the new
Although the experience of the past eight years has modified our understanding
of particular military requirements for carrying out such a strategy, the basic
tenets of the DPG, in our judgment, remain sound. And what Secretary Cheney said
at the time in response to the DPG’s critics remains true today: "We can either
sustain the [armed] forces we require and remain in a position to help shape
things for the better, or we can throw that advantage away. [But] that would
only hasten the day when we face greater threats, at higher costs and further
risk to American lives." The project proceeded by holding a series of seminars.
We asked outstanding defense specialists to write papers to explore a variety of
topics: the future missions and requirements of the individual military
services, the role of the reserves, nuclear strategic doctrine and missile
defenses, the defense budget and prospects for military modernization, the state
(training and readiness) of today’s forces, the revolution in military affairs,
and defense-planning for theater wars, small wars and constabulary operations.
The papers were circulated to a group of participants, chosen for their
experience and judgment in defense affairs. (The list of participants may be
found at the end of this report.) Each paper then became the basis for
discussion and debate. Our goal was to use the papers to assist deliberation, to
generate and test ideas, and to assist us in developing our final report. While
each paper took as its starting point a shared strategic point of view, we made
no attempt to dictate the views or direction of the individual papers. We wanted
as full and as diverse a discussion as possible.
Our report borrows heavily from those deliberations. But we did not ask seminar
participants to "sign-off" on the final report. We wanted frank discussions and
we sought to avoid the pitfalls of trying to produce a consensual but bland
product. We wanted to try to define and describe a defense strategy that is
honest, thoughtful, bold, internally consistent and clear. And we wanted to
spark a serious and informed discussion, the essential first step for reaching
sound conclusions and for gaining public support.
New circumstances make us think that the report might have a more receptive
audience now than in recent years. For the first time since the late 1960s the
federal government is running a surplus. For most of the 1990s, Congress and the
White House gave balancing the federal budget a higher priority than funding
national security. In fact, to a significant degree, the budget was balanced by
a combination of increased tax revenues and cuts in defense spending. The
surplus expected in federal revenues over the next decade, however, removes any
need to hold defense spending to some preconceived low level.
Moreover, the American public and its elected representatives have become
increasingly aware of the declining state of the U.S. military. News stories,
Pentagon reports, congressional testimony and anecdotal accounts from members of
the armed services paint a disturbing picture of an American military that is
troubled by poor enlistment and retention rates, shoddy housing, a shortage of
spare parts and weapons, and diminishing combat readiness.
Finally, this report comes after a decade’s worth of experience in dealing with
the post-Cold War world. Previous efforts to fashion a defense strategy that
would make sense for today’s security environment were forced to work from many
untested assumptions about the nature of a world without a superpower rival. We
have a much better idea today of what our responsibilities are, what the threats
to us might be in this new security environment, and what it will take to secure
the relative peace and stability. We believe our report reflects and benefits
from that decade’s worth of experience.
Our report is published in a presidential election year. The new administration
will need to produce a second Quadrennial Defense Review shortly after it takes
office. We hope that the Project’s report will be useful as a road map for the
nation’s immediate and future defense plans. We believe we have set forth a
defense program that is justified by the evidence, rests on an honest
examination of the problems and possibilities, and does not flinch from facing
the true cost of security. We hope it will inspire careful consideration and
serious discussion. The post-Cold War world will not remain a relatively
peaceful place if we continue to neglect foreign and defense matters. But
serious attention, careful thought, and the willingness to devote adequate
resources to maintaining America’s military strength can make the world safer
and American strategic interests more secure now and in the future.
Donald Kagan, Gary Schmitt - Project Co-Chairmen, Thomas
Donnelly - Principal Author
Photograph: Peter Gorwin
Peter Gorwin - Artist
by Gunter Grass
The Moral Decline Of A Superpower
A war long sought and planned is now under way. All deliberations and warnings
of the United Nations notwithstanding, an overpowering military apparatus has
attacked preemtively in violation of international law. No objections were
heeded. The Security Council was disdained and scorned as irrelevant. As the
bombs fall and the battle for Baghdad continues, the law of might prevails.
Based on this injustice, the mighty have the power to buy and reward those who
might be willing and to disdain and even punish the unwilling. The words of the
current American president -- "Those who are not with us are against us" --
weigh on current events with the resonance of barbaric times.
It is hardly surprising that the rhetoric of the aggressor increasingly
resembles that of his enemy. Religious fundamentalism leads both sides to abuse
what belongs to all religions, taking the notion of God hostage in accordance
with their own fanatical understanding. Even the passionate warnings of the
Pope, who knows how lasting and devastating the disasters wrought by the
mentality and actions of Christian crusaders have been, were unsuccessful.
Disturbed and powerless, but also filled with anger, we are witnessing the moral
decline of the world's only superpower, burdened by the knowledge that only one
consequence of this organized madness is certain: Motivation for more terrorism
is being provided, for more violence and counterviolence. Is this really the
United States of America, the country we fondly remember? The generous
benefactor of the Marshall Plan? The forbearing instructor in the lessons of
democracy? The candid self-critic? The country that once made use of the
teachings of the European Enlightenment to throw off its colonial masters and to
provide itself with an exemplary constitution? Is this the country that made
freedom of speech an incontrovertible human right?
It is not just foreigners who cringe as this ideal pales to the point where it
is now a caricature of itself. There are many Americans who love their country
too, people who are horrified by the betrayal of their founding values and by
the hubris of those holding the power. I stand with them. By their side, I
declare myself pro-American. I protest with them against the brutalities brought
about by the injustice of the mighty, against all restrictions of the freedom of
expression, against information control reminiscent of the practices of
totalitarian states and against the cynical equations that make the deaths of so
many innocents acceptable, so long as economic and political interests are
No, it is not anti-Americanism that is damaging the image of the United States;
nor do the dictator Saddam Hussein and his extensively disarmed country endanger
the most powerful country in the world. It is President bush and his government
that are diminishing democratic values, bringing sure disaster to their own
country, ignoring the United Nations, and that are now terrifying the world with
a war in violation of international law.
We Germans are often asked if we are proud of our country. To answer this
question has always been a burden. There were reasons for our doubts. But now I
can say that the rejection of this preemtive war by a majority in my country has
made me proud of Germany. After having been largely responsible for two world
wars and their criminal consequences, we have made a difficult step. We seem to
have learned from history.
The Federal Republic of Germany has been a sovereign country since 1990. Our
government made use of this sovereignty by having the courage to protect Germany
from a step back to a kind of adolescent behavior. I thank Chancelor Gerhard
Schroeder and his foreign minister, Joschka Fischer, for their fortitude in
spite of all the attacks and accusations.
Many people find themselves in a state of despair these days, and with good
reason. Yet we must not let our voices, or No to war and Yes to peace, be
silenced. What has happened? The stone that we pushed to the peak is once again
at the foot of the mountain. But we must push it back up, even with the
knowledge that we can expect it to roll back down again.
Gunter Grass was awarded the 1999 Nobel Prize for literature.
This comment was translated from German by Daniel Slager. April 10, 2003
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