Thursday, May 1, 2008

Mosaic News - 4/30/08: World News from the Middle East

Want to Win the Immigration Debate? Start Talking About Illegal Jobs

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By Joshua Holland

Note: AlterNet is proud to announce the launch of our new Special Coverage area focusing on immigration issues -- our 14th in all. We hope to advance a new and more progressive way to approach immigration.

Hopefully, we’ll do so as a community. You can take part in the discussion by signing up for our free weekly immigration newsletter, or by bookmarking our new Immigration Special Coverage page, where we’ll also have a dedicated immigration blog that will bring AlterNet readers the latest news and some lively debates on the issue.


The often-overheated immigration debate is a distraction that draws attention from far-reaching problems facing American workers, particularly those on the bottom rungs of the economic ladder.

Many immigrants’ right advocates argue that newly arrived workers take jobs that Americans won’t do. That’s only partially true; many unauthorized immigrants fill nonunion jobs that are impossibly crappy, pay poverty wages and are rife with workplace violations, and they work those jobs side-by-side with millions of natives and legal residents. The reality is that there are not enough Americans who are willing or able to tolerate poverty wages and other workplace abuses.

Understanding that dynamic can lead to a radically different approach to the issue -- to different methods of decreasing the number of unauthorized immigrants in the United States and of regulating the flow of new immigration in the future.


Those who advocate more law enforcement to tackle the immigration issue often invoke images of America descending into anarchy -- of a nation losing control of its borders and, therefore, its sovereignty. Many blame "Big Business," believing that the corporate world, through its congressional lackeys, has pushed to "open" the borders to all comers in order to keep wages low and assure a steady supply of cheap labor.

That narrative is objectively false. For more than ten years, lawmakers from both parties have thrown billions of dollars into beefing up border security. In 1994, the United States spent just $550 million to guard its borders, but that figure quadrupled under Bill Clinton and then quadrupled again under Bush -- by 2005, it had increased to $7.3 billion, and most analysts expect the border security industry -- that’s what it is, an industry -- to continue its strong growth.

During the same period, the number of illegal entries into the United States also increased significantly. Pumping billions of dollars into more patrols and installing all manner of shiny new security gizmos along our 2,000-mile southern border has only resulted in an increase in arrests, detentions and deportations, and a nice, fat profit for Department of Homeland Security contractors. It has had just about zero effect on the number of immigrants coming into the country, largely because the incentives for them to come here have been left untouched.

But the picture is reversed when you look at the enforcement of American workplace laws. While spending on immigration enforcement has gone through the roof, the resources allocated to enforcing overtime, minimum wage, workplace safety and other protections for workers have been cut and cut again.

There is anarchy in America, there is lawlessness, but you’ll find a lot more of it in the kitchen of your favorite diner or on that gardening crew cutting your lawn, for example, than along the Rio Grande.

Consider the numbers. According to research conducted by NYU’s Brennan Center for Justice (PDF), the number of workplaces that fell within the jurisdiction of the Department of Labor’s wage and hour division more than doubled between 1975 and 2004, and the number of workers in those establishments increased by 55 percent. But during that period, the number of inspectors available to enforce basic labor standards declined by 14 percent, and the number of "compliance actions" the agency completed plummeted by more than a third.

Unfortunately, there is little nationwide data on workplace violations, but we do have a large body of local and state studies, and all point to the same conclusion: workplace violations, especially at the lower end of the economy and among vulnerable populations, are simply rampant.

Consider the findings of just a few of those studies, and bear in mind that a majority of the people represented in these studies are American citizens or legal residents:

  • A 2004 study of 200 workers conducted at multiple sites by Fairfax County, Va., officials found:

    • 54.6 percent getting paid less than agreed
    • 53.1 percent reported nonpayment for work done
    • 35.6 percent said they’d been victims of racial discrimination
    • 25.8 percent had been given bad checks
    • 16 percent reported that they’d been subject to violence on the job
    • 14.9 percent said they’d received threats from employers

  • A 2002 study of chicken processors found that six in 10 plants failed to pay workers overtime
  • In a 1998 study of restaurant workers in Los Angeles, researchers discovered that only 2 of the 43 establishments studied complied with basic labor laws.
  • A 2005 study of grape pickers in California’s Central Valley found that half of all workers reported pay stubs that reflected less than the total number of hours worked, and half reported that they had not received all of the overtime pay they were owed.
  • A 1998 study looking at workers in the restaurant, garment, hotel and motel industries -- all occupations with large numbers of unauthorized workers -- found that only one in 20 restaurants complied with minimum wage laws. Only a third of hotels and motels were in compliance, as were only four of ten shops in the garment industry.

Similar findings have been repeated in study after study. And while these illegal jobs appear to be clustered in industries in which many unauthorized workers toil, millions of American citizens work those same jobs and are also victims of widespread employer abuses. According to one 2003 study, the percentage of workers being ripped off via minimum wage violations is not that much lower for natives than it is for immigrants -- 13 percent versus 9 percent among women and 9 percent versus 6 percent among men.

Obsession -- it’s always all about the immigrants

Every unauthorized immigrant works an illegal job, by definition. But lacking effective legal or social protections, many unauthorized immigrants work jobs that also violate minimum wage laws, occupational safety and health regulations, overtime laws, etc. Others work jobs that are substandard -- dangerous, humiliating or disgusting -- or jobs that pay poverty wages. Employers also know that it’s exceptionally easy to keep undocumented workers from organizing -- if they attempt to do so, the boss needs only to call in "La Migra" and fire any pro-union workers who lack valid papers (or have them deported).

Yet most of the focus of the immigration debate in this country has been on the immigrants themselves -- especially unauthorized immigrants. One could easily conclude from watching a typical screaming heads segment about immigration policy on CNN that "illegal immigrants" exist in a vacuum. Very little attention is paid to the other side of the transaction -- the incentives that American companies and households have to hire an unauthorized worker over a citizen.

Even the highly publicized immigration raids that the Bush administration has launched in recent years barely touch the demand side. Most people probably assume that when a goon squad of ICE agents raids a workplace and carts off dozens of workers in handcuffs, the employers are also being punished. But as the Washington Post noted, while "federal immigration authorities arrested nearly four times as many people at workplaces in 2007 as they did in 2005 ... only 92 owners, supervisors or hiring officials were arrested in an economy that includes 6 million companies that employ more than 7 million unauthorized workers. Only 17 firms faced criminal fines or other forfeitures." Those raids devastate immigrant families, but they represent little more than an inconvenience to employers, who have little incentive to improve working conditions when they can hire a new work force that’s just as easy to exploit.

Illegal immigrants sell their labor on a black market, a market similar in many ways to those for other illicit goods and services -- the drug trade being a good example. The sellers’ incentives are well-understood: The lion’s share of those who have moved to the United States in the past decade are economic refugees, fleeing economies back home that don’t offer them an opportunity to live a minimally dignified life. Human traffickers, who can realize enormous profits shipping people across national boundaries, provide for the market; their incentives, again, are well-understood.

The buyers, of course, are Americans, and not just corporate America. Middle-class households and many small firms use illegal labor, but their side of the transactions goes largely undiscussed.

Without looking at both sides of the coin -- at the demand as well as the supply -- it’s virtually impossible to arrive at a reform agenda that has a chance of resulting in an effective, humane and sustainable system of immigration control.

The hazards of supply-side immigration control

Law enforcement that focuses primarily on the supply side has proven to be remarkably ineffective when it comes to other "gray" and "black" markets. While Elliott Ness was busting up Al Capone’s liquor network, America went into the speakeasies and kept drinking. We’ve invested hundreds of billions of dollars in a 30-year war on drugs, but illegal drugs are widely available in big cities and small towns alike. They call prostitution the "oldest profession"; it’s illegal in every state except for Nevada and Rhode Island, but a quick perusal for "escorts" and "massages" in the phone book of any American community will reveal that the industry is alive and well.

Those who hire immigrant laborers not only have huge financial incentives to do so but also believe they’re committing a "victimless crime," much like those who visit prostitutes, take illegal drugs or who drank liquor during Prohibition. On the other hand, the workers who fill those jobs -- native and foreign born alike -- do so out of desperation.

Law enforcement "crackdowns" can lead to short-term results in these kinds of shadowy markets. They can push the markets further underground, or push sellers and buyers out of a given neighborhood or city. What they have failed to do, consistently, is provide any real and lasting results over the long-term.

The enforcement approach also leads to some ugly and often unintended consequences -- families being separated, employers becoming nervous about hiring perfectly legal workers who look like they might not be and people being detained for lengthy periods of time without the kind of legal protections we like to believe is the bedrock of American jurisprudence. There have even been instances -- rare but not isolated -- in which American citizens have been deported to countries where they’ve never set foot before because they couldn’t provide adequate proof of citizenship.

Immigration control at the root level

An unregulated sector of the economy, rife with illegal jobs, represents the largely unexamined "pull factor" for much of the current wave of immigration to the United States. Most recent immigrants are economic refugees seeking jobs that essentially fall in between what’s available in their native countries and the kind of jobs one would expect to find in a highly advanced economy. They also tend to be jobs that can’t be easily outsourced to countries with an abundance of cheap labor.

A good example of these kinds of jobs can be found in New York City, where the cost of living is among the highest in the country. A report in Crain’s New York Business found that in underregulated New York restaurants, green grocers, retail corner laundries and private households, "typically, workers will be quoted a flat weekly salary of $300 and then have to work 60 hours a week, receiving an effective of wage of $5 an hour with no provision for overtime." New York State’s minimum wage is $7.15 per hour, and federal and state law require overtime pay for all hours worked over 40 per week at a rate of 1.5 times the base salary.

