Saturday, July 21, 2007

Giuliani's Mayoral Record Is Complicated

Complicated?, No Sh*t! So, in other words, Giuliani is a phoney lying sack of sh*t who takes credit he doesn't deserve.

By LIBBY QUAID, Associated Press Writer - July 21, 2007

Rudy Giuliani boasts that he reined in crime, welfare and taxes in a city once considered ungovernable. Those claims are intrinsic to the former New York mayor's pitch to Republican voters that he has the combination of competence and toughness they want in a president. Whether his record supports those claims, however, is a matter upon which admirers and critics differ markedly.

Most benchmarks during Giuliani's eight years as mayor, from the start of 1994 to Jan. 1, 2002, suggest dramatic success. The crime rate tumbled by 60 percent. Welfare rolls decreased by 52 percent. Taxes fell by at least 25 percent. While city spending grew, it lagged behind the booming economy of the 1990s.

His record, however, is more complicated than the numbers indicate.

Giuliani was a pugnacious leader. He picked fights with political foes as well as his own police chief and schools superintendent. Any critic -- squeegee men, artists, callers to his weekly radio show -- was fair game.

In his wake, Giuliani left a trail of detractors who insist he does not deserve all the credit for the good things that happened on his watch.

The city was primed for success as Giuliani took office in 1994.

Thousands of new police officers hired by his predecessor, Democrat David Dinkins, were coming on duty. Thousands of mentally ill homeless people were provided housing and treatment under a program begun by Dinkins and former Democratic Gov. Mario Cuomo.

The economy was growing, pumping billions of dollars into the city treasury. The Dow Jones Industrial Average stood at 3,754.09 on the day Giuliani arrived at City Hall and opened at 10,136.99 the day he left.

"He did some things in the first couple of years in particular that he should get some credit for, particularly the continuing reduction in crime, but I don't think he was an unusually good mayor," said Steven Cohen, a public affairs professor at Columbia University.

"He was actually a capable guy and did a good job," Cohen said. "But I think he had a tendency to see himself as the only person who was smart in the room."

Giuliani's signature issue, crime, is especially important to law-and-order Republican voters. Before winning the mayor's office, Giuliani was a federal prosecutor who put away drug pushers, mob figures and white-collar crooks.

Giuliani was mayor during a period of declining crime rates nationwide. Crime in New York peaked in 1990 and had been dropping for three years before Giuliani took office, according to FBI data. Nationally, violent crime declined 38 percent and property crime declined 33 percent from a modern peak in 1991 through 2005.

The drop was more dramatic in New York. Crime overall decreased by 60 percent between 1993, the year before Giuliani took office, and 2002, when he left. The national crime rate dropped by 24 percent during the same period.

The steep reductions in New York, Giuliani contends, came from a system developed by his police department to map crime patterns and make local police commanders responsible for reducing crime.

"New York City was the only one (of big cities) that had a decline in crime every single year" during that period, Giuliani told Iowa voters recently.

Other big cities copied New York's program -- Compstat, short for computerized, or compare, statistics. Giuliani wrote in his 2002 book, "Leadership," that he considered it his crown jewel.

But there was debate, even early on, over who deserved more credit for the drop in crime -- Giuliani or William Bratton, the charismatic police chief from 1994 to 1996. Giuliani abruptly fired Bratton after he appeared on the cover of Time magazine as the man responsible for the crime reduction.

Eli Silverman, a professor emeritus at City University of New York's John Jay College of Criminal Justice, thinks Giuliani takes too much credit for the program. "He calls it the crown jewel of his leadership, the implication being it was his baby. There were other parents," Silverman said.

Today, Giuliani has defused the conflict by reconciling with Bratton, now the Los Angeles police chief, and making a point of mentioning Bratton and his aides in speeches.

Under Giuliani, police also cracked down on small-time "quality of life" offenders such as squeegee men and subway turnstile jumpers who often turned out to be responsible for more serious crimes.

Some experts say the new tactics -- combined with 12,000 more police officers hired under Dinkins and a merger with transit and housing police -- were instrumental in reducing crime.

"So more money was being put into policing, no question," said Silverman, who wrote a book on Compstat. "But money itself is not enough. You need not only more cops, but you need to allocate and deploy them more intelligently, and that's what Compstat was able to do."

Sociology professor Andrew Karmen, who also teaches at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, does not think Compstat deserves as much credit. He cites other factors, such as an improved economy, an influx of immigrants who were generally law-abiding, a shrinking population of young people and more criminals serving jail time. Karmen also cited open admissions at New York City's public colleges, which provided an education to more young people.

Detractors also question whether police abused their power to achieve crime reductions, noting that civilian complaints against police rose 41 percent under Giuliani.

In two high-profile abuse cases, police shot and killed unarmed West African immigrant Amadou Diallo, and Haitian immigrant Abner Louima was beaten and sodomized in a Brooklyn station house.

Officials from Giuliani's administration point out the city made it easier for people to file complaints. In "Leadership," Giuliani notes that police shootings declined -- from 81 in 1992 to 26 in 2002.

Giuliani expanded the Compstat approach throughout city government. For example, his administration applied it to job programs, measuring how many people were moved off welfare and into private sector jobs and reporting the numbers to the public.

Welfare rolls under Giuliani shrank by more than half, from more than 1 million to 516,000, according to city and federal records. Unemployment fell from 10 percent to 6 percent.

Giuliani helped tie public assistance to work, requiring people to work in community service jobs in exchange for welfare benefits. Giuliani renamed the city's welfare offices, calling them job centers.

Some welfare recipients, though, compared the community service jobs to indentured servitude and said they did not lead to real jobs.

Advocates for the poor point out that even though poverty rates fell under Giuliani, nearly one in five New Yorkers remained below the poverty line, well above the national rate.

Yet the rest of city residents saw fatter paychecks as the economy continued to expand. Personal income rose by an average of 5.8 percent annually while Giuliani was mayor, according to city and federal data.

Personal income is a good way to measure economic growth, said Chuck Brescher, research director of the independent Citizens Budget Commission.

By that and several other measures, city spending grew more slowly than the economy, at about 4.1 percent, according to the nonpartisan, nonprofit organization that monitors New York City and New York state government.

At the same time, Giuliani cut taxes on commercial rent, personal and business income and general sales. The cuts grew steadily as the economy grew, from 0.2 percent in 1995 to 6.7 percent, or $1.6 billion, when he left office, CBC said.

For managing that in liberal New York, he gets good grades from the anti-tax group Club for Growth.

"He has his blemishes, but we thought his constructive policies in the face of such vigorous opposition was really noteworthy," said Pat Toomey, a former Republican congressman from Pennsylvania who heads that group.

One way Giuliani kept spending in check was to cut city employees by an estimated 8 percent, not counting teachers.

Giuliani hired thousands more teachers, although the four-year high school graduation rate remained stubbornly unchanged at 52 percent during his tenure. Officials from Giuliani's administration point out Giuliani attempted to take control of the city school system, calling it "dysfunctional" and saying it should be "blown up."

As one of the top GOP contenders for the White House, Giuliani is drawing increased scrutiny for his mayoral record.

"The question is, how much does New York help him and how much does New York hurt him?" said Scott Huffman, political science professor at South Carolina's Winthrop University. "Remember, he's running in a Republican primary, and a lot of so-called red-staters don't have a fondness for that great city."

The Antiwar, Anti-Abortion, Anti-Drug-Enforcement-Administration, Anti-Medicare Candidacy of Dr. Ron Paul

Finally, a "fair and balanced" piece on Ron Paul. I guess this signals the "establishment" is starting to take Paul's candidancy seriously. If Paul is the presidential hopeful for "Wackos," then call me wacky. Way-To-Go Ron! Sign me up!


Whipping westward across Manhattan in a limousine sent by Comedy Central’s “Daily Show,” Ron Paul, the 10-term Texas congressman and long-shot Republican presidential candidate, is being briefed. Paul has only the most tenuous familiarity with Comedy Central. He has never heard of “The Daily Show.” His press secretary, Jesse Benton, is trying to explain who its host, Jon Stewart, is. “He’s an affable gentleman,” Benton says, “and he’s very smart. What I’m getting from the pre-interview is, he’s sympathetic.”

Paul nods.

“GQ wants to profile you on Thursday,” Benton continues. “I think it’s worth doing.”

“GTU?” the candidate replies.

“GQ. It’s a men’s magazine.”

“Don’t know much about that,” Paul says.

Thin to the point of gauntness, polite to the point of daintiness, Ron Paul is a 71-year-old great-grandfather, a small-town doctor, a self-educated policy intellectual and a formidable stander on constitutional principle. In normal times, Paul might be — indeed, has been — the kind of person who is summoned onto cable television around April 15 to ventilate about whether the federal income tax violates the Constitution. But Paul has in recent weeks become a sensation in magazines he doesn’t read, on Web sites he has never visited and on television shows he has never watched.

Alone among Republican candidates for the presidency, Paul has always opposed the Iraq war. He blames “a dozen or two neocons who got control of our foreign policy,” chief among them Vice President Dick Cheney and the former Bush advisers Paul Wolfowitz and Richard Perle, for the debacle. On the assumption that a bad situation could get worse if the war spreads into Iran, he has a simple plan. It is: “Just leave.” During a May debate in South Carolina, he suggested the 9/11 attacks could be attributed to United States policy. “Have you ever read about the reasons they attacked us?” he asked, referring to one of Osama bin Laden’s communiqués. “They attack us because we’ve been over there. We’ve been bombing Iraq for 10 years.” Rudolph Giuliani reacted by demanding a retraction, drawing gales of applause from the audience. But the incident helped Paul too. Overnight, he became the country’s most conspicuous antiwar Republican.

Paul’s opposition to the war in Iraq did not come out of nowhere. He was against the first gulf war, the war in Kosovo and the Iraq Liberation Act of 1998, which he called a “declaration of virtual war.” Although he voted after Sept. 11 to approve the use of force in Afghanistan and spend $40 billion in emergency appropriations, he has sounded less thrilled with those votes as time has passed. “I voted for the authority and the money,” he now says. “I thought it was misused.”

There is something homespun about Paul, reminiscent of “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington.” He communicates with his constituents through birthday cards, August barbecues and the cookbooks his wife puts together every election season, which mix photos of grandchildren, Gospel passages and neighbors’ recipes for Velveeta cheese fudge and Cherry Coke salad. He is listed in the phone book, and his constituents call him at home. But there is also something cosmopolitan and radical about him; his speeches can bring to mind the World Social Forum or the French international-affairs periodical Le Monde Diplomatique. Paul is surely the only congressman who would cite the assertion of the left-leaning Chennai-based daily The Hindu that “the world is being asked today, in reality, to side with the U.S. as it seeks to strengthen its economic hegemony.” The word “empire” crops up a lot in his speeches.

This side of Paul has made him the candidate of many people, on both the right and the left, who hope that something more consequential than a mere change of party will come out of the 2008 elections. He is particularly popular among the young and the wired. Except for Barack Obama, he is the most-viewed candidate on YouTube. He is the most “friended” Republican on Paul understands that his chances of winning the presidency are infinitesimally slim. He is simultaneously planning his next Congressional race. But in Paul’s idea of politics, spreading a message has always been just as important as seizing office. “Politicians don’t amount to much,” he says, “but ideas do.” Although he is still in the low single digits in polls, he says he has raised $2.4 million in the second quarter, enough to broaden the four-state campaign he originally planned into a national one.

