"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

Sunday, August 07, 2005

It's All About Iraq

Ayman al-Zawahri, one of the most senior figures in al-Qaeda, has warned Britain and the US to expect more attacks unless they get their troops out of Iraq and all other Muslim countries.

He also warned that London will face new terrorist outrages because of Prime Minister Tony Blair's foreign policy decisions.

He added, "Blair has brought you destruction to the heart of London, and he will bring more destruction, God willing." These new threats were made in a videotape that was broadcast on al-Jazeera TV. This alarming statement also further establishes a link between the invasion of Iraq and the London bombings and is one that is becoming ever more obvious to the great majority of people, but not yet, it would seem, to the British prime minister.

Another attack within three weeks?

Even more significantly, this most recent statement must be seen in the context of previous events as Zawahri's words often appear to be used to trigger al-Qaeda cells around the world to stage attacks.

Some of these include:

On August 7, 1998 Islamic suicide bombers blew up the US embassies in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam, killing more than 220 people. This followed a statement by Zawahri the previous day.

On October 9, 2002 another Zawahri tape threatened more attacks on the US and its allies. Three days later, the Bali nightclub bombs killed more than 200 people, mostly Westerners.

On October 1, 2004 Zawahri called on Muslims worldwide to help in the Palestinian struggle. Six days later, al-Qaeda attacked three Egyptian tourist resorts in the Sinai, killing 34 people, about half of them Israelis.

On November 29, 2004, in a video statement Zawahri said that the US invasion of Baghdad was only the beginning of a Western occupation. Terrorists attacked the US consulate in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia on the morning of December 6, killing eight and wounding 15 others.

On June 17, Zawahri spoke again. On July 7 four bombs ripped through London's transport system, killing nearly 60, including the four suicide bombers.

On August 4, this senior al-Qaeda leader issued perhaps the most specific threat of an attack on Western interests. If the pattern is repeated, a major terrorist outrage will be carried out within the next three weeks. Britain is again considered to be one of the most likely targets.

Al-Qaeda confirms Iraq link

It would now be increasingly hard to argue that even if the war in Iraq is not the sole motivation for recent acts of terrorism, it must still be a major contributory factor behind the suicide bomb attacks in London.

This would appear to be a clear and understandable fact to most observers, but any such linkage is still being vigorously denied by Blair.

He was forced on to the defensive over the London bomb attacks for the first time on July 19, when a leaked threat assessment from the Joint Terrorist Analysis Center (JTAC) - an integral part of the British security service, MI5 - specifically warned less than a month before the July 7 attacks that "events in Iraq are continuing to act as motivation and a focus of a range of terrorist-related activity in the UK".

The report, leaked to The New York Times, also said "at present there is not a group with both the current intent and the capability to attack the UK", a flawed conclusion that only increased the pressure on the intelligence community to explain its failure to anticipate the possibility that the capital would be a prime terrorist target on the opening day of the Group of Eight summit in Gleneagles, Scotland.

Nor is the JTAC assessment alone in establishing a link between the bombing of London and Britain's involvement in Iraq.

Chatham House, previously known as The Royal Institute of International Affairs and an internationally respected foreign affairs think-tank, stated in a new report that the war in Iraq had boosted al-Qaeda.

The Chatham House report also highlighted the growing problems the security services have when it rather bluntly says that Britain's ability to carry out counter-terrorism measures had been hampered because the US was always in the driving seat in deciding policy.

US alliance puts UK at risk

It goes on to claim that Britain's security efforts have been severely hampered as "riding pillion with a powerful ally has proved costly in terms of British and US military lives, Iraqi lives, military expenditure and the damage caused to the counter-terrorism campaign".

The most politically sensitive finding, however, concludes there is "no doubt" the invasion of Iraq has "given a boost to the al-Qaeda network in propaganda, recruitment and fundraising", while providing an ideal targeting and training area for terrorists.

Blair has strenuously denied such a claim and senior ministers have responded to these arguments by saying that the attacks on New York and Washington on September 11 pre-dated the Iraq war and that the root causes of al-Qaeda terrorism were non-negotiable, such as the existence of the state of Israel.

The war in Iraq: Complete coverage

Critics have pointed out, however, that while the Iraq war is not necessarily the root cause of this new threat of home-grown terrorism, it may well have intensified the threat, as the JTAC assessment appears to conclude.

