The Commons is a weblog for concerned citizens of southeast Iowa and their friends around the world. It was created to encourage grassroots networking and to share information and ideas which have either been suppressed or drowned out in the mainstream media.

"But if the cause be not good, the king himself hath a heavy reckoning to make, when all those legs and arms and heads, chopped off in battle, shall join together at the latter day and cry all 'We died at such a place;' some swearing, some crying for a surgeon, some upon their wives left poor behind them, some upon the debts they owe, some upon their children rawly left. I am afeard there are few die well that die in a battle; for how can they charitably dispose of any thing, when blood is their argument? Now, if these men do not die well, it will be a black matter for the king that led them to it; whom to disobey were against all proportion of subjection." (Henry V, Act V, Scene 4)

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

War protests: Why no coverage?

War protests: Why no coverage?


Newspapers have a duty to inform citizens about such democratic events.







Coordinated
antiwar protests in at least 11 American cities this weekend raised
anew an interesting question about the nature of news coverage: Are the
media ignoring rallies against the Iraq war because of their low
turnout or is the turnout dampened by the lack of news coverage?


I find it unsettling that I even have to consider the question.


That
most Americans oppose the war in Iraq is well established. The latest
CBS News poll, in mid-October, found 26 percent of those polled
approved of the way the president is handling the war and 67 percent
disapproved. It found that 45 percent said they'd only be willing to
keep large numbers of US troops in Iraq "for less than a year." And an
ABC News-Washington Post poll in late September found that 55 percent
felt Democrats in Congress had not gone far enough in opposing the war.


Granted, neither poll asked specifically
about what this weekend's marchers wanted: An end to congressional
funding for the war. Still, poll after poll has found substantial
discontent with a war that ranks as the preeminent issue in the
presidential campaign.


Given that context, it seems remarkable to
me that in some of the 11 cities in which protests were held – Boston
and New York, for example – major news outlets treated this "National
Day of Action" as though it did not exist. As far as I can tell,
neither The New York Times nor The Boston Globe had so much as a news
brief about the march in the days leading up to it. The day after, The
Times, at least in its national edition, totally ignored the thousands
who marched in New York and the tens of thousands who marched
nationwide. The Globe relegated the news of 10,000 spirited citizens
(including me) marching through Boston's rain-dampened streets to a
short piece deep inside its metro section. A single sentence noted the
event's national context.


As a former newspaper editor, I was most
taken aback by the silence beforehand. Surely any march of widespread
interest warrants a brief news item to let people know that the event
is taking place and that they can participate. It's called "advancing
the news," and it has a time-honored place in American newsrooms.


With prescient irony, Frank Rich wrote in
his Oct. 14 Times column, "We can continue to blame the Bush
administration for the horrors of Iraq.… But we must also examine our
own responsibility." And, he goes on to suggest, we must examine our
own silence.


So why would Mr. Rich's news colleagues deprive people of information needed to take exactly that responsibility?


I'm not suggesting here that the Times or any news organization should be in collusion with a movement – pro-war or antiwar,
pro-choice or pro-life, pro-government or pro-privatization.


I am suggesting that news organizations cover the news – that they inform the public about any widespread effort to give voice
to those who share a widely held view about any major national issue.


If
it had been a pro-war group that had organized a series of support
marches this weekend, I'd have felt the same way. Like the National Day
of Action, their efforts would have been news – news of how people can
participate in a democracy overrun with campaign platitudes and
big-plate fundraisers, news that keeps democracy vibrant, news that
keeps it healthy.


Joseph Pulitzer, the editor and publisher
for whom the highest honor in journalism is named, understood this
well. In May 1904, he wrote: "Our Republic and its press rise or fall
together. An able, disinterested, public-spirited press … can preserve
that public virtue without which popular government is a sham and a
mockery.… The power to mould the future of the Republic will be in the
hands of the journalists of future generations."


It's time for the current generation of
journalists – at times seemingly obsessed with Martha Stewart, O.J.
Simpson, Paris Hilton, Britney Spears, and the like – to use that power
more vigilantly, and more firmly, with the public interest in mind.


Jerry Lanson is a professor of journalism at Emerson College in Boston.







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Bush Ditchin’ Congress for Remainder of Term

Bush Ditchin’ Congress for Remainder of Term
by markthshark (dailykos)

Wed Oct 31, 2007 at 07:22:10 AM CDT

Bush to White House steno pool: WE DON’T NEED NO STINKIN’ CONGRESS!

(occams hatchet covered Bush's precious press conference earlier this morning quite eloquently here, and had some great strategy points for Democrats in '08, as well.)

This diary, however, delves into Bush's new strategy to marginalize Congress, and how it may just facilitate Cheney's perverted wet dream about invading Iran, and in doing so, leave Congress holding the proverbial bag.

When I first read this article it reminded me of an episode of "Lil Bush" on Comedy Central. Needless to say, the pintsized emperor and Lil Cheney are not pleased, just having concluded that dear leader can no longer do much business with the Democratic leadership.


But seriously, Bush's latest neofascist vehicle to marginalize Congress, so-called "administrative orders," differ slightly with directives and executive orders, according to The University of Tulsa College of Law:

Administrative Orders include numbered documents called determinations, and notices or memorandum designated by date. These orders often concern foreign policy decisions but may also include management decisions made by the President that concern Executive Departments. (my emphasis)


Given the tenuous situations in Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan, bypassing Congress would give Bush and Cheney carte blanche to, among other things, order military strikes, including bombings and incursions inside Iran. Given Bush’s dubious track record over the past seven-years, I get the distinct and ominous feeling this has more to do with Congress’ hesitation to green light a preemptive attack on Iran than it does with the amount of work Congress is doing overall.

According to administration officials, the White House is quietly planning to implement as much new policy as possible by using administrative orders - thereby bypassing Congress completely – while elevating confrontational rhetoric with Capitol Hill like that exhibited on Tuesday after Bush conducted a private meeting with about 150 congressional Republicans in the East Room.

Bush and his advisers blame Democrats for the holdup of Judge Michael Mukasey’s nomination to be attorney general. He also displayed feigned indignation over the failure to pass any of the twelve annual spending bills, and what he considers their refusal to involve him in any meaningful negotiations over the deadlocked children’s S-chip healthcare legislation.

White House aides say the only way their boss seems to be able to influence the process is by vetoing legislation or by issuing administrative orders, as he’s quietly done in the last few weeks on veteran’s healthcare, air-traffic congestion, immigration, and protecting endangered fish.(Huh?)

Wednesday's Washington Post has the story:

They say they expect Bush to issue more of such orders in the next several months, even as he speaks out on the need to limit spending and resist any tax increases.

The events of recent weeks have "crystallized that the chances of these leaders meeting the administration halfway are becoming increasingly remote," said White House spokesman Tony Fratto.

Bush himself has been complaining more and more bitterly about congressional Democrats in recent weeks. In a private meeting yesterday with House Republicans in the East Room of the White House, Bush recalled how he had been able to work with Democrats when he was Texas governor and said he had hoped to find the same relationships in Washington.

"He sort of longs for those days, when both sides were genuinely interested in getting along and getting a deal," said Rep. Adam H. Putnam (R-Fla.), the chairman of the House Republican Conference, who helped organize yesterday's White House meeting, attended by about 150 Republicans.

The president offered more criticism after the session. "Congress is not getting its work done," Bush said. "We're near the end of the year, and there really isn't much to show for it."

Of course, posturing is usually a two-way street and Democratic leaders wasted no time firing back at Bush. Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer (D-MD) shot back:

"The president wants the same complacent, complicit Congress that was a co-conspirator in a coverup of what was going on in this country."

Of course, both sides think they have the winning political strategy here. The White House somehow thinks they can recapture the upper hand as fiscal conservatives, even though most pundits say that ship has sailed a long time ago. On the other side of the argument, Democrats conclude they have the winning hand with children’s healthcare and other issues that affect the American people the most.

To make a strange situation even more so, Bush’s objections lately to any tax increases have pushed Republicans in the House and Senate to conduct their own negotiations over an expansion of the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP). They’ve come to the conclusion that, much like the Democrats have said, a final bill must indeed include a significant tobacco tax increase to offset the cost. While offering support for Bush in public, some Republicans are privately hinting that they may break with him if the price is right. Yesterday when asked, House Minority Leader John A Boehner (R-OH) alluded to the possibility:

"He [Bush] has his position. House Republicans have theirs," Boehner said.


