Berlin
May 8-11
Klick Filmtheater
Windscheidstr. 19
10627 Berlin

Düsseldorf
May 22-25
Black Box Kino im Filmmuseum
Schulstr. 4
40213 Düsseldorf

Ljubljana/Slovenia
June 11-15
Kino Vic
Trg MDB 4
1000 Ljubljana

 

XVIII. Black International Cinema 2003
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XVIII. Black International Cinema 2003
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Original Fountainhead Tanz Theatre Logo, ca. 1980
Design by Prof. Gayle McKinney Griffith


 

Photograph: Peter Gorwin
Barrels
Photograph: Peter Gorwin

 

 

XIV. Black International Cinema Berlin

 

PROSE & POETRY

Be All That You Can Be - by Earl Ofari

Blasting Open A Color Chasm - by Sunanda Datta-Ray

Venezuelan Equation - Democracy + Markets = Ethnic Trouble - by Amy Chua

Bush's White Supremacy Agenda - Deborah Mathis

XVIII.
Black International Cinema 2003 Foreword
THE OASIS
by Fountainhead® Tanz Theatre

Woods Shouldn't Carry Load Alone - by Michael Wilbon

College Basketball - Poor Grades For Most Of The Sweet 16 - by Frank Litsky

Axis Of Evil - In Washington, D.C. - by Edward Herman

Augustine the African - by James J. O'Donnell

Texas Counts Down To Execusion No. 300 - by Bob Herbert

Letters To The Editor - International Herald Tribune - by Bert de Bruin

The Iraq Debate I - The UN May Check U.S. Power - by William Pfaff

Bush's Call To War Is Incoherent - by Maureen Dowd

The U.S. and Turkey - Reassess The Strategy - by Hakan Altinay

The Iraq Depate - The Real Issue is U.S. Power - by William Pfaff

American Power - The War May Be Quick But Still Not Wise - by Bob Herbert

 

 


 

"BE ALL THAT YOU CAN BE"

 

published by

THE BLACK SCHOLAR - Black Cinema

Journal of Black Studies and Research

March-April-May-1990

There’s a small manufacturing firm in Missouri that isn’t worried much about the current recession. Lately, this company has managed to do quite well. They make one product which is in hot demand. The product is body bags. In the past few months the firm has been among the companies that have supplied the Pentagon with more than 50,000 bags for use in the Persian Gulf.

The bags are not a frill item. They will be filled with the bodies of American troops. American military strategists have virtually guaranteed that many of those bodies will be black soldiers. According to the Department of Defense, blacks comprise 29.8 percent of the soldiers and 21.3 percent of the sailors in the Gulf. Black women make up an estimated 44 percent of all female military personnel there. Hispanics. Asians, and working class whites round out the rest of the forces of Operation Desert Shield.

The 120,000 black troops in the Gulf represent the highest number of blacks ever involved in a single American military campaign. When they hit the beaches, they will confront an Iraqi army that is well trained and equipped with arms courtesy of European and American weapons producers.

Their blood in the sands of Iraq and Kuwait will nourish George Bush’s "New World Order," keep the world safe for oil and return to power a regime that Amnesty International labeled "repressive." To say this is not to support Saddam Hussein or his brand of naked aggression. It is only to say that when the shooting does start, as in Vietnam, there will undoubtedly be some black troops who will wonder why they are killing Iraqis who never called them "nigger."

So why are so many black troops there? For the last few years, African-American youth were a steady diet of government promises to: BE ALL THAT YOU CAN BE. JOIN THE ARMY. They bought it because many were desperate. A decade of Reagan-Bush social and economic policies had made them virtual economic untouchables. Lacking professional training, education and competitive technical skills, the unemployment and drop-out rates of black youth had soared to astronomic heights.

They enlisted to escape the mean streets of gangs, drugs and violence. They enlisted because the Army seemed to offer them a last chance for a decent education and job training. They did not enlist to fight and die on a murky battlefield thousands of miles away in a country that few Americans had ever heard of, let alone could find on a map. They should not be blamed for being in the Persian Gulf. They are victims too. They are involuntary volunteers-poverty draftees-who now have no choice but to follow orders.

There is an even greater tragedy in their call to arms. Their deaths will not serve the same noble purpose as that of African-Americans who fought and died in America’s past wars.

