Wednesday, July 2, 2008

American Stupidity

American Stupidity

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The buck stops… well, where does it stop? And who popularized that phrase, anyway? Herbert Hoover, J. Edgar Hoover, Harry S. Truman, George Washington, or none of the above?

Wait, don't answer! The odds are -- as Rick Shenkman, award-winning investigative journalist and founder of the always provocative website History News Network, tells us in his new book Just How Stupid Are We? Facing the Truth about the American Voter -- you'll be wrong. And when you realize the depths of the ignorance so many Americans take into the voting booth, you may indeed wonder, as Shenkman does to great effect in his new book, where indeed the buck stops.

So here we are heading toward another July 4th, that glorious day when American independence was declared and the Liberty Bell rang out to the world -- the first of which didn't happen on July 4th, the second of which was made up "out of whole cloth" in the nineteenth century in a book for children (but you knew that!). Think of today's post as a bit of counter-programming to our yearly summer celebration of history, a way to ponder what exactly, in the 8th year of the reign of our latest King George, any of us have to celebrate. Consider instead the state of our national brain, preview Shenkman's new book (which should set anyone's mind spinning), and, while you're at it, watch his recent interview with Jon Stewart on The Daily Show by clicking here. Tom

How Ignorant Are We?

The Voters Choose… but on the Basis of What?
By Rick Shenkman

"If a nation expects to be ignorant and free, in a state of civilization, it expects what never was and never will be." -- Thomas Jefferson

Just how stupid are we? Pretty stupid, it would seem, when we come across headlines like this: "Homer Simpson, Yes -- 1st Amendment 'Doh,' Survey Finds" (Associated Press 3/1/06).

"About 1 in 4 Americans can name more than one of the five freedoms guaranteed by the First Amendment (freedom of speech, religion, press, assembly and petition for redress of grievances.) But more than half of Americans can name at least two members of the fictional cartoon family, according to a survey.

"The study by the new McCormick Tribune Freedom Museum found that 22 percent of Americans could name all five Simpson family members, compared with just 1 in 1,000 people who could name all five First Amendment freedoms."

But what does it mean exactly to say that American voters are stupid? About this there is unfortunately no consensus. Like Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart, who confessed not knowing how to define pornography, we are apt simply to throw up our hands in frustration and say: We know it when we see it. But unless we attempt a definition of some sort, we risk incoherence, dooming our investigation of stupidity from the outset. Stupidity cannot mean, as Humpty Dumpty would have it, whatever we say it means.

Five defining characteristics of stupidity, it seems to me, are readily apparent. First, is sheer ignorance: Ignorance of critical facts about important events in the news, and ignorance of how our government functions and who's in charge. Second, is negligence: The disinclination to seek reliable sources of information about important news events. Third, is wooden-headedness, as the historian Barbara Tuchman defined it: The inclination to believe what we want to believe regardless of the facts. Fourth, is shortsightedness: The support of public policies that are mutually contradictory, or contrary to the country's long-term interests. Fifth, and finally, is a broad category I call bone-headedness, for want of a better name: The susceptibility to meaningless phrases, stereotypes, irrational biases, and simplistic diagnoses and solutions that play on our hopes and fears.

American Ignorance

Taking up the first of our definitions of stupidity, how ignorant are we? Ask the political scientists and you will be told that there is damning, hard evidence pointing incontrovertibly to the conclusion that millions are embarrassingly ill-informed and that they do not care that they are. There is enough evidence that one could almost conclude -- though admittedly this is a stretch -- that we are living in an Age of Ignorance.

Surprised? My guess is most people would be. The general impression seems to be that we are living in an age in which people are particularly knowledgeable. Many students tell me that they are the most well-informed generation in history.

Why are we so deluded? The error can be traced to our mistaking unprecedented access to information with the actual consumption of it. Our access is indeed phenomenal. George Washington had to wait two weeks to discover that he had been elected president of the United States. That's how long it took for the news to travel from New York, where the Electoral College votes were counted, to reach him at home in Mount Vernon, Virginia. Americans living in the interior regions had to wait even longer, some up to two months. Now we can watch developments as they occur halfway around the world in real time. It is little wonder then that students boast of their knowledge. Unlike their parents, who were forced to rely mainly on newspapers and the network news shows to find out what was happening in the world, they can flip on CNN and Fox or consult the Internet.

But in fact only a small percentage of people take advantage of the great new resources at hand. In 2005, the Pew Research Center surveyed the news habits of some 3,000 Americans age 18 and older. The researchers found that 59% on a regular basis get at least some news from local TV, 47% from national TV news shows, and just 23% from the Internet.

Anecdotal evidence suggested for years that Americans were not particularly well-informed. As foreign visitors long ago observed, Americans are vastly inferior in their knowledge of world geography compared with Europeans. (The old joke is that "War is God's way of teaching Americans geography.") But it was never clear until the postwar period how ignorant Americans are. For it was only then that social scientists began measuring in a systematic manner what Americans actually know. The results were devastating.

The most comprehensive surveys, the National Election Studies (NES), were carried out by the University of Michigan beginning in the late 1940s. What these studies showed was that Americans fall into three categories with regard to their political knowledge. A tiny percentage know a lot about politics, up to 50%-60% know enough to answer very simple questions, and the rest know next to nothing.

Contrary to expectations, by many measures the surveys showed the level of ignorance remaining constant over time. In the 1990s, political scientists Michael X. Delli Carpini and Scott Keeter concluded that there was statistically little difference between the knowledge of the parents of the Silent Generation of the 1950s, the parents of the Baby Boomers of the 1960s, and American parents today. (By some measures, Americans are dumber today than their parents of a generation ago.)

Some of the numbers are hard to fathom in a country in which for at least a century all children have been required by law to attend grade school or be home-schooled. Even if people do not closely follow the news, one would expect them to be able to answer basic civics questions, but only a small minority can.

In 1986, only 30% knew that Roe v. Wade was the Supreme Court decision that ruled abortion legal more than a decade earlier. In 1991, Americans were asked how long the term of a United States senator is. Just 25% correctly answered six years. How many senators are there? A poll a few years ago found that only 20% know that there are 100 senators, though the number has remained constant for the last half century (and is easy to remember). Encouragingly, today the number of Americans who can correctly identify and name the three branches of government is up to 40%.

Polls over the past three decades measuring Americans' knowledge of history show similarly dismal results. What happened in 1066? Just 10% know it is the date of the Norman Conquest. Who said the "world must be made safe for democracy"? Just 14% know it was Woodrow Wilson. Which country dropped the nuclear bomb? Only 49% know it was their own country. Who was America's greatest president? According to a Gallup poll in 2005, a majority answer that it was a president from the last half century: 20% said Reagan, 15% Bill Clinton, 12% John Kennedy, 5% George W. Bush. Only 14% picked Lincoln and only 5%, Washington.