Interestingly, it emerged during the Hutton inquiry into the death of weapons expert David Kelly that the prime minister had been warned by the intelligence services that the planned invasion of Iraq could increase the terrorist threat to Britain. The leaked JTAC report was therefore simply the first official post-war confirmation of a probable link between the Iraq war and terrorist activity in Britain.

Just 10 days after the first wave of bombing, former Labour cabinet minister Clare Short insisted that she had no doubt the July 7 London bombings were linked to Iraq and Palestine. Interviewed on GMTV, Short said, "We are implicit in the slaughter of large numbers of civilians in Iraq and supporting a Middle East policy that for the Palestinians creates this sense of double standards - that feeds anger."

Growing political criticism of Blair

In a further damaging attack on the prime minister's position, John McDonnell, the Labour member of parliament for Hayes and Harlington and Chair of the Campaign Group of Labour MPs, said it was "intellectually unsustainable" to say the war in Iraq had not motivated the London bombers.

"For as long as Britain remains in occupation of Iraq, the terrorist recruiters will have the argument they seek to attract more susceptible young recruits to the bomb team. Britain must withdraw now," he said.

By July 19, a public opinion poll in The Guardian newspaper was able to report that two-thirds of Britons now believed that there was an identifiable link between Blair's decision to invade Iraq and the recent London bombings, despite the government claims to the contrary.

The poll found that that some 75% of voters believed that further attacks in Britain by suicide bombers were also inevitable.

But despite the mounting evidence that a link exists and that the the government is losing the battle to persuade people that terrorist attacks on the UK have not been made more likely by the invasion of Iraq, Blair has continued to lay the blame for the terrorist attacks simply on the "twisted teaching" of Islam and put the onus on Muslim leaders to defeat such an "evil".

The buck must stop with Blair

The British government is still in denial that the bombings have any connection with the invasion of Iraq or its involvement in the US-led "war on terrorism". The close alliance with the US and Britain's involvement in the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq may not justify terrorism, but they are an added motivation.

Many Muslims would argue that the empty threat posed by Saddam Hussein's non-existent weapons of mass destruction provided little or no justification for the eventual invasion of Iraq and the deaths of tens of thousands of innocent Iraqi civilians.

It is often conveniently forgotten that al-Qaeda in its original form was an American creation. Trained, equipped and directed by the Central Intelligence Agency, Osama bin Laden's organization tortured and killed countless young Russian conscripts unlucky enough to have been posted to Afghanistan. Al-Qaeda was certainly not unwilling to also kill and maim large numbers of Afghan civilians in pursuit of America's regional interests.

Double standards in the 'war on terrorism'

Nor is al-Qaeda the only organization linked to terrorism to have a US paymaster. Even allowing for Indonesia, Zaire and countless tin-pot Latin American military dictatorships, one country in particular stands out. Pakistan and its despised secret service, the Inter-Services Intelligence have a long history of actively supporting so-called "freedom fighters".

What in fact the Pakistan authorities armed were the Taliban in Afghanistan and the Kashmiri Islamic fighters who are responsible for decades of terrorism inside Indian territory and the deaths of tens of thousands of civilians in the world's largest democracy.

Yet the government in Islamabad is treated as one of Washington's closest allies in the "war on terror".

Hypocrisy on this scale practiced by the supposed leader of the free world is not a pretty sight, nor is it the basis for a successful foreign policy. Britain by virtue of its uncritical and unwavering support for American actions risks becoming a major victim of an Islamic backlash.

While Iraq is a motivation for terrorism, it is certainly not the only cause.

The occupation of Arab lands; the aggressive acquisition of Arab oil; the plight of Palestinian refugees housed in squalid camps for some 55 years; Israel's bloody invasion of Lebanon and its later attempts to suppress the Palestinian intifada; the lack of a truly even-handed Western policy on the Middle East's fundamental problems; Afghanistan; Iraq and the threat to Iran all provide the driving force behind the upsurge of Islamic terrorism.

It is fair to suggest that terrorism, unless linked to a poplar political movement, has never succeeded in its stated aims in the long run. However, it is equally correct to say that the defeat of terrorism is only ensured by winning over the hearts and minds of the extremist's potential supporters and with a policy as free of blinkered unreality and hypocrisy as possible.

While there can never be an acceptable justification for acts of terrorism, there can be no escaping the fact of a link between the British government's actions in the Middle East and the reaction of Muslim extremism.

