Friday, March 30, 2007

The Presidency Has Become A Great Business Opportunity.

March 29, 2007

Re: The Presidency Has Become A Great Business Opportunity.

From: Dean Lawrence R. Velvel

Dear Colleagues:

There are those who question to a considerable extent
Why anyone would want to be President.
Questioners do not seem to understand
Fierce ambition to be first in the land;
They seem not to grasp
Why a pol seeks out what they think an asp.
They say that to run one must do the demeaning,
And must continuously reject
Truth, and even self respect.
They say from the job one gets no relief,
As critics blast one’s every belief,
While one’s every action and inaction
Is always reviled by some large fraction
Of Congress, press and electorate
As merely the expectable expectorate
Of a mind and heart lacking brains or empathy,
Of one whose evil deserves no sympathy,
Of one like, let us say, George Bush The Second.

The questioners just can’t grasp the desire,
In the pol’s greedy heart the fire
To be number one, to be the person who
Supposedly tells everyone else what to do.
To be number one among all in the land, and
Possibly even to live in history --
Not calculating it may largely be in ignominy,
Or that most will not be a Washington or Lincoln or even FDR,
But are more likely to find that their star
May sink to that of Buchanan or Hoover
Or at best will reach the mediocre,
Or if at first thought outstanding
Will in time find a lower landing,
As Ronald Raygun almost certainly will
When future historians consider his swill
Though he’s a hero today;
And that few are those who will rise in time
As have Eisenhower and HST
(Though Ike was bad on equality);
And that even fewer are those like Lincoln,
Who from boyhood had the overwhelming ambition,
Which he achieved because of war’s horrid friction,
To do something great for which he would be remembered,
Which he did by keeping the country from being dismembered
And announcing freedom on 22 September,
1862, acts for which he received history’s red hat.

But now there is an additional reason
Why pols avidly embrace the presidential season.
It’s no longer just the desire to be first,
Or to live forever in a great sunburst
Of historical fame.
No. Now its for gain,
For riches, for wealth, for dollars by the million
That the greedy dance at the presidential cotillion,
Since it has now become clear for all to see
That to be President is a business opportunity
Of terrific dimension.
You can’t cash in till your days in office are done.
But then! -- Can you count to a million?
Or three or four
Or 10, 20, 40 or more?
Oh how the cash will come flooding in.
The end will not be, as with Saddam, the wages of sin.
(Of course, he got cash before he cashed it in.)

Realistically it started with the sainted Raygun,
Who went to the land of the Shogun
To speak for a cool two mill in ’89
That’s a payday very fine
Even for the avatar and establisher of greed
(Coupled with screwing people in need).
Then we got the first George Bush,
Who’d been face down in the soup in the land of the Shogun,
And lost because he turned his own slogan
Into a lie by raising our tax
Instead of chopping it as by an ax.
He came back by speaking in China.
Then made a ton more -- we can’t even guess how much -- by fronting
For the Carlyle Group as it went globally hunting
For contacts and deals and lucre unimaginable
From Saudis and Asians and others damnable.
But the biggest of all is Billy Blow _ _ _ and his consort Hillary.
They’ve made amounts of money that boggle the mind.
You will find
It’s in the tens of millions.
And how much will it be after she
Is President, with the consort being he.
Let’s see: Another 50 mill would be a good guess.
Or 75 mill? -- I’ll settle on that. Yes,
That sounds like a good number to me.

Let’s see some of what they’ve managed so far.
They each got millions for their books --
A total of 10 mill? 15 mill? 20 mill? More?
Literarily the books may be trash, but cash is cash.
Billy Blow _ _ _ has gotten about 40 mill in lecture fees,
Of which he’s kept nine or ten mill,
While most of the rest goes to their two foundations apparently.
Big business pays him $150,000 per speech in the US of A.
But that’s peanuts next to what he gets when away
In a foreign land:
In Canada he got $475,000 for two talks and another $650,000 for some others,
In France Citigroup paid him $250,000 for just one,
In Saudi Arabia he got $600,000 for two,
And in Bogota he got a cool 800gs.
Oh how the money rolls in, rolls ins, oh how the money rolls in.
It adds up, you know.
Now scores of millions have been paid to Billy Blow _ _ _,
The defiler of the Oval Office,
Of the office where FDR and Truman did their work,
Now defiled by that sex mad jerk,
Not to mention his evil successor
Who elseways is much worse than his predecessor.

But let us not forget Hillary,
Who is running hard for the Presidency,
The job she wanted since she was what, twenty-three?
Or maybe thirty-three.
Anyway she has come to see
That it would be another great business opportunity
Were she to win the Presidency.
Books, speeches -- oh how the money will roll in when she’s done.
As for Bill, he will be the “First Gentleman,”
Though if there’s one thing he isn’t, it’s that.
No matter. Through him money will start show’ring them both
The second that Hillary takes the oath.
And mark well that the huge companies
That already are paying Bill huge fees
Also give fortunes to her campaign.
Goldman, Sachs has paid Bill $650,000 for four speeches, and the same
Bank’s employees and PAC have contributed $270,000 to Hillary.
Citigroup gave Bill $250,000 to speak in France
And $320,000 to her campaign to help it advance.
So never let it be said that business and pols are not allied
Or that we are democracy rather than a plutocracy
(Or even a kakistocracy).
No, we have now merged business and politics to such an extent
That no longer do bribes or graft represent
The only way pols make money.
No, now indeed the pot of honey
Can be bigger, better, far more lucrative,
And completely within the law,
If you take advantage of the heaven sent
Opportunity to be President.
It’s a great business for sure,
And for Reagans, Clintons and Bushes filled with allure.
So go Hillary: enable us to see
Just how rich you and Bill can be
From his and then your Presidency --
Literally a golden opportunity;
His and her presidencies (like towels) -- a new concept,
One fueled by the golden precept
That the Presidency is a great business.
As it is. As it is.

So to win the Presidency the pols rant and they rave
Attempting to catch popularity’s wave,
While Abraham Lincoln can but turn in his grave
That for this the nation he managed to save;
For this: to make the Presidency
A golden business opportunity
While leaders screw commoners in “the land of the free”
And are so much less than they ought to be.
For this the nation he managed to save?
Lincoln can only turn in his grave.
That this is “the land of the free and the home of the brave?”
Lincoln can only turn in his grave.*

*This posting represents the personal views of Lawrence R. Velvel. If you wish to comment on the post, on the general topic of the post, or on the comments of others, you can, if you wish, post your comment on my website, All comments, of course, represent the views of their writers, not the views of Lawrence R. Velvel or of the Massachusetts School of Law. If you wish your comment to remain private, you can email me at
VelvelOnNationalAffairs is now available as a podcast. To subscribe please visit, and click on the link on the top left corner of the page. The podcasts can also be found on iTunes or at

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Comments On "If You Want To Know Why We Keep Fighting Wars, Look No Further Than The South

From: rayilynlee
Sent: Sat 3/24/2007 2:31 PM
Subject: What I don't like about The South

Dean Velvel:

I was impressed by your article in Op-Ed about the influence of the South in pursuing wars. Even as a high school history teacher It had never really occurred to me before, but I think you have a valid point.

I have relatives in Missouri (where I was born, but grew up in California) who are bible-thumping war-mongers. Although I was born a Republican, I became a Democrat in 2000 at age 64 when Bush was elected. I protest the war as a Grandmother for Peace every other week on my wheelchair (I have Parkinson's disease), but my southern kin are still supporting this dangerous fool.

And to think I thought it was superior education and intelligence (MA in History - UCLA) that made me finally see the light, not geography!!

Rayilyn Brown
Surprise AZ (a really Red state, but changing)

From: Gary
Sent: Thu 3/22/2007 4:05 PM
Subject: Re: If You Want To Know Why We Keep Fighting Wars, Look No Further Than The S...

With all due respect, Dean Velvel, I think we have to look no further than the influence on foreign policy of the Military-Industrial Complex that President Eisenhower warned us about.

The attached Op-Ed, written by my wife, Myriam Miedzian, and I, makes the case.

Feel free to send it around if you think your readers might be interested in it.

Gary Ferdman

From: Anonymous
Sent: Thu 3/22/2007 4:35 PM
Subject: Re: If You Want To Know Why We Keep Fighting Wars, Look No Further Thank The South

Very interesting thoughts. I have often thought that if given the opportunity, the South would return to pre-1960. I look at what their values are and conclude that they are still as conservative and backward as they always were. Johnson said when he signed the Civil Rights bill that he knew the South would never vote Democratic again. It hasn't. It seems to say that they still have no regard for Civil rights.

From: Tom Voelker
Sent: Thu 3/22/2007 5:15 PM
Subject: Re: If You Want To Know Why We Keep Fighting Wars, Look No Further Than The South

Velvel, I am a white southerner. Living in New Jersey.