In order to create a sustainable model for immigration control, we need to look at decreasing the demand for workers who are willing to fill those jobs. That means breaking Americans’ addiction to exploitable labor. As long as there are $5-per-hour jobs in New York City that few natives can afford to work while there are millions of workers who don’t have a job that pays a fraction of that in poorer countries, we’ll have a large number of people who want to migrate to our shores. As long as our immigration system doesn’t permit enough of them to migrate legally, we’ll have an "illegal immigration problem." It’s simply the law of supply and demand at work.

Yet, it’s not true that all unauthorized immigrants work those kinds of jobs. There’s no question that employers are sometimes legitimately unable to find citizens or legal residents to fill even decent jobs. That’s especially true in many rural communities, where young people tend to take off for the big city and the population is aging and declining. Last fall I spoke with Oklahoma State Sen. Harry Coates soon after his state passed one of the most restrictive immigration laws in the nation. Employers in Oklahoma weren’t just having problems filling low-paying "McJobs," he told me. "In the oil fields, they’re paying $18 to $20 per hour to start," he said, "but they can’t find enough willing workers to fill the jobs. We’ve told our young people to work with their minds, not with their hands." Oklahoma’s unemployment rate of 3 percent is the fourth-lowest in the United States according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. "We’ve shot ourselves in the foot by running off willing workers for willing employers," Coates said.

Progressive immigration and workplace reform would focus our finite enforcement resources on cleaning up the bottom end of the labor market -- at the jobs that bring people to our shores, rather than on the immigrants who work them. Guaranteeing workers -- immigrant and native alike -- the right to organize and enforcing wage and overtime laws would equalize the price of hiring unauthorized and legal workers, and would go a long way towards addressing the demand for illegal labor without the ugliness that our current approach entails.

Once the goal of eliminating substandard and often illegal jobs -- un-American jobs -- from the U.S. workplace is established, then there’s likely to be little resistance to new workers coming into the work force to fill jobs that can’t be staffed by Americans. Public opinion research shows that when people perceive the economy to be functioning well for them, much of the anxiety over immigration disappears.

It’s the way to build a humane and self-regulating system. Immigration researchers talk about the effect of "transnational social networks" on migration -- a fancy way to describe communities that spill across international borders. Such networks exist between the United States and the countries that account for the lion’s share of new immigration, and researchers have found that they are highly effective mechanisms for communicating information about job markets, legal environments and other factors that people weigh when deciding whether (and to where) they might emigrate. Decreasing the pool of unregulated jobs available to undocumented workers and making it less difficult to migrate here legally will result in less incentive to bypass the system, and the message will get around.

The Devil is in the details when it comes to any public policy, but broadly speaking, the approach has to be built on four pillars:

  • Workplace enforcement, including protecting the right to organize and requiring employers to pay living wages and overtime
  • A legalization process for workers who don’t have valid papers, have no record of violent criminal activity, and can prove they’ve paid their taxes and meet certain other requirements
  • Repairing a dysfunctional immigration system and expanding the legal avenues for immigrants needed to meet the demand for those jobs -- livable, legal jobs -- that can’t be filled by natives alone
  • Finally, immigration enforcement

Without the first pillar, many Americans will continue to reject the idea that immigrants take jobs Americans don’t want -- and rightly so.

Wedges, pivot points, and the limits of the other side’s aspirations

Not only does a progressive, demand-side approach offer the best hope for a sustainable model of immigration control -- a win-win model for native and foreign-born workers alike -- it also has the potential to be a political game-changer, redrawing the lines of the debate in a way that unites progressives and divides the corporate Right from the GOP’s culturally insular base.

Conservatives have used the issue of immigration to discuss issues that serve them well. It’s been a "pivot point" -- a topic of intense public interest that they’ve then turned to an issue that advances their larger worldview. Much of their analysis has focused on the perceived "dangers" associated with outsiders and people of color and the need for an expansion of the state’s security apparatus. Illegal immigration has been framed as a national security issue, an issue of terrorism prevention, a result of Roe v. Wade -- solid ground for the American Right.

Focusing on illegal jobs rather than the workers who fill them can provide progressives with a similar opportunity -- it can be a pivot point leading to a discussion of the very real pain that millions of American workers are feeling after 30 years of corporate-sponsored trickle-down voodoo economics. This is comfortable ground for progressives, who, traditionally, have been at their best when fighting for economic fairness for the little guy.

Immigration has become an acrimonious "wedge" issue for both of America’s major parties, dividing traditional constituencies. But it’s an issue that divides Republicans more than Democrats; the GOP’s conservative base is fired up with xenophobia, while its traditional big-business side both values the cheap labor immigrants provide, and, consisting mostly of sophisticated urban elites, lacks the visceral hatred for immigrants that many in the party’s base display.

On the Democratic side, divisions also exist, but they’ve been more muted. Comprehensive immigration and workplace reform would allow progressive reformers to dominate the populist side of the debate, and that can only deepen the divide within the GOP and leave immigration hard-liners with only angry, exaggerated arguments -- cultural arguments -- on the table. That, in turn, would go a long way towards marginalizing their views in the mainstream discourse over immigration.

The approach would also fundamentally redefine the debate, moving from pro- versus anti-immigrant (or illegal immigrant, if you prefer) to the question of how we deal with the issue.

And, because it’s an approach that would necessarily rely on an increase in law enforcement, it also neutralizes the anti-immigration movement’s best argument. Instead of progressives being forced to effectively defend "law-breakers," the question becomes: What kind of enforcement do we want to pursue, and to what end do we use our finite enforcement resources?

And, because immigration hard-liners in and out of Congress by and large oppose minimum wage increases, stronger work force protections, anti-union-busting measures, etc., it can only highlight the fact that while they may have many things in mind when they beat their breasts over the issue of immigration, the economic health of American workers is not one of them.

And that brings us to the most powerful argument that a progressive demand-side approach to immigration control offers: the limits of the other side’s aspirations. At the end of the day, even if advocates of an enforcement-heavy approach were to get everything they wanted, the best they could offer is the promise that every citizen who is sufficiently desperate to take a crappy, strenuous or demeaning job that pays a poverty wage will be able to find one.

That’s it, the sum total of their aspirations, and that’s an argument that progressives would do well to embrace in every discussion of the immigration issue.

Joshua Holland is an AlterNet staff writer.

Dept. of Veterans Affairs Changes Policy on Helping Wounded Soldiers Register to Vote

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By Steven Rosenfeld

The Department of Veterans Affairs has issued new rules allowing former soldiers living at VA facilities to ask for help with registering to vote and voting -- a decision that could increase participation in the 2008 election by wounded Iraq and Afghanistan War veterans.

The new rules, to be published on government websites this week, reverses a years-long policy where the VA opposed helping patients and others living on VA campuses -- notably homeless veterans -- with voter registration and voting, saying to do so would be a partisan activity.

"It is VHA policy to assist patients who seek to exercise their right to register and vote," said the new policy, issued by the Veterans Health Administration as Directive 2008-023. "This policy establishes a uniform approach to assembling and providing information on voter registration and voting to veterans who request it."

Under the directive, VA facilities "must ensure" there is a "written, published policy on voter assistance" that allows patients to leave the facility to register and vote, subject to their physician’s approval; provides help for registering and voting by absentee ballot; and informs patients that voting assistance is available. It states, "This also needs to be done when the patient is admitted to the facility."

The directive says any VA "personnel (including volunteers)" must review and sign a "Political Activities Fact Sheet" provided by the Office of General Counsel. It also says "any request by an outside organization to hold a voter registration drive on VA property" will be reviewed by the VA’s attorneys, but it does not state how quickly the agency must respond to registration drive requests.

Advocates for veterans’ voting rights praised the new VA policy.

"VA’s new directive is progress," said Paul Sullivan, executive director of Veterans for Common Sense, whose mission has long included advocating for former soldiers’ voting rights. "They changed from actively opposing it to passively supporting it."

"I think is an enormous first step," said Scott Rafferty, a Washington-based attorney who has been fighting the VA in court over the issue since 2004. "Until today, VA policy prohibited staff members from assisting disabled vets who needed help to obtain and fill out voter registration forms. This changes that. That’s the good news."

Both Sullivan and Rafferty said the policy’s impact would lay in its implementation.

For example, merely posting the new policy in small-print type in the corner of hospital wards and not asking vets if they wanted to register would not change much, Rafferty said, who said the directive did not indicate if the VA would offer the opportunity to register to vote to millions of elderly veterans who come to VA facilities for annual checkups and to renew their prescriptions.

"They also need to reach out to the veterans who live in shelters on VA property who may not be patients," Rafferty said, "and they need to tell veterans who move to VA campuses that they will be purged (from voter rolls) unless they correct their voter registration forms."

Sullivan said his organization would be watching to see how quickly the VA’s attorneys would process requests from third-party groups for conducting voter registration drives at VA facilities.

"Veterans for Common Sense plans to follow VA’s actions closely in order to make sure that VA’s lawyers expeditiously review requests for voter registration drives," he said. "We also hope VA will establish a single national policy so that there is consistent implementation at the local level."

