April 8, 2004

Rice: Testimony Manipulation

Just after the Rice testimony had concluded, the local talk-radio station had their usual hourly news blurb. They're a CNN affiliate - I will assume this was a CNN feed. update - In an email from the station's news director, I am told they use both CNN and ABC - so the post has been edited to reflect that.

The Fox transcript portion:

BEN-VENISTE: Did you tell the president, at any time prior to August 6th, of the existence of Al Qaida cells in the United States?

RICE: First, let me just make certain...

BEN-VENISTE: If you could just answer that question, because I only have a very limited...

RICE: I understand, Commissioner, but it's important...

BEN-VENISTE: Did you tell the president...

RICE: ... that I also address...


It's also important that, Commissioner, that I address the other issues that you have raised. So I will do it quickly, but if you'll just give me a moment.

BEN-VENISTE: Well, my only question to you is whether you...

RICE: I understand, Commissioner, but I will...

BEN-VENISTE: ... told the president.

RICE: If you'll just give me a moment, I will address fully the questions that you've asked.

First of all, yes, the August 6th PDB was in response to questions of the president -- and that since he asked that this be done. It was not a particular threat report. And there was historical information in there about various aspects of Al Qaida's operations.

Dick Clarke had told me, I think in a memorandum -- I remember it as being only a line or two -- that there were Al Qaida cells in the United States.

Now, the question is, what did we need to do about that?

And I also understood that that was what the FBI was doing, that the FBI was pursuing these Al Qaida cells. I believe in the August 6th memorandum it says that there were 70 full field investigations under way of these cells. And so there was no recommendation that we do something about this; the FBI was pursuing it.

I really don't remember, Commissioner, whether I discussed this with the president.

BEN-VENISTE: Thank you.

The edited taped testimony:

BEN-VENISTE: Did you tell the president, at any time prior to August 6th, of the existence of Al Qaida cells in the United States?

RICE: First, let me just make certain...

BEN-VENISTE: If you could just answer that question, because I only have a very limited...

RICE: I understand, Commissioner, but it's important...

BEN-VENISTE: Did you tell the president...

RICE: ... that I also address...


It's also important that, Commissioner, that I address the other issues that you have raised. So I will do it quickly, but if you'll just give me a moment.

BEN-VENISTE: Well, my only question to you is whether you...

RICE: I understand, Commissioner, but I will...

BEN-VENISTE: ... told the president.


RICE: I really don't remember, Commissioner, whether I discussed this with the president.



Another update My complaint to the station yields results - in the lastest broadcast, the local news director Kurt Leavins interrupted the tape in the portion that was edited out, with brief verbal commentary that went something to the effect of "Rice finally gets around to answering the question". The missing testimony was not reinserted or mentioned, (probably not possible), but the voice interruption is an improvement.

The overall suggestion that Rice was avoiding the question remains intact, though - Leavins being an outspoken critic of the Bush administration, no surprise there. It would have been more reassuring had he chosen to paraphrase the missing segment, instead of editorializing a news item.

Posted by Kate at April 8, 2004 2:43 PM

Non-Scandal Scandal from Not Geniuses
Check here. Somehow, I think there are more important things we could be worried about. Update As the comments get to, this is some more serious fudging by some journalists than I originally assumed. Let me still say that I... [Read More]

Tracked on October 27, 2004 8:20 PM

Don't Go Hatin' Condi! from The Trimblog
It's amazing how venomous liberals are toward Dr. Condoleezza Rice, and it's not just because she's the most powerful woman and one of the most powerful blacks in the nation, it's because she is all that AND she is a... [Read More]

Tracked on November 2, 2004 9:56 PM

Condi in 2008 Dept. from Kesher Talk
Some transcripts: Edited by a local station. See what was left out. Rice does a little aikido on Kerrey. Chris Matthews misrepresents Rice. Bill Herbert factchecks some attempts to take issue with Rice's testimony. Huge link roundup of reactions... [Read More]

Tracked on December 16, 2005 1:08 AM


Just another example of just how powerful the net really is.