Aside from pressure from the White House, Republicans have offered their own reasons for moving slowly. As for SCHIP, they have said that both sides in Congress could reach a deal if the Democrats would slow down and allow negotiations to carry on. However, that may be wishful thinking on the Republican side of the aisle considering Democrats think they have a winner with the children’s healthcare issue while Bush is demanding so much money for military spending.

Hope is not dead, however. Republicans Senator Charles Grassley of Iowa and Orrin G. Hatch of Utah reportedly appealed to Senate majority Leader Harry M. Reid of Nevada for a delay and Reid agreed. He asked the Senate to put off consideration of the latest version of the bill to allow bipartisan talks to continue. However, Senate Minority Whip Trent Lott of Mississippi objected to the move.

Chairman of the Senate Select Intelligence Committee, SCHIP negotiator [and telecom immunity enabler] Senator John D. Rockefeller IV (D-W.VA) weiged in:

"That makes an interesting statement about the president's press conference this morning, that we just can't get those Democrats to do anything."

This promise to use administrative orders in order to bypass Congress is a particularly ominous development; considering the drumbeat to war emanating from both the Oval Office and Mr. Cheney’s office about Iran. In my opinion, if this declaration by Bush doesn’t elevate impeachment talk in Congress – and indeed prompt hearings – the state of American democracy will take another major step backwards.

I’d be very interested to know exactly what avenues of recourse Congress has left [if any] to combat these insidious administrative orders.U Ostensibly, it seems to me anyway that since the U.S. Constitution gives Congress the task of making laws, they'd be able to enact laws counteracting Bush's orders. I'm going to have to do some more research.

Alas, impeachment may just become Congress’ only remaining recourse. If they don’t take it We the People are on our own.

Do they still make pitchforks and torches in America, or are they made in China now?

PLEASE, CONGRESS, I’m beggin’ ya! – impede, impeach and imprison.

http://www.dailykos.com/story/2007/10/31/5289/7275

Peace


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Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Waterboarding is Torture, Period

Waterboarding is Torture, Period
by Malcolm Nance

I’d like to digress from my usual analysis of insurgent strategy and tactics to speak out on an issue of grave importance to Small Wars Journal readers. We, as a nation, are having a crisis of honor.

Last week the Attorney General nominee Judge Michael Mukasey refused to define waterboarding terror suspects as torture. On the same day MSNBC television pundit and former Republican Congressman Joe Scarborough quickly spoke out in its favor. On his morning television broadcast, he asserted, without any basis in fact, that the efficacy of the waterboard a viable tool to be used on Al Qaeda suspects.

Scarborough said, "For those who don't know, waterboarding is what we did to Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, who is the Al Qaeda number two guy that planned 9/11. And he talked …" He then speculated that “If you ask Americans whether they think it's okay for us to waterboard in a controlled environment … 90% of Americans will say 'yes.'” Sensing that what he was saying sounded extreme, he then claimed he did not support torture but that waterboarding was debatable as a technique: "You know, that's the debate. Is waterboarding torture? … I don't want the United States to engage in the type of torture that [Senator] John McCain had to endure."

In fact, waterboarding is just the type of torture then Lt. Commander John McCain had to endure at the hands of the North Vietnamese. As a former Master Instructor and Chief of Training at the US Navy Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape School (SERE) in San Diego, California I know the waterboard personally and intimately. SERE staff were required undergo the waterboard at its fullest. I was no exception. I have personally led, witnessed and supervised waterboarding of hundreds of people. It has been reported that both the Army and Navy SERE school’s interrogation manuals were used to form the interrogation techniques used by the US army and the CIA for its terror suspects. What was not mentioned in most articles was that SERE was designed to show how an evil totalitarian, enemy would use torture at the slightest whim. If this is the case, then waterboarding is unquestionably being used as torture technique.

The carnival-like he-said, she-said of the legality of Enhanced Interrogation Techniques has become a form of doublespeak worthy of Catch-22. Having been subjected to them all, I know these techniques, if in fact they are actually being used, are not dangerous when applied in training for short periods. However, when performed with even moderate intensity over an extended time on an unsuspecting prisoner – it is torture, without doubt. Couple that with waterboarding and the entire medley not only “shock the conscience” as the statute forbids -it would terrify you. Most people can not stand to watch a high intensity kinetic interrogation. One has to overcome basic human decency to endure watching or causing the effects. The brutality would force you into a personal moral dilemma between humanity and hatred. It would leave you to question the meaning of what it is to be an American.

We live at a time where Americans, completely uninformed by an incurious media and enthralled by vengeance-based fantasy television shows like “24”, are actually cheering and encouraging such torture as justifiable revenge for the September 11 attacks. Having been a rescuer in one of those incidents and personally affected by both attacks, I am bewildered at how casually we have thrown off the mantle of world-leader in justice and honor. Who we have become? Because at this juncture, after Abu Ghraieb and other undignified exposed incidents of murder and torture, we appear to have become no better than our opponents.

With regards to the waterboard, I want to set the record straight so the apologists can finally embrace the fact that they condone and encourage torture.

History’s Lessons Ignored

Before arriving for my assignment at SERE, I traveled to Cambodia to visit the torture camps of the Khmer Rouge. The country had just opened for tourism and the effect of the genocide was still heavy in the air. I wanted to know how real torturers and terror camp guards would behave and learn how to resist them from survivors of such horrors. I had previously visited the Nazi death camps Dachau and Bergen-Belsen. I had met and interviewed survivors of Buchenwald, Auschwitz and Magdeburg when I visited Yad Vashem in Jerusalem. However, it was in the S-21 death camp known as Tuol Sleng, in downtown Phnom Penh, where I found a perfectly intact inclined waterboard. Next to it was the painting on how it was used. It was cruder than ours mainly because they used metal shackles to strap the victim down, and a tin flower pot sprinkler to regulate the water flow rate, but it was the same device I would be subjected to a few weeks later.

On a Mekong River trip, I met a 60-year-old man, happy to be alive and a cheerful travel companion, who survived the genocide and torture … he spoke openly about it and gave me a valuable lesson: “If you want to survive, you must learn that ‘walking through a low door means you have to be able to bow.’” He told his interrogators everything they wanted to know including the truth. They rarely stopped. In torture, he confessed to being a hermaphrodite, a CIA spy, a Buddhist Monk, a Catholic Bishop and the son of the king of Cambodia. He was actually just a school teacher whose crime was that he once spoke French. He remembered “the Barrel” version of waterboarding quite well. Head first until the water filled the lungs, then you talk.

Once at SERE and tasked to rewrite the Navy SERE program for the first time since the Vietnam War, we incorporated interrogation and torture techniques from the Middle East, Latin America and South Asia into the curriculum. In the process, I studied hundreds of classified written reports, dozens of personal memoirs of American captives from the French-Indian Wars and the American Revolution to the Argentinean ‘Dirty War’ and Bosnia. There were endless hours of videotaped debriefings from World War Two, Korea, Vietnam and Gulf War POWs and interrogators. I devoured the hundreds of pages of debriefs and video reports including those of then Commander John McCain, Colonel Nick Rowe, Lt. Dieter Dengler and Admiral James Stockdale, the former Senior Ranking Officer of the Hanoi Hilton. All of them had been tortured by the Vietnamese, Pathet Lao or Cambodians. The minutiae of North Vietnamese torture techniques was discussed with our staff advisor and former Hanoi Hilton POW Doug Hegdahl as well as discussions with Admiral Stockdale himself. The waterboard was clearly one of the tools dictators and totalitarian regimes preferred.

There is No Debate Except for Torture Apologists

1. Waterboarding is a torture technique. Period. There is no way to gloss over it or sugarcoat it. It has no justification outside of its limited role as a training demonstrator. Our service members have to learn that the will to survive requires them accept and understand that they may be subjected to torture, but that America is better than its enemies and it is one’s duty to trust in your nation and God, endure the hardships and return home with honor.

2. Waterboarding is not a simulation. Unless you have been strapped down to the board, have endured the agonizing feeling of the water overpowering your gag reflex, and then feel your throat open and allow pint after pint of water to involuntarily fill your lungs, you will not know the meaning of the word.

Waterboarding is a controlled drowning that, in the American model, occurs under the watch of a doctor, a psychologist, an interrogator and a trained strap-in/strap-out team. It does not simulate drowning, as the lungs are actually filling with water. There is no way to simulate that. The victim is drowning. How much the victim is to drown depends on the desired result (in the form of answers to questions shouted into the victim’s face) and the obstinacy of the subject. A team doctor watches the quantity of water that is ingested and for the physiological signs which show when the drowning effect goes from painful psychological experience, to horrific suffocating punishment to the final death spiral.

