TIME foreign affairs

Sen. Ted Cruz: ‘Our President Should Have Been There’

French President Francois Hollande is surrounded by head of states including Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Mali's President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, Germany's Chancellor Angela Merkel, European Council President Donald Tusk and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas as they attend the solidarity march in the streets of Paris Jan. 11, 2015.
French President Francois Hollande is surrounded by head of states including Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Mali's President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, Germany's Chancellor Angela Merkel, European Council President Donald Tusk and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas as they attend the solidarity march in the streets of Paris Jan. 11, 2015. Philippe Wojazer—Reuters

Cruz is the junior U.S. Senator for Texas.

We must never hesitate to stand with our allies. We should never hesitate to speak the truth. In Paris or anywhere else in the world.

On Sunday, leaders representing Europe, Israel, Africa, Russia, and the Middle East linked arms and marched together down Place de la Concorde in Paris. But, sadly, no one from the White House was found among the more than 40 Presidents and Prime Ministers who walked the streets with hundreds of thousands of French citizens demonstrating their solidarity against radical Islamic terrorists.

The absence is symbolic of the lack of American leadership on the world stage, and it is dangerous. The attack on Paris, just like previous assaults on Israel and other allies, is an attack on our shared values. And, we are stronger when we stand together, as French President François Hollande said, for “liberty, equality, and fraternity.”

Radical Islamic terrorists are targeting all of those who do not share their radical ideology, escalating their attacks in shocking ways.

In the last year alone, the world has become a much more dangerous place for Westerners, as terrorists have deliberately aimed their campaign of murder against those, most notably innocent civilians, who represent a free and open society.

We witnessed American, British, and Israeli aid workers and journalists savagely beheaded by ISIS in Syria.

We saw a sympathizing radical attack the Canadian parliament.

We saw Hamas terrorists butchering Israeli-American rabbis in their Jerusalem synagogue while they went about their morning prayers.

We saw New York policemen attacked by an axe-wielding terrorist.

We saw commuters in Sydney held captive for hours in a coffee shop by yet another radical Islamist.

And, now we have all watched, horrified, as a pair of al Qaeda terrorists attacked a satirical newspaper in Paris and executed 10 members of its staff and two of the policemen who came to their defense.

That same day, one of their co-conspirators shot a police woman and a jogger, then the next day attacked a kosher grocery store to terrorize Jewish patrons preparing for what they had hoped would be a peaceful Shabbat. By the time the siege was over, four more innocents were dead.

Aid workers, members of the media, government, cafés, law enforcement, Christians, Jews, and even other Muslims—these are the targets of radical Islamists. They want to destroy civil society.

Their grievances are not against any particular government or policy; they are offended by the very notion of a free society where individuals have the right to worship, vote, and express themselves as they please—rights that are defended by security forces whose job is not to persecute or coerce citizens, but to protect them.

Our freedoms are anathema to the radical Islamists, and they are willing to sacrifice their very lives to attack us with anything from meat cleavers to Kalashnikovs—anything to terrorize us into submitting to their brutal, totalitarian, warped version of Islam.

Our choice now is either to confront this intolerable threat to our liberty, or to continue to respond to the attacks as if they are isolated incidents that we might be able to prevent if we would only stop somehow “provoking” them.

If events in Paris teach us anything, it is the utter failure of the latter approach. It has not made things better. It has made them worse.

It is not Israel’s fault, or the fault of the Jews of Paris or Jerusalem.

It is not the fault of journalists or aid workers trying to document or lend assistance to the cruel civil war in Syria. It is not the NYPD’s fault.

It is not Charlie Hebdo’s fault.

It is not the fault of the commuters of Sydney, nor the freely elected government of Canada, any more than it was the fault of the runners in the Boston Marathon or the soldiers of Fort Hood in my home state of Texas—or for that matter of the 3,000 people who died on that sunny September day in 2001.

It is not the fault of America.

The scourge of radical Islamic terrorism is the exclusive fault of those who launch the attacks.

We must, as Americans, demand that our nation summon the will to stand up and lead the effort.

