Roundup: Historian's Take
This is where we place excerpts by historians writing about the news. On occasion this page also includes political scientists, economists, and law professors who write about history. We may from time to time even include English profs.
An interview with Doris Kearns Goodwin on the NBC Today Show (April 12, 2004):
LESTER HOLT: Of course John F. Kennedy ran as the first Catholic presidential candidate. There was a controversy then, but if I recall, it was more of a controversy involving non-Catholics and their perception of how he would perform in office as a Catholic.
DORIS KEARNS GOODWIN: That's exactly right. It's incredible to remember how fiery it was when Kennedy first started the primary process. For example, in Protestant West Virginia, he was way ahead, and then as the days approached for the primary he fell behind and they said, 'How did this happen?' And the answer was, 'Well, they didn't know you were a Catholic until now.' And he finally had to answer the problem of being a Catholic--the first Catholic president he would become--in a big speech in Houston, Texas. He was so nervous before that speech. They thought the whole election could ride on it. He wore a conservative black suit, a black tie, but he'd forgotten his black shoes, so brown shoes floated out from the bottom of his trousers. His face was sort of--you could see it was tense. But he gave what was considered a home run of a speech. He said, 'I am not a Catholic running for president, I am the Democratic Party's candidate running for president who happens to be a Catholic.' And then he said, 'I do not intend to dictate to the church what they should do on public policy, and I will not accept their dictation to me.' He even had to answer the fact that he could attend a Protestant Church if a public official who was Protestant had a funeral, because there was this old superstition that a Catholic could never set foot in another Protestant Church without somehow being struck dead at the threshold.
Ms. GOODWIN: But once that issue was answered, it seemed like the issue was put to rest. And here it is back again.
HOLT: Yeah, so he makes a--essentially a statement of--a declaration of independence, if you will. How has it been turned around? Has--has this been--have you seen this coming, this notion among some Catholics that--that this was going to be a litmus test?
Ms. GOODWIN: Well, it seems like it's still a small group of conservative Catholics who are claiming that if an individual does not uphold the Catholic teachings as a public politician in his public right, that he's not able to take communion. It's not really what the general feeling of the church is as I understand it. Ever since Vatican II, the feeling is that an individual conscience is making the decision for themselves whether they're in a state of grace when they receive communion. And if we try to make litmus tests for all Catholic politicians, it's going to be really hard to divide them. Because think of it, it's not just conservative issues that some liberals might be against, like against abortion or against civil unions, but the Catholic Church is also against the death penalty, which a lot of conservatives are for. Catholic Church is against birth control, which the majority of the Catholics are for, even in the sense of birth control if you've got AIDS, not assuming condoms should be used. So I think it's really important to distinguish between teachings of the church and what a public politician is able to do in public policy.
HOLT: Well, Doris...
Ms. GOODWIN: The whole foundation was separation of church and state.
HOLT: Let me ask you, has President Bush worn his faith more public--intertwined it more with his public policy than more--other recent presidents?
Ms. GOODWIN: Certainly than more other recent presidents. I mean, there's no question but that faith, religion and God has been a part of presidential, not just politics, but presidents for a very long period of time. But it's so important to remember back to Abraham Lincoln in that great second inaugural when he understood that both sides, the North and the South, read the same Bible so that you shouldn't be able to use religion as a way of dividing people. That's the strength of this country. People came here because they didn't want religious tests imposed. They didn't want to have to say one church or another could become a public official. So I hope that this story, in the end, comes back to what the archdiocese in Boston finally said, even though you quoted earlier what O'Malley had said previously. Finally, they said they're not going to get involved in this campaign, and reminded people that it still is up to the individual to decide whether they're in a state of grace when they go to communion. If we start turning away public people for communion because of their stance on public issues, I think the foundation of our country, separation of church and state, will really be hurt.
HOLT: Doris, we always value your perspective. Thanks very much for joining us this morning.
Ms. GOODWIN: You're very welcome.