Waterboarding is slow motion suffocation with enough time to contemplate the inevitability of black out and expiration –usually the person goes into hysterics on the board. For the uninitiated, it is horrifying to watch and if it goes wrong, it can lead straight to terminal hypoxia. When done right it is controlled death. Its lack of physical scarring allows the victim to recover and be threaten with its use again and again.

Call it “Chinese Water Torture,” “the Barrel,” or “the Waterfall,” it is all the same. Whether the victim is allowed to comply or not is usually left up to the interrogator. Many waterboard team members, even in training, enjoy the sadistic power of making the victim suffer and often ask questions as an after thought. These people are dangerous and predictable and when left unshackled, unsupervised or undetected they bring us the murderous abuses seen at Abu Ghraieb, Baghram and Guantanamo. No doubt, to avoid human factors like fear and guilt someone has created a one-button version that probably looks like an MRI machine with high intensity waterjets.

3. If you support the use of waterboarding on enemy captives, you support the use of that torture on any future American captives. The Small Wars Council had a spirited discussion about this earlier in the year, especially when former Marine Generals Krulak and Hoar rejected all arguments for torture.

Evan Wallach wrote a brilliant history of the use of waterboarding as a war crime and the open acceptance of it by the administration in an article for Columbia Journal for Transnational Law. In it he describes how the ideological Justice Department lawyer, John Yoo validated the current dilemma we find ourselves in by asserting that the President had powers above and beyond the Constitution and the Congress:

“Congress doesn’t have the power to tie the President’s hands in regard to torture as an interrogation technique....It’s the core of the Commander-in-Chief function. They can’t prevent the President from ordering torture.”

That is an astounding assertion. It reflects a basic disregard for the law of the United States, the Constitution and basic moral decency.

Another MSNBC commentator defended the administration and stated that waterboarding is "not a new phenomenon" and that it had "been pinned on President Bush … but this has been part of interrogation for years and years and years." He is correct, but only partially. The Washington Post reported in 2006 that it was mainly America’s enemies that used it as a principal interrogation method. After World War 2, Japanese waterboard team members were tried for war crimes. In Vietnam, service members were placed under investigation when a photo of a field-expedient waterboarding became publicly known.

Torture in captivity simulation training reveals there are ways an enemy can inflict punishment which will render the subject wholly helpless and which will generally overcome his willpower. The torturer will trigger within the subject a survival instinct, in this case the ability to breathe, which makes the victim instantly pliable and ready to comply. It is purely and simply a tool by which to deprive a human being of his ability to resist through physical humiliation. The very concept of an American Torturer is an anathema to our values.

I concur strongly with the opinions of professional interrogators like Colonel Stewart Herrington, and victims of torture like Senator John McCain. If you want consistent, accurate and reliable intelligence, be inquisitive, analytical, patient but most of all professional, amiable and compassionate.

Who will complain about the new world-wide embrace of torture? America has justified it legally at the highest levels of government. Even worse, the administration has selectively leaked supposed successes of the water board such as the alleged Khalid Sheik Mohammed confessions. However, in the same breath the CIA sources for the Washington Post noted that in Mohammed’s case they got information but "not all of it reliable." Of course, when you waterboard you get all the magic answers you want -because remember, the subject will talk. They all talk! Anyone strapped down will say anything, absolutely anything to get the torture to stop. Torture. Does. Not. Work.

According to the President, this is not a torture, so future torturers in other countries now have an American legal basis to perform the acts. Every hostile intelligence agency and terrorist in the world will consider it a viable tool, which can be used with impunity. It has been turned into perfectly acceptable behavior for information finding.

A torture victim can be made to say anything by an evil nation that does not abide by humanity, morality, treaties or rule of law. Today we are on the verge of becoming that nation. Is it possible that September 11 hurt us so much that we have decided to gladly adopt the tools of KGB, the Khmer Rouge, the Nazi Gestapo, the North Vietnamese, the North Koreans and the Burmese Junta?

What next if the waterboarding on a critical the captive doesn’t work and you have a timetable to stop the “ticking bomb” scenario? Electric shock to the genitals? Taking a pregnant woman and electrocuting the fetus inside her? Executing a captive’s children in front of him? Dropping live people from an airplane over the ocean? It has all been done by governments seeking information. All claimed the same need to stop the ticking bomb. It is not a far leap from torture to murder, especially if the subject is defiant. Are we willing to trade our nation’s soul for tactical intelligence?

Is There a Place for the Waterboard?

Yes. The waterboard must go back to the realm of SERE training our operators, soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines. We must now double our efforts to prepare for its inevitable and uncontrolled use of by our future enemies.

Until recently, only a few countries considered it effective. Now American use of the waterboard as an interrogation tool has assuredly guaranteed that our service members and agents who are captured or detained by future enemies will be subject to it as part of the most routine interrogations. Forget threats, poor food, the occasional face slap and sexual assaults. This was not a dignified ‘taking off the gloves’; this was descending to the level of our opposition in an equally brutish and ugly way. Waterboarding will be one our future enemy’s go-to techniques because we took the gloves off to brutal interrogation. Now our enemies will take the gloves off and thank us for it.

There may never again be a chance that Americans will benefit from the shield of outrage and public opinion when our future enemy uses of torture. Brutal interrogation, flash murder and extreme humiliation of American citizens, agents and members of the armed forces may now be guaranteed because we have mindlessly, but happily, broken the seal on the Pandora’s box of indignity, cruelty and hatred in the name of protecting America. To defeat Bin Laden many in this administration have openly embraced the methods of by Hitler, Pinochet, Pol Pot, Galtieri and Saddam Hussein.

Not A Fair Trade for America’s Honor

I have stated publicly and repeatedly that I would personally cut Bin Laden’s heart out with a plastic MRE spoon if we per chance meet on the battlefield. Yet, once captive I believe that the better angels of our nature and our nation’s core values would eventually convince any terrorist that they indeed have erred in their murderous ways. Once convicted in a fair, public tribunal, they would have the rest of their lives, however short the law makes it, to come to terms with their God and their acts.

This is not enough for our President. He apparently secretly ordered the core American values of fairness and justice to be thrown away in the name of security from terrorists. He somehow determined that the honor the military, the CIA and the nation itself was an acceptable trade for the superficial knowledge of the machinations of approximately 2,000 terrorists, most of whom are being decimated in Iraq or martyring themselves in Afghanistan. It is a short sighted and politically motivated trade that is simply disgraceful. There is no honor here.

It is outrageous that American officials, including the Attorney General and a legion of minions of lower rank have not only embraced this torture but have actually justified it, redefined it to a misdemeanor, brought it down to the level of a college prank and then bragged about it. The echo chamber that is the American media now views torture as a heroic and macho.

Torture advocates hide behind the argument that an open discussion about specific American interrogation techniques will aid the enemy. Yet, convicted Al Qaeda members and innocent captives who were released to their host nations have already debriefed the world through hundreds of interviews, movies and documentaries on exactly what methods they were subjected to and how they endured. In essence, our own missteps have created a cadre of highly experienced lecturers for Al Qaeda’s own virtual SERE school for terrorists.

Congressional leaders from both sides of the aisle need to stand up for American values and clearly specify that coercive interrogation using the waterboard is torture and, except for limited examples of training our service members and intelligence officers, it should be stopped completely and finally –oh, and this time without a Presidential signing statement reinterpreting the law.

-----

Update

Links

A Crisis of Honor - The Daily Dish (The Atlantic)

Links with Comments

Waterboarding is Torture - Abu Muqawama
Waterboarding is Torture… Period – The Belmont Club
Target: Jamal al-Badawi - The Captain's Journal
We Legitimized Waterboarding - Swampland (Time)
On the Virtue of Waterboarding and Secret Prisons – Blackfive
My Opinion is Fact, Period: On Rhetoric, Waterboarding, and Torture - tdaxp
Waterboarding is Torture - Outside the Beltway
Slow Motion Suffocation - Headline Junky
A Bluf that Needs to be Called, Part Two - Power Line
Waterboarding the Senate - PrairiePundit
Defending Democracy Using of Khmer Rouge Techniques - The American Prospect
Barbaric - Total Information Awareness
SEAL on Waterboarding - Winds of Change
McCain on Rudy on Torture. (Updated) - Comonweal
Waterboarding is Torture - The Raw Story
Come for the Beaches, Stay for the Waterboarding – MetaFilter
The Water Cooler - Inside Indiana Message Boards
Waterboarding is Torture - SpaceBattles Discussion Board

http://smallwarsjournal.com/blog/2007/10/waterboarding-is-torture-perio/

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Paul Krugman - Fearing Fear Itself



October 29, 2007
Op-Ed Columnist
Fearing Fear Itself
By PAUL KRUGMAN

In America’s darkest hour, Franklin Delano Roosevelt urged the nation not to succumb to “nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror.” But that was then.