And the worst president? For years Americans would include in the list Herbert Hoover. But no more. Most today do not know who Herbert Hoover was, according to the University of Pennsylvania's National Annenberg Election Survey in 2004. Just 43% could correctly identify him.

The only history questions a majority of Americans can answer correctly are the most basic ones. What happened at Pearl Harbor? A great majority know: 84%. What was the Holocaust? Nearly 70% know. (Thirty percent don't?) But it comes as something of a shock that, in 1983, just 81% knew who Lee Harvey Oswald was and that, in 1985, only 81% could identify Martin Luther King, Jr.

What Voters Don't Know

Who these poor souls were who didn't know who Martin Luther King was we cannot be sure. Research suggests that they were probably impoverished (the poor tend to know less on the whole about politics and history than others) or simply unschooled, categories which usually overlap. But even Americans in the middle class who attend college exhibit profound ignorance. A report in 2007 published by the Intercollegiate Studies Institute found that on average 14,000 randomly selected college students at 50 schools around the country scored under 55 (out of 100) on a test that measured their knowledge of basic American civics. Less than half knew that Yorktown was the last battle of the American Revolution. Surprisingly, seniors often tested lower than freshmen. (The explanation was apparently that many students by their senior year had forgotten what they learned in high school.)

The optimists point to surveys indicating that about half the country can describe some differences between the Republican and Democratic Parties. But if they do not know the difference between liberals and conservatives, as surveys indicate, how can they possibly say in any meaningful way how the parties differ? And if they do not know this, what else do they not know?

Plenty, it turns out. Even though they are awash in news, Americans generally do not seem to absorb what it is that they are reading and hearing and watching. Americans cannot even name the leaders of their own government. Sandra Day O'Connor was the first woman appointed to the United States Supreme Court. Fewer than half of Americans could tell you her name during the length of her entire tenure. William Rehnquist was chief justice of the Supreme Court. Just 40% of Americans ever knew his name (and only 30% could tell you that he was a conservative). Going into the First Gulf War, just 15% could identify Colin Powell, then chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, or Dick Cheney, then secretary of defense. In 2007, in the fifth year of the Iraq War, only 21% could name the secretary of defense, Robert Gates. Most Americans cannot name their own member of Congress or their senators.

If the problem were simply that Americans are bad at names, one would not have to worry too much. But they do not understand the mechanics of government either. Only 34% know that it is the Congress that declares war (which may explain why they are not alarmed when presidents take us into wars without explicit declarations of war from the legislature). Only 35% know that Congress can override a presidential veto. Some 49% think the president can suspend the Constitution. Some 60% believe that he can appoint judges to the federal courts without the approval of the Senate. Some 45% believe that revolutionary speech is punishable under the Constitution.

On the basis of their comprehensive approach, Delli Carpini and Keeter concluded that only 5% of Americans could correctly answer three-fourths of the questions asked about economics, only 11% of the questions about domestic issues, 14% of the questions about foreign affairs, and 10% of the questions about geography. The highest score? More Americans knew the correct answers to history questions than any other (which will come as a surprise to many history teachers). Still, only 25% knew the correct answers to three-quarters of the history questions, which were rudimentary.

In 2003, the Strategic Task Force on Education Abroad investigated Americans' knowledge of world affairs. The task force concluded: "America's ignorance of the outside world" is so great as to constitute a threat to national security.

Young and Ignorant -- and Voting

At least, you may think to yourself, we are not getting any dumber. But by some measures we are. Young people by many measures know less today than young people forty years ago. And their news habits are worse. Newspaper reading went out in the sixties along with the Hula Hoop. Just 20% of young Americans between the ages of 18 and 34 read a daily paper. And that isn't saying much. There's no way of knowing what part of the paper they're reading. It is likelier to encompass the comics and a quick glance at the front page than dense stories about Somalia or the budget.

They aren't watching the cable news shows either. The average age of CNN's audience is sixty. And they surely are not watching the network news shows, which attract mainly the Depends generation. Nor are they using the Internet in large numbers to surf for news. Only 11% say that they regularly click on news web pages. (Yes, many young people watch Jon Stewart's The Daily Show. A survey in 2007 by the Pew Research Center found that 54% of the viewers of The Daily Show score in the "high knowledge" news category -- about the same as the viewers of the O'Reilly Factor on Fox News.)

Compared with Americans generally -- and this isn't saying much, given their low level of interest in the news -- young people are the least informed of any age cohort save possibly for those confined to nursing homes. In fact, the young are so indifferent to newspapers that they single-handedly are responsible for the dismally low newspaper readership rates that are bandied about.

In earlier generations -- in the 1950s, for example -- young people read newspapers and digested the news at rates similar to those of the general population. Nothing indicates that the current generation of young people will suddenly begin following the news when they turn 35 or 40. Indeed, half a century of studies suggest that most people who do not pick up the news habit in their twenties probably never will.

Young people today find the news irrelevant. Bored by politics, students shun the rituals of civic life, voting in lower numbers than other Americans (though a small up-tick in civic participation showed up in recent surveys). U.S. Census data indicate that voters aged 18 to 24 turn out in low numbers. In 1972, when 18 year olds got the vote, 52% cast a ballot. In subsequent years, far fewer voted: in 1988, 40%; in 1992, 50%; in 1996, 35%; in 2000, 36%. In 2004, despite the most intense get-out-the-vote effort ever focused on young people, just 47% took the time to cast a ballot.

Since young people on the whole scarcely follow politics, one may want to consider whether we even want them to vote. Asked in 2000 to identify the presidential candidate who was the chief sponsor of Campaign Finance Reform -- Sen. John McCain -- just 4% of people between the ages of 18 and 24 could do so. As the primary season began in February, fewer than half in the same age group knew that George W. Bush was even a candidate. Only 12% knew that McCain was also a candidate even though he was said to be especially appealing to young people.

One news subject in recent history, 9/11, did attract the interest of the young. A poll by Pew at the end of 2001 found that 61% of adult Americans under age 30 said that they were following the story closely. But few found any other subjects in the news that year compelling. Anthrax attacks? Just 32% indicated it was important enough to follow. The economy? Again, just 32%. The capture of Kabul? Just 20%.

It would appear that young people today are doing very little reading of any kind. In 2004, the National Endowment for the Arts, consulting a vast array of surveys, including the United States Census, found that just 43% of young people ages 18 to 24 read literature. In 1982, the number was 60%. A majority do not read either newspapers, fiction, poetry, or drama. Save for the possibility that they are reading the Bible or works of non-fiction, for which solid statistics are unavailable, it would appear that this generation is less well read than any other since statistics began to be kept.

The studies demonstrating that young people know less today than young people a generation ago do not get much publicity. What one hears about are the pioneer steps the young are taking politically. Headlines from the 2004 presidential election featured numerous stories about young people who were following the campaign on blogs, then a new phenomenon. Other stories focused on the help young Deaniacs gave Howard Dean by arranging to raise funds through innovative Internet appeals. Still other stories reported that the Deaniacs were networking all over the country through the Internet website meetup.com. One did not hear that we have raised another Silent Generation. But have we not? The statistics about young people today are fairly clear: As a group they do not vote in large numbers, most do not read newspapers, and most do not follow the news. (Barack Obama has recently inspired greater participation, but at this stage it is too early to tell if the effect will be lasting.)

