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Declarations of Causes of Seceding States
Civil War South Carolina

Declaration of the Immediate Causes Which Induce and Justify the Secession of South Carolina from the Federal Union

written by C. G. Memminger

The people of the State of South Carolina, in Convention assembled, on the 26th day of April, A.D., 1852, declared that the frequent violations of the Constitution of the United States, by the Federal Government, and its encroachments upon the reserved rights of the States, fully justified this State in then withdrawing from the Federal Union; but in deference to the opinions and wishes of the other slaveholding States, she forbore at that time to exercise this right. Since that time, these encroachments have continued to increase, and further forbearance ceases to be a virtue.

And now the State of South Carolina having resumed her separate and equal place among nations, deems it due to herself, to the remaining United States of America, and to the nations of the world, that she should declare the immediate causes which have led to this act.

In the year 1765, that portion of the British Empire embracing Great Britain, undertook to make laws for the government of that portion composed of the thirteen American Colonies. A struggle for the right of self-government ensued, which resulted, on the 4th of July, 1776, in a Declaration, by the Colonies, “that they are, and of right ought to be, FREE AND INDEPENDENT STATES; and that, as free and independent States, they have full power to levy war, conclude peace, contract alliances, establish commerce, and to do all other acts and things which independent States may of right do.”

They further solemnly declared that whenever any “form of government becomes destructive of the ends for which it was established, it is the right of the people to alter or abolish it, and to institute a new government.” Deeming the Government of Great Britain to have become destructive of these ends, they declared that the Colonies “are absolved from all allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain is, and ought to be, totally dissolved.”

In pursuance of this Declaration of Independence, each of the thirteen States proceeded to exercise its separate sovereignty; adopted for itself a Constitution, and appointed officers for the administration of government in all its departments– Legislative, Executive and Judicial. For purposes of defense, they united their arms and their counsels; and, in 1778, they entered into a League known as the Articles of Confederation, whereby they agreed to entrust the administration of their external relations to a common agent, known as the Congress of the United States, expressly declaring, in the first Article “that each State retains its sovereignty, freedom and independence, and every power, jurisdiction and right which is not, by this Confederation, expressly delegated to the United States in Congress assembled.”

Under this Confederation the war of the Revolution was carried on, and on the 3rd of September, 1783, the contest ended, and a definite Treaty was signed by Great Britain, in which she acknowledged the independence of the Colonies in the following terms: “ARTICLE 1– His Britannic Majesty acknowledges the said United States, viz: New Hampshire, Massachusetts Bay, Rhode Island and Providence Plantations, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia, to be FREE, SOVEREIGN AND INDEPENDENT STATES; that he treats with them as such; and for himself, his heirs and successors, relinquishes all claims to the government, propriety and territorial rights of the same and every part thereof.”

Thus were established the two great principles asserted by the Colonies, namely: the right of a State to govern itself; and the right of a people to abolish a Government when it becomes destructive of the ends for which it was instituted. And concurrent with the establishment of these principles, was the fact, that each Colony became and was recognized by the mother Country a FREE, SOVEREIGN AND INDEPENDENT STATE.

In 1787, Deputies were appointed by the States to revise the Articles of Confederation, and on 17th September, 1787, these Deputies recommended for the adoption of the States, the Articles of Union, known as the Constitution of the United States.

The parties to whom this Constitution was submitted, were the several sovereign States; they were to agree or disagree, and when nine of them agreed the compact was to take effect among those concurring; and the General Government, as the common agent, was then invested with their authority.

If only nine of the thirteen States had concurred, the other four would have remained as they then were– separate, sovereign States, independent of any of the provisions of the Constitution. In fact, two of the States did not accede to the Constitution until long after it had gone into operation among the other eleven; and during that interval, they each exercised the functions of an independent nation.

By this Constitution, certain duties were imposed upon the several States, and the exercise of certain of their powers was restrained, which necessarily implied their continued existence as sovereign States. But to remove all doubt, an amendment was added, which declared that the powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States, respectively, or to the people. On the 23d May , 1788, South Carolina, by a Convention of her People, passed an Ordinance assenting to this Constitution, and afterwards altered her own Constitution, to conform herself to the obligations she had undertaken.

Thus was established, by compact between the States, a Government with definite objects and powers, limited to the express words of the grant. This limitation left the whole remaining mass of power subject to the clause reserving it to the States or to the people, and rendered unnecessary any specification of reserved rights.

We hold that the Government thus established is subject to the two great principles asserted in the Declaration of Independence; and we hold further, that the mode of its formation subjects it to a third fundamental principle, namely: the law of compact. We maintain that in every compact between two or more parties, the obligation is mutual; that the failure of one of the contracting parties to perform a material part of the agreement, entirely releases the obligation of the other; and that where no arbiter is provided, each party is remitted to his own judgment to determine the fact of failure, with all its consequences.

In the present case, that fact is established with certainty. We assert that fourteen of the States have deliberately refused, for years past, to fulfill their constitutional obligations, and we refer to their own Statutes for the proof.

The Constitution of the United States, in its fourth Article, provides as follows: “No person held to service or labor in one State, under the laws thereof, escaping into another, shall, in consequence of any law or regulation therein, be discharged from such service or labor, but shall be delivered up, on claim of the party to whom such service or labor may be due.”

This stipulation was so material to the compact, that without it that compact would not have been made. The greater number of the contracting parties held slaves, and they had previously evinced their estimate of the value of such a stipulation by making it a condition in the Ordinance for the government of the territory ceded by Virginia, which now composes the States north of the Ohio River.