During the Civil War blacks agreed with Frederick Douglass that they should "smite with death the power that would bury the government and your liberty in the same hopeless grave." The fight was for emancipation and freedom. They knew that their deaths would have meaning for the generations to come.

During World War I, despite vicious lynchings and segregation, blacks agreed with W.E.B. DuBois that they should fight for democracy in Europe and then "return fighting to save the same Democracy in the United States." They supported the war because they were determined to make a racist nation recognize their right to dignity and justice.

During World War II, blacks felt a similar sense for duty. Even though their foes were people of color struggling for self-determination, blacks clung tightly to the dream that fighting these wars would make things better at home.

This time none of those rationales can be used. Black blood will be spilled for reasons that have nothing to do with freedom and justice. The winners in the Gulf will be:

Bush’s New World Order. This means that a small clique of Japanese, European and American bankers, industrialists, and oil magnates will tighten their control over the resources and labor of the Third World nations. They will not tolerate any interference with their profits, power or dominance. Since oil is the key resource, they are prepared to bomb Iraq into oblivion to make the point. The U.S. will wipe off its tarnished badge and reclaim its post as the world’s policeman.

The Royal families of Kuwait and Saudi Arabia. Other than Bush, few make the pretense that the Emir of Kuwait and the Sabah family ever had a democratic government in Kuwait. They ran the country like a semi-feudalistic fiefdom. Women were denied democratic rights, 1.2 million Palestinian laborers were denied citizenship and voting rights and the nation’s parliament was dissolved on a whim. By supplying cheap oil, and hoarding more than an estimated $50 billion in personal wealth, the family became a loyal junior partner of American, European and Japanese bankers.

The same applies to the Saudis. The country is a religious theocracy where women and the poor have few democratic rights. The Saudi’s rulers are content to swap their national sovereignty for U.S. protection and the elimination of Iraq as an obstacle to their continued junior partnership of profit and wealth with the U.S..

The defense industry. With communism no longer the universal bogeyman, the defense industry desperately needed new enemies to keep the billions coming for arms manufacture and technical research contracts. Hussein was it. With war, the demand for new and replacement weapons will be greater and so will the industry’s profits.

Meanwhile, as black troops fight in the Middle East, the free-fall of blacks on the home front will continue. In 1991, this is what African-Americans will face:

  • A conservative majority on the Supreme Court whose hit list includes: eliminating affirmative action, busing and "reverse discrimination" civil rights laws.
  • Escalating unemployment and job benefit cuts as the nation sinks lower into a recession.
  • More assaults on job and social programs as the debt ridden Bush administration wields its budget cutting scalpel even deeper to pay for the quagmire of war.
  • Continuing gang and drug related violence as unemployment climbs among black youth.
  • Increased racist attacks and police harassment of blacks in inner cities. And "integrated" neighborhoods.
  • Higher numbers of blacks in prisons and jails.
  • More segregated, poorly staffed and underfunded school districts.
  • The bitterest pill of all: A disproportionate number of young blacks killed and maimed when America sends the troops to Iraq.

Our job at home is to demand that black lives not be traded to preserve oil wealth, corrupt regimes or a "New World Order." Our job is to make sure that no American troops fill those body bags. Our job is to demand that they be brought home now.

The words of Malcolm X on America tell us why, "Everywhere you look people get their freedom faster than we do. they get more respect and recognition than we do. We’d get promises but we never get the real thing."

The words of Martin Luther King on Vietnam tell us why, "I speak for those whose land is being laid to waste, whose homes are being destroyed, whose culture is being subverted. I speak for the poor of America who are paying the double price of smashed hopes at home and death abroad. The great initiative is ours. The initiative to stop it must be ours."

We do not want to see the flower of black youth slaughtered in yet another futile war on a distant shore. The true battle is for economic and social justice in America. To win this war, we will need the talents and energies of those young men and women right here.

by Earl Ofari

From Ofari’s Bi-Monthly

P.O. Box 2368 / Inglewood, CA 90305

 

A soldier bids farewell to his family, 1942
A soldier bids farewell to his family, 1942
Photograph: Morgan & Marvin Smith

 

THE CHILDREN OF ABRAHAM
The fire next time
or
A dialogue between civilizations
or...