Today, many of the men who hope to be the next president — including all of the candidates with a significant chance of receiving the Republican nomination — have made unreasoning, unjustified terror the centerpiece of their campaigns.

Consider, for a moment, the implications of the fact that Rudy Giuliani is taking foreign policy advice from Norman Podhoretz, who wants us to start bombing Iran “as soon as it is logistically possible.”

Mr. Podhoretz, the editor of Commentary and a founding neoconservative, tells us that Iran is the “main center of the Islamofascist ideology against which we have been fighting since 9/11.” The Islamofascists, he tells us, are well on their way toward creating a world “shaped by their will and tailored to their wishes.” Indeed, “Already, some observers are warning that by the end of the 21st century the whole of Europe will be transformed into a place to which they give the name Eurabia.”

Do I have to point out that none of this makes a bit of sense?

For one thing, there isn’t actually any such thing as Islamofascism — it’s not an ideology; it’s a figment of the neocon imagination. The term came into vogue only because it was a way for Iraq hawks to gloss over the awkward transition from pursuing Osama bin Laden, who attacked America, to Saddam Hussein, who didn’t. And Iran had nothing whatsoever to do with 9/11 — in fact, the Iranian regime was quite helpful to the United States when it went after Al Qaeda and its Taliban allies in Afghanistan.

Beyond that, the claim that Iran is on the path to global domination is beyond ludicrous. Yes, the Iranian regime is a nasty piece of work in many ways, and it would be a bad thing if that regime acquired nuclear weapons. But let’s have some perspective, please: we’re talking about a country with roughly the G.D.P. of Connecticut, and a government whose military budget is roughly the same as Sweden’s.

Meanwhile, the idea that bombing will bring the Iranian regime to its knees — and bombing is the only option, since we’ve run out of troops — is pure wishful thinking. Last year Israel tried to cripple Hezbollah with an air campaign, and ended up strengthening it instead. There’s every reason to believe that an attack on Iran would produce the same result, with the added effects of endangering U.S. forces in Iraq and driving oil prices well into triple digits.

Mr. Podhoretz, in short, is engaging in what my relatives call crazy talk. Yet he is being treated with respect by the front-runner for the G.O.P. nomination. And Mr. Podhoretz’s rants are, if anything, saner than some of what we’ve been hearing from some of Mr. Giuliani’s rivals.

Thus, in a recent campaign ad Mitt Romney asserted that America is in a struggle with people who aim “to unite the world under a single jihadist Caliphate. To do that they must collapse freedom-loving nations. Like us.” He doesn’t say exactly who these jihadists are, but presumably he’s referring to Al Qaeda — an organization that has certainly demonstrated its willingness and ability to kill innocent people, but has no chance of collapsing the United States, let alone taking over the world.

And Mike Huckabee, whom reporters like to portray as a nice, reasonable guy, says that if Hillary Clinton is elected, “I’m not sure we’ll have the courage and the will and the resolve to fight the greatest threat this country’s ever faced in Islamofascism.” Yep, a bunch of lightly armed terrorists and a fourth-rate military power — which aren’t even allies — pose a greater danger than Hitler’s panzers or the Soviet nuclear arsenal ever did.

All of this would be funny if it weren’t so serious.

In the wake of 9/11, the Bush administration adopted fear-mongering as a political strategy. Instead of treating the attack as what it was — an atrocity committed by a fundamentally weak, though ruthless adversary — the administration portrayed America as a nation under threat from every direction.

Most Americans have now regained their balance. But the Republican base, which lapped up the administration’s rhetoric about the axis of evil and the war on terror, remains infected by the fear the Bushies stirred up — perhaps because fear of terrorists maps so easily into the base’s older fears, including fear of dark-skinned people in general.

And the base is looking for a candidate who shares this fear.

Just to be clear, Al Qaeda is a real threat, and so is the Iranian nuclear program. But neither of these threats frightens me as much as fear itself — the unreasoning fear that has taken over one of America’s two great political parties.


http://www.nytimes.com/pages/opinion/index.html


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Sunday, October 28, 2007

The Evangelical Crackup

The Evangelical Crackup
By DAVID D. KIRKPATRICK

The hundred-foot white cross atop the Immanuel Baptist Church in downtown Wichita, Kan., casts a shadow over a neighborhood of payday lenders, pawnbrokers and pornographic video stores. To its parishioners, this has long been the front line of the culture war. Immanuel has stood for Southern Baptist traditionalism for more than half a century. Until recently, its pastor, Terry Fox, was the Jerry Falwell of the Sunflower State — the public face of the conservative Christian political movement in a place where that made him a very big deal.

With flushed red cheeks and a pudgy, dimpled chin, Fox roared down from Immanuel’s pulpit about the wickedness of abortion, evolution and homosexuality. He mobilized hundreds of Kansas pastors to push through a state constitutional ban on same-sex marriage, helping to unseat a handful of legislators in the process. His Sunday-morning services reached tens of thousands of listeners on regional cable television, and on Sunday nights he was a host of a talk-radio program, “Answering the Call.” Major national conservative Christian groups like Focus on the Family lauded his work, and the Southern Baptist Convention named him chairman of its North American Mission Board.

For years, Fox flaunted his allegiance to the Republican Party, urging fellow pastors to make the same “confession” and calling them “sissies” if they didn’t. “We are the religious right,” he liked to say. “One, we are religious. Two, we are right.”

His congregation, for the most part, applauded. Immanuel and Wichita’s other big churches were seedbeds of the conservative Christian activism that burst forth three decades ago. In the 1980s, when theological conservatives pushed the moderates out of the Southern Baptist Convention, Immanuel and Fox were both at the forefront. In 1991, when Operation Rescue brought its “Summer of Mercy” abortion protests to Wichita, Immanuel’s parishioners leapt to the barricades, helping to establish the city as the informal capital of the anti-abortion movement. And Fox’s confrontational style packed ever more like-minded believers into the pews. He more than doubled Immanuel’s official membership to more than 6,000 and planted the giant cross on its roof.

So when Fox announced to his flock one Sunday in August last year that it was his final appearance in the pulpit, the news startled evangelical activists from Atlanta to Grand Rapids. Fox told the congregation that he was quitting so he could work full time on “cultural issues.” Within days, The Wichita Eagle reported that Fox left under pressure. The board of deacons had told him that his activism was getting in the way of the Gospel. “It just wasn’t pertinent,” Associate Pastor Gayle Tenbrook later told me.

Fox, who is 47, said he saw some impatient shuffling in the pews, but he was stunned that the church’s lay leaders had turned on him. “They said they were tired of hearing about abortion 52 weeks a year, hearing about all this political stuff!” he told me on a recent Sunday afternoon. “And these were deacons of the church!”

These days, Fox has taken his fire and brimstone in search of a new pulpit. He rented space at the Johnny Western Theater at the Wild West World amusement park until it folded. Now he preaches at a Best Western hotel. “I don’t mind telling you that I paid a price for the political stands I took,” Fox said. “The pendulum in the Christian world has swung back to the moderate point of view. The real battle now is among evangelicals.”

Fox is not the only conservative Christian to feel the heat of those battles, even in — of all places — Wichita. Within three months of his departure, the two other most influential conservative Christian pastors in the city had left their pulpits as well. And in the silence left by their voices, a new generation of pastors distinctly suspicious of the Republican Party — some as likely to lean left as right — is beginning to speak up.

Just three years ago, the leaders of the conservative Christian political movement could almost see the Promised Land. White evangelical Protestants looked like perhaps the most potent voting bloc in America. They turned out for President George W. Bush in record numbers, supporting him for re-election by a ratio of four to one. Republican strategists predicted that religious traditionalists would help bring about an era of dominance for their party. Spokesmen for the Christian conservative movement warned of the wrath of “values voters.” James C. Dobson, the founder of Focus on the Family, was poised to play kingmaker in 2008, at least in the Republican primary. And thanks to President Bush, the Supreme Court appeared just one vote away from answering the prayers of evangelical activists by overturning Roe v. Wade.