The VA announcement also comes as top election officials in several states, notably California, were poised to ask the VA to designate itself as a voter registration agency, like motor vehicle departments, under the National Voter Registration Act (NVRA). Those requests come on top of persistent pressure from Sens. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., and John Kerry, D-Mass., to assist wounded veterans to register to vote.

The two senators, who had written to Secretary of Veterans Affairs James B. Peake in March -- only to receive a response later in the month stating that there would be no change in policy -- also praised the new VA policy in a statement issued late Wednesday.

"The VA directive seems to be a dramatic turnaround in granting veterans the access to voter registration that they rightfully deserve," Sen. Feinstein said. "This directive would require that all VA facilities develop comprehensive voter registration plans to assist veterans in voting. Given the sacrifices that these men and women have made, providing easy access to voter registration services is the very least we can do."

"I am hopeful that this apparent reversal will be one large step forward in the fight to protect the right of America’s veterans to vote," Sen. Kerry said. "We will continue to monitor this situation motivated by one and only one principle: Those who fight for democracy overseas shouldn’t have to fight for democracy here at home."

Election year pressures

For at least four years, since the 2004 election when Kerry, a veteran, was the Democratic Party presidential nominee, the VA has blocked efforts to help ex-soldiers register to vote at its facilities. As recently as mid-March, the agency told Kerry and Feinstein that its mission was medical, and any effort to help veterans register would be "partisan."

Secretary Peake’s response to the senators was first reported by AlterNet, which prompted other news organizations to cover the story, leading to the policy change.

The issue of helping wounded and homeless veterans living at VA facilities to register to vote has been in federal court since 2004, when the VA was sued by veterans’ advocates over its refusal to allow voter registration efforts at its campus in Menlo Park, Calif. Many veterans live at VA facilities, with those who are disabled facing great difficulties with leaving the campus for any reason, including registering to vote. Homeless veterans also live at shelters on VA campuses.

As the Menlo Park suit slowly made its way through the courts, the VA also stonewalled requests by Kerry and Feinstein for an explanation of its voter registration policy. Earlier this year, a federal appeals court ruled that voter registration groups do not have the right to register veterans on the grounds of VA facilities. Following that decision, Feinstein and Kerry wrote to Secretary Peake to ensure all veterans have access to voter registration and to clarify the VA’s policy in this area.

"We write today to once again highlight our concerns about voter registration in VA facilities," began a March 6, 2008, letter from Feinstein and Kerry. "Nearly one year ago, your predecessor, Secretary Nicholson, was questioned about the lack of access to nonpartisan voter registration services for our nation’s veterans. A response to this inquiry was never received."

In mid-March, Secretary Peake wrote back to Sens. Feinstein and Kerry, denying their request to designate VA facilities as voter registration agencies. That response received widespread coverage, including reports in the Army Times and on MSNBC. Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., also criticized the VA policy while campaigning recently in Pennsylvania.

The VA, as a federal agency, has the discretion under the NVRA, known as the Motor Voter Law, to determine if it would serve as a voter registration agency, according to election law experts. Under the 1993 law, which mandated state agencies from motor vehicle departments to welfare offices offer people the chance to register to vote, federal agencies can opt to register voters.

Rafferty said the new VA policy raises some questions about the extent to which the agency will be a "motor voter agency," but said the directive removes a legal argument used by the VA for years -- that it did not have to comply with the NVRA.

"This morning, everybody was going to fight tooth and nail for the VA to be designated as a motor voter agency," he said, referring to staffers on Capitol Hill and in state capitals. "That now is gone. This is not 100 percent of motor voter, but it sounds like it. It’s the outpatients and the homeless people they are vague on."

Michael Slater, deputy director of Project Vote, a nonpartisan, national voter registration organization, said the new VA policy does not appear to go as far as state motor vehicle departments, which proactively ask people if they want to register to vote.

"Will they make sure the service is available?" he asked. "It seems to be emphasizing the person who seeks help. If that is the case, the onus is still on the voter."

The joint statement by Kerry and Feinstein said "the directive stops short of designating VA facilities as voter registration agencies," but they both said they hoped the VA would implement the policy in a meaningful way so veterans could vote this fall.

"It is my hope to the VA’s implementation of this directive will be in time for the 2008 election," Feinstein said. "The VA has a long and proud history of providing services to veterans -- helping them to lead successful and productive lives. Providing them with the opportunity to become more involved in our democracy is an appropriate role for the VA."

Steven Rosenfeld is a senior fellow at and co-author of "What Happened in Ohio: A Documentary Record of Theft and Fraud in the 2004 Election" (The New Press, 2006).

Will Pot Ever Be Legal in This Schizoid Country?

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By Steven Wishnia

Marijuana occupies a bizarrely paradoxical place in American culture. Its use is widespread, commonplace among the young and ubiquitous in popular culture. Yet it remains highly illegal, and talk of legalization is usually deemed political suicide.

Here are five signs that pot should be legal soon -- and five reasons why it probably won’t.

1. Pot is indelibly a part of the cultural mainstream. The stoner comedy Harold and Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay grossed $14.6 million in its first weekend, making it the second most popular movie in the country. Most pro basketball players blaze, according to sources as diverse as the ganjaphile Mavericks player Josh Howard and the anti-drug ex-Knick Charles Oakley. And on April 20, thousands of revelers turned out at the University of Colorado and the University of California at Santa Cruz to celebrate the 4/20 herb holiday.

As of 2002, notes Keith Stroup, legal counsel with the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, 47 percent of American adults had smoked marijuana at some time in their lives, according to a CNN/Time poll. By today, he adds, "it is likely there are more living Americans who have smoked marijuana than who have not. Approximately 26 million Americans smoked marijuana just in the last year. All of these people know it did not cause them any real harm and that it did not keep them from having a successful life and career."

2. Increased medical acceptance. In February, the American College of Physicians, the second-largest medical organization in the country, urged the federal government to move cannabis out of Schedule I, the category for drugs with no legal medical use, "given marijuana’s proven efficacy at treating certain symptoms and its relatively low toxicity." The group also strongly urged legal protections for doctors who prescribe cannabis and patients who use it.

Last year, more than 3,000 articles on cannabinoids were published in scientific journals. These have explored their possible uses for a host of ailments, from easing the pain of arthritis to inhibiting the growth of brain tumors.

The development of vaporization technology -- pricey devices that heat cannabis to a point where the THC can be inhaled, but don’t incinerate the plant matter -- has eliminated one of the main reasons for doctors to be uncomfortable about the medical use of cannabis: that smoke contains toxic compounds. "Vaporization of THC offers the rapid onset of symptom relief without the negative effects from smoking," the ACP noted.

3. A federal decriminalization bill was introduced last month. HR 5843, sponsored by Reps. Barney Frank, D-Mass., and Ron Paul, R-Tex., would eliminate federal penalties for possession of less than 100 grams or for the nonprofit transfer of less than one ounce between adults. The bill is the first decriminalization measure introduced in Congress since the early 1980s.

4. The state budget crunch. With the recession battering their treasuries, many states are taking a second look at the price of incarcerating thousands of drug prisoners. Legal cannabis would eliminate the costs of arresting, prosecuting and jailing cannabis users, growers and dealers, and could be a major new source of tax revenue -- especially in states like California, where it is estimated to be the most valuable cash crop. And cannabis farming could revive rural economies, whether by hemp production in the Great Plains or marijuana cultivation in Appalachia.

5. There are no rational arguments against legalizing cannabis under regulations similar to those for alcohol. I’ve been covering drug issues for almost 20 years (and smoking the green since? Well, I went to Woodstock when I was 14, you do the math), and I haven’t heard any. The most common, the "gateway theory" and the idea that today’s pot is so much stronger than Woodstock-era weed that it’s essentially a different drug, are based on distortion and misinformation. They aren’t even valid rebuttable presumptions like "abortion is murder," "the government should not interfere with the free market by regulating rents," or "the U.S. government had to depose Saddam Hussein by any means necessary." And the "send a message to the children" argument is akin to espousing the resurrection of Prohibition because legal alcohol encourages underage drinking.


On the other hand, I strongly doubt that cannabis will become legal in the near future, for the following reasons.

1. Pot smokers aren’t well organized. According to government surveys, there are about 4 million to 5 million regular marijuana users -- roughly speaking, people who get high at least once a week. The three leading drug-law-reform groups would have a combined mailing list of 35,000 to 55,000 people, estimates NORML executive director Allen St. Pierre. NORML has about 15,000 dues-paying members, 55,000 email subscribers, and 420,000 friends on its Facebook page. The Marijuana Policy Project claims 24,000 members and 180,000 email subscribers. The Drug Policy Alliance has 26,000 members and more than 100,000 email subscribers.

Those numbers are dramatically higher than they were five years ago, but they’re still relatively small. has 3.2 million people on its email list. The National Rifle Association has more than 4 million members.

2. Very few politicians support legalization. About the only nationally known elected officials who advocate full legalization of cannabis are Ron Paul and Rep. Dennis Kucinich, D-Ohio, the two candidates most often derided as fringe lunatics in this year’s presidential race. If you stretch the list to include big-city mayors, you’d get Gavin Newsom of San Francisco and the recently retired Rocky Anderson of Salt Lake City. The Frank-Paul decriminalization bill’s co-sponsors include both anti-war liberals and far-right semilibertarians, but St. Pierre believes it is unlikely to make it out of committee this year and wouldn’t get more than 85 votes if it did. Almost all its supporters represent culturally liberal areas in the far West and Northeast.