The same article of the Constitution stipulates also for rendition by the several States of fugitives from justice from the other States.

The General Government, as the common agent, passed laws to carry into effect these stipulations of the States. For many years these laws were executed. But an increasing hostility on the part of the non-slaveholding States to the institution of slavery, has led to a disregard of their obligations, and the laws of the General Government have ceased to effect the objects of the Constitution. The States of Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island, New York, Pennsylvania, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Wisconsin and Iowa, have enacted laws which either nullify the Acts of Congress or render useless any attempt to execute them. In many of these States the fugitive is discharged from service or labor claimed, and in none of them has the State Government complied with the stipulation made in the Constitution. The State of New Jersey, at an early day, passed a law in conformity with her constitutional obligation; but the current of anti-slavery feeling has led her more recently to enact laws which render inoperative the remedies provided by her own law and by the laws of Congress. In the State of New York even the right of transit for a slave has been denied by her tribunals; and the States of Ohio and Iowa have refused to surrender to justice fugitives charged with murder, and with inciting servile insurrection in the State of Virginia. Thus the constituted compact has been deliberately broken and disregarded by the non-slaveholding States, and the consequence follows that South Carolina is released from her obligation.

The ends for which the Constitution was framed are declared by itself to be “to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity.”

These ends it endeavored to accomplish by a Federal Government, in which each State was recognized as an equal, and had separate control over its own institutions. The right of property in slaves was recognized by giving to free persons distinct political rights, by giving them the right to represent, and burthening them with direct taxes for three-fifths of their slaves; by authorizing the importation of slaves for twenty years; and by stipulating for the rendition of fugitives from labor.

We affirm that these ends for which this Government was instituted have been defeated, and the Government itself has been made destructive of them by the action of the non-slaveholding States. Those States have assume the right of deciding upon the propriety of our domestic institutions; and have denied the rights of property established in fifteen of the States and recognized by the Constitution; they have denounced as sinful the institution of slavery; they have permitted open establishment among them of societies, whose avowed object is to disturb the peace and to eloign the property of the citizens of other States. They have encouraged and assisted thousands of our slaves to leave their homes; and those who remain, have been incited by emissaries, books and pictures to servile insurrection.

For twenty-five years this agitation has been steadily increasing, until it has now secured to its aid the power of the common Government. Observing the forms of the Constitution, a sectional party has found within that Article establishing the Executive Department, the means of subverting the Constitution itself. A geographical line has been drawn across the Union, and all the States north of that line have united in the election of a man to the high office of President of the United States, whose opinions and purposes are hostile to slavery. He is to be entrusted with the administration of the common Government, because he has declared that that “Government cannot endure permanently half slave, half free,” and that the public mind must rest in the belief that slavery is in the course of ultimate extinction.

This sectional combination for the submersion of the Constitution, has been aided in some of the States by elevating to citizenship, persons who, by the supreme law of the land, are incapable of becoming citizens; and their votes have been used to inaugurate a new policy, hostile to the South, and destructive of its beliefs and safety.

On the 4th day of March next, this party will take possession of the Government. It has announced that the South shall be excluded from the common territory, that the judicial tribunals shall be made sectional, and that a war must be waged against slavery until it shall cease throughout the United States.

The guaranties of the Constitution will then no longer exist; the equal rights of the States will be lost. The slaveholding States will no longer have the power of self-government, or self-protection, and the Federal Government will have become their enemy.

Sectional interest and animosity will deepen the irritation, and all hope of remedy is rendered vain, by the fact that public opinion at the North has invested a great political error with the sanction of more erroneous religious belief.

We, therefore, the People of South Carolina, by our delegates in Convention assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, have solemnly declared that the Union heretofore existing between this State and the other States of North America, is dissolved, and that the State of South Carolina has resumed her position among the nations of the world, as a separate and independent State; with full power to levy war, conclude peace, contract alliances, establish commerce, and to do all other acts and things which independent States may of right do.

Adopted December 24, 1860

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The Crittenden Compromise

The Crittenden Compromise was perhaps the last-ditch effort to resolve the secession crisis of 1860-61 by political negotiation. Authored by Kentucky Senator John Crittenden (whose two sons would become generals on opposite sides of the Civil War) it was an attempt to resolve the crisis by addressing the concerns that led the states of the Lower South to contemplate secession. As such, it gives a window into what the politicians of the day thought the cause of the crisis to be.

The Compromise, as offered on December 18, 1860, consisted of a preamble, six (proposed) constitutional amendments, and four (proposed) Congressional resolutions. The text given here is taken from a photocopy of the Congressional Globe for December 18, 1860.

A joint resolution (S. No. 50) proposing certain amendments to the Constitution of the United States.

Whereas serious and alarming dissensions have arisen between the northern and southern states, concerning the rights and security of the rights of the slaveholding States, and especially their rights in the common territory of the United States; and whereas it is eminently desirable and proper that these dissensions, which now threaten the very existence of this Union, should be permanently quieted and settled by constitutional provisions, which shall do equal justice to all sections, and thereby restore to all the people that peace and good-will which ought to prevail between all the citizens of the United States: Therefore,

Resolved by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, (two thirds of both Houses concurring,) That the following articles be, and are hereby, proposed and submitted as amendments to the Constitution of the United States, which shall be valid to all intents and purposes, as part of said Constitution, when ratified by conventions of three-fourths of the several States:

Article 1: In all the territory of the United States now held, or hereafter acquired, situate north of 36 degrees 30 minutes, slavery or involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime, is prohibited while such territory shall remain under territorial government. In all the territory south of said line of latitude, slavery of the African race is hereby recognized as existing, and shall not be interfered with by Congress, but shall be protected as property by all the departments of the territorial government during its continuance. And when any territory, north or south of said line, within such boundaries as Congress may prescribe, shall contain the population requisite for a member of Congress according to the then Federal ratio of representationof the people of the United States, it shall, if its form of government be republican, be admitted into the Union, on an equal footing with the original States, with or without slavery, as the constitution of such new State may provide.