Ten years ago the edit would have gone unchallenged or, at least, unchallenged until the next day at which point the damage would have been done.

Good on you Kate!

Posted by: Jay Currie at April 8, 2004 5:22 PM

Here's another update - I had copied my original (scathing) email to one of the local news announcers. His latest news report mentioned the "strong performance" of Rice.

Posted by: Kate at April 8, 2004 5:30 PM

Great job

Posted by: Jeff G at April 8, 2004 7:44 PM

So all they edited out was...the substance?

Posted by: David at April 8, 2004 10:32 PM

Of course. Later in the day, during his daily ramble, Kurt Leavins asked another important question - "does she ever smile?".

Those left wing types - so very cognizant of gender-based double standards.....

Posted by: Kate at April 9, 2004 1:07 AM

CNN feed, huh? Wonder if incidents like this has anything to do with the fact that half their audience has left in the last year?

Great job. The blogosphere is contributing greatly to the marginalization of big liberal media with actions like this. If they can't tell the truth, someone else will and the audience will follow. Few things have been as transparent and shameful as the media's treatment of Condi's testimony. Every blog I read has posts taking the media to task for misrepresentation, editing, or outright lying. Thanks for your small nail in the coffin...they add up quick.

Posted by: Mike M at April 9, 2004 9:06 AM

Nice job. Blogs have changed the news forever.
Welcome to real democracy.

Posted by: Titian at April 9, 2004 9:39 AM

So, I check out the site this morning and find my second Instalanche in a week.

We can work away in our little corners all we like, but it's the established bloggers like Glenn (and others like Jeff Goldstein, James Joyner and "The Commissar") who link to we small fish, who are the arteries of the system, and it wouldn't survive without them. It's the rare person who can keep up a blog without some feedback, whether it be comments or simple traffic stats. Big spike hits are ego candy, sure, but they' also encourage.

Our variety and eclectic tastes build smaller regular reader bases, but they draw different ones. The net result is an expansion of blog readership and better seepage of overlooked information back into the mainstream.

News junkies blogging for other news junkies may be a delicious mental exercise, but it won't have any real effect on the traditional media.

News junkies blogging for niche readership, for their friends and family, who then send other friends and family into the network, introducing them to the Instapundits and Roger Simons and James Lileks as alternative sources for news and commentary - that is the real power of the blogosphere.

Posted by: Kate at April 9, 2004 10:28 AM

Pardon me for not being outraged, but it looks to me like the editing in the second feed doesn't distort the information.

The question is, did you talk to the president about AQ cells in the US?

The unedited answer is, "I talked about them with Clarke and the FBI, but not the president."

The edited answer is, "I didn't talk about them with the president."

That the FBI and others knew is, of course, not insignificant. But the point of the question was to determine specifically what CR and GWB had exchanged directly.

So for CNN to edit that exchange by removing what is really extraneous information *as regards the question* doesn't strike me as distorting. The end result is the same: Did you talk the the president about AQ in the US? Answer: No.

Posted by: beetroot at April 9, 2004 10:42 AM

Pardon me - I meant to write that CR's answer was not "no, I didn't talk to him about AQ in the US" but rather, "I don't remember."

My bad.

Posted by: beetroot at April 9, 2004 10:43 AM

" Answer: No"

Except, that wasn't the answer. The answer was "I really don't remember".

Did you not notice that your conclusion, after reading the transcripts is patently incorrect? What does that tell you?

And your support of the edit is intellectually dishonest. The question was based on a false premise. It is not possible to answer such a question in a meaningful way with a straightforward yes or no. It ceases to be instructive, and becomes a game of "gotcha". That's theatre, not testimony.

Posted by: Kate at April 9, 2004 10:50 AM

Another way of saying "gotcha" is, as we teach our freshman rhetoric students, "begging the question." When did you stop beating your wife? Did you tell him this specific - or did you assume the FBI in pursuing 70 cases was "doing something about it"?
Yes, Instapundit and people like you are making this country a more honest place. I hope.