 

Blasting open a color chasm

by Sunanda Datta-Ray

Singapore
The bombing of Bali´s Sari club, whose threshold locals could not cross unless invited or escorted by foreigners (read whites), strengthens my foreboding that Samual Huntington was wrong. If ever there is a global clash, it will be not of religion but of race. A friend back home in Calcutta says that to be born colored is like drawing a consolation prize in the lottery of life. He fancies himself a connoisseur of European food and wine, flies first class on his frequent trips to the West and stays in the smartest hotels. But would the Sari club have let him in?

Calcutta´s stately Bengal Club needed a tongue-lashing from Prince Philip, the husband of Britain´s Queen, to throw open its portals to Indians. The legend "Natives and Dogs Not Allowed" was seared into the nationalist psyche from Shanghai to Johannesburg, provoking a Bombay hotelier to forbid dogs and South Africans in his bar. This is not just bitter colonial memory. To speak of color is impolite, and there was an embarrassed silence when, visiting Britain recently, I mentioned the color bar. "We don´t use that term nowadays," one of my English companions said eventually. But what has been banished only at the superficial level could have awesome public repercussions.

Formerly, a British boarding house landlady might have made excuses to turn away a Pakistani student; now, American air marshals, police officers and immigration officials are accused of racial profiling. When the shock wears off, people might consider the brutal fact that those who plotted the Bali carnage were driven by xenophobia. Complaints of discrimination against local victims in favor of foreign victims reinforce my fears that the bombing was an early skirmish in the battle of the future.

Already, organizations as far apart as the International Cricket Council and the UN General Assembly often split along race lines. It is a complex problem. Indians, for example, identify colonialism only with conflicts of color. This blind spot explained why India would not condemn Saddam Hussein when he gobbled up Kuwait. It might have been a different matter if Saddam had been white. Even Arabs might have deplored Palestinian suicide bombers if Israel had been ruled by, say, Asian Sephardic Jews instead of European Ashkenazis.

Everyone likes to believe that government decisions are founded on dispassionate assessments of the national interest leavened by ethics. But those who lead governments are flesh and blood, and cannot but fall back on personal and group experience. Mounting immigration pressure - with Europe, the United States and Australia under siege by many Asians, legal and otherwise - exposes the great divide even more poignantly.

Would Canberra have been as unsympathetic if flaxen-haired Balts instead of Iraqis and Afghans had sought asylum? India´s first prime minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, often reflected on a global pecking order dominated by white Anglo-Saxon Protestants. Latins followed and then, after a long gap, brown and yellow Asians. Africans brought up the rear. If conflict along such fault lines does not materialize, it will be partly because of economic and political dependence, partly because of disunity in the colored camp, and partly because Asians and Africans, like the Japanese, want to be "honorary whites." But resentment continues to simmer, presenting a challenge to people of goodwill on both sides of the fence.

The writer, a senior fellow at the School of Communication and Information, Nanyang Technological University, singapore, is author of "Waiting for America: India and the U.S. in the New Millennium." Oct. 29, 2002

The beginning of the end...?

 

Photo by Marion Kramer
Wolfgang Brechlin & Prof. Donald Muldrow Griffith

Prof. Donald Muldrow Griffith was an invited panelist to discuss, Distribution & Festival Planning during the Global African Diaspora Cinema Symposium 2002 in Salvador/Bahia, Brazil.
The invitation was extended by the City of Los Angeles, U.S.A. Department of Cultural Heritage and the African Marketplace Inc., U.S.A.
The Symposium occurred December 6-12, 2002 in conjunction with the Cultural Marcado Pan African Film Festival.

Prof. Donald Muldrow Griffith
Prof. Donald Muldrow Griffith
co-founder/director:
Fountainhead Tanz Theatre/Black International Cinema/
The Collegium - Forum & Television Program Berlin/
Cultural Zephyr e.V.

Prof. Donald Muldrow Griffith war geladener Teilnehmer der Podiumsdiskussion mit dem Thema Distribution und Festivalplanung während des Global African Diaspora Cinema Symposium 2002 in Salvador/Bahia, Brasilien.
Die Einladung erfolgte von der Stadt Los Angeles, U.S.A., Department für Kulturelles Erbe, und der African Marketplace Inc., U.S.A..
Das Symposium fand statt vom 6.-12. Dezember, 2002, in Verbindung mit dem Cultural Marcado Pan African Film Festival.