Article 2: Congress shall have no power to abolish slavery in places under its exclusive jurisdiction, and situate within the limits of States that permit the holding of slaves.

Article 3: Congress shall have no power to abolish slavery within the District of Columbia, so long as it exists in the adjoining States of Virginia and Maryland, or either, nor without the consent of the inhabitants, nor without just compensation first made to such owners of slaves as do not consent to such abolishment. Nor shall Congress at any time prohibit officers of the Federal Government, or members of Congress, whose duties require them to be in said District, from bringing with them their slaves, and holding them as such during the time their duties may require them to remain there, and afterwards taking them from the District.

Article 4: Congress shall have no power to prohibit or hinder the transportation of slaves from one State to another, or to a Territory, in which slaves are by law permitted to be held, whether that transportation be by land, navigable river, or by the sea.

Article 5: That in addition to the provisions of the third paragraph of the second section of the fourth article of the Constitution of the United States, Congress shall have power to provide by law, and it shall be its duty so to provide, that the United States shall pay to the owner who shall apply for it, the full value of his fugitive slave in all cases where the marshall or other officer whose duty it was to arrest said fugitive was prevented from so doing by violence or intimidation, or when, after arrest, said fugitive was rescued by force, and the owner thereby prevented and obstructed in the pursuit of his remedy for the recovery of his fugitive slave under the said clause of the Constitution and the laws made in pursuance thereof. And in all such cases, when the United States shall pay for such fugitive, they shall have the right, in their own name, to sue the county in which said violence, intimidation, or rescue was committed, and to recover from it, with interest and damages, the amount paid by them for said fugitive slave. And the said county, after it has paid said amount to the United States, may, for its indemnity, sue and recover from the wrong-doers or rescuers by whom the owner was prevented from the recovery of his fugitive slave, in like manner as the owner himslef might have sued and recovered.

Article 6: No future amendment of the Constitution shall affect the five preceding articles; nor the third paragraph of the second section of the first article of the Constitution; nor the third paragraph of the second section of the fourth article of said Constitution; and no amendment will be made to the Constitution which shall authorize or give to Congress any power to abolish or interfere with slavery in any of the States by whose laws it is, or may be, allowed or permitted.

And whereas, also, besides those causes of dissension embraced in the foregoing amendments proposed to the Constitution of the United States, there are others which come within the jurisdiction of Congress, and may be remedied by its legislative power; and whereas it is the desire of Congress, so far as its power will extend, to remove all just cause for the popular discontent and agitation which now disturb the peace of the country, and threaten the stability of its institutions; Therefore,

1. Resolved by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America, in Congress assembled, That the laws now in force for the recovery of fugitive slaves are in strict pursuance of the plain and mandatory provisions of the Constitution, and have been sanctioned as valid and constitutional by the judgement of the Supreme Court of the United States.; that the slaveholding States are entitled to the faithful observance and execution of those laws, and that they ought not to be repealed, or so modified or changed as to impair their efficiency; and that laws ought to be made for the punishment of those who attempt by rescue of the slave, or other illegal means, to hinder or defeat the due execution of said laws.

2. That all State laws which conflict with the fugitive slave acts of Congress, or any other constitutional acts of Congress, or which, in their operation, impede, hinder, or delay the free course and due execution of any of said acts, are null and void by the plain provisions of the Constitution of the United States; yet those State laws, void as they are, have given color to practices, and led to consequences, which have obstructed the due administration and execution of acts of Congress, and especially the acts for the delivery of fugitive slaves, and have thereby contributed much to the discord and commotion now prevailing. Congress, therefore, in the present perilous juncture, does not deem it improper, respectfully and earnestly to recommend the repeal of those laws to the several States which have enacted them, or such legislative corections or explanations of them as may prevent their being used or perverted to such mischievous purposes.

3. That the act of the 18th of September, 1850, commonly called the fugitive slave law, ought to be so amended as to make the fee of the commissioner, mentioned in the eighth section of the act, equal in amount in the cases decided by him, whether his decision be in favor of or against the claimant. And to avoid misconstruction, the last clause of the fifth section of said act, which authorizes the person holding a warrent for the arrest or detention of a fugitive slave, to summon to his aid the posse comitatus, and which declares it to be the duty of all good citizens to assist him in its execution, ought to be so amended as to expressly limit the authority and duty to cases in which there shall be resistance or danger of resistance or rescue.

4. That the laws for the suppression of the African slave trade, and especially those prohibiting the importation of slaves in the United States, ought to be made effectual, and ought to be thoroughly executed; and all further enactments necessary to those ends ought to be promptly made.