Posted by: Ginny at April 9, 2004 11:10 AM

So, beeroot, do you still beat your wife? And does she know about that leggy blonde you were talking with the other day? ... It's not relevant that the girl was just taking your order at the McDonald's drivethru. Stop evading and answer yes or no. :)

Ben-Veniste was trying to get away with one of the oldest and most transparent of tactics - a false assertion disguised as a question - and Ms Rice refused to let it stand.

Posted by: Bryan C at April 9, 2004 11:20 AM

You're right, Bryan C, and not only that, he was trying to cut off her answer so that she couldn't expose his ploy. Since Rice had previously spent some 4 1/2 hours before the Commission in closed testimony, they already knew the answers to the questions they asked. The only purpose of yesterday's exercise was for the partisans on the Commission to try to score some points. I don't think they did as well as they would have liked.

Posted by: ExRat at April 9, 2004 11:34 AM

Kurt Leavins asked another important question - "does she ever smile?".

I read the entire transcript of Rice's testimony, and I have to say, she seemed to understand that it was a serious issue they were discussing, surrounding whether they could have prevented the murder of over 3,000 people. Smiling would have been singularly inappropriate.

In fact there were a handful of times when people's remarks elicited laughter, sometimes intentionally, and to me that is extremely distasteful.

Then there was the fact that Bob Kerrey couldn't remember Rice's name and kept addressing her as "Dr. Clarke."

Posted by: Anne Haight at April 9, 2004 11:47 AM

In addition to the other points made above, another problem with the edit is that if (as Beetrot suggests) the relevant portions of the testimony were (1) the question "did you talk to the president about AQ cells in the US?" and (2) the answer "I don't remember," why weren't those the only parts of the transcript included in the news report?

The answer seems pretty clear: the additional parts chosen for inclusion make Rice look evasive. Moreover, this is NOT, as Beetroot suggests it is, a case where the edit merely "remov[ed] what is really extraneous information as regards the question." Rather, it is a case where the edit deliberately INCLUDES "extraneous information as regards the question," but only to the extent that it might lead a listener to conclude that Rice was being cagy and evasive, and deliberately EXCLUDES "extraneous information" to the extent that it might lead one to conclude that Rice was providing necessary context for a question replete with misleading unstated assumptions -- or even that to conclude the partisan Rice has as much justification for claiming that the Bushies did a bang-up job as the partisan Ben-Veniste may have for claiming that the Bushies are the biggest F-ups that ever walked the planet Earth.

Posted by: salaryman at April 9, 2004 12:20 PM

wow, who cares...

Posted by: gijoe at April 9, 2004 12:43 PM

I care. I care when the Commission that is investigating the most horrific terrorist attack in American history is playing to the cameras for partisan purposes. I care when the media that is supposed to be informing us choses instead to give a misleading picture of the testimony.

Posted by: Erik at April 9, 2004 1:39 PM

Another point on the impropriety of the "just answer yes or no" type of questioning. That's fine when you are cross-examining a witness at trial, because their own lawyer has the opportunity to clarify on re-direct ("Ms. Rice, on cross-examination, you said such-and-such. What did you mean?") However, there is no comparable opportunity accorded in the Commission investigation, unless a friendly commissioner takes it upon themself to do it (which is by no means guaranteed).

My impression is the Ben-Veniste was simply importing an adversarial examining technique, in a forum where it plainly had no application, to score points, and not to reveal facts. He is playing games, while the lives of his fellow citizens are at stake. That is frankly revolting.

Posted by: Bob at April 9, 2004 3:48 PM

Thank you, Kate, for this little gem. I got here through Glenn, and I'll come back. I like the way you handled the piece, and I like those who, with erudition and insight, have chosen to comment.
AND THERE'S MORE! As of this posting, not a single troll!

What the media is doing is certainly nothing new; the way it is immediately answered by those whose memory and intellectual integrity is in tact, is. If I have been unable to see an event or hear a particular speech for myself, I never take the word of a "mainstream" newsperson for anything resembling reality. These days, I always back up a news item -- be it on TV or radio, or in print -- with a trip to the blogosphere.