I'm a piss-poor southerner, whose great-grand-something or other uncle died at Shiloh. Yes, he did, and I do know that for a fact.

I grew up in New Orleans. In Gentilly. You can't picture it.

(Life is very peaceful in Gentilly.--Walker Percy, right but wrong as in so many ways)

Early on, growing up with a woman who loved me in spite of myself. The laundry waved like love in the breeze. The mockingbirds soothed us, Beulah and me, black and white. There you go.

When I was 12 in that peaceful place, a neighbor boy was murdered. His name was Rhett, of all things. Murdered for being an asshole, which he was.

A killing we could all accept.

What can I say to your charge of contempt?

I remember my mother pulling me away from a water fountain labeled "Colored".

I remember a gas station that had three bathrooms: Men, Women and Colored.

I remember bars and restaurants with windows for Coloreds to walk up and pay their money and get their po-boys and go away.

I remember Nigger Heaven, the upper balconies of movie houses.

I remember the backs of the buses, and I remember when blacks started moving the For Colored Patrons Only signs up to the front seats. We whites would bunch in front of those signs, leaving one or two blacks sprawled across most of the bus. It was funny, even then.

All that. And not so long ago, as I remember.

It never made sense to me.

I remember Kennedy talking straight to us southerners about what was right and what was wrong, as no president has since. At that moment, when I was 15 or so, I knew the south was all wrong. I've never seen it without its ugly stinking boils since.

(I also remember my home room teacher telling us, on the first day of school after Kennedy was killed, that it was all Bobby's fault for stirring up the Coloreds.)

When I was in the Air Force, in say 1967, the first time I left the south, guys from Kansas and Chicago and such like places would say, " You southerners, you know how to deal with your niggers." They thought they were safe in revealing themselves. I thought of the lynchings and murders and knew what they meant.

Back in Louisiana, as recently as 1997, you only had to say the word to set the bastards raving.

None of which addresses your point.

Yes, we southerners love war. I've known few, black or white, who didn't. We want to kill and even to be killed. The romance of Robert E. Lee, after all, stands against that of Stonewall Jackson. Martyrs, all, we see ourselves. At least in myth.

When I was 34, I visited an inn. In Connecticut. In the library, there was a portrait of the madman Sherman, with a caption. It went on about how Sherman and his little band of heroes all outnumbered valiantly fought their way through ugly hostile Georgia. Not the history I thought I knew. But then, I never knew.

As long as there's a south, there will be war. We can't get over it. Maybe that's why I'm in Bayonne (hardly a peaceful place).

From: Anonymous
Sent: Thu 3/22/2007 5:23 PM
Subject: Re: If You Want To Know Why We Keep Fighting Wars, Look No Further Than The South

Just as soon you didn't print this one because I only have casual observation to go by but part of the problem in the South could be the women. I saw a hot babe on TV that said "this is NASCAR country, we race cars and fight wars, and if you don't like it then you ain't American." I've seen upper class women behind the security of privacy fences get into knock down drag out hair pulling fist fights and damn near drown each other in the pool before the guys would stop laughing long enough to pull them out and save them from each other. I've been in a restaurant and had my date (a very attractive woman) throw over the entire table and all it's freshly laid plates of food when some woman she hated walked in the door. Since I was raised to be a "gentleman" I walked over to the owner and pulled out my wallet and said, "how much do you need to clean up this mess and not call the cops?" I went home alone.
Alone in the South.

From: Charles/Claudine Grady
Sent: Tue 3/27/2007 6:55 PM
Subject: The Militant South

Dear Prof. Velvel: I enjoyed reading your column about The South in the recent Harvard Sq. Commentary. I think you are correct in your belief that the region is inordinately conservative and war-loving. (My own grandfather, I must confess, was a private soldier from rural Virginia in Lee's Army of Northern Virginia.)
A fine study of this phenomenon is by the historian John Hope Franklin, with whom I studied years ago at the University of Chicago. His book, "The Militant South," (Beacon Press) traces this southern mind-set to the cavalier tradition of Virginia and the other southern states. The planters cultivated a self-image of a gentleman-aristocracy, and their ideals trickled down to small landowners and backwoods farmers. The Code Duello was an important ingredient in the mix, with an emphasis on personal honor. The tradition of the duel persisted in the South long after it died out elsewhere. Franklin also points to a sentimentality and a romanticism enshrined in such fictions as the Walter Scott novels, with an exaggerated regard for "chivalry" and the exercise of the "manly arts"---riding, shooting, hunting, gambling, racing.
The U.S. as a whole, I believe, is addicted to the Greek "agon," in which we mystically relate to a struggle between good and evil in sports, politics, drama, popular literature, and so on. We are not a Christian nation at all; we are a Manichaean one. Someone recently described George Bush as "a Manichaean schizophrenic. ---Charles Grady (A retired Unitarian Universalist minister.)

Birmingham And Baghdad; The South In 1963 And The United States in 2007; African Americans And Iraqis.

March 27, 2007

Re: Birmingham And Baghdad; The South In 1963
And The United States in 2007; African Americans And Iraqis.

From: Dean Lawrence R. Velvel

Dear Colleagues:

I shall once again quote a long passage from The Race Beat, by Gene Roberts and Hank Klibanoff. This time the quote is of a quote that they quoted. It is a column written by Gene Patterson, then the Editor of the Atlanta Constitution, after four little girls were killed in the bombing of a Birmingham church in mid September, 1963. The bombing occurred in the midst of a long run of violence by white Southerners. The violence occurred in good part because the “respectable” people of the South let it happen -- and at times encouraged it, either tacitly or more openly.

Patterson’s column was so powerful and moving that, after it was published, an Atlanta CBS station filmed him reading it and used the whole piece. Walter Cronkite likewise ran the whole piece on national television on CBS. Patterson, who normally would get no more than 20 letters about a column, received 1,200 about this one.

My purpose in “running” Patterson’s nearly 44 year old column is this: If you substitute the words “United States” for the word “South,” the word “American” for the word “Southerner,” the name “Iraq” for the name “Birmingham,” and make some other necessary verbal substitutions, and if you remember that Howard Zinn has very rightly called our leaders thugs in suits -- I would place the emphasis on the word “thugs” and would include lots of Senators and Representatives -- then what Patterson wrote is in many unfortunate respects as applicable to the entire United States today as it was to the South in 1963.

Here is what Patterson wrote:

“A Negro mother wept in the street Sunday morning in front of a Baptist Church in Birmingham. In her hand she held a shoe, one shoe, from the foot of her dead child. We hold that shoe with her.

Every one of us in the white South holds that small shoe in his hand.

It is too late to blame the sick criminals who handled the dynamite. The FBI and the police can deal with that kind. The charge against them is simple. They killed four children.
Only we can trace the truth, Southerner -- you and I. We broke those children’s bodies.

We watched the stage set without staying it. We listened to the prologue unbestirred. We saw the curtain opening with disinterest. We have heard the play.

We -- who go on electing politicians who heat the kettles of hate.

We -- who raise no hand to silence the mean and little men who have their nigger jokes.

We -- who stand aside in imagined rectitude and let the mad dogs that run in every society slide their leashes from our hand, and spring.

We -- the heirs of a proud South, who protest its worth and demand it recognition -- we are the ones who have ducked the difficult, skirted the uncomfortable, caviled at the challenge, resented the necessary, rationalized the unacceptable, and created the day surely when these children would die.

This is no time to load our anguish onto the murderous scapegoat who set the cap in dynamite of our own manufacture.

He didn’t know any better.

Somewhere in the dim and fevered recess of an evil mind he feels right now that he has been a hero. He is only guilty of murder. He thinks he has pleased us.

We of the white South who know better are the ones who must take a harsher judgment.

We, who know better, created a climate for child-killing by those who don’t.

We hold that shoe in our hand, Southerner. We hold that shoe in our hand, Southerner. Let us see it straight, and look at the blood on it. Let us compare it with the unworthy speeches of Southern public men who have traduced the Negro; match it with the spectacle of shrilling children whose parents and teachers turned them free to spit epithets at small huddles of Negro school children for a week before this Sunday in Birmingham; hold up the shoe and look beyond it to the state house in Montgomery where the official attitudes of Alabama have been spoken in heat and anger.

Let us not lay the blame on some brutal fool who didn’t know any better.

We know better. We created the day. We bear the judgment. May God have mercy on the poor South that has so been led. May what has happened hasten the day when the good South, which does live and has great being, will rise to this challenge of racial understanding and common humanity, and in the full power of its unasserted courage, assert itself.