Today the movement shows signs of coming apart beneath its leaders. It is not merely that none of the 2008 Republican front-runners come close to measuring up to President Bush in the eyes of the evangelical faithful, although it would be hard to find a cast of characters more ill fit for those shoes: a lapsed-Catholic big-city mayor; a Massachusetts Mormon; a church-skipping Hollywood character actor; and a political renegade known for crossing swords with the Rev. Pat Robertson and the Rev. Jerry Falwell. Nor is the problem simply that the Democratic presidential front-runners — Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, Senator Barack Obama and former Senator John Edwards — sound like a bunch of tent-revival Bible thumpers compared with the Republicans.

The 2008 election is just the latest stress on a system of fault lines that go much deeper. The phenomenon of theologically conservative Christians plunging into political activism on the right is, historically speaking, something of an anomaly. Most evangelicals shrugged off abortion as a Catholic issue until after the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision. But in the wake of the ban on public-school prayer, the sexual revolution and the exodus to the suburbs that filled the new megachurches, protecting the unborn became the rallying cry of a new movement to uphold the traditional family. Now another confluence of factors is threatening to tear the movement apart. The extraordinary evangelical love affair with Bush has ended, for many, in heartbreak over the Iraq war and what they see as his meager domestic accomplishments. That disappointment, in turn, has sharpened latent divisions within the evangelical world — over the evangelical alliance with the Republican Party, among approaches to ministry and theology, and between the generations.

The founding generation of leaders like Falwell and Dobson, who first guided evangelicals into Republican politics 30 years ago, is passing from the scene. Falwell died in the spring. Paul Weyrich, 65, the indefatigable organizer who helped build Falwell’s Moral Majority and much of the rest of the movement, is confined to a wheelchair after losing his legs because of complications from a fall. Dobson, who is 71 and still vigorous, is already planning for a succession at Focus on the Family; it is expected to tack toward the less political family advice that is its bread and butter.

The engineers of the momentous 1980s takeover that expunged political and theological moderates from the Southern Baptist Convention are retiring or dying off, too. And in September, when I called a spokesman for the ailing Presbyterian televangelist D. James Kennedy, another pillar of the Christian conservative movement, I learned that Kennedy had “gone home to the Lord” at 2 a.m. that morning.

Meanwhile, a younger generation of evangelical pastors — including the widely emulated preachers Rick Warren and Bill Hybels — are pushing the movement and its theology in new directions. There are many related ways to characterize the split: a push to better this world as well as save eternal souls; a focus on the spiritual growth that follows conversion rather than the yes-or-no moment of salvation; a renewed attention to Jesus’ teachings about social justice as well as about personal or sexual morality. However conceived, though, the result is a new interest in public policies that address problems of peace, health and poverty — problems, unlike abortion and same-sex marriage, where left and right compete to present the best answers.

The backlash on the right against Bush and the war has emboldened some previously circumspect evangelical leaders to criticize the leadership of the Christian conservative political movement. “The quickness to arms, the quickness to invade, I think that caused a kind of desertion of what has been known as the Christian right,” Hybels, whose Willow Creek Association now includes 12,000 churches, told me over the summer. “People who might be called progressive evangelicals or centrist evangelicals are one stirring away from a real awakening.”

The generational and theological shifts in the evangelical world are turning the next election into a credibility test for the conservative Christian establishment. The current Republican front-runner in national polls, Rudolph W. Giuliani, could hardly be less like their kind of guy: twice divorced, thrice married, estranged from his children and church and a supporter of legalized abortion and gay rights. Alarmed at the continued strength of his candidacy, Dobson and a group of about 50 evangelical Christians leaders agreed last month to back a third party if Giuliani becomes the Republican nominee. But polls show that Giuliani is the most popular candidate among white evangelical voters. He has the support, so far, of a plurality if not a majority of conservative Christians. If Giuliani captures the nomination despite the threat of an evangelical revolt, it will be a long time before Republican strategists pay attention to the demands of conservative Christian leaders again. And if the Democrats capitalize on the current demoralization to capture a larger share of evangelical votes, the credibility damage could be just as severe.

“There was a time when evangelical churches were becoming largely and almost exclusively the Republican Party at prayer,” said Marvin Olasky, the editor of the evangelical magazine World and an informal adviser to George W. Bush when he was governor. “To some extent — we have to see how much — the Republicans have blown it. That opportunity to lock up that constituency has vanished. The ball now really is in the Democrats’ court.”

I covered the Christian conservative movement for The New York Times during the 2004 election, at the moment of its greatest triumph. To the bewilderment of many even in the upper reaches of his own party, Karl Rove bet President Bush’s re-election on boosting the conservative Christian turnout, contending that Bush lost the popular vote in 2000 because four million of those voters stayed home. President Bush missed few opportunities to remind evangelicals that he was one of them — and they got the message.

I bowed my head in a good number of swing-state churches in 2004. I saw the passion Bush aroused among theologically orthodox Protestants. And I got to know many of the most influential conservative Christian leaders, most of whom threw themselves into urging their constituents to the polls.

Now, as the 2008 campaign heated up in the months before the first primaries, I wondered how the world was looking from the pulpits and pews. And so I went to Wichita, as close as any place to the heart of conservative Christian America. Wichita has a long history of religious crusades. A hundred years ago, Carrie Nation made her name smashing up Wichita’s bars. More recently, the presence of Dr. George Tiller, a specialist in late-term abortions, has kept anti-abortion passions high, attracting Operation Rescue to Wichita for the Summer of Mercy protests in 1991. Two years later, a lone activist shot and wounded Dr. Tiller. Evolution, the flash point that split mainline and evangelical Protestants in the early 20th century, is still hotly debated in Wichita. The Kansas school board has reversed itself on the subject again and again in recent years.

At the same time, Wichita is also a decent proxy for plenty of other blue-collar but socially conservative places like Allentown, Pa., and Columbus, Ohio — the swing districts of the swing states that decide elections. A center of aerospace manufacturing, Wichita was a union town and a Democratic stronghold for much of the last century. But all that changed when the conservative Christian movement took root in its suburban megachurches three decades ago, turning theological traditionalists into Republican activists. That story was the centerpiece of the liberal writer Thomas Frank’s 2004 book, “What’s the Matter With Kansas?” He might have called it “What’s the Matter With Wichita?”

I arrived just in time for the annual Fourth of July Patriotic Celebration at the 7,000-member Central Christian Church, where Independence Day is second only to Christmas. Thousands of people drove back to the church Sunday evening for a pageant of prayers, songs, a flag ceremony and an American history quiz pitting kids against their parents. “In God We Still Trust” was the theme of the event. “You place your hand on this Bible when you swear to tell the truth,” two men sang in the opening anthem.

“There’s no separation; we’re one nation under Him.”

“There are those among us who want to push Him out And erase

His name from everything this country’s all about.

From the schoolhouse to the courthouse, they are silencing

His word Now it’s time for all believers to make our voices heard.”

Later, as a choir in stars-and-stripes neckties and scarves belted out “Stars and Stripes Forever,” a cluster of men in olive military fatigues took the stage carrying a flag. They lifted the pole to a 45-degree angle and froze in place around it: a re-enactment of the famous photograph of the American triumph at Iwo Jima. The narrator of a preceding video montage had already set the stage by comparing the Iwo Jima flag raising to another long-ago turning point in a “fierce battle for the hearts of men” — the day 2,000 years ago when “a heavy cross was lifted up on top of the mount called Golgotha.”

A battle flag as the crucifixion: the church rose to a standing ovation.

There was one conspicuous omission from the Patriotic Celebration: any mention of President Bush or the Iraq war. The only reference to the president was a single image in a video montage. Bush was standing with Donald Rumsfeld, head bowed at a grave in Arlington National Cemetery.

Every time I visited an evangelical church in 2004, it seemed that a member’s brother or cousin had just returned from Iraq with reports that much greater progress was being made than the news media let on. The admiration for President Bush as a man of faith was nearly universal, and some talked of his contest with John Kerry as a spiritual battle. It would have been hard to overstate the Christian conservative leadership’s sense of the presidential race’s historical significance. In the days before the election, Dobson told me he believed the culture war was “rapidly approaching the climax, with everything that we are about on the line” and the election might be “the pivot point.”

The morning after the Republican triumph, a White House operative called Dobson to thank him personally for his support, as Dobson told me in conversation later that day. He bluntly told the operative that the Bush campaign owed his victory in large part to concerned Christian voters. He warned that God had given the nation only “a short reprieve” from its impending “self-destruction.” If the administration slighted its conservative Christian supporters, most importantly in filling Supreme Court vacancies, Dobson continued, Republicans would “pay a price in four years.”

