Sunday, October 31, 2004

Hell to Pay
Whoever wins, the road ahead in Iraq is rough. Both Bush and Kerry have plans that depend on newly trained Iraqis. But insurgents are killing recruits, and infiltrating the forces.

...For months the American people have heard, from one side, promises to "stay the course" in Iraq (George W. Bush); and from the other side, equally vague plans for gradual withdrawal (John Kerry). Both plans depend heavily on building significant Iraqi forces to take over security. But the truth is, neither party is fully reckoning with the reality of Iraq—which is that the insurgents, by most accounts, are winning. Even Secretary of State Colin Powell, a former general who stays in touch with the Joint Chiefs, has acknowledged this privately to friends in recent weeks, NEWSWEEK has learned. The insurgents have effectively created a reign of terror throughout the country, killing thousands, driving Iraqi elites and technocrats into exile and scaring foreigners out. "Things are getting really bad," a senior Iraqi official in interim Prime Minister Ayad Allawi's government told NEWSWEEK last week. "The initiative is in [the insurgents'] hands right now. This approach of being lenient and accommodating has really backfired. They see this as weakness."...

This explains a lot. Nonpartisan, academic poll found 72 percent of Bush supporters still believe Iraq had WMD. 75 percent think Iraq gave substantial support to Al Qaeda. Some 63 percent believe evidence of this support has been found. Should US have gone to war if our intelligence concluded Iraq was not making WMD or supporting Al Qaeda? 58 percent said no.

Saturday, October 30, 2004

See tape as boost for Prez
With his typical flair for drama, Osama Bin Laden inserted himself directly into the presidential election yesterday, and both parties believed it would boost President Bush's reelection hopes.

Bin Laden popping up like a malignant jack-in-the-box four days before the balloting may bolster John Kerry's argument that Bush should have finished wiping out Al Qaeda before turning his attention to Iraq.

But it also refocused the nation on terrorism, which polls show helps Bush. And it reminds voters of their horror on Sept. 11 and Bush's well-received response, as well as obliterating the recent flood of bad news for Bush.

"We want people to think 'terrorism' for the last four days," said a Bush-Cheney campaign official. "And anything that raises the issue in people's minds is good for us."

A senior GOP strategist added, "anything that makes people nervous about their personal safety helps Bush."

He called it "a little gift," saying it helps the President but doesn't guarantee his reelection....

Conflicted Evangelicals Could Cost Bush Votes
BROOKFIELD, Wis. -- With their ardent, Bible-based opposition to abortion and gay marriage, evangelical Christians are a key target of the massive Republican get-out-the-vote drive heading into next week's election. Party leaders consider conservative Christians to be as near a lock for President Bush as any group can be.

But GOP strategists might want to have a chat with Tim Moore, an evangelical who teaches civics at a traditional Christian school near Milwaukee. He shares Bush's religious convictions, but says the president has lost his vote because of tax cuts for the wealthy and the administration's shifting rationales for invading Iraq.

"There's no way I'm going for Bush. That much I know," said Moore, 46. He remains undecided between Democratic Sen. John F. Kerry of Massachusetts and a third-party candidate.

Moore reflects a potential problem for Bush in Wisconsin and other closely contested states, where the GOP and conservative groups have invested heavily in turning out a record conservative Christian vote through mailings, voter guides, targeted phone calls and announcements by prominent evangelists such as Jerry Falwell and James Dobson aired on religious radio stations....

The Politics Of Piety
When candidates claim God as their campaign manager, you can be sure they're trying to divert attention from the real question: Do they walk the talk?

The most unsettling moment of the Republican National Convention for me came not during Zell Miller’s keynote address or Dick Cheney’s appearance or even George W. Bush’s acceptance speech, but when the other "W." - Michael W. Smith - took the stage to address the crowd.

Sitting in Madison Square Garden in the midst of thousands of cheering Republican delegates - a disturbing number of whom had chosen to accessorize with giant elephants on their heads - I felt distinctly like a member of the away team, sitting on my hands while those around me whooped at attacks on "Paris" or "The New York Times" or "Massachusetts." When I heard the arena announcer introduce Michael W. Smith, I thought I could at least blend in for a few minutes. After all, I spent much of high school listening to the contemporary Christian singer’s music, attending his concerts, and playing his songs at church; as recently as just a few months ago, my neighbors gathered around my piano as we channeled our teenage selves and belted out a rendition of "Friends."

But Smith wasn’t there simply to entertain the crowd. Throughout four days of what one friend described as an "extended mega-church service" - complete with praise songs, worship leaders, testimonials, and even a pulpit adorned with the outline of a cross - a steady stream of Christian performers had appeared, each one prompting queries of "who the heck is that?" from the hard-bitten journalists around me. Before "Smitty" lent his raspy voice and keyboard skills to the proceedings, however, he testified to the spiritual side of his friend, the president. The two of them had spoken in the Oval Office just a few months after Sept. 11, 2001, he told us. And during that conversation, he got a glimpse of the president’s true heart when Bush turned to him and said, "Someone should write a song about this." That was all the inspiration Smith needed to write "There She Stands," the ballad he performed during the last evening of the convention.

This assertion of Bush’s piety is not exactly substantive. Several hagiographic portrayals of Bush - including the books A Man of Faith: The Spiritual Journey of George W. Bush and The Faith of George W. Bush (as well as a documentary of the same name)—rely on similarly weak examples, citing Bush’s exercise regimen and habit of eating carrots, for instance, as proof of his spiritual commitment to maintaining his body as a temple for God. But what is most troubling is that these testimonials reinforce the idea that voters should choose a candidate primarily based on personal religiosity.

IRONICALLY, A DEMOCRAT is responsible for this trend in modern American politics. When Jimmy Carter launched his campaign for the White House in 1976, Americans were disgusted by the corruption of the Nixon administration and hungry for moral leadership. The Baptist Sunday school teacher from Georgia had the right character at the right time and played up his piety as part of a larger effort to reassure the country. Republican politicians eagerly adopted Carter’s approach...

Friday, October 29, 2004

Holy Zarqawi
Why Bush let Iraq's top terrorist walk.

Why didn't the Bush administration kill Abu Musab al-Zarqawi when it had the chance?

That it had opportunities to take out the Jordanian-born jihadist has been clear since Secretary of State Colin Powell devoted a long section of his February 2003 speech to the United Nations Security Council. In those remarks, which were given to underscore the threat posed by Saddam Hussein, Powell dwelt at length on the terrorist camp in Khurmal, in the pre-invasion Kurdish enclave. It was at that camp that Zarqawi, other jihadists who had fled Afghanistan, and Kurdish radicals were training and producing the poison ricin and cyanide.

Neither the Khurmal camp nor the surrounding area were under Saddam's control, but Powell provided much detail purporting to show Zarqawi's ties to the Baghdad regime. His arguments have since been largely discredited by the intelligence community. Many of us who have worked in counterterrorism wondered at the time about Powell's claims. If we knew where the camp of a leading jihadist was and knew that his followers were working on unconventional weapons, why weren't we bombing it or sending in special operations forces—especially since this was a relatively "permissive" environment?...

One Nation Under Bush
At a campaign rally, Republicans recite the "Bush Pledge."

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla.—"I want you to stand, raise your right hands," and recite "the Bush Pledge," said Florida state Sen. Ken Pruitt. The assembled mass of about 2,000 in this Treasure Coast town about an hour north of West Palm Beach dutifully rose, arms aloft, and repeated after Pruitt: "I care about freedom and liberty. I care about my family. I care about my country. Because I care, I promise to work hard to re-elect, re-elect George W. Bush as president of the United States."

I know the Bush-Cheney campaign occasionally requires the people who attend its events to sign loyalty oaths, but this was the first time I have ever seen an audience actually stand and utter one. Maybe they've replaced the written oath with a verbal one.

This may be the first and only time the "Bush Pledge" has been taken at an event I've attended (or any event for that matter), but I'm not the best witness. One of the unfortunate drawbacks of traveling with a presidential candidate is that you arrive at a political rally when he does, which means you arrive right before he speaks. Neither President Bush nor John Kerry spends a lot of time waiting backstage while the warm-up acts address the crowd. Those speakers are timed to end when the candidate arrives (although, given that Kerry is habitually late, I wonder if they tell the introductory speakers to go long), so the traveling press typically misses their remarks. ...

U.S. left ammo site unguarded
Six months after the fall of Baghdad, a vast Iraqi weapons depot with tens of thousands of artillery rounds and other explosives remained unguarded, according to two U.S. aid workers who say they reported looting of the site to U.S. military officials.

The aid workers say they informed Lt. Gen. Ricardo S. Sanchez, the highest ranking Army officer in Iraq in October 2003 but were told that the United States did not have enough troops to seal off the facility, which included more than 60 bunkers packed with munitions.

"We were outraged," said Wes Hare, city manager of La Grande, who was working in Iraq as part of a rebuilding program. A colleague who also visited the depot, Jerry Kuhaida, said it appeared that the explosives at the Ukhaider Ammunition Storage Area had found their way to insurgents targeting U.S. forces.

"There's no question in my mind that the stuff in Ukhaider was used by terrorists," said Kuhaida....

The Reformation lives
Why should anyone apart from scholars pay any attention to Europe's 16th-century Reformation? While I was writing a very large book on the Reformation, one of my purposes was to show readers that this series of ancient upheavals lived on into the present, not least because it was tangled up with the founding of colonies in north America, the nucleus of the United States. The thoughts and struggles of Martin Luther, a German monk seized by a longing to tell the Christian story in an older and purer form than he found in the Church of his day, are still shaping world events - and if those involved do not understand that, then disaster may follow.