Paul represents a different Republican Party from the one that Iraq, deficits and corruption have soured the country on. In late June, despite a life of antitax agitation and churchgoing, he was excluded from a Republican forum sponsored by Iowa antitax and Christian groups. His school of Republicanism, which had its last serious national airing in the Goldwater campaign of 1964, stands for a certain idea of the Constitution — the idea that much of the power asserted by modern presidents has been usurped from Congress, and that much of the power asserted by Congress has been usurped from the states. Though Paul acknowledges flaws in both the Constitution (it included slavery) and the Bill of Rights (it doesn’t go far enough), he still thinks a comprehensive array of positions can be drawn from them: Against gun control. For the sovereignty of states. And against foreign-policy adventures. Paul was the Libertarian Party’s presidential candidate in 1988. But his is a less exuberant libertarianism than you find, say, in the pages of Reason magazine.

Over the years, this vision has won most favor from those convinced the country is going to hell in a handbasket. The attention Paul has captured tells us a lot about the prevalence of such pessimism today, about the instability of partisan allegiances and about the seldom-avowed common ground between the hard right and the hard left. His message draws on the noblest traditions of American decency and patriotism; it also draws on what the historian Richard Hofstadter called the paranoid style in American politics.

Financial Armageddon

Paul grew up in the western Pennsylvania town of Green Tree. His father, the son of a German immigrant, ran a small dairy company. Sports were big around there — one of the customers on the milk route Paul worked as a teenager was the retired baseball Hall of Famer Honus Wagner — and Paul was a terrific athlete, winning a state track meet in the 220 and excelling at football and baseball. But knee injuries had ended his sports career by the time he went off to Gettysburg College in 1953. After medical school at Duke, Paul joined the Air Force, where he served as a flight surgeon, tending to the ear, nose and throat ailments of pilots, and traveling to Iran, Ethiopia and elsewhere. “I recall doing a lot of physicals on Army warrant officers who wanted to become helicopter pilots and go to Vietnam,” he told me. “They were gung-ho. I’ve often thought about how many of those people never came back.”

Paul is given to mulling things over morally. His family was pious and Lutheran; two of his brothers became ministers. Paul’s five children were baptized in the Episcopal church, but he now attends a Baptist one. He doesn’t travel alone with women and once dressed down an aide for using the expression “red-light district” in front of a female colleague. As a young man, though, he did not protest the Vietnam War, which he now calls “totally unnecessary” and “illegal.” Much later, after the United States invaded Iraq in 2003, he began reading St. Augustine. “I was annoyed by the evangelicals’ being so supportive of pre-emptive war, which seems to contradict everything that I was taught as a Christian,” he recalls. “The religion is based on somebody who’s referred to as the Prince of Peace.”

In 1968, Paul settled in southern Texas, where he had been stationed. He recalls that he was for a while the only obstetrician — “a very delightful part of medicine,” he says — in Brazoria County. He was already immersed in reading the economics books that would change his life. Americans know the “Austrian school,” if at all, from the work of Friedrich Hayek and Ludwig von Mises, two economists who fled the Nazis in the 1930s and whose free-market doctrines helped inspire the conservative movement in the 1950s. The laws of economics don’t admit exceptions, say the Austrians. You cannot fake out markets, no matter how surreptitiously you expand the money supply. Spend more than you earn, and you are on the road to inflation and tyranny.

Such views are not always Republican orthodoxy. Paul is a harsh critic of the Federal Reserve, both for its policies and its unaccountability. “We first bonded,” recalls Barney Frank, the Massachusetts Democrat, “because we were both conspicuous nonworshipers at the Temple of the Fed and of the High Priest Greenspan.” In recent weeks, Paul’s airport reading has been a book called “Financial Armageddon.” He is obsessed with sound money, which he considers — along with the related phenomena of credit excess, bubbles and uncollateralized assets of all kinds — a “sleeper issue.” The United States ought to link its currency to gold or silver again, Paul says. He puts his money where his mouth is. According to Federal Election Commission documents, most of his investments are in gold and silver and are worth between $1.5 and $3.5 million. It’s a modest sum by the standards of major presidential candidates but impressive for someone who put five children through college on a doctor’s (and later a congressman’s) earnings.

For Paul, everything comes back to money, including Iraq. “No matter how much you love the empire,” he says, “it’s unaffordable.” Wars are expensive, and there has been a tendency throughout history to pay for them by borrowing. A day of reckoning always comes, says Paul, and one will come for us. Speaking this spring before the libertarian Future of Freedom Foundation in Reston, Va., he warned of a dollar crisis. “That’s usually the way empires end,” he said. “It wasn’t us forcing the Soviets to build missiles that brought them down. It was the fact that socialism doesn’t work. Our system doesn’t work much better.”

Under the banner of “Freedom, Honesty and Sound Money,” Paul ran for Congress in 1974. He lost — but took the seat in a special election in April 1976. He lost again in November of that year, then won in 1978. On two big issues, he stood on principle and was vindicated: He was one of very few Republicans in Congress to back Ronald Reagan against Gerald Ford for the 1976 Republican nomination. He was also one of the representatives who warned against the rewriting of banking rules that laid the groundwork for the savings-and-loan collapse of the 1980s. Paul served three terms before losing to Phil Gramm in the Republican primary for Senate in 1984. Tom DeLay took over his seat.

Paul would not come back to Washington for another dozen years. But in the time he could spare from delivering babies in Brazoria County, he remained a mighty presence in the out-of-the-limelight world of those old-line libertarians who had never made their peace with the steady growth of federal power in the 20th century. Paul got the Libertarian Party nomination for president in 1988, defeating the Indian activist Russell Means in a tough race. He finished third behind Bush and Dukakis, winning nearly half a million votes. He tended his own Foundation for Rational Economics and Education (FREE) and kept up his contacts with other market-oriented organizations. What resulted was a network of true believers who would be his political base in one of the stranger Congressional elections of modern times.

A Lone Wolf

In the first days of 1995, just weeks after the Republican landslide, Paul traveled to Washington and, through DeLay, made contact with the Texas Republican delegation. He told them he could beat the Democratic incumbent Greg Laughlin in the reconfigured Gulf Coast district that now included his home. Republicans had their own ideas. In June 1995, Laughlin announced he would run in the next election as a Republican. Laughlin says he had discussed switching parties with Newt Gingrich, the next speaker, before the Republicans even took power. Paul suspects to this day that the Republicans wooed Laughlin to head off his candidacy. Whatever happened, it didn’t work. Paul challenged Laughlin in the primary.

“At first, we kind of blew him off,” recalls the longtime Texas political consultant Royal Masset. “ ‘Oh, there’s Ron Paul!’ But very quickly, we realized he was getting far more money than anybody.” Much of it came from out of state, from the free-market network Paul built up while far from Congress. His candidacy was a problem not just for Laughlin. It also threatened to halt the stream of prominent Democrats then switching parties — for what sane incumbent would switch if he couldn’t be assured the Republican nomination? The result was a heavily funded effort by the National Republican Congressional Committee to defeat Paul in the primary. The National Rifle Association made an independent expenditure against him. Former President George H.W. Bush, Gov. George W. Bush and both Republican senators endorsed Laughlin. Paul had only two prominent backers: the tax activist Steve Forbes and the pitcher Nolan Ryan, Paul’s constituent and old friend, who cut a number of ads for him. They were enough. Paul edged Laughlin in a runoff and won an equally narrow general election.

Republican opposition may not have made Paul distrust the party, but beating its network with his own homemade one revealed that he didn’t necessarily need the party either. Paul looks back on that race and sees something in common with his quixotic bid for the presidency. “I always think that if I do things like that and get clobbered, I can excuse myself,” he says.

Anyone who is elected to Congress three times as a nonincumbent, as Paul has been, is a politician of prodigious gifts. Especially since Paul has real vulnerabilities in his district. For Eric Dondero, who plans to challenge him in the Republican Congressional primary next fall, foreign policy is Paul’s central failing. Dondero, who is 44, was Paul’s aide and sometime spokesman for more than a decade. According to Dondero, “When 9/11 happened, he just completely changed. One of the first things he said was not how awful the tragedy was . . . it was, ‘Now we’re gonna get big government.’ ”

Dondero claims that Paul’s vote to authorize force in Afghanistan was made only after warnings from a longtime staffer that voting otherwise would cost him Victoria, a pivotal city in his district. (“Completely false,” Paul says.) One day just after the Iraq invasion, when Dondero was driving Paul around the district, the two had words. “He said he did not want to have someone on staff who did not support him 100 percent on foreign policy,” Dondero recalls. Paul says Dondero’s outspoken enthusiasm for the military’s “shock and awe” strategy made him an awkward spokesman for an antiwar congressman. The two parted on bad terms.

A larger vulnerability may be that voters want more pork-barrel spending than Paul is willing to countenance. In a rice-growing, cattle-ranching district, Paul consistently votes against farm subsidies. In the very district where, on the night of Sept. 8, 1900, a storm destroyed the city of Galveston, leaving 6,000 dead, and where repairs from Hurricane Rita and refugees from Hurricane Katrina continue to exact a toll, he votes against FEMA and flood aid. In a district that is home to many employees of the Johnson Space Center, he votes against financing NASA.

The Victoria Advocate, an influential newspaper in the district, has generally opposed Paul for re-election, on the grounds that a “lone wolf” cannot get the highway and homeland-security financing the district needs. So how does he get re-elected? Tim Delaney, the paper’s editorial-page editor, says: “Ron Paul is a very charismatic person. He has charm. He does not alter his position ever. His ideals are high. If a little old man calls up from the farm and says, ‘I need a wheelchair,’ he’ll get the damn wheelchair for him.”

Paul may have refused on principle to accept Medicare when he practiced medicine. He may return a portion of his Congressional office budget every year. But his staff has the reputation of fighting doggedly to collect Social Security checks, passports, military decorations, immigrant-visa extensions and any emolument to which constituents are entitled by law. According to Jackie Gloor, who runs Paul’s Victoria office: “So many times, people say to us, ‘We don’t like his vote.’ But they trust his heart.”

In Congress, Paul is generally admired for his fidelity to principle and lack of ego. “He is one of the easiest people in Congress to work with, because he bases his positions on the merits of issues,” says Barney Frank, who has worked with Paul on efforts to ease the regulation of gambling and medical marijuana. “He is independent but not ornery.” Paul has made a habit of objecting to things that no one else objects to. In October 2001, he was one of three House Republicans to vote against the USA Patriot Act. He was the sole House member of either party to vote against the Financial Antiterrorism Act (final tally: 412-1). In 1999, he was the only naysayer in a 424-1 vote in favor of casting a medal to honor Rosa Parks. Nothing against Rosa Parks: Paul voted against similar medals for Ronald Reagan and Pope John Paul II. He routinely opposes resolutions that presume to advise foreign governments how to run their affairs: He has refused to condemn Robert Mugabe’s violence against Zimbabwean citizens (421-1), to call on Vietnam to release political prisoners (425-1) or to ask the League of Arab States to help stop the killing in Darfur (425-1).

