"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

Monday, January 17, 2005

Let’s Look within Ourselves for Iraq’s WMD

Why were U.S. officials so certain that Saddam had WMD? Because they knew that the United States was one of the nations that had supplied them to him. The entire experience will ultimately go down as one of the biggest setups in history. Give a dictator WMD, encourage him to use them against others, and then invade his country for possessing them.

Last Wednesday, some two months after the U.S. presidential election, U.S. officials formally ended their two-year search for Saddam Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction (WMD). Perhaps this will finally put an end to the hopes of many supporters of the Iraq War that a modern, air-conditioned facility would be found buried deep within the Iraqi desert where the infamous WMD have been stored.

The human psyche is such that oftentimes it blocks out of the conscious mind events and experiences that are deeply traumatic and painful. The national experience over Saddam Hussein’s WMD is a good example of this psychological phenomenon. It is impossible to overstate the level of fear that U.S. officials, from the president on down, engendered within the American people during the months preceding the Iraqi invasion. Both men and women were quaking with deep, fearful, foreboding thoughts that Saddam Hussein was about to “push the button,” sending mushroom clouds over U.S. cities, or about to send armies of terrorists to spray chemical and biological weapons into the faces of millions of American people. Remember the duct tape? Remember the gas masks? Saddam was coming to get us. And that’s why we needed to get him first — to “disarm him” of his WMD. We couldn’t wait for hapless UN inspectors to finish their job. It would be too late. Something had to be done now.

Why were U.S. officials so certain that Saddam had WMD? Because they knew that the United States was one of the nations that had supplied them to him. The entire experience will ultimately go down as one of the biggest setups in history. Give a dictator WMD, encourage him to use them against others, and then invade his country for possessing them.

Certain that U.S. soldiers would find the infamous WMD (a “slam dunk” as CIA director George Tenet told the president), the United States invaded Iraq supposedly for the purpose of saving America and the world from an imminent attack by Saddam Hussein. As soon as the WMD were found, U.S. officials would make dramatic announcements, with the WMD in the background, stating that they had saved America and the world from an imminent WMD attack by Saddam Hussein. Budgets for the CIA and the military-industrial complex would know no bounds. Medals of Freedom would be pinned on the chests of countless governmental officials.

But something went wrong along the way. What all the brilliant and calculating U.S. politicians and bureaucrats never figured on was that Saddam Hussein had already “disarmed” some time after the Persian Gulf War, possibly as early as 1991. They never dreamed that he could be telling the truth when he repeatedly told the world that he had, in fact, destroyed his WMD. They never believed that he might in fact have complied with the UN resolutions requiring him to disarm. They never thought for a minute that Saddam Hussein had in fact rid Iraq of the WMD that the United States and other Western nations had delivered to him during the 1980s.

And so the principal justification for the invasion and war of aggression had to be shifted in the minds of the American people — to a supposed love for the Iraqi people, manifested by a need to “liberate” them, and to a purported devotion to “spreading democracy” in the Middle East, both of which could be achieved with a brutal war and military occupation that would kill upwards of a 100,000 Iraqi citizens, not to mention the tyranny and chaos that the war and occupation have produced.

And many of those who had feared for their lives from an imminent attack by Saddam Hussein’s WMD quickly shifted gears without missing a hitch. “Yes, that was the reason I supported the invasion of Iraq — because ‘we’ love the Iraqi people and the people of the Middle East and want to see them ‘free’ and ‘democratic.’”

To do otherwise — to admit that tens of thousands of innocent people have been killed, maimed, tortured, sexually abused, and murdered as a result of a mistake or a lie is simply too painful, psychologically.

But the problem is that the “liberation” and “spreading democracy” rationales for the war are lies too.

After all, if love for the Iraqi people was the principal rationale for the war, then why the imposition and continuation of the brutal sanctions against the Iraqi people for some 11 years preceding the invasion? When it became increasingly clear that the sanctions were contributing to the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Iraqi children, wouldn’t people who were concerned about the well-being of the Iraqi people have called for the sanctions to be lifted? But they didn’t.

When high UN officials resigned their positions in public protest over the sanctions, how many lovers of the Iraqi people demanded that the sanctions be terminated? Instead, as the brutal effect of the sanctions imposed against Iraq increasingly became clear, year after brutal year, the U.S. response was to implement a deadly and corrupt new government policy on top of the old deadly and corrupt policy. That was when the the infamous “oil-for-food” program came into existence, a program that actually entrusted money to Saddam Hussein — the brutal dictator who we were told was refusing to disarm his WMD — in the supposed hope that he would use the money for the well-being of the Iraqi people. What a cruel joke.