The Sunday school play at Birmingham is ended. With a weeping Negro mother, we stand in the bitter smoke and hold a shoe. If our South is ever to be what we wish it to be, we will plant a flower of nobler resolve for the South now upon these four small graves that we dug.*

*This posting represents the personal views of Lawrence R. Velvel. If you wish to comment on the post, on the general topic of the post, or on the comments of others, you can, if you wish, post your comment on my website, All comments, of course, represent the views of their writers, not the views of Lawrence R. Velvel or of the Massachusetts School of Law. If you wish your comment to remain private, you can email me at

VelvelOnNationalAffairs is now available as a podcast. To subscribe please visit, and click on the link on the top left corner of the page. The podcasts can also be found on iTunes or at

Friday, March 23, 2007

Comment on "If You Want To Know Why We Keep Fighting Wars, Look No Further Than The South"

From: Sherwood Ross
Sent: Thu 3/22/2007 10:38 PM
Subject: Comments from Sherwood on your essay: PS. Think you might expand it into a magazine article for The Atlantic or Harper's.

When the Solid South was ruled by Dixiecrats, Senators like Richard Russell of Georgia rose to hold unprecedented power on Congressional military affairs committees. They erected every sort of military installation and defense plant they could to invigorate the South's depressed economy. That economy was hurting, of course, because the majority whites refused to allow Negroes to be educated and hold decent jobs, thus depressing purchasing power and slowing commerce for all citizens, black and white. It was also depressed because northern businesses didn't want to invest in an area rife with racial tension. The military bases fueled the superpatriotism of the region, and made area residents dependent upon them for economic sustenance. While the Blue States, such as California and Massachusetts, acquired a reputation for their heavy concentration of universities and colleges, the Southern States became notorious for military-industrial activity. Southern States lag in most every yardstick of education, such as teacher pay. Boston is an anti-war city in good measure because of its concentration of universities. You can't allege that about Jackson, Miss., or Birmingham, Ala. What the South needs is an infusion of educational smarts that will dilute its mindless superpatriotism. That's a long-term "solution," if solution it be, but belligerent societies change slowly unless punished terribly in a war of their own making, as Japan and Germany were punished during WWII. Those two nations, literally, were transformed overnight. For all its professed Christianity, the South today still has not adopted the philosophy of the Sermon on The Mount in its world outlook. It is insufficient, though, to condemn southerners out of hand, as there are millions of them who oppose the Iraq War and would prefer to see their tax dollars spent to benefit their communities, just as there were millions of white Southerners during the era of segregation who opposed the practice. The unfinished task that Reconstruction did not complete is to enlighten those Southerners derisively regarded as "rednecks" and "woolheads" and "poor white trash" who lack the education to see through the actions of a government that lies to them and whose economic opportunities are so scant as to make them grateful for the opportunity to work in the nuclear bomb plants of Texas and the naval shipyards of Mississippi. Just as millions of Southerners have come to see the wisdom of providing equal opportunities for African-Americans, I believe Southerners who unthinkingly walk the road to war can be turned in the direction of peace.

Sherwood Ross
Miami, Florida

Thursday, March 22, 2007

If You Want To Know Why We Keep Fighting Wars, Look No Further Than The South.

March 22, 2007

Re: If You Want To Know Why We Keep Fighting
Wars, Look No Further Than The South.

From: Dean Lawrence R. Velvel

Dear Colleagues:

One who often reads American history can hardly avoid being constantly reminded why the historical South deserves contempt, if not sheer anger. Southerners of today dislike hearing this. They point out such truths as that the South has undergone much change; not everyone there is a yahoo; it has millions of intelligent citizens of good will; politeness and courtesy are valued there, as one wishes (forlornly) that they were valued elsewhere. Yet one is always reading -- ineluctably -- of a history so horrible that the mind boggles that this could have been America. As bad as the North was, it was nothing as compared to what went on for hundreds of years in the region that the supposedly sainted Robert E. Lee fought for -- what horrifically went on, indeed, for 100 years after he fought for it.

The latest book I’ve read that brings up this appalling history is one I’m currently in the midst of. It is “The Race Beat,” by Gene Roberts and Hank Klibanoff. The authors are not exactly chopped liver; they are eminent in their field. Roberts, among other things, was the Executive Editor of The Philadelphia Inquirer for an 18 year period in which, on his watch, it won 17 Pulitzers. He subsequently was managing editor of The New York Times. Klibanoff is the managing editor for news at The Atlanta Constitution. Their book is a fascinating history of the press coverage of the Civil Rights movement. I’m almost half way through it, and the portion I’ve read often describes, of necessity, horrid things that were daily fare in the South. The worst are the murders and lynchings -- themselves nearly daily fare in the South. With apologies to the authors for lengthy quotes describing two of the worst of these events in order to give the reader a sense of what was going on in the South, here are descriptions of the lynching of Claude Neal and the never to be forgotten murder of Emmett Till:

“In the same way that Emmett Till would become the most defining event in the childhood lives of Negro children in Mississippi, the terrifying story of Claude Neal had made an indelible impression on the lives of Negro residents in north and central Florida. Newson [an African American reporter] had been seven years old in 1934 when Claude Neal was tortured and lynched in Marianna, a north Florida town not far from Alabama and Georgia. Neal, who was accused of having killed a white woman, was scalded repeatedly with a hot iron, castrated, and dragged through the streets before being stretched and displayed in a tree. This had not been an impulse lynching; newspaper and radio stories had given advance notice of it. As Neal was being hauled by a mob from an Alabama jail to Marianna, a crowd estimated at about four thousand had time to get to the scene. By some accounts, he was forced to eat his own genitals, and his finger and toes were put on display in the town. It was a story that haunted the Negroes of north and central Florida for decades .” P. 95.

“On August 31, three days after Till was reported abducted, his tortured, bloated, and decomposed body floated partially to the surface of the Tallahatchie River. It was a ghastly sight, made all the more horrible because Till’s neck was wrapped in barbed wire attached at the other end to a cotton gin fan that weighed twice its seventy pounds because of the mud on it. The left side of the boy’s head was beaten in and “cut up pretty badly, like an axe was used,” the sheriff said. One eyeball was dangling from its socket; his tongue extended from his mouth, swollen to eight times its normal size. Behind his left ear was a bullet hole. Around one of his fingers was an oversized ring that his mother had finally agreed he could wear with a little tape to help it fit. The ring was engraved “LT,” the initials of his dead father, Louis Till.” P. 87.

“At the Illinois Central station, accompanied by Simeon Booker, other reporters and photographers for the Negro press, and scores of mourners, Mrs. Mamie Bradley [Till’s mother] waited for the pine box to arrive. Booker later wrote that when the box was handed down and opened for her to see, some of the young boy’s skull fell off and some of his brains fell out.” P. 88.

Till’s murderers were acquitted by a Mississippi jury in one hour and seven minutes. It was these kinds of things, it was the denial of almost all human decency in almost every way to almost all African Americans in the South, it was howling white mobs screaming at African American children, it was this kind of South, and Southern violence, that those of my generation in the North grew up learning about, reading about, seeing on television. And a good thing too, or it would never have changed.

But, in reality, perhaps the question is whether it all has changed. Let us put race aside, notwithstanding what appears to be in the heart of big league Southern leaders like Trent Lott, who wishes the country had followed Strom Thurmond. Let us confine ourselves to a single issue relating to violence; let us confine ourselves to regularly favoring the use of military force. Or, to put it more bluntly, regularly favoring starting and continuing wars.

The most famous Southern writer, Faulkner, said the past is not dead, it is not even past. This would seem true of the Southern attitude towards war. War has regularly been a Southern policy of choice -- not excluding the Civil War. The South wanted the War of 1812, it wanted war with Mexico, it wanted the Civil War, it wanted to invade and take over Cuba and parts of Central America. Woodrow Wilson, a Southerner, got us into World War I after saying he kept us out of war. Even Harry Truman, who took us into Korea without Congressional authorization and thereby set the stage for a militarized nation and Viet Nam, was in effect a southerner -- Missouri was a rebel leaning border state with lots of Southern feeling (and guerrillas) where Truman grew up not long after the Civil War. Lyndon Johnson was a Southerner, and so was Dean Rusk. So is the current George Bush.

It’s not that no northerners ever got us into (and kept us in) war: there were FDR and the first George Bush, after all. (The first Bush was really a Northerner even if he eventually repaired to Texas). But the fact is that Southerners have been prominent in seeking wars throughout American history. The South became militaristic at least as early as the 1830s or so if not before -- it started creating military academies to train men against the day it might be necessary to fight the North, and it never gave up its violent, militaristic attitudes. Faulkner’s point that the past is not even past would seem especially true with regard to the South’s love for war. Another way to say the same thing, a way I just heard a few days ago, is that Southerners just don’t care enough about their kids. (Which reminds me of the German nobleman type who said in the 1930s that he would give one of his sons to defeat England.)

