Will The Wall Street Journal Denounce Alvaro Uribe?

Reuters reports:

Colombian President Alvaro Uribe stepped closer to re-election on Tuesday when a congressional committee approved a bill aimed at allowing him to run for a third term next May, but a tough vote looms in the full House. The measure, calling for a referendum to change the constitution, had been stalled for weeks in the committee but the government has launched an all-out lobbying effort. Congress already changed the constitution once to allow Uribe, a U.S.-backed conservative, to stand for re-election in 2006.

Although the committee’s approval of the bill on Tuesday was not decisive — as Reuters notes, the real test will be the full House vote — the right’s silence throughout Uribe’s campaign against term limits has been striking. None of the self-styled champions of Latin American democracy in the U.S. — the Wall Street Journal editorial page, The New Republic, The Weekly Standard, and so forth — have seen fit to criticize Uribe’s move.

Compare the reaction when Uribe’s left-wing colleagues made similar efforts. In February, Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez won a referendum striking down term limits and permitting him to run for office again in 2012. The move was roundly denounced on the right as proof of Chavez’s dictatorial tendencies. “Like his idol, Fidel Castro, who reigned in Cuba for a half-century, Mr. Chávez can now move toward his goal of becoming President for life,” the Wall Street Journal editorialized. Chavez’s previous attempt to abolish term limits was similarly depicted in the press as a “president-for-life bid.”

In June, Honduran president Manuel Zelaya’s attempts to hold a referendum on a constitutional amendment to end term limits — this one non-binding, and thus with no concrete political ramifications — were used to justify the military coup that deposed him. National Review opined that the referendum “would set [Honduras] on the path to Chávez-style authoritarianism” and that the “soldiers who escorted Pres. Manuel Zelaya from his home on Sunday were acting to protect their country’s democracy, not to trample it.” When Nicaraguan president Daniel Ortega called for the abolition of term limits in July, Costa Rican rightist Jaime Darenblum took to the Weekly Standard to accuse Ortega of “following the Chavez playbook” and moving “one step closer to creating an autocracy.”

These critics denied any partisan motive, insisting that their only concern was for democratic institutions and constitutional procedure. Mary Anastasia O’Grady, the Wall Street Journal editorial writer who has been the most ardent American defender of the Honduran coup, proclaimed in its wake that “The struggle against chavismo has never been about left-right politics. It is about defending the independence of institutions that keep presidents from becoming dictators.”

But when Uribe takes identical steps? Not a peep. The message is clear: the term-limits issue is fair game when it can be used to foster hysteria about chavismo and paint every left-of-center Latin American leader as a would-be totalitarian. When the leader in question is a right-wing U.S. ally, however, there is no need to worry about such procedural niceties. An enemy of Hugo Chavez is a friend of ours, regardless of how he stays in power.

The hypocrisy on display is noteworthy, if not particularly surprising. Although they may wax rhapsodic about democracy promotion, American hawks have never really gotten over their soft spot for right-wing Latin American authoritarians. (Recall that the neoconservatives cut their teeth in the 1980s as supporters of Pinochet, the Contras, and any number of other murderous military juntas.) Still, if rightists want their denunciations of Chavez and his allies to be taken seriously, they should try to exercise a little more consistency.

[Cross-posted in slightly expanded form at The Faster Times.]

Vietnam: Still an Unjust War

Military enthusiasts in Pennsylvania have begun re-enacting, not the Civil War, but the Vietnam War. The stated purpose is to honor and pay tribute to Vietnam veterans. “It was time for us to be proud of what were called on to do, even though it turned out to be a very unpopular thing,” said one Army veteran.

I know two Vietnam veterans that would disagree. James Glaser and Michael Gaddy are not proud of their service killing in Vietnam.

Since the death of Walter Cronkite, I have heard some conservatives moaning about some things he said during the Vietnam War.  After a lecture I gave earlier this summer, a critic in the audience tried to defend the Vietnam War. But the war in Vietnam wasn’t just a mistake or mishandled, it was an unjust war that senselessly slaughtered millions of Vietnamese, Laotians, and Cambodians for the crime of being “commies,” “gooks,” or just being in the way. 58,000 American soldiers died while helping to perpetrate this slaughter. Why should we pay them tribute? The war in Vietnam is undefendable. It is still an unjust war.

The Shahrukh Khan Affair – The Aftermath

Following up on the brief detention of Shahrukh Khan, one of India’s most famous actors, at a US airport, the star of the upcoming “My Name Is Khan,” which explores the treatment of people with Muslim surnames in the United States, says that he will never again visit the US.