Admittedly, the 16th century can seem very strange to us. Sixteenth century Europeans burned one another for denying that bread could become God. But if we forget or misread the past, it will often catch up with us in unexpected ways and places. Reformation Europe manages to be alarmingly similar to many swathes of the world at the present day, and no more so than in the re-emergence of a very old idea. Historians have come to realise that in 16th-century Europe, a very large proportion of otherwise apparently sane Catholics and Protestants were convinced that the Last Days were about to arrive: God was about to judge the world and bring an end to everyday society. Already he was sending plenty of signs: the Pope's power was destroyed through much of Europe, monasteries were being sacked, and above all the Islamic armies of the Ottoman Empire were remorselessly advancing westwards, wrecking Christian powers like the Kingdom of Hungary, an ancient and cultured European monarchy which was simply annihilated by the Turks over less than two decades. That is one of the reasons why the Reformation was such an urgent, bloody affair, because those involved had to get things right with God before he came on his final tour of inspection in the Last Days.

The imminence of the Last Days seemed to make sense during the Reformation - only it did not happen, despite continual ingenious recalculations of all the biblical data. Now once more, the varied tribulations of the world have convinced countless Christians that this time it is for real. The belief is common in Africa and Asia, but it has especial significance in the United States. The Last Days theme is infinitely malleable, and in its present American form it has a new aspect which did not figure in Reformation discussion: a nineteenth-century American Protestant preacher invented a particular sub-theme, the 'Rapture' of the saved before God's final tribulation, which is based on a strained interpretation of one of Paul's epistles to the Thessalonians. The success of the ‘Rapture' notion can be gauged by the publishing phenomenon of the 12 ‘Left Behind' novels of Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins: well past 62 million copies now. Those sort of sales begin to rival those of the Book of Revelation and the Epistle to the Thessalonians which inspired the fiction.

Why is this so important? The Last Days theme, which LaHaye and Jenkins have made central to a certain sort of American popular culture, has also become a major motor in the contemporary foreign policy of the United States. Just as in 16th- and 17th-century Europe, the American Christian Right holds a strong belief that we need to sort out the world before the Last Days arrive. ...

Why I Apologized to Planned Parenthood
My difficult unplanned pregnancy impelled me to show a little more grace.

My junior year of college, I got pregnant. I was married, but the top layer of my wedding cake had barely frozen and unwritten thank you cards lay strewn on my living room carpet. I wasn't ready to get married; I certainly wasn't prepared for pregnancy and parenthood. But I was the personification of readiness compared with the man who was then my husband, whose troubled past was wreaking havoc on our relationship, even without a baby to break the camel's back.

I never once seriously considered abortion, but more than once wished I could. As a Christian ministry major, I'd spent the last two years watching midnight turn into dawn discussing ethics and forming my embryonic ideas into convictions ready to stand the light of day. From the moment I saw the second pink line faintly glimmering on my pregnancy test, certainty gripped me that abortion was not an option. I simply could not lose my baby without losing myself. And on the deepest level, I think this truth holds for every woman. But not every woman facing a crisis pregnancy has a Christian education, parents who are willing to help out financially, and girlfriends who pick up where an absent partner or a terrified, emotionally crippled one leaves off.

As my pregnancy progressed, I watched my smooth, flat tummy turn into a bulging basketball and then into a giant globe with roads and rivers of stretch marks crisscrossing everywhere. Knowing the pregnancy was unexpected, my friends weren't sure whether to congratulate me or mourn with me. Whenever I swiped my card in the cafeteria or hauled my huge self to class at my evangelical college, I got raised-eyebrow glances from students who assumed I got into my interesting condition via some premarital tryst in the bushes. My professors learned to expect my midclass dashes to the bathroom. Sometimes the trips were just bladder appeasement, but usually I threw up so hard I was afraid the tiny child might come up through my mouth.

When I returned to my bioethics class after one such interruption, the topic was abortion. A class member was playing devil's advocate. "What if it's a 12-year-old girl who didn't know what she was doing? Can you make her carry her pregnancy to term when she's literally a child?" From across the room I heard a girl mutter angrily, "Abortion is murder." Several heads nodded righteously, with no compassion in their eyes. I shivered in the blustery wind on my way home from class....

...Despite such profound and plentiful blessings, I noticed an attitude among some staff members that disturbed me. One coworker frequently commented about how pro-abortion people hold and promote their view only because they feel guilty about something in their past and are trying to defend it. I believe this is often true. But I have friends and relatives who support abortion rights and are thoughtful, caring, down-to-earth people without any more complexes than the average American. They are not promoting an idea to appease a guilty conscience. They believe they are helping women and sparing what they view as merely potential children from real suffering....

...As we approached the woman in scrubs by Planned Parenthood's doorway, Ron and I nodded and said "Hello." She acknowledged us by saying "Hi" and holding the door for us to enter the clinic. We tentatively tiptoed inside. I was half expecting to see blood dripping down the walls or hear babies screaming from the ceiling. Instead I found a coolly lit, comfortable waiting area with neatly stacked brochures. I was pleasantly surprised to see glossy brochures about adoption and clothing programs for new mothers. What a contradiction: a place where they both welcome and kill little ones. Snapping me out of my thoughts, the receptionist asked, "Can I help you?"

Stuttering only a little, and shuddering inside as I glimpsed the woman in scrubs disappear down a narrow, fluorescently lit hallway, I explained, "Actually, we're Christian and very pro-life. We're here to say we're sorry for all the people who are mean to you guys. This is not how Christians should behave, and we feel deeply sad about it."

Ron chimed in, "It's not right for believers in Jesus to judge or despise you. It's just awful, and we wanted you to know that we don't hate you or believe you are terrible people."

The receptionist took a moment to collect herself, then responded with a quivering sigh, "I can't tell you how much that means. My uncle won't talk to me because I work here. You have no idea how many hateful, awful things Christians say and do to me. I don't hope people get an abortion; I hope we can help them to use birth control. We're just trying to avoid having babies thrown in trash heaps."

We briefly exchanged our different views of when life begins and then thanked the receptionist for letting us stop by. She thanked us profusely for coming, with a happy look of disbelief on her face. She smiled and gave a grandmotherly wave "bye bye" to Nika, and told us we were welcome to visit anytime....

Civilian death toll in Iraq exceeds 100,000

The invasion of Iraq in March 2003 by coalition forces has lead to the death of at least 100,000 civilians, reveals the first scientific study to examine the issue.

The majority of these deaths, which are in addition those normally expected from natural causes, illness and accidents, have been among women and children, finds the study, released early by The Lancet on Thursday.

The most common cause of death is as a direct result of violence, mostly caused by coalition air strikes, reveals the study of almost 1000 households scattered across Iraq. And the risk of violent death just after the invasion was 58 times greater than before the war. The overall risk of death was 1.5 times more after the invasion than before.

The figure of 100,000 – estimated by extrapolating the surveyed households’ death toll to the whole population - is based on "conservative assumptions", notes Les Roberts at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Baltimore, US, who led the study.

That estimate excludes Falluja, a hotspot for violence. If the data from this town is included, the study points to about 200,000 excess deaths since the outbreak of war....

A Modest Proposal – Let’s Allow Negative Voting
Election years are filled to overflowing with political pitches beseeching voters to cast ballots for a particular candidate. And many people do, although often with scant enthusiasm. “Choosing between the lesser of two evils” is a commonly heard complaint among voters.

During election campaigns, one also is apt to receive political advertisements providing him with reasons to believe that a candidate is undesirable — the famous “attack ad” that so many politicians denounce but will readily employ when it suits their purposes. The content might be true and compelling or it might be false and misleading (just like other political advertising) but the objective is always to drive up an opponent’s political “negatives.”

This sets up an odd asymmetry. Positive ads attempt to persuade you to vote for a candidate and you can do that. Negative ads give you reasons to vote against a candidate, but you can’t do that. Americans are not given the option of casting a vote that says, “I DON’T WANT this individual to serve as _________.” ...

Fatal Attraction: A New Study Suggests a Relationship Between Fear of Death and Political Preferences
This research is based on the idea that reminders of death increase the need for psychological security and therefore the appeal of leaders who emphasize the greatness of the nation and a heroic victory over evil.

To test this hypothesis, Jeff Greenberg, a professor of psychology at the University Arizona in Tucson, Sheldon Solomon (Skidmore College) and Tom Pyszczynski, (University of Colorado, Colorado Springs) and their colleagues conducted an experiment that is scheduled to appear in the December 2004 issue of Psychological Science.

For their current research, the scientists asked students to think about their own death or a control topic and then read campaign statements of three hypothetical political candidates, each with a different leadership style: "charismatic" (i.e. those emphasizing greatness of the nation and a heroic victory over evil, as described above), task-oriented or relationship-oriented. Following a reminder of death, there was almost an 800 percent increase in votes for the charismatic leader, but no increase for the two other candidates.

"At a theoretical level," the authors wrote, "this study adds to the large body of empirical evidence attesting to the pervasive influence of reminders of death on a wide range of human activities. These findings fit particularly well with prior studies showing how mortality salience leads people toward individuals, groups, and actions that can help enhance their self-esteem. People want to identify with special, great things, and charismatic leaders typically offer the promise of just that."...

Election spat gets violent, leads to arrest
Steven Soper liked his girlfriend, but authorities say he liked President Bush more.

When his girlfriend suggested this week she wanted to vote for John Kerry, officials allege it was too much for the 18-year-old Bush supporter. A political argument prompted him to end their two-year relationship — and that was just for starters.