The Issues? Who knows?

Millions every year are now spent on the effort to answer the question: What do the voters want? The honest answer would be that often they themselves do not really know because they do not know enough to say. Few, however, admit this.

In the election of 2004, one of the hot issues was gay marriage. But gauging public opinion on the subject was difficult. Asked in one national poll whether they supported a constitutional amendment allowing only marriages between a man and a woman, a majority said yes. But three questions later a majority also agreed that "defining marriage was not an important enough issue to be worth changing the Constitution." The New York Times wryly summed up the results: Americans clearly favor amending the Constitution but not changing it.

Does it matter if people are ignorant? There are many subjects about which the ordinary voter need know nothing. The conscientious citizen has no obligation to plow through the federal budget, for example. One suspects there are not many politicians themselves who have bothered to do so. Nor do voters have an obligation to read the laws passed in their name. We do expect members of Congress to read the bills they are asked to vote on, but we know from experience that often they do not, having failed either to take the time to do so or having been denied the opportunity to do so by their leaders, who for one reason or another often rush bills through.

Reading the text of laws in any case is often unhelpful. The chairpersons in charge of drafting them often include provisions only a detective could untangle. The tax code is rife with clauses like this: The Congress hereby appropriates X dollars for the purchase of 500 widgets that measure 3 inches by 4 inches by 2 inches from any company incorporated on October 20, 1965 in Any City USA situated in block 10 of district 3.

Of course, only one company fits the description. Upon investigation it turns out to be owned by the chairperson's biggest contributor. That is more than any citizens acting on their own could possibly divine. It is not essential that the voter know every which way in which the tax code is manipulated to benefit special interests. All that is required is that the voter know that rigging of the tax code in favor of certain interests is probably common. The media are perfectly capable of communicating this message. Voters are perfectly capable of absorbing it. Armed with this knowledge, the voter knows to be wary of claims that the tax code treats one and all alike with fairness.

There are however innumerable subjects about which a general knowledge is insufficient. In these cases ignorance of the details is more than a minor problem. An appalling ignorance of Social Security, to take one example, has left Americans unable to see how their money has been spent, whether the system is viable, and what measures are needed to shore it up.

How many know that the system is running a surplus? And that this surplus -- some $150 billion a year -- is actually quite substantial, even by Washington standards? And how many know that the system has been in surplus since 1983?

Few, of course. Ignorance of the facts has led to a fundamentally dishonest debate about Social Security.

During all the years the surpluses were building, the Democrats in Congress pretended the money was theirs to be spent, as if it were the same as all the other tax dollars collected by the government. And spend it they did, whenever they had the chance, with no hint that they were perhaps disbursing funds that actually should be held in reserve for later use. (Social Security taxes had been expressly raised in 1983 in order to build up the system's funds when bankruptcy had loomed.) Not until the rest of the budget was in surplus (in 1999) did it suddenly occur to them that the money should be saved. And it appears that the only reason they felt compelled at this point to acknowledge that the money was needed for Social Security was because they wanted to blunt the Republicans' call for tax cuts. The Social Security surplus could not both be used to pay for the large tax cuts Republicans wanted and for the future retirement benefits of aging Boomers.

The Republicans have been equally unctuous. While they have claimed that they are terribly worried about Social Security, they have been busy irresponsibly spending the system's surplus on tax cuts, one cut after another. First Reagan used the surplus to hide the impact of his tax cuts and then George W. Bush used it to hide the impact of his cuts. Neither ever acknowledged that it was only the surplus in Social Security's accounts that made it even plausible for them to cut taxes.

Take those Bush tax cuts. Bush claimed the cuts were made possible by several years of past surpluses and the prospect of even more years of surpluses. But subtracting from the federal budget the overflow funds generated by Social Security, the government ran a surplus in just two years during the period the national debt was declining, 1999 and 2000.

In the other years when the government ran a surplus, 1998 and 2001, it was because of Social Security and only because of Social Security. That is, the putative surpluses of 1998 and 2001, which President Bush cited in defense of his tax cuts, were in reality pure fiction. Without Social Security the government would have been in debt those two years. And yet in 2001 President Bush told the country tax cuts were not only needed, they were affordable because of our splendid surplus.

Today, conservatives argue that the Social Security Trust Fund is a fiction. They are correct. The money was spent. They helped spend it.

To this debate about Social Security -- which, once one understands what has been happening, is actually quite absorbing -- the public has largely been an indifferent spectator. A surprising 2001 Pew study found that just 19% of Americans understand that the United States ever ran a surplus at all, however defined, in the 1990s or 2000`s. And only 50% of Americans, according to an Annenberg study in 2004, understand that President Bush favors privatizing Social Security. Polls indicate that people are scared that the system is going bust, no doubt thanks in part to Bush's gloom-and-doom prognostications. But they haven't the faintest idea what going bust means. And in fact, the system can be kept going without fundamental change simply by raising the cap on taxed income and pushing back the retirement age a few years.

How much ignorance can a country stand? There have to be terrible consequences when it reaches a certain level. But what level? And with what consequences, exactly? The answers to these questions are unknowable. But can we doubt that if we persist on the path we are on that we shall, one day, perhaps not too far into the distant future, find out the answers?

Rick Shenkman, Emmy Award-winning investigative reporter, New York Times bestselling author, and associate professor of history at George Mason University, is the founder and editor of History News Network, a website that features articles by historians on current events. This essay is adapted from chapter two of his new book, Just How Stupid Are We? Facing the Truth about the American Voter (Basic Books, 2008). His observations about the 2008 election can be followed on his blog, "How Stupid?" His recent appearance on Jon Stewart's "The Daily Show" can be viewed by clicking here.

Excerpted from Just How Stupid Are We?, by Rick Shenkman, by arrangement with Basic Books.

Iran 'seriously considering' new international nuclear offer

Iran 'seriously considering' new international nuclear offer

Warren P. Strobel

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Iran's senior diplomat said Tuesday that Tehran was seriously considering a new offer from six world powers to resolve the dispute over its nuclear program, and he praised the package as "constructive."

The unusually positive remarks by Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki to a small group of reporters raised hope that a negotiated solution can be found to defuse the crisis.

The U.N. Security Council has demanded that Iran suspend the enrichment of uranium that can be used for nuclear weapons, and the Bush administration has refused direct talks with Iran until it meets that condition.

During a 90-minute luncheon at Iran's United Nations mission, Mottaki dismissed the growing speculation that Israel or the United States will strike at Iran's nuclear facilities during President Bush's last six months in office.

He described news reports to that effect as part of a long-running campaign of "psychological warfare."