Posted by: Dee at April 9, 2004 4:37 PM

If CNN is going to do that, why don't they just start hiring writers and some actors who can do "dramatizations" of what they wish the news was?

"Now lets cut to Washington, where Wolf Blitzer will conduct an interview that was inspired by actual events - er, based on a true story."

Posted by: George Turner at April 9, 2004 8:01 PM

that's why I read the transcript..which can be found on CSpan and the Washington Post ..I also believe there was evidence of partisanship by all members of the commission..
would appreciate it as well if the WH would release that PDB from August 6th
also must comment on the post regarding "dramatization" isn't that what the "Medicare" commercial is?

Posted by: elf at April 9, 2004 9:37 PM

Would it be possible to get a class action lawsuit going against broadcasters who are proven to have edited stories to further their agendas? Should we not be able to hold those who call themselves a news source accountable for altering the truth?

Posted by: Quadratic at April 9, 2004 9:43 PM

Soon the currency of the Blogosphere will be the Saska-lanche.

Posted by: The Commissar at April 9, 2004 11:44 PM

Whoa, maybe they didn't want to broadcast the entire 3-hour long testimony, as much as I wanted to hear it, and just aired the actual answer to Ben Viniste's question: did she alert Bush to Al Quaida cells in the US. What the written transcript tells me is that when the anti-terrorism chief writes a memo telling the President about Al Quaida cells in the US, she doesn't remember anything happening as a result that would have led her to believe that she actually warned the president. I mean, what could he have done that the career guys weren't already doing? What we really needed the president to do, was look into ways of how we can get ourselves into Iraq, rather than actually doing anything more against domestic terrorism. Only if you buy what Dick Clarke says that is.
On a different note,this talk of media bias reminds me of how Clear Channel fired Howard Stern under pressure from the FCC fines for "vulgarity" (being a very outspoken against Bush). That didn't stop them from taking him off Infinity Broadcasting's hands.

Posted by: William Mon at April 9, 2004 11:59 PM

"also must comment on the post regarding "dramatization" isn't that what the "Medicare" commercial is?" - It may be, but the '"Medicare" commercial' is, well, a COMMERCIAL. I think the post you are referring to was taking a half-serious jab at "dramatization" in a news story. There's a difference between the two, or at least there should be.

Posted by: Ed Murrow at April 10, 2004 12:36 AM

I would only care about the elite media massaging the reported testimony only to the extent that they are still intending to subtly mislead the American people. The blogs are becoming the only true source of information that is essentially unbiased because you get perspectives from a wide group of people.

I have never felt better informed going into an election than this year and I have blogs like this to thank.

I am not watching any more elite media because of these issues with their editorial policy, and by defintion, their credibility.

Posted by: WK at April 10, 2004 2:08 AM

"It's also important that, Commissioner, that I address the other issues that you have raised. So I will do it quickly, but if you'll just give me a moment."

What it sounds like to me is Mr. Ben Veniste had been making a speech and Rice refused to let his assertions made in that speech go unchallenged. Also if you read the entire unedited exhange what you should realize is that Dr. Rice is telling Ben Veniste what specific information she had and what agency was involved (the FBI) and she could not remember discussing that particular information with the President. ABC and CNN turned her answer into an all encompassing reply which obviously was not the case. And this leads me to one of two possible conclusions: either ABC and CNN are incompetent or they have become an genuine organ of the Democratic party.

Posted by: Harry at April 10, 2004 3:02 AM

Just a clarification - the reason I mention CNN and ABC is that the source of the tape was never identified on the local station. I learned in a private email from the news director that they use both these sources, and thus, it could be either one.

Posted by: Kate at April 10, 2004 9:38 AM

Yes, yes, the media bad, liberal, etc. Oh, it's so horrible that a radio station edited together a question and its answer while editing out some of the non-relevant answers in-between. OK, the sky is falling, you called it, nice job.

But, uh, something else strikes me as interesting here.