Sheriff's officials say Soper, a Marines recruit, later became so upset that he dragged 18-year-old Stacey Silveira into his suburban Lake Worth home, beat her and held her hostage with a screwdriver.

The attack led to a standoff with a Palm Beach County Sheriff's deputy that ended with Soper being zapped with a Taser and arrested, endangering his chances of serving in the Marines.

Silveira, a senior at Santaluces High School, was shaken up but not seriously hurt.

"He's crazy about Bush," she said. "He kept saying he was going to die in the Marines if I voted for Kerry."...

... During a struggle inside, he allegedly threatened her with a jagged shard of a broken pot and later with a screwdriver. At one point, according to the report, he handed her a knife and asked her to kill him.

"He told me to just kill him because if I vote for Kerry it's just going to kill him anyway," she said.

While they fought, according to officials, Soper asked her: "You want (to) live to see the election?"...

...Soper's mother, Diane Camarda, said her son comes from a military family and that his older brother is stationed in Iraq already.

"He would very much like to go into the service," she said. ...

Two years before 9/11, candidate Bush was already talking privately about attacking Iraq, according to his former ghost writer
Houston: Two years before the September 11 attacks, presidential candidate George W. Bush was already talking privately about the political benefits of attacking Iraq, according to his former ghost writer, who held many conversations with then-Texas Governor Bush in preparation for a planned autobiography.

“He was thinking about invading Iraq in 1999,” said author and journalist Mickey Herskowitz. “It was on his mind. He said to me: ‘One of the keys to being seen as a great leader is to be seen as a commander-in-chief.’ And he said, ‘My father had all this political capital built up when he drove the Iraqis out of Kuwait and he wasted it.’ He said, ‘If I have a chance to invade….if I had that much capital, I’m not going to waste it. I’m going to get everything passed that I want to get passed and I’m going to have a successful presidency.”...

...According to Herskowitz, George W. Bush’s beliefs on Iraq were based in part on a notion dating back to the Reagan White House – ascribed in part to now-vice president Dick Cheney, Chairman of the House Republican Policy Committee under Reagan. “Start a small war. Pick a country where there is justification you can jump on, go ahead and invade.”

Bush’s circle of pre-election advisers had a fixation on the political capital that British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher collected from the Falklands War. Said Herskowitz: “They were just absolutely blown away, just enthralled by the scenes of the troops coming back, of the boats, people throwing flowers at [Thatcher] and her getting these standing ovations in Parliament and making these magnificent speeches.”

Republicans, Herskowitz said, felt that Jimmy Carter’s political downfall could be attributed largely to his failure to wage a war....

...Herskowitz’s revelations are not the sole indicator of Bush’s pre-election thinking on Iraq. In December 1999, some six months after his talks with Herskowitz, Bush surprised veteran political chroniclers, including the Boston Globe’s David Nyhan, with his blunt pronouncements about Saddam at a six-way New Hampshire primary event that got little notice: “It was a gaffe-free evening for the rookie front-runner, till he was asked about Saddam’s weapons stash,” wrote Nyhan. ‘I’d take ‘em out,’ [Bush] grinned cavalierly, ‘take out the weapons of mass destruction…I’m surprised he’s still there,” said Bush of the despot who remains in power after losing the Gulf War to Bush Jr.’s father…It remains to be seen if that offhand declaration of war was just Texas talk, a sort of locker room braggadocio, or whether it was Bush’s first big clinker. ”...

Meet President Bush -- theological Rorschach test
In Iowa, some United Methodists want the president and vice president tossed out of their church for "chargeable offenses" against its doctrines on justice and peace.

"Our hope is that George W. Bush and Dick Cheney will recognize the sinfulness of their actions, sincerely repent for what they have done and move on to change their ways," say leaders of the liberal network. "Although we recognize the improbability of that outcome, we believe that with God all things are possible."

Meet President Bush - theological Rorschach test....

... Jeff Sharlet, co-author of "Killing the Buddha: A Heretic's Bible," says it's nonsense to call Bush a fundamentalist. The president rarely digs into biblical details, at least not publicly, and lacks the rigid literalism at the heart of true fundamentalism. Instead, he talks about following his "instincts," his "gut" and his "heart" when he makes big decisions.

"Believing, it seems, is more important to the president than the substance of his belief," argues Sharlet, in an essay called "Our magical president" at

The key to Bush is his belief that "if you believe you can do something, you can," he said. This "gentle disdain for perceived reality" is a kind of faith in faith itself. What many critics miss and what most of "Bush's more orthodox Christian supporters seem to dodge, is that this is not Christian doctrine by any definition. It is, in fact, a key element of the broad, heterodox movement known as New Age religion."...

... Another evangelical says Bush deserves special attention because he has gone out of his way to find favor with religious conservatives. Whatever Bush has said about the conversion experience that saved him from his wicked, alcoholic past, the available evidence about the rest of his life "raises questions about whether Bush is really a Christian at all," according to Ayelish McGarvey, in the American Prospect.

The president rarely goes to church, has little interest in evangelism, has a history of nasty campaign tactics, flip-flopped on the tough issue of embryonic stem-cell research, lacks humility about his mistakes and has edited the Bible down to a convenient set of commandments she calls "evangelical agitprop."

"I'm no Kerry fan. I mean, I don't think he's a very good Catholic," said McGarvey. "But if Catholics can dissect Kerry, point by point, then I think it's more than appropriate for evangelicals to do the same for Bush. What does it say about us if we're afraid to do that?"

Household Survey Sees 100,000 Iraqi Deaths
LONDON -- Researchers have estimated that as many as 100,000 more Iraqis -- many of them women and children -- died since the start of the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq than would have been expected otherwise, based on the death rate before the war.

Writing in the British-based medical journal The Lancet, the American and Iraqi researchers concluded that violence accounted for most of the extra deaths and that airstrikes by the U.S.-led coalition were a major factor. ...

Thursday, October 28, 2004

Bush is Not a Christian
"Like no president in recent memory," writes Ayelish McGarvey, "George W. Bush wields his Christian righteousness like a flaming sword." And like no other journalist, McGarvey, one of The Revealer's favorite religion writers, does the same. In "As God Is His Witness," a feature for the normally religion-blind American Prospect, McGarvey summons the Christian fury of an abolitionist preacher and the vision of a clear-eyed reporter to reveal what she suggests ought to be the biggest religion story of the campaign: Bush is not a Christian.

"Judging him on his record, George W. Bush’s spiritual transformation seems to have consisted of little more than staying on the wagon, with Jesus as a sort of talismanic Alcoholics Anonymous counselor," writes McGarvey, a professing evangelical Christian herself. The evidence of Bush's therapeutic approach to Jesus lies in his apparent disinterest in sin. Bush's "steadfast unwillingness to fess up to a single error betrays a strikingly un-Christian lack of attention to the importance of self-criticism, the pervasiveness of sin, and the centrality of humility, repentance, and redemption." ...

...McGarvey does more than excoriate the press for missing Bush's religion; she takes her fellow evangelicals to task for running interference, and worse. Much worse: If there's honesty in the evangelical press, McGarvey's interview with Ted Haggard, president of the National Association of Evangelicals and a strong Bush backer, should be big news indeed. McGarvey presses him on why Bush is excused from living up to the Christian values she and Haggard share. At first, Haggard chuckles at the naive cub reporter, suggesting that once he's out of office, Bush will admit his sins. But then Haggard gets -- what else to call this -- distinctly un-Christian:

"'But right now if he said something like that, well, the world would spin out of control!... Listen,' he said testily, 'I think [we Christian believers] are responsible not to lie [sic], but I don’t think we’re responsible to say everything we know.'"

As a journalist and as a Christian, McGarvey doesn't agree. ...

As God Is His Witness
Bush is no devout evangelical. In fact, he may not be a Christian at all.

Late in the summer, at the Republican national convention in New York, a movie billed as the conservative alternative to Fahrenheit 9/11 debuted for the party faithful. The film, George W. Bush: Faith in the White House, opens with a montage of a billowing American flag, a softly lit portrait of Jesus in Gethsemane, and a shot of the tawny profile of our 43rd president with his eyes gazing heavenward. Myriad times throughout the film Bush is referred to reverently as a man of faith.

Like no president in recent memory, George W. Bush wields his Christian righteousness like a flaming sword. Indeed, hundreds of news stories and nearly half a dozen books have evinced a White House that, according to BBC Washington correspondent Justin Webb, “hums to the sound of prayer.” Yet for the past four years the mainstream press has trod lightly, rarely venturing beyond the biographical to probe the depth, or sincerity, of Bush's Christian beliefs. Bush has no doubt benefited from the media’s reluctance; Newsweek, for example, in the heat of the run-up to the Iraq War, ran a cover package on the president’s faith under the headline “Bush and God” -- a story whose timing lent the war the aura of having heavenly sanction. Even lefty believers like Jim Wallis, editor of Sojourners, and Amy Sullivan, journalist and Democratic adviser, politely maintain that Bush’s faith is strong, if misguided.

Indeed, in an 8,000-word lamentation appearing in The New York Times Magazine last weekend, Ron Suskind attempted to trace Bush’s lack of intellectual curiosity, and the policy disasters that have stemmed from that, back to his relationship with God. “That a deep Christian faith illuminated the personal journey of George W. Bush is common knowledge,” Suskind wrote. In other words, the devil, as it were, is lurking among the articles of faith, but not in the heart of the man.