Consider, most recently, the Congressional vote for war with Iraq in 2002, and the 50 to 48 Senate vote last week against pulling out most troops by 2008, a pullout that would have had to begin within four months.

When it came to the initial resolution authorizing the war in October 2002, the vote in the Senate was 77 for, 23 against. 23 of these yeas came from the Old Confederacy plus the three Southern Border States of Kentucky, Missouri, and Maryland, while only three of the nays came from these. (Two of the three nays came from the border state of Maryland, so that there was only one nay from all 11 states of the Old Confederacy.) In the House there were 296 for and 133 against. 122 of the yeas and only 24 nays came from the Old Confederacy plus the border three. So, what is obvious is that the vote for war was overwhelming from the Old Confederacy plus the border three, with Senators and Congressmen from the rest of the country being much more divided.

Or to look at the recent 50 to 48 Senate vote against ending the war, only seven Senators from the Old Confederacy or the border three voted to end the war, while 19 voted against ending it.

These figures illustrate what has long been obvious to anyone who has studied or considered the history of the matter: they show that the South is far more inclined towards war than the rest of the nation. Naturally, there will be some objections to this view. It will be said, for instance, that the recent figures are what they are because the South is overwhelmingly Republican, this is Bush’s war, and his party members are supporting him. Well, not all party members supported him in the relevant votes. A few did not, just as some Democrats voted for war in 2002. But, far more importantly, to be in favor of war is the position of people who are conservative to reactionary (as well as some moderates). Southerners are Republicans because they are conservative to reactionary. They are not conservative to reactionary because they are Republicans. (Think of this idea as being something like Plato’s question of whether something is good because the Gods love it, or whether the Gods love it because it is good.) The South has been a conservative to reactionary stronghold (now called a red state stronghold) for at least 175 to 180 years, and that is why it is Republican today. So people who say southern support for this war is a party matter fail to reckon with the long history of conservative to reactionary, and militaristic, thinking. If the South weren’t that way it wouldn’t be Republican today and wouldn’t be supporting the war so overwhelmingly.

Then it may also be objected that the foregoing Southern votes in Congress aren’t responsible for the war, since there were plenty of non Southern votes to authorize the war. That, of course, is true. Yet is makes a considerable practical difference, when it comes to war or any other policy, if you start with a large, diehard committed bloc on your side, a bloc that will argue for you, work for you, and needs no convincing, but instead will push for you. The South is such a bloc when it comes to war. Beyond this, the Southern bloc did make a difference on the Senate vote to end the war. The resolutions would have had a majority of votes cast if you remove all the Southern votes pro and con, or even if you just split them evenly. It may not at this time have garnered the 60 needed to override a veto, but who knows what could have happened had it at least had a majority?

So we are faced with a militaristically inclined, pretty solid bloc of conservative to reactionary votes in the part of the country that has long been a one party section, for about 80 years a solidly Democratic section and now, for about 35 to 40 years or so, a solidly Republican section. The South can, through history in various fields (like civil rights) for many years did, and in future may again stall progress toward a better society. Its warlike proclivities may in themselves stall progress, because as was true in the times of Wilson, FDR and Johnson, war brings progress to an end, or at least severely limits it, because emotion and focus turn extensively to war instead of to progress. War, like death (spoken of by Oppenheimer at Trinity), is the destroyer of worlds.

The South’s tendency, even desire, for war is part of a broader problem that has been explained and discussed here at other times: the problem of the vastly disproportionate power the South has continually exercised over the political life of this country since 1789, with the sole exception of the period 1861-76. There is no easy way to solve this problem, with its militaristic component, but there is a way, one that would help make the country far more democratic than it is now.

One of the reasons for the South’s disproportionate power is the constitutionally mandated composition of the Senate, with two Senators from each state regardless of a state’s population. One really knows of no one who suggests changing this, and it is dubious that any change could be worked in less than 100 years. But another reason for the South’s political power is the winner take all system of single member districts in votes for Representatives, and the winner take all nature of state representation in the Electoral College. Neither the single member district system, nor the winner take all method used in such districts and in the Electoral College, are constitutionally mandated. In fact, to a minimal extent they either have not been or are not currently being used by a tiny number of states today. They can be changed to proportional systems of voting. The pros and cons of this have been discussed in other postings, and therefore will not be rehashed now. Suffice to say now that proportional systems of voting would mean that the votes of the millions of Southerners whose votes count for nothing now because they are totally nullified by majorities, would instead count for something. Southern progressives and liberals would be able to elect Congressmen and Congresswomen, and their votes would also count in the Electoral College. The South would no longer be a solidly conservative to reactionary bloc in national affairs. It would instead be reasonably divided, like the rest of the country is.

Of course, the use of systems of proportional representation would also mean that several states that are reliably Democratic (i.e., liberal or progressive) in elections for President or the House would elect a larger number of conservatives. For the conservative vote in those states would no longer be reliably cancelled out, reliably overridden and nullified, in such elections, just as the liberal vote would no longer be nullified, in such elections, just as the liberal vote would no longer be nullified in the South. So be it. Our major problem really is not, and as far as I know never has been, the existence of divided political power in the North. Rather, it has always been the presence of undivided political power in the South. The solid bloc South has already caused this country much disaster, including the Civil War which killed more Americans than any other war even though the country’s population was only 30 million at the time, not the approximately 140 million of World War II, or the approximately 180 to 200 million or so at the time of Viet Nam. Unless history proves to be no guide whatever -- which one would not think on the basis of Bush II’s Iraq war -- we’d better find some way of ending the solidly-conservative-to-reactionary-bloc- power of the South or it will cause us disaster again in the future. That is, as I say, unless history proves to be no guide at all. Does anyone wish to argue that history will be no guide because historical patterns do not repeat themselves? If so, they will find a lot of historians to argue with.*

 This posting represents the personal views of Lawrence R. Velvel. If you wish to comment on the post, on the general topic of the post, or on the comments of others, you can, if you wish, post your comment on my website, All comments, of course, represent the views of their writers, not the views of Lawrence R. Velvel or of the Massachusetts School of Law. If you wish your comment to remain private, you can email me at

VelvelOnNationalAffairs is now available as a podcast. To subscribe please visit, and click on the link on the top left corner of the page. The podcasts can also be found on iTunes or at


Friday, March 16, 2007

Why There Was No Indictment On The Underlying Crime Of Outing Valerie Plame

March 16, 2007

Re: Why There Was No Indictment On
The Underlying Crime Of Outing Valerie Plame.

From: Dean Lawrence R. Velvel

To many, the vict’ry of Fitzgerald
Will almost surely one day herald
Fordian fruit of Nixonian tree.
A pardon: I. Lewis will scoot scot free.
Happy will be his destiny
For lying in service of evil.

It is widely thought
His silence was bought
When Libby threatened that he
Would call the evil Cheney (a nasty and cowardly swine)
To testify on what went down
In meetings in airplanes and in town
To discredit Wilson for writing truth.
Libby has the goods on Cheney
And on (his fellow cowardly swine) Bush.
Their administration might collapse in a rush
If Cheney had had to testify,
Or if Scooter hadn’t protected their lie
By himself staying off the stand
And thereby avoiding cross exam.
And insuring the fall guy would to prison go.
But for a Fordian pardon as quid pro quo.

DCers say lying’s no big deal
If there’s not an underlying crime,
Or the lie is not material,
Or does not to a material issue relate.
These are views one should hate:
They treat truth as a dispensible commodity,
As subject to political (and legal) relativity.
With such views there should be no compromise.
Compromise would be unwise
Because it inevitably would lead to more and more lies.
Hiding behind claims of supposed noncriminality
And purported immateriality.

One has heard such claims about Scooter:
He was not charged with a substantive crime, it is claimed.
Therefore, it is said, he should not have been tried
Just because dirty tricks he would hide,
And, doing so, to a grand jury lied.
Fitzgerald, of course, would have none of this.
Stressing the need to learn what is true
About Plame’s criminal outing, he would pursue
Libby because truth is plangent;
Not to be elided by a D.C. tangent
That undermines democracy’s diapason.