Recently, the President of Egypt, Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, a Muslim, gave a remarkable speech at Al-Azhar University in Cairo in which he challenged peaceful Muslims to confront what is happening to their religion—to stand up those who would twist faith into a mandate to murder.

This is where we can find our strength—by coordinating closely with our allies who are fighting this common threat. We can reject attempts to draw a moral equivalence between our friends and those who support or condone the terrorists. Instead, we should condemn and shun state sponsors of terrorism. We should encourage Muslim nations like Egypt and Saudi Arabia to join us and aspire to freedom in their own societies.

And, we should make it clear to the radical Islamic terrorists that the United States is not going to simply “move on” from Paris in the hopes that they will leave us alone, but rather that we are going to call them out by name as we stand strong and lead the fight against them.

Many of our allies gathered together in Paris yesterday in an admirable display of determination. Our President should have been there, because we must never hesitate to stand with our allies. We should never hesitate to speak the truth. In Paris or anywhere else in the world.

Cruz is the junior U.S. Senator for Texas.

Read next: Twitter Hacking Gives Pentagon a Black Eye

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME space

Senator Ted Cruz to Head Senate Subcommittee on Space

Conservatives Speak At Values Voters Summit In Washington
Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX), speaks at the 2013 Values Voter Summit, held by the Family Research Council, on October 11, 2013 in Washington, DC. Andrew Burton—Getty Images

The appointment is part of a broader reshuffle

Texas Senator Ted Cruz was appointed the chair of the Senate subcommittee on Space, Science and Competitiveness last week — which means he will be in charge of overseeing space agency NASA in Congress.

The Republican lawmaker’s appointment is part of a larger reshuffle following the GOP’s win in the 2014 Congressional election.

The Verge reports that Cruz has previously denied climate change exists and also unsuccessfully attempted to reduce NASA’s funding in July 2013.

But Cruz, whose role at the subcommittee’s helm will be confirmed later this month, has also previously said that it was “critical that the United States ensure its continued leadership in space.”

TIME Civil Rights

The North’s Shameful Refusal to Face Its Own Tangled Racial Past

Abraham A. Ribicoff
Then Governor of Connecticut Abraham A. Ribicoff speaking at the Democratic Convention in 1960 Howard Sochurek—The LIFE Picture Collection/Gett

What we should learn from Senator Abraham Ribicoff’s failed attempt

History News Network

This post is in partnership with the History News Network, the website that puts the news into historical perspective. The article below was originally published at HNN.

The Northeast has been a region at war with itself, pulled toward its higher ideals of democracy and equality yet bedeviled by racial segregation.

At some moments during the twentieth century, segregation and racism prevailed. At other times, movements for racial democracy carried the day. This presents a stark contrast with southern history, where the proponents of white supremacy strangled dissent and throttled almost every attempt to bring racial equality.

At the beginning of the 1970s, Senator Abraham Ribicoff of Connecticut illuminated all of these forces: northern racism, northern progress, and southern resistance.

This saga began in February 1970, when Ribicoff stood on the Senate floor and declared: “The North is guilty of monumental hypocrisy in its treatment of the black man.” Ribicoff’s speech came in response to an amendment proposed by Senator John Stennis of Mississippi, a longtime segregationist. The Stennis Amendment stipulated that school integration policies had to be uniform across the country. If the Senate wanted to pass a bill aimed at integrating southern schools, then northern cities would have to enact the same policies. Stennis hoped that if white northerners had to apply such policies to their own states, they would stop devising programs for school integration. Stennis had explained to his colleagues from the North: “If you have to integrate in your area, you will see what it means to us.” His amendment was a clever ruse.

Ribicoff saw an opening. By speaking in favor of the Stennis Amendment, he could give public expression to the segregation that plagued so many schools and neighborhoods above the Mason-Dixon line. He described the North’s thoroughly segregated landscape of cities and suburbs, and he denounced northern leaders for racial inequalities to deepen.