Posted on: Tuesday, April 13, 2004 - 22:33
Walid Phares and Robert Rabil, professors of Mideast Studies at Florida
Atlantic University, in the WSJ
(April 13, 2004):
Arising from the ashes of the Ottoman Empire, Iraq comprised the three former provinces of Mosul, with its Kurdish Sunni majority; Baghdad, with its Arab Sunni majority; and Basra, with its Arab Shiite majority. The British favored the Arab Sunnis to rule Iraq. During Iraq's formative years, its Arab nationalists, mainly Sunnis, tried to forge an identity tied to an idea that Iraq was part of the wider Arab nation. They relied on the army and schools to forge a national identity. But Shiites and Kurds resisted this approach, partly because the army was led by stridently pan-Arabist Sunni officers.
Decades of brutal rule under Saddam Hussein have eroded much of the Iraqi "national" identity that was shaped in the 20th century. Since his fall, ethnic identity has played a much stronger role than ever it did in the history of modern Iraq, if only because every community has been striving to secure political space and clout in the emerging government of Iraq.
At the same time, the attenuation of a collective identity has confronted Iraqis with a need to recreate one. Religion is emerging as a powerful instrument for solidarity and as a source for a new national myth. Significantly, the Iraqis did not liberate their country for themselves. Even during the U.S. takeover of Baghdad, the army dissolved rather than turn against the Saddam regime. This deprived Iraq of a national-resistance myth, similar to French Gaullism, upon which a new identity could be constructed (and by which an inevitable sense of national inadequacy, even emasculation, might be dispelled).
French pride was salvaged by the fact that Free French died alongside Allied forces in the liberation of their country. This, along with the romanticized theater of liberation, created a national-resistance myth underpinning French honor. A modern example might be the 1971 liberation of Bangladesh, in which Bangladeshi guerrillas fought alongside Indian soldiers to oust the Pakistani army. Indeed, India's generals ensured that liberation had a Bangladeshi face. By contrast, the liberation of Iraq had no Iraqi face.
In the absence of a shared identity of resistance, religious solidarity could easily become the basis for many anti-Western Iraqis to create a new identity based on fighting the coalition. This explains the appeal of Muqtada al-Sadr's movement to radical Iraqi Sunnis and shatters the view that Sunnis will not collaborate with insurgent Shiites, and vice versa. Herein lies the danger for the U.S., especially if hostility against coalition forces becomes synonymous with a rehabilitation of Iraqi pride.
Posted on: Tuesday, April 13, 2004 - 19:45
Sean Wilentz, in Salon (April 13, 2004):
National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice is a professional historian and political scientist. And so it was especially noteworthy when she testified under oath last week that the famous president's daily brief on al-Qaida from Aug. 6, 2001, contained "historical information based on old reporting" that did not warn of new attacks against the United States. If anyone in the White House should know the difference between "historical" and non-historical information, and its importance, it ought to be Rice, the former provost of Stanford University.
It turns out that Rice's testimony was misleading and possibly false. The PDB -- subsequently declassified after intense public pressure -- certainly contains then-current information based on continuing investigations. It specifically refers to "patterns of suspicious activity in this country consistent with preparations for hijackings or other types of attacks, including recent surveillance of federal buildings in New York."
Rice's mischaracterization seems to have been overlooked or forgiven by the press corps. To a citizen, this is shocking. But to a historian, Rice's conception of "history" and "historical information" is equally so....
Rice, and apparently President Bush, read historical documents like this one very differently. As she testified last week, the "historical information" of the PDB had little significance. The "history" was just old news, of no great importance. We'd known about bin Laden's intentions for a long time. So what?
To which a historian replies: So everything! The "historical information" contained in the Aug. 6, 2001, PDB took on entirely new meaning given what else was there and given the other intelligence flooding into Washington. It wasn't just that bin Laden had made threats: He had tried to carry out those threats and was apparently trying again, big time. Such was the situation at the time -- not in 1997 or 1998, but on Aug. 6, 2001.
