"Ain't Gonna Study War No More"

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Right-To-Life Party, Christian, Anti-War, Pro-Life, Bible Fundamentalist, Egalitarian, Libertarian Left

Thursday, August 26, 2004

Denying Atrocities From Vietnam to Fallujah

The recent controversy surrounding the "Swift Boat Veterans" ad challenging John Kerry's Vietnam record and his later statements as a leader of Vietnam Veterans against the War (VVAW) have fallen into predictable partisan perspectives. Republicans and their media attack machine still insist that Kerry's medals are suspect and his VVAW activities were treasonous. Kerry and the Democrats, in turn, have found further documentary evidence and eye-witness accounts to support his version of the Vietnam incidents. As far as Kerry's 1971 testimony about US atrocities in Vietnam, Kerry has reiterated that he was just recounting reports from the Winter Soldier Investigations. In addition, he tried earlier to deflect criticism of his VVAW positions by claiming that some of his statements were overzealous and part of the heated rhetoric of the times. In effect, the Bush Administration and Republicans have tried to deny that atrocities took place while Kerry and the Democrats have tried to minimize or marginalize them.

For those who have studied the historical record of the US prosecution of the war in Southeast Asia, neither the Republicans nor Democrats have confronted the full measure of those atrocities and what their legacy is, especially in the war on Iraq. While most studies of the war in Southeast Asia acknowledge that 4 times the tonnage of bombs was dropped on Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos than that used by the US in all theaters of operation during World War II, only a few, such as James William Gibson's The Perfect War: Technowar in Vietnam, analyze the full extent of such bombing. Not only were thousands of villages in Vietnam totally destroyed, but massive civilian deaths, numbering close to 3 million, resulted in large part from such indiscriminate bombing. Integral to the bombing strategy was the use of weapons that violated international law, such as napalm and anti-personnel fragmentation bombs. As a result of establishing free-fire zones where anything and everything could be attacked, including hospitals, US military operations led to the deliberate murder of mostly civilians.

While Rumsfeld and the Pentagon have touted the "clean" weapons used in Iraq, the fact is that aerial cluster bombs and free-fire zones have continued to be part of present day military operations. Villages throughout Iraq, from Hilla to Fallujah, have borne and are bearing US attacks that take a heavy civilian toll. Occasionally, criticisms of the type of ordnance used in Iraq found its way into the mainstream press, especially when left-over cluster bomblets looking like yellow food packages blow up in children's hands or depleted uranium weapons are dropped inadvertently on British soldiers. However, questions about the immorality of "shock and awe" bombing strategy have been buried deeper than any of the cluster bomblets.

In Vietnam, a primary ground war tactic was the "search and destroy" mission with its over-inflated body counts. As Christian Appy has forcefully demonstrated in Working Class War: American Combat Soldiers and Vietnam, such tactics were guaranteed to produce atrocities. Any revealing personal account of the war in Vietnam, such as Ron Kovic's Born on the Fourth of July, underscores how those atrocities took their toll on civilians and US soldiers, like Kovic. Of course, certain high-profile atrocities, such as My Lai, achieved prominent media coverage (almost, however, a year after the incident.) Nonetheless, My Lai was seen either as an aberration and not part of murderous campaigns such as the Phoenix program with its thousands of assassinations or a result of a few bad apples, like a Lt. Calley, who nonetheless received minor punishment for his command of the massacre of hundreds of women and children. Moreover, as reported in Tom Engelhardt's The End of Victory Culture, "65% of Americans claimed not to be upset by the massacre" (224). Is it, therefore, not surprising that Noam Chomsky asserted during this period that the US had to undergo some sort of de- nazification in order to regain some moral sensitivity to what US war policy had produced in Vietnam

Of course, the racism that led the US military to see every "gook" as VC in Vietnam has also re-appeared in Iraq. According to one British commander in Iraq American troops often saw Iraqis as "undermenschen" the Nazi expression for sub-humans. Although embedded US reporters rarely provided an insight into this racist mentality, Mark Franchetti of the London Times quoted one US soldier as asserting that "Iraqis are sick people and we are the chemotherapy." And with chemotherapy if the sick person dies it was only to help cure the person. This reminds one of the infamous pronouncement by a US officer on the destruction of a Vietnamese village during the war in that ravaged country: "We had to destroy the village in order to save it."

Neither in Vietnam nor Iraq would Washington and the Pentagon admit to carrying-out war crimes. However, in the war on Iraq Rumsfeld clearly did approve violations of the Geneva Conventions in the use of torture on Iraqi prisoners, especially in the Abu Ghraib prison. But, like Vietnam, the focus is on a few "renegade" soldiers and not the actual policy-makers. Also, those who would excuse such war-crimes, like Rush Limbaugh and his ditto-heads, are an American version of holocaust-deniers, excusing the historical record of death and destruction.

Of course, it is not only reactionary elements in US society who try to use the flag as a cover to the brutal impact of imperial policy, whether in Vietnam or Iraq. The deeply embedded belief that the US is on a providential mission is not new to George W. Bush and his crackpot neo-con policymakers. The liberal Madeline Albright insisted that the US was the "indispensable" nation. This allowed her and the Clinton Administration to rationalize the deaths of hundreds of thousands Iraqis from the sanctions during the 1990's. Until there is a full recounting of the loss of lives from such imperial policies and a commitment by a mobilized and outraged population to end the pursuit of a US empire, there will be an ugly persistence of the denial or minimization of atrocities.

Fran Shor teaches at Wayne State University and is an activist with various peace and justice organizations.

New Testament Translated Into Near-Extinct Cornish

The first translation of the New Testament from the original Greek into Cornish, the Celtic language akin to Welsh and Breton, was announced Friday

. Cornish nearly died out in the 18th and 19th centuries but was revived in the 20th. There are thought to be some 400 fluent speakers of the language today, along with another 4,000 or so who have some knowledge of it.
Whereas Wales was rather grudgingly allowed the Bible and the Book of Common Prayer in Welsh under Queen Elizabeth I, Cornwall had an English liturgy and Bible imposed on it following the Reformation--a factor which many believe encouraged the demise of the language.

Indeed, in the 1549 revolt against the imposition of the Book of Common Prayer, one of the objections of the Cornish rebels was that they did not understand English.

The launch of the Cornish New Testament took place in St. Petroc's church, in Cornwall, the county at the southwest tip of England. A service to mark the appearance of "An Testament Nowydh" (Cornish for The New Testament) will be held in Truro Cathedral on Nov. 28, the first Sunday of Advent, with the participation of Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, himself a Welsh-speaker.

The project of producing a Cornish Bible has its origins in initiatives by the ecumenical advisory group on Cornish language services set up in 1974 by the bishop of Truro, Graham Leonard, and his suffragan, Bishop Richard Rutt of St. Germans.

While the first translation into Cornish of a book of the New Testament appeared in 1936, and others sporadically from 1976 onwards, serious work began in 1996 with the aim of publishing a complete New Testament in 2004, the centenary of the publication of Henry Jenner's "A Handbook of the Cornish Language," regarded as the start of the modern revival.

Work is now going ahead on the Old Testament, and since 1997 several books have appeared in Cornish, including Exodus, the Psalms, Esther, Lamentations, the Song of Songs, and among the prophets Amos, Habakkuk, Zephaniah and Haggai.

Several of the early Bible translations were not done from the original biblical languages and have been revised to correspond to the Greek or Hebrew.

According to project coordinator Keith Syed, the somewhat surprising experience of the translators is that "Hebrew seems to go more easily into Cornish than does Greek." He suggests this may be because "Hebrew tends to be more concrete and to have a more straightforward syntax" whereas Greek (especially in the Epistles) "has a good deal of abstract thought which is sometimes difficult to render accurately."

In Cornwall about a dozen church services take place in Cornish each year, including three carol services around Christmas.

The use of Cornish is not, however, confined to language enthusiasts. Viewers of a special Christmas Day program of "The Simpsons" being made for Britain will see Lisa running around shouting: "Rydhsys rag Kernow lemmyn!" ("Freedom for Cornwall now!") and "Kernow bys vykken!" ("Cornwall forever!").

Robert Nowell
Religion News Service
London, Aug. 13--(RNS)

Dimona's Winds of Death?

Perhaps the most eye-catching aspect of the prevailing controversial discussions about the alleged radiations of the Israeli nuclear reactor in Dimona, which operates under the name of "Nuclear Research Center," is that the Arab reaction is based on Israeli information from two main sources: the statements of the former Israeli nuclear expert Mordechai Vanunu on one of the Arab satellite TV channels, and a scientific research carried by the Israeli Ben-Gurion University (BGU) in cooperation with the Nuclear Research in Wadi Surik and the participation of the Water Authority in Israel. However, there are several previous studies and reports that confirmed that the dangers of the Dimona reactor are no longer assumptions but realities that led to the death of dozens of staff working at the reactor of cancer, and the increase of cancer cases in the Palestinian and Jordanian regions neighboring the Negev Desert.

Vanunu's statements, who spent around 18 years in Israeli prisons for revealing nuclear secrets to The Sunday Times, focused on Dimona's radiations impact on Jordan, which is only 15 km from the reactor. Vanunu said that ever since 1968, Israel produces over 40 kg of plutonium per year. What happened in Chernobyl could be repeated in Dimona, given the similar data between both cases. As for the BGU research, it stated a noteworthy quantity of radiation leakages into the subterranean water systems in both Wadi Araba and the Negev Desert.

In spite of this, the Arab reaction, especially that of the two most affected countries; Jordan, because of the radiations contaminating its soil; and Egypt, because its subterranean water (in Sinai) is thought to be contaminated, was limited to "worries" and calls to double check if this information is true. Jordan, as its official spokesperson Asma Khader said, doubted Vanunu's statements at first. Later, under pressures of the parties, forces, popular organizations and the media, gave up its position and asked for the help of International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) experts. As for Egypt, the members of both health and agriculture committees in parliament called the Prime Minister to call Israel to discuss the issue of the subterranean and soil contamination in Sinai, and send a highly specialized taskforce to the region.