In the aftermath of Ribicoff’s speech, white southerners hailed him as a hero. Nothing warmed southern hearts more than the sight of a New England liberal who decried northern racism. Southern senators praised Ribicoff to the heavens. Dixie’s newspapers featured Ribicoff in editorials and political cartoons. A cartoon in the Richmond Times-Dispatch depicted a statue of Ribicoff on Richmond’s Monument Avenue – next to the statue of Robert E. Lee.

Yet there was one white southerner who did not join in the exaltation: the liberal journalist Robert Sherrill. In the pages of The Nation, Sherrill took the opportunity to skewer Ribicoff. And he pinpointed the vital racial differences between the North and the South. Sherrill acknowledged, “Everyone knows that the North has been no saintly station of racial benevolence…The North’s callousness toward Negroes … is long-standing.” Sherrill noted that white northerners “shoot Panthers, stuff blacks into slums,” and “flee integrated neighborhoods.” But those facts did not comprise the totality of the region’s racial practices. The North possessed other traditions. For instance, Northeastern states had passed fair employment laws and several cities had elected African American politicians. Relative to the South, “other sentiments do prevail in other regions and it is only these other sentiments in other regions – which the South calls hypocrisy – that have ever given the black man a chance in this country.” If the nation was ever to realize its dreams of democracy and freedom, it had to draw on the traditions of the North.

Many northern liberals also took Ribicoff to task. Jacob Javits jousted with his good friend on the Senate floor. Walter Mondale pointed out that the Senate had passed the Fair Housing Act in 1968, over the objections of southern senators. Indeed, during the 1960s, the nation had enacted landmark civil rights laws only because northern liberals stood strong in the face of the southerners’ filibusters. But in 1970, Ribicoff encouraged many northerners to stand with John Stennis. Ribicoff’s speech seemed to endanger efforts for integration, as it threatened to fracture the liberal bloc in the Senate. Thus the liberal Jew from New England was lionized in Virginia and scorned in New York.

One year later, Ribicoff put his money where his mouth was. He showed himself as no apologist for the South, but as someone deeply committed to desegregation. Ribicoff moved beyond mere rhetoric about northern hypocrisy. He channeled the region’s more noble traditions, and crafted a creative and forward-looking policy. In 1971, Ribicoff proposed a bill that would integrate every last urban and suburban school in America. The Urban Education Improvement Act left many of the details up to each locality. Ribicoff imagined that metropolitan areas might institute redistricting and busing, or build magnet schools and educational parks. His plan was grand, and it was to be implemented by 1983.

White southerners cried foul. Now that they were confronted with an actual integration plan – rather than just a speech exposing northern racism – they denounced Ribicoff. In turn, Ribicoff gained the support of many northerners who had previously eyed him with suspicion. His proposal suggested that northern liberals might not cede the future to John Stennis.

Yet many advocates for racial justice opposed the Urban Education Improvement Act of 1971. Leaders of the NAACP stood against the plan because they believed that 1983 was too long to wait for integration.

Ribicoff’s plan garnered mixed reactions from other northern senators. Southerners rose as one against it. The Senate defeated the bill easily in 1971, and again in 1972.

Ribicoff both laid bare the segregation that festered in northern cities and proposed a forceful plan to combat it. He exposed one powerful northern tradition: racial segregation. He also tried to revive the North’s other tradition – a commitment to racial equality. The two sides have coexisted in the Northeast, the progress together with the backlash. This is a messy history, and it can be difficult to assimilate. If we are to truly understand America’s racial history, we must reckon with the northern past – tangled and troubled as it is.

We can also recognize Ribicoff’s grand plan as one opportunity that the nation never seized. Our history is littered with roads not taken. The hope now is that Americans do not miss the opportunities presented in our own time. The moment for action is fleeting, and it can pass in the blink of an eye. Each protest in the streets presents us with a new opportunity to address the racial inequality that still shapes our society. Let us not look back, years from now, and remember this as a moment that we were too timid to seize.