Following these new threats of an imminent large-scale strike by Islamic terrorists against British targets, further denial by Blair and his ministers of at least some responsibility for the deteriorating security situation will only make them appear ever more foolish and increasingly out of touch with both reality and the majority of the British people

Richard M Bennett is an intelligence and security analyst.
(Copyright 2005 Richard M Bennett)

Bush and Blair’s “Way of Life”

As we hear from Bush, Blair and an unlimited number of media GIs and presstitutes, we are now in the midst of a conflict which involves the deepest and dearest interest of every individual of the human race: “Our way of life.” Upon its re­sult depends the misery or happiness of the present and future genera­tions.

It is a contest between the few in power in the US, Israel, UK and a few other allied countries, who believe, that it is for their individual and corporate interest that man should continue to be kept in igno­rance, and be governed, as heretofore, by lies, force and fraud; and those who are convinced, that for real happiness and satisfaction, human beings should be henceforward governed by truth and justice only.

A new global revolution is in the making. This is the revolution which the progress of knowledge and information sharing now requires from the totalitarians a fundamental shift in the arrangement of society and treatment of other nations, which will essentially promote the interest and hap­piness of all, not just the former and present colonial masters. Are these totalitarians ready for the change? There statements suggest, not.

The modern means of communication have rendered the main organ for the promotion of lies and deception – the “mainstream” media ­– ineffective. This development also renders a revolution of the masses so irresistible that no earthly power can prevent, or much retard its course. Irrespective of the coming oppression to silence all critics, the impending revolution will be effected either by reason, or by force.

None of the “enemies” has claimed that that he is against Bush or Blair’s way of life. Bush and company, however, have nothing other than saying that this is a war on our way or life. The “way of life” which Bush and Blair refer to is derived solely from the imperial instincts, a sense of absolutism and prejudices for or against religious beliefs, parties and countries. This way of life is destined by the common consent of all to die its natural death.

20th century manifestation of such a way of life was called "Fascism." In 21st century, it is the same thing but the fascists call it “freedom and democracy.” The original fasces were bundles of thin rods bound together with an ax among them; they were carried before the highest magistrates of imperial Rome as a symbol of authority and of the strength that comes from tight unity. Recent fascism is distinguished not by the novelty of its elements or the profundity of its thought but by the flair and efficiency with which these elements have been interwoven and presented as the most humane ideology and civilized way of life.

Although not especially complex intrinsically, 21st century fascism as a political philosophy is difficult to define or explicate because of its eclectic and irrational character. Fascist thinkers in media, academic and politics borrowed freely from both ancients and moderns and emerged with a potpourri of ways and means to impose their will on the world in the name of promoting freedom and democracy that these can hardly be called a doctrine, possible to present as a coherent system.

Within this mixture of past and present, of principles and dogmas and expedients, three dominant streams of thought may be distinguished. Modern day fascism may perhaps be best understood as a contemporary blend of these three religio-philosophical traditions.

The first is the absolutist tradition. Since the total focus of 21st century fascism is domination of the Muslim world, for which control at home is also a necessary element, on this view, the powers of government in the Muslim world must lie entirely in the hands of one powerful person – the prince, or a general, or a sheikh, mini-Il Duce or mini-Der Fuhrer. To hell with democracy in places such Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Uzbekistan, Egypt, etc. At home winning through Supreme Court or rigging is of little concern as long as the tyrant in chief comes to power.

Such absolutism has many ramifications. It largely determines the principles of organization within the state, which are authoritarian and generally patterned on military lines. Irrespective of the title, democracy or otherwise, all authority exercised by or in behalf of the state stems from the person at the top, and rights enjoyed in every sphere are owed to him; while on every subordinate echelon the principal duties are those of obedience and responsibility to superiors.

Again, the person at the top is above the law. It hardly matters if he lied through his teeth and killed more than 128,000 people along with close to 2000 of his own. The standards of conduct that apply to him, therefore, are not those that apply to the private citizen; he may be judged, as leader, only by his success in maintaining and extending his power and the power of his state. The result is rightly called Machiavellianism, for fascist dictators have generally acted under Machiavelli's principle that "if the act accuse him, the result will excuse him."

The second leading element in 21st century fascism is organicism. According to this theory not only a nation, but the whole West, is properly understood to be an organic unity, like a human being, with a larger interest, or general will, that is necessarily superior to the interest or will of others, particularly the Muslims. Carried to its extremes, organicism has lead to the conclusion that the Western States have not only an organic reality but a super-reality, so awesome that their apparent will is the true will of subordinate citizens, whether they think so or not. Nothing may then obstruct this super-organism from liquidating all elements within and outside it that interfere with the achievement of its totalitarian objectives.