Condi Rice knew that bin Laden was "determined" to strike inside the U.S. She kinew that these terrorists had a bag of tricks that included explosives and hijacking. And she had been told that there were AL QAEDA CELLS IN THE UNITED STATES...

...and Condi Rice can't even REMEMBER whether she told the President that information?

Our National Security Advisor cannot REMEMBER whether she told the President of the United States of America about the al Qaeda sleeper cells operating within the United States?

That doesn't concern you?

Posted by: Jamie McCarthy at April 10, 2004 12:05 PM

"Condi Rice knew that bin Laden was "determined" to strike inside the U.S. She kinew that these terrorists had a bag of tricks that included explosives and hijacking. And she had been told that there were AL QAEDA CELLS IN THE UNITED STATES..."

Everyone who has an intact memory knew that Al Queda was operational in the US. They attacked the WTC in 1993.

I swear - I am beginning to think that there is a worldwide epidemic of memory and cognitive dysfunction. I can think of nothing else to explain why so many critics of the Bush adminstration have no recall of current events, and such abysmal reading comprehension skills.

Posted by: Kate at April 10, 2004 12:18 PM

Hey look! A troll! I stopped reading the post after "editing out some of the non-relevant answers". Did it end up say anything interesting?

Posted by: Ach at April 10, 2004 12:27 PM

hi kate

I got here via Instapundit, too, and great catch you got. I pretty much gave up on watching "local" news tv shows for many reasons not the least of which is your example of dowdification, endemic in the short_time_how_to_sex_up_the_ratings_for_advertising_dollars_news_is_entertainment "mainstream" media.

Included on the "short memory" list should be CNN's confession that they were Saddam's party boy, refusing to report some of the bad stuff so they could continue to have "exclusive" access in Baghdad.

Posted by: darleen at April 10, 2004 12:47 PM

"Begging the Question". A logical fallacy whereby you assume what needs to be proven.
"Did you tell the President prior to Aug. 6 that Al Quaeda cells were operating in the U.S.?"

Assumption - Al Quaeda cells were operating in the U.S. prior to Aug. 6. Proven.

Assumption 2 - Dr. Rice knew this. Proven.

How is this question an example of "begging the question"?

Posted by: Bob Smith at April 10, 2004 2:00 PM

Hindsight is 20/20...there was no specific, actionable intelligence regarding 9/11 before 9/11!

Posted by: Dr. Freeze at April 10, 2004 7:11 PM

There was specific actionable intelligence (e.g. the Minnesota FBI nabbing Moussaoi), it just hadn't gotten to the White House. If it had, or even if there had been stronger advisories going out, it's within the realm of possibility that the hijack attacks could have been prevented.

In the future (which is what this commission is supposed to be about, *not* about finding who to blame), when top counterterrorism folks sound a general alarm, i hope the National Security Advisor and President take the initiative to "shake the trees" so that such intelligence has a better chance of reaching them and/or being acted on.

Posted by: John Abbe at April 10, 2004 8:24 PM

So let me get this straight. You guys are claiming that that chunk somehow does anything to help the case? First, how is it a 'historical' document when it refers to ongoing operations? Secondly: "what did we need to do about that?" Isn't that your job to actually find out and then execute, rather than wonder about it over two years later?

But the big important thing: what's wrong with her head that she can't remember whether or not she told our president about the most significant threat to the country? Sure, in her universe the only threats are states, but that kind of thinking is exactly the problem and why were are now in this mess. But that's irrelevant. Her answer was just a way to avoid stating the obvious: no.

Since the only republican option for november is this out there, the only thing left is to vote for the republican in dem clothing.

Have fun with your conspiracy theories. All it does is make you miss the important facts.

Posted by: John Abrams at April 11, 2004 2:16 AM

Mr. John Abbe:
According to Terry Gross of NPR's Fresh Air, "As we all know, the 9/11 Commision was formed to find out what the Bush Administration new prior to the 9/11 attacks. " The people at NPR couldn't possibly have a political agenda could they?

Posted by: Deacon Blues at April 11, 2004 10:18 AM

Mr. Deacon Blues:

Interesting tangent - but i didn't mention or defend NPR.