On that front, at least, Bush has not disappointed. President Bush’s two appointees, Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr., have given Dobson and his allies much to be thankful for. Nor has Bush flinched from any politically feasible Christian conservative goal, even when it has been unpopular. He has blocked federal financing for embryonic stem-cell research and intervened to help keep Terri Schiavo on life support. But of course there were moments when the White House seemed to care more about Social Security reform, and in the end the culture did not change.

Today the president’s support among evangelicals, still among his most loyal constituents, has crumbled. Once close to 90 percent, the president’s approval rating among white evangelicals has fallen to a recent low below 45 percent, according to polls by the Pew Research Center. White evangelicals under 30 — the future of the church — were once Bush’s biggest fans; now they are less supportive than their elders. And the dissatisfaction extends beyond Bush. For the first time in many years, white evangelical identification with the Republican Party has dipped below 50 percent, with the sharpest falloff again among the young, according to John C. Green, a senior fellow at Pew and an expert on religion and politics. (The defectors by and large say they’ve become independents, not Democrats, according to the polls.)

Some claim the falloff in support for Bush reflects the unrealistic expectations pumped up by conservative Christian leaders. But no one denies the war is a factor. Christianity Today, the evangelical journal, has even posed the question of whether evangelicals should “repent” for their swift support of invading Iraq.

“Even in evangelical circles, we are tired of the war, tired of the body bags,” the Rev. David Welsh, who took over late last year as senior pastor of Wichita’s large Central Christian Church, told me. “I think it is to the point where they are saying: ‘O.K., we have done as much good as we can. Now let’s just get out of there.’ ”

Welsh, who favors pressed khaki pants and buttoned-up polo shirts, is a staunch conservative, a committed Republican and, personally, a politics junkie. But he told me he was wary of talking too much about politics or public affairs around the church because his congregation was so divided over the war in Iraq.

Welsh said he considered himself among those who still support the president. “I think he is a good man,” Welsh said, slowly. “He has a heart, a spiritual heart.”

But like most of the people I met at Wichita’s evangelical churches, his support for Bush sounded more than a little agonized — closer to sympathy than admiration. “Bush may not have the best people around him,” he added, delicately. “He may not have made the best decisions. He is in a quagmire right now and maybe doesn’t know how to get out. Because to pull out now would say, ‘I was wrong from the very beginning.’ ”

Some were less ambivalent. “We know we want to get rid of Bush,” Linda J. Hogle, a product demonstrator at Sam’s Club, told me when I asked her about the 2008 election at her evangelical church’s Fourth of July picnic.

“I am glad he can’t run again,” agreed her friend, Floyd Willson. Hogle and Willson both voted for President Bush in 2004. Both are furious at the war and are looking to vote for a Democrat next year. “Upwards of a thousand boys that have been needlessly killed, it is all just politics,” Willson said.

The 16-million-member Southern Baptist Convention — the core of the evangelical movement — may be rethinking its relationship with the Republican Party, too. Three years ago, I attended its annual meeting in Indianapolis and tagged along as the denomination’s former president and several of its leaders invited the assembled pastors across a walkway to an adjacent hotel for a Bush-Cheney campaign “pastors’ reception.”

Over soft drinks, Ralph Reed, the former Christian Coalition director then working for the Bush campaign, told the pastors just how far they could go for the campaign without jeopardizing their churches’ tax-exempt status. Among the suggestions: “host a citizenship Sunday for voter registration,” “identify someone who will help in voter registration and outreach” or organize a “ ‘party for the president’ with other pastors.”

Republicans should not expect that kind of treatment from Southern Baptists again any time soon. In June of last year, in one of the few upsets since conservatives consolidated their hold on the denomination 20 years ago, the establishment’s hand-picked candidates — well-known national figures in the convention — lost the internal election for the convention’s presidency. The winner, Frank Page of First Baptist Church in Taylors, S.C., campaigned on a promise to loosen up the conservatives’ tight control. He told convention delegates that Southern Baptists had become known too much for what they were against (abortion, evolution, homosexuality) instead of what they stand for (the Gospel). “I believe in the word of God,” he said after his election, “I am just not mad about it.” (It’s a formulation that comes up a lot in evangelical circles these days.)

I asked Page about the Bush-Cheney reception at the 2004 convention. He sounded appalled. “That will not be happening with me,” he said, repeating it for emphasis. “I have cautioned our denomination to be very careful not to be seen as in lock step with any political party.”

Southern Baptists called their denomination’s turn to the right the “conservative resurgence,” meaning both a crackdown on unorthodox doctrine and a corresponding expulsion of political moderates. Page said he considered his election “a clear sign” that rank-and-file Southern Baptists felt the “conservative ascendancy has gone far enough.”

Page is meeting personally with all the leading presidential candidates in both parties — Republican and Democrat. (His home state of South Carolina is holding an early primary.) But unlike some of his predecessors, he won’t endorse any of them, he said.

“Most of us Southern Baptists are right-wing Republicans,” he added. “But we also recognize that times change.” For example, Page said Christians should be wary of Republican ties to “big business.”

Elders like Dobson say the movement has been through doldrums before. Think of the face-off between the Republican Bob Dole and President Bill Clinton in the 1996 election. Dobson later said he had cast his ballot for a third party rather than vote for a moderate like Dole. But then, it was defeat that sapped morale; today, it is victory. Some younger evangelical conservatives say they are fighting just to keep their movement together. (Dobson told me he was too busy to comment for this article.)

The Rev. Rick Scarborough — founder of the advocacy organization Vision America, author of a book called “Liberalism Kills Kids” and at 57 an aspiring successor to Falwell or Dobson — has been barnstorming the country on what he calls a “Seventy Weeks to Save America Tour.”

“We are somewhat in disarray right now,” he told me, beginning a familiar story. “As a 26-year-old man, I heard there was a born-again Christian from Georgia running for president.” Millions of evangelicals turned out for the first time in 1976 to vote for Jimmy Carter. But then, the story goes, his support for feminism and abortion rights sent them running the other way.

“The first time I voted was for Carter,” Scarborough recalled. “The second time was for ‘anybody but Carter,’ because he had betrayed everything I hold dear.

“Unfortunately,” Scarborough concluded, “there is the same feeling in our community right now with George Bush. He appeared so right and so good. He talked a good game about family values around election time. But there has been a failure to follow through.”

For the conservative Christian leadership, what is most worrisome about the evangelical disappointment with President Bush is that it coincides with a widening philosophical rift. Ever since they broke with the mainline Protestant churches nearly 100 years ago, the hallmark of evangelicals theology has been a vision of modern society as a sinking ship, sliding toward depravity and sin. For evangelicals, the altar call was the only life raft — a chance to accept Jesus Christ, rebirth and salvation. Falwell, Dobson and their generation saw their political activism as essentially defensive, fighting to keep traditional moral codes in place so their children could have a chance at the raft.

But many younger evangelicals — and some old-timers — take a less fatalistic view. For them, the born-again experience of accepting Jesus is just the beginning. What follows is a long-term process of “spiritual formation” that involves applying his teachings in the here and now. They do not see society as a moribund vessel. They talk more about a biblical imperative to fix up the ship by contributing to the betterment of their communities and the world. They support traditional charities but also public policies that address health care, race, poverty and the environment.

Older evangelical traditionalists like Prof. David Wells of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary near Boston argue that the newer approaches represent a “capitulation” to the broader culture — similar to the capitulation that in his view led the mainline churches into decline. Proponents of the new evangelicalism, on the other hand, say their broader agenda reflects a frustration with the scarce victories in the culture war and revulsion at the moral entanglements of partisan alliances (Abu Ghraib, Jack Abramoff). Scot McKnight, an evangelical theologian at North Park University in Chicago, said, “It is the biggest change in the evangelical movement at the end of the 20th century, a new kind of Christian social conscience.”

Secular sociologists say evangelicals’ changing view of society reflects their changing place in it. Once trailing in education and income, evangelicals have caught up over the last 40 years. “The social-issues arguments are the first manifestation of a rural outlook transposed into a more urban or suburban setting,” John Green, of the Pew Research Center, told me. “Now having been there for a while, that kind of hard-edged politics no longer appeals to them. They still care about abortion and gay marriage, but they are also interested in other, more middle-class arguments.”

Some rebellious evangelical pastors and theologians of the new school refer to themselves as the emergent church. Others who are less openly rebellious but share a similar approach point to the examples of Rick Warren and Bill Hybels. “What Warren and Hybels are doing is reshaping the perception of what it means to be a Christian in our country and our world,” McKnight says.