Some have gone so far as to elevate the xenophobic state approach to an object of worship or a way of life, having supernatural or divine attributes. One serious problem for this approach is that of determining what this way of life really is and how it is to be known because a constant rant of human rights and democracy and freedom means nothing compared to their barbarism on open display.

This problem is resolved, sometimes painfully, when the theories of organicism and absolutism are combined. The general way of life and will of the people is identified with the will of its leader, whose character and physical person is taken to represent the essence of the nation. This identification was one of the distinguishing marks of twentieth-century fascism, especially as manifested in Italy and Germany.

Serving as catalyst in combining the two elements already mentioned is a third, no less important element: deliberate irrationalism. Sometimes an attitude, sometimes a manipulative device, sometimes a seriously proposed methodology, the express denial of the competence of reason to guide human life opens the door to acts, claims and outright lies immune to effective criticism. From now onwards any word of criticism of Bush and Blair’s policies would be considered extremism and all those critics will be blacklisted, because their criticism could “indirectly” lead to “terrorism.”

Many varieties of philosophic irrationalism have achieved great popularity, from that of the early Christians (said Tertullian: "Credo, quia impossibile"-"I believe it because it is impossible") through its more sophisticated versions in Schopenhauer and Bergson and some contemporary existentialists. But the full-blooded application of irrationalism to politics develops only in the 21st century with the deliberate manufactured myths of racial, religious and social superiority embedded in deep nationalistic sentiments. Pages of the so-called liberal The New York Times are littered with such manufactured myths, not to speak of others who have turned outright lies into facts for consolidating these myths.

It is perhaps overly simple, but not incorrect, to describe 21st century fascism as the commingling of these traditions of absolutism, organicism, and irrationalism taken to an extreme by an invisible alliance of the neocons, Zionists and leading religious fanatics. Its roots go very deep, but its classical statement was not given until this century, when the hardest realities of its practice have become clear after the staged terrorist attacks and occupation of more Muslim countries.

Abid Ullah Jan is the author of The End of Democracy and A war on Islam?


The Myths of Hiroshima

SIXTY YEARS ago, an atomic bomb was dropped without warning on the center of the Japanese city of Hiroshima. One hundred and forty thousand people were killed, more than 95% of them women and children and other noncombatants. At least half of the victims died of radiation poisoning over the next few months. Three days after Hiroshima was obliterated, the city of Nagasaki suffered a similar fate.

The magnitude of death was enormous, but on Aug. 14, 1945 — just five days after the Nagasaki bombing — Radio Tokyo announced that the Japanese emperor had accepted the U.S. terms for surrender. To many Americans at the time, and still for many today, it seemed clear that the bomb had ended the war, even "saving" a million lives that might have been lost if the U.S. had been required to invade mainland Japan.

This powerful narrative took root quickly and is now deeply embedded in our historical sense of who we are as a nation. A decade ago, on the 50th anniversary, this narrative was reinforced in an exhibit at the Smithsonian Institution on the Enola Gay, the plane that dropped the first bomb. The exhibit, which had been the subject of a bruising political battle, presented nearly 4 million Americans with an officially sanctioned view of the atomic bombings that again portrayed them as a necessary act in a just war.

But although patriotically correct, the exhibit and the narrative on which it was based were historically inaccurate. For one thing, the Smithsonian downplayed the casualties, saying only that the bombs "caused many tens of thousands of deaths" and that Hiroshima was "a definite military target."

Americans were also told that use of the bombs "led to the immediate surrender of Japan and made unnecessary the planned invasion of the Japanese home islands." But it's not that straightforward. As Tsuyoshi Hasegawa has shown definitively in his new book, "Racing the Enemy" — and many other historians have long argued — it was the Soviet Union's entry into the Pacific war on Aug. 8, two days after the Hiroshima bombing, that provided the final "shock" that led to Japan's capitulation.

The Enola Gay exhibit also repeated such outright lies as the assertion that "special leaflets were dropped on Japanese cities" warning civilians to evacuate. The fact is that atomic bomb warning leaflets were dropped on Japanese cities, but only after Hiroshima and Nagasaki had been destroyed.

The hard truth is that the atomic bombings were unnecessary. A million lives were not saved. Indeed, McGeorge Bundy, the man who first popularized this figure, later confessed that he had pulled it out of thin air in order to justify the bombings in a 1947 Harper's magazine essay he had ghostwritten for Secretary of War Henry L. Stimson.