My question is, do you hope that future administrations, given similar concerns from top counterterror folks, conduct regular meetings of the principals, including the President?

Posted by: John Abbe at April 11, 2004 12:27 PM

I think it is interesting that the memo is dated August 6th, the 57th anniversery of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima!

Posted by: Robert at April 11, 2004 3:08 PM

To address the tangent - from the Commission's web site , it's "chartered to prepare a full and complete account of the circumstances surrounding the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, including preparedness for and the immediate response to the attacks. The Commission is also mandated to provide recommendations designed to guard against future attacks." So NPR indeed erred (as i did), by omitting the full list of the commission's purposes.

Actually this isn't a tangent. Ommission is also the error that Kate is pointing to in the first place. One line of Rice's testimony ommitted by Kate's local talk radio show particularly jumps out at me: "there was no recommendation that we do something about this".

This was one of several things i've heard/read in the hearings that lead me to another recommendation i'd make to future administration officials, if i were on the commission: be more pro-active, rather than waiting for others to recommend action.

Posted by: John Abbe at April 11, 2004 4:57 PM

This was a great catch, well done.

However, at root is this: 8 years vs. 8 months.

4 shots at OBL's ugly melon, 4 whiffs by Clinton.

End of story.

Posted by: idler at April 12, 2004 12:31 AM


I want to respond, not to apply blame which i think is pointless, but in an attempt to have us working from a whole understanding of what has actually happened. First, the Bush administration has had more than three years in office now, and has whiffed all of their shots at bin Laden.

Bush administration supporters and detractors have both suggested that killing bin Laden before 9/11 probably would not have stopped the attacks anyway. What could have? For comparison, let's look at the Millennium threats of 1999, when a small group of principals meets almost daily for more than a month: President Clinton, "National Security Adviser Berger, DCI Tenet [CIA], Secretary of State Albright, Secretary of Defense Cohen, Hugh Shelton the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Deputy National Security Adviser James Steinberg, the White House chief of staff, John Podesta, Richard Clarke and Vice President Gore's national security adviser, Leon Fuerth. Attorney General Reno and FBI Director Freeh would also sometimes participate."

Berger: " was important to bring the principals together on a frequent basis, for a number of reasons. Things happen when the number one person is in the room. So Director Tenet would say, I've got a lead on so and so, and the attorney general would turn around to a person sitting behind her and say, can we get a FISA on this person?

And the answer is yes, attorney general. We got more FISAs in a shorter period of time than ever before in history. When the principal spends an hour a day at the White House or more, he goes back or she goes back to his agency or her agency and he or she shakes that agency for whatever it has."

Fast forward to the spring & summer of 2001, when, according to Clarke, the threat reporting "exceeded anything that George Tenet or I had ever seen." And yet, the Bush administration convened no similar principals meetings. Clarke met daily with lower level folks in various agencies, but obviously this was insufficient to get local FBI offices' intelligence on the attack, up to Washington. Rice claims that high alerts went out to the FAA and FBI, but the Secretary of Transportation did not even know about the FAA alerts. And the FBI disputes her statement about tasking all 56 field offices to heighten surveillance, and the August 6 PDB's characterization of the 70 field team investigations. Then-FBI directors Freeh and Pickard will testify tomorrow, so we may learn more.

(All quotes from transcript of March 24 9/11 Commission hearings: . Also see Rice's testimony: .

In case you're not aware of what the FBI knew at lower levels before 9/11: on July 10, the Phoenix office issued this memo about suspicious characters attending flight schools, which never reached Washington: (also see ). On August 16, the FBI Minneapolis office, tipped off by a flight school, had the INS arrest Moussaoui, and linked him to bin Laden. Local agents asked Washington for, but never received, a FISA (search warrant) to look at files on his computer.

Finally, a last bit on the Bush administration's success in battling terrorism: in the nine years before September 11, 2001, al Qaeda killed 318 people in four attacks. In merely three years since, al Qaeda killed 510 people in nine attacks. (not counting any al Qaeda attacks not yet attributed to them, or any involvement they have had in Iraq) . Granted it's a bit simplistic, but this supports the contentions of peaceniks (and hawks such as Clarke) that the invasion of Iraq has worked in support of terrorism.