"If those of us who currently smoke would take the pledge that we will never again vote for any candidate for public office who supports treating us like criminals, we could end prohibition within a couple of election cycles," says Stroup. But if they did take that pledge, "initially they would frequently only have fringe candidates whom they could support and would have to sit out many major races. So we can’t count on most smokers to vote based only on the candidate’s position towards treating marijuana smokers like criminals."

3. Marijuana arrests continue at record levels. In 2006, there were 830,000 arrests for marijuana offenses -- almost triple the number of people nabbed in 1991. It was the fourth consecutive year that the number of pot busts set a new record. Of those popped, 89 percent were charged with simple possession.

4. Baby-boomer politicians sold us out. In the 1970s, baby-boomer stoners believed that the laws would inevitably change when the prohibitionist dinosaurs faded out and their generation took over.

Well, among the potheads-turned-politicians of the last 15 years, Bill Clinton signed the law cutting off federal student aid to drug offenders. Clarence Thomas wrote the Supreme Court decision against medical marijuana. Barack Obama now says he is "not interested in legalizing drugs." Al Gore, declaring that he had "put away childish things," came out against legalizing medical marijuana. Newt Gingrich sponsored a bill to execute pot smugglers. George W. Bush (yeah, you expect me to believe that a raging alcoholic with a never-denied taste for cocaine made it through the ’70s without a single toke?) has overseen federal crackdowns on headshops, bong-makers, and medical marijuana clinics.

5. We don’t live in a rational society. In many ways, American politics haven’t changed much from 1928, when people believed that if Al Smith, a Catholic, were elected president, he’d dig a tunnel from the White House to the Vatican, except that now we have the Internet to spread similar rumors. (We didn’t have Photoshop in 1927, when Smith dedicated the Holland Tunnel connecting Manhattan and Jersey City.)

We live in a society where politics are dominated by moronic symbolism, where the media ignore government’s actual effect on working-class people in favor of pontificating endlessly about the importance of Hillary Clinton knocking back a shot of blended whiskey vs. Obama’s abysmal bowling score, where they cast a spoiled senator’s son as a "man of the people" because he clears brush and isn’t too bright.

We live in a society ruled by fear, where people are willing to accept having the Bill of Rights shredded in the name of fighting drugs or "terrorism."

So it’s not surprising that politicians quaver and quail at the idea of supporting a perfectly rational change that would end the legal harassment of millions of Americans. If they did, they’d be damned as "trying to let drug dealers out of jail" and barraged with attack ads accusing them of wanting to sell methamphetamine to 8-year-olds.

There is a very powerful stereotype afoot in much of the population, the belief that anyone "on drugs" is a brutish beast from whom all reason hath fled, a conglomeration of the snapping-at-phantoms temper of a rageball drunk, the stolen-goods appetite of a $500-a-day dope fiend, the self-abasement of a crack addict performing oral sex for a $5 rock, and the casual and calculated sadism of an ’80s cocaine kingpin ordaining, "Manolo, choot this piece of chit."

Anyone who knows a pothead knows that this belief is absolutely ludicrous, but it’s what sets the tone of American political discourse on drug issues -- or more accurately, almost no one in the political mainstream has the guts to defend drug users by pointing out that it’s propaganda.

Steven Wishnia is the author of Exit 25 Utopia, The Cannabis Companion and Invincible Coney Island. He lives in New York.

Life Will Never Return to Normal for an Injured Vet Like Tomas Young

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By Liliana Segura

In the opening minutes of Body of War, we find a 25-year-old man struggling to put on his pants. He is wiry and tattooed, sitting shirtless on his bed, his thick eyebrows furrowed in concentration. His face is weathered beyond its years. He works to get one leg into his jeans, then the other, moves on to his sneakers and finally, his wheelchair.

Three years after this scene was filmed, paralyzed Iraq war veteran Tomas Young admits that dealing with his personal day-to-day challenges on camera took some getting used to. But "eventually it dawned on me that the more graphic and in-depth [the documentary] got into my life, the more people would see the consequences and ramifications of making an impetuous decision." The decision he refers to is the U.S. government’s rush to invade Iraq in 2003; from the opening moments to the end, Body of War interweaves scenes from Tomas’ life as he learns to live with his paralysis with C-SPAN footage of the October 2002 congressional vote that is responsible for it. As senator after senator parrots the lies of George W. Bush in a drumbeat for war, a sick sense of dramatic irony sets in. We all know how the vote will play out. But few could imagine what it means to be Tomas Young, one of the tens of thousands of veterans who have returned from Iraq with life-altering injuries after being betrayed by the government they enlisted to serve. Tomas Young feels that betrayal acutely. He lives with the consequences every day.

Tomas joined the army right after 9/11. As he tells it, he saw President George W. Bush standing atop World Trade Center rubble on TV and knew he wanted to help hunt down Osama bin Laden. He called his local recruiter on Sept. 13. "I joined to go to war with Afghanistan and with al-Qaeda," he tells me over the phone, from Kansas City, Mo., his hometown. But when it came time to deploy, he was not sent to help smoke out the "evil-doers" from their caves as Bush swore to do. Instead, he found himself in Sadr City, Iraq, questioning the premise for the war. ("When the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, we didn’t go and attack China," he says.) And, in 2004, he did not see any terrorists, nor did he fire a single shot. ("All I saw were women and children running away from gunfire.") Less than a week after arriving in Sadr City, on April 4, 2004, Tomas was riding in an unarmored Humvee with no covering when he was shot, hit just above his left collarbone. "All of a sudden my body just went completely numb," he recalls. He was paralyzed from the chest down.

Tomas spent nearly three months being shuttled between hospitals, ending up at Walter Reed Medical Center in April 2004. Reeling from his injury and hopped up on painkillers, it was there that he first encountered former talk show host and producer Phil Donahue -- who’d recently lost his MSNBC program because, as a leaked memo would eventually reveal, he was "a difficult public face for NBC in a time of war." The young, paralyzed veteran made a profound impression on Donahue. "Every time I look at Tomas, I think about the president. ’Bring it on,’" he tells me in a phone interview from his home in New York. "There he was, 24 years old, lying in bed, in the prime of life … This is what we call catastrophic. This is a hugely consequential injury." Tomas’ condition, Donahue decided, was exactly what Americans needed to see to truly understand the human costs of the what he calls "the most sanitized war of my lifetime."

The struggle of recovery

Body of War is anything but sanitized. "The movie was filmed during the first two years of my injury, which is the roughest recovery time," Tomas explains -- and it shows. When we first meet his wife-to-be, Brie, she’s at the computer, on an Internet message board, looking for advice on Tomas’ "bowel problems." Their wedding is approaching, and they’re concerned about him having an accident while he is in his tux. It’s just one of the ways his body fails him. He relies on "puke pans" for his morning nausea and, in part thanks to the catheter he wears, his frequent urination leads to constant urinary tract infections. And then, of course, as Tomas puts it, there’s "a great big erection sidebar," i.e. the problem of erectile dysfunction.

When his wedding day arrives, on a rainy afternoon in August 2005, the couple looks young and happy. He is wearing black Converse All-Stars. Walking down the aisle after declaring their vows, Brie’s dress gets caught in his wheelchair. "Damn your big dress," he laughs.

But their relationship is strained. Brie is as much a caretaker -- or "roommate" as he says to her when he gets upset -- as she is a wife. They speak bluntly about their sexual limitations -- and their frustrating attempts to overcome them. ("I could count the number of times we’ve had sex on one hand," she says at one point.) When it becomes clear that the marriage is on the rocks, it’s hard to imagine how someone so disabled could possibly fend for himself. After all, his injuries run far deeper than even his wheelchair would suggest. "I can’t cough," he says at one point in the film. His stomach muscles are too damaged.

Yet Tomas is shockingly mobile, a soldier-turned-activist whose work takes him across the county. As the film documents his travels -- to Crawford, Texas, where he and Brie join Camp Casey for their honeymoon; to an anti-war demo in D.C.; to New York, where his stops include the World Trade Center site -- the sheer physical exertion of it all make his determination all the more impressive. In one scene, stressed out and tired, Tomas is stuck in New York City traffic, trying to get to Brooklyn, where he will be speaking at a church. The city is mired in a transit strike, and it has taken 30 minutes to travel a single block in midtown. When he finally arrives at the church, he has to interrupt himself a number of times, taking short breaks and bowing his head until the dizziness goes away. His lightheadedness, he tells the crowd, may cause him to "say uh and stammer" a bit, "so forgive me if I sound a bit presidential." The audience laughs, and for the next several minutes, Young holds their attention through his words and presence, which is itself such a damning indictment of the war.

Resisting the war

Soon after returning from Iraq, Tomas joined Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW), the group of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans who organized the Winter Soldier hearings in Silver Spring, Md., this past March. In part due to the fact that there are only a handful of members in Kansas City -- but more because of his demanding schedule filming and promoting Body of War -- Tomas describes his involvement these days as "extremely sporadic." But IVAW members often attend screenings of Body of War to get the word out about the group. As he puts it in the film’s press materials: "I want Body of War to be a tool for counter-recruitment."

Still, like many members of IVAW, Tomas wants to make it clear that his opposition to the war is not proof that he doesn’t support the troops. "I think military service is very honorable and noble," he tells me. Indeed, his younger brother Nathan -- whose own deployment to Iraq is one of the more heart-rending moments in the film -- is currently on a second tour in Iraq. Tomas considers himself a patriot, and he paraphrases a Frederick Douglass quote to explain: "A patriot is ’someone who loves their country but rebukes and does not forgive its sins,’" he says. And he cannot forgive the way the Bush administration has misused and abused the troops in this war.