Sources:
Library of Congress
National Park Service
University of Kansas

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Many people think the Civil War of 1860-1865 was fought over one issue alone, slavery. Nothing could actually be further from the truth. The War Between the States began because the South demanded States’ rights and were not getting them. The Congress at that time heavily favored the industrialized northern states to the point of demanding that the South sell is cotton and other raw materials only to the factories in the north, rather than to other countries. The Congress also taxed the finished materials that the northern industries produced heavily, making finished products that the South wanted, unaffordable.
The Civil War should not have occurred. If the Northern States and their representatives in Congress had only listened to the problems of the South, and stopped these practices that were almost like the taxation without representation of Great Britain, then the Southern states would not have seceded and the war would not have occurred.
I know for many years, we have been taught that the Civil War was all about the abolition of slavery, but this truly did not become a major issue, with the exception of John Brown’s raid on Harper’s Ferry, until after the Battle of Antietam in September 1862, when Abraham Lincoln decided to free the slaves in the Confederate States in order to punish those states for continuing the war effort. The war had been in progress for two years by that time. Most southerners did not even own slaves nor did they own plantations. Most of them were small farmers who worked their farms with their families. They were fighting for their rights. They were fighting to maintain their lifestyle and their independence the way they wanted to without the United States Government dictating to them how they should behave.
Why are we frequently taught then, that the Civil War, War of Northern Aggression, War Between the States, or whatever you want to call it, was solely about slavery? That is because the history books are usually written by the winners of a war and this war was won by the Union. However, after following
my family around since I was just a year old to Civil War Living History scenarios in Gettysburg and elsewhere, I have listened to both sides of the story, from those portraying historical figures, both Union and Confederate. Through listening to these people and also reading many different books, including some of the volumes of The Official Records of the Civil War, Death in September, The Insanity of It All, Every Day Life During the Civil War, and many others, I have come to the conclusion that the Civil War was about much more than abolishing the institution of slavery. It was more about preserving the United States and protecting the rights of the individual, the very tenets upon which this country was founded.
I personally think that the people who profess that the Civil War was only fought about slavery have not read their history books. I really am glad that slavery was abolished, but I don’t think it should be glorified as being the sole reason the Civil War was fought. There are so many more issues that people were intensely passionate about at the time. Slavery was one of them, but it was not the primary cause of the war. The primary causes of the war were economics and states’ rights. Slavery was a part of those greater issues, but it was not the reason the Southern States seceded from the Union, nor fought the Civil War. It certainly was a Southern institution that was part of the economic system of the plantations, and because of that, it was part and parcel of the economic reasons that the South formed the Confederacy.
The economic issue was one of taxation and being able to sell cotton and other raw materials where the producers wanted to, rather than where they were forced to, and at under inflated prices. Funny, it sounds very much like the reason we broke from Great Britain to begin with. The South was within their rights, but there should have been another way to solve the problem. If they had been willing to listen to Abraham Lincoln, perhaps the war could have been avoided. Lincoln had a plan to gradually free the slaves without it further hurting the plantation owners. He also had a plan to allow them to sell their products anywhere they wanted to and at a fair price. They did not choose to listen to the President, however, so they formed the Confederacy and the Civil War began.

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As the war in Iraq recedes and a defeated al-Qaeda removes its surviving assets to Pakistan, the Afghan front is increasingly becoming the top American military priority.

The U.S. commander in Afghanistan, General David McKiernan, stated this week more troops and economic aid were needed “as quickly as possible” for the seven-year-old counterinsurgency battle. The core of McKiernan’s military aid request is four more combat brigades and helicopters, indicating Afghanistan will have a “surge” of its own.

“We’re in a very tough fight,” said McKiernan to reporters at the Pentagon last Wednesday. “The idea that it might get worse before it gets better is certainly a possibility.”

But McKiernan’s request should not be read to mean that Taliban and al-Qaeda forces are “gaining” in Afghanistan, as one New York Times story indicated. Even though military deaths this year have already exceeded the 117 American dead in 2007 and currently stand at a record 134, this is still low in comparison to Iraq and American casualty figures in Vietnam and World War II – especially considering there are about 50,000 American troops in Afghanistan.

The much-reported 30 percent increase in violence in Afghanistan this year has also been accompanied with very little context. One publication, Strategy Page.com, pointed out that country-wide violence will cause 6,000 deaths in Afghanistan this year, which averages out to 24 dead per 100,000 people. In contrast, South Africa, a country at peace, will see 50 citizens out of every 100,000 die violently in 2008, mostly because of its high crime rate. Other countries, especially failed states like Somalia, probably have an even higher death rate from violence, but are unable to keep proper statistics. So the Afghan situation, while not laudable, is also not dismal.

Moreover, much of Afghanistan’s violence is also unrelated to the war. Constant tribal feuding has been a way of life for centuries in Afghanistan’s rural areas and accounts for many of the country’s killings. The tribesmen are armed, proud of their martial spirit and barely acknowledge the central government. Like most lawless regions, there are also few, if any, law enforcement officials to be found there.

Afghanistan’s drug gangs are also big contributors to the country’s lack of security and cause much of the violence. They have their own armed retainers who battle both government forces as well as each other. One American humanitarian aid worker witnessed such Afghan drug violence when he was inadvertently caught in a shootout between two rival groups but escaped unharmed.

But the biggest contribution drug gangs make to Afghanistan’s turmoil is the tax money they pay to the Taliban, which then hires fighters and buys weapons to use against Western forces and the Kabul government. Afghanistan now produces about 90 percent of the world’s heroin in its southern provinces. And although a poor poppy crop was reported this year, one estimate still puts the Taliban share at about $70 million.