Warren and Hybels are also highly entrepreneurial. Each has built a network of thousands of mostly evangelical churches that rely on their ministries for sermon ideas, worship plans or audio-video materials to enliven services. As a result, their influence may rival that of any denominational leader in the country.

Warren, pastor of the Saddleback church in Lake Forest, Calif., is the author of the best seller “The Purpose Driven Life.” His church has sold materials to thousands of other churches for “campaigns” called 40 Days of Purpose and, more recently, 40 Days of Community. If more Christians worked to alleviate needs in their local communities, he suggests in the church’s promotional materials, “the church would become known more for the love it shows than for what it is against” a thinly veiled dig at the conservative Christian “culture war.”

Warren is clearly a theological and cultural conservative. Before the 2004 election, he wrote a letter to other pastors emphasizing the need to combat abortion rights and same-sex marriage. But these days Warren talks much more often about fighting AIDS and poverty. He raised hackles among conservatives last year by having Barack Obama give a speech at his church. And he also came under fire last year when he traveled to Damascus, Syria, where he implicitly criticized the Bush administration for refusing to talk with unfriendly nations.

“Isolation and silence has never solved conflict,” he said in a press release defending his trip.

Hybels, founder of the Willow Creek Community Church near Chicago, is very possibly the single-most-influential pastor in America; in the last 15 years, his Willow Creek Association has grown to include more than 12,000 churches. Many invite their staff members and lay leaders to participate by telecast in Willow Creek’s annual leadership conferences, creating a virtual gathering of tens of thousands. Dozens of churches in Wichita, including Central Christian and other past bastions of conservative activism, are part of the association.

As his stature has grown, Hybels has seemed more willing to irk Christian conservative political leaders — and even some in his own congregation. He set off a furor a few years ago when he invited former President Bill Clinton to speak at one of his conferences. And the Iraq war has brought into sharp relief Hybels’s differences with conservatives like Dobson.

Most conservative Christian leaders have resolutely supported Bush’s foreign policy. Dobson and others have even talked about defending Western civilization from radical Islam as a precondition for protecting family values. But on the eve of the Iraq invasion, Hybels preached a sermon called “Why War?” Laying out three approaches to war — realism, just-war theory and pacifism — he implored members of his congregation to re-examine their own thinking and then try to square it with the Bible. In the process, he left little doubt about where he personally stood. He called himself a pacifist.

Hybels traced the “J curve” of mounting deaths from war through the centuries. “In case you are wondering about this, wonder how God feels about all this,” he said. “It breaks the heart of God.”

At his annual leadership conference this summer, Hybels interviewed former President Jimmy Carter. To some Christian conservatives, it was quite a provocation. Carter, after all, was their first great disappointment, a Southern Baptist who denounced the conservative takeover and an early critic of the Bush administration. Some pastors canceled plans to attend.

“I think that a superpower ought to be the exemplification of a commitment to peace,” Carter told Hybels, who nodded along. “I would like for anyone in the world that’s threatened with conflict to say to themselves immediately: ‘Why don’t we go to Washington? They believe in peace and they will help us get peace.’ ” Carter added: “This is just a simple but important extrapolation from what a human being ought to do, and what a human being ought to do is what Jesus Christ did, who was a champion of peace.”

In a conversation I had with him, Hybels told me he considered politics a path to “heartache and disappointment” for a Christian leader. But he also described the message of his Willow Creek Association to its member churches in terms that would warm a liberal’s heart.

“We have just pounded the drum again and again that, for churches to reach their full redemptive potential, they have to do more than hold services — they have to try to transform their communities,” he said. “If there is racial injustice in your community, you have to speak to that. If there is educational injustice, you have to do something there. If the poor are being neglected by the government or being oppressed in some way, then you have to stand up for the poor.”

In the past, Hybels has scrupulously avoided criticizing conservative Christian political figures like Falwell or Dobson. But in my talk with him, he argued that the leaders of the conservative Christian political movement had lost touch with their base. “The Indians are saying to the chiefs, ‘We are interested in more than your two or three issues,’ ” Hybels said. “We are interested in the poor, in racial reconciliation, in global poverty and AIDS, in the plight of women in the developing world.”

He brought up the Rev. Jim Wallis, the lonely voice of the tiny evangelical left. Wallis has long argued that secular progressives could make common cause with theologically conservative Christians. “What Jim has been talking about is coming to fruition,” Hybels said.

Conservative Christian leaders in Washington acknowledge a “leftward drift” among evangelicals, said Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council and the movement’s chief advocate in Washington. He told me he believed that Hybels and many of his admirers had, in effect, fallen away from orthodox evangelical theology. Perkins compared the phenomenon to the century-old division in American Protestantism between the liberal mainline and the orthodox evangelical churches. “It is almost like another split coming within the evangelicals,” he said.

Wondering how those theological and political debates were unfolding in conservative Wichita, I sought out the Rev. Gene Carlson, another prominent conservative Christian pastor who left his church last year. He spent four decades as the senior pastor of the Westlink Christian Church, expanding it to 7,000 members. He was one of the most important local leaders of the Summer of Mercy abortion protests. He tapped Westlink’s collection plate to help finance its operations and even led a battalion of about 40 clergy members and hundreds of lay people to jail in an act of civil disobedience.

Sitting with his wife in a quiet living room with teddy bears on the bookshelves, Carlson, who is 70, told me he is one member of the movement’s founding generation who has had second thoughts. He said he still considers abortion evil. He called the anti-abortion protests “prophetic,” in the sense of the Old Testament prophets who warned of God’s wrath. But Carlson was blunt about the results. “It didn’t really change abortion,” he said.

“I thought in my enthusiasm,” he told me with a smile, “that somehow we could band together and change things politically and everything will be fine.” But the closing of Dr. Tiller’s clinic was fleeting. Electing Christian politicians never seemed to change much. “When you mix politics and religion,” Carlson said, “you get politics.”

In more recent battles, Carlson has hung back. On the Sunday before the referendum on a state constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage, Carlson reminded his congregation that homosexuality was hardly the only form of sex the Bible condemned. Any extramarital sex is a sin, he told his congregation, so they should not point fingers.

“We wouldn’t want to exclude some group because we thought their sin was worse than ours,” Carlson told me with a laugh.

Carlson is a registered Republican, though he now considers himself an independent. He volunteered that he now leans left on some social-welfare issues and the environment. He considers himself among the “green evangelicals” who see a biblical mandate for government action to stop global warming. The Westlink church is another member of Hybels’s Willow Creek Association and a satellite location for telecasts of the annual leadership conference. Carlson said he admired Hybels for “challenging some of the sacred cows that we evangelicals have built.”

“There is this sense that the personal Gospel is what evangelicals believe and the social Gospel is what liberal Christians believe,” Carlson said, “and, you know, there is only one Gospel that has both social and personal dimensions to it.” He once felt lonely among evangelicals for taking that approach, he told me. “Now it is a growing phenomenon,” he said.

“The religious right peaked a long time ago,” he added. “As a historical, sociological phenomenon, it has seen its heyday. Something new is coming.”

These days, Westlink has found less confrontational ways to oppose abortion, mainly by helping to pay for a medical center called Choices. Housed in a cozy-looking white-shingled cottage next to Dr. Tiller’s bunkerlike abortion facility, Choices discourages women from ending pregnancies by offering 3-D ultrasound scans and adoption advice.

Carlson’s protégé and successor, Todd Carter, 42, said: “I don’t believe the problem of abortion will be solved by overturning Roe v. Wade. It won’t. To me, it is a Gospel issue.”

The Rev. Joe Wright, the longtime senior pastor who built Central Christian to 7,000 members, was the third leading pastor in Wichita to step down at the end of last year. He is a tall, heavy man, and he embraced me in a sweaty bear hug the first time we met, at a local chain restaurant.

Wright, who is 64, had been another leader of the Operation Mercy protests. But unlike Carlson, he plunged further into conservative politics, eventually as a host of the radio show “Answering the Call,” with Fox. They spent months together traveling the state and lobbying the Statehouse during the same-sex marriage fight.

Wright retired in good standing with his congregation, but he told me the political battle had taken a toll.

“On Sunday morning when I would mention it, there were people who would hang their heads and say, ‘Oh, here we go again,’ ” he said. “And then, of course, some of them wouldn’t come back.”

Wright said he was worried about theological and political trends among young evangelicals, even in Kansas. “If we had to depend on the young evangelical pastors to get us a marriage amendment here in Kansas it never would have happened,” Wright said.

He went on to say he was dismayed to feel resistance to his political sermons and voter-registration drives from younger associate pastors at his own church, some of whom moved elsewhere. (Some of his parishioners had already told me the same thing, separately.)