 

The Collegium Television Program

Production & Direction: Berlin/Germany
Additional telecasts: Magdeburg, Trier, Kaiserslautern & Wolfsburg/Germany

Prof. Donald Muldrow Griffith
The Collegium Television Program Berlin/Germany
Producer/Director/Moderator: Prof. Donald Muldrow Griffith

The Collegium Television Program Berlin/Germany
The Collegium Television Program Berlin/Germany
Visiting Delegation: Chicago/Illinois, U.S.A. & Production Staff


The Collegium Television Program Berlin/Germany
from left: Patricia Martin, Tyson Price, Prof. Donald Muldrow Griffith
Dr. Willie Mack and Dr. John Long

Photo by Marion Kramer
Angela Kramer
production co-ordination:
Fountainhead Tanz Theatre/Black International Cinema
The Collegium - Forum & Television Program Berlin/
Cultural Zephyr e.V.

 

Venezuelan equation

By Amy Chua

DEMOCRACY + MARKETS = ETHNIC TROUBLE

New Haven, Connecticut
A general strike in Venezuela has contributed to a rise in oil prices in the last month. The strike, which began on Dec. 2, has caused a drastic decline in oil production. It was initiated not by left-wing labor unions but by Venezuela's wealthy business elite. Underlying this crisis is a central paradox of globalization, and of U.S. foreign policy: The combination of laissez-faire capitalism and free elections can create political and economic instability. Hugo Chávez was democratically elected president in 1998 by a landslide, a result reconfirmed in a vote in 2000. Since taking office he has presided over an increasingly chaotic economy – a chaos not always of his own making. The current strikes are largely the work of business interests intensely opposed to Chávez because of his threats of nationalization and his attempts to seize control of the oil sector. There is also an ethnic dimension. Along with roughly 80 percent of Venezuela's population, Chávez is a pardo, a term with class and ethnic overtones that refers loosely to brown-skinned people of Amerindian or African ancestry. Venezuela's economy has always been controlled by a tiny minority of cosmopolitan whites, or mantuanos, the Venezuelan term for persons with European features and pretensions. Not surprisingly, foreign investors deal almost exclusively with members of the well-educated, English-speaking mantuano class. Venezuela's problems are part of a global phenomenon of market-dominant ethnic minorities which, for widely varying reasons, tend under market conditions to dominate economically the indigenous majorities around them. Chinese in Indonesia, whites in Zimbabwe and Indians in Kenza are other examples. Market-dominant minorities are the Achilles' heel of free market democracy. In countries with a market-dominant minority, markets and democracy favor not just different people, or different classes, but different ethnic groups. Markets, even if marginally lifting all boats, concentrate wealth in the hand of market-dominant minority, while democracy increases the political power of the impoverished majority. This the pursuit of free market democracy often becomes an engine of ethnic nationalism, pitting of frustrated majority, easily aroused by demagogic politicians, against a resented ethnic minority. This confrontation is playing out in Venezuela today. In 1998, Chávez swept to electoral victory by attacking Venezuela's "rotten" white elites and arousing into impassioned political consciousness Venezuela's impoverished pardos. After taking power, he disbanded the "worm-eaten" mantuano-dominated Congress and Supreme Court. A coup against Chávez last April was a classic effort by a market-dominant minority to retaliate against a democratically elected, blundering government threatening its wealth and power. The interim president, Pedro Carmona Estanga, was a wealthy white businessman. To the dismay of U.S. Government, which initially hailed the coup as a victory for democracy, the high-handed actions of the Carmona regime, combined with Chávez's still strong support among the poor majority, returned Chávez to power. If the United States genuinely supports democracy in developing countries, it cannot endorse coups, even pro-capitalist ones, against democratically elected presidents. And if global markets are to be sustainable, ways must be found to spread benefits beyond a handful of market-dominant minorities and their foreign investor partners. Otherwise, markets and democracy will continue to clash, exacerbating ethnic conflict throughout the world.

The writer, a professor of law at Yale, is author of "World on Fire: How Exporting Free Market Democracy Breeds Ethnic Hatred and Global Instability."