The bomb was dropped, as J. Robert Oppenheimer, scientific director of the Manhattan Project, said in November 1945, on "an essentially defeated enemy." President Truman and his closest advisor, Secretary of State James Byrnes, quite plainly used it primarily to prevent the Soviets from sharing in the occupation of Japan. And they used it on Aug. 6 even though they had agreed among themselves as they returned home from the Potsdam Conference on Aug. 3 that the Japanese were looking for peace.

These unpleasant historical facts were censored from the 1995 Smithsonian exhibit, an action that should trouble every American. When a government substitutes an officially sanctioned view for publicly debated history, democracy is diminished.

Today, in the post-9/11 era, it is critically important that the U.S. face the truth about the atomic bomb. For one thing, the myths surrounding Hiroshima have made it possible for our defense establishment to argue that atomic bombs are legitimate weapons that belong in a democracy's arsenal. But if, as Oppenheimer said, "they are weapons of aggression, of surprise and of terror," how can a democracy rely on such weapons?

Oppenheimer understood very soon after Hiroshima that these weapons would ultimately threaten our very survival.

Presciently, he even warned us against what is now our worst national nightmare — and Osama bin Laden's frequently voiced dream — an atomic suitcase bomb smuggled into an American city: "Of course it could be done," Oppenheimer told a Senate committee, "and people could destroy New York."

Ironically, Hiroshima's myths are now motivating our enemies to attack us with the very weapon we invented. Bin Laden repeatedly refers to Hiroshima in his rambling speeches. It was, he believes, the atomic bombings that shocked the Japanese imperial government into an early surrender — and, he says, he is planning an atomic attack on the U.S. that will similarly shock us into retreating from the Mideast.

Finally, Hiroshima's myths have gradually given rise to an American unilateralism born of atomic arrogance.

Oppenheimer warned against this "sleazy sense of omnipotence." He observed that "if you approach the problem and say, 'We know what is right and we would like to use the atomic bomb to persuade you to agree with us,' then you are in a very weak position and you will not succeed…. You will find yourselves attempting by force of arms to prevent a disaster."

KAI BIRD and MARTIN J. SHERWIN are coauthors of "American Prometheus: The Triumph and Tragedy of J. Robert Oppenheimer," published earlier this year by Knopf.

Copyright 2005 Los Angeles Times

Lobbyists For Israel Indicted By U.S.

2 Men Accused Of Conspiring To Leak Secret Information

The Justice Department indicted two top former officials with a prominent pro-Israel lobbying group Thursday after they allegedly conspired to communicate classified defense information.

U.S. Attorney Paul McNulty said the men were attempting to influence U.S. foreign policy.

He said trafficking in information is commonplace in the nation's capital but a "clear line separates classified information from everything else."

"Today's charges are about crossing that clear line," McNulty said.

The indictment paints a more detailed picture of the case against Pentagon analyst Lawrence Franklin, who was charged in May with leaking classified information to the pro-Israel lobbyists about possible attacks by Iran on U.S. forces in Iraq.

The indictment charges Steven Rosen, former foreign policy director for the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, with conspiring to communicate classified information.

Franklin, who worked on the Iran desk in Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld's office, also has been charged with three counts of communication of national defense information to persons not entitled to receive it. In Thursday's indictment, Rosen was charged with aiding and abetting Franklin in one of those counts by passing along written classified information.

Keith Weissman, a former senior Middle East analyst with the American-Israeli group, was charged with one count of conspiracy to communicate classified national defense information.

Lawyers for Rosen and Weissman denied the allegations.

People sympathetic to Rosen and Weissman have argued that while Franklin allegedly violated his government security vows, the two former American-Israeli group's employees did little more than trade in information, which is the stuff of daily business in Washington.

Rosen and Weissman were fired earlier this year.

The Israeli government has denied trying to pry secrets from the United States, with officials pointing out that, given the close ties between the two countries, it has no need to spy.

Copyright: Knight Ridder News Service

Judging While Catholic

Do journalists understand that the Constitution prohibits religious tests for officeholders?

John Roberts will be the fourth Roman Catholic on the current Supreme Court, but only the 10th Catholic among the 109 justices who've served in the high court's 215-year history. A few senators and a good many journalists have made much of it.