Every Thursday, Paul is the host of a luncheon for a circle of conservative Republicans that he calls the Liberty Caucus. It has become the epicenter of antiwar Republicanism in Washington. One stalwart member is Walter Jones, the North Carolina Republican who during the debate over Iraq suggested renaming French fries “freedom fries” in the House dining room, but who has passed the years since in vocal opposition to the war. Another is John (Jimmy) Duncan of Tennessee, the only Republican besides Paul who voted against the war and remains in the House. Other regulars include Virgil Goode of Virginia, Roscoe Bartlett of Maryland and Scott Garrett of New Jersey. Zach Wamp of Tennessee and Jeff Flake, the Arizonan scourge of pork-barrel spending, visit occasionally. Not all are antiwar, but many of the speakers Paul invites are: the former C.I.A. analyst Michael Scheuer, the intelligence-world journalist James Bamford and such disillusioned United States Army officers as William Odom, Gregory Newbold and Lawrence Wilkerson (Colin Powell’s former chief of staff), among others.

In today’s Washington, Paul’s combination of radical libertarianism and conservatism is unusual. Sometimes the first impulse predominates. He was the only Texas Republican to vote against last year’s Federal Marriage Amendment, meant to stymie gay marriage. He detests the federal war on drugs; the LSD guru Timothy Leary held a fundraiser for him in 1988. Sometimes he is more conservative. He opposed the recent immigration bill on the grounds that it constituted amnesty. At a breakfast for conservative journalists in the offices of Americans for Tax Reform this May, he spoke resentfully of being required to treat penurious immigrants in emergency rooms — “patients who were more likely to sue you than anybody else,” having children “who became automatic citizens the next day.” (Paul champions a constitutional amendment to end birthright citizenship.) While he backs free trade in theory, he opposes many of the institutions and arrangements — from the World Trade Organization to Nafta — that promote it in practice.

Paul also opposes abortion, which he believes should be addressed at the state level, not the national one. He remembers seeing a late abortion performed during his residency, years before Roe v. Wade, and he maintains it left an impression on him. “It was pretty dramatic for me,” he says, “to see a two-and-a-half-pound baby taken out crying and breathing and put in a bucket.”

The Owl-God Moloch

Paul’s message is not new. You could have heard it in 1964 or 1975 or 1991 at the conclaves of those conservatives who were considered outside the mainstream of the Republican Party. Back then, most Republicans appeared reconciled to a strong federal government, if only to do the expensive job of defending the country against Communism. But when the Berlin Wall fell, the dormant institutions and ideologies of pre-cold-war conservatism began to stir. In his 1992 and 1996 campaigns, Pat Buchanan was the first politician to express and exploit this change, breathing life into the motto “America First” (if not the organization of that name, which opposed entry into World War II).

Like Buchanan, Paul draws on forgotten traditions. His top aides are unimpeachably Republican but stand at a distance from the party as it has evolved over the decades. His chief of staff, Tom Lizardo, worked for Pat Robertson and Bill Miller Jr. (the son of Barry Goldwater’s vice-presidential nominee). His national campaign organizer, Lew Moore, worked for the late congressman Jack Metcalf of Washington State, another Goldwaterite. At the grass roots, Paul’s New Hampshire primary campaign stresses gun rights and relies on anti-abortion and tax activists from the organizations of Buchanan and the state’s former maverick senator, Bob Smith.

Paul admires Robert Taft, the isolationist Ohio senator known during the Truman administration as Mr. Republican, who tried to rally Republicans against United States participation in NATO. Taft lost the Republican nomination in 1952 to Dwight Eisenhower and died the following year. “Now, of course,” Paul says, “I quote Eisenhower when he talks about the military-industrial complex. But I quote Taft when he suits my purposes too.” Particularly on NATO, from which Paul, too, would like to withdraw.

The question is whether the old ideologies being resurrected are neglected wisdom or discredited nonsense. In the 1996 general election, Paul’s Democratic opponent Lefty Morris held a press conference to air several shocking quotes from a newsletter that Paul published during his decade away from Washington. Passages described the black male population of Washington as “semi-criminal or entirely criminal” and stated that “by far the most powerful lobby in Washington of the bad sort is the Israeli government.” Morris noted that a Canadian neo-Nazi Web site had listed Paul’s newsletter as a laudably “racialist” publication.

Paul survived these revelations. He later explained that he had not written the passages himself — quite believably, since the style diverges widely from his own. But his response to the accusations was not transparent. When Morris called on him to release the rest of his newsletters, he would not. He remains touchy about it. “Even the fact that you’re asking this question infers, ‘Oh, you’re an anti-Semite,’ ” he told me in June. Actually, it doesn’t. Paul was in Congress when Israel bombed Iraq’s Osirak nuclear plant in 1981 and — unlike the United Nations and the Reagan administration — defended its right to do so. He says Saudi Arabia has an influence on Washington equal to Israel’s. His votes against support for Israel follow quite naturally from his opposition to all foreign aid. There is no sign that they reflect any special animus against the Jewish state.

What is interesting is Paul’s idea that the identity of the person who did write those lines is “of no importance.” Paul never deals in disavowals or renunciations or distancings, as other politicians do. In his office one afternoon in June, I asked about his connections to the John Birch Society. “Oh, my goodness, the John Birch Society!” he said in mock horror. “Is that bad? I have a lot of friends in the John Birch Society. They’re generally well educated, and they understand the Constitution. I don’t know how many positions they would have that I don’t agree with. Because they’re real strict constitutionalists, they don’t like the war, they’re hard-money people. . . . ”

Paul’s ideological easygoingness is like a black hole that attracts the whole universe of individuals and groups who don’t recognize themselves in the politics they see on TV. To hang around with his impressively large crowd of supporters before and after the CNN debate in Manchester, N.H., in June, was to be showered with privately printed newsletters full of exclamation points and capital letters, scribbled-down U.R.L.’s for Web sites about the Free State Project, which aims to turn New Hampshire into a libertarian enclave, and copies of the cult DVD “America: Freedom to Fascism.”

Victor Carey, a 45-year-old, muscular, mustachioed self-described “patriot” who wears a black baseball cap with a skull and crossbones on it, drove up from Sykesville, Md., to show his support for Paul. He laid out some of his concerns. “The people who own the Federal Reserve own the oil companies, they own the mass media, they own the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, they’re part of the Bilderbergers, and unfortunately their spiritual practices are very wicked and diabolical as well,” Carey said. “They go to a place out in California known as the Bohemian Grove, and there’s been footage obtained by infiltration of what their practices are. And they do mock human sacrifices to an owl-god called Moloch. This is true. Go research it yourself.”

Two grandmothers from North Carolina who painted a Winnebago red, white and blue were traveling around the country, stumping for Ron Paul, defending the Constitution and warning about the new “North American Union.” Asked whether this is something that would arise out of Nafta, Betty Smith of Chapel Hill, N.C., replied: “It’s already arisen. They’re building the highway. Guess what! The Spanish company building the highway — they’re gonna get the tolls. Giuliani’s law firm represents that Spanish company. Giuliani’s been anointed a knight by the Queen. Guess what! Read the Constitution. That’s not allowed!”

Paul is not a conspiracy theorist, but he has a tendency to talk in that idiom. In a floor speech shortly after the toppling of the Taliban in Afghanistan, he mentioned Unocal’s desire to tap the region’s energy and concluded, “We should not be surprised now that many contend that the plan for the U.N. to ‘nation-build’ in Afghanistan is a logical and important consequence of this desire.” But when push comes to shove, Paul is not among the “many” who “contend” this. “I think oil and gas is part of it,” he explains. “But it’s not the issue. If that were the only issue, it wouldn’t have happened. The main reason was to get the Taliban out.”

Last winter at a meet-the-candidate house party in New Hampshire, students representing a group called Student Scholars for 9/11 Truth asked Paul whether he believed the official investigation into the Sept. 11 attacks was credible. “I never automatically trust anything the government does when they do an investigation,” Paul replied, “because too often I think there’s an area that the government covered up, whether it’s the Kennedy assassination or whatever.” The exchange was videotaped and ricocheted around the Internet for a while. But Paul’s patience with the “Truthers,” as they call themselves, does not make him one himself. “Even at the time it happened, I believe the information was fairly clear that Al Qaeda was involved,” he told me.

“Every Wacko Fringe Group In the Country”

One evening in mid-June, 86 members of a newly formed Ron Paul Meetup group gathered in a room in the Pasadena convention center. It was a varied crowd, preoccupied by the war, including many disaffected Democrats. Via video link from Virginia, Paul’s campaign chairman, Kent Snyder, spoke to the group “of a coming-together of the old guard and the new.” Then Connie Ruffley, co-chairwoman of United Republicans of California (UROC), addressed the crowd. UROC was founded during the 1964 presidential campaign to fight off challenges to Goldwater from Rockefeller Republicanism. Since then it has lain dormant but not dead — waiting, like so many other old right-wing groups, for someone or something to kiss it back to life. UROC endorsed Paul at its spring convention.

That night, Ruffley spoke about her past with the John Birch Society and asked how many in the room were members (quite a few, as it turned out). She referred to the California senator Dianne Feinstein as “Fine-Swine,” and got quickly to Israel, raising the Israeli attack on the American Naval signals ship Liberty during the Six-Day War. Some people were pleased. Others walked out. Others sent angry e-mails that night. Several said they would not return. The head of the Pasadena Meetup group, Bill Dumas, sent a desperate letter to Paul headquarters asking for guidance:

“We’re in a difficult position of working on a campaign that draws supporters from laterally opposing points of view, and we have the added bonus of attracting every wacko fringe group in the country. And in a Ron Paul Meetup many people will consider each other ‘wackos’ for their beliefs whether that is simply because they’re liberal, conspiracy theorists, neo-Nazis, evangelical Christian, etc. . . . We absolutely must focus on Ron’s message only and put aside all other agendas, which anyone can save for the next ‘Star Trek’ convention or whatever.”

But what is “Ron’s message”? Whatever the campaign purports to be about, the main thing it has done thus far is to serve as a clearinghouse for voters who feel unrepresented by mainstream Republicans and Democrats. The antigovernment activists of the right and the antiwar activists of the left have many differences, maybe irreconcilable ones. But they have a lot of common beliefs too, and their numbers — and anger — are of a considerable magnitude. Ron Paul will not be the next president of the United States. But his candidacy gives us a good hint about the country the next president is going to have to knit back together.

The consensus trap - Even Israelis know the two state solution is dead

By Zeev Sternhell - July 22, 2007

For the past 40 years, the term "consensus" has been the axis of Israeli politics. This key concept refers to national agreement on operative plans that are meant to shape the future of Israeli society. From the Six-Day War until today, however, these nationally agreed upon schemes have had one thing in common: They are nothing short of self-delusion.

Indeed, no political program that has enjoyed the overwhelming support of the Israeli public has ever materialized. The first of these plans that won national consensus was the one in force from the Six-Day War until the mid-1980s. The three main principles were (a) there is no Palestinian people and there will never be a Palestinian state; (b) the West Bank will be divided between Israel and Jordan, and large parts of it will be annexed for defense purposes and territorial expansion; (c) the 1967 borders are Auschwitz borders and Yasser Arafat is Hitler II.

The ruling elite did not yet understand that the world had changed: In order to get this new reality into its skull, Israel needed the military fiasco of the first war in Lebanon, which did not achieve a single one of its objectives, and the shock of the intifada at the end of the 1980s.

In the wake of the Oslo Accords, a second consensus came into being, according to which temporary meant permanent: It was roundly agreed and accepted that there was no immediate solution to the conflict, and one could only be reached gradually, in a process stretching out over many years. The end of the process was invariably shrouded in mist, and who knew what would happen in the meantime. In this way, the need to rethink the settlement enterprise could be ignored, and the flow of money and people into the territories could continue unabated.