 

Bush's White Supremacy Agenda

By Deborah Mathis

Deborah Mathis

You can’t accuse George W. Bush of not being confident. His many critics around the world call it arrogance, which of course it is. But it is Bush’s confidence that gave birth to his arrogance. The question therefore, is what makes him so confident? How can a mediocre student, gadfly businessman and former governor of a state where executive prerogative is subordinate to legislative power – moreover, a man who showed no familiarity with nor curiosity about the rest of the world – how could this guy muster the self-assurance to pick a fight with another nation, shrug off millions of protesters worldwide, thumb his nose at global conventions and treaties, and march his country’s young to the hell of war? The answer, is white supremacy.

Now, this is not to be confused with white separatism and mere racism. That’s for the desperate, the threatened and the powerless. The white supremacist doesn’t have to take to the hills in quasi-military encampments, wallowing in a sty of hatred and spite. No, he may remain cool and collected – confident to the point of arrogance – because if he can’t get folks to do what he wants by mere command, he can always outwit or overpower them, thanks to his presumptuously superior everything.

It was white supremacy that fueled European colonialism and the agreements among Europe’s imperialists to carve up Africa and the Middle East and to claim slices of Asia.

It’s white supremacy that allows defenders to this day to even think, let alone to utter, the preposterous claim that, ultimately, the slave trade rescued black people from the mire that was Africa.

As a supremacist, George W. Bush has no particular fondness for the seething, frothy, invective-slinging separatist or mere racist who stir the nest conspicuously. After all, he has found black people useful, as in his appointments of Condoleezza Rice, the “yes” woman of the Bush White House, and the pathetically effete Rod Paige who, on those rare occasions when he does pipe up, leaves the impression that, if corrected, his title would be secretary of miseducation.

Colin Powell, Bush has found, has been less reliable since the first black secretary of state actually challenges the president from time to time although Powell’s objections are invariably patronized, chastised or dismissed.

Bush’s black operatives buffer criticism that the country has been handed over to white men who are looking out only for themselves and folks like them. They help create an illusion of inclusiveness.

But there is no mistaking Bush’s affinity for men who, like him, believe their interests and ideas are more important and valuable than anyone else’s .The administration’s big boys -- Cheney, Rumsfeld, Ashcroft, et al – all came from a world impervious to civil rights, women’s rights and labor rights.

These are let-them-eat-cake men with little patience for the hoi polloi who, in their view, came out on the losing end of natural selection. In their old world thinking, “diversity” was a term related to stock portfolios and “multiculturalism” denoted a mixture of art, music and literature. In their current contexts , the terms are nuisances to the “Bushies.”

Bush’s supremacist complex was evident from the start. He emerged as the consummate supremacist. The convoluted and stubborn path he took to the Oval Office – a road through, of all places, the U.S. Supreme Court -- showed he not only believed he was entitled to the office, but that his control of the world’s richest and most powerful nation was manifest destiny. Since he took office, his supremacist tendencies have made him appear nationalist, elitist, and, yes, racist.

They showed up in the position he took on the University of Michigan affirmative action case.
They showed up in his snub of the U.N.-sponsored international conference racism.
They showed up on his refusal to back the Kyoto treaty on environmental protections.
And they showed up, in full bloom, in the global debate leading up to the war in Iraq – a war that much of the world was at least skeptical of, if not downright opposed to. A war that is getting uglier and more awful by the hour. A war whose timing and tactics Bush has yet to justify.

But then, that’s the beauty of white supremacy. It shields you from the inconveniences of democracy, which is anathema to begin with. You don’t have to justify your actions because the folks who really matter – the ones similarly afflicted with entitlement, self-righteousness and certitude – they already get it.

They know this is about having it their way. In their world, that’s all that counts.

Deborah Mathis is a nationally syndicated columnist and former White House correspondent for the Gannett News Service. She is the author of two books, Yet A Stranger: Why Black Americans Still Don't Feel at Home and Sole Sister: The Joys and Pain of Single Black Women.

 

Photograph: Peter Gorwin
Lake Reflection
Photograph: Peter Gorwin

 

A PRAYER FOR AFRICA'S CHILDREN (1808)
Peter Williams, Jr.