Yet a question remains.
We were often assured the outing was a crime.
But there was no indictment along this line.
How did assured criminality
Escape scot free?
Where was truth’s avatar --
Was a charge simply a bridge too far?
What I mean is this:
Let us assume,
As I think all presume,
That outing a CIA agent is a crime (one Fitzgerald thought quite dangerous).
Then Libby and Cheney and Armitage --
An unholy triage --
All committed a crime, did they not?
Yet there was no indictment for the outing,
For an important law flouting.
How can this be?
Well there is a way, you see.
It’s one that sounds phony to me,
But here it is:
The President has a right to declassify.
He can do it on the spot -- and orally.
There need be no formality,
No papers, no findings, no reason of state, nothing.
He can do it with venality or mendacity.
He can do it in whole or partially,
So that only a sentence or a phrase is declassified.
While other parts which show he lied
Remain in utter secrecy.
Which is, it seems, what happened here.
Because truth was a thing they had to fear,
Bush orally ordered on the spot, partial declassification
To disclose classified information
That Plame worked for the CIA,
So that it would no longer be a crime
For Cheney, Libby (and others) to drop a dime
On Plame to reporters for the administration’s purposes
Of discrediting truth and shielding its own lies.

Could Fitzgerald, the avatar of truth,
Have agreed that the law allows this?
Have accepted such conduct horrendous?
Have accepted that the President, for selfish purposes,
Can legally declassify on the spot, orally, partially,
Selfishly, purely politically, without any formality?
The mind boggles at the thought
That this is what the law wrought.
I can’t believe for an instant
That this is what Congress for a moment meant.
Can it really be Fitzgerald does not agree,
And he instead thinks Congress
Permitted declassification done so evilly?
The mind reels at the thought
That he thinks Congress wrought
Such unmitigated evil.
Yet why else could there be no indictments here
For the underlying crime that we are told to fear:
The outing of those who are under cover,
The dangerous revelation causing
Usefulness, and maybe lives, to be over.
If there is some other reason
For no indictments on the underlying crime,
I’d sure as hell like to hear it --
To know the why.
As would the Congressional Committee before which
Fitzgerald refuses to testify.

Yet there is one group that will not pursue this question, this mess,
It’s the self anointed guardian of freedom, the press,
The press doesn’t care about
Partial, on the spot, oral, purely political
Declassification done informally.
All it cares about is getting a story.
And will fear that following
The law regarding declassification
Might make it a lot harder to get one.
As evidence, just think:
Dick and Scooter, lest they end up in the clink,
Would never have talked had Bush not acted
And from important classification subtracted
The name Plame.
The press prates of freedom and liberty
But doesn’t grasp that to continue free
It cannot allow the President to be
A king, who does whatever he wants,
Whenever he wants, to whomever he wants
Without being brought to book.
The press is mainly concerned, you see,
Strictly with its own popularity
(And often is guilty of stupidity),
And freedom, right and justice be damned.

As for truth’s self announced avatar
Indictment for underlying crime was a bridge too far,
Or so it seems.
For he would have had to indict Bush and Cheney.
Whereas any fool knows they are above the law --
Just ask John Yoo.*

*This posting represents the personal views of Lawrence R. Velvel. If you wish to comment on the post, on the general topic of the post, or on the comments of others, you can, if you wish, post your comment on my website, All comments, of course, represent the views of their writers, not the views of Lawrence R. Velvel or of the Massachusetts School of Law. If you wish your comment to remain private, you can email me at

VelvelOnNationalAffairs is now available as a podcast. To subscribe please visit, and click on the link on the top left corner of the page. The podcasts can also be found on iTunes or at

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Small Is All.

March 13, 2007

Re: Small Is All.

From: Dean Lawrence R. Velvel

A few days ago in this place,
Walter Reed was called but one in a line
Of long running, serial crime
That men who fought forever face;
Was explained as part of the human condition
That makes Bushes and Cheneys (bums) great,
While their betters by far suffer perdition.
But there also is another reason,
A truism existing in every season
Of the human experience.

The truth is: all of government
Is incompetent.
At every level.
This is a vast and sweeping statement,
Yet is vastly, sweepingly true, with exceptions few.
It’s just incompetent.
One does not know exactly why
(Though purported reasons abound).
It did not seem so when I
Lawyered for Justice in sixty-three, four and five.
But perhaps that judgment was naiveté,
Reflecting youth and the dominant sway
Of bright Harvard lawyers at the top --
I know the impression did not hold up
When six months were spent on the Hill
To get a different experience until
I left for Kansas to teach law
And there for the first time saw
True reactionaries in command,
Who thought Shelley’s lone and level sand
Should bury all New Deal works
Plus civil rights and other blights,
(Though they’d never heard of Shelley),
And thought as well that Viet Nam
Was freedom’s stopper, freedom’s dam
Against Godless Reds –
And better dead than Red.
For years those fools did not suspect
That their presidents’ war project
Was an example of incompetence,
Conceivably the first example of the incompetence
That would come to mark the remaining years
Of a century awash in tears
And biers
And dead;
But would be ignored, would be forgotten,
When Bush launched his misbegotten
Adventure in Iraq,
A nation now in wrack,
A condition which can be put down
To the mental weakness of an egotistical clown,
An evil man advised by evil men.
Will no one rid us of these people?

’Tween these two wars one has seen
That rarely has there ever been
Competence in government
Which is at every level rent
By stupidity
Often born of bureaucracy
(Though not of bureaucracy exclusively,
Because plain dumb sometimes has its role).
Yet, in a way, it’s a phenomenon odd:
Because most officials do not seem a clod
If you talk with them one on one:
Even if they’re not an intellectual sun,
Or the smartest star in the firmament,
Still, they seem passably cogent.
Perhaps -- or so it often seems to me --
The problem is the number three
That’s the most participants, you see,
Who can discuss and act with competency.
Two can even better be,
Though I think magic may lie in three,
Although conceivably you can go to four.
But once its five or dozens more
You are liable to face inadequacy
Born of numbers and size.
(Have you ever noticed a Presidential meeting?
There is a huge rectangular table seating
Perhaps eighteen or two dozen,
While surrounding chairs hold helpmates to cozen
The American public.
But never from these meetings huge
Come plans showing a deluge
Of intelligence,
Or smarts,
Or sense.
Rather from these meetings enormous
Comes the intelligence of a dormouse.
(Jesus H. Christ Almighty.))

In modern times, it’s no surprise,
We worship size. To be huge,
To bury others in a deluge,
Under an avalanche of power and spin,
Is thought the position to be in
In every walk of life.
An avalanche of propaganda and spin
In every walk of life:
The other side is not considered.
Contrary facts are not considered.
Thus good will isn’t merely frittered,
But one day is simply swept away,
As first some come to realize
And then more come to recognize,
And then nearly all
That what has descended upon us
Is fundamentally dishonest,
Is largely crap,
Is not an effort of the competent,
But propaganda of the malevolent,
Or the greedy,
Or both.
And certainly is not the careful consideration
Of one from whom competent ministration
Is expectable.

I’ve spoken of the phenomenon in government,
But it’s clear to one whose life was spent
In academe that there too it exists -- among the supposedly intelligent.
And in business it’s long been a curse
Everyday and also when
Companies merge -- and get worse,
So then have to demerge
While the bankers, executives and lawyers who propagandized this scourge
First get rich as pigs and then
Get rich as pigs yet again.
But then, that’s the point of the exercise,
Accomplished by flinging sand in our eyes
Once coming and once going.
They wouldn’t be peddling their load of baloney,
Let alone again and again,
If it didn’t lead to loads of money
To billions in dollars, euros, or yen.

Everywhere the curse is size.
It leads to dishonesty, to lies,
And consequent incompetence.
My philosophy is Brandeisian
Though he’s been dead almost seventy years,
While propaganda said the gigantic holds no fears --
While we’ve been trained to think in a way incorrect,
One we should instead seek to deflect,
Wherever we can, wherever we’re able,
In favor of smallness, which should be a grail
Against much that makes this society ail.
It won’t cure everything, and it can’t always be done.
But, whenever possible, two’s better than one,
And three better than two,
And twenty better than nineteen,
And 50 better than forty-nine
Notwithstanding the economists’ line
About alleged efficiency
Or a supposed need for size.
As a country it’s often (again) sand in our eyes.
To that which is small should go our thrall,
Especially when the web gives all
A chance in many fields to shine
Instead of being ciphers
Or jobless because of mergers.
If we continue worshipping at the shrine of big,
We can expect the same result as the pig
Fattened by industrial agriculture.
No good can come to a culture
Which worships the hugest vulture
On every island.
Small is better.
We should seek it.*

*This posting represents the personal views of Lawrence R. Velvel. If you wish to comment on the post, on the general topic of the post, or on the comments of others, you can, if you wish, post your comment on my website, All comments, of course, represent the views of their writers, not the views of Lawrence R. Velvel or of the Massachusetts School of Law. If you wish your comment to remain private, you can email me at

VelvelOnNationalAffairs is now available as a podcast. To subscribe please visit, and click on the link on the top left corner of the page. The podcasts can also be found on iTunes or at

Monday, March 12, 2007

Attached Article by A Lieutenant Colonel.

March 12, 2007

Re: Attached Article by A Lieutenant Colonel.