Had Rice put her historical training to use, she would have seen this -- and, one hopes, counseled the president that something more than passivity was required. But she didn't. Perhaps she is not so sound a historian after all. (The American Historical Review's notice of her first book, a study of Russia and the Czech army after 1948, charged that Rice "frequently does not sift facts from propaganda and valid information from disinformation or misinformation" and that she "passes judgments and expresses opinions without adequate knowledge of the facts.") Or perhaps she decided to put aside her historian's skills in service to the president.
When questioned after his election about the more sordid features of his 1988 "Willie Horton" campaign, the elder President George H.W. Bush dismissed critics with a breezy remark: "That's history." A similar disregard for the actual significance of history and "historical information" seems to have guided his son and his son's top advisors in August 2001. And it seems to have guided the current national security advisor in her misleading testimony last week. More than anyone else in the White House, she should have known better. The scary thing is that maybe she does.
Posted on: Tuesday, April 13, 2004 - 19:24
David Brooks, in the NYT (April 13, 2004):
Twenty years ago, Secretary of State George Shultz went to the Park Avenue Synagogue in New York to give a speech about terrorism. Fighting a war on terrorism, he emphasized, means coping with uncertainty.
Terrorists operate outside the normal rules, Shultz observed. Because an attack is so hard to anticipate, he said,"our responses should go beyond passive defense to consider means of active prevention, pre-emption and retaliation. Our goal must be to prevent and deter future terrorist acts."
We can't wait for the sort of conclusive evidence that would stand up in a court of law."We cannot allow ourselves to become the Hamlet of nations, worrying endlessly over whether and how to respond." We have to take the battle to the terrorists so we can at least control the time and place of the confrontation.
And we have to plan these counteroffensives aware of how little we know for sure.
Facing such great uncertainties, Shultz continued, the president has to take extra care to prepare the electorate:"The public must understand before the fact that some will seek to cast any pre-emptive or retaliatory action by us in the worst light and will attempt to make our military and our policy makers — rather than the terrorists — appear to be the culprits. The public must understand before the fact that occasions will come when their government must act before each and every fact is known."
The Shultz speech opened a rift within the Reagan administration. Shultz's argument was that uncertainty forces us to be aggressive. Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger, on the other hand, argued that uncertainty should make us cautious. As one Weinberger aide told The Times,"The Pentagon is more aware of the downside of military operations and therefore is cautious about undertaking operations where the results are as unpredictable as in pre-emptive strikes against terrorists."
Shultz and Weinberger were clear and mature. Both understood there is no perfect answer to terror and both understood the downsides of their respective positions.
Two decades and a national tragedy later, it is hard to find anybody that consistent.
If you follow the 9/11 commission, you find yourself in a crowd of Shultzians. The critics savage the Clinton and Bush administrations for not moving aggressively enough against terror. Al Qaeda facilities should have been dismantled before 9/11, the critics say.
Then you look at the debate over Iraq and suddenly you see the same second-guessers posing as Weinbergerians. The U.S. should have been more cautious. We should have had concrete evidence about W.M.D.'s before invading Iraq....
Posted on: Tuesday, April 13, 2004 - 12:36
Bruce A. Williams, a professor in the Institute of Communications Research at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, in the Chronicle of Higher Education(April 12, 2004):
With the 2004 presidential-election campaign well under way, the invasion of Iraq has become a central concern. In debating the action's merits, we have an important opportunity to reflect on the impact on democratic politics of how our government mobilizes Americans for war.
In 1927 Harold D. Lasswell, who would go on to be one of the most influential political scientists of the 20th century, published his doctoral dissertation as a book entitled Propaganda Technique in the World War. A close study of the propaganda campaigns waged by both Central and Allied powers during World War I, the book bears rereading now as charges fly over whether or not intelligence estimates used to justify invading Iraq were just plain wrong or were distorted for political reasons. Though we may consider ourselves sophisticated when it comes to government uses of the news media to manipulate public opinion, the techniques chronicled by Lasswell, developed in the early decades of the 20th century, are still used at the dawn of the 21st. While we obscure their enduring power by calling them"spin" or"PR," rather than"propaganda," the methods used to mobilize populations in 1914 to 1918, to support a war that was fought for obscure reasons and that left tens of millions dead, are quite familiar to anyone who has lived through the buildup to the invasion of Iraq. The issue is less whether there is some truth to the propaganda claims made by government -- even the worst atrocity stories of World War I had a core of truth -- than the continuing implications for democracy of the techniques used by governments to mobilize populations for war.