This is a huge mistake, because when judged by his deeds, an entirely different picture emerges: Bush does not demonstrate a life of faith by his actions, and neither Methodists, evangelicals, nor fundamentalists can rightly call him brother. In fact, the available evidence raises serious questions about whether Bush is really a Christian at all.

Ironically for a man who once famously named Jesus as his favorite political philosopher during a campaign debate, it is remarkably difficult to pinpoint a single instance wherein Christian teaching has won out over partisan politics in the Bush White House. Though Bush easily weaves Christian language and themes into his political communication, empty religious jargon is no substitute for a bedrock faith. Even little children in Sunday school know that Jesus taught his disciples to live according to his commandments, not simply to talk about them a lot. In Bush’s case, faith without works is not just dead faith -- it’s evangelical agitprop...

...But sin is crucial to Christianity. To be born again, a seeker must painfully acknowledge his or her innate sinfulness, and then turn away from it completely. And though today Bush is sober, he does not live and govern like a man who “walks” with God, using the Bible as a moral compass for his decision making. Twice in the past year -- once during an April press conference and most recently at a presidential debate -- the president was unable to name any mistake he has made during his term. His steadfast unwillingness to fess up to a single error betrays a strikingly un-Christian lack of attention to the importance of self-criticism, the pervasiveness of sin, and the centrality of humility, repentance, and redemption. Indeed, it is impossible to imagine George W. Bush delivering an address like Jimmy Carter’s legendary “malaise” speech (in which he did not actually say the word “malaise”) in 1979. Carter sermonized to a dispirited nation in the language of confession, sacrifice, and spiritual restoration. Though it didn’t do him a lick of good politically, it was consonant with a Christian theology of atonement: Carter admitted his mistakes to make right with God and the American people, politics be damned. Bush, for whom politics is everything, can’t even admit that he’s done anything wrong....

...Bush’s defenders would argue that reproving the president’s Christian commitment is opportunistic and cheap, perhaps even sinful. They would say that an outsider could never appreciate the depths of the man’s private religious conviction....

...Just who will boldly hold the president accountable to Scripture? Sycophantic religious conservatives are heavily invested in politics; they dare not rock the boat....

...For Bible-believing Christians, nothing in the entire world is more important than “walking” with Jesus; that is, engaging in a personal relationship with their savior and living according to his word. With this in mind, I recently asked Haggard, himself the pastor of a large church in Colorado, why the president, as a man of supposedly strong faith, did not publicly apologize for continually misleading Americans in the run-up to the Iraq War. Instead, Bush clung zealously to misinformation and half-truths. I asked Haggard why, as a man of Christian principle, Bush did not fully disavow Karl Rove’s despicable smear tactics and apologize for the ugly lies the Bush campaign spread over the years about Ann Richards, John McCain, and John Kerry, among others. After all, isn’t getting right with God -- whatever the political price --the most important thing for the sort of Christian Bush has proclaimed himself to be?

Haggard laughed as though my questions were the most naive he’d ever heard. “I think if you asked the president these questions once he’s out of office,” Haggard said, “he’d say, ‘You’re right. We shouldn’t have done it.’ But right now if he said something like that, well, the world would spin out of control!

“That’s why when Jimmy Carter ran, he [turned out to be] such a terrible president. Because when he [governed], he really tried to maintain [his integrity] and those types of values -- and that is virtually impossible.”

The pastor returned to my charges of Bush’s deceitfulness. “Listen,” he said testily, “I think [we Christian believers] are responsible not to lie [sic], but I don’t think we’re responsible to say everything we know.” ...

...In Exodus, the Ninth Commandment admonishes, “Thou shalt not bear false testimony against thy neighbor.” God wasn’t joking around there. But time and again, Bush and Rove have relied on repugnant lies to discredit their opponents. In the final days of the Texas governor’s race in 1994, barroom rumors swirled that Governor Ann Richards was a lesbian, and that she had appointed “avowed homosexuals” to her administration. Those rumors were lies, but Bush won the race.

In 2000, Bush squared off against John McCain in the hotly contested Republican presidential primary in South Carolina. Rather than go one on one with the war hero and popular pol, Bush let shady henchmen do his dirty work for him. In the final days before the showdown, Bush supporters waged whisper campaigns and distributed parking-lot handouts spreading the vilest of lies: that McCain was mentally unfit to serve after his long captivity in Vietnam; that his wife was a drug addict; that the senator had fathered a black daughter with a prostitute.

Bush won that race, too. ...

...Just how low will George W. Bush stoop for a victory?

For most candidates running for office, foul play is par for the course. But Bush is not like most other candidates. If he is a Christian, he is called to be the salt of the earth, the light of the world, a beacon of goodness and righteousness in a society havocked by moral depravity....

The Uses and Abuses of "Hitler"
Jeff Sharlet: Washington Post today reports on a campaign fracas in Northern Virginia that involves me -- but the WaPo deems it appropriate to speculate on my truthfulness without contacting me. The issue? James Socas, Democratic challenger to Republican Rep. Frank Wolf, has cited an article I wrote in Harper's in 2003 in which I reported from inside the Fellowship Foundation, aka The Family, a deliberately secretive network of "followers of Jesus" in government, the military, and business. Most are are standard issue Christians, many are unaware of the group's origins and core philosophies, and a few are privy to the unusual theology at the group's heart: "Jesus plus nothing," which is to say, an explicitly anti-democratic (that's small d) pursuit of a governance model in which leaders serve not their constituents, but Jesus, and Jesus only -- hence the "plus nothing."

How do you know what Jesus wants? Through an extremely selective study of the gospels guided by the group's de facto leader, Doug Coe, and through "leadership lessons." Where do you turn for these? The group is partial to men who ruled with absolute power: Mao, Pol Pot, and -- you guessed it -- ol' Adolf. They are not Nazis. I repeat: They are not Nazis. Many, in fact, are genuinely dedicated to human rights abroad, the poor at home, and peaceful conflict resolution -- former Senator Mark Hatfield, a maverick Republican known for his integrity, is an example of the best of the group. Others -- such as the late General Costa e Silva, dictator of Brazil; the late General Suharto, genocidal dictator of Indonesia; the late Siad Barre, dictator of Somalia; the late Strom Thurmond; Senator James Inhofe of Oklahoma; and Zach Wamp, an openly and proudly theocratic congressman from Tennessee -- aren't so sweet. What they have in common is a belief in the organizational models offered by dictators, the real problem with which, they think, is their neglect of Jesus. Imagine if Hitler had been working for Jesus, they suggest. Well, you be the judge of how desirable that'd be. ...

God On Their Side
...He's following the megachurch formula, anchoring his down-to-earth preaching in the Bible's most hopeful passages and avoiding shame or hellfire. Thousands come to listen, excited by global missions and social outreach and eager for the 24/7 programming that addresses their personal problems, giving them firm rules and Biblical certainty without ever, ever judging them.

"We're literally coming to the gas tank and getting filled up," Pastor Jeff calls out, and a ripple of assent goes through the room. "So how do we obtain help from God for our needs?" He jokes that he made 35 altar calls before he felt secure about his own salvation. "Now I know His ear is inclined to my prayer. How do I know that? Because I found it in Scripture! You pray for a good surgery and there's a good surgery – is that a miracle? Of course it is! Because it could have been a bad surgery."

On the wall behind him, where other worshippers might hang a crucifix or rest the Torah, huge brass letters spell out "HONOR GOD" and "HELP PEOPLE." Replacing the mysteries. Because when Pastor Jeff scans his flock's anxious faces, he sees a hunger for clarity and peace, success, love, reassurance.

"When anxieties enter my heart, I have to counter them," he calls out, listing off CNN news, terrorist threats, airport security and election politics, and repeating after each item, "God is going to see us through."

"Here's the chant," he finishes. "'Have faith in God.'" People repeat the words again and again, arms raised in praise. Their country is being attacked by foreign fanatics and their society is rotting from within. Faith is the best way they know to fight back.

"September 11 hit America," Pastor Jeff continues. "We have a president that took a stand. He is a believer. He came to town, we had a meeting, he explained what he had to do. These are warriors that don't respond to negotiation. It's like the Bible: David didn't negotiate with the Philistines."

He paces, his words impassioned. "There will be more of those attacks on the earth. Whenever there were wars through the ages, the church responded by putting their faith into God, and then certain things happened and the church surged forward. We are about to come into some of that." A man sitting alone in back leans forward eagerly. "God is getting ready to download some wild exploits," promises Pastor Jeff. "God has called us to something big, and it's going to take childlike faith. Nation-changing faith."

In other words, the faith of George W. Bush....

...Holst has attended the Family Church ever since. "I have a blueprint for my life now," he says. "Everything has fallen into place." Drugs are over: "God has weeded all of that out of my life." He pauses. "It's also helped me to love people. I was pretty cold before I met the Lord. Now, if I get cut off on the highway, I don't stick my middle finger out the window, because I know that's a person for whom Jesus died."

Holst sees the upcoming presidential race as "a double-edged sword. I know who I want to win," he says, "but on the other hand, I know that whoever wins, God has placed them in power for a reason. I try to judge by what God is saying on an issue. Obviously I'm pro-life, because that's what God says.

"I think President Bush is actively seeking answers from God, and I definitely want to see him continue."...

...He moves into his preaching: "Did you all know that Procter and Gamble is doing a massive hiring of homosexuals and lesbians? We're supposed to be the ones receiving those people into church to get them changed. All the stuff they are trying to do to keep the church separate from the state, there's just a massive effort by the Enemy to eradicate what this nation was founded on. You vote for who God tells you to vote for. Don't be fooled by political rhetoric. As Oral Roberts said, this election is a spiritual battle. And it should not be motivated by whether we are at war or not. The Bible says there will always be wars. You need to be looking at morality issues, the stuff that destroys countries. You need to be paying attention to the homosexual and lesbian issues. Because the Enemy is on the offensive."