Only in the days of Ehud Barak did the idea of two states for two peoples begin to take shape. However - and this was Barak's great failure - the idea was not backed up with an order to stop building the settlements. The Palestinians were also very much responsible for the collapse of this plan, imprisoned in their dream of return and hopes of wearing Israel down.

Today, the two-state solution is the dream of most Israelis. The problem is that yet again times have changed: It is doubtful that this third consensus can be implemented in its original form anymore. It has become nothing but a smoke screen, symbolized in the flesh by the president of Israel, Shimon Peres. Peres is the ultimate Israeli politician, the one who is always at the heart of consensus, the one who is never guilty of anything, the one who understands everything - only 20 years too late.

A Palestinian state, which will free Israel from the yoke of occupation, is a precondition for saving traditional Zionism. Those who want a country with a Jewish majority that is neither an apartheid regime nor a bi-national state where Jews will become a minority by mid-century, must realize that unless some dramatic change takes place right away, Israeli society's existential problems will never be resolved.

The irony of history is now revealing itself: Settlement beyond the Green Line was supposed to strengthen Zionism, or as the settlers see it, save Zionism from losing its way. In practice, however, it has created a situation whose destructiveness is already visible, although the next generation is the one that will bear the brunt of it. If Israeli society resigns itself to the fact that it lacks the political power and emotional strength needed to uproot the settlements, the question it will have to ask itself is "what next?"

If Israel does not intend to evict the Arab population in the West Bank, the only solution is to give the Palestinian Authority territories in the south in exchange for the settlements. You can't hold the stick by both ends, as they say. Considering the danger to the future of the state being caused by the settlements, this is not too steep a price.

Moreover, if we are already dreaming dreams, as the new president would like us to, maybe he should set an example by trying to get the United States and Europe involved in a joint effort, padded by the promise of billions of euros, to persuade Egypt to become the Palestinians' savior. Maybe if the Egyptians conceded some territory between the Rafah Salient and El-Arish for the sake of a Palestinian state, it could have a dramatic effect. This plan has no consensus, but who knows? Maybe it could work.

Iraqi Jews : From prosperity to oblivion

The following is an important read. Yesterday on C-SPAN, a retired Marine Colonel Anderson spoke about how Christians, and particularly Jews, had been forced to leave Iraq by "radical Muslims." I get so tired of hearing that nonsense which, consistently goes completely unchallenged by unfair and unbalanced media pundits. Hopefully, this article will help change perceptions.

by Ali ALI-ASSADI, Translated by Adib S Kawar, revised by Mary Rizzo & Fausto Giudice

The relation of the Jews with Iraq is not circumstantial or accidental, it has its roots deep in history, that went throughout eras and stages, and which extend back to the time of the first registered history of Iraq. This relationship saw -- if what was told about it is true -- rough and winding paths that intermingle between the inherited and mythical with religious beliefs, the metaphorical or the inspirational, and possibly literally copying of the great achievements that the first Iraqis perfected, starting with the Old Testament books that spread and affected the beliefs of humankind. The Flood, Job and Genesis - to end with the last archeological tablet destroyed or stolen from Iraqi museums, and through the greatest love poem man had ever known -- The Sumerian Psalms -- which was imitated or plagiarized by the Jews with minor modifications which could not hide its Iraqi origin. More than that, there are proofs that the predicament of the "chosen people" on which the Jews established later all the contents of their Bible could have been inspired by the legend of "Era", the Babylonian god of destruction. Researchers shall discover the congruity between the content of this Babylonian legend, and the Jewish covenant with the Jewish god, Jehovah, who is a redacted copy of the Babylonian legendary god.

Most Western anthropologists used to believe that: "The Bible is the great achievement of the Israeli people." These holy books formed the beginning of the spiritual and ideological constituent for humanity, and led to the establishment of milestones of the written history of the civilization of the region, whose radiance inspired all human concepts since its early stages and it is still having affect on it.

These are the common beliefs that ascend to an echelon of holiness, thus putting them out of the scope of discussion and doubt in Western thought, with the exception of some intellectual pugnacity here and there. But these beliefs were exposed to a serious shaking when the tablets and clay plates, which were preserved in the land of Mesopotamia, started gradually to be discovered and translated.

These new discoveries defied what the Jews imputed to themselves. These books were mentioned in the writings of Sumer and Babylon 1500 years before the recording of the Bible. The Israelites were astonished with what they saw in Babylon after their captivity by the Akkadian king, "Nabokhuznassar". They, the captive and frightened people, saw a great civilization, a civilization with incredible achievements and strength.

As the weak dreams of gaining the characteristics and possibilities of the strong, and to imitate them and obtain their achievements even while daydreaming, the Jews started to copy the recorded cultural heritage of Babylon, or that which is passed from mouth to mouth. The book that was most convenient and expressive about the accumulative feelings of revenge in the hearts of the Israelites against Babylon and its people, is that which talks about the Babylonian god of revenge and epidemics, "Era".

The legend tells that "Era" decides to take revenge upon Babylon, because its people slighted his word and threats, and when he starts with work he announces in a long psalm: "The time has come and is due - I shall call out for the sun to abandon its rays - I shall cover the face of the day with gloomy darkness - I shall destroy cities, and turn them into rubble - I shall uproot trees and the thickets of reed, and kill every human being in the land of Babylon - I shall demonstrate more assassinations and revenge - I shall take the life of the son and make the father bury him, then I shall take the life of the father who shall find nobody to burry him…" The same style with a more than obvious similarity, is what "Jehovah" follows in the destruction of cities when and if his orders are disobeyed, he shall not leave of it a trace to tell about its tragedy, as what happened in Sodom and Gomorrah.

When "Era" made the sky rain "asphalt and sulfur" to quench his thirst for revenge upon Babylon, his companion "Eschom" interfered to curb his craving for blood and destruction and told him: "Dignified 'Era' you killed the devious as you have taken the life of the devout - You have taken the life of those who raise the Eucharist to the gods, and you stole from the entourages of the kings, you have taken the life of the patriarchs of the people, and you have taken the life of the virgin, it is time for you to rest." And when "Era" had a sudden gift of repentance he decided to rebuild Babylon with greater grandeur than in the past, but this time by a people of his choice, people who were weak and lowly; so he gave his promise to "Eschom", "Each land after another and a city after the other the Akkadians shall rise and subjugate them all, the Akkadian s shall arrest their great enemies…"

Then the psalm proceeds by listing what remarkable victories and glorious deeds his chosen people, the Akkadian s, shall achieve, and at the end the psalm tells them: "You shall turn their cities to rubble, and get Babylon great spoils, all the inhabitants shall bring to Babylon their tributes, and for many days Babylon shall dominate the world."

The old history of the Iraqi civilization states that the Akkadian King Sargon founded the Akkadian dynasty, and ruled the country for 56 years, but the gaps that history did not fill was the story of his birth and early life, but the legend filled the gap and told us about this fabulous personality. It is said that his mother was a holy prostitute in the temple of Ishtar, and when she became pregnant and gave birth to him in secrecy, she put him in a tar-painted scuttle made of palm leaves, like those the Iraqis use to cross rivers, and threw him in the Euphrates; so as not to lose her position in the temple, because holy prostitutes were not supposed to become mothers. He was picked from the river by one of the kings of "Oroke". Sargon grew up in the king's palace till he had the opportunity to flee with his followers across the Euphrates to escape the king’s oppression. He returned to "Oroke" after he built a big army to conquer the whole country and established the Akkadian dynasty.

Thus this is where the Israelites got their predicament of "The Chosen People" from. They "improved" the Akkadian legendary idea and altered it with little effort, thus the Akkadian god "Era" become the Hebrew god "Jehovah", who granted "his chosen people" the strength, sovereignty and reign as was done by "Era" to the Akkadians - then they adopted the Akkadian books, altered and copied them to become a complete book that the Israelites went out with to the world as a special inheritance that came down from God to his chosen people.

The books of the Torah lack any proofs supported by archeology, - which was confirmed a few years ago by the Israeli archeologist, Rubenstein, when he said: "I searched for thirty years for one single archeological find to prove what came in the Torah, but did not find anything", which is contrary to the Babylonian books that were recorded thousands of years ago on tablets. Here lies the catastrophe that shall befall on Israel when it loses its legendary moral and fideism justification that form the foundations on which it was established, after discovering the bases of the greatest forgery in the history of human civilization.

It is important to mention that the history of the Jews in Iraq did not take a rising graph in which hatred was mobilized and revenge was forwarded. Following up with history since the first contact of the Jews with Iraq it shows long periods of stability and prosperity when the Jews lived there. This was only possible due to the ease of their assimilation in the Iraqi society, which drew a framework of behavioral conduct that was surprising in a geographical atmosphere that was governed by severity, and saw a chain of all sorts of tyrants - It had its roots deep in a strange structural complex, which feeds on various sources that were drawn by geography and framed with history.

It is claimed that the Jews were the followers of Abraham with whom they emigrated from the land of Ur. It is said that they numbered about 4,000 men and women, but many historians do not accept this claim even though it is logical, because of the lack of historical support on which it could be possible to prove such claims. But what is certain and what historians tend to believe is that the Jews first entered Iraq in the year 626 B.C. in the days of King Galat Balacher III when he launched a great military campaign during which he invaded the Kingdom of Israel, because they tried to cooperate with the Egyptians, the only rivals of Assyria. Relying on the general historical consequences of this time we can conclude that the "kingdom of Israel" was a subordinate of the Akkadian Empire, which used to control most of the oriental boundary which reached up to Rafah,south of Palestine. This "kingdom" often declared disobedience and the breaking of its treaties that it used to conclude with the Akkadian Empire, resulting in three consecutive military campaigns during which more than 400,000 were captured. King Tajelat III took about 200,000, while King Sanharib took 150,000 people, and in the last campaign of King Asarhadon II about 28,000 were captured from the Kingdom of Yahouda alone. (It is noted that there were two Hebrew states at the time - Israel and Yahouda, which were unified at a later stage.)

After the fall of the Assyrian state at the hands of the Akkadians who seized all its land, it seems that the kingdom of Israel was re-founded more than once, and the same events were repeated in a questionable manner. The Akkadian king, Nebuchadnezzar launched a great attack in 597 B.C. to crush the mutiny of the king of Israel, Yahudia Qim who died during the siege to be succeeded by his son Yahua Keen, and after his capture, Sudkia was appointed to succeed him. But as soon as he felt settled, and was installed by the Egyptian king Hofra he too declared mutiny against the Akkadians, and when the Babylonians put camp in Rabla near Homs, Hofra came to his assistance, but was defeated by Nebuchadnezzar, who destroyed Sudkia's kingdom, taking into captivity about five hundred thousands of his subjects.

In fact these historical occurrences, as they were related, raised many queries, which are still without convincing answers by the historians. These queries are related to technical and logistical matters on one side and political and historic ones on the other. Capturing 200,000 people requires varied and major requisites such as: detention camps, around the clock guarding, food, etc. History never mentioned how the Assyrians and after them the Babylonians, handled the matter, and it never mentioned whether there were diseases and hunger that could lead to the death of a great number of people during such an operation. The more important query is by what by means and ways were the Jews were able to rebuild their kingdom after such great number of people were held captive!!!

A thorough and methodical reading of these historic statements raises a number of conclusions through which one can explain some parts of the picture, among which are the following:

1* The first source for these events and their details came from the Jews themselves centuries later, which made it possible to be redrafted, subject to modifications, additions and exaggerations that usually go along with such a subject as if the finality had played a crucial role in this scope.