Jason Sokol is an Assistant Professor of History at the University of New Hampshire and the author of “All Eyes Are Upon Us: Race and Politics from Boston to Brooklyn” (Basic Books)

TIME politics

What Parents of Down Syndrome Kids Get About Sarah Palin That Others Don’t

Sarah Palin
Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin (R) walks onstage to speak at the 2014 Values Voter Summit in Washington on Sept. 26, 2014. Mark Wilson—Getty Images

Steve Friess is a freelance writer.

For parents of a child with Down syndrome, their children figuring out a solution to any problem is a tremendous triumph

My sister stood around the corner and deliberately out of sight, curious to see what her then-14-month-old son, Chaim, was up to. He sat on the kitchen floor, legs spread around the dog’s dish. With a devilish smile, Chaim looked around a couple of times before plunging his bare hands into the bowl and extending it as an offering to his closest friend, Sammy, the family’s poodle mix.

My sister, Sheryl, couldn’t have been more delighted. No, she wasn’t fond of Chaim boy-handling the Alpo. But the idea that Chaim knew he was doing something wrong and took precautions to avoid being caught showed logic and reasoning skills that she hadn’t before seen or anticipated. After all, before a baby with Down syndrome is born, doctors warn the expectant parents that a dire, sad, dependent life may lie ahead.

“I remember thinking, ‘Boy, there’s a lot more going on in his brain than I thought,’” says my sister, Sheryl Zellis. “When you see a child sneaking to do something, it kind of heartens you.”

Steve Friess

This is the side of those controversial images—the ones that former GOP vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin posted of her son, Trig, standing on his dog—that my sister and other parents of children like Trig and Chaim say is overlooked. Even Palin, confronted by Savannah Guthrie on Today this week, understood that standing on small animals is generally not a good habit. But for a woman hoping that her 6-year-old will exceed the low expectations placed on him by both doctors and the rest of society, the fact that Trig figured out a solution to any problem is a tremendous triumph.

I admit I didn’t get that right away, either. Yes, I cringed, too, at the photos Palin proclaimed to be a terrific example of how we all should live in the year ahead. But then I saw a Facebook post from a close friend–an unimpeachable animal lover and inveterate political liberal—who is also raising a boy with Down syndrome. Along with one of the most adorable photos ever taken of a 7-year-old with his dog, Cindy Glover of Boynton Beach, Fla., wrote:

“I’m finding myself in the very odd and somewhat disorienting position of defending Sarah Palin. My 35-pound son sits on our 82-pound Golden Retriever all the time (and, yes, he has stood on her to reach something). They have a beautiful bond, and I have great confidence that Ginny will simply get up and move if she objects. It feels weird to say it, but in the Palin/PETA smackdown, I’m going to have to side with Palin this time.”

There hasn’t been much notable scientific literature on the relationship between dogs and children with Down syndrome—I found just one study about a program that uses dogs to help special needs children learn to read—but anecdotal examples abound. This week, for instance, a mother asked on one of my sister’s Facebook forums for parents of Down kids whether getting a puppy was good for her 18-month-old. She was clobbered with replies from parents offering their tales of how key a relationship to a canine has been to helping their children.

Both Sheryl and Cindy have their own examples. Sheryl used Chaim’s fascination with Sammy to teach him to roll, sit up, and cruise—all motor skill functions that Down children can have great trouble with and can take months or years longer than typical kids to master. Walking the dog “alone” around the house on a leash gives Chaim a sense that he’s accomplished something on his own, which builds his confidence. Dylan, who is generally nonverbal, will nonetheless “sing” to his dog with a little microphone. When he comforted Ginny last year as fireworks spooked her, his mother took it as a remarkable and unprecedented display of empathy.

Certainly there are other ways to encourage movement, interpersonal skills, and problem-solving thought for kids like this, “but animals are so much fun to children,” Sheryl says. “Children with Down syndrome are very visual in how they learn, and animals are very visual and dynamic, as opposed to a toy, which always does the same thing.”

Steve Friess

That Trig Palin chose to stand on Jill Hadassah–quite a name for a dog, indeed–was decried by many as animal abuse, particularly because his famous lightning rod of a huntress mother touted it with pride but no empathy for the dog. This is, unfortunately, how she’s become conditioned to react to any negative feedback, to become defensive and sharp-elbowed and treat it like any number of other liberal-versus-conservative skirmishes.