They read aloud the opening of Psalm 118: "The Lord is on my side. I will not fear."

"Do you see that?" exclaims Thompson. "Now bow your heads. Father, we thank you that you're on our side." They repeat the phrase to each other in a crescendo: "The LORD is on our SIDE." Sweet relief on their faces, they embrace....

...In the last presidential election, Williams was so disgusted, she wrote in "Jesus Christ" as her candidate. But this time, she says her choice is clear. She sees our country's moral foundation disintegrating, and threats to family, decency and holiness weigh far heavier than a distant war or a strangled economy. When she taught Sunday school, she brought in a newspaper article outlining the candidates' positions on various issues. "Now you decide, based on what the Bible says, what type of person you want governing over you," she told the children.

"I always say, never make a decision based on your personal economic situation," she says now. "God knows, economically we're in terrible shape, and that is something that weighs hard on people. But Sodom and Gomorrah were flourishing economically, and morally and socially, they were all sick."...

...The split between mainline and evangelical Protestants only began in the early 1900s, he adds, and climaxed with the clash between Darwin and the Bible in the famous Scopes Monkey Trial of 1925. Fundamentalists won the case but lost their place in the mainstream. Perceiving that American culture had turned against them, fundamentalists retreated from public life and built their own infrastructure of Bible colleges, Bible camps, publishing houses and congregations. Meanwhile, the institutions founded by mainline Protestants were working so hard to be open, ecumenical, progressive and American, they lost their Protestant identity in the process.

Accidents of demography played a part, too: Mainline Protestant churches were built earlier than Catholic or evangelical churches, so they stood in either urban or rural areas, far from the suburbs and exurbs where most of the country had decided to live.

But other reasons run deeper. "One of the hallmarks of mainline Protestantism is that faith and thought are inextricably bound," says Greenhaw. "But the institutions have secularized, the educational system has collapsed and the deep commitment to education has fallen apart. This incredibly thoughtful, stretching experience in which no question is too hard to ask, has become, 'Don't ask that question because I might have to come up with an answer and I don't think I could.'"

Many blame a widening gap between the radical ideas explored in the seminaries and the platitudes heard in the pews. Protestant theologians are questioning Jesus's divinity, rethinking the doctrine of salvation, re-emphasizing Jesus's social radicalism, questioning whether God is all-powerful. But the clergy are reluctant to broach these ideas from the pulpit, and the faithful are terrified to hear them....

Wednesday, October 27, 2004

Bush Supporters Still Believe Iraq Had WMD or Major Program, Supported al Qaeda

Agree with Kerry Supporters Bush Administration Still Saying This is the Case

Agree US Should Not Have Gone to War if No WMD or Support for al Qaeda

Bush Supporters Misperceive World Public as Not Opposed to Iraq War, Favoring Bush Reelection

Even after the final report of Charles Duelfer to Congress saying that Iraq did not have a significant WMD program, 72% of Bush supporters continue to believe that Iraq had actual WMD (47%) or a major program for developing them (25%). Fifty-six percent assume that most experts believe Iraq had actual WMD and 57% also assume, incorrectly, that Duelfer concluded Iraq had at least a major WMD program. Kerry supporters hold opposite beliefs on all these points.

Similarly, 75% of Bush supporters continue to believe that Iraq was providing substantial support to al Qaeda, and 63% believe that clear evidence of this support has been found. Sixty percent of Bush supporters assume that this is also the conclusion of most experts, and 55% assume, incorrectly, that this was the conclusion of the 9/11 Commission. Here again, large majorities of Kerry supporters have exactly opposite perceptions.

These are some of the findings of a new study of the differing perceptions of Bush and Kerry supporters, conducted by the Program on International Policy Attitudes and Knowledge Networks, based on polls conducted in September and October.

Steven Kull, director of PIPA, comments, "One of the reasons that Bush supporters have these beliefs is that they perceive the Bush administration confirming them. Interestingly, this is one point on which Bush and Kerry supporters agree." Eighty-two percent of Bush supporters perceive the Bush administration as saying that Iraq had WMD (63%) or that Iraq had a major WMD program (19%). Likewise, 75% say that the Bush administration is saying Iraq was providing substantial support to al Qaeda. Equally large majorities of Kerry supporters hear the Bush administration expressing these views--73% say the Bush administration is saying Iraq had WMD (11% a major program) and 74% that Iraq was substantially supporting al Qaeda.

Steven Kull adds, "Another reason that Bush supporters may hold to these beliefs is that they have not accepted the idea that it does not matter whether Iraq had WMD or supported al Qaeda. Here too they are in agreement with Kerry supporters." Asked whether the US should have gone to war with Iraq if US intelligence had concluded that Iraq was not making WMD or providing support to al Qaeda, 58% of Bush supporters said the US should not have, and 61% assume that in this case the President would not have. Kull continues, "To support the president and to accept that he took the US to war based on mistaken assumptions likely creates substantial cognitive dissonance, and leads Bush supporters to suppress awareness of unsettling information about prewar Iraq."

This tendency of Bush supporters to ignore dissonant information extends to other realms as well. Despite an abundance of evidence--including polls conducted by Gallup International in 38 countries, and more recently by a consortium of leading newspapers in 10 major countries--only 31% of Bush supporters recognize that the majority of people in the world oppose the US having gone to war with Iraq. Forty-two percent assume that views are evenly divided, and 26% assume that the majority approves. Among Kerry supporters, 74% assume that the majority of the world is opposed.

Similarly, 57% of Bush supporters assume that the majority of people in the world would favor Bush's reelection; 33% assumed that views are evenly divided and only 9% assumed that Kerry would be preferred. A recent poll by GlobeScan and PIPA of 35 of the major countries around the world found that in 30, a majority or plurality favored Kerry, while in just 3 Bush was favored. On average, Kerry was preferred more than two to one.

Bush supporters also have numerous misperceptions about Bush's international policy positions. Majorities incorrectly assume that Bush supports multilateral approaches to various international issues--the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (69%), the treaty banning land mines (72%)--and for addressing the problem of global warming: 51% incorrectly assume he favors US participation in the Kyoto treaty. After he denounced the International Criminal Court in the debates, the perception that he favored it dropped from 66%, but still 53% continue to believe that he favors it. An overwhelming 74% incorrectly assumes that he favors including labor and environmental standards in trade agreements. In all these cases, majorities of Bush supporters favor the positions they impute to Bush. Kerry supporters are much more accurate in their perceptions of his positions on these issues.

"The roots of the Bush supporters' resistance to information," according to Steven Kull, "very likely lie in the traumatic experience of 9/11 and equally in the near pitch-perfect leadership that President Bush showed in its immediate wake. This appears to have created a powerful bond between Bush and his supporters--and an idealized image of the President that makes it difficult for his supporters to imagine that he could have made incorrect judgments before the war, that world public opinion could be critical of his policies or that the President could hold foreign policy positions that are at odds with his supporters."

Read More.....

Gen. Wesley Clark agrees with Bush. Jumping to conclusions is bad.

Today George W. Bush made a very compelling and thoughtful argument for why he should not be reelected. In his own words, he told the American people that "... a political candidate who jumps to conclusions without knowing the facts is not a person you want as your Commander in Chief".

President Bush couldn't be more right. He jumped to conclusions about any connection between Saddam Hussein and 911. He jumped to conclusions about weapons of mass destruction. He jumped to conclusions about the mission being accomplished. He jumped to conclusions about how we had enough troops on the ground to win the peace. And because he jumped to conclusions, terrorists and insurgents in Iraq may very well have their hands on powerful explosives to attack our troops, we are stuck in Iraq without a plan to win the peace, and Americans are less safe both at home and abroad.

By doing all these things, he broke faith with our men and women in uniform. He has let them down. George W. Bush is unfit to be our Commander in Chief.

All Ye Faithful
Is George Bush the Christians' Christian?

A Democratic lawyer friend of mine now teases his Republican clients by asking whether they want "faith-based" advice or "reality-based" advice. This reflects a new part of the liberal critique of George Bush: that his faith has driven him to be disconnected from reality.

To non-believers, this makes total sense. This is faith as in "leap of"—making commitments based on something other than evidence. Of course religion causes close-mindedness. Didn't you watch Inherit the Wind?

As conservatives have pointed out, this critique has an obvious antireligion foundation. Beyond that, it doesn't accurately describe Bush's decision-making process. By most accounts, the president's basic intellectual make-up was formed long before his faith conversion. If Bush is incurious, it's not God's fault.

Conservatives are right when they say that the faith-makes-you-irrational idea is a gross caricature. What Bush supporters are less willing to admit is that President Bush has helped to promote this caricature that liberals now exploit.

The president repeatedly says he makes decisions based on "instinct" and "gut" and by looking into the hearts of world leaders. He lets it be known that he doesn't read the newspapers. He seems to discourage dissenting viewpoints. He jokes about his poor command of the English language and his lousy grades in school. He is America's most famous evangelical Christian–and he's proudly anti-intellectual.

This creates a real dilemma for religious believers—especially evangelical Christians. In the past few decades, evangelical Christianity has seen the blossoming of a movement geared toward disproving the idea that faith must necessarily cause closed-mindedness.

