Should we enlist former Iraqi president Saddam Hussein's former generals in combating the insurgency in Iraq? That vexing question is at the heart of an article in the New York Times Magazine regarding the pacification of Sunni insurgents in Fallujah, "The Re-Baathification of Fallujah."
"Through all this runs the difficult issue of lustration," wrote the political analyst Michael Barone in US News & World Report, helpfully adding a definition to the unfamiliar word, "how and whether to bar from power personnel of an ousted evil regime."
Tina Rosenberg, in her 1995 book, The Haunted Land, wrote: "In Czechoslovakia, I found the lustrace [pronounced lus-TRAH-tzay] law, which has become the single most controversial law passed anywhere in the former Soviet bloc to deal with the past. It bars from top government jobs those who held certain positions under communism or whose names appear in the secret police's register of informants."
A natural urge in newly freed countries is to wreak vengeance on, or at least deny continued privileges to, the oppressors of the previous regime. But the Times noted in 1992 that "Under lustration ... the determination of guilt is collective and the presumption of innocence reversed."
The word comes from the Latin lustrum, "a purifying sacrifice," which was carried out every five years in imperial Rome. As the columnist Barone notes, it will be one of the controversies facing the new government of Iraq: "On the one hand, you don't want to reward tyrants with power; on the other, you'd like to see the trains run on time ... There is no entirely satisfactory way to handle lustration."
Remember when "rendition" was a cheerful word meaning "performance," like a version of Auld Lang Syne as played by Guy Lombardo? (Because I heard this bandleader's name on the radio more often than I saw it in print, for years I thought his first name was Guylom.)
The British novelist Nicholas Monsarrat wrote in 1939: "No account of 20th-century culture would be complete without reference to the impact of the dance-band world ... as well as strange words and phrases like `rendition.'"
Long before that, in Elizabethan times, rendition meant "surrender" of a garrison or a prisoner.
Lawyers later used it as the noun form for the rendering, or giving out, of a verdict.
Then came "extraordinary rendition."
"We started using that term in the late 1970s," recalls the former New York City police commissioner Howard Safir (no relation), who was then with the US Marshals Service. "It's when we would go overseas and kidnap fugitives and bring them back to the US. We called it extraordinary rendition because, although it was legal under US law, it was not always legal under the law of the country in which the fugitive was residing."
In 1992, Safir defined the term more vividly to a House subcommittee; after extradition attempts fail, extraordinary rendition could range from luring a fugitive to a friendly country or "an outright snatch."
When the locution traveled from the Justice Department to the CIA, its meaning -- at least to outsiders -- changed from kidnapping to something even more sinister. This year, The Associated Press defined it as "the covert practice of expelling suspects to countries known to use torture to extract information."
The CIA disputes this, arguing that "rendition" means the transfer of a suspect to a nation where interrogators speak the captive's dialect and can develop cultural intimacy. George Tenet, the departing CIA chief, told the Sept. 11 commission that "disruptions, renditions and sensitive collection activities no doubt saved lives."
A bogus title is a phrase like "consumer advocate" or "fugitive financier" or "domestic diva." The one that has been applied to US Senator John Kerry is presumptive nominee.
But wait -- here is Jodi Wilgoren, who covers the Kerry campaign for the Times, referring to Kerry as "the presumed Democratic presidential nominee." This was not the result of a style diktat from on high, but her own courageous decision.
On Google, when Kerry is mentioned, "presumptive" is used 30 times more often than "presumed". Was the reporter right? Is there a difference between "presumptive" and "presumed"?
I turn to two lexicographic giants. Fred Mish, retired editor in chief of Merriam-Webster, finds that "`presumed' by itself as
an adjective just means `supposed' or `assumed' and really nothing more. `Presumptive' has a whole range of meanings in law and in science. The biggest thing that separates `presumed from `presumptive' is that `presumptive' tends to carry with it a suggestion of reasonableness. This comes out in the second sense in the 11th Collegiate: `giving grounds for reasonable opinion or belief.' `Presumed' straightforwardly states the fact that an assumption is being made, whereas `presumptive' suggests in similar contexts that the assumption is a reasonable one to make." Nice distinction.
Here's Joe Pickett, executive editor of the American Heritage dictionary: "`Presumptive nominee' owes some of its flavor to the phrase `presumptive heir,' which is used in contrast to `heir apparent.' The presumptive heir is one who is indirectly in line to the throne and will ascend only in the absence of a direct heir.
This means that there is some connotation of secondary legitimacy. The much lower frequency of this phrase in regard to [US President George W.] Bush implies that Bush is first in line, is the legitimate heir to the nomination of his party, whereas Kerry for some reason is not."
"`Presumptive' may also bear the connotation of presumptuous," notes Pickett, "which was actually an earlier meaning of the word, and the similarity in sound would tend to darken the meaning of `presumptive'. Taint by association."
I intend to give Kerry a break and call him the presumed nominee.
As Mish puts it plainly: "`Presumptive' is a stinker of a word."
US President Donald Trump on Thursday issued executive orders barring Americans from conducting business with WeChat owner Tencent Holdings and ByteDance, the Beijing-based owner of popular video-sharing app TikTok. The orders are to take effect 45 days after they were signed, which is Sept. 20. The orders accuse WeChat of helping the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) review and remove content that it considers to be politically sensitive, and of using fabricated news to benefit itself. The White House has accused TikTok of collecting users’ information, location data and browsing histories, which could be used by the Chinese government, and pose
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There are few areas where Beijing, Taipei, and Washington find themselves in agreement these days, but one of them is that the situation in the Taiwan Strait is growing more dangerous. Such a shared assessment quickly breaks down, though, when the question turns to identifying sources of rising tensions. Several Chinese experts and officials I have consulted with recently have argued that Beijing’s increasingly belligerent behavior in the Taiwan Strait is driven mostly by fear. According to this narrative, Beijing is worried that unless it puts a brake on Taiwan’s move away from the mainland, Taiwan could be “lost” forever. They
Former president Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) this week came under fire over his speech at a Rotary Club meeting in Taipei on Monday, when he said that Beijing’s military strategy toward Taiwan was “to let the first battle be the last.” If China started a cross-strait war, it would end quickly, without time for other nations to react, he said in his “Cross-Strait Relations and Taiwan Security” address, criticizing President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) for saying that she hoped other nations would come to Taiwan’s aid in Beijing’s first wave of attacks. A president should prevent war from happening, not talk about how