The chance that Israel will attack Iran "is almost nil," Mottaki said. As for a U.S. strike, he said there was little public support in this country for a new conflict. "The consequences of such an attack cannot be predicted," he said.

Yet there are signs of intensified debate within Iran's leadership about its nuclear program. Iran has long said that it has an inalienable right to enrich uranium for peaceful purposes. But Mottaki declined three opportunities to reiterate that position Tuesday, indicating that Iran is weighing its options.

"We are seriously and carefully examining" the proposal, Mottaki said.

The European Union's foreign policy chief, Javier Solana, conveyed the offer to Tehran two weeks ago. It essentially repackages a two-year-old proposal by Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia and the United States to give Iran political, economic and security rewards if it "verifiably suspends its enrichment-related and reprocessing activities."

Mottaki said that in addition to delivering the six-page offer, Solana made unspecified assurances to Iran's leadership. "We saw the potential for a new balance," he said.

Iran made its own proposal to ease the crisis in May, but it didn't mention ceasing uranium enrichment.

Several compromises have been floated. In one, negotiations would get under way, with the enrichment question the first item on the agenda. It's unclear whether Bush would sign on to such a deal.

While Mottaki is Iran's top diplomat, the final say on the nuclear issue belongs to the Shiite Muslim clerics who hold ultimate authority.

In a sign of apparent high-level debate in Iran, a top aide to the country's supreme religious leader made a veiled swipe Tuesday at Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who's used belligerent rhetoric to defend Iran's nuclear work.

"Officials ... should avoid illogical and provocative sloganeering," Ali Akbar Velayati, a foreign policy adviser to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, said in published remarks, Reuters reported. His remarks seemed targeted at Ahmadinejad, although he didn't mention the president by name.

Velayati called for continued talks with the six world powers. "America and Israel want to isolate Iran in the world by saying that Iran does not want to resolve the issue through talks," he said.

In the meeting with reporters, Mottaki also:

  • Dismissed the economic impact of increased U.S. and European sanctions, saying, "The easiest work to do in the world today is trade."
  • Indicated that Iran is open to having the United States establish a diplomatic presence in Tehran. But the quid pro quo would be U.S. approval of Iran's request for direct flights between Tehran and New York.

We, the Salt of the Earth, Take Precedence

We, the Salt of the Earth, Take Precedence

By Paul Craig Roberts

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Which country is the rogue nation? Iraq? Iran? Or the United States? Syndicated columnist Charley Reese asks this question in a recently published article.

Reese notes that it is the US that routinely commits “acts of aggression around the globe.” The US government has no qualms about dropping bombs on civilians whether they be in Serbia, the Middle East, or Africa. It is all in a good cause--our cause.

This slaughtering of foreigners doesn’t seem to bother the American public. Americans take it for granted that Americans are superior and that American purposes, whatever they be, take precedence over the rights of other people to life and to a political existence independent of American hegemony.

The Bush regime has come up with a preemption doctrine that justifies attacking a country in order to prevent the country from possibly becoming a future threat to the US. “Threat” is broadly defined. It appears to mean the ability to withstand the imposition of US hegemony. This insane doctrine justifies attacking China and Russia, a direction in which the Republican presidential candidate John McCain seems to lean.

The callousness of Americans toward the lives of other peoples is stunning. How many Christian churches ask God’s forgiveness for having been rushed into an error that has killed, maimed, and displaced a quarter of the Iraqi population?

How many Christian churches ask God to give better guidance to our government so that it does not repeat the error and crime by attacking Iran?

The indifference of Americans to others flows from “American exceptionalism,” the belief that Americans are graced with a special mission to impose their virtue on the rest of the world. Like the French revolutionaries, Americans don’t seem to care how many people they kill in the process of spreading their exceptionalism.

American exceptionalism has swelled Americans’ heads, filling them with hubris and self-righteousness and making Americans believe that they are the salt of the earth.

Three recent books are good antidotes for this unjustified self-esteem. One is Patrick J. Buchanan’s Churchill, Hitler, and the Unnecessary War. Another is After the Reich: The Brutal History of the Allied Occupation by Giles MacDonogh, and a third is John Pilger’s Freedom Next Time.

Buchanan’s latest book is by far his best. It is spell-binding from his opening sentence: “All about us we can see clearly now that the West is passing away.” As the pages turn, the comfortable myths, produced by history written by the victors, are swept aside. The veil is lifted to reveal the true faces of British and American exceptionalism: stupidity and deceit.

Buchanan’s strength is that he lets the story be told by Britain’s greatest 20th century historians and the memoirs of the participants in the events that destroyed the West’s dominance and moral character. Buchanan’s contribution is to assemble the collective judgment of a hundred historians.

As I read the tale, it is a story of hubris destroying judgment and substituting in its place blunder and miscalculation. Both world wars began when England, for no sound or sensible reason, declared war on Germany. Winston Churchill was a prime instigator of both wars. He seems to have been a person who needed a war stage in order to be a “great man.”

The American President Woodrow Wilson shares responsibility with Britain and France for the Versailles Treaty, which dismembered Germany, stripping her of territory and putting millions of Germans under foreign rule, and imposed reparations that Britain’s greatest economist, John Maynard Keynes, correctly predicted to be unrealistic. All of this was done in violation of assurances given to Germany that there would be no reparations or boundary changes. Once Germany surrendered, the assurances were withdrawn, and a starvation blockade forced German submission to the new harsh terms.

Hitler’s program was to put Germany back together. He was succeeding without war until Churchill provoked Chamberlain into an insane act. Danzig was 95 percent German. It had been given to Poland by the Versailles Treaty. Hitler was negotiating its return and offered in exchange a guarantee of Poland’s frontiers. The Polish colonels, assessing the relative strengths of Poland and Germany, understood that a deal was better than a war. But suddenly, the British Prime Minister issued Poland a guarantee of its existing territory, including Danzig, whose inhabitants wished to return to Germany.

Buchanan produces one historian after another to testify that British miscalculations and blunders, culminating in Chamberlain’s worthless and provocative “guarantee” to Poland, brought the West into a war that Hitler did not want, a war that destroyed the British Empire and left Britain a dependency of America, a war that delivered Poland, a chunk of Germany, all of Eastern Europe, and the Baltic states to Joseph Stalin, a war that left the Western allies with a 45-year cold war against the nuclear-armed Soviet Union.

People resist the shattering of their illusions, and many are angry with Buchanan for assembling the facts of the case that distinguished historians have provided.

Churchill admirers are outraged that their hero is revealed as the first war criminal of World War II. It was Churchill who initiated the policy of terror bombing civilians in non-combatant areas. Buchanan quotes B.H. Liddell Hart: “When Mr. Churchill came into power, one of the first decisions of his government was to extend bombing to the non-combatant area.”

In holding Churchill to account, Buchanan makes no apologies for Hitler, but the ease with which Churchill set aside moral considerations is discomforting.