All affected neighboring countries should react to the danger of these radiations, and the international community should do the same; especially since the Israeli government implicitly admitted Dimona's danger by giving iodine pills to the residents in the neighboring regions, save for the Palestinian detainees in the Negev Desert. However, the truth is that both Jordan and Egypt, which have good relations with Israel, should seek technical and political solutions by obliging Israel to shutdown Dimona, which is an environmental threat and human disaster.

Are these realistic claims? Is it possible for Jordan and Egypt to raise their voices against the Dimona disaster? Is it not the Arab region's peoples' right to have an opinion and defend their lives after they gave up everything to the governments and regimes? What role should they play in facing the coming danger?

No doubt that these questions, and others, will remain unanswered, waiting for the governments to express their opinions. As for the answers, they should stay away of avoiding the clash with Israel, and pushing the American pressures and practice the minimum duties required by the national security and the peoples' interests and right to live, at least. We really hope that the answers do not come too late.

Maamoun Al Husseini Al-Hayat 2004/08/25

The 9-11 Commission Charade

Rather than asking ourselves what Congress or the president should be doing about terrorism, we ought to ask what government should stop doing.

The 9-11 Commission report, released late last month, has disrupted the normally quiet Washington August. Various congressional committees are holding hearings on the report this week, even though Congress is not in session, in an attempt to show the government is “doing something” about terrorism in an election year. The Commission recommendations themselves have been accepted reverently and without question, as if handed down from on high.

But what exactly is going on here? These hearings amount to nothing more than current government officials meeting with former government officials, many of whom now lobby government officials, and agreeing that we need more government! The current and past architects of the very bureaucracy that failed Americans so badly on September 11th three years ago are now meeting to recommend more bureaucracy. Why on earth do we assume that former government officials, some of whom are self-interested government lobbyists, suddenly become wise, benevolent, and politically neutral when they retire? Why do we look to former bureaucrats to address a bureaucratic failure?

The 9-11 Commission report is several hundred pages worth of recommendations to make government larger and more intrusive. Does this surprise anyone? It was written by people who cannot imagine any solution not coming from government. One thing you definitely will not see in the Commission report is a single critique of our interventionist foreign policy, which is the real source of most anti-American feelings around the globe.

The Commissioners recommend the government spend billions of dollars spreading pro-US propaganda overseas, as if that will convince the world to love us. What we have forgotten in the years since the end of the Cold War is that actions speak louder than words. The US didn't need propaganda in the captive nations of Eastern Europe during the Cold War because people knew us by our deeds. They could see the difference between the United States and their Soviet overlords. That is why, given the first chance, they chose freedom. Yet everything we have done in response to the 9-11 attacks, from the Patriot Act to the war in Iraq, has reduced freedom in America. Spending more money abroad or restricting liberties at home will do nothing to deter terrorists, yet this is exactly what the 9-11 Commission recommends.

Our nation will be safer only when government does less, not more. Rather than asking ourselves what Congress or the president should be doing about terrorism, we ought to ask what government should stop doing. It should stop spending trillions of dollars on unconstitutional programs that detract from basic government functions like national defense and border security. It should stop meddling in the internal affairs of foreign nations, but instead demonstrate by example the superiority of freedom, capitalism, and an open society. It should stop engaging in nation-building, and stop trying to create democratic societies through military force. It should stop militarizing future enemies, as we did by supplying money and weapons to characters like Bin Laden and Saddam Hussein. It should stop entangling the American people in unholy alliances like the UN and NATO, and pledge that our armed forces will never serve under foreign command. It should stop committing American troops to useless, expensive, and troublesome assignments overseas, and instead commit the Department of Defense to actually defending America. It should stop interfering with the 2nd amendment rights of private citizens and businesses seeking to defend themselves.

More than anything, our federal government should stop deluding us that more government is the answer. We have far more to fear from an unaccountable government at home than from any foreign terrorist.

Congressman Ron Paul (R-TX)

Copyright: Ron Paul

Bush Versus Kerry: The Fake Debate

On 6 May last, the US House of Representatives passed a resolution which,in effect, authorised a "pre-emptive" attack on Iran. The vote was 376/3. Undeterred by the accelerating disaster in Iraq, Republicans and Democrats,wrote one commentator, "once again joined hands to assert the responsibilities of American power."

The joining of hands across America's illusory political divide has a long history. The native Americans were slaughtered, the Philippines laid to waste and Cuba and much of Latin America brought to heel with "bi-partisan" backing. Wading through the blood, a new breed of popular historian, the journalist in the pay of rich newspaper owners, spun the heroic myths of a super sect called Americanism, which advertising and public relations in the 20th century formalised as an ideology, embracing both conservatism and liberalism.

In the modern era, most of America's wars have been launched by liberal Democratic presidents - Truman in Korea, Kennedy and Johnson in Vietnam, Carter in Afghanistan. The fictitious "missile gap" was invented by Kennedy's liberal New Frontiersmen as a rationale for keeping the cold war going. In 1964, a Democrat-dominated Congress gave President Johnson the authority to attack Vietnam, a defenceless peasant nation offering no threat to the United States. Like the non-existent WMDs in Iraq, the justification was a non-existent "incident" in which two North Vietnamese patrol boats were said to have attacked an American warship. More than three million deaths and the ruin of a once bountiful land followed.

During the past 60 years, only once has Congress voted to limit the president's "right" to terrorise other countries. This abberation, the 1975 Clark Amendment, a product of the great anti-Vietnam war movement, was repealed in 1985 by Ronald Reagan. During Reagan's assaults on Central Amercia in the 1980s, liberal voices such as Tom Whicker of the New York Times, doyen of the "doves", seriously debated whether or not tiny, impoverished Nicaragua was a threat to the United States. These days, terrorism having replaced the red menace, another fake debate is under way. This is lesser evilism.

Although few liberal-minded voters seem to have illusions about John Kerry, their need to get rid of the "rogue" Bush administration is all consuming. Representing them in Britain, the Guardian says the coming presidential election is "exceptional". "Mr Kerry's flaws and limitations are evident," says the paper, "but they are put in the shade by the neo-conservative agenda and catastrophic war-making of Mr Bush. This is an election in which the whole world will breathe a sigh of relief if the incumbent is defeated."

The whole world may well breathe a sigh of relief; the Bush regime is both dangerous and universally loathed; but that is not the point. We have debated lesser evilism so often on both sides of the Atlantic that it is surely time to stop gesturing at the obvious and to examine critically a system that produces the Bushes and their Democratic shadows. For those of us who marvel at our luck in reaching mature years without having been blown to bits by the warlords of Americanism, Republican and Democrat, conservative and liberal, and for the millions all over the world, who now reject the American contagion in political life, the true issue is clear. It is the continuation of a project that began more than 500 years ago.

The privileges of "discovery and conquest" granted to Christopher Columbus in 1492, in a world the Pope "considers his property to be disposed according to his will", have been replaced by another piracy transformed into the divine will of Americanism and sustained by technological progress, notably that of the media. "The threat to independence in the late 20th century from the new electronics," wrote Edward Said in Culture and Imperialism, "could be greater than was colonialism itself. We are beginning to learn that de-colonisation was not the termination of imperial relationships but merely the extending of a geo-political web which has been spinning since the Renaissance. The new media have the power to penetrate more deeply into a "receiving" culture than any previous manifestation of western technology."

Every modern president has been, in large part, a media creation. Thus, the murderous Reagan is sanctified still; Murdoch's Fox Channel and the post-Hutton BBC have differed only in their forms of adulation. And Clinton is regarded nostalgically by liberals as flawed but enlightened; yet Clinton's presidential years were far more violent than Bush's and his goals were the same: "the integration of countries into the global free market community", the terms of which, noted the New York Times, "require the United States to be involved in the plumbing and wiring of nations' internal affairs more deeply than ever before". The Pentagon's "full spectrum dominance" was not the product of the "neo-cons" but of the liberal Clinton who approved what was then the greatest war expenditure in history. According to the Guardian, John Kerry sends us "energising progressive calls". It is time to stop this nonsense.

Supremacy is the essence of Americanism; only the veil changes or slips. In 1976, the Democrat Jimmy Carter announced "a foreign policy that respects human rights". In secret, he backed Indonesia's genocide in East Timor and established the muhajideen in Afghanistan as a terrorist organisation designed to overthrow the Soviet Union, and from which came the Taliban and al-Qaeda. It was the liberal Carter, not Reagan, who laid the ground for Bush. In the past year, I have interviewed Carter's principal foreign policy overlords, Zbigniew Brezinski, his national security advisor, and James Schlesinger, his defence secretary. No blueprint for the new imperialism is more respected than Brezinski's. Invested wtih biblical authority by the Bush gang, his 1997 book The Grand Chessboard: American primacy and its geostrategic imperatives, describes American priorities as the economic subjugation of the Soviet Union and the control of Central Asia and the Middle East. His analysis says that "local wars" are merely the beginning of a final conflict leading inexorably to world domination by the US. "To put it in a terminology that harkens back to a more brutal age of ancient empires," he writes, "the three grand imperatives of imperial geostrategy are to prevent collusion and maintan security dependence among the vassals to keep tributaries pliant and protected, and to keep the barbarians from coming together".