From: Dean Lawrence R. Velvel

Dear Colleagues:

I occasionally send articles which seem to have unusual merit. One such is appended. It is by a Lieutenant Colonel who spent time in Iraq.*

*This posting represents the personal views of Lawrence R. Velvel. If you wish to comment on the post, on the general topic of the post, or on the comments of others, you can, if you wish, post your comment on my website, All comments, of course, represent the views of their writers, not the views of Lawrence R. Velvel or of the Massachusetts School of Law. If you wish your comment to remain private, you can email me at

VelvelOnNationalAffairs is now available as a podcast. To subscribe please visit, and click on the link on the top left corner of the page. The podcasts can also be found on iTunes or at

February 2007 n ARMY 25
By Lt. Col.(P) Craig T.Trebilcock
U.S. Army Reserve

Over the past several months, the Bush administration has sought answers to why the greatest military force in history is unable to impose a politically acceptable finale to the Iraq War. There is an unspoken sense of shock that an underdeveloped nation, with an irregular insurgency, can absorb U.S. personnel and materiel resources at an insatiable pace yet continue to spiral into chaos. The resignation of Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, the conclusions of the Iraq Study Group and the increasing tendency of the neoconservatives to distance themselves from the administration’s Iraq policies, all speak to a growing objective realization that our tactics of the past four years are not accomplishing the mission to attain political stability.

There is bipartisan and military recognition that the security atmosphere in Iraq is degrading. Insurgent and criminal violence is on the increase. And yet, continuing the same policies of the past four years, except with a larger force package (a “surge,” as it is popularly described), is the primary
course of action being floated by the civilian leadership. Clinging to the belief that more military force is the answer to Iraq’s internal political struggles, despite four years of that policy gradually failing, reveals a fundamental weakness in this administration’s understanding of Iraqi political and cultural priorities.

The wrong questions are being asked in the administration as to how to bring stability to Iraq, and accordingly, the answers to those wrong questions will not positively influence the political outcome in Iraq. The policy question is most frequently posed as: “How can we use our military to stop the increasing sectarian violence?” Under that narrow view, the logical answer is to increase the amount of kinetic force one can apply against the enemy in the increasingly unstable areas.

When the question is “How can we attain the strategic goal of political stability in Iraq?” a broader set of answers is required. Many of these answers are not politically palatable
to the civilian leadership; thus the default unwisely returns to the U.S. military to fix an internal Iraqi cultural and political problem. The answer to the riddle begins with a political change of course from Washington, D.C., not a military buildup in Iraq.

As I worked with the Iraqis from the street to the ministerial level, seven lessons (or pillars) of Iraqi culture, which daily affect our reconstruction and stability operations, became clear. In order to have a chance for success, future U.S. policies and tactics cannot be based simply on more military force, but must incorporate the following seven

1—Iraqi society is based upon a strict patriarchal hierarchy under which a sheikh has absolute power over his tribe. The concept of civil government centralized at the provincial and national level is still relatively new (only a few decades old) to the Iraqis, whose social structure remains tribal. As such, the Western concept of democracy and the value of sharing power is an alien concept within their society. It is only important to Iraqi officials while the U.S. officials coordinating reconstruction efforts are in the room dispensing benefits.

2—The primary concern of Iraqi officials is not democracy or the political evolution of a successful Iraqi nationstate. It is the use of their position in government to gain personal wealth, as well as benefits for their extended family, tribe or sect. This observation is not a character attack, but merely reflects the reality that in a Bedouin society, where the foundational social unit is the tribe, one’s primary loyalty and goals run to that tribe. Saddam’s government was packed with his family and tribal members because they were loyal and because it was expected of him, within the culture, to bring benefits to his tribe by virtue of his prominence. Other Iraqi officials are no different in this regard; it is their cultural norm for the political leader to work in his self-interest and for that of his tribe.

3—If Iraqis do not value something, they will not fight for it. This is one reason why the Iraqi army made such poor showings in the Gulf War and in Operation Iraqi Freedom-1 (OIF-1). They melted away because they were being asked to fight for something in which they did not believe. Yet these same Iraqis are tenaciously fighting the world’s predominant military power tooth and nail in their tribal areas and in their cities. What’s the difference? The insurgents are now fighting for something they believe
in—expelling foreign troops and sectarian enemies from the tribal areas and cities that they hold dear.

4—In a society that is evolving from a difficult Bedouin desert existence, where water and other base staples of life have historically been in short supply, the Iraqis have learned that the group that controls the resources of the province or nation lives; he who does not dies. Sharing of resources or power with competing groups outside one’s own tribe is an unfamiliar and foreign concept.

5—Individually, Iraqis are a warm and generous people. As the size of their group grows, however, whether as a family unit, tribe or an entire sect, their generosity to those not within their social circle wanes. The historic sense that one only takes care of his own—borne of their harsh desert life—minimizes their collective willingness to compromise or share resources or power. The lessons they have learned through centuries of desert survival is that only the strong get the resources and survive. As such, armed struggle for power, not compromise and democratic-style debate, is the norm.

6—Trading and bartering for personal or tribal gain is part of the Iraqi/Bedouin culture. Self-sacrifice for the general welfare is not. Accordingly, our frustration with “Why don’t the Iraqis just try to get along for their mutual benefit?” is a Western, culturally based value judgment being applied to an Oriental society for whom violent conflict to gain advantage is the norm. If the current Sunni insurgency is to be stopped, therefore, we must demonstrate to the Iraqi insurgents that the personal benefits of a peace with the Shiites clearly outweighs the possible gain by continuing to fight for dominance. Increased U.S. military operations will inflame this struggle for political dominance, not diminish it.

7—Iraqis do not share Western concepts on the use, passage or value of time. They sincerely believe that if a matter is truly important, Allah will control the outcome, and the personal efforts of individuals are merely tangential to that outcome. This is a source of frustration for U.S. servicemembers who have served in Iraq and seen an apparent lack of resolve, follow-through or reliability from his Iraqi counterpart. The concept of inshallah—”God willing” or “only if God wills it, will it happen”— overshadows all aspects of Iraqi life, including reconstruction and political evolution. As such, the political resolution, if any, in Iraq will be achieved according to the glacial pace of Iraqi society, not based on a U.S. timetable. It is critical to recognize this concept if we wish to set realistic timetables for the continued presence and relevance of U.S. troops in Iraq.

Under these seven pillars, relying upon foreign military forces to impose a lasting political solution upon the Iraqis will not work. In truth, the military victory was won in 2003. It is the peace and the postconflict stability that is being lost daily by our civilian leaders’ attempts to use the wrong tool (military force) to change Iraqi cultural values. Lack of political agility or introspection by U.S. civilian leadership is bringing us back to the brink of losing Iraq politically.

The perpetual weakness of Iraqi security forces is pointed to as a justification for continued and increased U.S. troop involvement. When we consider the first three
pillars, however, it becomes apparent that the ongoing weakness of the Iraqi security forces (police and military) and their lack of reliability (in our eyes) are normal under
the political circumstances we have imposed on the Iraqi people. As the concept of democracy does not have significant value in Iraqi culture, the people’s willingness to fight and die for its success is virtually nonexistent. Instead, consistent with their cultural expectations, Iraqis will tend to use their official or security positions to gain personal and family advantage, even if “Rome” burns about them. The daily involvement of corrupt Iraqi police in kidnappings and extortion reflects this. Accordingly, the Iraqi troops we are training now will be enthusiastic to the extent they are being fed and clothed, as opposed to joining the 80 percent unemployment rate among young men in Iraq. It is naïve, however, to believe their willingness to serve is to preserve democracy or the U.S.-backed central government.

We can provide all the military training possible, but only the Iraqis themselves can provide the necessary will to rid their country of foreign fighters and internal insurgents.
Whether enthusiasm for food and a paycheck is a strong enough motivation for the fledgling Iraqi security forces to stand toe-to-toe with a zealous enemy motivated by principle remains to be seen. Our current policies appear to be placing all of our chips on this hope.

Iraqi troops fought for Saddam, albeit ineffectively, as death was the consequence for failing to do so. Under U.S. tutelage that is no longer the case in the Iraqi Army. The
now forgotten Iraqi Freedom Forces of OIF-1 present an embarrassing example of the limits to training Iraqis to accomplish U.S. goals. Rather than mimicking the Free French
of World War II, many of the U.S.-trained Iraqi Freedom Forces used their station to extort their fellow Iraqi citizens for money. They were quietly disbanded as a failed experiment when they did not prove to be liberty-loving patriots, but used their positions for personal advantage.