And today, where is the focus of those who say that they just wanted to “liberate” the Iraqi people with their invasion and war of aggression? Their focus is on the corruption within the “oil-for-food” governmental program rather than on a policy that brutalized the Iraqi populace as a way to persuade Saddam Hussein to “disarm” his WMD.

Why is there no focus on where Saddam Hussein got those WMD, which were first used as the excuse to impose the brutal sanctions regime on the Iraqi people and later used as the excuse to initiate a war that has killed or maimed tens of thousands of innocent people?

Why is there no focus on the deaths, misery, and corruption produced by the original policy of sanctions and its steadfast continuation, year after year for more than a decade, despite such deaths, misery, and corruption?

Why is there no focus on why the solution to the brutal consequences of the sanctions was a partnership with Saddam Hussein, knowing that he was one of the most corrupt, brutal dictators in history, a partnership that relied on Saddam’s good faith to administer the oil-for-food program fairly and honestly and in the best interests of the Iraqi citizenry? What another cruel joke.

Why is there no focus on why the original policy of sanctions wasn’t terminated rather than imposing a new “oil-for-food” policy on top of the old policy that did nothing more than produce even more death, misery, and corruption?

Indeed, why is there no focus on the fact that hundreds of thousands of children died throughout the 1990’s because of the false belief that Saddam Hussein had not gotten rid of those infamous WMD?

And if “spreading democracy” was the actual rationale for the war, then why the current close alliance with the unelected military dictator of Pakistan who took power in a coup? Indeed, why not simply prevail upon friendly authoritarian regimes in the Middle East, such as Kuwait and Saudi Arabia, to lead the Middle East peacefully in the establishment of democracy? Wouldn’t such peaceful “leadership in democracy” have been much less costly in terms of money, lives, maiming, and misery?

Today, given the increasing chaos in Iraq and the growing number of deaths of U.S. servicemen, American officials are now trying to figure out a way to end their military adventure in Iraq. As they try to figure out how to do that, what we, the American people, must do is confront the truth, as painful as it is, not only about the long war against Iraq, including the decade of brutal sanctions, but about U.S. foreign policy in general.

That examination must include a focus on the truthful reason for invading Iraq — which was neither WMD nor liberation nor spreading democracy but rather “regime change” — the ouster of a regime that refuses to do the bidding of U.S. officials and its replacement with a regime that will do their bidding. It is this rationale — “regime change” — that formed the basis for the CIA’s ouster of the democratically elected prime minister of Iran in 1953 (which engendered the tremendous hatred of Iranians toward the United States), the CIA’s ouster of the democratically elected president of Guatemala in 1954 (which engendered a civil war that killed some 200,000 people), the CIA’s attempt to oust Fidel Castro from power in Cuba (which almost threw the world into a nuclear war), and the CIA’s ouster of the democratically elected president of Chile (which resulted in a 17-year reign of terror by Chilean dictator Gen. Augusto Pinochet that killed or tortured thousands), not to mention the Vietnam War and who knows what else, given the secret activities and secret budget of the CIA.

It is impossible to overstate the horrific consequences of an imperial foreign policy based on “regime change” that U.S. officials, especially those in the CIA, State Department, and the Pentagon, have wrought for the American people.

When U.S. troops leave Iraq, which they will do, let us hope that the American people seize the occasion to do what we should have done at the fall of the Berlin Wall: to reflect and reevaluate where we are as a country and where we want to go. As part of that reevaluation, we should focus on whether the time has come to reject, fully and completely, the socialist and interventionist direction our nation has taken in domestic affairs and the imperial direction it has taken in foreign affairs. The focus must be on whether the time has come to restore our heritage of individual freedom, free markets, and republic by dismantling, not reforming, such programs and agencies as Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, welfare, the IRS, the CIA, and the military-industrial complex.

Mr. Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation. Send him email.

Gunmen Kidnap Catholic Archbishop in Iraq

BAGHDAD, Iraq - Insurgents kidnapped a Catholic archbishop and targeted security forces in a series of brazen assaults Monday that killed more than 20 people. A suicide bomber attacked U.S. Marines in Ramadi, where insurgents also beheaded two Shiite Muslims and left their bodies on a sidewalk.

The top U.S. general in Iraq (news - web sites) predicted violence during the Jan. 30 national election but pledged to do "everything in our power" to ensure safety of voters. As part of a crackdown on insurgents, U.S. troops arrested more than 100 suspects over the past three days, U.S. officials said.