2* These operations were performed for political and not religious reasons, thus it targeted the head of the rule, his entourage, the officers of his army and possibly some of its brigades. Thus captivity, in our opinion, used to target numbers that would not exceed a few thousand Jews. The method used in the beginning is what explains the continuity of the existence of the Jewish states, and what made it possible to revolt again and again. It is possible to talk about mass expulsions and resettlement operations that took place at later times, and thus can not be considered as acts of "captivity", because the captured lived a normal, not to say, a prosperous life in their new homeland, they were not considered as prisoners of war (some of them cultivated the plots of land that were allotted to them. They built webs of irrigation canals for their new property and they developed fields and orchards, which they worked to protect from floods. Others became traders. Some historians say that had it not been for the exile prophets who warned them of the dangers of assimilation, urging them to think about the importance of their return to Judea, the Jews would have been assimilated completely among the Akkadians, because of the prosperity, security and stability that was provided to them).

3* By reading the translations of what was documented on the tablets, and comparing it with Jewish books and their recounted inheritance, it would be possible to conclude that these operations had taken place only twice in history: Once in the days of the Assyrians and the second time by Nebuchadnezzar, that is the second took place after the first. But to relate the operations as recurring incidents as per Jewish sources, it would be as if one is building a disastrous tragedy, the purpose of which is to give the Jews the role of the permanent and persecuted victim throughout history, which is to be exploited later by the Zionist movement that was completed by the Nazi Holocaust.

The Jews in Abassid Iraq

The year 1258 AD was the ill-omened year that was deeply implanted in the memory of the Iraqis, in the middle of Muharram 656 (Hijra year), Baghdad fell under the hoofs of Hulagu’s invading horses. It was the night that put the Arabs in a sleep from which they are still suffering its repercussions today. Baghdad entered the age of degeneration, and it was overwhelmed with tragic chaos and corruption that encountered whatever was left from the traces of civilization, which was once the guiding star of the whole world. Under such circumstances it was inevitable that its detriment would affect everybody including of course the Jews of Baghdad.

In 1917 the British army under General Stanley Maude occupied Baghdad, thus ending the last Ottoman stronghold in Iraq, and putting Iraq under a new regime of colonialism. At this time in the history of Iraq, the Jews had spread all over the country, From An-Nasiryah, Basra, Amara, Kut, Diwanieh and Hilah in the south to all the districts of the north and the west - Anah, Rawah, Hadithah, Samiraa and others. Iraqi towns and cities had their Jewish quarters such as Aked Al-Yahoud (Aked of the Jews), Khan Al-Yahoud, etc. Jews numbered in Baghdad in 1830 about 7,000, and in the beginning of the nineteenth century the number increased to about 25,000 families, and in other districts such as Sulaymanieh there were 300 families and in Mosul 1,000 families.

In 1924, as a result of the Mosul problem, an international census committee was formed to count the number of inhabitants in Iraq, and the percentage of distribution among religious groups. The result was as follows in regard to Jews: there were 3,575 Jews in Mosul, and in the rest of Iraq the number was 87,448 Jews distributed throughout 15 districts, but there were more then 50,000 in Baghdad alone, while the number in certain other districts did not exceed, for example, 170 in Karbala and Najaf. In 1947 the number of Jews rose to 117,877 all over Iraq out of whom 77,424 lived in Baghdad alone, this is in addition to the more than 100,000 Kurdish Jews. But their numbers started to dwindle quickly as a result of emigration to occupied Palestine after the establishment of Israel, which was a result of an extensive operation organized by the Zionist movement during which many tragic incidents occurred.

110,000 Jews out of whom 80,000 Kurdish Jews, emigrated from Iraq to occupied Palestine and other parts of the world. The operation was called the Ezra and Nechemia Operation« . In a census conducted in 1957 there were only few thousand Jews left in Iraq that dwindled to 3,000 in 1967, the majority of whom were in Baghdad. In the eighties the number dropped to 50 mostly old men and women who could not leave due to age. (After the American invasion of Iraq in 2003 the few remaining old people were transferred to occupied Palestine by Zionist agents who entered Iraq along with the invading armies, translator’s note.)

Zionism and Iraqi Jews

Menahem Dania, member of the Iraqi House of Notables, said during a meeting held in July 1948: "It is my duty to review the history of implanting Zionism among Iraqi Jews to enlighten the High House, so as to take it as an example when we direct our policy." This gives us an idea of the Zionist activity in Iraq at the time. It was not possible for the Zionist movement not to care for a country that enjoys such an important geographical location, political role as well as faith and Jewish heritage, in addition to the status and influence Iraqi Jews enjoyed especially with their big numbers. Iraqi Jewish influence had its effect on neighboring countries and elsewhere in the world due to their wealth, and the activeness of some of their better-known families politically and financially, among whom where: Kalia Hosasoun who was the minister of finance in the first Iraqi cabinet, Khadoury, Danielle, Ezekiel, Zolote, Kabai (which produced the most famous medical doctor in Iraq at the time, Daoud Kabai) and other Jewish Iraqi families."

Zionist activities were not limited to this field, they executed violent security operations in which several factors that were done along with them against Jews in various locations in Iraq, and the political decisions taken by the government of the Iraqi Prime Minister Tawfik Al-Sweidi in 1950 to denaturalize those Jews who desired to emigrate, which came as a result of the meeting between Nouri Al-Said and Ben-Gurion in Vienna two years earlier. The result was the fleeing of large numbers of Iraqi Jews to occupied Palestine and other countries of the world, the most important of which was England where quite a number of Jews settled, some of whom refused to go to occupied Palestine so as to retain their Iraqi citizenship, of which they had been deprived. Among them were outstanding Iraqis such as Samir Naqash and Mir Basri. Although this decision was nullified after the turnover of the royal regime in 1958, matters went on as planned by Zionist circles for Iraqi Jews.

Zionist activities in Iraq did not stop at this point, but continued in spying incursions which echoed among the political and military circles. During the mid sixties of the twentieth century, a few months before the 1967 war, the Israeli Mossad arranged to hijack an Iraqi Mig 21 by the Iraqi pilot, Munir Radfa, at the time when this model of fighter plane was among the most advanced in the area. Three years later a big Mossad spy network led by an Iraqi Jew, Ezra Naji Zalkha, which included other Iraqi Jews of all walks of life, was caught spying for Israel. The spies were executed in two lots, and their corpses were hanged in the Tahreer Square in central Baghdad.

The most dangerous Zionist plans against Iraq, and that had its effect on its present and future life was concentrated during the last three decades the country lived under the rule of Saddam Hussein, which Zionists themselves admitted in a report prepared by one of the strategic research centers in Israel: "Because Iraq and the Iraqis were responsible for the destruction of Israel since the time of the Assyrians and the Babylonians, and because Iraq is one of the few countries in the world which enjoys the most vital sources of wealth in our days, oil and water, vital for building an important military power and civilization if two matters were available: A serious and rational government and the required time of stability are needed." The report proceeds with describing Saddam Hussein's personality, and when the Zionist circles started to pay attention to him, because they see in his personality characteristics which help in executing their plans as: "He is cunning with a mechanical infernal mind, and he is a naive child who could be easily deceived." This clarifies the nature of Zionist intrigues weaved for Iraq, and the strategies that ensures keeping this country destroyed and torn apart so as not to allow it to rebuild itself.

Some sources say that Jews in Iraq took to farming during their early days there, that is before Christ, but they did not quit only farming but also the countryside and settled in big towns and cities. There they, in general, practiced the services industries, and their presence was felt in such professions as goldsmithery, exchange, brokerage and other similar professions as well as in free professions like medicine, engineering, the legal profession, teaching, etc., which is characteristic of them wherever they settled in the world. But why they distanced themselves from farming and pasturing, their original occupation as Bedouins, is probably due their inability to compete with other tribes that came in bigger numbers before Islam and continued up till recent ages. These tribes struggled for possessing agricultural and pasture land. As a result Iraqi Jews became a part of the urban society, and in this characteristic they participated in political and social activities. They became effective participants in forming many Iraqi political parties especially the Iraqi Communist Party, Rashid A'ali Al-Kilany movement and others. They also participated in workers’ unions, cultural, intellectual and informational clubs, established medical centers such as Mir Elias Hospital, Rima Khadouri Eye Hospital, Dar Eshafaa and others as well as pharmacies.

To sum up, Jews in Mesopotamia lived a long history, and witnessed all occurrences that Iraq passed through, they lived in Baghdad during its golden age of prosperity and glory, they enjoyed its wealth and scooped out from its abundant gifts, and they saw its tragedies, fires and wars and suffered its people's misfortunes, but Zionism succeeded in the oblivion of a group of people that was a part of the fabric of the Iraqi society.

America has no surplus democracy to export

by Ahmed Amr - JULY 18, 2007

If we can’t impeach Bush for his WMD lies and the horrific results, then we will be left with solid proof that America has no surplus democracy to export. We can either impeach Bush and Cheney or suffer irreparable damage to our political heritage of being a nation of laws, says Ahmed Amr.

George Bush just gave another vulgar performance in the remodeled James S. Brady Press Room. As usual, he stayed on message - like a vacuum cleaner salesman who touts his machines as the only weapons capable of winning the "eternal war on dust."

With a straight face, Bush blamed General Tommy Franks for the disastrous post-invasion plan. Apparently, Franks was awarded the Medal of Freedom for giving us bum advice on troop requirements for stabilizing Iraq. Without missing a beat, Bush went on to declare that he would resist making decisions based on public opinion polls or even the advice of GOP senators. Rather, he would leave future decisions to his new general - David Petraeus.

I can’t remember the last time the president bothered to visit Iraq. And yet he speaks with such authority about what our Mesopotamian oil colony looks like four years after his unilateral war of aggression.

If we take Bush at his word, the entire quagmire is nothing more than a rumble between the marines and Al Qaeda; a battle that will determine the survival of Western Civilization. Bush made over 30 references to al-Qaeda during the press conference. Can it be that the decider can’t differentiate between Al-Qaeda in Mesopotamia and Bin Laden’s cells in Afghanistan? Is it possible that he actually subscribes to the infantile notion faithfully propagated by a complicit press corps that we are fighting the same enemy responsible for the carnage of 9/11?

Who renewed the president’s license to spin the same batch of manufactured intelligence he used to market the invasion to gullible and traumatized Americans? And where in the constitution does it say that Rupert Murdoch has that authority?

Bush keeps pulling the same canard out of the same neo-con hat even though his own intelligence services have consistently determined that the Mesopotamian insurgency is predominantly made up of Iraqis that choose to resist the American occupation. He should know that the members of 'Al Qaeda in Iraq’ constitute but a small fraction of the insurgents. And there is no debating the fact that Iraqi insurgents have limited their activities to Iraq. Among the tens of thousands of Iraqi detainees only an insignificant minority are non-Iraqi Arab 'foreigners.’

As usual, Bush painted his imperial enterprise as a noble effort to spread the blessings of democracy. Now that Iraqis can vote, two thousand Iraqis vote with their feet every day and choose wretched exile in Syria, Jordan, Egypt or any other place that will give them sanctuary. Two million have already made the journey to an uncertain future away from the familiar surroundings of their native land. Another two million are internally displaced by the ethnic cleansing that was ignited by the invasion.

If Bush would bother to ask them why they fled, they would inform him that they are fleeing Maliki’s death squads and the militia infested security forces being trained and armed by the American military.