This history does not mean that Iraqis are not capable of securing Iraq in the long term. It does mean that it has to be done by Iraqis, on Iraqi terms and over values for which they are willing to fight. Self-preservation may be one of those values—democracy is not. Promoting the integrity and power of their respective tribes within a new Iraq is definitely such a cultural value. U.S. policies built on the premise that Iraqi officials and security forces will rally to Western political values if only we “stick it out a while
longer” are naïve in the extreme and underlie our repeated shortcomings in trying to reconstruct Iraq.

It is against these seven cultural pillars that one can now evaluate the strategic merit of administration policies that rely on U.S. military forces to fight their way to a political resolution. Apparently, the logic runs that the Iraqi forces are not ready yet, but that with a few more months and some additional tens of thousands of U.S. troops all can yet be solved militarily—either by defeating the insurgents through the force of U.S. arms or by buying enough time for a meaningful Iraqi security force to stand up. This supposition,
ignoring the seventh pillar, is based on hope, rather than cultural reality, as a cause of action. The policies to perpetuate and increase U.S. military involvement are underpinned with challenging phrases like “cut and run” and “not engaging in defeatism” to quiet critics, but are short on realism or appreciation of Iraqi culture.

The proposed surge also ignores the lessons of the past four years regarding the limits of what a PFC with an M16 really can and cannot accomplish on a street corner in Baghdad.
The U.S. soldier or marine can secure his street corner, but he cannot make the Iraqis who walk past him care about their government. He can engage insurgents or criminals
with effective firepower, but he cannot make the Iraqis willing to risk disclosing the locations of known insurgent cells when they do not believe in the U.S. mission. He cannot cause the Iraqis to forget hundreds of years of cultural hatred in order to accept that peace with one’s enemy is better than watching him die. Each of these goals is a necessary component for political stability in Iraq and must come from
within, not from additional U.S. combat brigades.

And so, while there is not a square inch of Iraq that we cannot occupy and control at any time of our choosing, that fact is largely irrelevant for the long-term stability of a country that requires a political solution, not a military one. It is not the insurgency, with its roadside bombs, or criminals engaging in mass kidnappings that are defeating the U.S. mission. It is the fact that our civilian leadership has cast victory in Iraq as a stable, democratic government. Building the parameters for mission success upon values and goals that the Iraqis themselves do not care for is potentially leading us toward a political defeat, despite our strength of arms. Accordingly, the disconnect between a nondemocratic Iraqi culture and U.S. political goals will not be settled by sending more troops.

We have been squeezing the balloon with anti-insurgent operations for four years, clamping down on one area only to watch it bulge elsewhere. Today’s theory is that enough kinetic force exerted upon Baghdad and Al Anbar province will win the day or buy enough time for the Iraqis to “stabilize” and provide their own security. The fact that it has been tried before in Fallujah, Najaf and a variety of other Sunni Triangle hot spots, without resolving the long-term political problems, is not deterring the administration’s planners. This deadly game of “catch the insurgent,” which the U.S. military is playing, will continue indefinitely until it is the Iraqis who are controlling their own streets and until the Iraqis have determined that they no longer wish to fight, based upon values important to their culture. There will be much more sectarian bloodshed before this happens— a hard fact the politicians do not want to recognize. Before stability can be restored it may require engaging our strategic enemies in discussions and deal making—another hard fact the administration does not want to recognize. It may even require partitioning the country into autonomous regions, a solution fraught with complexities that the administration will not even discuss in its rush to pump more combat troops into the mix.

There is no easy solution in Iraq, but the discourse in Washington that considers no diplomatic or political avenues to resolve a political problem stands an excellent chance of seizing strategic political defeat from the jaws of our 2003 battlefield victory. Clausewitz stated that “war is the continuation of politics by other means.” Current U.S.
civilian policymakers have morphed this into: “War is the only policy for political means in Iraq.” This short-sighted view is the most likely to lead to the very political defeat
the administration fears.

My knowledge of Iraqi culture and politics is not based upon Green Zone PowerPoint briefings or intelligence reports prepared by State Department or CIA staffers. It was
gained working in the field with—and sometimes against—the Iraqis. Some of the seven pillars I have learned are not comfortable to accept, and ignoring them is tempting. Unless those who have served outside the Green Zone in Iraq relate their knowledge and experience, without regard to backlash or stepping on toes, the next four years will make the past four years seem like “the good old days.” The one conclusion coming out of Washington that is directly on point comes from Recommendation 41 of the Iraq Study Group Report:

The United States must make it clear to the Iraqi government
that the United States could carry out its plans, including
planned redeployments, even if Iraq does not implement its
planned changes. America’s other security needs and the future
of our military cannot be made hostage to the actions or
inactions of the Iraqi government.

This brief paragraph succinctly captures the most important lesson I learned in Iraq. Our continued—and proposed expanded—military presence in Iraq, in a backwards and unintended fashion, enables the violent status quo to be perpetuated, rather than fixing it. Our troops, while battling a largely Sunni-dominated insurgency, are the insurance policy for those same Sunnis that the Shiites, with their three-to-one population advantage will not simply wipe the Sunnis from the map. Our continued presence provides a rallying cry and excuse for a violent insurgency killing its own people, which can be wrapped up in an attractive “defeat the American occupiers” wrapper. Our continued presence is also the insurance policy for the lives of the Iraqi government bureaucrats who have sided with the Coalition. Despite their public pronouncements to their people and to the United States that they wish to have U.S. forces depart, these Iraqi officials have little desire to see the American military disappearing over the horizon, leaving them alone with a weak government, an uncertain military and a combative civil population. In short, while our
continued (or the proposed expanded) presence has outlived its usefulness and benefits both the insurgency and the weak Iraqi government, it does little to promote the
long-term political stability in Iraq that is in our national interest.

In light of the seven pillars, if one ties the duration or size of the U.S. military presence to political progress by the Iraqi government, one better strap in for a mission of indefinite duration and perpetual sectarian violence. Conversely, if one wishes to jump-start Iraqi political progress, reducing the presence of U.S. troops or their active involvement in combat operations (accepting that this will lead to greater sectarian bloodshed in the short run) creates a possible incentive for the Shiite and Sunni desert traders to barter terms for coexistence—survival and preservation of their tribal social orders.

Our civilian leadership, desperately seeking to avoid the embarrassment of political defeat in Iraq, proposes to send in its military reserve, calling it “a temporary surge” for
political consumption. From a military operational standpoint this will enable us to kick in more doors, kill more bad guys and secure more territory—in the short run. From the strategic political standpoint this will expose the inability of a weak Iraqi government to rule its own people, create more civilian casualties among an already embittered populace and likely become the final straw, rendering open domestic political opposition to our continued military presence in Iraq acceptable to a war-weary citizenry. In the end, by ignoring the cultural and internal political realities of Iraq in favor of a one-dimensional approach based upon military remedies, the civilian leadership of our military will likely win the battle and lose the war.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

The Long Line.

March 8, 2007

Re: The Long Line.

From: Dean Lawrence R. Velvel

Walter Reed
Is a huge misdeed,
Yet not momentous
Nor portentous.
For it’s only the latest in the line
Of serial crime
That has victimized men
When they’re home again
From the wars.

After World War I
There was poverty
And then the attack
On the bonus army.
After World War II
The South’s racist crew --
Which meant nearly all Southern whites --
Kept blacks in suppression
With Jim Crow repression
Though they’d helped win the war
(At Iwo Jima, on D-Day, in the air, nearly everywhere).
This had happened before
After the Civil War
And the Spanish war --
Blacks always thought
That if they fought
And proved they were men
They’d be treated as befits a citizen.
But it was never to be
Until, in part to avoid World War III,
That is, in part as foreign policy,
They received rights that belong to the free.
And after Viet Nam,
When victimized men came home again --
Men victimized by Johnson’s stupidity
And his mendacity,
And by Nixon’s political cupidity,
And his mendacity
And his plain evil soul --
Once again men weren’t treated right
Though we’d sent them to Viet Nam to fight.
It should not have mattered
Whether one opposed the war
Or had filled the air with “Patriotic Gore.”
Men who carried the fight
Should have been treated right --
This is just decency --
But again they were not.
Most despicably not
When by superpatriot
Who had urged the war.
But culpably too by almost everyone else,
Especially seekers of political pelf --
The swine.
Will no one rid of us of them, as Shakespeare said?
Though I’m not suggesting that they should be dead
(As he did).
But only that a better class should arise
Even if this would greatly surprise.
So Walter Reed, you see,
Though in memory
Will be remembered for ignominy,
Is but the latest in a long line
Of misdeeds towards the men “Who shall have borne the battle” (as Lincoln put it).