Buchanan documents that Churchill’s plan was to destroy 50% of German homes. Churchill also had plans for using chemical and biological warfare against German civilians. In 2001 the Glasgow Sunday Herald reported Churchill’s plan to drop five million anthrax cakes onto German pastures in order to poison the cattle and through them the people. Churchill instructed the RAF to consider drenching “the cities of the Ruhr and many other cities in Germany” with poison gas “in such a way that most of the population would be requiring constant medical attention.”

“It is absurd to consider morality on this topic,” the great man declared.

Paul Johnson, a favorite historian of conservatives, notes that Churchill’s policy of terror bombing civilians was “approved in cabinet, endorsed by parliament and, so far as can be judged, enthusiastically backed by the bulk of the British people.” Thus, the terror bombing of civilians, which “marked a critical stage in the moral declension of humanity in our times,” fulfilled “all the conditions of the process of consent in a democracy under law.”

British historian F.J.P. Veale concluded that Churchill’s policy of indiscriminate bombing of civilians caused an unprecedented “reversion to primary and total warfare” associated with “Sennacherib, Genghis Khan, and Tamerlane.”

The Americans were quick to follow Churchill’s lead. General Curtis LeMay boasted of his raid on Tokyo: “We scorched and boiled and baked to death more people in Tokyo that night of March 9-10 than went up in vapor in Hiroshima and Nagasaki combined.”

MacDonogh’s book, After the Reich, dispels the comfortable myth of generous allied treatment of defeated Germany. Having discarded all moral scruples, the allies fell upon the vanquished country with brutal occupation. Hundreds of thousands of women raped; hundreds of thousands of Germans died in deportations; a million German prisoners of war died in captivity.

MacDonogh calculates that 2.5 million Germans died between the liberation of Vienna and the Berlin airlift.

Nigel Jones writes in the conservative London Sunday Telegraph: “MacDonogh has told a very inconvenient truth,” a story long “cloaked in silence since telling it suited no one.”

The hypocrisy of the Nuremberg trials is that the victors were also guilty of crimes for which the vanquished were punished. The purpose of the trials was to demonize the defeated in order to divert attention from the allies’ own war crimes. The trials had little to do with justice.

In Freedom Next Time, Pilger shows the complete self-absorption of American, British and Israeli governments whose policies are unimpeded by any moral principle.

Pilger documents the demise of the inhabitants of Diego Garcia. The Americans wanted Diego Garcia for an air base, so the British packed up the 2,000 residents, people with British passports under British protection, and deported them to Mauritius, one thousand miles away.

To cover up its crime against humanity, the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office created the fiction that the inhabitants, which had been living in the archipelago for two or three centuries, were “a floating population.” This fiction, wrote a legal adviser, bolsters “our arguments that the territory has no indigenous or settled population.”

Prime Minister Harold Wilson and Foreign Secretary Michael Stewart conspired to mislead the UN about the deported islanders by, in Stewart’s words, “ presenting any move as a change of employment for contract workers--rather than as a population resettlement.”

Pilger interviewed some of the displaced persons, but emotional blocs will shield patriotic Americans and British from the uncomfortable facts. Rational skeptics can find a second documented account of the Anglo-American rape of Diego Garcia online at http://www.cooperativeresearch.org/timeline.jsp?timeline=diego_garcia An entire people were swept away.

Two thousand people were in the way of an American purpose--an air base--so we had our British dependency deport them.

Several million Palestinians are in Israel’s way. Pilger’s documented account of Israel’s crushing of the Palestinians shows that our “democratic ally” in the Middle East is capable of any evil and has no remorse or mercy. Israel is an apt student of the British and American empires’ attitudes toward lesser beings. They simply don’t count.

Those who are the salt of the earth take precedence over everything.

Lawmakers Cash In As Lobbyists

Lawmakers Cash In As Lobbyists

By Jim Hightower

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Old Congress critters never die; they just flitter away to K Street.

Take Dennis Hastert. Actually, he’s already taken. The longtime Republican lawmaker retired last November, but rather than return to Illinois, he has alighted just a few blocks from the Capital at the blue-chip lobbying firm of Dickstein Shapiro. The firm lured Hastert with more than half a million bucks in annual pay, designating him “strategic counselor” on the legislative needs of its corporate clientele.

Dickstein Shapiro brags that it lobbies for more than 100 of the Fortune 500 corporations – a lineup that includes tobacco giants, drug companies, the nuclear industry, mercenaries like Triple Canopy, and such brand names as AT&T and Time Warner. Hastert will feel right at home in this crowd, for he was always a faithful legislative errand runner for corporate America. Indeed, corporate interests essentially ran the place when Hastert was Speaker of the House, with the likes of super-lobbyist Jack Abramoff given a free hand to cut corrupt deals. While Dennis no longer has the muscle to ram through a corporation’s agenda, he certainly has his old buddy network and insider knowledge to get favors done – this time for personal gain.

Hastert is hardly the only Capital Hill alum to cash in on his public trust. In recent years, more than 200 former members have made the lucrative metamorphosis from lawmaker to lobbyist, and Congress’s feeble ethics rules even let members openly shop for lobbying jobs while they’re supposed to be doing their legislative work. This is a revolving door system that special interests are happy to exploit – last year, they paid nearly $3 billion to hire Washington influence peddlers. That’s $17 million for every day Congress was in session.

And Congress critters wonder why their public approval rating is a humiliating 11 percent.

Notes

“It’s So Much Nicer on K Street,” The New York Times, June 6, 2007

“Revolving Door: Hastert’s New Gig,” www.opensecrets.org, June 5, 2008

“Dennis Hastert to Join Gay and Transgender Inclusive Law Firm,” www.openleft.com, May 30, 2008

“Message From Our Chairman,” www.dicksteinshapiro.com

“Hastert to join D.C. lobbying firm,” www.swamppolitics.com, May 30, 2008

“Former Speaker Hastert to join lobbying firm,” www.thehill.com, May 30, 2008

Jim Hightower, All Rights Reserved - http://jimhightower.com

Iran Is Not The Belligerent Party

Iran Is Not The Belligerent Party

By Linda S. Heard

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In recent years Iran has become the target of a belligerent campaign against it, orchestrated by usual suspects the US, Israel and Britain. This aggressive nuclear-armed trio has badgered other nations to back anti-Iranian sanctions without even the flimsiest evidence that Tehran is pursuing nuclear weapons.

Since 2006, Iran has been subjected to three rounds of ever-tightening UN sanctions while the European Union (EU) is preparing to freeze funds and assets of Bank Melli, Iran's largest bank. And what heinous crime has Tehran perpetrated to warrant this treatment?

In truth, Iran hasn't done anything wrong. Under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), to which it is a signatory, it has an "inalienable right" to develop, research, produce and use nuclear energy for peaceful purposes, which includes the right to enrich uranium.

But because Washington harbours old grievances against the Iranian government and Israel is determined to eliminate potential powerful rivals within the region Iran is being squeezed to relinquish its rights.