Bush rarely mentions the plight of these refugees and their agony doesn’t register on American radar screens. It takes the unique talent of the mass media murdochrats to make a non-issue out of a massive exodus that dwarfs the epic flight of Vietnamese boat people after the collapse of the Saigon government. In a magnanimous act of generosity, the United States has taken in two hundred Iraqis. That works out to one Green Card for every thousand refugees.

In a country of twenty five million, hundreds of thousands have been killed and maimed. The official policy of the United States is not to count them. Unfortunately for Bush, It’s a little more difficult to hide the 3600 American soldiers that have perished in a war we never had to fight.

Today’s Iraq is a contender for the number one spot on the 'failed states’ list. Virtually every Iraqi has lost family members, friends and neighbors in the killing fields of Mesopotamia. Every morning, mutilated bodies are dumped in the streets of Baghdad. Suicide bombers are a daily occurrence. Tens of thousands of detainees are in the custody of the merciless sectarian security forces.

Nothing works. Reconstruction efforts have been abandoned. Parents don’t send their kids to school. Infant mortality claims one of every five children under the age of five. Unemployment is at 70%. Electricity is a memory. Oil production is below pre-war levels and the price of a barrel of oil has tripled since the invasion.

In a country that floats on oil, drivers line up for hours to fill their tanks. Sectarian gangs and common criminals stalk the population and fear is a permanent state of mind. And to think it only costs ten billion dollars a month to create so much suffering, chaos and despair.

Five years into the occupation, the Pentagon is boasting about controlling half of Baghdad even as the Green Zone comes under regular mortar attacks. And the Iraqi parliamentarians who aren’t already living in London, Syria or Jordan are getting ready for their month long summer vacation.

In the north, the Turks are threatening to attack the Kurds. In the south, the British have withdrawn their forces to the Basra airport. Brown is just waiting for the perfect moment to sneak out the back door. Behind, the British will leave a virtual theocracy dominated by the militias of Moqtada el Sadr and the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq - a group that was recruited, financed, trained and given sanctuary by the Iranian Revolutionary Guards.

According to recent polls, eighty percent of Iraqis want the American occupation to end and seventy percent of Americans would be happy to oblige them.

None of this matters to the president. When it comes to owning up to the consequences of his criminal war, George’s psychopathic indifference is off the mental health charts. The man is determined to walk away with a 'victory’ that will allow him to posture as the reincarnation of Winston Churchill.

What possible outcome could justify the harm inflicted on the Iraqi people? How can one even imagine a final chapter in this quagmire that would compensate for the loss of American and Iraqi blood and treasure? What exactly is left to win?

The most remarkable thing about this man is that he appears to be genuinely satisfied with his dismal record. George is still infatuated with George. In the course of his pathetic performance during the news conference, he couldn’t resist the temptation to act like a clown and crack a few jokes. It’s no sweat off of his back how much blood flows out of other people’s veins.

It isn’t likely that George will ever admit losing this debacle of choice. So, it will be left to others to lose the war for the president. To paraphrase Georges Clemenceau, ending this war is too important to leave to the generals or George Bush.

The bottom line is that we can either wait for the next president to do him the honors or stop funding his illegal war. Dealing with the messy consequences will be left for the Iraqis to sort out. Perhaps massive American reparations can help heal the wounds and restore a fraction of what we have destroyed.

Even if Congress doesn’t act, Maliki and his sectarian parliamentary thugs might invite Bush to pack up and leave at the end of the year by simply refusing to renew his United Nations mandate. Maybe that’s why Bush continues to portray Maliki as a young democrat. It will make it that much easier to spin the inevitable withdrawal as compliance with the wishes of a 'democratic and sovereign state.’

Any way you cut it, this vicious American imperial venture in the Gulf is about to end. And if we can’t impeach Bush for his WMD lies and the horrific results, then we will be left with solid proof that America has no surplus democracy to export. We can either impeach Bush and Cheney or suffer irreparable damage to our political heritage of being a nation of laws.

The Dissembling of Dennis Ross

by Tony Karon - July 18, 2007

It is time someone in the mainstream media (besides my hard-working friend Scott MacLeod, here and here) took to task Dennis Ross, the AIPAC man who served the first Bush Adminsitration and then Clinton as a Middle East mediator, before returning to the AIPAC fold — but who is treated by the U.S. media as some sort of yoda figure, the fount of jedi wisdom in managing the Middle East.

Having presided over the failure of the U.S. to secure an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement, he now puts himself forward as a sage among sages (lately by writing a book about "statecraft" in which he introduces some of the .101s of diplomacy as if these were prophetic revelations, and always evading the policy failures he helped author). More insidious, however, are his efforts to shape the U.S. response to the current situation in the Palestinian territories.

That the U.S. should be talking to Hamas is blindingly obvious to anyone who believes in settling conflicts peacefully, and there are plenty of reasons to believe Hamas is open to a pragmatic dialogue — not least the fact that it’s leaders keep stressing the fact that they want to talk. But Ross exposes the hardline gatkes he has on beneath that pragmatic suit in his latest contribution to the New Republic (where Likudnik gatkes are something of a uniform, I suppose.)

Ross opens thus: "It may be fashionable among some in Washington or even Tel Aviv to believe that it is time to talk to Hamas. But to the members of Fatah and the Palestinian independents in the West Bank with whom I have been meeting, it surely is not. What you hear from them is that Hamas is made up of killers; that they want to be part of a larger Islamist empire; that they are already trying to bring Iran to Gaza; and that the worse thing to do now is to reward Hamas with recognition."

Do you think we were born yesterday, Dennis? Have you bothered to ask yourself what the agenda of these Fatah members and Palestinian independents you are taking to might be? And why it is that they’re sounding like they’re running for office in the U.S. and seeking AIPAC endorsement?

Could it be, Dennis, that you’ve managed to unearth a Palestinian Chalabi or two? Mazeltov, it took you long enough… "Hamas is made up of killers…" That’s straight out of Bush’s mouth. And what of Fatah, Dennis? No killers in Fatah? And does this mean that the Palestinian electorate has opted to be ruled by killers? (I guess that would be a convenient propaganda line for the purposes of those, like yourself, Dennis, who have now deemed it necessary to shut down Palestinian democracy.)

"They want to be part of an Islamist empire…" Puhleeze. No serious student of Hamas sees it as affiliated with the Qaeda vision, Dennis, and its leaders have made abundantly clear that their is a national and nationalist project. It has always refrained from attacking the U.S. and rebuffed efforts to enlist it for any "global jihad." Its refusal to recognize Israel has nothing to do with religion — in fact, if you went to the Fatah base now and asked them if they would withdraw that recognition if they could, as much as half would answer yes. (That’s pretty much what happened in a Western funded survey of Palestinian opinion six months into the Western financial siege.)
Hamas’s number 2, Abu Marzook, recently explained its position in an L.A. Times Op Ed:

The sticking point of "recognition" has been used as a litmus test to judge Palestinians. Yet as I have said before, a state may have a right to exist, but not absolutely at the expense of other states, or more important, at the expense of millions of human individuals and their rights to justice. Why should anyone concede Israel’s "right" to exist, when it has never even acknowledged the foundational crimes of murder and ethnic cleansing by means of which Israel took our towns and villages, our farms and orchards, and made us a nation of refugees?

Why should any Palestinian "recognize" the monstrous crime carried out by Israel’s founders and continued by its deformed modern apartheid state, while he or she lives 10 to a room in a cinderblock, tin-roof United Nations hut? These are not abstract questions, and it is not rejectionist simply because we have refused to abandon the victims of 1948 and their descendants.

… Israel, which has never formally adopted a constitution of its own but rather operates through the slow accretion of Basic Laws, declares itself explicitly to be a state for the Jews, conferring privileged status based on faith in a land where millions of occupants are Arabs, Muslims and Christians.

You may not agree, Dennis, but don’t tell me this man is arguing on the basis of some sort of intractable religious logic; it’s simple nationalism grounded in the lived history of the Palestinians.

Ross even falls into the crudest Likudnik habit of linking Qaeda-style jihadism and Iranian ambitions. Hamas, he warns us, via his Palestinian sources, "has already begun to bring Iran into Gaza." Right, and al-Qaeda, too, according to Abbas, crying wolf in the hope of getting what he wants out of Washington. (Iran and al-Qaeda are fighting each other in Iraq, are we now to expect similar outbreaks in Gaza? This is just daft. The idea that Hamas is "Shiite" has long been a propaganda standard among Fatah gunmen, but it has no basis in reality. )

Dennis, you know very well that Hamas is not Hizballah; its ideological orientation comes from the Muslim Brotherhood organizations in the Sunni Arab countries; its ties with Iran are secondary, although it is happy to get Tehran’s support. You also know very well, Dennis, that most of Hamas’s external funding came from the Gulf Arab states. But, of course, the Bush Administration cut off all that funding, not by convincing the Arabs not to send it, but by making the price of doing so being cut out of the U.S. banking system. So, you cut all of Hamas’s sources of funds other than Iran, and then you run to the rooftops shouting, "Look, they’re getting money from Iran!" Mazeltov, again, Dennis, you’re really good at this.

Dennis’s sources, who I can only imagine must be from that handful of corrupted Fatah chaps who have thrown in their lot with the U.S. — but who are increasingly beleaguered even within Fatah as more and more of the leadership looks to distance itself from Washington and reconcile with Hamas, must be getting a little desperate. He writes:

"For that reason, you also hear criticism of the Saudis who are pressing Mahmoud Abbas to reconcile with Hamas and forge a new national unity government. Indeed, I was struck by the almost unanimous sentiment that the reconciliation talks which both the Saudis and Egyptians are pushing–and Hamas leaders like Ismail Haniyeh favor–will not change Hamas’s behavior. Instead, the story goes, Hamas will use them as a tactic to try to build its international acceptability. Worse, it would use a new national unity government to try to do in the West Bank what it has now done in Gaza."

The Saudis and Egyptians hate Hamas, and are threatened by it, but they’re not stupid, Dennis. They’re pressing for rapprochement between Fatah and Hamas because they know that Hamas is currently more representative than Fatah of the Palestinian people, and that there is neither peace nor stability to be achieved by maintaining the fiction that Mahmoud Abbas can speak on behalf of the Palestinians without the consent their elected government. If there was any other way to make Hamas disappear, Dennis, you can be sure the Saudis and particularly the Egyptians would jump at it.

Ross tells us that the Palestinians are predominantly secular, and were more alienated from Fatah than attracted to Hamas. Well, yes, Dennis, and Hamas seems to know and respect that. They don’t appear to be trying to enforce Shariah law in Gaza, do they? But what Dennis the Sage appears to avoid is to ask the question why are Palestinians alienated from Fatah?Yes, Dennis, I know, you’ll tell yourself that the answer is corruption, even as the Administration continues to coddle the most corrupt element in Fatah. But the true answer is simply that Fatah lost its way; the Palestinian electorate could see that its path of negotiation, much of it under Ross’s stewardship, had only brought the Palestinians more settlements and checkpoints. They could see that Sharon had no intention of ending the occupation. And frankly, I think many of their leaders tacitly recognized that Fatah had abandoned its national goals, which accelerated the onset of an "every man for himself" ethos of corruption.

Ross claims that "creating new institutions in the PA will inevitably build the credibility of the PA and, by extension, the credibility of Fatah." Uh, Dennis… You can’t build the PA’s institutions while ignoring its legal and democratically elected government. Prime Minister Fayyad may be quite the favorite in Washington, but he has a little problem — his government has not been, nor will it be approved by the Palestinian legislature. It is not really a legal government, Dennis. You either build democratic institutions, or you build Fatah — how on earth can you even suggest that the two are interchangeable?