Lasswell argued that mobilizing public opinion through propaganda was a prerequisite for modern war, since conflict had become total, requiring conscript armies and the marshaling of a nation's entire resources. The justification for war had to be widely understandable and capable of fostering total popular commitment to the conflict. Since it's difficult to communicate to a mass audience the inevitably complex and usually debatable reasons for one nation's use of force against another, the leader of the enemy state must be used to stand for the entire nation and then demonized. Lasswell meant the term quite literally: The enemy leader must be portrayed as the incarnation of evil, the devil himself. Sound familiar? Just as Saddam Hussein became the personification of both Iraq and evil, so too was Kaiser Wilhelm used by Allied propagandists in World War I.
While the strategy of demonization is familiar to us, so too are the problems it creates once the war ends. If the cause of war is an evil leader, then his elimination should be the solution. Once that leader is dead or captured, problems faced by the victors as they attempt to reconstruct a shattered society are no easier to explain to Americans today than they were to the Allied populations in the wake of World War I....
Posted on: Monday, April 12, 2004 - 16:44
David Greenberg, in the NYT (April 11, 2004):
A hundred years ago, most people voted for president strictly according to their party's line; having two regions or factions represented on the ticket made sense as a way to bolster party unity. But through the 20th century, power migrated from party bosses to the candidates. The nominee's image came to loom larger than his affiliation, and as a result the choice of running mate now matters mainly for what it says about the top contender himself....
The idea of balancing a ticket started in the 19th century, when candidates owed their livelihoods to the party bosses who ran state and city machines - and whose ability to turn out voters decided elections. At convention time, the bosses had to maintain harmony within the party so they could rally the troops in the fall. They kept peace by allocating nominations regionally, calibrating their tickets with one Northeasterner, usually from New York, and one Midwesterner, usually from Ohio or Indiana. In the 15 elections from 1864 to 1920, two-thirds of the major party candidates came from those three states.
Progressive Era reformers, who viewed party politics as corrupt, weakened the bosses' power by instituting changes like primaries, which gave voters a voice in picking presidential nominees. Later, with television's arrival, candidates could reach voters directly, further marginalizing the bosses.
But as late as 1944, the bosses still held sway. In 1940, President Franklin D. Roosevelt had stiffed the bosses and selected Henry A. Wallace as his No. 2. Four years later, however, the bosses, who considered Wallace a left-wing eccentric, struck back, replacing him with a respectable but nondescript Missouri senator, Harry S. Truman.
Still later, in 1952, it didn't even occur to Dwight D. Eisenhower, a political newcomer, to select his own understudy. When his adviser Herbert Brownell Jr. asked him his preference, he answered:"Gee, I don't know. I thought the convention handled that." Brownell polled Republican brokers, who liked Senator Richard M. Nixon.
When John F. Kennedy ran for president in 1960, he grasped that his own performance, not his running mate's home state, would be decisive. Nonetheless, he picked Lyndon B. Johnson, who he hoped (correctly) would carry Texas. Besides, conventional wisdom still held that a too-liberal ticket, especially on racial matters, would lose Southern votes. Indeed, for another generation the Democrats would often pair a Northerner with a Southerner to finesse conflicts on civil rights and related issues. The Republican Party similarly continued to offset a Rockefeller Republican with a staunch conservative, as with Ronald Reagan and George Bush in 1980.
By the 1980's, however, both parties had grown more ideologically uniform. Factionalism diminished, and with it the need for conciliatory gestures.