The drug money has also led to Afghanistan’s biggest problem: corruption. Afghan government officials are suspected of being on drug gang payrolls. Even Afghan president, Hamid Karzai, was accused of being involved in the trade. The drug cancer, combined with officials stealing Western aid intended for the poor and dispossessed, has cost the Kabul government much of the people’s confidence and support. So like the American experience in Vietnam, the US army may win the military battles, but the country could be lost because of other, non-military factors.

Nevertheless, McKiernan is correct in asking for more troops at this time. The Taliban and al Qaeda are currently under severe pressure in their Pakistani base areas. The new Zardari government launched an all-out military offensive in August against the two terrorist organizations in their tribal agency strongholds and refuses to negotiate with them, giving them the stark options of either surrendering or leaving.

McKiernan has called the offensive’s initial results “encouraging.” About 1,000 Taliban and al-Qaeda fighters have been killed in the long overdue attack. A Pakistani newspaper reported that Taliban fighters have even left Afghanistan to confront the Pakistani army, leading to a noticeable lowering of insurgent activity in American-patrolled Kunar province. After years of American complaints about jihadists crossing unhindered into Afghanistan, a senior Paksitani military official ironically commented: “The Pakistan-Afghan border is porous and is now causing trouble for us in Bajaur (tribal agency).” To keep the pressure on the enemy, the American military also announced it will also stage a winter campaign.

An expansion of the Afghan army will accompany the arrival of more American troops. Currently about 70,000 strong, Afghan forces will number 90,000 by the end of the year and 130,000 soldiers in about three years. General David Petraeus calls this Afghan military expansion a “thickening” of the local forces. An increase in numbers on both sides will, like in Iraq, allow troops to hold areas the Taliban simply reoccupies after allied forces leave.

But besides the top down strategy of meeting the enemy head on militarily, both McKiernan and Petraeus intend to increase their bottom up strategy of increasing humanitarian aid and engaging local Afghan tribal and government leaders. The Taliban also recognizes the value of this strategy, as a UN report released this week stated it had killed 30 aid workers so far this year, attacked 22 food convoys and 59 schools.

But the only hitch to McKiernan’s request for the extra brigades is that they may not arrive immediately. As American troops leave Iraq, they will probably need a few months rest at home before being sent to the Afghan-Pakistan theater. Which is probably why Defense Secretary Robert Gates said recently he is prepared to send thousands of troops to Afghanistan in the spring. So, after years of empty Taliban promises to capture Kabul in a spring offensive, it will instead be facing one of its own.

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New York – Say what you will about Geert Wilders – and his critics, not least the Islamic clerics who issue near-daily fatwas commanding his death, have made their views plain – there is no gainsaying that the man has guts. Ever since 2004, when the Dutch politician emerged as one of Europe’s more forthright foes of Islamic fundamentalism, Wilders, 45, has been the subject of considerable obloquy, both in his native Netherlands, where he is scorned by the political elite, and abroad, where he is the target of untold assassination plots.

But not only has his international infamy not deterred Wilders from declaring against Islamic extremism –and, more controversially, Islam as a whole – but it has actually spurred him to become even more outspoken about what he considers to be its mortal threat to Western civilization. Most recently, he made the point in his provocative 15-minute film, “Fitna” (“challenge” in Arabic), released on the internet last May to much handwringing in Europe’s political salons and the obligatory denunciations and death threats in the Muslim world. Agree or disagree with its message, there is no disputing its subtext: Geert Wilders will not be silenced.

This much was apparent during his September 25 stop in New York. Part of an outreach tour by Wilders and several members of his two-year-old political party, the rightist-populist Party for Freedom, the visit was designed to forge links with ideological allies in the U.S. and to explain just how parlous is the state of affairs in a Europe that is, as Wilders sees it, if not yet lost to Islam, nevertheless on the cusp of cultural and political surrender. At a lunch sponsored by the Hudson Institute, the conservative think tank, Wilders – tall, slightly tense and sporting the signature peroxide-blond bouffant that makes him look like a right-wing Mozart – offered an apt demonstration of what it is that has his European colleagues discomfited and his jihadist revilers literally clamoring for his head.

For those who’ve followed his career, it was vintage Wilders. Whether it was his recommended response to immigrants who refuse to assimilate (“there’s the door and there’s the shredder for your passport”), or his politically incorrect references to the “so-called prophet” Mohammed (“mass murderer and a sick pedophile”) and the Koran (the Muslim “Mein Kampf”), or his nod to the Iranian government (“crazy lunatics”), Wilders could not be accused of excessive diplomacy. And he was never more animated than on the subject that fuels his more health-hazardous tirades. At one point, Wilders presented what he called a lesson in “Islam 101.” It went like this: “Islam is not a religion. It’s a political ideology. If you want to compare it then the only thing you can compare it to is communism. It’s a totalitarian ideology.” Lest there be any misunderstanding, Wilders added that there was no such thing as moderate Islam. “Sure, there are moderate Muslims,” he said. “But there is no moderate Islam.”

Kindred themes feature in his film “Fitna.” To say that Wilders does not present Islam as a religion of peace is to put it mildly. “Fitna” juxtaposes graphic footage of Islamic terrorism – including the 9-11 attacks, the Madrid train bombings, and the beheading of Nicholas Berg – with Koranic verses and clips of Islamic clerics preaching murder of non-Muslims and Jews. Low-budget and unabashedly one-sided – Wilders seems uninterested in the possibility that there is more to foundational Islamic texts than murderous calls to arms – it is not exactly a polished work, something Wilders readily concedes. “I’m a lawmaker not a moviemaker,” he says. But like its creator, the film is nothing if not direct.