It may have been easy once to dismiss this as a message from the lunar right. But Brzezinski is mainstream. His devoted students include Madeleine Albright, Clinton's secretary of state, who described the death of half a million infants in Iraq under the American-led embargo as "a price worth paying", and John Negroponte, the mastermind of American terror in Central America under Reagan and currently "ambassador" in Baghdad. James Rubin, who was Albright's enthusiastic apologist at the State Department, is being considered as John Kerry's national security adviser. He is also a zionist; Israel and its role as a terror state, is beyond discussion. Cast an eye over the rest of the world. As Iraq has crowded the front pages, American moves into Africa have attracted little attention. Here, the Clinton and Bush policies are seamless. In the 1990s, Clinton's African Growth and Opportunity Act launched a new scramble for Africa. Humanitarian bombers wonder why Bush and Blair have not attacked Sudan and "liberated" Darfur, or intervened in Zimbabwe or the Congo. The answer is that they have no interest in human distress and human rights and are busy securing the same riches that led to the European scramble in the late 19th century by traditional means of coercion and bribery known as multilateralism. The Congo and Zambia possess 50 per cent of world cobalt reserves; 98 per cent of the world's chrome reserves are in Zimbabwe and South Africa. More importantly, there is oil and natural gas in west Africa, from Nigeria to Angola, and in the Higleig Basin in Sudan. Under Clinton, the African Crisis Response Initiative (Acri) was set up in secret. This has allowed the US to establish "military assistance programmes" in Senegal, Uganda, Malawi, Ghana, Benin, Algeria, Niger, Mali and Chad. Acri is run by Colonel Nestor Pino-Marina, a Cuban exile who took part in the 1961 Bay of Pigs landing, and went on to be a special forces officer in Vietnam and Laos, and, under Reagan, helped lead the contra invasion of Nicaragua. The pedigrees never change.

None of this is discussed in a presidential campaign in which John Kerry strains to out-Bush Bush. The multilateralism or "muscular internationalism" that Kerry offers in contrast to Bush's unilateralism is seen as hopeful by the terminally naive; in truth, it beckons even greater dangers. Bush, having given the American elite its greatest disaster since Vietnam, writes the historian Gabriel Kolko, "is much more likely to continue the destruction of the alliance system that is so crucial to American power.

One does not have to believe the worse the better, but we have to consider candidly the foreign policy consequences of a renewal of Bush's mandate. As dangerous as it is, Bush's re-election may be a lesser evil." With Nato back in train under President Kerry, and the French and Germans compliant, American ambitions will proceed without the Napoleonic hindrances of the Bush gang. Little of this appears even in the American papers worth reading. The Washington Post's hand-wringing apology to its readers on 14 August for not "pay[ing] enough attention to voices raising questions about the war [against Iraq]" has not interrupted its silence on the danger that the American state presents to the world. Bush's rating has risen in the polls to more than 50 per cent, a level at this stage in the campaign at which no incumbent has ever lost. The virtues of his "plain speaking", which the entire media machine promoted four years ago, Fox and the Washington Post alike, are again credited. As in the aftermath of the 11 September attacks, Americans are denied a modicum of understanding of what Norman Mailer has called "a pre-fascist climate". The fears of the rest of us are of no consequence. The professional liberals on both sides of the Atlantic have played a major part in this. The campaign against Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 9/11 is indicative. The film is not radical and makes no outlandish claims; what it does is push past those guarding the boundaries of "respectable" dissent. That is why the public applaud it. It breaks the collusive codes of journalism, which it shames. It allows people to begin to deconstruct the nightly propaganda that passes for news: in which "a sovereign Iraqi government pursues democracy" and those fighting in Najaf and Fallujah and Basra are always "militants" and "insurgents" or members of a "private army", never nationalists defending their homeland and whose resistance has probably forestalled attacks on Iran, Syria or north Korea. The real debate is neither Bush nor Kerry, but the system they exemplify; it is the decline of true democracy and the rise of the American "national security state" in Britain and other countries claiming to be democracies, in which people are sent to prison and the key thrown away and whose leaders commit capital crimes in faraway places, unhindered, then, like the ruthless Tony Blair, invite the thug they instal to address the British Labour Party conference.

The real debate is the subjugation of national economies to a system dividing humanity as never before and sustaining the deaths, every day, of 24,000 hungry people. The real debate is the subversion of political language and of debate itself and perhaps, in the end, our self respect.

John Pilger's new book, Tell Me No Lies: investigative journalism and its triumphs, will be published in October by Jonathan Cape

Ralph Nader: 'Once you accept the anything-but-Bush position, the brain really does close down'

Ralph Nader holds a unique position in American politics. Hated by Democrats, adored by his hardcore supporters and now championed by trouble-making Republicans, the 70-year-old consumer rights candidate represents many different things to different people.

The situation of the independent presidential candidate is also odd, because many progressives and those on the left who strongly agree with his politics - indeed, many of those who have long supported him - are adamantly and angrily opposed to him running. In some cases that ire - evidenced by a string of special websites as well as an orchestrated campaign against him by the Democrats - boils over into fury.

Nader does not seem to care. It may simply be a thick skin, or a huge ego, as his detractors claim, that protects him, but he says he has no regrets. "[If George Bush were re-elected] the blame would go to the Democrats," he says. "If Bush wins, the blame would go to the number two party, that lost. That is where the responsibility lies; they started with 40 per cent of the vote."

Such comments infuriate Democrats who blame Mr Nader for Al Gore's defeat in 2000 and say his presence in this year's contest threatens to condemn the US to a second, and potentially more radical, Bush term. This has led to all manner of people, among them the Democratic Party's chairman, Terry McAuliffe, pleading with Mr Nader not to run. A few weeks ago on national television, the film maker Michael Moore - who supported Mr Nader in 2000 - and the comedian Bill Maher got down on bended knee in front of the candidate and pleaded with him to drop out.

Their argument is straightforward: in 2000, though Nader won only 2.7 per cent of the vote, in key states such as Florida and New Hampshire, his presence on the ballot and the votes he took from the Democrats proved fatal to Mr Gore. In Florida, his critics argue, if just 1 per cent of Nader's 97,488 supporters had voted for Gore, he would have been president. In New Hampshire Nader took 22,198 votes, and Bush won the state by only 7,211 votes.

This time the election is shaping up to be as close. Mr Nader's opponents say that no matter how unsatisfactory a candidate one might consider John Kerry to be, he is still many times preferable to Bush; and that Mr Nader should find himself being supported in some states by Republicans working to get him on the ballot to split the anti-Bush vote should be a warning sign. He is, say his critics, nothing more than a spoiler, driven by ego and self-indulgence. Mr Nader dismisses such talk. First, he says the Democrats can blame only themselves for allowing Mr Bush to steal an election he did not win. Second, he says, exit polls showed that up to 25 per cent of those who voted for him in 2000 would have otherwise voted for Bush, up to 41 per cent for Gore but that the rest would not have bothered to vote at all.

He adds: "The other thing is that 10 times more Democrats voted for Bush than voted for Nader." Democrats never want to discuss the matter he says. "Once you accept the anybody-but-Bush position the brain really does close. They don't want to hear anything."

But however he may wish to frame it, Mr Nader's argument boils down to a choice between incremental change in November or more radical change over a longer period. For Mr Nader there is little practical difference between the Democrats and the Republicans, and the real challenge is to try to establish a third party in US politics,something, he says, the Democrats bitterly oppose.

"The corporations have won this election. They have been winning these elections for years ... If there is a difference [between the parties] it is rhetoric. Why is Kerry identical to Bush on Iraq? I evaluate the Democrats on defence as well as offence ... Why did they not stop Bush? They [say] they were against the tax cuts for the wealthy but they did not stop it even when they controlled the Senate."

He says that at a congressional level, for many Americans it is not even a choice between two parties. In a majority of seats, districts are either totally Democrat or totally Republican, an arrangement party leaders have agreed to. "The gift that they have given us is one-party choice," Mr Nader says. "There is no real choice ... It isn't even choice, it's selection ... These are strange times we live in."

Many of Mr Nader's outspoken critics say that while they support his views and may have supported him in 2000, President Bush has shown himself to be so dangerously right wing that those on the left cannot risk giving him a second term. The circumstances of this election are unique, they say, and it is not the time for experiments in breaking the two-party system.

Mr Nader's tactic, they say, should have been to run in the Democratic primaries or else to now throw the weight of the radical left behind the Kerry campaign and work for a more progressive party after the election.

Theodore Lowi, a professor of government at Cornell University, said: "[The election in 2000 came] before the true identity of George Bush had been revealed. Nader knows as well as the rest of us that, despite Kerry's lacklustre leadership, there is now a radical difference between the two major parties. Moreover, Nader is running as a bullet candidate without any party affiliation; he is a mere spoiler with no future."

Again Mr Nader is again quick to dismiss such claims. He is fond of quoting the 19th-century Indiana socialist Eugene Debs, "I'd rather vote for something I want and not get it than vote for something I don't want, and get it". He concedes that if someone is adamantly of the anyone-but-Bush mindset they should not vote for him but Kerry, "if your expectations levels are so low".

Mr Nader says he is trying to transform the political landscape rather than tweak it. Again turning his focus to the corporations, multinationals and lobbyists, he says: "They have shut us out from everything. You cannot get anything done. For-sale signs are up everywhere."

He has long been pushing against closed doors. Born in Winsted, Connecticut, to Lebanese immigrants who ran a bakery, Mr Nader studied at Harvard and edited the Harvard Law Review before graduating and setting up a small practice.

Mr Nader soon started speaking out against the abuse of corporate power, making headlines with his 1965 book Unsafe at Any Speed, in which he condemned the car industry for producing unsafe vehicles. Nader's status soared when executives of General Motors hired private detectives to harass him and were then forced to apologise publicly before a nationally televised Senate committee hearing.

Backed by a group of young activist lawyers known as Nader's Raiders, he went on to produce exposés of industrial hazards, pollution, unsafe products, and governmental neglect of consumer safety laws. He is credited with a key role in the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, the Freedom of Information Act and the Consumer Product Safety Commission.