“Even in the groups I travel in and grew up in — the preachers who are from the same background I was in, who run in the same circles I ran in, who went to the same schools I did — I don’t find many young evangelical preachers who are willing to stand up and take a stand on the hard issues, because they think they might offend somebody,” he said.

“I think the Gospel is offensive, and I think the cross is offensive,” Wright continued. “I think Jesus loved everybody and I think he loved the Pharisees, but he certainly told them how the cow eats the cabbage.”

Paul Hill is one of the young associate pastors who left Central Christian after philosophical clashes with Wright. He took a band of young members with him when he started his own emergent-style church, the Wheatland Mission. “Even in Wichita, times have changed,” Hill said. “I think people will hear the Gospel better when it is expressed not just verbally but holistically, through acts of hospitality and by bringing people together.

“In the evangelical church in general there is kind of a push back against the Republican party and a feeling of being used by the Republican political machine,” he continued. “There are going to be a lot of evangelicals willing to vote for a Democrat because there are 40 million people without health insurance and a Democrat is going to do something about that.”

With Wright, Carlson and Fox out of the spotlight, new religious leaders are stepping to the fore. When legalized gambling was proposed in the Wichita area this year, the pastor who took the lead in rallying other clergy members to stop the measure was Michael Gardner of the First United Methodist Church, a mainline liberal who supports abortion rights and jousted with Fox over the same-sex marriage amendment on competing church telecasts.

After decades when evangelical megachurches have exploded at the expense of dwindling mainline congregations, Gardner is poaching the other way. Each Sunday night he convenes an informal emergent church worship group of his own, known as Next Wichita. Several dozen people, mostly 20 to 30 years old, show up to break bread, talk Scripture and plan volunteer projects. “People in that age group are much more attracted to participatory theology, very resistant to being told what to do or what to think,” he said.

Patrick Bergquist, a former associate pastor at a local evangelical church who as a child attended Immanuel Baptist, became a regular. “From a theological standpoint, I am an evangelical,” Bergquist, who is 28, explained to me. “But I don’t mean that anyone who is gay is necessarily going to hell, or that anyone who has an abortion is going to hell.” After a life of voting Republican, he said, he recently made a small contribution to the Democratic presidential campaign of Barack Obama.

“Is the religious right dead?” Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council told me that question was the title of the first chapter of a new book he is writing with Harry Jackson, a socially conservative African-American pastor.

Perkins’s answer is emphatically no — “we are seeing a lot of pastors coming back like never before” — but the 2008 election is the movement’s first big test since the triumph and letdown with President Bush. And so far most Christian conservative leaders do not like what they see. Although all the Republican primary candidates, including Giuliani, spoke at the Family Research Council’s “values voters” meeting last weekend, only the dark horses have consistent conservative records on abortion, gay rights and religion in public life.

Of these, Mike Huckabee, a Southern Baptist minister before he became governor of Arkansas, stands out in the polls and in his rhetoric. At last fall’s values-voters meetings, the other candidates focused on establishing their Christian conservative credentials. Huckabee dispensed with that by reminding his audience of his years as a pastor. Then he challenged the crowd to give more money to their churches and talked about education and health care. On the campaign trail, he criticizes chief executives’ pay and says his faith demands environmental regulation. “We shouldn’t allow a child to live under a bridge or in the back seat of a car,” Huckabee said in a recent debate. “We shouldn’t be satisfied that elderly people are being abused or neglected in nursing homes.”

Huckabee told me that he welcomed a broadening of the evangelical political agenda. “You can’t just say ‘respect life’ exclusively in the gestation period,” he said, repeating a campaign theme.

But the leaders of the Christian conservative movement have not rallied to him. Many say he cannot win because he has not raised enough money. Perkins and others have criticized Huckabee for taking too soft an approach to the Middle East. Others worry that his record on taxes will anger allies on the right. And some Christian conservatives take his “gestation period” line as a slight to their movement.

“They finally have the soldier they have been waiting for, and they shouldn’t send me out into the battlefield without supplies,” Huckabee told me in exasperation. He argued that the movement’s leaders would “become irrelevant” if they started putting political viability or low taxes ahead of their principles about abortion and marriage.

“In biblical terms, it is like the salt losing its flavor; it’s sand,” Huckabee said. “Some of them have spent too long in Washington. . . . I think they are going to have a hard time going out into the pews and saying tax policy is what Jesus is about, that he said, ‘Come unto me all you who are overtaxed and I will give you rest.’ ”

Up to this point, though, most conservative Christian leaders are still locked in debate about which front-runner they dislike the least. Dobson’s public statements have traced the arc of their dissatisfaction. Last October, he observed that grass-roots evangelicals would have a hard time voting for Mitt Romney because he is a Mormon. In January, he said he could never vote for Senator John McCain. More recently, Dobson panned Fred Thompson, too, for opposing a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage. “He has no passion, no zeal, and no apparent ‘want to,’ ” Dobson wrote in an e-mail message to allies. “Not for me, my brothers. Not for me!”

Finally, at the end of last month, Dobson was the foremost among the roughly 50 Christian conservative organizers who declared they would support a third-party candidate if the nomination went to Giuliani, who is their greatest fear. Some even talk of McCain — once anathema to them — as a better bet.

I could see why they were worried. Among the evangelicals of suburban Wichita, I found that Giuliani was easily the most popular of the Republican candidates, even among churchgoers who knew his views on abortion and same-sex marriage. Some trusted him to fight Islamic radicalism; others praised his cleanup of New York.

“There are a few issues we are on different sides of — a lot of it is around abortion — and he is not the most spiritual guy,” said Kent Brummer, a retired Boeing engineer leaving services at Central Christian. “But to me that doesn’t mean that he would not make a good president, if he represents both sides.

“What I liked about George Bush is all of his moral side and all that,” Brummer added. “But somehow he didn’t have the strength to govern the way we hoped he would and that he should have.”

Democrats, meanwhile, sense an opportunity. Now the campaigns of all three Democratic front-runners are actively courting evangelical voters. At a White House event to mark the National Day of Prayer that I attended in the spring, Senator Clinton even walked over to shake hands with Dobson. Visibly surprised, he told her she was in his prayers.

All three Democratic candidates are speaking very personally, in evangelical language, about their own faith. What does Clinton pray about? “It depends upon the time of day,” she said. Edwards says he cannot name his greatest sin: “I sin every single day.” Obama talks about his introduction to “someone named Jesus Christ” and about being “an instrument of God.”

Many evangelicals are not sure what to make of it. “Shouldn’t we like it when someone talks about Christ being the missing ingredient in his life?” David Brody, a commentator for Pat Robertson’s Christian Broadcasting Network, asked approvingly in response to Obama’s statements.

Many conservative Christian leaders say they can count on the specter of a second Clinton presidency to fire up their constituents. But the prospect of an Obama-Giuliani race is another matter. “You would have a bunch of people who traditionally vote Republican going over to Obama,” said the Rev. Donald Wildmon, founder of the Christian conservative American Family Association of Tupelo, Miss., known for its consumer boycotts over obscenity or gay issues.

In the Wichita churches this summer, Obama was the Democrat who drew the most interest. Several mentioned that he had spoken at Warren’s Saddleback church and said they were intrigued. But just as many people ruled out Obama because they suspected that he was not Christian at all but in fact a crypto-Muslim — a rumor that spread around the Internet earlier this year. “There is just that ill feeling, and part of it is his faith,” Welsh said. “Is his faith anti-Christian? Is he a Muslim? And what about the school where he was raised?”

“Obama sounds too much like Osama,” said Kayla Nickel of Westlink. “When he says his name, I am like, ‘I am not voting for a Muslim!’ ”

Fox, meanwhile, is already preparing to do his part to get Wichita’s conservative faithful to the polls next November. Standing before a few hundred worshipers at the Johnny Western Theater last summer, Fox warned his new congregation not to let go of that old-time religion. “Hell is just as hot as it ever was,” he reminded them. “It just has more people in it.”

Fox told me: “I think the religious community is probably reflective of the rest of the nation — it is very divided right now. This election process is going to reveal a lot about where the religious right and the religious community is. It will show unity or the lack of it.”

But liberals, he said, should not start gloating. “Some might compare the religious right to a snake,” he said. “We may be in our hole right now, but we can come out and bite you at any time.”

David D. Kirkpatrick is a correspondent in the Washington bureau of The New York Times.

http://www.nytimes.com/2007/10/28/magazine/28Evangelicals-t.html?_r=1&hp=&oref=slogin&pagewanted=print

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