Kipling had it right:
“‘[I]t’s Tommy this, an’ Tommy that,’ an ‘chuck him out, the brute!’”
But it’s not “‘savior of ‘is country’when the guns [no longer] shoot.”
Then it’s the rat infested infirmary,
The holed and dirty room contrary
To everything we’ve learned since Koch.
It’s the careless incompetence of those who botch
The care they provide troops in their care,
And with bullshit excuses fill the air --
They and behind them everyone
Responsible for the atrocity that is Iraq,
For the disaster that’s Bush’s biggest crock
Of all the many he has foisted on us.
Will no one rid us politically
Of this horrid, mishapen monstrosity?*

*This posting represents the personal views of Lawrence R. Velvel. If you wish to comment on the post, on the general topic of the post, or on the comments of others, you can, if you wish, post your comment on my website, All comments, of course, represent the views of their writers, not the views of Lawrence R. Velvel or of the Massachusetts School of Law. If you wish your comment to remain private, you can email me at

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Let Us Now Praise Honest Men.

March 6, 2007

Re: Let Us Now Praise Honest Men.

From: Dean Lawrence R. Velvel

It is often said that truth is dead
When “the guns begin to shoot.”
Truth is mute, maybe moot,
When the important point
Is to anoint
Those who face mortuary or reliquary;
Who must shoot and wound and maybe kill
Arabs -- who pay the butcher’s bill;
Or bomb a village --
Which we would never, never pillage;
And may lose an arm, a leg, or more,
Or leave bits of brain on an Iraqi floor.
No, when this is what we face
All must salute who are in our place,
And cheer the leaders Bush and Cheney
And ignore their many lies profaning
What once was hoped a nation moral
Or at least partially,
What once was hoped a nation honest,
Or at least passably;
Where torture was thought beyond the pale
Of what could be done in Iraq or jail;
And lies from government might excite
Immediate obloquy as a blight
On the escutcheon of what we thought was right,
Where the lies of Johnson inspired hate,
The lies of Nixon, Watergate,
And the lies of Clinton plain contempt
For one of tongue so strangely bent.

Thank God we’re now sophisticated
And have learned to love a war we hated.
One that will not be abated,
Or mitigated,
Or terminated
By Congress --
Not because it lacks the guts --
Oh no. Rather because it’s seen the light:
Protect the troops by making them fight --
By making them face the improvised shell
Designed to blow them all to hell
In trucks and Humvees with armor lacking,
Or on foot patrols without the backing
Of Iraqi soldiers worth a damn,
Who won’t in a fight go on the lam;
While our troops know the next stop’s Iran.
As once it was Viet Nam,
And before the Bomb, imperial Japan.

This Congress of our admiration,
The best we can buy in this whole nation,
Gives us candidates for President
Who must be from heaven sent
In the sense that Lincoln meant
In March, 1865: that is, as punishment
Visited upon the guilty.
There is John McCain,
Now of Letterman fame.
Of two admirals a descendant,
A warrior transcendent(?)
Who hasn’t met a war he didn’t like,
And the number of troops wants to hike.
To what? 200,000? 300,000? Still more?
The theory being: more deaths till we win the war;
Who regrets nothing that he’s done, I’m guessing,
Except for being bought by Charles Keating.
And then, of course, there’s Hillary.
Whose tongue makes Bill’s look straight;
With major liars she does rate
(According to Geffen).
Ah, a perfect type to nominate
Since experience with liars is so great,
And we would hardly know what to do
With a leader who feels what she says should be true.
Make no mistake: Hillary made none,
And does not regret what she has done,
When she voted for war
On the basis of what she knew then,
Of what she was told by lying men,
The type with whom she had much experience,
Yet to whom she gave great deference,
And of whom she asked few questions
Though they’d order thousands of deaths in a forlorn cause
Unless the vote of Congress forced a pause,
If not an outright stop;
Thus showing yet again,
As so often before on her long ascent,
That she would do anything to be the wife of,
And then be, the President.
This is the kind of person we should want --
Would you rather we were honesty’s haunt?
Or the kind of people who won’t lie to advance --
To become king or queen of whatever their dance?

*This posting represents the personal views of Lawrence R. Velvel. If you wish to comment on the post, on the general topic of the post, or on the comments of others, you can, if you wish, post your comment on my website, All comments, of course, represent the views of their writers, not the views of Lawrence R. Velvel or of the Massachusetts School of Law. If you wish your comment to remain private, you can email me at

VelvelOnNationalAffairs is now available as a podcast. To subscribe please visit, and click on the link on the top left corner of the page. The podcasts can also be found on iTunes or at

Thursday, March 01, 2007

NPR Response

Dear Ms. Sporkin:

Thank you for your response. I shall post it, as you requested, together with this reply so that, as you put it, the “information there is accurate.”

It is unfortunate that your “research,” which supposedly “disprove[d]” my point, neglected to uncover that two -- not one, but two -- NPR stations heard in Andover -- and the only two I listen to at the noon hour -- both carry about five minutes of NPR news at noon. The two are WBUR, 90.9 FM, and New Hampshire Public Radio, 89.1 FM. Need I say that it is amazing -- or indicative of the media’s refusal ever to concede a mistake? -- that a “Vice President for Communications” of NPR would not have uncovered such an obvious fact and instead claimed that I must be mistaken, and must have been listening to “Here And Now,” which you said is not produced by NPR, because there allegedly was no NPR news show on at noon in the Andover, MA area?

As said, I shall post your response and this reply. I shall not post anything more from either of us on this subject, since your emails indicate to me that there probably would not to be any point in further postings. One can only hope that NPR’s news reports are more accurate and better researched than your emails have been.

Sincerely yours,

Lawrence R. Velvel

Dean, Massachusetts School of Law


From: Andi Sporkin []
Sent: Monday, February 26, 2007 12:39 PM
Cc: Jay Kernis; Ken Stern;; Jackie Nixon;; Michael Riksen; Ellen Weiss;
Subject: RE: Your note to NPR

Dear Dean Velvel:

Thank you for providing additional information as to the source of your concern with coverage. The reason I mentioned only doing some initial research was because it was unclear as to what program you had heard, and I had tried to locate it. In reviewing your note below, it now appears that you were listening to the show “Here and Now” on public radio station WBUR (your other local stations WGBH, WUMB and WICN play music at Noon). “Here and Now” is not an NPR News production; it is independently produced by WBUR so its content would not be available to me. If I am incorrect in identifying the program, please let me know. Otherwise, you can contact the program at I would appreciate this being posted on your blog as well so that your information there is accurate.

Andi Sporkin


From: Lawrence R. Velvel []
Sent: Monday, February 26, 2007 12:15 PM
To: Andi Sporkin
Cc: Jay Kernis; Ken Stern;; Jackie Nixon;; Michael Riksen; Ellen Weiss;
Subject: RE: Your note to NPR

Dear Ms. Sporkin:

Thank you very much for your response.

The immediate catalyst for my email was the fact that, on an NPR news show which I heard just after 12 noon on February 15, 2007, the NPR newscaster worded a question in exactly the way pointed out in my email. As Casey Stengel used to say, “You could look it up.”

One is of course aware that the media generally admits to no errors, so it is not shocking to read that your “initial research disproves” the charge I made. (Emphases added.) But, frankly speaking, the far more important point in my judgment is your implicit (perhaps it could even be called explicit) recognition that NPR journalists should be (and you say are) discussing the point I raised. It is also important that NPR considered the point important enough to warrant at least “initial” research on your part and a response.

I need not tell you that many citizens who wish to stay informed rely on media vehicles like NPR and The New York Times to accurately tell them the news. This is a most serious responsibility, especially in a democracy. When NPR or The Times gets things wrong -- as The Times did regarding WMDs, to take but one example of its important errors -- we all suffer the consequences. So -- again an important point, not an argumentative one -- I hope that NPR is and will continue to do precisely what you say it is doing.

In view of your email’s importance, and the fact that NPR took the trouble to respond to me, I shall post your email and this response on my blogsite.

And, once again, thank you for your response.

Sincerely yours,

Lawrence R. Velvel

Dean, Massachusetts School of Law


From: Andi Sporkin []
Sent: Friday, February 23, 2007 7:35 PM
Subject: Your note to NPR

Dear Dean Velvel:

Thank you for taking the time to express your opinions to NPR’s senior management and Board members in the letter also posted on your blog. I am responding on behalf of our organization.

While we appreciate your comments, it is hard to thoughtfully respond to them without any examples from you, since the initial research I have done into our coverage disproves your charges. Throughout the nearly 70 hours of news programming we produce each week – which includes hourly newscasts and full-length shows – I have found many reports and interviews where NPR journalists not only raise and discuss the question you suggest but also examine the other complex, intertwined issues surrounding the war, its funding and the troops.

Our website aggregates our Iraq coverage and offers the breadth of our journalism and interviews on this subject; it is free for on-demand audio streaming. I have included a link to it:

Again, thank you for your letter and I hope you take the time to review our overall efforts.


Andi Sporkin

Vice President for Communications