In this latest fight, Mr Nader knows he has no chance of winning more than a few per cent of voters. He remains in the election campaign, he says, to draw attention to issues that are not being discussed, and to try to force the Democrats to move to the left to attract those people considering voting for him.

He says he is amazed that the Democrats do not campaign on more populist issues; why they do not try to appeal to the millions of Americans outside the political system who do not bother vote. "Ask yourself why Kerry does not bring up these issues," Mr Nader says. "Forty-seven million Americans make under $10 an hour. Millions work for five-and-half, six dollars. You cannot live on that."

The Democrats, he says, have lost sight of what they were supposed to be fighting for. "It's all about money, who has raised the most. It becomes the end itself. When you ask the members of the House and Senate why they lost [seats] in the 2002 election they say they did not have enough money."


Born 1934

Education Gilbert School; Woodrow Wilson School of International Affairs at Princeton University; Harvard Law School

1959 US Army

1959 Lawyer, Connecticut

1961-63 Lecturer, University of Hartford.

1967-68: Lecturer, Princeton University

1969-1990: Founded centres for research and published books on consumer protection

1996 & 2000 Green Party presidential candidate

2004 Independent presidential candidate

Andrew Buncombe in Washington
23 August 2004


I recently quoted G.K. Chesterton on the flaw in a
two-party system: "The democracy has the right to answer
questions, but it has no right to ask them. It is still
the political aristocracy that asks the questions. And we
shall not be unreasonably cynical if we suppose that the
political aristocracy will always be rather careful what
questions it asks."

In fact, the two big parties always ask the same
irksome question: Which of us do you prefer? If your
reply is "neither," you may, like half the electorate,
stay home on election day.

The proof that both parties are really the same
party is simple: Neither wants to repeal much of what the
other party has achieved. The Republicans now promise to
preserve and even aggrandize all the Democratic programs
and agencies they used to oppose. One "neoconservative"
journalist, Fred Barnes, approvingly calls President Bush
a "big-government conservative."

Actually, the phrase is slightly misleading, even
apart from being a contradiction in terms. Bush is a
bigger-government conservative, or rather a
much-bigger-government conservative, for whom there are
no limits on the size and scope of government. You might
as well call him a totalitarian conservative.

So our "choices" are liberal and conservative
totalitarianism. Both parties are one in seeking an
indefinite, irreversible accumulation of power by
government. They differ slightly on the immediate
direction this growth should take, but there is no debate
on the shared premise that government should just keep
growing. When they promise "change," they always mean
more government; never that the premise itself will

Those who want to choose "neither" but don't want to
stay home on November 2 may want to consider Michael
Anthony Peroutka of the Constitution Party. Peroutka is a
pleasant, good-humored Maryland lawyer who sings and
plays the guitar at his campaign rallies. No extravagant
claims should be made for his singing and strumming, but
his campaign theme may be sweet music to your ears:
finite government.

Peroutka doesn't just want to halt government
growth; he wants to prune away most of the jungle of laws
that has already grown. The Constitution Party is
dedicated to repealing the vast body of legislation,
including overweening judicial rulings, that isn't
authorized by the U.S. Constitution. It wants to change
the two parties' premise.

It's a sign of the times that a party that stands
for recognizing the limits imposed by the Constitution is
regarded as extremist, unelectable, radical, outside the
mainstream. This is a phase new political movements
always have to endure, as the "political aristocracy"
tries to keep them good and marginalized. It happened to
the Goldwater/Reagan movement.

Peroutka denies that he's a "spoiler" hoping to move
the Republican Party rightward. He's not trying to spoil
anything; he's trying to restore something. And, like
most members of his party, he has long since given up
hope that the Republicans will ever restore it.

Everything old becomes new again, and the
constitutional paradigm Peroutka wants to bring back
would by now seem like a novelty. Only serious students
of American history are aware that it once existed. Not
only did it exist, it worked far better than most other
forms of government, despite all pressures to change.

As Chesterton also wrote, "It is futile to discuss
reform without reference to form." For Peroutka, reform
means a return to form. And the form lies close at hand:
in the Constitution. The two parties pretend to honor it,
take oaths to uphold it, and ignore it. The Republicans
sometimes try, in their gauche manner, to amend it, but
the Democrats have long since learned to circumvent it
(especially through the judiciary) by inflating a few
passages and forgetting the rest -- the "living document"
approach, which denies that words have objective meaning.

But no real rule of law can emerge from subjectivist
interpretation, by either legislators or judges. So in a
sense, Peroutka isn't just running for office; he's
fighting for an honest political language that has become
almost extinct among us. The Constitution presupposes
that words do have objective meaning, and that a shared
and reliable political language is one of the deepest
preconditions of a free society. If you doubt that fuzzy
language can lead to tyranny, look around you.

Michael Peroutka doesn't expect to win this year.
But he is confident that in the end, the truth is never
offered in vain.


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What God Hath Not Joined

Why marriage was designed for male and female.

Our radically confused society is debating the meaning of marriage with increasing intensity. That question leads to a host of other issues—especially the boundaries of sexual behavior and the nature of procreation. No one is untouched by this debate.

Confusion in society spreads easily to the church. To help bring a biblical perspective to these discussions, Christianity Today offers this special section, the first of a series. Here we focus on the meaning of marriage in light of the national debate about gay marriage. In future issues, we'll go down other paths.

As we address these issues over the long term, we hope to communicate two things: First, a definite "no" to calls to lower the moral bar (whether they come from within the church or from secular critics). And second, a decided "yes" to respect and extend compassion to the people who advocate views and practices we oppose. The issues are too important to fall short in either direction.

"Have you not read that the one who made them at the beginning 'made them male and female,' and said, 'For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother, be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh'?" So Jesus declares that in the first marriage and in every marriage since, it is God himself who joins particular members of the opposite sex together in a natural relation unlike any other.

All societies have honored this special union that Christians, Jews, and Muslims rightly recognize to be a gift of the Creator. Even in an atheistic context like Russia during the Communist period, Muscovite couples were married with festal trappings at what passed for a sacred site, Lenin's tomb.

Our generation has introduced a tear in this universal fabric. Same-sex activists are clamoring for the state to grant homosexual couples marital status. These blows to the definition of marriage are landing not only in the North American civil sphere, but within churches. Theological arguments may not hold much sway in public debate, and there are certainly good social reasons for preserving the definition of marriage. But for the defense of marriage in both civil society and church, Christians must look to—and guard—the deep theological foundations of marriage.

Theological foundations are indeed under attack. On June 3, the General Synod of the Anglican Church of Canada, while deferring the decision to bless same-sex unions in formal ceremonies, declared that longstanding homoerotic relationships were already sanctified. Even while questioning whether this issue touches on core doctrine, the Synod employed a theological term (sanctity) to "support" its gay and lesbian members. Such confusing events lead the faithful to ask: What is the connection between the same-sex debate and doctrine? Can those who desire the "sanctity of marriage" rightly find it for same-sex relationships? Can same-sex unions truly be blessed in the churches?

The cry goes up that the biblical teaching must be surpassed, since "God is doing a new thing." What is the style of God's action in the world? How does the Bible describe God's activity and homoeroticism itself? In Romans 1:18-32, Paul traces the drama of creation, sin, idolatry, and rebellion. Wonderfully, the created order provided a window through which God's glory can be seen (20). Humanity drew the blinds over this window, however, when it acted willfully, giving neither honor nor thanks to the Creator.

But true atheism is not possible for those made to worship. Human beings simply exchanged loyalties, worshiping creatures rather than God (23). God's response to this senseless idolatry was to permit the natural consequences (24, 26). Paul gives a vivid example of this fallout: Human passions are disturbed and the primary created relationship (male and female) is distorted into homoerotic behavior (24, 26-27).

Though the emphasis is on bodily disruption, the consequences go beyond the body to the entire self (27). Thus Romans 1 understands homoerotic behavior as an example of what happened to humanity in terms of the body and the passions, before it goes on to consider sins that arise within the disordered mind (28-31).

Homoerotic activity, then, is symptomatic of the primal rebellion against God—alongside covetousness, murder, strife, gossip, deceit, disloyalty, and pride.

No doubt Paul places it first because this condition shows brokenness in God's creative order and within the ordained union of male and female (Gen. 1:27). Homoeroticism thus represents an exchange (Rom. 1:26) of what is "natural" for what is "against nature," and is a primary breach between the two designed for each other. These relations dramatize human rejection of God's primal purposes.

Some have claimed that, because Paul uses homoeroticism only as an illustration, Romans 1 does not speak regarding sexual ethics. This can hardly be so. Would anyone apply the same reasoning to the other signs of depravity cited here, like murder? Paul assumes that his readers agree with his assessment of homoerotic activity, and helps them to understand it in the context of the scriptural story of origins.

Holiness Narratives
In light of this larger narrative, we go back to the Old Testament. In Genesis 18:16–19:29 (and a similar story in Judges 19), the male inhabitants of a city attempt to rape visitors. Some have argued that Sodom's sin was not sexual but simply a breach of hospitality. This is highly unlikely, since Lot's daughters were offered as a sexual substitute.

The intended sin here is gang rape, though it is true that where other passages mention Sodom (Isa. 1:10ff., Jer. 23:14, Eze. 16:49ff.), they emphasize hypocrisy, falsehood, and arrogance over sexual sin. Yet as Judaism and Christianity encountered later Hellenistic acceptance of homoeroticism, the sexual element in the Genesis story was highlighted: Intertestamental writings cite Sodom as an example of sexual perversion (cf. Jude 7).

We turn from narratives to injunction. Leviticus 18:22 says bluntly: "You shall not lie with a male as with a woman; it is an abomination" (cf. Lev. 20:13). Some within the church argue that such prohibitions concern only cultic practices in ancient Israel and so are no longer binding on Christians. But some Levitical proscriptions concern immoral behavior, not simply ritual uncleanness. We need to ask, How does the general pattern of the Scriptures direct us to understand this prohibition?