The final step was realizing that the choice of No. 2 provided a candidate with his first real chance to define himself. Reflecting the new calculus, in 1984 Walter F. Mondale decided on Geraldine A. Ferraro because, he said recently, he needed"a bold choice to change the political picture." Ms. Ferraro enlarged neither the ticket's geographic nor ideological appeal. What Mr. Mondale enhanced was his own image; his historic selection of a woman helped dispel - if briefly - perceptions that he was boring and meek. Mr. Clinton and others have operated in this vein.
Posted on: Monday, April 12, 2004 - 14:33
Anders Lewis, frontpagemag.com (April 9, 2004):
To the American Left in the 1960s, Hanoi was the Eternal City. It was the place to go to protest America's war in Vietnam and to express one's solidarity with Ho Chi Minh's Communist regime. In Hanoi one could find, according to Tom Hayden and Staughton Lynd, a “socialism of the heart” and a budding “rice-roots democracy.” “We suspect,” they observed, “that colonial American town meetings and current Vietnamese village meetings, Asian peasants leagues and Black Belt sharecroppers' unions have much in common….” It was also in Hanoi that one could, in Ramsey Clark's words, witness “the chief and universal cause of the revolutionary impulse,” namely “the desire for equality.” “You see no internal conflict in this country,” Clark happily reported. At least, he stated, “I've seen none.” Finally, it was in Hanoi that one could, in Susan Sontag's words, visit a place “which, in many respects, deserves to be idealized,” and see a people who “really do believe in the goodness of man….” 
Noam Chomsky was among those on the Left who traveled to Hanoi. In his At War With Asia (1970), the linguist-turned-activist fondly recounted how he found a country that was “unified, strong though poor, and determined to withstand the attack launched against [it] by the great superpower of the Western world.” Everywhere he went, Chomsky found people “healthy, well-fed, and adequately clothed.” Indeed, he saw great promise in Vietnamese Communism. “My personal guess is that, unhindered by imperialist intervention, the Vietnamese would develop a modern industrial society with much popular participation” and “direct democracy.” While in Hanoi, Chomsky broadcasted a speech of solidarity on behalf of the Communists. He declared that their heroism revealed “the capabilities of the human spirit and human will.” “Your cause,” he continued, “is the cause of humanity as it moves forward toward liberty and justice, toward the socialist society in which free, creative men control their own destiny.” Chomsky was so moved by his journey that, at one point, he proudly “sang songs, patriotic and sentimental, and declaimed poems” with his hosts. He admitted that some Western observers, those too encumbered by bourgeois prejudice, might find his actions distasteful. He was not concerned. “Let the reader think what he may,” Chomsky wrote. “The fact is,” the whole experience was “intensely moving.” 
Noam Chomsky went to Vietnam to protest a war he insisted was “simply an obscenity, a depraved act by weak and miserable men….”  He opposed the war in word and deed while it was being fought, and he continues to write against it today. In the 1960s, he aided antiwar students and participated in one of Boston's first antiwar demonstrations. He also joined the infamous October 1967 march on the Pentagon. Chomsky thought it was a glorious affair with “tens of thousands of young people surrounding what they believed to be - I must add that I agree - the most hideous institution on this earth.” He helped form the Committee of Concerned Asian Scholars (CCAS), an organization that demanded “total, immediate, [and] unilateral American withdrawal” from Vietnam. And in 1969, Chomsky supported the October 15 nationwide Moratorium Against the War in Vietnam. 
Chomsky has always been celebrated by the Left for his relentless opposition to the war. In 1969, Robert Sklar wrote a review of Chomsky's work for The Nation and glowed about his “remarkable scholarly tenacity and depth” and his “capacity for going beneath specific political issues to unveil their underlying cultural and ideological foundations….” A few years later, Simon Head argued that Chomsky's work on the war was “of great value in making sense of the present.” More recently, radical historian Howard Zinn has called Chomsky “the leading critic of America's involvement in Vietnam.” Noted anti-free trade activist Arundhati Roy, in a new forward to Chomsky's For Reasons of State (1972), praises him as “one of the greatest, most radical public thinkers of our time.” Finally, in 2003, Richard Falk argued that Chomsky was right about the Vietnam War. His judgments, Folk proposed, “stand brilliantly the test of time.” 