For the sake of other parents of Down syndrome kids, though, she might consider another approach. Her mothering of Trig is, by far, the most admired, most humanizing part of her biography to many, the one thing even her fiercest critics respect. She may not feel she owes anyone any explanations, but she did anoint herself as an advocate for children with special needs at the 2008 Republican National Convention in her first major national speech. The role of advocates, first and foremost, is to educate people so they will understand and then support your cause.

Those photos show an intrinsic trust between the child and his dog that implies so much about Trig’s relationship with Jill Hadassah. Sheryl worries it’s not a great habit to encourage, if only because Trig might try to stand on someone else’s, less amenable dog and get hurt in myriad ways. But surely Palin knows that, too.

Palin has that gigantic microphone. It comes with a ton of drawbacks, especially when it comes to public reaction to her family. But this is a teachable moment she can seize. It probably won’t quell PETA’s ire, but that’s the fringe anyway. The rest of us are open to knowing more.

Steve Friess is an Ann Arbor, Mich.-based freelance writer and former senior writer covering technology for Politico.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME politics

Elizabeth Warren and the AFL-CIO: A Match Made in History

Mar. 21, 1955, cover of TIME
The Mar. 21, 1955, cover of TIME Cover Credit: BORIS CHALIAPIN

Senator Warren will address an American labor movement seeking a renaissance

When Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts delivers a keynote address on Wednesday at the AFL-CIO’s National Summit on Wages, she will speak to an organization whose vision has long outgrown its influence. Membership in the AFL-CIO, the United States’ largest federation of labor unions, has waned over the years. And as collective bargaining has lost much of its clout, so has the biggest coalition that represents workers.

But when the American Federation of Labor and the Congress of Industrial Organizations joined its 15 million members into a super union coalition 60 years ago, they became one of the most powerful organizations in the United States. TIME dedicated its Mar. 21, 1955 cover to George Meany, the man minted president of the AFL-CIO that year. He was a cigar-smoking plumber who rose to prominence within the unions, carrying a $35,000 annual paycheck (over $300,000 today) and a taste for French wines. In the 1950s, a long history of union victories—the eight-hour workday, and old-age and illness protections—gave the AFL-CIO a prominence in American society that has mostly dissipated today.

Meany told TIME about a gathering of supporters of his father’s union, the plumbers’ local:

“I can remember little groups of people coming to our home on a Sunday afternoon,” George recalls. “There were no movies in those days and not many automobiles around, and people visited one another on Sunday, and practically all of the visitors who came to my home were officers and members of the union.

“I can remember these men talking about something known as ‘the organization,’ and I may say to you that they did not pronounce it that way, they called it the ‘organ-eye-zation.’ But I can remember the reverence in which they used the term, and inculcated into my mind at that time was the thought that whatever the organization was, it was something with these men almost on a par with religion. I grew up with faith in the trade-union movement.”

Labors’ political successes in the U.S. distinguished the movement in the western world. TIME recounted an exchange between Meany and a British counterpart:

George Meany summed up the American success a few years ago in Britain, when a British trade-unionist who was also a member of the Labor Party asked him: “When are you Yanks going to wake up and form a political party?” Meany floored him with a proud reply: “When collective bargaining yields as little for us as it does for you, we may have to form a political party.”

Despite the unions’ challenges today—and Meany’s forecast—the U.S. doesn’t have a labor party. But labor does have allies.

Enter Senator Warren. This week’s summit will focus on raising wages rather than collective bargaining, as a growing movement of fast-food workers have called for a minimum living wage of $15 per hour; 29 states, from Washington to Connecticut, have raised their minimum wages above the federal minimum. Senator Warren has been one of the loudest voices in favor. “Things are getting better, yes, but only for some,” Warren told TIME’s Rana Faroohar in an interview. “Families are working harder, but not doing better. And they feel the game is rigged against them–and guess what–it is!”

Though American labor doesn’t have a party in 2015, it does have growing political support—something George Meany would probably have approved of.