Plainly, Dennis Ross is scrambling for logical arguments to support a patently flawed policy. He gets even more when he suggests that it’s crucial for the Fatah old guard to step aside and be replaced by a new generation of leaders capable of rebuilding the organization’s credibility. Good idea, Dennis. Except that the next generation of Fatah leaders, led by Marwan Barghouti from his Israeli prison cell, are advocating the exact opposite of your Fatah sources — they want Fatah to distance itself from the disastrous U.S. positions and reconcile with Hamas.

What Dennis Ross is advocating is a strategy that repeats all of the worst mistakes of the past decade of U.S. policy in the Middle East, and is bound to fail. Sooner or later, the U.S. and Israel will be forced to reckon with the political choices of the Palestinians, which will mean, among other things, talking to Hamas. And when that happens, you can be sure Dennis Ross will say yes, but it wasn’t the right time in the summer of 2007, which will be more self-serving evasion.

The only difference between now, and the moment when the U.S. and Israel recognize reality, will be in how many people’s lives will be ruined.

Fascist America, in 10 Easy Steps

by Naomi Wolfe

From Hitler to Pinochet and beyond, history shows there are certain steps that any would-be dictator must take to destroy constitutional freedoms. And, argues Naomi Wolf, George Bush and his administration seem to be taking them all.

Last autumn, there was a military coup in Thailand. The leaders of the coup took a number of steps, rather systematically, as if they had a shopping list. In a sense, they did. Within a matter of days, democracy had been closed down: the coup leaders declared martial law, sent armed soldiers into residential areas, took over radio and TV stations, issued restrictions on the press, tightened some limits on travel, and took certain activists into custody.

They were not figuring these things out as they went along. If you look at history, you can see that there is essentially a blueprint for turning an open society into a dictatorship. That blueprint has been used again and again in more and less bloody, more and less terrifying ways. But it is always effective. It is very difficult and arduous to create and sustain a democracy — but history shows that closing one down is much simpler. You simply have to be willing to take the 10 steps.

As difficult as this is to contemplate, it is clear, if you are willing to look, that each of these 10 steps has already been initiated today in the United States by the Bush administration.

Because Americans like me were born in freedom, we have a hard time even considering that it is possible for us to become as unfree — domestically — as many other nations. Because we no longer learn much about our rights or our system of government — the task of being aware of the constitution has been outsourced from citizens' ownership to being the domain of professionals such as lawyers and professors — we scarcely recognise the checks and balances that the founders put in place, even as they are being systematically dismantled. Because we don't learn much about European history, the setting up of a department of "homeland" security — remember who else was keen on the word "homeland" — didn't raise the alarm bells it might have.

It is my argument that, beneath our very noses, George Bush and his administration are using time-tested tactics to close down an open society. It is time for us to be willing to think the unthinkable — as the author and political journalist Joe Conason, has put it, that it can happen here. And that we are further along than we realise.

Conason eloquently warned of the danger of American authoritarianism. I am arguing that we need also to look at the lessons of European and other kinds of fascism to understand the potential seriousness of the events we see unfolding in the US.

1. Invoke a terrifying internal and external enemy

After we were hit on September 11, 2001, we were in a state of national shock. Less than six weeks later, on October 26, 2001, the USA Patriot Act was passed by a Congress that had little chance to debate it; many said that they scarcely had time to read it. We were told we were now on a "war footing"; we were in a "global war" against a "global caliphate" intending to "wipe out civilisation". There have been other times of crisis in which the US accepted limits on civil liberties, such as during the civil war, when Lincoln declared martial law, and the second world war, when thousands of Japanese-American citizens were interned. But this situation, as Bruce Fein of the American Freedom Agenda notes, is unprecedented: all our other wars had an endpoint, so the pendulum was able to swing back toward freedom; this war is defined as open-ended in time and without national boundaries in space — the globe itself is the battlefield. "This time," Fein says, "there will be no defined end."

Creating a terrifying threat — hydra-like, secretive, evil — is an old trick. It can, like Hitler's invocation of a communist threat to the nation's security, be based on actual events (one Wisconsin academic has faced calls for his dismissal because he noted, among other things, that the alleged communist arson, the Reichstag fire of February 1933, was swiftly followed in Nazi Germany by passage of the Enabling Act, which replaced constitutional law with an open-ended state of emergency). Or the terrifying threat can be based, like the National Socialist evocation of the "global conspiracy of world Jewry", on myth.

It is not that global Islamist terrorism is not a severe danger; of course it is. I am arguing rather that the language used to convey the nature of the threat is different in a country such as Spain — which has also suffered violent terrorist attacks — than it is in America. Spanish citizens know that they face a grave security threat; what we as American citizens believe is that we are potentially threatened with the end of civilisation as we know it. Of course, this makes us more willing to accept restrictions on our freedoms.

2. Create a gulag

Once you have got everyone scared, the next step is to create a prison system outside the rule of law (as Bush put it, he wanted the American detention centre at Guantánamo Bay to be situated in legal "outer space") — where torture takes place.

At first, the people who are sent there are seen by citizens as outsiders: troublemakers, spies, "enemies of the people" or "criminals". Initially, citizens tend to support the secret prison system; it makes them feel safer and they do not identify with the prisoners. But soon enough, civil society leaders — opposition members, labour activists, clergy and journalists — are arrested and sent there as well.

This process took place in fascist shifts or anti-democracy crackdowns ranging from Italy and Germany in the 1920s and 1930s to the Latin American coups of the 1970s and beyond. It is standard practice for closing down an open society or crushing a pro-democracy uprising.

With its jails in Iraq and Afghanistan, and, of course, Guantánamo in Cuba, where detainees are abused, and kept indefinitely without trial and without access to the due process of the law, America certainly has its gulag now. Bush and his allies in Congress recently announced they would issue no information about the secret CIA "black site" prisons throughout the world, which are used to incarcerate people who have been seized off the street.

Gulags in history tend to metastasise, becoming ever larger and more secretive, ever more deadly and formalised. We know from first-hand accounts, photographs, videos and government documents that people, innocent and guilty, have been tortured in the US-run prisons we are aware of and those we can't investigate adequately.

But Americans still assume this system and detainee abuses involve only scary brown people with whom they don't generally identify. It was brave of the conservative pundit William Safire to quote the anti-Nazi pastor Martin Niemöller, who had been seized as a political prisoner: "First they came for the Jews." Most Americans don't understand yet that the destruction of the rule of law at Guantánamo set a dangerous precedent for them, too.

By the way, the establishment of military tribunals that deny prisoners due process tends to come early on in a fascist shift. Mussolini and Stalin set up such tribunals. On April 24, 1934, the Nazis, too, set up the People's Court, which also bypassed the judicial system: prisoners were held indefinitely, often in isolation, and tortured, without being charged with offences, and were subjected to show trials. Eventually, the Special Courts became a parallel system that put pressure on the regular courts to abandon the rule of law in favour of Nazi ideology when making decisions.

3. Develop a thug caste

When leaders who seek what I call a "fascist shift" want to close down an open society, they send paramilitary groups of scary young men out to terrorise citizens. The Blackshirts roamed the Italian countryside beating up communists; the Brownshirts staged violent rallies throughout Germany. This paramilitary force is especially important in a democracy: you need citizens to fear thug violence and so you need thugs who are free from prosecution.

The years following 9/11 have proved a bonanza for America's security contractors, with the Bush administration outsourcing areas of work that traditionally fell to the US military. In the process, contracts worth hundreds of millions of dollars have been issued for security work by mercenaries at home and abroad. In Iraq, some of these contract operatives have been accused of involvement in torturing prisoners, harassing journalists and firing on Iraqi civilians. Under Order 17, issued to regulate contractors in Iraq by the one-time US administrator in Baghdad, Paul Bremer, these contractors are immune from prosecution

Yes, but that is in Iraq, you could argue; however, after Hurricane Katrina, the Department of Homeland Security hired and deployed hundreds of armed private security guards in New Orleans. The investigative journalist Jeremy Scahill interviewed one unnamed guard who reported having fired on unarmed civilians in the city. It was a natural disaster that underlay that episode — but the administration's endless war on terror means ongoing scope for what are in effect privately contracted armies to take on crisis and emergency management at home in US cities.

Thugs in America? Groups of angry young Republican men, dressed in identical shirts and trousers, menaced poll workers counting the votes in Florida in 2000. If you are reading history, you can imagine that there can be a need for "public order" on the next election day. Say there are protests, or a threat, on the day of an election; history would not rule out the presence of a private security firm at a polling station "to restore public order".

4. Set up an internal surveillance system

In Mussolini's Italy, in Nazi Germany, in communist East Germany, in communist China — in every closed society — secret police spy on ordinary people and encourage neighbours to spy on neighbours. The Stasi needed to keep only a minority of East Germans under surveillance to convince a majority that they themselves were being watched.

In 2005 and 2006, when James Risen and Eric Lichtblau wrote in the New York Times about a secret state programme to wiretap citizens' phones, read their emails and follow international financial transactions, it became clear to ordinary Americans that they, too, could be under state scrutiny.

In closed societies, this surveillance is cast as being about "national security"; the true function is to keep citizens docile and inhibit their activism and dissent.

5. Harass citizens' groups

The fifth thing you do is related to step four — you infiltrate and harass citizens' groups. It can be trivial: a church in Pasadena, whose minister preached that Jesus was in favour of peace, found itself being investigated by the Internal Revenue Service, while churches that got Republicans out to vote, which is equally illegal under US tax law, have been left alone.

Other harassment is more serious: the American Civil Liberties Union reports that thousands of ordinary American anti-war, environmental and other groups have been infiltrated by agents: a secret Pentagon database includes more than four dozen peaceful anti-war meetings, rallies or marches by American citizens in its category of 1,500 "suspicious incidents". The equally secret Counterintelligence Field Activity (Cifa) agency of the Department of Defense has been gathering information about domestic organisations engaged in peaceful political activities: Cifa is supposed to track "potential terrorist threats" as it watches ordinary US citizen activists. A little-noticed new law has redefined activism such as animal rights protests as "terrorism". So the definition of "terrorist" slowly expands to include the opposition.

6. Engage in arbitrary detention and release

This scares people. It is a kind of cat-and-mouse game. Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn, the investigative reporters who wrote China Wakes: the Struggle for the Soul of a Rising Power, describe pro-democracy activists in China, such as Wei Jingsheng, being arrested and released many times. In a closing or closed society there is a "list" of dissidents and opposition leaders: you are targeted in this way once you are on the list, and it is hard to get off the list.

In 2004, America's Transportation Security Administration confirmed that it had a list of passengers who were targeted for security searches or worse if they tried to fly. People who have found themselves on the list? Two middle-aged women peace activists in San Francisco; liberal Senator Edward Kennedy; a member of Venezuela's government — after Venezuela's president had criticised Bush; and thousands of ordinary US citizens.

Professor Walter F. Murphy is emeritus of Princeton University; he is one of the foremost constitutional scholars in the nation and author of the classic Constitutional Democracy. Murphy is also a decorated former marine, and he is not even especially politically liberal. But on March 1 this year, he was denied a boarding pass at Newark, "because I was on the Terrorist Watch list".

"Have you been in any peace marches? We ban a lot of people from flying because of that," asked the airline employee.

"I explained," said Murphy, "that I had not so marched but had, in September 2006, given a lecture at Princeton, televised and put on the web, highly critical of George Bush for his many violations of the constitution."