In an influential book called The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind, evangelical scholar Mark Noll wrote that anti-intellectualism is sapping the vibrancy of modern Christianity. Publications like Christianity Today, authors like Lee Strobel and Phillip Yancey, and educational institutions like the Fuller Theological Seminary combine religion with scholarly excellence. For every preacher who says all you need to know is the literal word of the Bible, there is another saying that modern Bible scholarship can help enrich our understanding of scriptures. For them, faith and reason are not at odds. ...

...But in the consideration of reason and faith, we are left with an interesting question: Bush has actively cultivated the image of the simple man of God; how does that reflect on the rest of America's born-again Christians? Is Bush a helpful spokesman, in the end?...

...But is it really good for American Christianity to have as its poster boy someone so proudly anti-intellectual? I suspect that believers and non-believers would be better off if secular intellectuals showed less contempt for evangelicals and the nation's leading evangelical showed less contempt for intellectuals.

Monday, October 18, 2004

General reported supply shortages in Iraq
WASHINGTON - The top U.S. commander in Iraq complained to the Pentagon last winter that his supply situation was so poor that it threatened Army troops' ability to fight, according to an official document that has surfaced only now.

The lack of key spare parts for gear vital to combat operations, such as tanks and helicopters, was causing problems so severe, Army Lt. Gen. Ricardo S. Sanchez wrote in a letter to top Army officials, that "I cannot continue to support sustained combat operations with rates this low."...

Group pickets at churches in Baldwin
BAY MINETTE -- Along a quiet stretch of Baldwin County 138 in front of the Crossroads Church of God on Sunday, a group of anti-gay demonstrators from Topeka, Kan., concluded a weekend of confrontational picketing in Alabama.

The group of about a dozen -- including Kansans with the Westboro Baptist Church and a Loxley street preacher named Orlando Bethel -- stood across the street from the church where, in July, the funeral was held for Scotty Joe Weaver, a gay Baldwin County man who was murdered outside Bay Minette.

Members of the Kansas congregation travel the country in small groups putting on about three protests each weekend in various locations, said Margie Phelps, daughter of the church's founder and pastor, Fred Phelps Sr.

At the demonstrations they stood with signs that read slogans such as "God hates fags," "God hates America," some that link natural disasters and terrorist attacks to tolerance of homosexuals and others showing stick figures copulating.

Their favorite targets include AIDS victims' funerals, Catholic churches and even the Texas church that President Bush attends....

..."When they were forced with the decision about what to say about (Weaver's) life, they should have said unequivocally: Don't live that way, and if you live that way you'll die and end up in hell," Phelps said.

Weaver, 19, was beaten, stabbed and strangled by assailants, who then set his body on fire. Investigators have pointed to the man's sexual orientation as a motive and have charged three suspects with capital murder. His funeral was held at the Crossroads church eight days after his decomposing body was found in a wooded area in the Pine Grove community where he lived.

On Saturday evening, while protesting in Mobile outside the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception by shouting epithets at choirboys and churchgoers, Phelps said she didn't condone Weaver's killing but said homosexuality was a sin on par with murder. ...

Our Magical President
How Bush goes beyond the Bible to create his own reality.

The big religion story of the day -- Ron Suskind’s NYT Magazine fisking of Bush’s faith -- is also the big political story of the day, and since it follows so closely on Matt Bai’s inadvertent take-down of Kerry, it’ll likely provide wonk-gossip fodder as well. Is this the Times' idea of "balance"? More importantly, which aide channeled New Age chanteuse Enya by asserting that “we create our own reality”? Who are the “sources” who set Suskind’s phone a-ringing after the publication of The Price of Loyalty? And is George W. Bush the first magical president of the United States?

Well, probably no one will ask that last one, but that’s what I was left wondering after reading Suskind’s report, only the latest in a long series of investigations of Bush’s faith. What’s surprising about Suskind’s summary of Bush’s “walk,” to borrow an evangelical term, is how small a role Jesus Christ seems to play in it. God gets a few cameos, but even he’s a supporting player. Front and center, though, is faith.

Given what we know about Bush, from pro-Bush sources such as Stephen Mansfield’s The Faith of George W. Bush and the documentary George W. Bush: Faith in the White House, from the reasonably neutral Frontline special, “The Jesus Factor,” and from mainstream print investigations such as Alan Cooperman's, that’s a fair assessment.

Believing, it seems, is more important to the President than the substance of his belief. Jesus Christ’s particular teachings -- well, those are good, too. But what really matters is that if you believe you can do something, you can.

What Suskind misses, and what Bush’s more orthodox Christian supporters seem to dodge, is that this is not Christian doctrine by any definition. It is, in fact, a key element of the broad, heterodox movement known as New Age religion.

A common aspect of many New Age schools of thought (though not all; plenty of them blend numerous philosophical traditions in a sophisticated manner) is a gentle disdain for perceived reality. Many New Agers argue that their beliefs are actually ancient; and, despite the fact that the superficial characteristics are often of a recent vintage, there’s some truth to that assertion. New Age religions are, literally, reactionary, responses to what’s been called the disenchantment of the world. Another word for that process is the Enlightenment, with its claims of empirical accuracy. New Age movements attempt to revive -- or create anew --pre-Enlightenment ideas about magic, alchemy, ghosts, and whatever else practitioners can glean from a record for the most part expunged by institutional Christianity.

Christian fundamentalism, meanwhile, is the child of the Enlightenment, a functionalist view of faith that’s metaphorically “scientific.” It's scripture as read by a cranky engineer who just wants to know how God works. The Bible, for a fundamentalist, isn’t powerful literature demanding our ever-changing discernment; it’s an instruction manual. ...

...In this particular sense, Bush does seem to be a descendent of the Enlightenment: He’s Rousseau’s noble savage, operating on the pure, animal instincts that’re true because they are, and are because they’re true. The noble savage does not live in what Bush’s aide contemptuously calls “the reality-based community”; he is in and is of a “nature” more real than reality, which, in an unexpected nod to postmodernism, Bush believers seem to dismiss as a social construct.

Suskind and other Bush detractors (and make no mistake, Suskind’s story is a hit piece -- a smart, informative hit piece, but a hit piece all the same) document Bush’s tautological thinking, but they fall short of taking it seriously. That’s a point Mark McKinnon, one of Bush’s media advisors, tries to hammer home in brutal fashion when he tells Suskind, “ ‘When you attack him for his malaprops, his jumbled syntax, it’s good for us. Because you know what [Bush supporters] don’t like? They don’t like you!’”

Beyond the schoolyard shoving aspects of this declaration, there’s some insight. Suskind reads McKinnon's comment as an attack on snobbery; in fact, it’s an angry defense of positive thinking, of creating one’s own reality. Bush believers long for absolutes, but they don't care about empirical definitions. They're not literalists, which means they're not Christian fundamentalists. They don't trust language, which is why they read clunky, soulless translations of scripture, when they read it at all. Bush himself doesn't study the Bible; he samples phrases and invokes them like spells. ...

Ex-Inmate's Suit Offers View Into Sexual Slavery in Prisons
AUSTIN, Tex., Oct. 12 - The inmates at the Allred Unit, a tough Texas prison, mostly go by names like Monster, Diablo and Animal. They gave Roderick Johnson, a black gay man with a gentle manner, a different sort of name when he arrived there in September 2000. They called him Coco.

Under the protocols of the prison gangs at Allred, gay prisoners must take women's names. Then they are assigned to one of the gangs.

"The Crips already had a homosexual that was with them," Mr. Johnson explained. "The Gangster Disciples, from what I understand, hadn't had a homosexual under them in a while. So that's why I was automatically, like, given to them."

According to court papers and his own detailed account, the Gangster Disciples and then other gangs treated Mr. Johnson as a sex slave. They bought and sold him, and they rented him out. Some sex acts cost $5, others $10.

Last month, a federal appeals court allowed a civil rights lawsuit that Mr. Johnson has filed against prison officials to go to trial. The ruling, the first to acknowledge the equal protection rights of homosexuals abused in prison, said the evidence in the case was "horrific."

"I was forced into oral sex and anal sex on a daily basis," said Mr. Johnson, who has been living in a boarding house here since his release in December. "Not for a month or two. For, like, 18 months."

The phenomenon of sexual slavery in prison has only recently emerged from the shadows. Prison rape, in general, has received sporadic notice over the years and sustained attention more recently, with the passage last year of a federal law that aims to eliminate it. But there has never been a comprehensive study of incarcerated gay men subjected to sexual abuse.

Discussing any form of prison rape is difficult. It makes many people uncomfortable. Some find it amusing.

"It has been the subject of mockery and almost sadistic glee," said Margaret Winter, associate director of the National Prison Project of the American Civil Liberties Union. "But Roderick is a human being who doesn't deserve this, not in a civilized society."...

Marine returns from Iraq to emotional ruin, suicide
BELCHERTOWN, Mass. -- Jeffrey Lucey was just an ordinary kid from small-town America. He grew up loving his parents, his high school sweetheart and backyard whiffle ball games in this quiet, picturesque community bordering the Quabbin Reservoir.

Even his decision to enlist in the Marine Reserves in 1999 was run-of-the-mill, uncluttered by the anxious sense of patriotism that inspired many others to join the military after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

"He just wanted to prove he could cut it," his mother, Joyce Lucey, said.

But when Jeff returned to his parents' home in July 2003 after serving six months in Iraq as a truck driver, there was nothing ordinary left about him.

He started drinking too much. He became withdrawn, depressed and distant.

In June, after what his parents describe as months of mental and emotional torment, the lance corporal went down to the basement and hanged himself.