TIME politics

India’s First Openly Transgender Mayor Elected

She's from the lowest caste and beat her opponent by 4,500 votes

A transgender woman from the lowest caste in India was elected mayor on Sunday, making her the first openly transgender mayor in the country’s history.

Madhu Bai Kinnar was elected mayor of Raigarh, in the state of Chhattisgarh, and beat her opponent from the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), by a margin of 4,500 votes. She is a member of the Dalit caste, previously known as the “untouchables,” and previously earned her living singing and dancing on trains, Reuters reports.

The victory comes just nine months after an Indian court ruled that transgender be recognized as a third gender. Transgender people, known in the area as hijras, are classified in India as people who were identify as the opposite of their born gender or who have undergone sex change operations.

“People have shown faith in me. I consider this win as love and blessings of people for me. I’ll put in my best efforts to accomplish their dreams,” Kinnar said in local news reports. “It was the public support that encouraged me to enter the poll fray for the first time and because of their support only, I emerged as the winner.”

TIME The Brief

#TheBrief: Meet the Freshman Class in Congress

The House will welcome 58 mostly Republican freshmen

Congress will swear in its most diverse group of lawmakers in U.S. history this week.

The newly formed group’s demographic breakdown is as follows: 104 women; 100 black, Asian, Native American, or Hispanic members; and Congress’ first black female Republican.

Age is also a diversifying factor. The youngest women elected to congress will be joining at 30-years-old, and several other young lawmakers will be joining her.

To find out more about the newest lawmakers in D.C. watch #TheBrief.

TIME politics

Hundreds Line Up for Wake of Ex-New York Gov. Mario Cuomo

(NEW YORK) — Hundreds of mourners waited outside a funeral home Monday in a line that stretched more than a block to pay their respects to former three-term Gov. Mario Cuomo, who died just hours after his son was sworn in for his second term.

Vice President Joe Biden arrived in a motorcade late Monday afternoon. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, Democratic Sen. Charles Schumer of New York, actor Alan Alda and former state Comptroller Carl McCall were also among the prominent arrivals at Cuomo’s wake on Madison Avenue.

Inside, Cuomo’s casket was draped with the state’s flag, and his widow, Matilda, stood by it. Flower bouquets and wreaths of roses were all over the main chamber, along with photographs telling Cuomo’s life story, from a black-and-white image of him as a younger man playing stickball on his native Queens streets to Cuomo holding a Wheaties cereal box with his image on it.

Cuomo, 82, died in his Manhattan home on Thursday evening, hours after his son Gov. Andrew Cuomo was inaugurated for a second term. The governor spoke Saturday for the first time publicly about his father’s death, saying, “There is a hole in my heart that I fear is going to be there forever.”

Tired and tearful, Matilda Cuomo still managed smiles after four hours of greeting mourners. “He’s up there, telling God what to do. He’s working with God now,” she said.

Lynda Rufo, a banker lined up outside the funeral home, said her daughter was finishing law school because of Cuomo’s encouragement.

“He was a part of New York,” Rufo said. “He always took the time to be there for everyone, no matter who you were or where you came from. He loved people.”

Schumer described Cuomo as “an amazing guy” who found ways to bring opposing sides together.

Asked about his legacy, Schumer said, “At a time when people didn’t have hope in New York and in the country in a lot of ways, he provided it.”

Paul Amelio, a friend of the family, said, “The length of this line is surprising — but not for Mario. How many politicians can you say so many great things about? He did so much for the capital of the world, New York.”

Cuomo’s funeral was scheduled for 11 a.m. Tuesday at St. Ignatius Loyola Church on Park Avenue. Bill and Hillary Rodham Clinton were expected to be among the attendees.

Andrew Cuomo postponed his State of the State address, scheduled for Wednesday, until Jan. 21.

Exuberant and eloquent, Mario Cuomo’s most memorable national moment came at the 1984 Democratic National Convention in San Francisco. Cuomo challenged Ronald Reagan’s description of America as “a shining city on a hill” by delivering a keynote address titled “A Tale of Two Cities” — about a country split between haves and have-nots.