In the film, one character stands in sharp contrast to Tomas’ take on patriotism, his stepfather Mike, an unrepentant Bush supporter and right-wing talk radio devotee who could represent any number of Americans who just can’t seem to face up to reality. When Cindy Sheehan travels to Crawford in the summer of 2005 to demand a meeting with Bush, he and Tomas’ mother Cathy are watching on TV. "There’s your buddy," he tells his wife. "She’s there because she’s our voice," she says. "Yeah, she’s your voice, not mine," he replies. It’s not long after that Tomas travels to Crawford himself. He and Casey Sheehan, it turns out, were shot on the same day.

Especially given his mother’s unwavering support for him, I ask Tomas if his stepdad has come around on the war. "He doesn’t necessarily support it, because he sees how much it costs." It’s not clear if that means bodies or dollars (he is a "taxes Republican"), but regardless, "he supports me standing up for something I believe in." Besides, they no longer argue politics. When they do, Tomas compares it to "bringing a knife to a gunfight." ("He’s the one who brings the knife.") Unlike Tomas, his stepdad "gets his news from people who don’t pay actual attention to the news."

Tomas’ story is one of thousands

Phil Donahue was watching C-SPAN in October 2002, as senators from both parties worked themselves into a frenzy over the imminent threat posed by Saddam Hussein. "It was a debate that will rattle around this nation for the rest of the century," he tells me. "And nobody saw it. I did. I was so stunned I couldn’t get over it." As the executive producer and co-director, along with filmmaker Ellen Spiro, Donahue felt very strongly that Body of War should include footage of the run up to the war vote. Tomas agreed. "This is a year after the towers," says Donahue. "You see it right there in the screen how easy it is to scare the people." In the context of the election season, it’s especially unsettling to watch an agitated, slightly younger-looking John McCain stomp around issuing warnings about Saddam. ("Each day that goes by he becomes more dangerous … The longer we wait, the more dangerous he becomes.") Not to mention Hillary Clinton, who can be seen saying that Saddam provides "aid, comfort and sanctuary to terrorists." As a mechanized voice tallies the votes in favor of the war in alphabetical order, the names serve as a sobering reminder that, while we blame the Bush administration for railroading the country towards the disaster in Iraq, we have the legislature to thank for greasing the wheels. The title Body of War applies as fittingly to Congress as it does to Tomas’ ravaged body.

A powerful exception is Democratic Sen. Robert Byrd of West Virginia, whose impassioned pleas for his fellow congressmen to "slow down" before casting a vote that will come back to haunt them falls on deaf ears. Byrd is over 90 years old, the longest-serving member in the history of the Senate and, by Tomas’s account, "the coolest old man." In one of the film’s most poignant scenes, the two meet at Byrd’s office on Capitol Hill, where the senator shows Tomas the vote of the "Immortal 23" who opposed the war. "He was so proud of the vote that he pulled it down off the wall," recalls Tomas, who helped him read the names of the 22 fellow senators who joined him. Of his 17,000-plus votes during his tenure, Byrd calls his vote against invading Iraq "the most important vote I have ever cast."

Tomas returned to Walter Reed last weekend, for the first time since he himself was a patient there. It was "something I wasn’t ready for," he says. He went with Tom Morrello, the former guitarist for Rage Against the Machine, who was in town to do a benefit concert for IVAW, and whose music appears on a collection of protest songs that is a companion project to Body of War, coordinated by Eddie Vedder of Pearl Jam. Among the veterans they met, "two of the guys we talked to were expected to make a complete recovery," says Tomas. "The other two I felt the need to give my phone number to." One is a veteran who had been injured by a roadside bomb in Iraq in 2003 and whose leg had just been amputated after a blood clot was found that had been building for the past five years. "They had to amputate just below the kneecap … He cried several times, asking me ’how do you talk to your friends and family about this?’"

A central goal of Body of War is to remind people that there are veterans like these coming home every day. With over 4,000 U.S. soldiers killed, some 50,000 soldiers have been wounded in Iraq. Their injuries are largely invisible. "We have less than 5 percent of the Americans fighting this war," Tomas says. That the rest of the country is mostly tuned out angers him. "They don’t have a personal stake in it. They don’t have a son or a daughter of a husband or wife to worry about."

For more information on where to see Body of War, visit

To read Tomas Young’s own writing, go here.

Liliana Segura is an associate editor and staff writer at AlterNet.

ACLU: Pentagon Documents Highlight Interrogation Methods

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By Adam Goldman

New York - The military continued to use abusive interrogation methods on detainees after a 2003 directive meant to end such practices, the American Civil Liberties Union said Wednesday after reviewing newly released documents.

The Department of Defense documents shed light on the use of psychologists in military interrogations and the failure of medical workers to report abuse of detainees, the ACLU said.

"The documents reveal that psychologists and medical personnel played a key role in sustaining prisoner abuse - a clear violation of their ethical and legal obligations," ACLU attorney Amrit Singh said.

A Pentagon spokesman said medical workers understood the responsibility to provide humane medical care to detainees.

The ACLU obtained the documents - newly unredacted data from what is known as the Church Report - in connection with a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit filed in 2004. The government did not release details on the interrogation methods that continued to be used after 2003, she said.

The documents also show "the use of some of the techniques ... continued even until July 2004, despite the fact that many were retracted by the October 2003 memorandum, and some were subsequently prohibited by the May 2004 memorandum."

The report says, "The relatively widespread use of these techniques supports our finding that the policy documents were not always received or thoroughly understood."

The Pentagon says it conducted a thorough review of prisoner interrogation policies after the Abu Ghraib prison abuse scandal. The Church Report concluded that no uniformed or civilian leaders directed or encouraged the prisoner abuses committed in Iraq, Afghanistan and Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

Humane treatment of detainees "is and always has been the Department of Defense standard," Pentagon spokesman Lt. Col. Mark Ballesteros said Wednesday.

"The Church Report is one of a dozen major reviews, assessments or investigations related to detention operations," he said. "None of them found that there was a governmental policy directing, encouraging or condoning abuse."

The report was largely disclosed in 2005, and a declassified version of the review was made public last year. Some of the documents were initially redacted because they were classified, Singh said. The government claimed that if the information were released it would cause serious damage to national security. The newly released documents are part of the Church Report not previously released.

Singh called the government's argument bogus, saying it furthered a pattern "of claiming national security as pretext for withholding information to cover up embarrassing information."

The ACLU has been highly critical of the report, saying the Pentagon didn't analyze all open abuse cases at the time. The ACLU says the report shows "enlisted medics witnessed obvious episodes of detainee abuse apparently without reporting them to superiors."

Singh said the documents make it clear that the psychologists were employed in the context of military operations. They were not there to serve as mental health providers, she said.

Ballesteros pointed to the executive summary of the report, which states that medical personnel "understood their responsibility to provide humane medical care to detainees, in accordance with U.S. Military medical doctrine and the Geneva Conventions."

He said the report also discusses the role of behavioral science workers, who were not involved in detainee medical care or permitted access to detainees' medical records for purposes of developing interrogation strategies.

"More than 600 criminal investigations have been initiated into allegations of detainee mistreatment. More than 250 servicemembers have been held accountable for their roles in those cases," he said.

The ACLU submitted a freedom of information request in October 2003 and sued in June 2004 demanding immediate disclosure of records relating to prisoners held in facilities abroad. The litigation is ongoing.

Blue Dogs on Hoyer's FISA Leash

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By Alexander Bolton

Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (Md.), the House Democrats' point man in negotiations on an overhaul of intelligence surveillance law, is keeping his eye on conservative Blue Dog Democrats who might defect on the issue under Republican pressure.

The topic has reached a critical point because surveillance orders granted by the director of national intelligence and the attorney general under the authority of the Protect America Act begin to expire in August.

If Congress does not approve an overhaul of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) by Memorial Day, intelligence community officials will have to prepare dozens of individual surveillance warrants, a cumbersome alternative to the broader wiretapping authority granted by the Protect America Act, say congressional officials familiar with the issue.

Conservative and freshman Democrats are growing skittish. These lawmakers expect campaign opponents to accuse them of imperiling national security if Congress does not enact new intelligence surveillance legislation.

One outside interest group, the Defense of Democracies Action Fund, has already launched radio ads specifically criticizing Blue Dog Democrats for supporting a House-crafted intelligence bill opposed by President Bush.

Many liberal House Democrats, on the other hand, do not view the intelligence bill as the highest priority on their agenda. Disputing any suggestion they take national security lightly, these Democrats argue that the executive branch has the authority it needs to effectively monitor suspected targets.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has stepped back from the FISA talks and let Hoyer spearhead House talks with the Senate and executive branch. Some Democrats say privately that she has not shown much urgency to reach agreement with the White House.

Recognizing a political opportunity, House Republicans last week launched a discharge petition to press Blue Dog Democrats to support a Senate-passed bill favored by Bush but opposed by the Democratic leadership. The petition would force the Democratic leaders to schedule the Senate bill on the House floor, where a coalition of Republicans and conservative Democrats could provide enough support for passage.

The Protect America Act, which granted intelligence officials broad authority, expired in February. Democratic leaders have argued, however, that its expiration would not affect information-gathering because surveillance orders signed by senior administration officials remain in effect. But that will change in August when those orders begin to expire.