Oh, God! we thank thee,
that thou didst condenscend
to listen to the cries of Africa's wretched sons;
and that you didst interfere in their behalf.
At thy call humanity sprang forth,
and espoused the cause of the oppressed:
one hand she employed in drawing from
their vitals the deadly arrows of injustice;
and the other in holding a shield
to defend them from fresh assaults:
and at that illustrious moment, when the sons of '76
pronounced these United States free and independent;
when the spirit of patriotism erected a temple sacred to liberty;
when the inspired voice of Americans first uttered those noble sentiments,
"we hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal;
that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights;
among which are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness";
and when the bleeding African, lifting his fetters, exclaimed,
"am I not a man and a brother"; then with redoubled efforts,
the angel of humanity strove to restore to the African race the inherent rights of man.

Peter Williams, Jr. (c. 1780-1840),
one of the earliest African American Episcopal clergymen and an antislavery activist.

 


Production Staff:
Fountainhead Tanz Theatre/Black International Cinema/The Collegium-Forum & Television Program
from left: Khadija Tarjan McKinney Griffith, Marion Kramer, Harry Louiserre
Anthony J. Phillips, Ulrike Roth
Guest: Davis O. Nejo/President: Cross Cultural Communication Vienna/Austria

Production & Direction

Fountainhead® Tanz Theatre

in association with

Cultural Zephyr e.V. / The Collegium – Forum & Television Program

presents the

XVIII.

Black International Cinema Berlin

2003

in association with
Pan African Film Festival
Salvador/Bahia, Brazil

 

a.k.a.

 

Foreword

XVIII.
Black International Cinema 2003

Photograph: Peter Gorwin
Santa Fe
Photograph: Peter Gorwin

 

THE OASIS
by
Fountainhead® Tanz Theatre

The Oasis is a real or imagined place of refuge from strife,

stress, hopelessness, visionlessness and fatigue.

People need an atmosphere and environment of emotional,

visual and auditory respite, leading to intense satisfaction.

Fortunately, even though the heights of pleasure are finite,

memory preserves all or most of the experience.

The intensity of anticipation grows until the moment of culmination,

then finally the goal is reached, contact and involvement within The Oasis.

The Oasis contains sounds, smells, tastes and sights,

which are wonderful to experience, enjoyable to be a part of and associated with;

a perspective and setting leading the individual and group to feel at home, within The Oasis.

The construction of The Oasis requires years. Whether by nature, nurture

or a combination of both, the progress towards The Oasis is gradual,

but determinedly and increasingly successful and rewarding.

Once the setting is reached, the seekers may rest, relax and absorb the thoughts,

emotions, discussions and visual delights of The Oasis.

The pleasures and rewards of The Oasis are there to be shared with one and all, during the

XVIII. Black International Cinema
Berlin/Düsseldorf/Vienna/Ljubljana
Germany/Austria/Slovenia 2003.

We await you and everyone is welcome!

 

 

BELOVED
BELOVED - Prof. Gayle McKinney Griffith & Roman Brooks
Prof. Gayle McKinney Griffith and Roman Brooks

 

 

Vorwort

XVIII.
Black International Cinema 2003

DIE OASE
von
Fountainhead® Tanz Theatre

Die Oase ist ein realer oder imaginärer Zufluchtsort

vor Unmut, Stress, Hoffnungslosigkeit, Visionslosigkeit und Müdigkeit.

Die Menschen brauchen eine Atmosphäre, in der Ihre Emotionen

und visuellen und auditiven Sinne ruhen können,

auf dem Weg zu intensiver Zufriedenheit.

Glücklicherweise, auch wenn die Höhen der Freude begrenzt sind,

bleiben in der Erinnerung alle oder die meisten Erfahrungen bewahrt.

Die Intensität der Erwartung wächst bis zu dem Moment

des Höhepunkts, dann endlich ist das Ziel erreicht,

Kontakt mit und Beteiligung an der Oase.

Die Oase enthält Geräusche, Gerüche, Geschmäcker

und Sehenswürdigkeiten, die wundervoll zu erfahren sind,

und man freut sich an ihnen teilzunehmen und mit ihnen in Verbindung zu stehen;

eine Sichtweise und Umgebung, die den Einzelnen oder der Gruppe

ein geborgenes Gefühl vermittelt, innerhalb der Oase.

Die Erschaffung der Oase bedarf Jahre. Ob es natürlich,

durch hegen und pflegen oder durch eine Kombination beider geschieht,

der Fortschritt, der zur Oase führt, ist graduell aber entschieden

und zunehmend erfolgreich und belohnend.