Bill de Blasio used the same words when campaigning and winning New York City’s mayoral race last year. The mayor said all flags in the city would be at half-staff in Cuomo’s honor for 30 days.

Mario Cuomo’s “A Tale of Two Cities” came from personal experience. He was the son of an Italian immigrant father who struggled to make ends meet. Cuomo, whom some called a Roman Catholic kid from Queens, never forgot his background.

He once called politics “an ugly business” and never ran for president, as some Democratic leaders pushed him to do in 1988 and 1992.

TIME politics

The Torture Debate Is Missing This: The Fact that We Did This Before

The Water Cure
A group of American soldiers applying the 'water cure' upon a Filipino insurgent during the Philippine-American War, circa 1900. From a book published in 1902. Interim Archives / Getty Images

We should be haunted by the history of the war we fought using torture in the Philippines more than a century ago

History News Network

This post is in partnership with the History News Network, the website that puts the news into historical perspective. The article below was originally published at HNN.

Just over one hundred years ago, in 1902, Americans participated in a brief, intense and mostly forgotten debate on the practice of torture in a context of imperial warfare and counter-insurgency. The setting was the U. S. invasion of the Philippines, a war of conquest waged against the forces of the Philippine Republic begun in 1899. Within a year, it had developed into a guerrilla conflict, one that aroused considerable anti-war opposition in the United States.

The controversy was sparked when letters from ordinary American soldiers in the Islands surfaced in hometown newspapers in the United States containing sometimes graphic accounts of torture, and activists within the anti-imperialist movement pressed for public exposure, investigation and accountability. At the center of the storm was what American soldiers called the “water cure,” a form of torture which involved the drowning of prisoners, often but not always for purposes of interrogation.

In early 1902, the Senate Committee on the Philippines embarked on an investigation into “Affairs in the Philippine Islands.” While pro-war Senators on the committee tried to sideline questions of U. S. troop conduct, anti-war Senators, working closely with anti-imperialist investigators, provided a platform for U. S. soldiers to testify regarding the practice of torture, including the “water cure.” Their accounts triggered a response by Secretary of War Elihu Root that included the minimization of atrocity and the inauguration of court-martial proceedings for some soldiers and officers accused of torturing Filipinos.

Together, the Senate hearings and courts-martial precipitated, by mid-1902, a wide-ranging public debate on the morality of the U. S. military campaign’s ends and means. But the debate was over almost as soon as it had begun since, in July 1902, President Theodore Roosevelt declared the war concluded in victory (in the face of ongoing Filipino resistance) and pro-war Republicans on the Senate Committee shut down the investigation.

When, during Michael Mukasey’s confirmation hearings in the fall of 2007, the status of “water-boarding” was widely discussed, I felt an eerie sense of familiarity. It prompted me to write an article for the New Yorker. The article did not attempt to argue that recent events are identical to those of the early 20th century, or that the history described here led to the present crisis. Rather, my effort was to haunt the present with this particular, largely unknown past.

Here it is important to indicate what separates present from past. At the turn of the 20th century, the “water-cure” was tolerated and under-punished but was not, as far as historians are aware, formally authorized at the highest levels in Washington. Late-Victorian Americans also appear to have been less squeamish about the use of the word “torture,” or were perhaps simply less seasoned practitioners of administrative word-play, than are contemporary Americans. And at the earlier moment, the advocates of torture did not invoke images of existential terror, such as the diversionary “ticking time-bomb” that proponents casually lob into the present exchange.

At the same time, past and present seem to come together in official declarations that U. S. military actions are dictated by the mandates of an “exceptional” kind of war against a uniquely treacherous and broadly-defined “enemy.” And at both moments, the alchemy of exposure and impunity produced a troubling normalization of the atrocious. Where Americans actively defend torture, or sanction it through their silence, it is their willingness to assimilate the pain of others into their senses of safety, prosperity and power that stretches the darkest thread between past and present.

Paul Kramer is a historian at Vanderbilt University and the author of “The Blood of Government: Race, Empire, the United States and the Philippines.”