Not the end of the story, because i'm willing to listen to any counter-arguments.

And before anyone blasts me for partisanship, know that i am not a Democrat, i think the party system is a disaster. I think the most important response to terrorism, and militarism, is to understand, heal and otherwise address the material, psychological and sociological roots of violence. That's a long-term task, which is not on the radar screen for most Republicans or Democrats. One exception is Democratic candidate Dennis Kucinich, who proposes a Department of Peace . The Green Party has vague references to this sort of thing in it's platform. In the short-term, i totally understand the protective use of force.

Posted by: John Abbe at April 12, 2004 7:40 AM

I neglected to mention that several al Qaeda plots were indeed broken up at the turn of the millennium.

Also, due to a formatting error on my part, all the links from my last comment got removed. Here they are:

FBI dispute of Rice's & August 6 PDB's characterization of alerts:,0,3695500.story

March 24 Commission transcript:

Rice's testimony transcript:

Phoenix memo:


Congressional Research Service on al Qaeda attack pre- and post-9/11:

Department of Peace:

Posted by: John Abbe at April 12, 2004 8:01 AM

John Abbe are you incredibly naive?

"I think the most important response to terrorism, and militarism, is to understand, heal and otherwise address the material, psychological and sociological roots of violence."

They want us to convert to radical Islam and pray to Allah five times a day or they want us dead. That's it buddy. This wasn't a kid lashing out, these are suicidal maniacs we're dealing with and the sooner you recognize that, the better off you'll be. I mean, you can't be serious. You want to reason with families that celebrate strapping bombs onto their only children and sending them off into crowded civilian places? You want to reason with people who loudly cheered when they saw the Twin Towers go down? Go ahead and try to understand them. I know better.

"That's a long-term task, which is not on the radar screen for most Republicans or Democrats. One exception is Democratic candidate Dennis Kucinich, who proposes a Department of Peace ."

What the hell is a "Department of Peace" going to do to combat people who strap bombs onto themselves and blow themselves up? Are you kidding me? God I hope you are. But this is no time for stupid games.

Posted by: likwidshoe at April 12, 2004 2:50 PM

Re: my naivete

I gather you'd really like us to be safe. Me too.

Probably i wasn't clear enough in what i wrote. I am not suggesting that now, after decades (well, millennia really) of militaristic policy in all cultures involved, that we will suddenly be able to implement a creative and persistent enough purely nonviolent strategy to work.

That's why i wrote: "In the short-term, i totally understand the protective use of force."

As a part of our response. Too much force (e.g. invading Iraq) only compounds the problem, by driving more new people to violent tactics against us than we kill (al Qaeda has killed more people in the three years since 9/11 than the nine year before).

The greater part of any successful response will of course include many nonviolent strategies - economic (non-coercive) relationships with the majority, non-radicalized elements of Islam; increased cultural relationships; the sharing of nonviolent philosophy and strategy/tactics among those interested on both sides, etc. These are kinds of things that helped the fall of most "communist" governments happen as peacefully as they did. You may be surprised to learn that Western peaceniks had extensive working and personal relationships with the people in the nonviolent movements of eastern Europe, including the people who stood down the tanks in Moscow during the attempted 1991 coup in the Soviet Union.

I can understand why you find it difficult to imagine connecting with those who would cheer on the deaths of others. I'm sure many of the regular folk among our "enemies" have similar doubts when they read the celebrations of American attacks on the Net. Nonetheless, i believe it's worth a try.

I have always been confused by opposition to nonviolence from so many who support democracy, which is after all founded on the idea that people who differ - even greatly - on what they would like to see happen, can work things out. Nonviolence is not a simple edict to lay down and let others do what they will. It is the philosophy and practice of working - even with those who are unwilling and/or being violent - toward ends that benefit everyone.