However one judges its content, the fact that “Fitna” has been released at all is something of an achievement. State-owned Dutch television stations refused to screen it last spring. Meanwhile, Dutch Muslims, unwittingly confirming Wilders’s skepticism about the compatibility of Islamic mores and democratic values, called for the film to be banned. The political establishment, too, failed to distinguish itself. Dutch Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende did nothing to discourage the hotter heads in the Muslim community when he announced that “Fitna” “serves no other purpose than to cause offense.” Dutch Foreign Minister Maxime Verhagen similarly urged Wilders not to show the film because it could “endanger the lives of Dutch nationals” abroad. (Appearances notwithstanding, Verhagen insisted that he was “not trying to meet demands from anti-democratic forces and terrorists in the Middle East.”) “It was an absolute disgrace,” Wilders recalls of such reactions.

More menacing was the preemptive outrage in the Muslim world. In a grim replay of the Danish cartoon controversy of 2005, Dutch flags were burned, as muftis promised bloodshed if the film were shown. In Indonesia, where protestors brandished banners proclaiming “Kill Geert Wilders,” the government appealed to Dutch authorities to outlaw the film and, failing to get its way, permanently barred Wilders from entering the country. The Taliban, after getting word of the film’s release, vowed to increase attacks on Dutch troops in Afghanistan. Al-Qaeda-linked groups issued internet death threats against Wilders.

While some of the threats proved empty, others were all-too credible. Indeed, today Wilders is in more danger than ever – no small feat for a man who just a few years ago was forced to spend nights in high-security prison cells and safe houses to avoid the gruesome fate of another Dutch filmmaker, Theo Van Gogh, who was savagely murdered by Moroccan Islamist Mohammed Bouyeri in November 2004. In the past two months in particular, the threats have multiplied. “It’s embarrassing even to talk about it,” Wilders says when I ask him about his security arrangements. For obvious reasons, he doesn’t want to divulge the size of his security detail, but he does say that “they would have to clear the street” in Amsterdam to accommodate them all. Even in the relative safety of Manhattan, Wilders takes no chances. As he spoke, two tall men in black suits and crew cuts sat watchfully by the door.

Safety concerns have limited Wilders’s public presence, but they have not diminished his political stature. Just the opposite: His Party for Freedom (PVV) now has nine members in the 150-member Dutch parliament, where it continues to press for its Wilders-inspired platform of restricting immigration from Muslim countries; for more aggressively monitoring domestic extremism, including radical mosques; and for reducing an indulgent welfare state that allows immigrants to live comfortably without assimilating. To be sure, these remain minority views in Dutch politics. “We vote every Tuesday and it’s always the same,” says Martin Bosma, a PVV MP. “Nine people raise their hands and the other 141 stare at their shoes.” Nonetheless, Bosma says that “we have a lot of reasons to be optimistic.” The PVV currently has around 10 percent support in national polls, he notes. Double what it attracted when it first stood for election in 2006, this would translate into 15 seats in the parliament in the next general election in 2010.

The PVV also has another thing going for it: Its animating anxiety about the dangers of Islamic extremism is now shared by large parts of the Dutch electorate. In a 2004 poll, 47 percent of the Dutch admitted to fearing that they would have to live according to Islamic rules in the Netherlands at some point. Similarly, in a May 2005 poll, 43 percent of the Dutch said Islam was incompatible with Western society, results that were more than matched the following year, when a poll found that the majority of native Dutch found Islam intolerant (52 percent), violent (40 percent), and hostile to women (70 percent). Increasingly, it seems, Wilders is preaching to the choir.

To his political adversaries, these polls are proof of Wilders’s malign influence on Dutch politics. In this exegesis, it is only Wilders and the PVV’s “racism” and “xenophobia,” bolstered by “an alarmist presentation of Muslim immigration to the Netherlands and Europe,” that is causing the Dutch to doubt the model of all-tolerant multiculturalism that has prevailed for so long.

The reality, though, is more complex. Although, at around one million, the Dutch Muslim community still is only about 5.8 percent of the population, it is increasingly a majority in some neighborhoods – and a hostile one at that. Overtoomse Veld, the west Amsterdam neighborhood of Theo Van Gogh’s killer Mohammed Bouyeri, is by some estimates 80 to 90 percent Muslim. Major Dutch cities like Rotterdam, now home to the Islamic University of Rotterdam, are nearly half Muslim. On their face, such statistics may seem unobjectionable. But it has not escaped notice that these cities, with their restive and unassimilated immigrant populations, boast some of the highest crime rates in the Netherlands and serve as havens for religious radicalism. Nor do Dutch voters need Wilders to wonder about some Muslims’ capacity for tolerance. A spate of attacks on gay men by young Muslim thugs in Amsterdam, once the self-styled “gay capital of Europe,” has convincingly made the case for him.

Among those disinclined to debate him, it’s fashionable to dismiss Wilders as a populist vulgarian who revels in giving offense. The writer Ian Baruma, writing in the New Yorker, has quipped that Wilders sees “delicacy as a sign of fraudulence.” But this is something of a misconception. Despite his exuberantly confrontational rhetoric, Wilders himself is thoughtful, personable, and hard to mistake for the Muslim-hating bigot that some imagine him to be. For instance, as he was doing an interview in New York, a man tapped him on the shoulder. It was Ebby Moussazadeh, a board member at the Hudson Institute. Pointing to his nametag, Moussazadeh said, faux-menacingly, “It’s a Muslim name.” Wilders brightened. “Iranian,” he said. “I recognize it.” Wilders explained that he had travelled to Iran a number of times before his recent notoriety and said that he would one day like to return to the country when it is politically free.