TIME politics

Sarah Palin Is Right: It’s a Blurry Line Between Edible and Pettable on the Frontier

Annual Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) Held In D.C.
Sarah Palin speaks during the 41st annual Conservative Political Action Conference at the Gaylord International Hotel and Conference Center on March 8, 2014 in National Harbor, Md. T.J. Kirkpatrick—Getty Images

Bill Saporito is an assistant managing editor of TIME and directs the magazine's coverage of business, the economy, personal finance, and sports.

As an equal-opportunity omnivore living in Manhattan, I have to respect Palin’s point

Alaskans are very practical people. They have to be, living in such a brutal, if beautiful, environment. They love their dogs, like the rest of us, but by the same token, in a place as unforgiving as Alaska, any creature that walks, flies, swims or any combination thereof can be viewed as companion or, in a pinch, protein. It’s an undeniable part of Alaskan history. Dogs are friends and beasts of burden that are highly valued. But if you’re starving in the wild, your dogs are a resource. Jack London wrote about this in Call of the Wild in 1903—a long time before Walmart got to Anchorage.

This history is what Sarah Palin, Alaska’s governor before she quit, was hinting at in a tweet that got the animal-rights knights at People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) all kinds of crazy. Palin had posted a photo of her son Trig using the family’s black Labrador retriever, named Jill, as a step stool to reach a kitchen counter to help his mom prepare some food. Trig is 6 and is a Down-syndrome kid, so using the dog as a booster was as innocent as it was instinctive. Jill wasn’t available for comment, but given the nature of family pets—and Labs in particular—she probably shrugged it off. Dogs seem to sense how to react to the indignities that kids can inflict on them. They are quite forgiving; sometimes I wish I had their patience.

PETA had no such patience. The organization excoriated Palin for posting the pet-as-pedestal pic, to which Palin, a known moose quarterer, replied, “Chill, at least Trig didn’t eat the dog.” PETA did not chill. Instead, the organization chided Palin, saying that she “knows PETA about as well as she knows geography.” You know that Palin was relishing this confrontation, given how much she loves to antagonize her political opposites.

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Yet if we are being honest about our food groups, Palin has a point. Dogs have been on the menu in North America for centuries. (So have horses, but that’s another passionate argument.) Native Americans long viewed dogs as friends and food. And in the fascinating diaries of Meriwether Lewis and William Clark, who left St. Louis in 1804 on the Corps of Discovery Expedition to chart the West for Thomas Jefferson, there are some very interesting dietary entries. The expedition lived off the land, of course, and found all kinds of fish, game, fruits and vegetables in the wild. But in April 1806, as they followed the Columbia River in what is now eastern Washington, the lads had eaten about all the dried salmon they could stomach. Lewis writes:

[T]he dog now constitutes a considerable part of our subsistence and with most of the party has become a favorite food; certain I am that it is a healthy strong diet, and from habit it has become by no means disagreeable to me, I prefer it to lean venison or Elk, and is very far superior to the horse in any state.

It all seems quite revolting, but those of us who are meat eaters better shut up about what’s considered edible and what’s considered pettable. When the Summer Olympics were staged in Seoul in 1988, the South Korean government prevailed on restaurants to remove dog from the menu so as to not look barbaric in the eyes of the West. American journalists couldn’t resist references to “spot roast.” Very amusing that, but at the same time, Westerners see Indians as a bit odd for their sacred cows, while some Christians think it strange that Jews and Muslims eschew pork. By the same token, a friend of mine who grew up on a farm in Iowa told me he had plenty of pet pigs that he liked very much. But at some point they became dinner.

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As an equal-opportunity omnivore, I have to respect Palin’s point. And living in Manhattan, I never have to shoot anything. All the meat I buy, including wild venison or salmon from Alaska, arrives nicely packaged or prepared and perfectly overpriced. As for dogs, well, with all of Manhattan’s precious designer Maltipoos and cockapoos prancing around my neighborhood, the thought of actually eating one of those little creatures seems quite unappetizing. Besides, there’s just not that much meat on them. I’m sure Sarah Palin would agree.

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