In Mosul, Archbishop Basile Georges Casmoussa, 66, of the Syrian Catholic Church, was seized by gunmen while walking in front of his church, a priest said on condition of anonymity. No group claimed responsibility, but the Vatican (news - web sites) condemned the abduction as a "terrorist act.

Christians make up just 3 percent of Iraq's 26 million people. The major Christian groups include Chaldean-Assyrians and Armenians with small numbers of Roman Catholics.

The deadliest attacks occurred in three cities in the flashpoint region north and west of Baghdad where Sunni Muslim insurgents are seeking to derail the election.

In Buhriz, 35 miles north of Baghdad, gunmen attacked an Iraqi National Guard checkpoint at the provincial broadcasting center, killing eight soldiers and wounding four. A suicide driver set off a car bomb at a police station in Beiji, 155 miles north of the capital, killing seven policemen and wounding 25 people.

A U.S. spokesman said Marines suffered an undisclosed number of casualties in a suicide car bombing in Ramadi, 70 miles west of Baghdad. Marines sent to check a suspicious vehicle came under small arms and rocket-propelled grenade fire and the vehicle exploded.

"There were U.S. casualties," 1st Lt. Lyle Gilbert said. He declined to give further details, citing security.

Elsewhere in Ramadi, a predominantly Sunni Muslim city, officials found the bodies of five civilians and one Iraqi soldier. Each had a handwritten note declaring them collaborators, officials said. Four found together had been shot while two discovered later in the day were beheaded, their blood-soaked bodies left where they died. The notes identified the two beheaded victims as Shiite Muslims.

Shiites have been targets of intimidation because they are expected to turn out in large numbers for the election for a 275-member National Assembly that will appoint a new government and draft a permanent constitution.

About 60 percent of Iraq's 26 million people are Shiites, and their candidates are expected to win most of the assembly seats. Many Sunni Arabs fear losing the power they enjoyed under Saddam Hussein (news - web sites), and Sunni clerics have called for a boycott of the vote. U.S. officials fear a low Sunni turnout may cast doubt on the legitimacy of the new government.

On Monday, police discovered a car loaded with explosives in the Shiite holy city of Karbala. On Sunday, a total of 17 people were killed in several attacks along the main highway from Baghdad to Kut, a city in a largely Shiite area 100 miles to the southeast.

Four mortar shells on Sunday hit schools designated as polling stations in Basra, a largely Shiite city in the far south. An al-Qaida group led by Jordanian militant Abu Musab al-Zarqawi claimed responsibility for the attacks in a statement found Monday on a Web site, although its authenticity could not verified.

In a statement Monday, Gen. George W. Casey Jr., commander of the multinational force in Iraq, said about 300,000 soldiers and police from U.S., Iraqi and other foreign forces will be available to protect voters Jan. 30.

"Is there going to be violence on election day? There is, but it's important that we understand what's happening here," Casey said. "It's not just about violence. It's about former regime loyalists and foreign terrorists murdering innocent Iraqis and Iraqi security forces to stop them from exercising their right to vote."

Nevertheless, violence has already affected the exercise in democracy. Some political alliances have declined to release all the names of their candidates for fear of attack, and little public campaigning has been possible except in Kurdish areas of the north.

Shiite politician Salama Khafaji, who survived an ambush Sunday in central Baghdad by gunmen wearing police uniforms, said she canceled campaigning in the south.

"We sent people out today to check roads in the area but they have reported back that terrorists have set up some road checkpoints," she said. "Generally I cannot go out and meet people or knock on doors to get out the vote like they do in the West."

Iraqis living abroad began registering to vote Monday, with dozens arriving at polling stations in 14 countries from Australia to Britain to the United States. Officials estimate 1.2 million Iraqis are eligible to vote overseas.

"We lived in a dictatorship a long time, and it's the first time in my life, in my 48 years, that I can vote in Iraq," said Saieb Jabbar, who arrived at a London registration center with his 23-year-old son, Ahmed. "I feel very happy."

In the Detroit suburb of Southgate, one of five U.S. registration points, Bushra Albrhi signed up with her husband, saying she appreciated the role America played in getting rid of Saddam and giving Iraqis the chance to vote.

"It's the first time for the Iraqis. We'll be very happy if we get a president from the people," she said.