He was 23.

Just a few feet from where his father found him with a garden hose wrapped around his neck, Jeff had arranged a semicircle of family photos on the floor. The note he left said he could no longer deal with his emotional pain.

Upstairs, a pair of dog tags rested on his bed. His Marine-issue boots stood next to them....

Randomness, Risk, and Financial Markets
Pi, the ratio of a circle's circumference to its diameter, is known as an irrational number because it can't be exactly expressed as a ratio of whole numbers. It would take an infinite number of digits to write it out in full as a decimal or, in binary form, as a string of 1s and 0s. The square root of 2, the square root of 3, and the constant e (the base of the natural logarithms) fall into the same category.

The known digits of these numbers appear patternless. According to one novel method of assessing the randomness of a sequence of numbers, however, the digits of pi turn out to be somewhat more irregular than the digits of the other irrational numbers.

The measure used to determine the irregularity or degree of disorder (entropy) of these sequences is called the approximate entropy. Invented by Steve Pincus of Guilford, Conn., and developed in cooperation with Burton H. Singer of Princeton University, this measure characterizes the randomness of a sequence of numbers. ...

...Because the approximate entropy method does not depend on any assumptions about the process involved in generating a sequence of numbers, it can be applied to biological, medical, or financial data and to physical measurements, such as the number of alpha particles emitted by a radioactive element in specified time intervals, as readily as to the digits of irrational numbers.

For example, Pincus has looked at stock market performance, as measured by Standard and Poor's index of 500 stocks. His calculations show that fluctuations in the index's value are generally quite far from being completely irregular, or random.

One striking exception occurred during the 2-week period immediately preceding the stock market crash of 1987, when the approximate entropy indicated nearly complete irregularity. That change flagged the incipient collapse.

Now, Pincus and Rudolf E. Kalman of the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich have applied approximate entropy to the analysis of a wide range of other financial data. They describe their findings in the Sept. 21 Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Approximate entropy "appears to be a potentially useful marker of system stability, with rapid increases possibly foreshadowing significant changes in a financial variable," Pincus and Kalman contend.

To provide another example of such foreshadowing, Pincus and Kalman examined fluctuations in Hong Kong's Hang Seng index from 1992 to 1998. In this case, the approximate entropy value rose sharply to its highest observed value immediately before this market crashed in November 1997. ...

Sunday, October 17, 2004

A Little Matter Called Discernment
...As Susskind makes clear, Bush's branch of Christianity (it is his own brand, since he doesn't go to church, but there are any number of rightist evangelicals who share it) doesn't allow for doubt. This flies in the face of religion as it is practiced by billions of people around the world. Doubt is and has always been a significant part of faith. I'm a spiritual director and tell my directees (and myself, on a regular basis) that spiritual maturation happens on those days when faith gets ahead of fear by even a whisker. That's what doubt is: it is fear, one of the primal emotions. How do I know this? Personal experience, that of the people I've been directing for years and 3,500 years of recorded human history. People have been feeding the writing jones since they invented writing.

Bush is so reactive on doubt:fear that he can't even have it mentioned in the same room with him. This is a fearful man who went looking, not for "faith," which grounds reason in experience, but for certainty. The spiritual truth of our existence, if I may make such a brave claim, is that we are all grounded in a mystery which we barely understand even though we experience it constantly. Bush wants to reduce this enigma to "his gut." There are some strands of Protestant theology which like to do this, to make the individual the only prophecy, the only truth bringer. I think they are wrong and that decisions which are not grounded in community (even when they challenge and harrow the community, yet remain in relationship with it) will stumble and fail. "With us or against us" fails the test of community.

We have a "leader" who fears us, yet believes God is on his side. In the great swath of the Judeo-Christian tradition, we've developed a little more nuance in a matter which is called "discernment," the attempt to hear what God is actually saying in our real circumstances....

The Brownshirting of America
...Bush's supporters demand lockstep consensus that Bush is right. They regard truthful reports that Saddam Hussein had no weapons of mass destruction and was not involved in the Sept. 11 attack on the U.S. – truths now firmly established by the Bush administration's own reports – as treasonous America-bashing....

...Bush's conservative supporters want no debate. They want no facts, no analysis. They want to denounce and demonize the enemies that the Hannitys, Limbaughs, and Savages of talk radio assure them are everywhere at work destroying their great and noble country.

I remember when conservatives favored restraint in foreign policy and wished to limit government power in order to protect civil liberties. Today's young conservatives are Jacobins determined to use government power to impose their will at home and abroad.

Where did such "conservatives" come from?...

...Conservatives don't assess opponents' arguments, they demonize opponents. Truth and falsity are out of the picture; the criteria are: who's good, who's evil, who's patriotic, who's unpatriotic.

These are the traits of brownshirts. Brownshirts know they are right. They know their opponents are wrong and regard them as enemies who must be silenced if not exterminated....

Bush the Christian
Few Americans look beyond the headlines on the war in Iraq, but a lot of believers nonetheless have confidence that George Bush is doing the right thing there. After all, they say, "he’s such a good Christian."

The notion that Christian faith preserves us from error does run deep among some believers, and clearly Karl Rove expects them to be part of the 20 million evangelical votes he thinks George Bush needs to win in November. But their well-intentioned confidence overlooks the sober common sense of the church as it has been expressed over many centuries. John Henry Cardinal Newman put it as simply as anyone: "Being a great theologian doesn’t make you more holy. It only makes you more guilty when you sin." ...

Post-war planning non-existent
WASHINGTON - In March 2003, days before the start of the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, American war planners and intelligence officials met at Shaw Air Force Base in South Carolina to review the Bush administration's plans to oust Saddam Hussein and implant democracy in Iraq.

Near the end of his presentation, an Army lieutenant colonel who was giving a briefing showed a slide describing the Pentagon's plans for rebuilding Iraq after the war, known in the planners' parlance as Phase 4-C. He was uncomfortable with his material - and for good reason.

The slide said: "To Be Provided."

A Knight Ridder review of the administration's Iraq policy and decisions has found that it invaded Iraq without a comprehensive plan in place to secure and rebuild the country. The administration also failed to provide some 100,000 additional U.S. troops that American military commanders originally wanted to help restore order and reconstruct a country shattered by war, a brutal dictatorship and economic sanctions....

Saturday, October 16, 2004

Their beliefs are bonkers, but they are at the heart of power
US Christian fundamentalists are driving Bush's Middle East policy

...In the United States, several million people have succumbed to an extraordinary delusion. In the 19th century, two immigrant preachers cobbled together a series of unrelated passages from the Bible to create what appears to be a consistent narrative: Jesus will return to Earth when certain preconditions have been met. The first of these was the establishment of a state of Israel. The next involves Israel's occupation of the rest of its "biblical lands" (most of the Middle East), and the rebuilding of the Third Temple on the site now occupied by the Dome of the Rock and al-Aqsa mosques. The legions of the antichrist will then be deployed against Israel, and their war will lead to a final showdown in the valley of Armageddon. The Jews will either burn or convert to Christianity, and the Messiah will return to Earth.

What makes the story so appealing to Christian fundamentalists is that before the big battle begins, all "true believers" (ie those who believe what they believe) will be lifted out of their clothes and wafted up to heaven during an event called the Rapture. Not only do the worthy get to sit at the right hand of God, but they will be able to watch, from the best seats, their political and religious opponents being devoured by boils, sores, locusts and frogs, during the seven years of Tribulation which follow.

The true believers are now seeking to bring all this about. This means staging confrontations at the old temple site (in 2000, three US Christians were deported for trying to blow up the mosques there), sponsoring Jewish settlements in the occupied territories, demanding ever more US support for Israel, and seeking to provoke a final battle with the Muslim world/Axis of Evil/United Nations/ European Union/France or whoever the legions of the antichrist turn out to be.

The believers are convinced that they will soon be rewarded for their efforts. The antichrist is apparently walking among us, in the guise of Kofi Annan, Javier Solana, Yasser Arafat or, more plausibly, Silvio Berlusconi. The Wal-Mart corporation is also a candidate (in my view a very good one), because it wants to radio-tag its stock, thereby exposing humankind to the Mark of the Beast.

By clicking on, you can discover how close you might be to flying out of your pyjamas. The infidels among us should take note that the Rapture Index currently stands at 144, just one point below the critical threshold, beyond which the sky will be filled with floating nudists. Beast Government, Wild Weather and Israel are all trading at the maximum five points (the EU is debat ing its constitution, there was a freak hurricane in the south Atlantic, Hamas has sworn to avenge the killing of its leaders), but the second coming is currently being delayed by an unfortunate decline in drug abuse among teenagers and a weak showing by the antichrist (both of which score only two).

We can laugh at these people, but we should not dismiss them. That their beliefs are bonkers does not mean they are marginal. American pollsters believe that 15-18% of US voters belong to churches or movements which subscribe to these teachings. A survey in 1999 suggested that this figure included 33% of Republicans. The best-selling contemporary books in the US are the 12 volumes of the Left Behind series, which provide what is usually described as a "fictionalised" account of the Rapture (this, apparently, distinguishes it from the other one), with plenty of dripping details about what will happen to the rest of us. The people who believe all this don't believe it just a little; for them it is a matter of life eternal and death.

And among them are some of the most powerful men in America. John Ashcroft, the attorney general, is a true believer, so are several prominent senators and the House majority leader, Tom DeLay. Mr DeLay (who is also the co-author of the marvellously named DeLay-Doolittle Amendment, postponing campaign finance reforms) travelled to Israel last year to tell the Knesset that "there is no middle ground, no moderate position worth taking". ...