The answer is that homoerotic behavior contradicts God's purpose for all his creatures. It is not in the same category as the cultic or cultural prohibitions regarding non-kosher foods and the twining together of two types of thread. Like the prohibition of incest (Lev. 18:6–18), the prohibition of homoerotic acts addresses every age.

As the New Testament epistles show, the early church did not discard what the Hebrew Bible said about sexual ethics. When Corinthian Christians thought that their spiritual sophistication gave them license to sin, Paul challenged them (1 Cor. 6:9ff.): "Do you not know that evildoers will not inherit God's kingdom?" Then he offered as examples those who steal, get drunk, scorn what is holy, pursue sexual immorality, and practice two modes of male homoerotic behavior.

Some argue that we cannot understand Paul's reference to these two behaviors (malakoi and arsenokoitai, as in 1 Cor. 6 and 1 Tim. 1) in terms of homoeroticism. But arsenokoitai is in fact a compound word derived from the Greek version of Leviticus 20:13 for those men "who lie with a male." Malakoi means literally "soft ones" and in Greek writings frequently identified the passive homoerotic partner. It is a mistake to limit the term's meaning, as do some, to masturbation, or as the NRSV does, to male prostitution.

The Genesis narratives, because they are stories, and the Levitical passages, because they are part of a code given to Israel in particular, must be considered in light of the whole biblical narrative. When we do this, the lists of immoral behavior in 1 Corinthians and 1 Timothy show that the early Christian communities held firm to Old Testament views of sexual immorality—for reasons consistent with Romans 1.

Revising Paul
The moral tradition of the church, from the earliest period into the Reformation and since, has been emphatic: Homoerotic behavior is against the will of God.

Those who reject this tradition take several tacks, for example: "The church has fudged on other controversial issues, and homosexuality is the same." What about female ministry and slavery, critics ask; doesn't the Bible forbid the one and accept the other, yet the church does what it thinks best anyway?

In fact, female ministry and slavery are handled differently from text to text in the Bible (e.g., on female ministry: 1 Cor. 14:33b–35 vs. 1 Cor. 11:4–5; 1 Tim. 2:11 and 1 Tim. 3:11, cf. Rom. 16:1). Without addressing these issues at length, we can see that, at the least, there are internal tensions in Scripture regarding female ministry and slavery. But there is no internal tension among the passages that speak of homoerotic behavior.

Others undermine the biblical teaching by suggesting, "Paul was talking about something else." That is, he forbids homosexual practice to people who are by nature heterosexual; he judges those who are not truly homosexual but who act homoerotically "against [their] nature" (Rom. 1:26). Thus, they say, Paul would not disapprove the practice by those who are by nature homosexual.

The mistake here is to think that in Romans 1, Paul has in mind certain individuals or types. Instead, he is painting on a large canvas, speaking about the problems of Israel in the context of God's dealings with all humanity (Adam and the Gentiles). He is not speaking of individuals, but of humanity in general, and of one sign (homoeroticism) that our original wholeness has been broken. To introduce specific categories, those who act homosexually "according to nature," and those who do so "against nature," is to muddle Paul's point.

Some limit Paul's words by saying that he is decrying those who sell their bodies for gain (so making malakoi or arsenokoitai to mean male prostitution). There is simply no evidence whatever for this, notwithstanding the serpentine arguments of John Boswell's Christianity, Social Tolerance, and Homosexuality (1980) and in L. William Countryman's Dirt, Greed and Sex (1988). Paul's problem with homoerotic behavior is specifically its same-sex quality, not power-relations or the economics of sexual trade.

But could Paul's disapproval of homoeroticism be limited to those who practiced pederasty, that ancient Hellenistic practice of erotic behavior with young males? In fact, the Graeco-Roman "ideal" of the "love of boys" did not mean children, but teenage males, of the same age that young women would be given in marriage. The exploitation of children is not the issue, as we can see from the parallel judgment upon lesbianism in Romans 1:26.

Still other revisionists sidestep Scripture and tradition in claiming, "It's not immoral; they just thought like that back then." They dismiss the Old Testament as outmoded, then argue similarly that the New Testament material is culturally conditioned. Paul insisted in 1 Corinthians 11 that women cover their heads in worship because it meant something in that culture, but they say it doesn't mean anything now. Similarly, he prohibited same-sex erotic relations because they were not acceptable in his circles at that time, but times have changed.

But Paul's times, in fact, were "gay-positive" or at least "gay-tolerant." Paul and other New Testament writers take a decisive stand against behavior frequently condoned and sometimes idealized in the surrounding cultures. What was wrong then is wrong now.

Sometimes an appeal is made to contemporary opinions about same-sex relations: "Yes, Paul disapproved of such activity, but he had nothing whatsoever to say about homosexuality as we understand it today." The biblical writers, they claim, assumed that homoerotic behavior was an avoidable moral choice, but if Paul had had the benefit of our psychological studies, he would have taken a different position. If people are born gay, how can it be sinful?

In reality, it makes little difference whether nature or nurture inclines us toward any one sexual behavior. Paul was well aware of the compulsive nature of sin. He put forth the gospel as God's means of dealing with the sin that enslaves us, as well as with sins we deliberately choose.

A bold variation on the argument that Paul was scientifically limited is that he was theologically limited. So Eugene Rogers (Sexuality and the Christian Body, 1999) argues that God's grace is wider even than Paul himself suspected, embracing same-sex couples as well as Jew and Gentile.

Paul, Rogers claims, says that God himself acts "against nature" in "grafting" Gentiles into the olive tree, the people of God (Rom. 11). Similarly, Rogers argues, God can act "against nature" in approving same-sex relations. This, however, reads against the sense of both Romans 1 and 11. Romans 1 speaks about what is contrary to nature in the created order. Romans 11 offers a figure of speech to help the Roman Gentile Christians appreciate their inclusion by God.

Rogers strangely clinches his argument: Same-sex couples find in their union "a means of grace," so it must be holy. This appeal to experience that contradicts Scripture is the most common revisionist position today. We know better than Paul and other writers of Scripture, he says, because they just didn't understand the grace that characterizes the loving union of two men or two women. Wasn't Jesus always welcoming outcasts from Israel among his followers? Now God, Rogers says, is doing something similar but new in the church.

A Distorted Image
But what does it mean for the church to give an authentic welcome of people? No one is to be excluded from the church or any aspect of its life by being Jew or Gentile, male or female, slave or free. The revisionists insist that homoerotic orientation (and, they imply, expression) is just as central to a person's identity and equally no bar to inclusion in the church.

But what of Jesus' call to repentance? To a woman caught in another sexual sin, adultery, he says, "Go and sin no more." The revisionists remove homoerotic sin from the lists of sins in the New Testament and treat homoerotic relations as though they fit with Paul's list of Jew or Greek, slave or free, male and female. They obscure the crucial distinction between characteristics over which one may have little or no control (such as same-sex desires), and actions for which one must answer to God. It is true: There is no "gay" or "straight" in the church, but God's purpose in including us all within the household is to heal, not to bless our sinful behaviors (Rom. 6:1–4). Loving those who call themselves gay or lesbian means including them in God's universal call to repentance.

How, then, should Christians view the promotion of the "marriage" or "blessing" of same-sex couples? For 2,000 years Christians have recognized these sexual relations as grievous sin; how could we in a few short years come to call it sanctified? The recklessness of the gay-positive project and the resulting schisms should show even its champions that this change is not from God.

Some would say that this reversal in Christian sexual ethics does not touch the core of the faith and is therefore no grounds for church splits. They are mistaken. This accommodation to a society's declining mores, instead, divides those who embrace it from the church historic.

Is the attempt to bless homoerotic relations truly heretical? It is true that this is not an obvious theological attack on, say, the divinity of Christ or the necessity of the Atonement. But it is indirectly heretical because it upholds a corrupt imitation of marriage, which should properly be a living icon of Christ and the church—a theological picture that mediates God's glory and truth, directing us to the greater reality. Paul calls marriage a "great mystery" that speaks of Christ and the church (Eph. 5:32). So, for example, husbands are to love their wives as Christ loves the church. Indeed, the relations of husband and wife, and of Christ and the church, illuminate each other.

Husband and wife, representing Christ and the church, can only be parodied in same-sex "marriage."

What else do we see in this icon for marriage? For one thing, without Eve, Adam was alone and had no companion fit for him (Gen. 2:20). God gave Eve to Adam and Adam to Eve. The difference in gender of husband and wife, united in marriage, points to the wonder of the Trinity, our ultimate pattern of "other-but-same in relationship." Homoerotic relations reject the gift of sexual otherness and cannot echo the nature of the Trinity.

Furthermore, marriage is not an end in itself but overflows, most obviously to the procreation of children. The original couple is exhorted to "be fruitful and multiply" and thus to take care of creation. By its nature, gay sex cannot bear fruit or fulfill this ecstatic ("going out") role.

God himself enacted the first marriage covenant. A marriage, like the relation of Christ to the church, is not finally a human creation. (Hence the Orthodox insist that a marriage is effected by God himself, and Roman Catholics say the priest is only a witness.) In contrast, God does not join people of the same sex together but calls the behavior they seek to sanctify an abomination. To bless homoerotic relations underscores human willfulness.

If the character of marriage is iconic, what would a same-sex "blessing" or marriage supposedly show us? For one, the church would be giving thanks to God for the sexual union of two men, or two women—declaring that the pair represents God's love and salvation. It would be declaring that couples that exclude one gender represent such love and salvation. It would be claiming that they are taken up together into God's own actions and being. It would be proclaiming that they have a fruitful part in creation, and that they are symbols of the in-breaking rule of God.