The stance of the US and its allies is not only based on an unfounded and unfair premise, it reeks of hypocrisy when nuclear-armed Israel has a green light to continue its ridiculous policy of nuclear ambiguity and is not being pressed to sign-up to the NPT.

On the rare occasions that Western leaders are asked about this inconsistency, they deftly change the subject, terminate the interview, or launch into a tirade, which usually includes Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's "wipe Israel off the map" statement, knowing full well that his words were mistranslated. They cannot debate the issue because it defies logic.

When it comes to demonising Iran, the US, Israel and Britain have a unified message and a compliant media, which has learned nothing from its mistakes during the run-up to the invasion of Iraq, and seems happy to continue to act as a government propaganda arm in some cases.

Thanks to the dutiful corporate mouthpieces, most Americans and Britons have no idea that Tehran is acting within its rights under the NPT.

They don't know that in December, a US intelligence estimate stated categorically that Iran is not currently developing nukes or that the nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), which monitors Iranian facilities, has no proof it seeks to do so.

The West's propaganda campaign is so effective that the majority of Westerners believe that Iran is the belligerent even though the facts support the contrary argument.

For instance, the US President George W. Bush has rarely missed an opportunity to insult, condemn and threaten Iran throughout his two terms in office beginning with his puerile "Axis of Evil".

The Republican presidential candidate, Senator John McCain, made his feelings known in his "bomb, bomb Iran" ditty. And even his Democratic opponent, Barack Obama, has vowed to eliminate the threat posed by Iran whatever it takes.

Israeli leaders have gone a step further. Earlier this month, Israel's Deputy Prime Minister Shaul Mofaz said an attack on Iran appeared "unavoidable". Interestingly, every time the rhetoric is ratcheted up so is the price of oil, which is good news for Tehran's coffers.

Worse, Israel recently launched a military air exercise over the eastern Mediterranean involving over 100 fighter jets and helicopters, which, according to US officials was a prelude to a possible strike on Iran's enrichment plant at Natanz.

An Israeli spokesperson told the Times that Iran should "read the writing on the wall" as this was a "dress rehearsal" and Iranians should "read the script before they continue with their programme" else Israel "will take military steps to halt Tehran's production of bomb-grade uranium."

In this case, shouldn't this dry run constitute an act of war? It is certainly a provocative act and should be taken seriously in light of Israel's recent incursion into Syrian airspace to bomb a military facility and its 1981 attack on Iraq's Osirak reactor.

When Egypt amassed over 200,000 troops in the Sinai in early June 1967, Israel struck first, blamed Egypt for initiating hostilities and claiming it had acted out of self-defence. Surely, Israel's self-confessed rehearsal is similarly provocative and in the extremely unlikely event Iran struck first, it could also argue self-defence.

Sabre-rattling

Whether Israel is merely sabre-rattling in an attempt to persuade Iran to agree to the latest EU package of inducements or whether it is deadly serious is the subject of debate.

IAEA Chief Mohammad Al Baradei seems to be taking it seriously and if Iran is attacked he says he will resign.

"I don't believe that what I see in Iran today is a current, grave and urgent danger. If a military strike is carried out against Iran at this time, it would make me unable to continue my work," he said, warning that such an attack would turn the region into "a fireball".

Iran is taking it seriously too. Last Sunday, its Defence Minister Mustafa Mohammad Najjar told the nation that if attacked Iran would use "all means available" to come up with a devastating response. Those of us who live in the neighbourhood can only pray that cooler heads put an end to this madness before it's too late.

A Backlog Of Cases Alleging Fraud

A Backlog Of Cases Alleging Fraud

Whistle-Blower Suits Languish at Justice

By Carrie Johnson

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More than 900 cases alleging that government contractors and drugmakers have defrauded taxpayers out of billions of dollars are languishing in a backlog that has built up over the past decade because the Justice Department cannot keep pace with the surge in charges brought by whistle-blowers, according to lawyers involved in the disputes.

The issue is drawing renewed interest among lawmakers and nonprofit groups because many of the cases involve the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, rising health-care payouts, and privatization of government functions -- all of which offer rich new opportunities to swindle taxpayers.

Since 2001, 300 to 400 civil cases have been filed each year by employees charging that their companies defrauded the government. But under the cumbersome process that governs these cases, Justice Department lawyers must review them under seal, and whistle-blowers routinely wait 14 months or longer just to learn whether the department will get involved. The government rejects about three-quarters of the cases it receives, saying that the vast majority have little merit.

Disputes can stay buried for years more while the government investigates the allegations.

"Even if no new cases are filed, it might take 10 years for the Department of Justice to clear its desk. Cases in the backlog represent a lot of money being left on the table," said Patrick Burns, a spokesman for Taxpayers Against Fraud, which advocates for Justice to receive more funding to support cases by whistle-blowers and their attorneys.

Supporters of federal intervention in the cases say the dividends are substantial: In recent years, verdicts and settlements have returned nearly $13 billion to the U.S. government.

At issue in most of the cases is whether companies knowingly sold defective products or overcharged federal agencies for items sold at home or offered to U.S. troops overseas. Under the Civil War-era False Claims Act, workers who file lawsuits alleging such schemes cannot discuss them or even disclose their existence until Justice decides whether to step in.

By its own account, the 75-lawyer unit in Washington that reviews the sensitive lawsuits is overloaded and understaffed. Only about 100 cases a year are investigated by the team, which works out of the commercial litigation branch of Justice's civil division.

Critics argue that the delays are at least partly the result of foot-dragging by Justice and the federal agencies whose position it represents, especially in the touchy area of suppliers that may have overbilled the government for equipment, food and other items used by troops in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Justice lawyers have rejected about 19 cases involving contractor fraud in Iraq and Afghanistan, registering five settlements that resulted in $16 million, officials said. Government officials said this week that they are considering whether to dive into 32 more whistle-blower cases involving Iraq or the Middle East.

"It's just flatly absurd for us to be five years into this war" with so few public cases, said Alan Grayson, a whistle-blower lawyer in Florida who has criticized the Justice effort and who is running for Congress as a Democrat.

In a statement, Justice spokesman Charles Miller said that career lawyers and supervisors base their determinations on merit, not on political sensitivities. "Our decisions to intervene or decline in cases involving Iraq and the Middle East are entirely consistent with our record in [whistle-blower] cases generally," he said.

Help from Justice greatly enhances the chances that a complicated fraud scheme can be unraveled, lawyers say. And department statistics show that cases Justice turns away win paltry, if any, financial recoveries.

Key lawmakers have called on Justice to make false-claims investigations a priority.

"Whistle-blowers are the key to the secrets locked in closets throughout the federal bureaucracy and government contractors," said Sen. Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa). "These patriotic Americans stick their necks out, against all odds, to help the federal government pursue fraud and save taxpayers tens of billions of dollars that would otherwise be lost."

Last month, Deputy Assistant Attorney General Michael F. Hertz told Congress that "the number and increased complexity of the fraud schemes presented to the department, combined with the volume of cases now under review, certainly present challenges."