I agree that "this is no time for stupid games." When we enter the era in which the power is easily available for one or a few people to take out an entire city, we cannot afford to have even a few people willing to do so. This means a massive cultural shift, species-wide, toward nonviolence.

Posted by: John Abbe at April 12, 2004 6:43 PM

Well I applaud your intentions John Abbe. I'm just not so sure your ideas would work against the types of people we're talking about. Specifically when you said this, "I have always been confused by opposition to nonviolence from so many who support democracy, which is after all founded on the idea that people who differ - even greatly - on what they would like to see happen, can work things out." There is no nonviolent method to use against people who want dictatorships! None! I wish there was but there isn't. They want total or near total control of people. You can't just reason with that kind of "logic". While non-violent pressures work in some instances, it doesn't in others. Sometimes it takes all out fighting to the last nation standing. Non-violent methods helped to starve and atrophy communism in the old U.S.S.R. But it's not going to work for dictatorships because the strength of a dictatorship lies not in it's economy but in it's control over the populace.

Posted by: likwidshoe at April 14, 2004 4:24 AM

At least some of the eastern European nations would qualify as having been dictatorships (e.g. Albania, Rumania). Even clearer examples (because they lacked any external military threat) include the uprisings that brought down the Shah in Iran, Marcos in the Philippines, and Suharto in Indonesia, all primarily through nonviolent movements. Even Burma/Myanmar and China have have occasional promising moments, and with a focus on nonviolent strategies and tactics i have high hopes for more success there.

All quite amazing given that most people in the world live in cultures that have been improving military thinking for millennia, while we've only been exploring nonviolence consistently for less than a hundred years (although the roots go back as far as you want to look - e.g. Lysistrata, and the nonviolent phase of the American Revolution was having considerable effect on popular opinion in England before things turned violent).

Nonviolence works in dictatorships by withdrawing the tacit support of the majority, and reaching enough of the people in the apparatus that supports the system - bureaucrats, military, etc. One or a few people cannot run a dictatorship, they needs hundreds of thousands of active supporters.

Posted by: John Abbe at April 14, 2004 9:57 AM

My bad, Rumania is not a great example as it was actually fairly bloody.

Posted by: John Abbe at April 14, 2004 12:21 PM

Well thought out answers and examples John. I applaud that. But I bring you this question: what non-violent measures would work against people who are brainwashed into loving their dictators? I'm talking specifically of North Korea here. These people put Kim Jong-Il over their own parents. Just watching the people weep uncontrollably when Kim's father died was enough to show that they were brainwashed. Even the three year olds were weeping. That's some serious brainwashing.

BTW, I got your E-mails and now respect your position more than I did before. Congratulations: it's pretty hard for someone to do that. :)

Posted by: likwidshoe at April 15, 2004 8:21 PM

Thanks. It's a big support to me to know that i'm not just spitting in the wind :)

I have not followed North Korea closely, but i would guess that most of the information that gets out has a strong bias toward what the government would like us to see. In addition, people hold back from expressing their true feelings out of fear. During World War II there was a strong impression outside of (and even inside of) Germany that Hitler was supported and loved by the people; no doubt some did. But as we know now, there was a great deal of doubt, discomfort and hatred, including several assassination attempts. In this document of nonviolence playlets/stories, check out #16, about a pots & pans campaign in Chile:

I think this is just the tip of the iceberg in terms of the kinds of creative strategies that Gandhi predicted:

"Things undreamt of are daily being seen, the impossible is ever becoming possible. We are constantly being astonished these days at the amazing discoveries in the field of violence. But I maintain that far more undreamt of and seemingly impossible discoveries will be made in the field of nonviolence."

Posted by: John Abbe at April 16, 2004 5:36 PM

No doubt there was a strong bias as to what North Korea wanted to show the world. But my point remains. Brainwashing of the populace, while maybe not in actual heartbreak over the death of their leader, was still obvious because the other option would be to cry out of fear for not appearing to love the man like you're supposed to. As I said, they were weeping uncontrollably: every single one of them. I've never seen anything like it before.

Posted by: likwidshoe at April 21, 2004 5:28 AM