"To bless" (Grk., eu-logein) is to "speak a good word" about this alliance, asserting that it brings together the way of the Cross and the way of new life. Such a blessing alleges that the relationship fosters repentance, healing, and glorification for the couple. Precisely here, the church would be saying, you can see the love of God in human form and the glory of humanity. Here would be, in one sense at least, a sacrament—an occasion where God meets us.

A church doing this is replacing God with an idol. It is commending to the family of God, and thus to the world, activities that lead to spiritual death. It is praying against its true nature, indeed, denying its true nature. Finally, the particular body (congregation or communion) is rending itself from the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic church. As Karl Barth has observed, heresy raises the troubling question of the boundaries of the church. While the church may learn from its conflict with heresy, there is no "middle way" here between faithfulness and the revisionist position.

In communions where homoerotic behavior has been accepted, there have been other signs of departure from the faith in the ethical sphere, such as the acceptance of divorce and remarriage on nonbiblical grounds, and of abortion. Promotion in the churches of same-sex blessings or marriages is only the most recent and flamboyant accommodation to declining Northern or Western mores.

This is not the first time the church has had to wrestle with capitulation to the spirit of the age, nor will it be the last.

As serious as things may seem, we hope in the One who said that the gates of hell would not prevail against his church. So we will not lose perspective and begin to treat homoerotic behavior as though it were the worst sin, or as though we did not have to take heed lest we stumble ourselves (see Rom. 2).

Again, we must not assume that those promoting this blessing in the churches cannot change their minds, or that those involved in this lifestyle cannot repent; many have, and many more will. Those wrestling with same-sex desires need support for their healing as persons. Their full inclusion into the life of the church, including the discipline of repentance and the grace of transformation, points to the God who "makes all things new."

Edith M. Humphrey is associate professor of New Testament at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary.

Copyright © 2004 Christianity Today. Click for reprint information.
September 2004, Vol. 48, No. 9, Page 36

Central New York An Armed Fortress for Republican Convention

New York authorities are turning central Manhattan into an armed security fortress for the four-day Republican National Convention that opens next Monday to nominate President George W. Bush (news - web sites) for a second four-year term.

"The city and the state as well as many agencies and thousands of individuals have come together in partnership to provide an unprecedented, comprehensive level of security to protect this great city and the convention," said US Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge.

Ridge's declaration of both the Republican convention, and the Democratic convention held in Boston last month -- the first political conventions since the September 11, 2001 attacks -- as "National Special Security Events" cleared the way for heavy federal participation in what would otherwise have been a security headache for the Big Apple's 37,000-strong police force.

"Working in partnership with the New York City Police Department and other local and state organizations, the Department of Homeland Security has invested substantial resources and personnel to ensure a safe and secure event," said Ridge.

Some 50,000 participants are expected at the convention, including delegates, journalists and elected officials, including Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney (news - web sites).

"New York is protected by land, sea and air," said Mayor Michael Bloomberg, adding that the security cordon around Madison Square Garden, the convention venue, would be so tight that, "If you aren't in the area around the Garden, you probably won't even know the convention is in town.

"Unless a delegate asks for directions," he added. "In that case, do as Ed Koch says, and 'Make Nice'," referring to a television commercial in which the former mayor urges New Yorkers to welcome the delegates.

Police say the area around the Garden will be sealed off to an 18-block radius, and only vehicles with special police permits will be allowed to enter.

That security perimeter will be patrolled around the clock by a 10,000-strong security force including New York City police, New York State police, FBI (news - web sites) agents, SWAT teams and attack dogs.

The city security force will be reinforced by the US Coast Guard, US Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents, US Secret Service agents and the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.

Security will be doubly tight along the three streets and three avenues abutting the Garden, access to which will be strictly limited to local residents and those accredited to the convention.

Inside that perimeter is the west side's Pennsylvania Station, to which a transit corridor has been set up to accommodate the half million workers who commute into and out of the city through the huge railway station each day.

"We are prepared," declared New York Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly. "Our officers have been trained to respond in a disciplined and effective way. The coverage will be more than adequate. We will be using in essence the entire department."

To illustrate the enormity of the security nightmare facing New York, Los Angeles police Lieutenant Peter Durham wrote in the National Journal:

"The Los Angeles Police Department can escort a presidential motorcade through the city with fewer than a hundred officers. My counterpart in New York uses 2,500 police officers to get the president from the Riverside helipad to the United Nations (news - web sites)."

The NYPD says it has purchased two high-tech non-lethal response weapons called long range acoustic devices, at 35,000 dollars each, capable of beaming incapacitating sound up to 150 decibels to distance of 274 meters (yards) to deal with demonstrators.

To those concerned lest civil rights be trampled in the interests of convention security, Wendell Shingler, director of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement's Federal Protective Service, assured that, "We are great supporters of the First Amendment."

But, he added, "The troublemakers, we are not going to put up with."

Yahoo News

Judge Calls Partial-Birth Abortion Act Unconstitutional

In a highly anticipated ruling, a federal judge found the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act unconstitutional Thursday because it does not include a health exception for what he called a "gruesome procedure."

U.S. District Judge Richard C. Casey in Manhattan said the Supreme Court has made it clear that a law which prohibits the performance of a particular abortion procedure must include an exception to preserve a woman's life and health.

"While Congress and lower courts may disagree with the Supreme Court's constitutional decisions, that does not free them from their constitutional duty to obey the Supreme Court's rulings," Casey wrote.

He said the Supreme Court had made it clear that "this gruesome procedure may be outlawed only if there exists a medical consensus that there is no circumstance in which any women could potentially benefit from it."

At another point, Casey wrote that testimony put before himself and Congress showed the outlawed abortion technique to be a "gruesome, brutal, barbaric and uncivilized medical procedure."

The law, signed in November, represented the first substantial federal legislation limiting a woman's right to choose an abortion. Abortion rights activists said it conflicted with three decades of Supreme Court precedent.

It banned a procedure that is known to doctors as intact dilation and extraction, but is called "partial-birth abortion" by abortion foes. During the procedure, the fetus is partially removed from the womb, and its skull is punctured or crushed.

Casey, one of three federal judges nationwide hearing challenges to the abortion law, noted that the Supreme Court has established that "abortion of a non-viable fetus, as a form of personal privacy, is a fundamental right found in the due process guarantee of liberty."

On June 1, U.S. District Judge Phyllis Hamilton in San Francisco also found the law unconstitutional, saying it "poses an undue burden on a woman's right to choose an abortion." A judge in Lincoln, Neb., has yet to rule.

Casey challenged the conclusion by Congress that there is no significant body of medical opinion believing the procedure has safety advantages for women.

Casey said the Congressional record itself undermined the finding because it included contradictory views, including nine medical associations which opposed the act because they believed the abortion procedure provides safety advantages for some women.

Megan L. Gaffney, a spokeswoman for the U.S. attorney's office in Manhattan, said the government had no comment.

"We're thrilled," said Louise Melling, director of the ACLU's Reproductive Freedom Project.

She said state legislatures and Congress for years has considered passing bans on a wide range of safe abortion practices.

"We can only hope as we have decision after decision after decision striking these bans, saying they endanger women's health, that the legislatures will finally stop," Melling said.

Although some observers suggest the law will affect 2,200 to 5,000 annually out of 1.3 million total abortions, doctors at trials earlier this year have testified it would affect about 130,000 abortions or almost all in the second trimester.

The ruling by Casey was eagerly anticipated in part because the judge was considered by some observers to be the best hope for supporters of the law to win a judicial victory.

"We were on pins and needles on this one," said Gloria Feldt, president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America. "The judge was very aggressive in his questioning and very transparent in his articulation of his personal views on the matter. Fortunately, he chose to uphold the law."

During a hearing earlier this year, Casey repeatedly asked doctors whether they tell pregnant women prior to an abortion that they will rip the fetus apart and that it might feel pain.

Dr. Carolyn Westhoff, who estimates she performs or supervises 500 or more abortions annually in Manhattan, testified that some women ask to hold the fetus afterward to help them grieve.

"Did you tell them you were sucking the brains out of the same baby they desired to hold?" the judge asked.

"They know the head's empty," the doctor responded. "I don't tell them I'm sucking the brain out."

When Westhoff added that she doesn't "think that helps the grieving process," Casey snapped, "I didn't ask that."

At another point, Casey, who is blind, asked Westhoff, "A condition that causes blindness, can that be detected?"

He added that he wanted to know if "a mother can detect in advance that a baby will be born blind."

"Not that I'm aware of," Westhoff answered.
Copyright © 2004, Newsday, Inc.

Vt. Same-Sex Union Null in Va., Judge Says

Case Seen as Test of Parental Rights

A Winchester judge ruled yesterday that Virginia has jurisdiction over a complex custody battle between a toddler's biological mother and her former lesbian lover after the couple wed in Vermont and then split up. The decision dealt a blow to gay-rights advocates who said the case represented a chance for Virginia to recognize same-sex unions and the rights of non-biological parents.

Frederick County Circuit Court Judge John R. Prosser cited Virginia's Affirmation of Marriage Act, which specifically declares unions or domestic partnership contracts between members of the same sex void. He described the biological mother as the child's "sole parent" and said the laws of Vermont conflict with Virginia's and should have no bearing on custody.

The case centers on Lisa Miller and Janet Jenkins, who were joined in a civil union in Vermont in 2000, combining their lives and last names. In April 2002, Janet Miller-Jenkins cut the umbilical cord as Lisa Miller-Jenkins gave birth to a baby girl, conceived by artificial insemination, in Frederick County, Va. The couple moved to western Vermont to raise Isabella, who learned to call Lisa "Mommy" and Janet "Mama."

Last year, as their relationship dissolved, Lisa Miller-Jenkins moved with Isabella to Winchester to be closer to her family and filed court papers in Vermont essentially asking Janet Miller-Jenkins for a divorce. She also asked that Janet be awarded visitation and waived her right to challenge her former partner's claim to parentage.

