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Hispanics, Immigration and the War

Above any other concern, it was the Iraq warspecifically, the U.S. voters’ opposition to the way it was being conductedthat gave the Democrats their Congressional majorities in the November elections. Exit polls showed critical gains among political independents, voters aged 30 to 49 and Catholics. African-American voters remained the staunchest Democratic loyalists, at 89 percent.

Although disproportionately represented among the U.S. military and the forces in Iraq, African-Americans do not support the war politically, according to polls. Hispanics, whose votes for Republicans had inched up to 40 percent in the 2004 election, dramatically reversed themselves last November, with 69 percent choosing Democrats. Some commentators credited immigration as the issue behind that turnabout. But a late-December report by the Pew Hispanic Center documents Hispanics’ growing disapproval of the war, which leads to a different conclusion.

When asked how well they thought the U.S. military effort in Iraq is going, 68 percent of Hispanics (compared with 64 percent of Americans at large) said, It was not going too well or not well at all. The gap is much greater regarding exit strategy: two-thirds of Hispanics, compared with just half of all Americans, favor bringing the troops home from Iraq as soon as possiblea 16 percent difference. Hispanics also expressed urgency about the departure: fewer than one in five (19 percent) would keep U.S. troops in Iraq until the situation there has stabilized. Seeing the strength of such views clarifies how the Iraq war trumped immigration even among Hispanic voters.


New Sites of Conscience

Three new sites of consciencemarking places where past human rights violations occurredwere recently established by the International Coalition of Historic Site Museums of Conscience (see Am., 10/9/06). One is the Old Fort Prison in Johannesburg, South Africa, that at one time represented what the nonprofit organization calls the worst of the old apartheid regime. Nelson Mandela and Mahatma Gandhi had been held within its walls. The building, now the new Constitutional Court, includes a museum that interprets the prison’s history, as well as related justice issues both past and present.

A second new site of conscience is the Mednoc Memorial in Russia, located in the Tver region north of Moscow. Thousands of Russian and Polish prisoners were massacred there during the 1940’s by the N.K.V.D., the Soviet Communist secret police. Many of the murdered prisoners, along with citizens, were arrested after a law was passed that prohibited any association with foreigners, who were viewed as threats to national security. Victims were buried in mass graves near the town of Mednoc. The museum describes in detail the persecution that took place under the totalitarian regime of the time.

The village of Monte Sole in Italy is the third new site. During World War II, Nazi SS troops, with the help of Fascist sympathizers, murdered 800 local inhabitants in the autumn of 1944. Five years ago, a peace school was founded in the village, taking as its mission the nonviolent resolution of conflicts and the promotion of peaceful coexistence among people of different cultures.

Santorum Returns

Following the loss of his Pennsylvania Senate seat to the pro-life Democrat Bob Casey in November, Rick Santorum, a Republican, has joined the Ethics and Public Policy Center, a conservative think tank in Washington, D.C. Mr. Santorum has been hired to establish the American Enemies Program, which will focus on identifying, studying and heightening awareness of the threats posed to America and the West from a growing array of anti-Western forces.

One wonders whether he is the best candidate for the job. While Mr. Santorum sponsored a number of laudable initiatives in the Senate, including increased funding for H.I.V. prevention in Africa, his hawkish stance on the war on terror put him outside the mainstream. In June he announced that the United States had found weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, a claim later refuted by a Defense Department official who noted that the chemical compound in question was not usable. Just before he left the Senate, Mr. Santorum voted against the confirmation of Secretary of Defense Robert Gates (one of only two senators to do so) because Gates favored engaging nations like Iran. Reaching out to radical Islam, Mr. Santorum argued, would be a mistake. Indeed, Santorum has regularly painted America’s enemies with a broad brush, insisting they share a commitment to Islamic fascism, a term that does more to obfuscate than illumine. I want to contribute to the world of ideas, Mr. Santorum said when he joined the E.P.P.C. He should remember that the world of ideas requires a degree of honesty and intellectual rigor not always found in the world of politics.

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