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