Hoyer has discussed various possible compromises with Blue Dogs in the hope of avoiding defections similar to what Democratic leaders saw on Republican-favored immigration legislation.

"A number of Blue Dogs are working on a compromise between the House and the Senate," said Rep. Jane Harman (Calif.), a member of the Blue Dog Coalition and the former ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee. "I'm working with Hoyer and working with others.

"Some other Blue Dogs are involved," she added. "Blue Dogs are 47 votes; 47 votes will determine how this comes out."

Harman acknowledged, however, that there is a split in the Blue Dog Coalition and that some members support a Senate-crafted overhaul of FISA while she and others say it gives "blank check" immunity to telecommunications companies that turned over customer data to intelligence authorities.

Harman said that Hoyer, who has longstanding ties with the coalition, will be pivotal to recruiting conservative Democratic support for whatever bill emerges from House-Senate negotiations.

"I would anticipate that Hoyer will play a role selling it to Blue Dogs," she said.

Republicans successfully pressed Democrats to act on border security legislation sponsored by freshman Rep. Heath Shuler (D-N.C.). Republicans circulated a discharge petition that would force action on the immigration bill and gathered the signatures of 10 Democrats. More than 170 Republicans have signed it.

The defections of conservative Democrats on a controversial procedural tactic Ñ the petition would usurp the authority of the Democratic leadership Ñ appears to have given the House Ways and Means Committee incentive to schedule a hearing on immigration next week.

Republicans aim to drive a similar wedge between conservative Democrats and their leaders on intelligence reform.

"Our hope is to pass the bipartisan Senate-passed FISA bill," said Michael Steel, spokesman for House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio).

Steel said that would happen if Republicans collected 218 signatures on the petition or came close enough to put pressure on Democratic leaders to act.

Republicans will focus their efforts on Blue Dogs, especially the 21 conservatives who signed a January letter to Pelosi announcing their support for the Senate intelligence bill.

"Any Blue Dog on record as one of the 21 who signed the letter to Pelosi should sign the discharge petition," said Steel.

Hoyer is counting on his strong ties to Blue Dogs and their participation in talks about a compromise to forestall defections.

Vulnerable freshman Democrats and Blue Dogs say the issue demands action.

"Overall, it's very important," said Rep. Chris Carney (D-Pa.), a freshman member of the Blue Dog Coalition who often votes against his leadership.

Carney said that a compromise should protect national security and also respect civil liberties. He was one of the 21 Democrats who signed the letter to Pelosi, making him a prime Republican target.

"I've been in favor of the Senate bill. We'll see what happens," he said. Carney said that Republican leaders have not yet asked him to sign the discharge petition.


Go to Original
By Devvy Kidd

"The ideal tyranny is that which is ignorantly self administered by its victims. The most perfect slaves are, therefore, those which blissfully and unawaredly enslave themselves." Dresden Jameson

Almost six years ago, I gave a speech in Sunnyvale, California. This is a short excerpt from that speech. History does repeat itself, but we the people have the power to stop the total annihilation of this country if there is enough courage and fire in the belly of those who truly want to be free from oppressive government. The alternative is hell.

July 6, 2002

"Ladies and gentlemen. These are indeed dangerous and serious times in which we live and not just from mad-dog terrorists from third world countries who hate us.

"We find ourselves in the same position as those who tried to save the Republic of Rome. I would like to open with a quote from the book, Dear and Glorious Physician, The Story of St. Luke, by one of the most prolific, magnificent writers of modern times, the late Taylor Caldwell.

"Published in 1959, this book spent 60 weeks on the NY Times bestseller list with more than 1,000,000 copies in print at the time.

"This is the character Diodorus speaking:

"In this very Senate, not many years ago, a senator was done to death because he spoke the truth. Not by knife or sword or spear was he murdered, and not by honest stones. No honorable hand struck him down, for there was no honorable hand here. He spoke of Rome. He cried out that Rome was no longer a republic, and that she had become a bloodthirsty empire, ruled not by men of wisdom and not by law, but by Caesar and his legions, and his generals and his rapacious freedmen and his palace politicians.

"The senator stood on this very podium and he wept for the Republic. He wept that emperors were not elected by the people, but by infamous legions and the idle and ravenous mobs who wished only to devour the fruits of the granaries and the treasures, and to be amused by charlatans and mountebanks and actors and singers and gladiators and pugilists -- at public expense.

"For greed, that young senator cried to you, the mobs in this city supported evil Caesars, who lusted only for power, because those Caesars promised them loot from the public treasuries. Venal senators supported those Caesars, for profit and power.

"The lying Caesars spoke to the mobs and told them that our country could not defend itself against barbarians without allies, who must endlessly be bought and cajoled and flattered. And the traitorous Caesars plotted against their nation, mad with the lust to be gilded like gods by the whole world, and to be acclaimed by millions of thieves and beggars and wrestlers and freedmen and the cowardly, who never felt a pulse of patriotism in their vultures hearts!

"Let me move your hearts!" he cried. "It is not yet too late!"

"The course of empire leads only to death. Senators, look at me! Listen with your hearts, and not with your evil minds. Turn back to liberty, to frugality, to morality to peace, to Rome. Think no longer of those who appoint you, those whose bellies demand to be satisfied by the very blood of Rome, the very flesh of Rome, the hard-earned gold of Rome. Bow no longer to false Caesars, who, defying our very Constitution, issue mandates against the welfare of Rome and place themselves above the law which our fathers formulated, and for which they pledged their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor.

"Rome was conceived in good faith and in justice, and in the worship of God, and in the name of the manhood of man. Return our country to the rule of law and strike down the rule by men.

"Restore the treasuries. Withdraw our legions from foreign lands which hate us, and will destroy us at a moment’s notice when it serves their interests. Repeal the taxes which crush those who work hard and industriously.

"Tell your multitudes that they must work or they shall starve. Drive from the Palatine itself the masses of toadies and self-seekers and thieves! Drive from the Palatine the puny freedmen who say ’Yes, yes!’ to Caesar, and bow before him as though he were a god and not human flesh. Cleanse this chamber of rascals and mountebanks and demagogues who declaim in rounded phrases that the welfare of the people is close to their hearts, but who really mean that they will do the will of the mob in exchange for vile plaudits and power, and bribery!

"Romans! In the name of God, in the name of Cincinnatus, the Father of this Country, in the name of heroism and peace and manliness and freedom and justice, I beg of you to restore yourselves as the guardians of Rome, to cast out the usurper of the powers which rightfully belong to you, to impeach and to punish those who seized those powers in order to pervert the laws of our fathers! Let your Roman hearts speak and your Roman spirits cry out against the expedient and the corrupt, against the vainglorious and the traitors, against Caesars who anoint themselves as gods and hold court for the depraved and the ambitious and those who would dissipate the strength of our people, our Constitution, and our traditions! If you turn from your country, then she will die, and a thousand thousand legions shall not save her and a thousand bloody Caesars will vainly blow to the winds."

"Tiberius, the Caesar of the time, responded to this attack:

"I am a soldier. I am surrounded by sycophants and liars, and in that Diodorus speaks truth. What is lavish and uncomprehending praise given out of self-seeking and fear?

"What is flattery if lips that speak it only fawn, and in that fawning profit? The dull ear is servant to a duller tongue. As a I solider I prefer men of simple truth and without complexities who speak in honor and of patriotism. But where are men today in Rome?

"Let me tell you this," said Tiberius, quietly. "Venal Caesars, power-mad Caesars, never seize power, never destroy law and their country. Their power is forced on them by an evil and despicable people, a selfish and cowardly people. Where are the guardians of the people’s liberty then? You are silent, you are slaves in spirit, you are thieves and cowards. But a people deserve their lawmakers.

"Rome!" he said. "Do I recognize this Rome of polyglot slaves, of Scythians, Britons, Gauls, barbarians, Greeks, Assyrians, Egyptians, and the scum of a whole world? Where are the Romans? They have lost their identity. They have lost their tongues, their minds, their souls, their virility. What have I to do with such a Rome? I am not an honorable man! I am what my people have made me. I am their captive, not their Emperor. Here is no escaping the evil of a debased people.

"I am here only to do the filthy will of a nation obstinately determined to commit suicide. If I break the law and the Constitution in their greedy behalf, they applaud me. If I have given up my hope of restoring the Treasury, they praise me for having their welfare at heart. Their welfare! Dogs and jackals!" End of quote.

The mobs are on the move again today with rallies to support illegal aliens smuggling themselves into our country and demanding an end to ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) raids on employers for breaking the law and a free ride to citizenship. They chant "equal rights for all" under democracy. Of course, in their ignorance, these rabble rousers have no idea America is NOT a democracy and that our Founding Fathers hated democracy. The largest number of these illegal aliens come from Mexico and using the worst of profanity, claim we stole their land. Ignorance is rampant among these lawbreakers. Their own government ceded over half of their territory the U.S. When a Colorado legislator called them illiterate peasants a little over a week ago, another empty headed female serving in office went ballistic because the truth burned her politically correct ears.

What the fabulous Taylor Caldwell wrote in her book, and she was a meticulous, gifted writer, has all but overtaken our country. We are in the throes of the total decline of this once great republic. Our elected public officials have been bought and paid for by the mob. Elected officials at all levels of government no longer care for their state constitutions or the U.S. Constitution. They care only for power given to them by voters. Most are cowards because they don’t have the guts to stand up to the powerful king makers behind the scenes or their brains are completely rotted from the mental illness called political correctness. Make no mistake: political correctness is a malignant cancer that invaded this country and beat common sense to death.

