Monthly Archives: May 2004

A Soldier's Story

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No one could fail to be moved by the faces we see this weekend at the World War II Memorial in Washington. Sixty years ago, these were very young men, fighting so their children would not have to. Now they are the veterans, their faces are lined, their eyes grimace in the late spring sun.

Theirs was a war when no one ever asked if it was just, if it was honorable or if it was right, because everybody knew. People ask those questions about war today. Since Vietnam, war has been a topic of debate, and while most people have learned that its not fair to blame the soldiers for the decisions of their commanders, many have come to believe that the ideas of war are no longer directly attached to principles of honor and justice.

This hour, the reflections of a new generation of soldier. Second Lieutenant Jim Meeks lived a life of privilege in Boston; Milton Academy; Harvard College; and yet when he graduated two years ago, he chose to set aside that privilege and join the army. He was sent to Iraq. He was injured there. He’s back home recuperating, and he joins us to reflect on what it means to be a soldier today.


Second Lieutenant Jim Meeks

Deadlines, Doubts, Democracy

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One month from now, according to U.S. officials, Iraqi leaders will be given back sovereign control of their country. It is still not clear who’ll actually be standing there to accept the handover on Iraq’s behalf. The argument over who’ll be appointed is continuing. It’s also not clear exactly what will be handed over.

Those opposed to a smooth transition of power continue to attack the U.S.-led coalition. Those who are part of the current Iraqi Governing Council are showing that they are not about to roll over and accept whatever formula suits American officials.


Noah Feldman, professor of law at NYU and author of forthcoming book “The Ethics of Nation Building”

Raya Barazanji, an Iraqi American who from June through November 2003 worked with the USAID for the Iraq Ministry of Education.

Inside "The Corporation"

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A hundred years ago, the American corporation was granted a curious status; the courts ruled that companies would be treated as individuals in the eyes of the law. This protected the officers and directors from lawsuits — only the newfangled “person,” the corporation, would be legally liable for its actions.

But what kind of person did the courts create? A smiling, profit-making entity where “progress is our most important” product or “we bring good things to life?” Or are modern businesses by nature bad actors? The makers of the award-winning film “The Corporation” argue that modern business conglomerates are bad actors to the max. The movie says the corporation behaves like a psychopath, sowing anguish and misery everywhere it turns.


Joel Bakan, filmmaker and author of “The Corporation: The Pathological Pursuit of Profit and Power”

Ben Edwards, American business editor for The Economist magazine, author of “The Lunatic You Work For,” a review of “The Corporation.”

Word for Word White House

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The National Archives just released 20,000 pages of telephone transcripts from former National Security Adviser Henry Kissinger’s private files. Kissinger wanted the sensitive records to be made public five years after his death. But New York Times columnist William Safire, the non-profit National Security Archive, and others sued to open up the tapes sooner.

That pattern has repeated itself for the past twenty-five years, ever since a disgraced President Nixon tried to whisk his papers off to his retirement home. Franklin Roosevelt was the first president to give his papers to the country, but his successors have had mixed feelings about opening up their secrets for all to see.


Robert Dallek, Presidential Historian, author of a number of books about Presidents, including the most recent, “An Unfinished Life: John F. Kennedy, 1917-1963.” Dallek is currently working on a book on Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger

Tom Blanton, Director of the National Security Archive, based out of George Washington University in Washington, DC

Sharon Fawcett, Deputy Assistant Archivist for Presidential Libraries.

Slow Death of a Dangerous Art

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It’s been called the slow death of a dangerous art. Editorial illustration, the sometimes humorous, sometimes biting, and nearly always opinionated art that used to fill Op-Ed pages and magazine covers, is getting harder to find. And, some argue, it’s also taking a safer path, that in today’s political climate, it’s getting harder to publish the caustic drawings that were mainstream in the ’70s and ’80s.

Back then illustrators say, they were expected to hold up a mirror to society, to point out the president’s foibles and the country’s mistakes no matter how ugly or embarrassing. After all, it is opinion art. But the shift toward political correctness raises questions about what’s lost.


Mirko Ilic, editorial illustrator

Robert Grossman, editorial illustrator

Steve Heller, Art Director, New York Times Book Review

Anita Kunz, editorial illustrator.

Who's in Charge of the Contractors in Iraq?

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Sorting out the chain of command in Abu Ghraib is hard enough, but what happens when the person at the end of the chain isn’t wearing a uniform? That’s what the Justice Department is about to find out. It’s now opened its first criminal investigation looking at the private contractors serving in Iraq.

They’re working as translators and interrogators at Abu Ghraib, but because they are hired help, not regular military, nobody knows what rules, if any, apply to them. And this is making a lot of people nervous. So it should. By the Pentagon’s latest estimate, there are somewhere between 20-50,000 private contractors working in Iraq today, some are doing mundane things like building barracks but others are doing work that looks a lot like that of the soldier, only without the uniform…..code of justice.


Deborah Avant, associate professor of political science and international relations at George Washington University

Sam Gardiner, USAF Colonel (Ret.)

Dan Guttman, professor of law at Johns Hopkins University.

Franz Wright

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A five-year-old Franz Wright once reportedly made the following request of his parents: “Excuse me. Do you think, because it’s my birthday, we could not talk about poetry today?”

Franz Wright was a poet’s son. His father’s friends were poets. And he grew up with the idea that all grownups did was talk about poetry. Well, four decades later, Wright is still talking about poetry. And a lot of people are talking about HIS, including the committee that awards the Pulitzer Prize. This year, they gave it to him. Thirty two years earlier, they’d given it to his father, James Wright. The gift, you might say, runs in the family. But so do some other tendencies, which once prevented the poet from being able to write anything at all.


Franz Wright, Pulitzer Prize-winning poet.

Vying for Vice President

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It’s official: John Kerry’s going hunting. Or at least organizing a posse. This week his campaign announced the formation of a committee to vet a list of candidates for Vice President. Each V.P. wannabee is being weighed and measured according to how much media sizzle and electoral steak they can bring to the ticket.

Can Edwards help Kerry win the South? Will Gephardt help deliver the Midwest? Will Bill Richardson move Latino voters to the polls? Or would a bold cross-party grab for John McCain rally independent voters and bring the pundits to their knees? Most politicos agree, it’s not about finding the candidate with the political chops to stand a heartbeat away from the presidency. It’s about finding the one who can bring votes and vigor to the ticket.


Geraldine Ferraro, former U.S. Congresswoman and 1984 vice presidential candidate to Walter Mondale

David Greenberg, professor of History and Political Science at Yale, author of “Nixon’s Shadow: The History of an Image”

David Nyhan, Political Columnist and Commentator for the Eagle-Tribune Newspaper chain