Yesterday, hours before she appeared in the Winchester courtroom, Lisa Miller-Jenkins reversed course and testified by telephone in a Vermont courtroom, asking that her previous waiver be removed and that Janet Miller-Jenkins be denied parental rights, according to Lisa's attorney, Judy G. Barone.

"Because someone feels like a parent or acts like a parent doesn't mean they are," Barone said. "There's nothing in the civil union law that defines Janet as a parent."

Lawyers yesterday could not say what Prosser's decision meant for the custody case in Vermont. Both sides say the case tests the strength of same-sex unions and the future of their recognition. Of the approximately 7,000 same-sex unions formalized in Vermont, the vast majority have been from out of state.

"This is the first of many cases where Virginia's anti-gay, utterly unconstitutional marriage act will be used to deny people rights," said Joseph R. Price, a Washington attorney and chairman of Equality Virginia, a gay rights group. He is representing Janet Miller-Jenkins free of charge. "It comes as no surprise to many that Lisa thought she could do better in Virginia as far as getting rid of her gay partner's rights. Virginia could become the Las Vegas of gay divorces. You would simply pack up and move to Virginia, and your partner would have no rights, according to this Virginia law."

Opponents of gay marriage, though, say laws governing civil unions and same-sex marriage are confusing. In 2000, Vermont became the only state to grant civil unions, which offer couples the same rights as marriage but are not recognized in any other state. In May, Massachusetts legalized same-sex marriages for state residents only. This month, the California Supreme Court voided about 4,000 same-sex marriages performed in San Francisco this year.

"What we're talking about here is confusion in the law," said Stephen Cable, president of Vermont Renewal, a group that opposes same-sex marriage. "In Vermont, the judge still hasn't figured out how Janet could be a parent. Vermont's civil union law does not address parentage."

Attorneys for Lisa Miller-Jenkins, who calls herself a "former lesbian," say she does not oppose visitation for Janet Miller-Jenkins, but she does not want her to be granted the same rights as a parent.

"Vermont's passage of this law has exported much legal chaos," Barone said. "It isn't about people's politics. It's about the law in place. Nobody is being in any way discriminatory. This isn't a political battle, certainly not in my client's eyes."

But gay-rights lawyers and advocacy groups have flocked to represent Janet Miller-Jenkins, saying that if the legal system is going to recognize civil unions, it also needs to deal with the consequences of their demise.

"This is the child's home up here," said Theodore A. Parisi Jr., one of Janet's attorneys in Vermont. "Isabella has a room. Her toys are still here. She's familiar with the surroundings. It would be no different than if a child went to live with her father."

Janet's attorneys criticized the Virginia judge for not taking into account that another jurisdiction has commenced custody proceedings and planned to appeal.

S. Mitra Kalita
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, August 25, 2004; Page B01

Staff writer Jonathan Finer contributed to this report.

Firing Back

Thousands of U.S. soldiers are being forced to serve indefinitely by the military's controversial "stop loss" orders. One brave reservist sues Uncle Sam to stop this "back-door draft."

Michael Hoffman, who lives outside of Philadelphia, was three days away from leaving the Marine Corps when the order came down: He was being sent to Iraq. There was no advance notice, no extra money and, of course, no guarantee that he would come back alive.

Hoffman, like thousands of others who volunteered to serve their country, are being forced to stay long after they planned on leaving, because of the "stop loss" orders authorized by statute. The orders – which have been called "back-door drafts" – allow the military to suspend all laws and regulations and force all personnel to continue serving. The orders apply to those whose tours of duty expire and to those who are eligible for retirement.

"I just thought you leave the military and you can get called back if they need you," says Hoffman. "With the 'stop loss' orders, you never leave. They extend your contract, which is something nobody really understands when they first sign-up."

The emotional turmoil aside, Hoffman feels fortunate his extension was only a few months and he left the Marines about a year ago, without having lost much. A friend of his lost a good job with benefits and was forced to take his wife and child to live with family members after departure from military service was delayed.

Now comes a lawsuit, filed last week in federal court in San Francisco, challenging the military's controversial policy on behalf of "John Doe," a decorated veteran and married reservist in the California Army National Guard, asking his "stop loss" order overturned. The lawsuit argues that the policy, based on an executive order issued after Sept. 11, 2001, doesn't apply to enlisted personnel. It further argues that the order is only valid after war is legally declared by Congress. Among the named defendants are Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, Army Secretary Les Brownlee and John Doe's company commander.

"People don't surrender (all) rights when they go into the military," says Marguerite Hiken, co-chair of the Military Law Task Force of the National Lawyers Guild. "The government can't hold you indefinitely. If the war on terrorism never ends, 'stop loss' doesn't end. These people never get out. The military is saying we control you completely."

John Doe's lawyers say 12 years of exemplary, decorated military service, with nine years of active duty, is enough. His "stop loss" order could mean two years in Iraq, although he has already served a tour of duty there and alhough his contract runs out in December, say his lawyers, Michael S. Sorgen and Joshua Sondheimer.

Under a previous "stop loss" order, Doe was told that the Army would have reactivation dibs on him until the year 2043. That order was lifted when that term of enlistment ended. Doe re-upped for a short hitch in the reserves. In July, he was told his stint had been extended for two years and his National Guard unit was mobilized for service in Iraq.

"This lawsuit seeks to stop the forced retention of men and women like John Doe who have already fulfilled their service obligation to the country," says Sorgen. "Their enlistments should have ended, and they should now be entitled to return to their families." John Doe chose a limited one-year commitment in the reserves in large part to spend time with his family, the lawyers say. He has two young daughters.

"The burden of maintaining the high troop levels that we have shouldn't be on the shoulders of the people who have fulfilled their service obligation," says Sondheimer. "Perhaps over 100,000 servicemen have been subjected to 'stop loss,' since the program started." The government seems to think that there is no limit to how many times "stop loss" orders can be used, he adds.

The Department of Defense says the Army is the only branch now using "stop loss" orders. The secretary of defense delegated stop loss authority to the individual secretaries of the armed forces, said Lt. Col. Pamela L. Hart. The "stop loss program is authorized by statute and allows the military services to retain trained, experienced, and skilled manpower by suspending certain laws, regulations, and policies that allow separations from active duty, including retirement," she explains in an e-mail response to questions. About 20,000 soldiers are affected by the orders, Lt. Col. Hart says.

Some 50,000 guard and reserve troops are in the U.S. Central Command theatre, which includes Iraq and Afghanistan, says Major Michael McLaughlin, another military spokesperson. Approximately 145,000 soldiers – some 19,000 in Afghanistan and 125,000 in Iraq – are in the embattled region.

Are these "stop loss" orders a way for the military to avoid instituting the draft? If the orders were stopped, would it necessitate a draft?

"According to the Secretary of Defense, there are no plans to reinstate the draft," responds Hart. "This is an all-volunteer Army. I cannot speculate on 'what-would-happen-if' type questions."

Nancy Lessin, of Military Families Speak Out, says that the "stop loss" orders rendered whatever soldiers signed up for as meaningless. Many soldiers feel betrayed, says Lessin. Her 1,600-member anti-war group is composed of those with loved ones in the armed services.

And she questions the whether re-enlistment is "voluntary."

"The ability of the military to issue 'stop loss' orders is being used to get soldiers to 'voluntarily re-enlist' – it's not voluntary at all," says Lessin. Many soldiers have been told "You can re-enlist, and if you do, we'll make sure you have some duties but they'll be in the United States, you won't be going back to Iraq. But if you do not re-enlist, we are going to 'stop loss' you and make sure that you go back to Iraq,'" says Lessin.

"In this situation where our loved ones have been sent off into a very reckless military misadventure, into a war that should never have happened, into a war that is in fact about oil markets and empire building, it just sets a whole different context for what families go through," she says. Her stepson, who served in Iraq, is in the reserves and could be sent back any time over the next two years.

"These extended deployments, the stop losses, are really ruining peoples' lives," says former Marine Michael Hoffman, who is also co-founder of Iraq Veterans Against the War.

Richard Muhammad is the Chicago-based editor of StraightWords E-Zine, and former managing editor for The Final Call newspaper.

Tales of Big Brother

What do a software engineer, an intern, and three young men in Missouri have in common? Each has been the target of the FBI's efforts to intimidate political protesters before the party convention.

Editor's Note: Since the 9/11 attacks, many of our Orwellian nightmares have come true: Innocent people rounded up in police sweeps; detainees held without evidence or access to a lawyer for months on end; and the rapid erosion of our most basic right to privacy. We didn't think it could get worse until the FBI decided to target dissent in the name of national security. In the lead up to the Democratic and now Republican conventions, scores of activists have heard the proverbial knock on the door. These are just three of the very many stories of harrasment and intimidation that mark a new low for American democracy.

A Visit from Agent Faul

Paul Bame is a 45-year-old software engineer in Fort Collins, Colorado. He's also a nonviolent political activist. On the afternoon of July 22, an FBI agent named Ted Faul called Bame's home, he says. "He left a message on my machine saying that he wanted to talk to me about something," Bame recalls. "I was afraid."

Bame went to work the next day and took a break for lunch. "When I got back to work, there was a security guard offering to escort me to the lobby to talk to somebody named Ted," he says.

Bame met Agent Faul.

"He said the visit was not supposed to be embarrassing or accusatory," Bame recalls. "But of course, it seems pretty embarrassing and accusatory to have the FBI visit you at your place of work. At some companies, I might have lost my job. That didn't happen here, thank goodness."

Agent Faul gave some indication of why he was interested in speaking to Bame. "He said my name came up at headquarters as someone who might have information about plans for mayhem at the conventions," Bame says. "He wondered if I had that information. And I responded that I'd be happy to discuss this with him with a lawyer present."