21 minutes ago Top Stories - AP
By ROBERT H. REID, Associated Press Writer

Report Singles Out U.S., Sudan For Strong Censure

Moreover, its actions have already resulted in other countries, such as Egypt, Malaysia, Russia, and Cuba, citing the U.S.'s violation of the Geneva Conventions and other questionable activities conducted in pursuit of its ”war on terror” as justifications for their own abuses.

The impunity surrounding the ethnic cleansing in Darfur, Sudan and the Abu Ghraib prison scandal in U.S.-occupied Iraq has dealt a serious blow to global efforts to strengthen respect for human rights, according to a major U.S. human rights group.

”No one would equate the two,” according to a lengthy introduction to the 527-page survey of 60 countries by Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch (HRW), ”yet each, in its own way, has had an insidious effect.”

”One involves indifference in the face of the worst imaginable atrocities, the other is emblematic of a powerful government flouting a most basic prohibition,” he wrote. ”One presents a crisis that threatens many lives, the other a case of exceptionalism that threatens the most fundamental rules.”

”The vitality of the global defence of human rights depends on a firm response to each,” he went on, urging serious efforts by the U.N. or any competent group of nations to stop the Sudanese government's slaughter in Darfur and to condemn the policy decisions by the Bush administration that resulted in torture and mistreatment of Iraqi and other detainees and to punish those responsible.

This year's survey, the fifteenth since 1990, covers human rights developments in 63 countries worldwide last year, among them the most problematic and controversial. Next to the annual State Department ”Country Reports”, which are ordinarily released in February, the annual HRW ”World Report” is one of the most comprehensive surveys published each year.

In addition to reporting on each of the covered countries, this year's edition also includes essays on the relationship between religion and human rights; sexuality and the cultural attack on human rights; and an in-depth analysis of the Darfur crisis.

Between 70,000 and 300,000 African Darfurese are believed to have died or been killed over the past two years as a direct result of a ”scorched-earth” counter-insurgency campaign by the government and government-backed Arab militias that has also forced some 1.6 million to flee their homes.

That the campaign has been carried out on the tenth anniversary of the genocide in Rwanda makes the situation particularly compelling.

Last summer, the U.S. Congress passed a resolution characterising the onslaught as ”genocide.” The term was explicitly endorsed by Secretary of State Colin Powell in September and later by President George W. Bush, although Powell stated that labeling the killing ”genocide” did not imply that any ”new action” was required.

While a number of non-governmental organisations (NGOs) have also endorsed the label, neither HRW nor Amnesty International has gone so far, maintaining that too little yet was known about the government's specific intent. Both have nonetheless called for strong international action to stop the killing.

The United States has gone to the U.N. Security Council to press its concerns. But worries that China, which has substantial oil investments in Sudan, and Russia, which profits from arms sales to Khartoum, oppose strong action have led Washington settle for a series of resolutions.

They have called on Sudan to stop the violence, authorised the deployment of up to 3,500 African Union (AU) troops to observe a ”cease-fire” in Darfur (of which only about 1,000 have been able to deploy to date), and mandated a U.N. Commission of Inquiry to assess the situation and report back to the Council at the end of January.

For several months, human rights groups, including Amnesty and HRW, have been calling for the Council to approve a new U.N. resolution that would at least authorise the AU mission to protect civilians and threaten specific economic sanctions, including possibly an oil embargo, against Khartoum if the violence does not stop within a short period of time.

Some have called for the U.S. to intervene alongside the AU, as well as other willing powers, to impose an end to the killing.

In his introductory essay, Roth argued that a large, U.N.-authorised military force is now needed to protect Darfur's residents and create the conditions for them to return home safely. He assailed the United States and western governments for simply ”handing the problem to the (AU), a new institution with few resources and no experience with military operations of the scale needed.”

”Darfur is making a mockery of our vows of 'never again,'” Roth said Thursday, noting that the western powers ”have seemed more focused on limiting their obligation to the people of Darfur than on ending the killing.”

As for the mistreatment of U.S. detainees held in violation of the Geneva Conventions, Washington has not only seriously weakened its ability to speak out with any credibility about human rights violations by other countries, according to the HRW director, but has also actually made it easier for terrorists, who are responsible for much more serious crimes, to recruit followers.

”(B)ecause deliberately attacking civilians is an affront to the most basic human rights values, an effective defence against terrorism requires not only traditional security measures but also reinforcement of a human rights culture,” Roth wrote.

”But when the United States disregards human rights, it undermines that human rights culture and thus sabotages one of the most important tools for dissuading potential terrorists,” he said. ”Instead, U.S. abuses have provided a new rallying cry for terrorist recruiters, and the pictures from Abu Ghraib have become the recruiting posters for Terrorism, Inc.”