Still, it’s true that Wilders comes across as too hard-edged for some. Even as he recognizes that, he is not about to moderate his take-no-prisoners style. On the contrary, he sees it as a way of injecting urgency into the European debate about Islam and multiculturalism. “In Europe, we have consensus in our veins,” Wilders told me. “What we did for the last 30 years is compromise all the time; it was all carrots and no sticks. All we have to show for it is a lot of orange and a lot of trouble.” No more, he says. “You have to be heard. Right now, people are speaking without really saying what they mean. It’s not enough to talk about immigration. You have to get to the core of the issue, which is that Islam is incompatible with democracy.”

Since the conversation has turned to Islam, his combative side resurfaces. Although Wilders isn’t ready to go into further detail, he reveals that he is planning to make a sequel to “Fitna.” This time, though, it is Wilders who offers the preemptive threat, directed at Islamic radicals: He will not be stopped. “If I stopped talking about this, the people who want to kill me would have a holiday,” he explains. “I cannot let them win.”

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The Friends of Sabeel in North America, which professes to be the “voice” of Palestinian Christians, is raising cash for the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions (ICAHD). Sadly for apologists of the Palestinian cause, the European Union axed its funding for ICAHD because of “pressure brought to bear by right-wing Israeli neo-cons who have campaigned obsessively against our funding while threatening publicly to close us down.” Or at least that version comes from ICAHD’s Jeff Halper, as he described his group’s dire straits without Euro cash.

Halper, an anthropology professor and American by birth, was a 1960’s-era student radical in the U.S. until he relocated to Israel, where his radicalism simply shifted focus against the Israeli Government. He founded ICAHD in 1997.

In 2005-2006, the European Union Partnership for Peace Programme gave nearly a half million Euros to ICAHD for an education program called “Re-Framing: Providing a Coherent Paradigm of Peace to the Israeli Public.” Ostensibly, this EU funding funnel “supports local and international civil society initiatives that promote peace, tolerance and non violence in the Middle East.” But most of the cash seems to flow towards groups like ICAHD that simply repeat the standard anti-Israel narrative.

Friends of Sabeel did not explain why the European Union cut off ICAHD’s funds. But apparently it was because of Halper’s role in the “Free Gaza Flotilla,” in which “peace” activists broke the blockade of Hamas-controlled Gaza by sailing in from Cyprus. Upon returning to Israel, Halper was arrested and incarcerated overnight. Apparently even the normally tolerant European Union was unimpressed.

Last year, when it apparently was more flush with funds, ICAHD published a full-page ad in The New York Times with the headline: “Who Will Stop this Bulldozer from Destroying the Chance for Peace?” Included was a large photo of a Palestinian woman holding up her arms in the face of a presumably onrushing Israeli bulldozer. Naturally, ICAHD portrays the Israeli house demolitions as merely a nasty ploy to force Palestinians off their land. That destroyed homes usually housed terrorists, tunnels, or arms caches goes unmentioned, of course.

Despite this indifference to Palestinian terrorism, ICAHD professes to oppose all “forms of violence” between Israelis and Palestinians. It insists that a “lasting peace” depends on full Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank, Gaza, and East Jerusalem, but not necessarily any change in attitudes by Palestinians. ICAHD specially focuses on Israel’s “ongoing policies of Palestinian home demolitions, relentless development of large settlements, and building of the ‘Separation Barrier’ deep into the West Bank area.” The group is also distressed by America’s “uncritical political support” for Israel and Israel’s chronic “violations of basic human rights.”

So ICAHD’s allies at Friends of Sabeel in North America are appealing to anti-Israel religious activists in the U.S. to help contribute $30,000 towards ICAHD. Friends of Sabeel is the American branch of Jerusalem-based Sabeel, which is a think-tank for Palestinian Liberation Theology. The American Sabeel helps to organize U.S. church officials who believe that Israel is the primary villain in the Middle East. In recent years, Sabeel has advocated that U.S. churches divest their pension funds from firms doing business with Israel, but that campaign has largely collapsed, having been rejected even by liberal denominations. Board members of Friends of Sabeel in North America include former Episcopal Church Presiding Bishop Edmond Browning, radical Catholic eco-feminist theologian Rosemary Radford Ruether, and Christian Century magazine contributing editor James Wall.

Friends of Sabeel forwarded to its own supporters Jeff Halper’s urgent appeal for American dollars to replace the lost Euros. “So we now face a real crisis,” Halper glowered. “That said, those who want us ‘gone’ make a mistake in assuming that we will close if our funding is withdrawn.” Halper promised to keep his office open and work on a voluntary basis, with two staffers to help him. He thanked his American supporters for having provided an “important supplement” to the now cut off European Union funding, which had helped launch the “Constructing Peace Campaign.”

ICAHD launched the “Constructing Peace Campaign” last year to rebuild demolished Palestinian homes, so as to spotlight Israel’s supposedly senseless destruction. As a sort of pro-Palestinian Habitat for Humanity, the peace campaign also hosts an annual two-week summer camp, in which international volunteers help rebuild Palestinian houses as a “symbolic gesture of peace and opposition to the Occupation.” In between the construction work, the volunteers take field trips to observe what Halper calls Israel’s “Matrix of Control,” including the Wall, the “massive check points,” and “one of the many refugee camps created in 1948.”