Here we are six years after I made that speech. We are drowning in destructive, unconstitutional "laws" while America’s very livelihood is being sucked out this country by greedy cowards and rank crooks serving in Congress and one White House "winner" after another. The people respond by demanding government "do something," instead of doing everything humanly possible to throw their backsides out of office and put true leaders with some brains in our state legislatures and Congress. As the economy worsens, the cries for mother government will drown a free nation.

This invasion of illegal aliens who have NO constitutional rights because they are NOT citizens, have choked this country with their demands for free health care, free education and welfare. Let’s not forget the astronomical cost of incarcerating the ones who continue to slaughter Americans on our roads and highways, rob, steal and murder. Let’s not forget the growing number of illegal aliens who are sexual predators, raping and killing America’s children. Foreigners who come to this country shouting their demands that we change our culture, our history and our laws to suit their so-called religion. Can one not see what Taylor Caldwell wrote oozing across this land while millions engage in trivial pursuits like sports, violent video games and shopping?

"Democracy... while it lasts is more bloody than either aristocracy or monarchy. Remember, democracy never lasts long. It soon wastes, exhausts, and murders itself. There is never a democracy that did not commit suicide." John Adams

"A democracy is a volcano which conceals the fiery materials of its own destruction. These will produce an eruption and carry desolation in their way.[1] "The known propensity of a democracy is to licentiousness [excessive license] which the ambitious call, and ignorant believe to be liberty.[2] Fisher Ames who authored House Language for the First Amendment

While it pains me to say this, tens of millions of Americans have also taken up the mob mentality. Under "our democracy" they continue to demand mother government, with the sweat off your back, provide them with health care, child care, jobs and more "entitlements." In response to these demands from desperate Americans, these poltroons in Congress will be only to happy to oblige. Remember Jameson’s quote above. Americans are being pitted against each other in this battle. Those who live the creed of the brilliant, courageous men who birthed this nation are self reliant, determined, masters of our own destiny. We refuse to lay down our rights and freedoms in favor of the heavy hand of government stealing the fruits of our labor to reward invaders, corrupt politicians and fund foreign interests. We are up against those who are accepting the communitarian (communist morality) doctrine, walking into the trap created by Congress and the state legislatures. Instead of holding them accountable, under mobocracy, the legions continue to vote for corrupt scoundrels in public office who break what doesn’t need fixing and then steal from the public purse under the guise of "fixing it."

The mobs of democracy are stomping our republic into the ground while cowardly, degenerate politicians grovel for their votes. Democracy underground or above ground is still the same thing: disaster and a bastardization of our legal form of government. The results of pursuing such a path is glaring us in the face from coast to coast, border to border. Trying to shove democracy down the throat of foreign countries like Iraq is nothing short of insanity.

The Founding Fathers, men like Patrick Henry and young Master Nathan Hale, were called radicals and extremists because they disagreed with the loyalists, subjects of the British Crown who wished to remain under the control of a tyrant out of fear or because they benefited financially. In Mel Gibson’s movie, The Patriot, he had a great line in the beginning of the movie, "Would you rather have one tyrant 3,000 miles away or 3,000 tyrants one mile away?"

I’ve been called a radical for the past 18 years because I refuse to get on my knees and live my life under a tyrannical government. Patrick Henry and those who spilled their blood and gave up all their material possessions to birth this republic were called radicals. I am proud to wear that label. Eighteen years ago I gave up the good times to share what I’ve learned and what I’m still learning. I became an activist instead of an observer. Where do you stand? I hope you’ll catch my next column, Do you have a Plan? Time is slipping by and Americans need to grasp that things are not going to be the same for a long, long time. Despite the bald faced lies coming out of Washington, the worst is yet to come.


1, Fisher Ames, Works of Fisher Ames (Boston: T. B. Wait & Co., 1809), p. 24, Speech on Biennial Elections, delivered January, 1788
2, Ames, Works, p. 384, "The Dangers of American Liberty," February 1805

Information links:

1 - America is NOT a democracy Learn the difference
2 - Americans committing national suicide
3 - Illegals Protest in Sacramento; Photos and Propaganda
4 - Hide What’s in Your Heart Today
5 - They Died For "Cheap" Labor
6 - We Have Got to Eliminate The Gringo
7 - Excellent legal site


1 - The Case Against Immigration by Roy Beck (free on line)
2 - The Death of the West by Patrick J. Buchanan
3 - Political Correctness by David Thibodaus, [see book 14]
4 - The Cloning of The American Mind by Beverly Eakman
5 - The Diversity Myth by David O. Sacks & Peter Thiel

Reagan's Bargain/Charlie Wilson's War

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By Peter W. Dickson

What’s left out of a movie about history often interests only a few experts in the field. However, the recent release of one that chronicles the successful sub rosa American effort to bleed the Soviet Army in Afghanistan in the 1980s may prove to be an exception.

“Charlie Wilson’s War,” which stars Tom Hanks, tells the story of a hard-drinking, womanizing Texas congressman who nudged Congress and the Reagan administration to give more arms, especially high-tech Stinger missiles, to shoot down Soviet helicopters in Afghanistan in the 1980s.

But the movie distorts or leaves out a number of crucial details.

The movie opens with Wilson’s conversion to a sympathetic attitude toward Muslims while sitting in a hot tub with several naked women in the Fantasy Suite at Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas.

While frolicking in the tub, Wilson glances at a televised report of Dan Rather interviewing Afghan fighters. A visibly disturbed Wilson suddenly decides something must be done to help these people being butchered by the Soviet Army, which had invaded their country in December 1979.

The truth was quite different and evidently too awkward politically for the film producers to portray.

According to the book by George Crile upon which the film is based, the hot tub scene took place in June 1980. Crile describes Wilson’s sudden conversion to a sympathetic position toward Muslims as occurring in October 1982 when the Texas congressman, fully-clothed, visited Lebanese refugee camps after the Israeli invasion of that country.

Previously a staunch supporter of the Jewish state, Wilson was shocked by what he saw in those refugee camps, instilling in him empathy toward Muslims that evolved into his zealous support of the jihad against the Soviets in Afghanistan.

Nuclear Blackout

But surely the most glaring omission in the film is the fateful trade-off accepted by President Ronald Reagan when he agreed not to complain about Pakistan’s efforts to acquire a nuclear weapons capability in exchange for Pakistani cooperation in helping the Afghan rebels.

On page 463 of his book, Crile characterizes this deal or understanding as “the dirty little secret of the Afghan war” –- General Zia al-Haq’s ability to extract not only “massive aid” from Washington but also to secure Reagan’s acquiescence in Pakistan’s nuclear weapons program via a congressional waiver of U.S. nonproliferation laws in December 1981.

This bargain may have been dirty but it certainly was no secret. Indeed, Washington’s acquiescence via the congressional waiver was the subject of continuing press coverage throughout the 1980s.

But this history remains a taboo topic for many within the Washington Establishment, especially those who look back favorably on the Reagan presidency.

Bob Woodward in his 1987 book Veil about the notorious CIA director of the era (William Casey) and Joseph Persico in his voluminous Casey biography published in 1990 discuss the aid program for the Afghan mujaheddin.

But these authors don’t mention the Reagan-Zia bargain and how the congressional exemption granted to Islamabad in late 1981 effectively negated any intelligence reporting about the Pakistani nuclear weapons program from that point on.

Likewise, Tim Weiner in his recent best-selling work, Legacy of Ashes – The History of the CIA, is silent about how policy completely trumped intelligence on this crucial security issue.

Robert Gates, Casey’s longtime deputy, provided rich detail on the covert military aid to the Afghan rebels and even discusses Wilson’s pivotal role on pages 320-321 in his own CIA-cleared memoir, From the Shadows. But Gates also doesn’t mention the waiver for Pakistan’s nuclear weapons program.

The public also will find no mention of this issue in the new two-hour History Channel documentary about Wilson’s campaign to support the mujaheddin.

Bhutto’s Murder & Nuclear Politics

However, the assassination of former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto puts into sharp relief the question that now unnerves U.S. policy-makers: Will political instability enable terrorist groups to gain access to Pakistan’s nuclear weapons?

This question first troubled the U.S. government nearly 30 years ago, when it learned of Pakistan’s effort to acquire a nuclear weapons capability in the late 1970s.

Press reports about Pakistani nuclear activities led President Jimmy Carter to cut off all aid to Islamabad on April 6, 1979, as required by U.S. counter-proliferation laws.

After the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in December 1979, Carter and his National Security Adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski tried to restore some aid to Pakistan, but their efforts were overtaken by the hostage crisis with Iran and the political distractions of the 1980 presidential campaign.

During that campaign, Reagan made it clear that he had little use for existing U.S. nonproliferation policy. “I just don’t think it’s any of our business,” the Republican presidential candidate said.

In the wake of his landslide victory in 1980, Reagan pressured Congress to resume military aid to Pakistan through a waiver of U.S. nonproliferation laws.

Some congressional Democrats worried about the risks of looking the other way concerning Pakistan’s nuclear weapons program. But Charlie Wilson wasn’t one of them.

One might have thought that the neo-conservatives, such as Richard Perle and Paul Wolfowitz, who were emerging as influential voices during the early Reagan years, would have objected to American indifference toward an Islamic nuclear weapons program that could threaten Israel.