Among the largest false-claims cases to date are a $650 million settlement earlier this year by drugmaker Merck in connection with an alleged failure to repay Medicaid rebates; a $515 million deal with Bristol-Myers Squibb to cover illegal drug pricing and marketing; and a $98 million agreement with software maker Oracle over pricing.

If their claims are successful, whistle-blowers can receive a hefty slice of the settlements or verdicts, sometimes as much as 20 percent of the award. A former Merck sales manager collected $68 million earlier this year for his role in exposing an alleged drug-pricing scheme.

Even bigger lawsuits containing potentially explosive allegations are waiting in the wings. The vast majority, more than 500 cases, involve the health-care and pharmaceutical industries and often involve Medicare and Medicaid funds.

Only a few hints of the Iraq and Afghanistan disputes have erupted publicly. One is a suit filed by two former employees of Custer Battles, a defense contracting company in Fairfax. The workers accused the company of inflating expenses on a contract it won to replace the Iraqi currency. After a three-week trial in 2006, a jury found in favor of the plaintiffs and awarded them $10 million. But U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis III later tossed out the case, ruling that the money at issue, controlled in the early years of the Iraq conflict by the Coalition Provisional Authority, belonged to the Iraqi government, not U.S. taxpayers.

Justice declined the whistle-blowers' request to intervene before the case went to trial, plaintiffs' lawyers said. The government eventually weighed in with a court brief on behalf of the whistle-blowers when the case was appealed.

Frederick M. Morgan Jr., a Cincinnati lawyer who represents whistle-blowers, said that the numbers of lawyers willing to take on cases involving defense contractors has dwindled, in part because of Justice's slow decisions.

One of Morgan's lawsuits, against contractors hired by the Navy to build nuclear submarines and an Ohio company that manufactured submarine valves, took five years to resolve.

Another case, involving the manufacture of the F-22 fighter, was filed in early 1999. It was late 2006 before Justice decided not to intervene. The case is now in active litigation.

"The impact of a 7 1/2 -year delay in the litigation of a case is difficult to quantify but impossible to discount," Morgan said.

Whistle-blower lawyers say other factors can contribute to long delays, including the difficulty in investigating claims in war-torn areas and complications that arise when military officials contend that technology or other products at issue in the lawsuits are classified. In addition, Justice lawyers who handle civil cases often cannot proceed until authorities decide whether a case merits criminal prosecution, the lawyers said.

Even when older cases are pushed into the open, the passage of time can present courtroom challenges.

Last year, a D.C. jury awarded whistle-blower Richard Miller more than $30 million, a figure that now-Chief Judge Royce C. Lamberth tripled to $90 million. But in the dozen years since the suit was filed, witnesses' memories of events had dimmed and the U.S. Agency for International Development had tossed its investigative files.

The judge blasted civil division lawyers for "doing virtually nothing" to follow up for four years after Miller brought forward allegations in 1995 about bid rigging on construction contracts in Egypt. The delays meant "loss of evidence, fading memories, disappearance of documents," he wrote.

Justice spokesman Miller said that the civil case was stalled for years because criminal proceedings in the matter took priority. He added that the whistle-blower did not object to the government's repeated entreaties for more time.

Last week, Lamberth denied defense motions for a new trial. But the verdict is likely to be appealed, according to lawyers who participated.

"I have a feeling we're some way away from resolution," said Charles S. Leeper, a lawyer for B.L. Harbert International, the main construction company involved in the case.

Obama Voters Protest His Switch on Telecom Immunity

Obama Voters Protest His Switch on Telecom Immunity

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Senator Barack Obama's decision to support legislation granting legal immunity to telecommunications companies that cooperated with the Bush administration's program of wiretapping without warrants has led to an intense backlash among some of his most ardent supporters.

Thousands of them are now using the same grass-roots organizing tools previously mastered by the Obama campaign to organize a protest against his decision.

In recent days, more than 7,000 Obama supporters have organized on a social networking site on Mr. Obama's own campaign Web site. They are calling on Mr. Obama to reverse his decision to endorse legislation supported by President Bush to expand the government's domestic spying powers while also providing legal protection to the telecommunication companies that worked with the National Security Agency's domestic wiretapping program after the Sept. 11 attacks.

During the Democratic primary campaign, Mr. Obama vowed to fight such legislation to update the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, or FISA. But he has switched positions, and now supports a compromise hammered out between the White House and the Democratic Congressional leadership. The bill is expected to come to a vote on the Senate floor next Tuesday. That decision, one of a number made by Mr. Obama in recent weeks intended to position him toward the political center as the general election campaign heats up, has brought him into serious conflict for the first time with liberal bloggers and commentators and his young supporters.

Many of them have seen the issue of granting immunity to the telecommunications companies as a test of principle in their opposition to Mr. Bush's surveillance program.

"I don't think there has been another instance where, in meaningful numbers, his supporters have opposed him like this," said Glenn Greenwald, a Salon.com writer who opposes Mr. Obama's new position. "For him to suddenly turn around and endorse this proposal is really a betrayal of what so many of his supporters believed he believed in."

Jane Hamsher, a liberal blogger who also opposes immunity for the phone companies, said she had been flooded with messages from Obama supporters frustrated with his new stance.

"The opposition to Obama's position among his supporters is very widespread," said Ms. Hamsher, founder of the Web site firedoglake.com. "His promise to filibuster earlier in the year, and the decision to switch on that is seen as a real character problem. I know people who are really very big Obama supporters are very disillusioned."

One supporter, Robert Arellano, expressed his anger on the Obama site.

"I have watched your campaign with genuine enthusiasm," Mr. Arellano wrote, "and I have given you money. For the first time in my life, I have sensed the presence of a presidential candidate who might actually bring some meaningful change to the corrupt cesspool of national politics. But your about-face on the FISA bill genuinely angers and alarms me."

For now, the campaign is trying to put a positive spin on the new FISA fight among its supporters.

"The fact that there is an open forum on BarackObama.com where supporters can say whether they agree or disagree speaks to a strength of our campaign," said Bill Burton, a campaign spokesman.

Several activists and bloggers predicted that Mr. Obama's move toward the center on some issues could sharply reduce the intensity of support he has enjoyed from liberal activists. Such enthusiasm helped power his effort to secure the Democratic nomination, and it has been one of his campaign's most important tools for fund-raising and organizing around the country.

Markos Moulitsas, a liberal blogger and founder of the Daily Kos Web site, said he had decided to cut back on the amount of money he would contribute to the Obama campaign because of the FISA reversal.

"I will continue to support him," Mr. Moulitsas said in an interview. "But I was going to write him a check, and I decided I would rather put that money with Democrats who will uphold the Constitution."

Greg Craig, a Washington lawyer who advises the Obama campaign, said Tuesday in an interview that Mr. Obama had decided to support the compromise FISA legislation only after concluding it was the best deal possible.