The U.S. government's systematic use of coercive interrogation, he said, has weakened a pillar of international human rights law -- that governments should never subject detainees to torture or other mistreatment, even in the face of war or other serious threat.

”Yet in fighting terrorism, the U.S. government has treated this cornerstone obligation as a matter of choice, not duty,” he wrote.

Not only is such treatment considered by professional interrogators as far less likely to produce reliable information than time-tested techniques of careful questioning, probing, cross-checking, and gaining the confidence of the detainee, but it completely undermines the credibility of Bush's insistence that Washington is acting in defence of human rights and democratic values, the group says.

Moreover, its actions have already resulted in other countries, such as Egypt, Malaysia, Russia, and Cuba, citing the U.S.'s violation of the Geneva Conventions and other questionable activities conducted in pursuit of its ”war on terror” as justifications for their own abuses.

”Governments facing human rights pressure from the United States now find it easy to turn the tables,” said Roth. ”Washington can't very well uphold principles that it violates itself.”

Jim Lobe

Is Iran Washington’s Next Strategic Target?

Report US special forces operating inside Iran to select suspected weapons sites for possible air strikes.

WASHINGTON - Teams of US commandos have been operating inside Iran since last summer, selecting suspected weapons sites for possible air strikes, The New Yorker reported Monday.

The magazine's award-winning reporter Seymour Hersh, who last year exposed the extent of prisoner abuse at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, wrote that he was repeatedly told by US intelligence and military sources that "the next strategic target was Iran."

President George W. Bush has signed a series of orders authorizing commando groups to conduct covert operations against suspected terrorist targets in as many as ten nations in the Middle East and South Asia, the New Yorker said.

The Bush administration has been conducting secret spying missions inside Iran at least since mid-2004, gathering intelligence on declared and suspected nuclear, chemical and missile sites, it said.

"The goal is to identify and isolate three dozen, and perhaps more, such targets that could be destroyed by precision strikes and short-term commando raids," Hersh wrote.

"This is a war against terrorism, and Iraq is just one campaign," a former high-level government intelligence official told the magazine.

"The Bush administration is looking at this as a huge war zone. Next, we're going to have the Iranian campaign. We've declared war and the bad guys, wherever they are, are the enemy," the official said.

A top government consultant with close ties to the Pentagon told the magazine that Pentagon civilians - especially Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and his deputy Paul Wolfowitz - "want to go into Iran and destroy as much of the military infrastructure as possible."

Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz believe that Iran's clerical regime could not withstand a military blow and would collapse, the magazine reports.

International allies are helping the Pentagon with its Iran plans, according to the magazine. Israeli consultants are helping develop potential weapons targets inside Iran. Pakistan is also involved.

Pakistani scientists are providing information to an American task force that is penetrating eastern Iran searching for underground nuclear installations, the magazine said.

In return, Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf has received guarantees that he will not have to hand over disgraced nuclear scientist Abdul Qadeer Khan to international authorities for questioning.

Khan, the architect of Pakistan's nuclear programme, in February took responsibility for transfers of nuclear technology to Iran, Libya and North Korea.

The New Yorker article went on to describe how the Bush White House has solidified control over US intelligence operations and how the Pentagon has finagled new powers to conduct covert operations without oversight from the US Congress or involvement by the CIA.

But White House Communications Director Dan Bartlett on Sunday called the Hersh article "riddled with inaccuracies" and said the administration was using diplomacy to address the Iran issue.

"We're working with our European allies to help convince the Iranian government to not pursue weapons of mass destruction, particularly nuclear weapons. We'll continue to work through the IAEA protocol to do just that," Bartlett said.

He was referring to the International Atomic Energy Agency, the UN's nuclear watchdog.

"It's critical that the entire world focus on this issue. It is a threat that we have to take seriously, and we'll continue to work through the diplomatic initiatives that he set forth," Bartlett said on CNN.

But Hersh said administration hawks were convinced European negotiations will fail, and when they do, the United States will act - possibly by mid-year.

"The next step is Iran. It's definitely there. They're definitely planning," Hersh told CNN.

In the meantime the Pentagon is trying to get reliable information on Iranian weapon sites, to avoid the embarrassment of the alleged Iraqi weapons of mass destruction that were never found.

"We don't want another WMD flap. We want to be sure we have the right information," he said.