But there is no record of any protest from them, either.

Instead, as the movie makes clear, there was a strong desire to “get even” with the Soviets by tying them down in a quagmire in Afghanistan comparable to the one into which the U.S. sank in Vietnam.

However, this retribution against the Soviets in Afghanistan required breaking the linkage, established in the Nonproliferation Act of 1978, between U.S. intelligence reporting and the legally mandated termination of all aid to any country found to be seeking nuclear weapons.

So, Congress with the House still under Democratic control gave Reagan what he sought –- a six-year waiver for Pakistan that enabled Washington to supply Zia the military aid he demanded, including F-16 fighter jets.

Under these new rules, Reagan had to submit “annual reports” to Congress about Pakistan’s nuclear activities, but it was left to the President’s discretion what he would choose to reveal.

From that point on, the Reagan administration never put any serious pressure on Islamabad to stop what it was doing on the nuclear front.

But this see-no-evil approach ran into some embarrassments and difficulties, as Crile describes in his book.

In 1985 and again in 1987, Pakistani nationals were arrested and indicted in U.S. courts for trying to acquire, inside the United States, high-tech components and materials for a nuclear device.

In July 1985, an angry Congress retaliated by making the continuation of aid to Pakistan dependent on “annual certifications” from the White House that Pakistan “did not possess a nuclear weapon” and that the continuation of U.S. aid was helping to dissuade Islamabad from trying to acquire such a capability.

Instead of highlighting the threat posed by a Pakistani nuclear weapons program, the Reagan administration postulated an optimistic “best-case” scenario, which downplayed the whole issue by claiming that the Pakistanis still had not crossed the “possession” threshold.

That was essentially the argument that both Reagan and his successor, George H.W. Bush, made -- and Congress accepted -- from 1985 through 1989 even after the departure of the last Soviet troops from Afghanistan in February 1989.

(A discussion of the White House certifications can be found in two new books about the Pakistani nuclear program, Nuclear Jihadist by Douglas Frantz and Catherine Collins, and Deception by Adrian Levy and Catherine Scott-Clark.)

Determined to protect the pipeline for smuggling weapons to the Afghan mujaheddin, Charlie Wilson also helped deflect attention away from the Pakistani nuclear program in 1987 and 1988.

Crile claims that Wilson made several successful efforts to blunt the impact of intelligence briefings about the status of the Pakistani nuclear program to congressional committees contemplating a cut-off of all aid at that time.

Speaking Power to Truth

Wilson’s alleged success in countering such briefings and blocking a congressional aid cut-off represented a classic case of the subordination of truth and law to raw power and political calculations.

The movie producers evidently concluded that scenes of Wilson’s desperate efforts to cover up Pakistan’s nuclear ambitions would not look too good in the film, so that part of the story disappeared from the cinematic version of history.

This deeper, darker saga would have conflicted with the filmmakers desire to highlight the heroic qualities of the movie’s main protagonist (Wilson played by Tom Hanks), not to mention the justness of the Afghan cause.

Unfortunately, the glaring omissions tend to reinforce the triumph of a false narrative about the dismal record of American involvement in the Middle East, including the Reagan-Bush administration’s indifference, almost blasé attitude about the emergence of a Muslim nuclear bomb.

Given Crile’s detailed discussion of this “dirty little secret of the Afghan war” in his book, the filmmakers surely can’t say they were unaware of this darker side of the story.

Now in the wake of Bhutto’s murder – less than two weeks after the movie’s release – this omission seems even more glaring than before, at least for those who know about Reagan’s fateful bargain with Zia.

The movie implicitly does acknowledge another historical irony of the Afghan war as it relates to the 9/11 attacks. The Afghan war against the Soviet infidels brought together a violent mix of Arab radicals, including the wealthy Saudi Osama bin Laden.

Bin Laden and these Arab jihadists later turned their anger toward the United States, after it intervened to reverse Saddam Hussein’s 1990 invasion of Kuwait and then set up permanent bases inside Saudi Arabia.

From his refuge in Afghanistan, bin Laden justified his terror war against the United States, including the 9/11 attacks, as necessary to drive the American infidels from Muslim lands.

Though this irony is referenced obliquely in the movie, the producers steered clear of mentioning bin Laden by name or giving the Saudi jihadist a cameo in “Charlie Wilson’s War.”

Instead, the filmmakers through Hanks’s end-of-movie lamentation lamely suggest that the big mistake was that Washington should not have left Afghanistan in the lurch after the Soviet Army withdrew in February 1989.

Alternative History

Would such humanitarian aid to Afghanistan after 1989, similar to the later U.S. protection for the Muslim minority in the Balkans -- especially Kosovo in the mid-1990s -- really have made the 9/11 attacks less likely?

This is a complicated question. There was a 18-month window between the Soviet Army’s departure from Afghanistan in February 1989 and Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Kuwait in August 1990 when in theory Washington and the Soviets could have put pressure on the Afghan mujaheddin and the Soviet-supported regime under Mohammad Najibullah to negotiate a ceasefire and reach some form of accommodation.

That never happened. As Gates remarks on page 432 in his memoir: “Afghanistan was at last free of the foreign invader. Now Afghans could resume fighting among themselves – and hardly anyone cared.”

Iraq's invasion of Kuwait presented the Bush administration with other, more pressing regional problems. Even after the liberation of Kuwait in early 1991, the U.S. decided to maintain military bases in Saudi Arabia and the Persian Gulf as a check on Saddam, who retained power in Iraq.

Ultimately, those long-term U.S. bases fanned the flames of radical Muslim anger and put Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda on their path to 9/11.

So, it seems doubtful that a surge in humanitarian aid to help rebuild Afghanistan after Najibullah finally was ousted in April 1992 would have lessened resentment among radical Muslims like bin Laden.

Yet, as damaging as the confrontation with Islamic fundamentalism has been to America’s security interests, the more serious long-term threat may be posed by Pakistan’s nuclear weapons program, which successfully tested a nuclear device in May 1998.

The Pakistani bomb has added an ominous nuclear twist to the radical Islamic “blowback,” a threat that might have been avoided if Reagan had made different choices in the mid-1980s, if he had put a higher value on disrupting Pakistan’s nuclear program than on challenging the Soviets in Afghanistan.

The consequences of Reagan's decisions were compounded by the failure of the first Bush administration to bring the warring Afghan factions to the peace table after the Soviet withdrawal in 1989.

The unchecked chaos in Afghanistan then contributed to the rise of the Taliban, an organization of young Islamic militants trained by Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI).

After capturing Kabul in 1996, the Taliban used brutal tactics to restore order. They also offered protection to Osama bin Laden and his extremist al-Qaeda organization.

Today, those historic links between al-Qaeda, the Taliban and the ISI concern U.S. officials as they witness Pakistan’s worsening political instability and worry about the uncertain control over Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal.

Pakistan’s poisonous brew of Islamic radicalism, political unrest and nuclear weapons is arguably the most dangerous legacy from Ronald Reagan’s trade-offs with General Zia two decades earlier.

But did Reagan have any better options in the mid-1980s?

Reagan could have heeded initial strong reservations expressed by the Pentagon’s Joint Chiefs of Staff and withheld the Stingers from the mujaheddin in March 1986.

But if Reagan had gone down that road, and undermined Charlie Wilson’s plans, the Soviet Army probably would have prevailed in Afghanistan.

And General Zia surely would have pressed ahead with Pakistan’s nuclear weapons program anyway, though in the face of stronger U.S. efforts to thwart that program.

Fall of the Soviet Union

In terms or exploring alternative history, it is also worth asking in the light of the movie “Charlie Wilson’s War” whether the Soviet empire would have unraveled anyway regardless of Reagan’s decision in March 1986 to send Stingers to the mujaheddin.

There were, after all, other pressures on the Soviet Bloc, including growing internal demands for human rights, government failures to meet consumer needs, a widening gap with the West in technological innovation, and separatist sentiments among ethnic groups.

Then on April 26, 1986, only a month after Reagan had to make a decision concerning the Stinger missiles, the horrendous nuclear accident at Chernobyl traumatized the Soviet leadership.

This disaster encouraged Mikhail Gorbachev to reverse the policy against on-site nuclear inspections – a crucial shift concerning verification that enabled the Reagan administration to conclude nuclear arms reductions in Central Europe with Moscow.

And these arms-control negotiations, which prompted the departure of prominent neo-conservatives (Richard Perle and Frank Gaffney) from the Pentagon in 1987, insured a decline in East-West tensions.

That, in turn, encouraged popular unrest within the Soviet Bloc and the defection of Moscow’s Warsaw Pact allies within two years.

Nonetheless, speculation about alternative history has its limits.

As we have suggested, the fate of the Warsaw Pact and the Soviet Union hinged on many other factors. Plus, a confrontation between American and Islamic radicalism was probably inevitable given the Gulf War that drove Saddam from Kuwait in 1991 and left behind a permanent U.S. military presence in the region.

But there is no doubt that in the future the disposition of Pakistan’s nuclear devices could become extremely troublesome, especially since al-Qaeda is expanding its base of support in the mountainous northwest provinces of Pakistan and these terrorists may still have powerful friends within Pakistan’s intelligence services.

Unfortunately, the widely acclaimed movie, “Charlie Wilson’s War,” given its highly selective treatment of history is more likely to confuse than clarify how risky Reagan’s decisions with regard to Pakistan in the 1980s were to the long-term security of the United States.