Without a Doubt
Bruce Bartlett, a domestic policy adviser to Ronald Reagan and a treasury official for the first President Bush, told me recently that ''if Bush wins, there will be a civil war in the Republican Party starting on Nov. 3.'' The nature of that conflict, as Bartlett sees it? Essentially, the same as the one raging across much of the world: a battle between modernists and fundamentalists, pragmatists and true believers, reason and religion.

''Just in the past few months,'' Bartlett said, ''I think a light has gone off for people who've spent time up close to Bush: that this instinct he's always talking about is this sort of weird, Messianic idea of what he thinks God has told him to do.'' Bartlett, a 53-year-old columnist and self-described libertarian Republican who has lately been a champion for traditional Republicans concerned about Bush's governance, went on to say: ''This is why George W. Bush is so clear-eyed about Al Qaeda and the Islamic fundamentalist enemy. He believes you have to kill them all. They can't be persuaded, that they're extremists, driven by a dark vision. He understands them, because he's just like them. . . .

''This is why he dispenses with people who confront him with inconvenient facts,'' Bartlett went on to say. ''He truly believes he's on a mission from God. Absolute faith like that overwhelms a need for analysis. The whole thing about faith is to believe things for which there is no empirical evidence.'' Bartlett paused, then said, ''But you can't run the world on faith.'' ...

...The president would say that he relied on his ''gut'' or his ''instinct'' to guide the ship of state, and then he ''prayed over it.'' The old pro Bartlett, a deliberative, fact-based wonk, is finally hearing a tune that has been hummed quietly by evangelicals (so as not to trouble the secular) for years as they gazed upon President George W. Bush. This evangelical group -- the core of the energetic ''base'' that may well usher Bush to victory -- believes that their leader is a messenger from God. And in the first presidential debate, many Americans heard the discursive John Kerry succinctly raise, for the first time, the issue of Bush's certainty -- the issue being, as Kerry put it, that ''you can be certain and be wrong.''

What underlies Bush's certainty? And can it be assessed in the temporal realm of informed consent?

All of this -- the ''gut'' and ''instincts,'' the certainty and religiosity -connects to a single word, ''faith,'' and faith asserts its hold ever more on debates in this country and abroad. That a deep Christian faith illuminated the personal journey of George W. Bush is common knowledge. But faith has also shaped his presidency in profound, nonreligious ways. The president has demanded unquestioning faith from his followers, his staff, his senior aides and his kindred in the Republican Party. Once he makes a decision -- often swiftly, based on a creed or moral position -- he expects complete faith in its rightness.

The disdainful smirks and grimaces that many viewers were surprised to see in the first presidential debate are familiar expressions to those in the administration or in Congress who have simply asked the president to explain his positions. Since 9/11, those requests have grown scarce; Bush's intolerance of doubters has, if anything, increased, and few dare to question him now. A writ of infallibility -- a premise beneath the powerful Bushian certainty that has, in many ways, moved mountains -- is not just for public consumption: it has guided the inner life of the White House....

...This is one key feature of the faith-based presidency: open dialogue, based on facts, is not seen as something of inherent value. It may, in fact, create doubt, which undercuts faith. It could result in a loss of confidence in the decision-maker and, just as important, by the decision-maker. Nothing could be more vital, whether staying on message with the voters or the terrorists or a California congressman in a meeting about one of the world's most nagging problems. As Bush himself has said any number of times on the campaign trail, ''By remaining resolute and firm and strong, this world will be peaceful.'' ...

... Faith heals the heart and the spirit, but it doesn't do much for analytical skills. ...

...In the summer of 2002, after I had written an article in Esquire that the White House didn't like about Bush's former communications director, Karen Hughes, I had a meeting with a senior adviser to Bush. He expressed the White House's displeasure, and then he told me something that at the time I didn't fully comprehend -- but which I now believe gets to the very heart of the Bush presidency.

The aide said that guys like me were ''in what we call the reality-based community,'' which he defined as people who ''believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality.'' I nodded and murmured something about enlightenment principles and empiricism. He cut me off. ''That's not the way the world really works anymore,'' he continued. ''We're an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you're studying that reality -- judiciously, as you will -- we'll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that's how things will sort out. We're history's actors . . . and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do.'' ...

...George W. Bush and his team have constructed a high-performance electoral engine. The soul of this new machine is the support of millions of likely voters, who judge his worth based on intangibles -- character, certainty, fortitude and godliness -- rather than on what he says or does. The deeper the darkness, the brighter this filament of faith glows, a faith in the president and the just God who affirms him....

...And for those who don't get it? That was explained to me in late 2002 by Mark McKinnon, a longtime senior media adviser to Bush, who now runs his own consulting firm and helps the president. He started by challenging me. ''You think he's an idiot, don't you?'' I said, no, I didn't. ''No, you do, all of you do, up and down the West Coast, the East Coast, a few blocks in southern Manhattan called Wall Street. Let me clue you in. We don't care. You see, you're outnumbered 2 to 1 by folks in the big, wide middle of America, busy working people who don't read The New York Times or Washington Post or The L.A. Times. And you know what they like? They like the way he walks and the way he points, the way he exudes confidence. They have faith in him. And when you attack him for his malaprops, his jumbled syntax, it's good for us. Because you know what those folks don't like? They don't like you!'' In this instance, the final ''you,'' of course, meant the entire reality-based community.

The bond between Bush and his base is a bond of mutual support. He supports them with his actions, doing his level best to stand firm on wedge issues like abortion and same-sex marriage while he identifies evil in the world, at home and abroad. They respond with fierce faith....

...''Faith can cut in so many ways,'' he said. ''If you're penitent and not triumphal, it can move us to repentance and accountability and help us reach for something higher than ourselves. That can be a powerful thing, a thing that moves us beyond politics as usual, like Martin Luther King did. But when it's designed to certify our righteousness -- that can be a dangerous thing. Then it pushes self-criticism aside. There's no reflection.

''Where people often get lost is on this very point,'' he said after a moment of thought. ''Real faith, you see, leads us to deeper reflection and not -- not ever -- to the thing we as humans so very much want.''

And what is that?

''Easy certainty.''

Friday, October 15, 2004

Platoon defies orders in Iraq
A 17-member Army Reserve platoon with troops from Jackson and around the Southeast deployed to Iraq is under arrest for refusing a "suicide mission" to deliver fuel, the troops' relatives said Thursday.

The soldiers refused an order on Wednesday to go to Taji, Iraq — north of Baghdad — because their vehicles were considered "deadlined" or extremely unsafe, said Patricia McCook of Jackson, wife of Sgt. Larry O. McCook.

Sgt. McCook, a deputy at the Hinds County Detention Center, and the 16 other members of the 343rd Quartermaster Company from Rock Hill, S.C., were read their rights and moved from the military barracks into tents, Patricia McCook said her husband told her during a panicked phone call about 5 a.m. Thursday....

4-Star Plans After Abu Ghraib
Top administration figures are angling to promote Army Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, who ran detention facilities in Iraq, officials say.

WASHINGTON — The Pentagon plans to promote Army Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, former head of military operations in Iraq, risking a confrontation with members of Congress because of the prisoner abuses that occurred during his tenure.

Senior Pentagon officials, including Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and Air Force Gen. Richard B. Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, have privately told colleagues they are determined to pin a fourth star on Sanchez, two senior defense officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said this week.

Rumsfeld and others recognize that Sanchez remains politically "radioactive," in the words of a third senior defense official, and would wait until after the Nov. 2 presidential election and investigations of the Abu Ghraib scandal have faded before putting his name forward.

Top Pentagon strategists do not have a specific four-star job in mind for Sanchez, and the officials conceded that the appointment would probably not occur if Bush were defeated in his reelection bid....

Remember Abu Ghraib?
IN THE PAST few weeks the presidential candidates have debated almost every aspect of the war on terrorism save one: the handling of detainees in Iraq and Afghanistan. That is a remarkable omission, if only because the shocking photographs of abuses at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, and reports of hundreds of other cases of torture and homicide in Iraq and Afghanistan, have done grave damage to the United States' ability to combat extremism in the Muslim world. There is, too, something important to debate: whether the United States will return to adhering to the Geneva Conventions and other international rules governing the treatment of foreign prisoners, or whether the war on terrorism justifies the violation of international law in certain cases. President Bush clearly intends to preserve the current, exceptional policies he adopted after Sept. 11, 2001, despite the abuses to which they led. Sen. John F. Kerry has criticized the abuses but hasn't made clear whether he would change the policies.

Mr. Bush is obviously eager to avoid the subject of prisoner detentions. Maybe that's because his public stance on what happened at Abu Ghraib, and what caused it, is entirely at odds with the facts brought out by official investigations. When he last spoke of the matter, months ago, the president maintained that the abuse was the responsibility of a few low-ranking soldiers working the night shift. He has not acknowledged that scores of soldiers have now been implicated for crimes including homicide, or that a Pentagon-appointed panel has found responsibility at senior levels of the Pentagon, the Justice Department and the White House. Nor has he held anyone in his administration accountable. Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, who made policy decisions about interrogations that led directly to the abuse of prisoners in Afghanistan and Iraq, said he's not aware that any abuses occurred during questionings -- even though an official report by his own department confirmed that very point.

The administration's guilty silence has been abetted in the past month by Pentagon and congressional investigators. Several Republican senators have said that there are major outstanding issues of both fact and accountability: for example, the role of the CIA in introducing abusive interrogation techniques into Iraq and illegally hiding prisoners from the International Red Cross....