Sobald der Ort des Geschehens erreicht ist, darf der Suchende sich ausruhen,

entspannen und die Gedanken, Emotionen, Diskussionen und

visuellen Köstlichkeiten der Oase aufnehmen.

Die Freuden und Belohnungen der Oase sind da, um sie mit allen zu teilen während des

XVIII. Black International Cinema
Berlin/Düsseldorf/Vienna/Ljubljana
Deutschland/Österreich/Slovenien 2003.

Wir erwarten Sie und alle sind willkommen!

 

 

Martha Kramer
Helena Martha Kramer (1898 - 1948)

 

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 Augusta.

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 their feelings.

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 charged discussion.

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.

Michael Wilbon
November 21, 2002

 

Photograph: Peter Gorwin
Windows
Photograph: Peter Gorwin

 

COLLEGE BASKETBALL

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 athletes.

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.

March, 2003

 


Anthony J. Phillips/Technical Co-ordinator
& Khadija Tarjan McKinney Griffith/Make Up
Fountainhead Tanz Theatre/Black International Cinema/
The Collegium - Forum & Television Program

 

Axis Of Evil -- In Washington, D.C.

by Edward Herman


Coup 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 his associates.

There 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.

This 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.

What 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.

They 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 Bank.

Consider the following:

1. New arms race:

Even before 9/11 the Bush government was pushing for a larger arms budget and that gigantic boondoggle and offensive military threat, the National Missile Defense.

With 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.

Thus, 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).

The 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" military hegemony.

2. The new violence:

The 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.

As 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 [1904]).

The 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.

Bush 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 consequences.

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.

The 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.

This 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 "free trade.."

The 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 war-game fervor.

They 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 environment.

3. Escalated support for authoritarian regimes.

The 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 nicely.

The 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.

At 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.

4. Destabilization effects.

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 trends.

5. The fight against democracy at home.

At 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.

They 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.

6. The Bush "vision" versus the "End of History."

This 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 community).

As 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.

What 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.

What 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.

Source: Lovearth.net

 

  Photograph: Peter Gorwin
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 obstacle.

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 Africa.

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 style.

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, Monica died.

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 later.

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 liturgy.

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 guaranteed.

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
Distant Dunes
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 well-educated."

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

 

 

LETTERS

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

 

Photographer: Peter Gorwin
Dante's Other View
Photographer: Peter Gorwin

 

The Iraq debate I
by William Pfaff

THE UN MAY CHECK U.S. POWER

PARIS

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 Washington.

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 pass.

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 glories etc.

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

 

Photograph: Peter Gorwin
A Window Rock
Photograph: Peter Gorwin

 

BUSH'S CALL TO WAR IS INCOHERENT
by Maureen Dowd

WASHINGTON

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 and values."
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
Valley
Photograph: Peter Gorwin

 

The U.S. and Turkey
by Hakan Altinay

REASSESS THE STRATEGY

ISTANBUL

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 stance.

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
Hearst Stairs
Photograph: Peter Gorwin

 

The Iraq debate
by William Pfaff

THE REAL ISSUE IS U.S. POWER

Paris
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 coalition.

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 international authority.

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
Stones
Photograph: Peter Gorwin

 

American Power
by Bob Herbert

THE WAR MAY BE QUICK BUT STILL NOT WISE

New York
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

Definition:
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
Mission Diagonal
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 global role'.

A Report of
The Project for the New American Century
September 2000

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 American leadership."

PROJECT FOR THE NEW AMERICAN CENTURY
1150 Seventeenth Street, N.W., Suite 510, Washington, D.C. 20036
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Photograph: Peter Gorwin
The Path
Photograph: Peter Gorwin

 

REBUILDING AMERICA’S DEFENSES
Strategy, Forces and Resources for a New Century

INTRODUCTION

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 tomorrow’s battlefields.

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 administration.

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
Window
Photograph: Peter Gorwin

 
Peter Gorwin - Artist

 

Preemptive war
by Gunter Grass

The Moral Decline Of A Superpower

Behlendorf, Germany
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 protected.

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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[Marion Kramer, Anthony Phillips, Donald Muldrow Griffith].
Copyright © 1999 by [Fountainhead Tanz Theatre/ Black International Cinema/
The Collegium - Forum & Television Program in association with Cultural Zephyr e.V.].
Revised: February 12, 2014.