"That'll do it," the man said.

Anti-war marcher? Potential terrorist. Support the constitution? Potential terrorist. History shows that the categories of "enemy of the people" tend to expand ever deeper into civil life.

James Yee, a US citizen, was the Muslim chaplain at Guantánamo who was accused of mishandling classified documents. He was harassed by the US military before the charges against him were dropped. Yee has been detained and released several times. He is still of interest.

Brandon Mayfield, a US citizen and lawyer in Oregon, was mistakenly identified as a possible terrorist. His house was secretly broken into and his computer seized. Though he is innocent of the accusation against him, he is still on the list.

It is a standard practice of fascist societies that once you are on the list, you can't get off.

7. Target key individuals

Threaten civil servants, artists and academics with job loss if they don't toe the line. Mussolini went after the rectors of state universities who did not conform to the fascist line; so did Joseph Goebbels, who purged academics who were not pro-Nazi; so did Chile's Augusto Pinochet; so does the Chinese communist Politburo in punishing pro-democracy students and professors.

Academe is a tinderbox of activism, so those seeking a fascist shift punish academics and students with professional loss if they do not "coordinate", in Goebbels' term, ideologically. Since civil servants are the sector of society most vulnerable to being fired by a given regime, they are also a group that fascists typically "coordinate" early on: the Reich Law for the Re-establishment of a Professional Civil Service was passed on April 7, 1933.

Bush supporters in state legislatures in several states put pressure on regents at state universities to penalise or fire academics who have been critical of the administration. As for civil servants, the Bush administration has derailed the career of one military lawyer who spoke up for fair trials for detainees, while an administration official publicly intimidated the law firms that represent detainees pro bono by threatening to call for their major corporate clients to boycott them.

Elsewhere, a CIA contract worker who said in a closed blog that "waterboarding is torture" was stripped of the security clearance she needed in order to do her job.

Most recently, the administration purged eight US attorneys for what looks like insufficient political loyalty. When Goebbels purged the civil service in April 1933, attorneys were "coordinated" too, a step that eased the way for the increasingly brutal laws to follow.

8. Control the press

Italy in the 1920s, Germany in the 30s, East Germany in the 50s, Czechoslovakia in the 60s, the Latin American dictatorships in the 70s, China in the 80s and 90s — all dictatorships and would-be dictators target newspapers and journalists. They threaten and harass them in more open societies that they are seeking to close, and they arrest them and worse in societies that have been closed already.

The Committee to Protect Journalists says arrests of US journalists are at an all-time high: Josh Wolf (no relation), a blogger in San Francisco, has been put in jail for a year for refusing to turn over video of an anti-war demonstration; Homeland Security brought a criminal complaint against reporter Greg Palast, claiming he threatened "critical infrastructure" when he and a TV producer were filming victims of Hurricane Katrina in Louisiana. Palast had written a bestseller critical of the Bush administration.

Other reporters and writers have been punished in other ways. Joseph C. Wilson accused Bush, in a New York Times op-ed, of leading the country to war on the basis of a false charge that Saddam Hussein had acquired yellowcake uranium in Niger. His wife, Valerie Plame, was outed as a CIA spy — a form of retaliation that ended her career.

Prosecution and job loss are nothing, though, compared with how the US is treating journalists seeking to cover the conflict in Iraq in an unbiased way. The Committee to Protect Journalists has documented multiple accounts of the US military in Iraq firing upon or threatening to fire upon unembedded (meaning independent) reporters and camera operators from organisations ranging from al-Jazeera to the BBC. While westerners may question the accounts by al-Jazeera, they should pay attention to the accounts of reporters such as the BBC's Kate Adie. In some cases reporters have been wounded or killed, including ITN's Terry Lloyd in 2003. Both CBS and the Associated Press in Iraq had staff members seized by the US military and taken to violent prisons; the news organisations were unable to see the evidence against their staffers.

Over time in closing societies, real news is supplanted by fake news and false documents. Pinochet showed Chilean citizens falsified documents to back up his claim that terrorists had been about to attack the nation. The yellowcake charge, too, was based on forged papers.

You won't have a shutdown of news in modern America — it is not possible. But you can have, as Frank Rich and Sidney Blumenthal have pointed out, a steady stream of lies polluting the news well. What you already have is a White House directing a stream of false information that is so relentless that it is increasingly hard to sort out truth from untruth. In a fascist system, it's not the lies that count but the muddying. When citizens can't tell real news from fake, they give up their demands for accountability bit by bit.

9. Dissent equals treason

Cast dissent as "treason" and criticism as "espionage'. Every closing society does this, just as it elaborates laws that increasingly criminalise certain kinds of speech and expand the definition of "spy" and "traitor". When Bill Keller, the publisher of the New York Times, ran the Lichtblau/Risen stories, Bush called the Times' leaking of classified information "disgraceful", while Republicans in Congress called for Keller to be charged with treason, and rightwing commentators and news outlets kept up the "treason" drumbeat. Some commentators, as Conason noted, reminded readers smugly that one penalty for violating the Espionage Act is execution.

Conason is right to note how serious a threat that attack represented. It is also important to recall that the 1938 Moscow show trial accused the editor of Izvestia, Nikolai Bukharin, of treason; Bukharin was, in fact, executed. And it is important to remind Americans that when the 1917 Espionage Act was last widely invoked, during the infamous 1919 Palmer Raids, leftist activists were arrested without warrants in sweeping roundups, kept in jail for up to five months, and "beaten, starved, suffocated, tortured and threatened with death", according to the historian Myra MacPherson. After that, dissent was muted in America for a decade.

In Stalin's Soviet Union, dissidents were "enemies of the people". National Socialists called those who supported Weimar democracy "November traitors".

And here is where the circle closes: most Americans do not realise that since September of last year — when Congress wrongly, foolishly, passed the Military Commissions Act of 2006 — the president has the power to call any US citizen an "enemy combatant". He has the power to define what "enemy combatant" means. The president can also delegate to anyone he chooses in the executive branch the right to define "enemy combatant" any way he or she wants and then seize Americans accordingly.

Even if you or I are American citizens, even if we turn out to be completely innocent of what he has accused us of doing, he has the power to have us seized as we are changing planes at Newark tomorrow, or have us taken with a knock on the door; ship you or me to a navy brig; and keep you or me in isolation, possibly for months, while awaiting trial. (Prolonged isolation, as psychiatrists know, triggers psychosis in otherwise mentally healthy prisoners. That is why Stalin's gulag had an isolation cell, like Guantánamo's, in every satellite prison. Camp 6, the newest, most brutal facility at Guantánamo, is all isolation cells.)

We US citizens will get a trial eventually — for now. But legal rights activists at the Center for Constitutional Rights say that the Bush administration is trying increasingly aggressively to find ways to get around giving even US citizens fair trials. "Enemy combatant" is a status offence — it is not even something you have to have done. "We have absolutely moved over into a preventive detention model — you look like you could do something bad, you might do something bad, so we're going to hold you," says a spokeswoman of the CCR.

Most Americans surely do not get this yet. No wonder: it is hard to believe, even though it is true. In every closing society, at a certain point there are some high-profile arrests — usually of opposition leaders, clergy and journalists. Then everything goes quiet. After those arrests, there are still newspapers, courts, TV and radio, and the facades of a civil society. There just isn't real dissent. There just isn't freedom. If you look at history, just before those arrests is where we are now.

10. Suspend the rule of law

The John Warner Defense Authorization Act of 2007 gave the president new powers over the national guard. This means that in a national emergency — which the president now has enhanced powers to declare — he can send Michigan's militia to enforce a state of emergency that he has declared in Oregon, over the objections of the state's governor and its citizens.

Even as Americans were focused on Britney Spears's meltdown and the question of who fathered Anna Nicole's baby, the New York Times editorialised about this shift: "A disturbing recent phenomenon in Washington is that laws that strike to the heart of American democracy have been passed in the dead of night ... Beyond actual insurrection, the president may now use military troops as a domestic police force in response to a natural disaster, a disease outbreak, terrorist attack or any 'other condition'."

Critics see this as a clear violation of the Posse Comitatus Act — which was meant to restrain the federal government from using the military for domestic law enforcement. The Democratic senator Patrick Leahy says the bill encourages a president to declare federal martial law. It also violates the very reason the founders set up our system of government as they did: having seen citizens bullied by a monarch's soldiers, the founders were terrified of exactly this kind of concentration of militias' power over American people in the hands of an oppressive executive or faction.

Of course, the United States is not vulnerable to the violent, total closing-down of the system that followed Mussolini's march on Rome or Hitler's roundup of political prisoners. Our democratic habits are too resilient, and our military and judiciary too independent, for any kind of scenario like that.

Rather, as other critics are noting, our experiment in democracy could be closed down by a process of erosion.

It is a mistake to think that early in a fascist shift you see the profile of barbed wire against the sky. In the early days, things look normal on the surface; peasants were celebrating harvest festivals in Calabria in 1922; people were shopping and going to the movies in Berlin in 1931. Early on, as W. H. Auden put it, the horror is always elsewhere — while someone is being tortured, children are skating, ships are sailing: "dogs go on with their doggy life ... How everything turns away/ Quite leisurely from the disaster."

As Americans turn away quite leisurely, keeping tuned to internet shopping and American Idol, the foundations of democracy are being fatally corroded. Something has changed profoundly that weakens us unprecedentedly: our democratic traditions, independent judiciary and free press do their work today in a context in which we are "at war" in a "long war" — a war without end, on a battlefield described as the globe, in a context that gives the president — without US citizens realising it yet — the power over US citizens of freedom or long solitary incarceration, on his say-so alone.

That means a hollowness has been expanding under the foundation of all these still- free-looking institutions — and this foundation can give way under certain kinds of pressure. To prevent such an outcome, we have to think about the "what ifs".

What if, in a year and a half, there is another attack — say, God forbid, a dirty bomb? The executive can declare a state of emergency. History shows that any leader, of any party, will be tempted to maintain emergency powers after the crisis has passed. With the gutting of traditional checks and balances, we are no less endangered by a President Hillary than by a President Giuliani — because any executive will be tempted to enforce his or her will through edict rather than the arduous, uncertain process of democratic negotiation and compromise.

What if the publisher of a major US newspaper were charged with treason or espionage, as a rightwing effort seemed to threaten Keller with last year? What if he or she got 10 years in jail? What would the newspapers look like the next day? Judging from history, they would not cease publishing; but they would suddenly be very polite.

Right now, only a handful of patriots are trying to hold back the tide of tyranny for the rest of us — staff at the Center for Constitutional Rights, who faced death threats for representing the detainees yet persisted all the way to the Supreme Court; activists at the American Civil Liberties Union; and prominent conservatives trying to roll back the corrosive new laws, under the banner of a new group called the American Freedom Agenda. This small, disparate collection of people needs everybody's help, including that of Europeans and others internationally who are willing to put pressure on the administration because they can see what a US unrestrained by real democracy at home can mean for the rest of the world.

We need to look at history and face the "what ifs". For if we keep going down this road, the "end of America" could come for each of us in a different way, at a different moment; each of us might have a different moment when we feel forced to look back and think: that is how it was before — and this is the way it is now.

"The accumulation of all powers, legislative, executive, and judiciary, in the same hands ... is the definition of tyranny," wrote James Madison. We still have the choice to stop going down this road; we can stand our ground and fight for our nation, and take up the banner the founders asked us to carry.