His detention, which has created something of an international incident and a major headline story in India, stems from his surname allegedly matching one on one of the assorted US watchlists. Khan says he has never been treated so shabbily, and that the airport officials refused to let him contact anyone for over an hour despite several Indian and Pakistani travelers on the scene vouching for his identity as one of the most famous men on the subcontinent.

His mistreatment may in the long-run be good for him in the US, as it will no doubt draw attention to the American release of his next movie, which is expected sometime next year. The outcry from the Indian population will no doubt fade over time as well, because Khan’s detention lasted only a couple of hours.

But ultimately this isn’t about Khan or his movie, or about Newark Airport employees not recognizing an international celebrity who, among the non-Indian population of the US, is lets face it, relatively unknown.

Rather it draws attention to something that is happening to hundreds, perhaps thousands of people on a daily basis across the US. People get hauled out of line, on the basis of a name, or a nationality, or a religion, and subjected to God-knows-what behind closed doors. Khan’s detention was no doubt considerably shortened by the Indian embassy springing into action the moment it discovered one of the nation’s favorite sons was in custody. Suppose this didn’t happen to Shahrukh Khan the actor, but Shahrukh Khan the small business owner, or Shahrukh Khan the dentist. Would we even be talking about it? Would he still be in custody?

We don’t know the full details of what happened to this fellow yesterday, and maybe we never will. But his story is common enough that it seems unlikely the airport officials broke any serious rules with what they did. It’s business as usual in the US these days, and instead of chastising these people for not treating an international celebrity with due decorum, shouldn’t we be asking whether or not these rules need a major rethink?

Outrage in India over Detention of Popular Actor at US Airport

Indian Press Slams “American Paranoia” in Wake of Detention

The Indian government has formally demanded an explanation from the US for the detention of Shahrukh Khan, one of India’s most famous actors, at a Newark Airport. Khan was traveling to Chicago to attend an event related to India’s independence day.

Shahrukh Khan
Shahrukh Khan
Khan, who ironically enough has just finished production of the much-hyped movie “My Name Is Khan,” which details racial profiling of people with Muslim surnames in the United States, was held by immigration officials for an undisclosed reason and was only released after the Indian embassy had been informed of his mysterious capture.

The strange case of life imitating art has caused enormous outrage in India, and Indian newspapers are chastising it as a case of “American paranoia.” The incident comes with last month’s public frisking of former Indian President APJ Abdul Kalam when he tried to board of flight to the US still fresh in the minds of many Indians.

US Ambassador to India Timothy Roehmer said the embassy was looking into the incident but denied that anything untoward had occurred, insisting Khan is “a very welcome guest in the United States.” It just didn’t seem like that when they were dragging him into a back office for interrogation.

Hiroshima AND Nagasaki: The Inside Story

    At 8:16 on the morning of August 6, 1945, the world got a glimpse of its own mortality. At that moment, the city of Hiroshima was obliterated by a fireball that sent waves of searing heat, then a deafening concussion, across the landscape. Three days later, a second bomb hit Nagasaki. … [President Dwight D.] Eisenhower said in 1963 "It wasn’t necessary to hit them with that awful thing."
    … Besides the Manhattan Project’s internal momentum was an external motive. Its leaders had to justify the $2 billion ($26 billion in today’s dollars) expense to Congress and the public… Byrnes…warned Roosevelt that political scandal would follow if it [the atomic bomb] was not used. … "How would you get Congress to appropriate money for atomic energy research [after the war] if you do not show results for the money which has been spent already?" …the U.S. had produced two types of bombs–one using uranium, the other plutonium. Whenever anyone suggested that the moment the bomb was dropped the war would be over, [bureaucrat] Groves countered, "Not until we drop two bombs on Japan." As [historian] Goldberg explains… "One bomb justified Oak Ridge, the second justified Hanford." Hiroshima was hit with the uranium bomb, nicknamed "Little Boy"; the plutonium bomb, "Fat Man," was used against Nagasaki.

From Why We Dropped The Bomb By William Lanouette, CIVILIZATION, The Magazine of the Library of Congress, January/February 1995

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ADDENDUM (After 32 comments):

It’s hard for Americans who identify with the U.S. Government to accept the idea that that organization could have engaged in such horrendous acts — twice in three days — without pristine motives.

Here’s what Vietnam era U.S. Defense Secretary Robert S. McNamara — who was part of Gen. Curtis LeMay’s command when the bombs were dropped — thought about it:

McNamara: “He, and I’d say I, were behaving as war criminals.