All of this important anti-Israel work must continue, of course. So Halper defiantly concluded his appeal to American supporters: “I promise you, no matter what, ICAHD will not be silenced.”

Trying to rescue ICAHD, the Friends of Sabeel in North America have pledged to raise at least $30,000. The fundraising includes inviting Halper to the U.S. for a fall tour, during which he will presumably address sympathetic church groups. “We, along with Jeff, promise you that ICAHD will not be silenced,” the board members of Friends of Sabeel earnestly promised. “Together, we will continue to be a loud and persistent voice for justice.”

Potential American religious supporters of Sabeel and ICAHD will have to ponder whether a group too radically anti-Israel even for European Union support should merit dollars from among U.S. churches.

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International reaction was almost uniformly negative last week when news broke that Britain had officially granted Muslim Sharia courts permission to rule on everything from divorce to domestic violence. After all, in its strictest form, Sharia law requires the stoning of women accused of adultery, and the execution of converts from Islam, among other draconian punishments for offences that aren’t even considered crimes in the West. In the U.K. and abroad, pundits and politicians denounced Britain’s capitulation, but only one elected official responded with a daring proposal aimed at preventing Sharia law from gaining such a foothold in America.

That that politician was Rep. Tom Tancredo won’t surprise observers of American politics. The Colorado congressman has long been an outspoken critic of the unofficial “open-borders” policy that encourages millions of undocumented immigrants – including would-be terrorists – to enter the U.S. each year. During his short-lived presidential campaign in 2007, Tancredo repeatedly raised the immigration issue during televised debates. He also aired a provocative television ad in which he promised to “stop all visas to nations that sponsor terrorism and [to] arrest and deport any alien who preaches violence and hatred.”

The ad earned Tancredo scorn on the Left and also on some parts of the Right. Undaunted, he has now proposed a “Jihad Prevention Act” that “would bar the entry of foreign nationals who advocate Sharia law [and] make the advocacy of Sharia law by radical Muslims already in the United States a deportable offense.” In his official announcement on September 18, Tancredo observed: “This is a case where truth is truly stranger than fiction. Today the British people are learning a hard lesson about the consequences of massive, unrestricted immigration.”

“When you have an immigration policy that allows for the importation of millions of radical Muslims,” he explained, “you are also importing their radical ideology – an ideology that is fundamentally hostile to the foundations of western democracy – such as gender equality, pluralism, and individual liberty. The best way to safeguard America against the importation of the destructive effects of this poisonous ideology is to prevent its purveyors from coming here in the first place.”

Tancredo hopes his bill will spur public debate, and “send a clear message that the only law we recognize here in America is the U.S. Constitution and the laws passed by our democratically elected representatives…If you aren’t comfortable with that concept, you aren’t welcome in the United States.”

So far, reaction to the “Jihad Prevention Act” has been muted on both sides, possibly because the media is providing wall-to-wall election coverage. Nonetheless, some prominent supporters have emerged. Having advocated similar measures in the past, the group Muslims Against Sharia praised Tancredo’s initiative. So did scholar Andrew Bostom, author of The Legacy of Jihad. Bostom hailed Tancredo’s “sane approach,” adding, “Thank goodness for Congressman Tancredo’s courage and clarity on this pressing matter!”

Tancredo also has an ally in columnist and author Diane West. In books like The Death of the Grown Up and in her syndicated columns, West has chronicled what she considers the decline of Western civilization, brought on by everything from a perpetually adolescent popular culture to radical Islam. “What I like about this proposed legislation,” West said in an email interview, “is its clear, direct focus on Islamic law (Sharia).” Focusing on Sharia, West believes, is the “only way to grapple successfully with the repressive overlay of Islam on a society–understanding it as a function of law, and not religion.” She points out that Tancredo’s “bill allows us to see clearly through to the heart of the matter: the danger that unchecked Islamic immigration will bring about a constituency for Islamic law, leading to disastrous changes to our legal system.”

To be sure, West does have some reservations about the bill. “I’m not sure how he proposes to determine which Muslim immigrants advocate Islamic law and which do not,” she said. “I would prefer to see a general restriction on Islamic immigration to prevent the build-up of a demographic that wills Sharia. Moreover, West notes that this session of Congress is nearly over. Even if Tancredo’s bill were “brought to a vote this week, I sadly doubt it will be passed.” Still another problem is that there is scant enthusiasm in Congress for passing such a bill. With the notable exception of Rep. Sue Myrick, a Republican from North Carolina, the political class has failed even to address the conflicts between Islamic law and Western values – let alone to draft legislation to thwart the spread of Sharia in the U.S.

Europe may soon prove a model in this regard – the unhappy case of Britain notwithstanding. This December, Israel’s Dr. Arieh Eldad, a former member of the Israeli Knesset, will host the Facing Jihad Summit in Jerusalem. The summit seeks to bring together “European lawmakers who are united in their shared belief that Islam today poses a serious threat to Western civilization.” The idea is to create an alliance of politicians who can workshop legislation to prevent creeping Islamization, which they can then bring back to their home countries and create a voting block in the EU parliament. The attending parliamentarians will be joined by experts on radical Islam such as Daniel Pipes and Bat Ye’or, but bigotry will not be tolerated: Eldad emphasizes that the summit will bar “neo-Nazis and racist parties” like the British National Party. “Seven countries will be represented so far,” Eldad told FrontPage.

And what of America? Eldad thought it likely that at least a few Capitol Hill politicians would attend the jihad summit. If so, Tom Tancredo might be an ideal delegate.

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