Agent Faul pressed on, according to Bame: "He said, 'Is there any particular piece of this that you think you need a lawyer present for?' "

Bame says he responded: "Whenever questioned by the FBI, I think it's wise to have a lawyer present."

And that was pretty much the end of the encounter, he says.

The New York Times reported on Aug. 16 that "the FBI has been questioning political protesters across the country" about events planned at the conventions. That article said that civil rights advocates believe that "at least 40 or 50 people, and perhaps more," have been visited by the FBI.

Bame was one of them.

"We were conducting Joint Terrorism Task Force interviews throughout the nation," says Monique Kelso, a spokeswoman for the Denver FBI office. "We were following up on leads of potential individuals that could possibly have information about disruption or possible illegal activity at the conventions or upcoming elections."

The ACLU condemns the FBI for the interviews. "These JTTF visits are an abuse of power," says Mark Silverstein, legal director of the ACLU of Colorado. They are designed, he says, to intimidate people "from exercising their constitutional right to protest government policies and associate with others who want to protest government policies."

Bame agrees. "I was scared to death the whole time," he says. "I felt in my bones it was a scare tactic, it was intimidation. It's really disgusting that explicitly nonviolent protesters are getting questioned as if they're terrorists."

Bame says he worries about the chilling effect. "It makes people feel pretty bad if one of their neighbors is visited by the FBI," he says. "They start to wonder, 'Am I going to be next?' "

Bame says he has been arrested twice at demonstrations. The first time was at the World Bank-IMF protests in September 2002. "I pleaded guilty to parading without a permit because I didn't want to take the time to contest the charge," he says. "It was just an infraction, and I was fined $50."

The second was at the Miami-FTAA fiasco in November. "Several days before the demonstration, I and four others were arrested on a public sidewalk in the Miami business district," he says. "We were charged with obstructing the sidewalk. It was a completely fictitious charge. And the case was dismissed." Bame has joined a class action suit against the Miami police department.

Even though he was shaken up by his encounter with the FBI, Bame is not going to stop protesting. "Despite my fear," he says, "I'm going to New York."

'Community Outreach' in Denver

On Aug. 16, Eric Lichtblau of The New York Times revealed that the FBI has been "questioning political demonstrators" about major events this election season. He mentioned Sarah Bardwell, a 21-year-old intern at the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) in Denver. I spoke with Bardwell on Aug. 20.

Four FBI agents and two Denver police officers came to her home on July 22, at about 4:30 in the afternoon, she recalls. "One guy was in all swat, dressed in black, with six guns on him," she says.

They gathered Bardwell's housemates together.

"They told us they were 'doing community outreach' but then they said they were doing 'preemptive investigations' into possible or suspected 'anarchists, terrorists, and murderers,' " she recalls.

"I told them maybe they should talk to the Denver police because they recently shot a man in my neighborhood," she says.

The FBI agents then began to probe about upcoming political events. "They asked us if we were planning any criminal actions at the Republican National Convention, the Democratic National Convention, and the inauguration," she says. "And then they asked us if we knew anyone who was planning such actions. And they told us if we withheld this information, that was a crime."

Bardwell and her housemates refused to answer. (She says, though, that "no one at the house was planning on going to the conventions. It's really weird.") She says the officers "were vigorously taking notes and looking into our house and at our bicycles." One of her housemates asked them if they had a warrant, and they responded something like this, Bardwell says: " 'Oh, we don't need a warrant. We're just here to talk. It's a friendly visit.' "

There was some banter back and forth, she recalls. "They asked us what our names were," she says. "We told them they probably knew our names, but we didn't give them to them. We asked for their names, but they said they wouldn't give us theirs if we didn't give them ours."

But then the conversation turned ominous. "They told us they were going to have to take 'more intrusive efforts' because they took the fact that we were not answering their questions as noncooperation," she says. "I asked if that was a threat. They denied that it was. And they left shortly after that, saying something like, 'We'll see you later.' And me thinking, 'I hope not.' "

Looking back, Bardwell recognizes how scared she was. "I was afraid the whole time, afraid of what they were going to do to my house, afraid of my safety and my future," she says. "It's a really scary thing to have the FBI say they're going to be more intrusive than coming to your house!"

When the FBI left, her roommates all expressed "shock and fear and anger," she says. One said: "I can't fucking believe that just happened," Bardwell recalls, adding: " 'Is this 1984 or what?' got said probably a million times."

While the FBI and Denver police were descending on Bardwell's home, another team appeared at their friends' house down the street. "They had a much more aggressive experience than we had," she says. "The officers were more threatening. And one officer was moving to pull his gun out when one friend was trying to get their ID from the kitchen counter."

Joe Parris, an FBI spokesman in Washington, told The New York Times about the visits across the country: "No one was dragged from their homes and put under bright lights. The interviewees were free to talk to us or close the door in our faces."

Mark Silverstein, legal director of the ACLU of Colorado, says this case is "especially sensitive" because the Denver police settled a lawsuit with the ACLU of Colorado in the spring of 2003 with an agreement not to spy on Denver dissidents. Silverstein wants to know why two Denver police officers participated in this action.

So does Bardwell.

"The Denver police are not allowed to be spying on us, and yet they were at our house," she says.

Bardwell has since received an e-mail from Lieutenant Stephens of the Denver Police Internal Affairs Bureau.

"I want to assure you that the Denver Police Department takes these types of allegations very seriously," the e-mail reads. "If you feel that the Denver officers acted inappropriately, please contact the Internal Affairs Bureau at any time to discuss the incident."

Bardwell is not sure how she is going to proceed at this point. She says she is still trying to process what happened.

"I was so shocked through the whole thing," she says. "There's definitely a culture among activists of expecting this kind of behavior. But it's a completely different thing when it happens to you."

Tailed by the FBI

The FBI trailed and interrogated three young men from Kirksville, Missouri, in July, and talked to their parents. The activists were then subpoenaed to appear before a grand jury on the very day they were planning to be in Boston for a protest at the Democratic National Convention.

The New York Times had one sentence on this in its pathbreaking August 16 story. Here are the details, according to Denise Lieberman, legal director of the ACLU of Eastern Missouri, which is representing the three men.

The men are 20, 22, and 24 years old, and they all have attended Truman State University. One is still there.

"In the week leading up to the Democratic National Convention, the parents of each of the three were visited by agents of the FBI identifying themselves as members of the Joint Terrorism Task Force," says Lieberman. "They said they were there to get their sons' current contact information and to ask some questions about their sons' political affiliations."

The three young men, who have not released their names yet, were "visited by an FBI agent in Kirksville, who was accompanied by a local police officer," Lieberman says.

"They were asked three questions: " 'Are you aware of any criminally disruptive activity being planned either for the Democratic National Convention, the Republican National Convention, the Presidential debates, the elections, or any other related event?'

" 'If you did know, would you tell us?'

" 'Are you aware, if you have such knowledge or were planning on participating in such activities and you don't tell us, that you can be charged with a crime?' "

Lieberman says that each of the young men refused to answer the questions without having an attorney present.

Two things make this case even more alarming than other similar incidents around the country, she says.

The first is that her clients were subpoenaed, and as a consequence could not go to their intended protest.

"On Monday, July 26, my clients received a subpoena to appear before a federal grand jury, and at the same time they received a target letter saying they were a target of the investigation," says Lieberman. "They were ordered to appear on Thursday, July 29, which was the same date they were scheduled to appear in Boston for a protest. It certainly had the effect of preventing them from attending the protest."

Lieberman says that neither the subpoena nor the target letter offered specific information about particular incidents of alleged criminal activity. And she said the prosecutor refused to grant her clients an extension.

The second distinctive characteristic of this case, Lieberman says, is that her clients were repeatedly and overtly tailed.

"Our clients were put under 24-hour surveillance," she says. "It began approximately Sunday July 25th. At that point, they all had come to St. Louis. They noticed cars in front of the house where they were staying, at least three at any given time. One was a dark SUV, one was a GMC suburban, one was a silver truck. Sometimes there were other cars. They were there for a period of five days, and they followed them everywhere they went."

Lieberman says her clients would drive around their block four times, and the FBI would be there behind them. Undercover agents also followed them to the grocery store and even to her ACLU office.

"It was very overt," she says. "This was perhaps the most jarring to my clients. It was really, really rattling to them. The agents were making no attempt to keep the surveillance covert. This was having a significant intimidation effect not just on our clients but also on other people in that house. Our clients were afraid to call and meet their girlfriends, because they didn't want their girlfriends followed."

One member of the house who was not involved with the planned protest in Boston "was followed to work at his local grocery store and was taken aside by his supervisor," she says. "This person felt that perhaps his job could be jeopardized."

Lieberman says she is very troubled by the government's tactics.

The use of surveillance and even a subpoena as an apparent tool to prevent people from going to a protest violates the First Amendment, she believes.

"It's one thing if you go to a protest and engage in illegal activity like civil disobedience, where you know you could be subject to arrest. And police have every right if people do that to arrest them," she says. "But it's quite another thing to stop them before the protest and question them and take steps to intimidate them or prevent them from going in the first place."

And the intimidation extended beyond her clients.

"There were about 10 people who were supposed to go with them to Boston, and all of them cancelled," she says. "That makes the chilling effect greater."

Joe Parris, a spokesman for the FBI in Washington, told The New York Times: "The FBI isn't in the business of chilling anyone's First Amendment rights. But criminal behavior isn't covered by the First Amendment. What we're concerned about are injuries to convention participants, injuries to citizens, injuries to police and first responders."

But Lieberman says her clients hadn't engaged in criminal activity and were simply trying to exercise their First Amendment rights.

"The FBI," says Lieberman, "is sending a message not just to those targeted but to those around them: If you are outspoken, an FBI file may be opened on you or you might expect to see an FBI agent knocking on your door."

Matthew Rothschild, The Progressive. Posted August 25, 2004.