"This was a deliberative process, and not something that was shooting from the hip," Mr. Craig said. "Obviously, there was an element of what's possible here. But he concluded that with FISA expiring, that it was better to get a compromise than letting the law expire."

China Inspired Interrogations at Guantánamo

China Inspired Interrogations at Guantánamo

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he military trainers who came to Guantánamo Bay in December 2002 based an entire interrogation class on a chart showing the effects of “coercive management techniques” for possible use on prisoners, including “sleep deprivation,” “prolonged constraint,” and “exposure.”

What the trainers did not say, and may not have known, was that their chart had been copied verbatim from a 1957 Air Force study of Chinese Communist techniques used during the Korean War to obtain confessions, many of them false, from American prisoners.

The recycled chart is the latest and most vivid evidence of the way Communist interrogation methods that the United States long described as torture became the basis for interrogations both by the military at the base at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, and by the Central Intelligence Agency.

Some methods were used against a small number of prisoners at Guantánamo before 2005, when Congress banned the use of coercion by the military. The C.I.A. is still authorized by President Bush to use a number of secret “alternative” interrogation methods.

Several Guantánamo documents, including the chart outlining coercive methods, were made public at a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing June 17 that examined how such tactics came to be employed.

But committee investigators were not aware of the chart’s source in the half-century-old journal article, a connection pointed out to The New York Times by an independent expert on interrogation who spoke on condition of anonymity.

The 1957 article from which the chart was copied was entitled “Communist Attempts to Elicit False Confessions From Air Force Prisoners of War” and written by Alfred D. Biderman, a sociologist then working for the Air Force, who died in 2003. Mr. Biderman had interviewed American prisoners returning from North Korea, some of whom had been filmed by their Chinese interrogators confessing to germ warfare and other atrocities.

Those orchestrated confessions led to allegations that the American prisoners had been “brainwashed,” and provoked the military to revamp its training to give some military personnel a taste of the enemies’ harsh methods to inoculate them against quick capitulation if captured.

In 2002, the training program, known as SERE, for Survival, Evasion, Resistance, Escape, became a source of interrogation methods both for the C.I.A. and the military. In what critics describe as a remarkable case of historical amnesia, officials who drew on the SERE program appear to have been unaware that it had been created as a result of concern about false confessions by American prisoners.

Senator Carl Levin, Democrat of Michigan and chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said after reviewing the 1957 article that “every American would be shocked” by the origin of the training document.

“What makes this document doubly stunning is that these were techniques to get false confessions,” Mr. Levin said. “People say we need intelligence, and we do. But we don’t need false intelligence.”

A Defense Department spokesman, Lt. Col Patrick Ryder, said he could not comment on the Guantánamo training chart. “I can’t speculate on previous decisions that may have been made prior to current D.O.D. policy on interrogations,” Colonel Ryder said. “I can tell you that current D.O.D. policy is clear — we treat all detainees humanely.”

Mr. Biderman’s 1957 article described “one form of torture” used by the Chinese as forcing American prisoners to stand “for exceedingly long periods,” sometimes in conditions of “extreme cold.” Such passive methods, he wrote, were more common than outright physical violence. Prolonged standing and exposure to cold have both been used by American military and C.I.A. interrogators against terrorist suspects.

The chart also listed other techniques used by the Chinese, including “Semi-Starvation,” “Exploitation of Wounds,” and “Filthy, Infested Surroundings,” and with their effects: “Makes Victim Dependent on Interrogator,” “Weakens Mental and Physical Ability to Resist,” and “Reduces Prisoner to ‘Animal Level’ Concerns.”

The only change made in the chart presented at Guantánamo was to drop its original title: “Communist Coercive Methods for Eliciting Individual Compliance.”

The documents released last month include an e-mail message from two SERE trainers reporting on a trip to Guantánamo from Dec. 29, 2002, to Jan. 4, 2003. Their purpose, the message said, was to present to interrogators “the theory and application of the physical pressures utilized during our training.”

The sessions included “an in-depth class on Biderman’s Principles,” the message said, referring to the chart from Mr. Biderman’s 1957 article. Versions of the same chart, often identified as “Biderman’s Chart of Coercion,” have circulated on anti-cult sites on the Web, where the methods are used to describe how cults control their members.

Dr. Robert Jay Lifton, a psychiatrist who also studied the returning prisoners of war and wrote an accompanying article in the same 1957 issue of The Bulletin of the New York Academy of Medicine, said in an interview that he was disturbed to learn that the Chinese methods had been recycled and taught at Guantánamo.

“It saddens me,” said Dr. Lifton, who wrote a 1961 book on what the Chinese called “thought reform” and became known in popular American parlance as brainwashing. He called the use of the Chinese techniques by American interrogators at Guantánamo a “180-degree turn.”

The harshest known interrogation at Guantánamo was that of Mohammed al-Qahtani, a member of Al Qaeda suspected of being the intended 20th hijacker in the Sept. 11 attacks. Mr. Qahtani’s interrogation involved sleep deprivation, stress positions, exposure to cold and other methods also used by the Chinese.

Terror charges against Mr. Qahtani were dropped unexpectedly in May. Officials said the charges could be reinstated later and declined to say whether the decision was influenced by concern about Mr. Qahtani’s treatment.

Mr. Bush has defended the use the interrogation methods, saying they helped provide critical intelligence and prevented new terrorist attacks. But the issue continues to complicate the long-delayed prosecutions now proceeding at Guantánamo.

Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, a Qaeda member accused of playing a major role in the bombing of the American destroyer Cole in Yemen in 2000, was charged with murder and other crimes on Monday. In previous hearings, Mr. Nashiri, who was subjected to waterboarding, has said he confessed to participating in the bombing falsely only because he was tortured.

Dow Jones breaks Great Depression record for poor performance

Dow Jones breaks Great Depression record for poor performance

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It is a downtrodden Dow Jones that opens this morning, teetering on the edge of Bear Market Territory.

"We'll see what happens in the first half-hour on Monday," one trader told ABC News.

It doesn't matter what happens on Wall Street. In Chula Vista, Calif. residents there won't see fireworks. The city dropped a bombshell instead: the 4th of July is cancelled for lack of funds.

"I think it's the right thing to do, when you're looking at police and fire," one Chula Vista resident said.

The Dow Jones index has plunged more than 10 percent this month, marking the worst June performance since the Great Depression.

"Nothing's going right for the average American household: Gas prices are at record highs, stock prices are falling, housing values are evaporating, we' re losing jobs, unemployment rising. It's just a very difficult time," Moody's Economy.com Economist Mark Zandi said.

Getting from here to there is more difficult as well. Boating is way down. Airline prices are way up. Even filling the gas tank has people doing the math. "I could maybe do $5. But once it gets close to $6 a gallon, it really makes you think a lot," Brian Hanable, a motorcycle rider from California, said.

On the minds of investors? Stagflation, quickening inflation combined with slowing economic growth.

Oil prices are already up this morning as a result of brewing Middle East tensions, and Asian stocks posted their worst first-half performance in 16 years.