Earlier this week, in a span of minutes, three journalists asked me to respond to liberals, like Sen. Richard Durbin (D., Ill.), raising Judge Roberts's religion as a confirmation issue. As if there were a Republican talking point in my hand, they each asked in similar words: "What's the line on that?" Minutes before penning this column, a fourth prominent political reporter startled me further by asking: "What religion test clause? Where does that appear?"

Well, here, everyone jot this down. "The line" appears in Article VI of the U.S. Constitution: "No religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States."

Much bigger than the obvious problem of overreaching Democratic senators (because it is obvious) is that Americans are depending on journalists to catalyze the most important public debate outside an election: the confirmation of a Supreme Court justice. The American people already start at a disadvantage. The Pew Research Center conducts regular polls on the thinking of the media. The preface to one 2004 report notes:

Journalists at national and local news organizations are notably different from the general public in their ideology and attitudes toward political and social issues. Most national and local journalists, as well as a plurality of Americans (41%), describe themselves as political moderates. But news people, especially national journalists are more liberal, and far less conservative, than the general public.

Most Americans know this by now. Some may know the result of another Pew survey that found most journalists were overwhelmingly irreligious. What we do not know is how many journalists read, much less understand the Constitution. In the next few weeks, we are going to have a glimpse. Here are two sightings from this week alone.

In Monday's Boston Globe, columnist Cathy Young, also a contributing editor of the libertarian Reason magazine, concludes: "A candidate's or nominee's ideology should be fair game whether it's religious or secular in nature, whether it's rooted in conservative Catholicism or liberal feminism."

More interesting is how Ms. Young gets to this conclusion. While applauding John F. Kennedy's milestone election as the first Catholic president, Ms. Young recites Article VI, but she conflates the religious test clause with the provision that officeholders "shall be bound by oath or affirmation, to support this Constitution." She interprets this to mean that "an officeholder could not be required to take an oath or perform a religious ritual affirming his allegiance to a particular religion or denomination, or even a general belief in God."

Ms. Young thinks it's about cookie-cutter discrimination, and not about protecting actual religious beliefs. In fact, the two clauses are quite separate in their intent. Their distinct origin is itself telling. At the Constitutional Convention most proponents of the Oath Clause sought to ensure the public servants were "sincere friends to religion," but greater forces than that had been lobbying to ensure that there would be no "religious test" for public office. Not least of the lobbyists was America's first Roman Catholic bishop, John Carroll of Maryland, whose brother Daniel was just one of two Catholics in the Philadelphia Convention.

Requiring an oath or affirmation in taking public office was the Framers' nod to God, the requirement that no particular set of religious beliefs be required of office holders was their nod to their painful experience with the religious intolerance of England.

In Wednesday's Washington Post ("Why It's Right to Ask About Roberts's Faith"), columnist E.J. Dionne asks: "Is it wrong to question Judge John Roberts on how his Catholic faith might affect his decisions as a Supreme Court justice? Or is it wrong not to? . . . Why is it wrong to ask him to share his reflections with the public?" It would be helpful, Mr. Dionne concludes, "if Roberts gave an account of how (and whether) his religious convictions would affect his decisions as a justice."

Mr. Dionne's error is found is his own words: "Yes, any inquiry related to a nominee's religion risks being seen as a form of bigotry, and of course there should be no 'religious tests.' " Indeed. And that is the problem, again.
Journalists believe that the religious test clause guards against simple discrimination against Catholics or Jews or any other particular denominations. It does not. It prohibits a probe of what the potential officeholder believes derived of his religious convictions. It is not about what he lists on a questionnaire under religion, as if it were like race or sex. That is why the liberal press has mocked the concern raised by conservatives that the abortion litmus test and other lines of inquiry are a constitutionally prohibited religious test.

When England passed its two Test Acts, they did not prohibit Catholics from holding public office. Rather, the "test" sought to exclude anyone from holding public office who believed that the bread and wine in the ritual of the Eucharist turned into the body and blood of Jesus Christ, a fundamental tenet of Catholic belief.

Fortunately, Mr. Durbin and Sen. Chuck Schumer (D., N.Y.) have shied away from that line of inquiry, since their clients haven't figured out how to profit from it. Lucky for me, because it would be hard to explain transubstantiation using just Republican talking points.

Friday, August 5, 2005 12:01 a.m. EDT

Mr. Miranda, former counsel to Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, is founder and chairman of the Third Branch Conference, a coalition of grassroots organizations following judicial issues. His column appears on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.