Middle East Online

The Reality of the Two Americas

Two radically different Americas were on display this week. Both are real, and both must be recognized a real to understand my country.

On the one hand, there was the appearance of Alberto Gonzales, President Bush's nominee for Attorney General, before the US Senate Judiciary Committee, answering questions about his role in the sordid chain of events that led to the horrors of Guantanamo and the torture at Abu Ghraib.

At the same time, there was, across America, an outpouring of extraordinary generosity, raising hundreds of millions of dollars for the victims of the tsunami that devastated South Asia.

Generosity of spirit, empathetic to the extreme: that's who we are. Arrogant in the use of power, insensitive to the plight of our victims-that, too often, is also how we operate.

First, Gonzales. In an especially powerful opinion piece published this week, a Washington Post writer asked the Senate to recall, before they vote to confirm Gonzales, the revulsion they felt when they first saw the obscene photographs of prisoner abuse at Abu Ghraib. And in an equally compelling New York Times articles, a writer warned that if knowing what we now know, Gonzales is confirmed as Attorney General, not only will justice have been aborted, but America itself will be compromised. "Torture," he wrote, "will belong to us all."

As we have learned from documents that have been released in the past year (despite some still being withheld by the White House), the torture wasn't accidental, nor can it be dismissed as rogue behavior. The use of torture was more widespread and involved a wide range of despicable and outlawed practices. And its use was known at the highest levels of the Administration.

What is, therefore, so disturbing in all of this, is that despite the horror experienced by Americans when they first learned of the torture at Abu Ghraib, despite the enormous damage this entire affair has done to the international image of America, and despite pledges that those responsible would be brought to justice, the individual responsible for the official White House memorandum that, in effect, absolved the US military from adhering to international conventions prohibiting torture, is now on the way to becoming the nation's top law enforcement official.

Why this arrogance and lack of accountability? Because, tragically, that is, sometimes the way we operate.

While this sordid tale unfolds in Washington, millions of Americans, gripped by tragedy in South Asia have mobilized a largely spontaneous national effort to provide assistance to those in need.

The world knows of President Bush's commitment of $350 million in relief aid, with more, if needed. They've seen scenes of a veritable US armada of military aircraft and personnel assigned to deliver this aid and provide critical logistical assistance to other nations' efforts. And they've heard Bush's wise decision to bring two former Presidents to help in mobilizing the private sector in response to this humanitarian crisis.

The President was right when he said, "We're showing the compassion of our nation in the swift response. But the greatest source of America's generosity is not our government. It's the good heart of the American people."

It's this last point that most of the world may not know about. Scanning press reports from across the country reveals a startling outpouring of giving-what one report called "a tidal wave of generosity."

At one end, there were million dollar checks given by some Hollywood celebrities and tens of millions donated by a number of major US corporations, and the millions being raised each day over the internet from small donors nationwide.

More telling, however, was the mobilization of fundraising by institutions large and small. Catholic Relief Services, one of the US's major charities, noted that while they usually raise $40,000 a month through their website, now they are raising $100,000 per hour. Churches and mosques report major efforts and even individual grade schools have been moved to respond. One grade school class donated their lunch money to relief efforts; another held a car wash. Overall, it has been estimated that by the week's end, private American donations will exceed one-half billion dollars.

People have been riveted by the continuing television coverage of the tragedy, a recent survey showed that almost one-half of American households had made a contribution to tsunami relief, and across the nation, Americans were flying their flags, spontaneously, at half-mast in collective mourning.

Why this empathy and generosity? Because that's who we are.

Of course, in all of this, we are not unique. Most nations manifest similar bi-polar behavior. We are no different.

There is a lesson here that must be noted. These two sides of our national character must be recognized and never forgotten-they have always been with us.

From the beginning, our great and inspiring democracy was born in sin with slavery and the ethnic cleansing of indigenous persons. We have as one of our national symbols the welcoming Statue of Liberty, and we also have, as part of our history, the "Palmer raids" and the Japanese internment during World War II. And we are the nation that gave birth to both "Bull" Conner and the Ku Klux Klan, to Martin Luther King, Jr., and the Fellowship of Reconciliation.

Because both Americas are always with us, we must acknowledge this and deal with them. If we pretend, for even a moment, that only the "bright" side is who we really are, the other America is given free reign. But if, as some critics are prone to do, we only focus on the intolerant or arrogant side of America, we do a great injustice to the goodness of millions of Americans and to their power to assert themselves and make change.

Dr. James J. Zogby is the President of Arab American Institute and can be reached at jzogby@aaiusa.org