Chomsky's indictment of the war has not changed since the 1960s. To understand it, one could read an essay he published in 1968, or one published in 2003. For almost forty years, he has offered the same critique. It rests on four related points. First, Chomsky argues that Communism offered the Vietnamese people the opportunity for a democratic and prosperous future. Second, he argues that the Communist Democratic Republic of Vietnam (DRV), was not assisted by the Chinese or the Soviets. Similarly, he argues that the independent National Liberation Front (NLF or Vietcong), was a South Vietnamese political organization that was not controlled by the DRV. Third, Chomsky provides a Marxist interpretation of the war's origins. The U.S., be believes, went to Vietnam for economic reasons. Further, the corporate ruling class determined American foreign policy in Vietnam, and their major goal was boosting the power and profits of big business. Fourth, Chomsky argues that the U.S. resorted to Nazi-like acts of barbarity and repression to accomplish its goals, including the installment of a lackey government in South Vietnam (the Republic of Vietnam or RVN).
Chomsky's four point critique is extensive. He offers an epic and gripping story of American greed, ignorance, and cruelty contrasted with the grit and solidarity of the Vietnamese Communists. He views America as an evil colossus, an omnipotent and always unjust force inflicting its will on the innocent Vietnamese. The story of America in Vietnam is not, as some liberals might think, a story of a once noble effort that metamorphosized into a quagmire. Instead, it is the story of America's willful and intentional criminality – of its attempt to inflict genocide on the people of Southeast Asia. Chomsky's work makes for gripping and, if one did not know any better, disturbing reading. But alas, Chomsky's Vietnam epic is entirely wrong.
Chomsky's first point is his contention that Communism offered Vietnam the opportunity for a golden future. He argues that Ho Chi Minh and his comrades were fighting to bring about a new world of economic justice and national emancipation. Their goal was to establish a “good example” of non-capitalist development for other Third World nations to follow. The society they desired was one that would, as Chomsky stated while on his tour of Vietnam, enable free and creative men to control their own destiny. Chomsky also insists that the Vietnamese people overwhelmingly supported the Communists.
Much of Chomsky's first point rests on his analysis of the DRV's 1953-1956 land reform campaign, and on his dismissal of Communist atrocities. He believes that the land reform campaign, in which the Communists took land away from farmers and landlords and gave it to poor peasants, was an important and necessary achievement. For too long, Chomsky argues, Vietnamese peasants had suffered from gross economic inequalities. True, Chomsky concedes, some of the tactics used to implement the reforms were too aggressive, but the overall effect of the campaign was positive.
Chomsky propagated this view of the DRV's land reform campaign during the war and he has clung to it ever since. In 1967, he observed that, “if it were true that the consequences of not using terror would be that the peasantry in Vietnam would continue to live in the state of the peasantry of the Philippines, then I think the use of terror would be justified.”  In 1970, he admitted that some people were killed during the campaign but insisted that this was less important than the fact that land reform “laid the basis for a new society” that has “overcome starvation and rural misery and offers the peasants hope for the future.”  After the war, in a book that Chomsky co-wrote with Edward Herman, The Washington Connection and Third World Fascism (1979), he argued again that the reforms were much needed. He also insisted that they were not intended as political reprisal against opponents. Moreover, Communist leaders did not condone the violence associated with the reforms: “There is no evidence that the leadership ordered or organized mass executions of peasants.”  Further, they were “upset by the abuses,” and demonstrated a capacity to “keep in touch with rural interest and needs.” Most importantly, the land reform was an economic success. 
Because Chomsky viewed Vietnamese Communism as a viable alternative to capitalist development, he dismissed the violence associated with land reform as inconsequential. He dismissed, as well, numerous other Communist atrocities such as the 1968 massacre at Hue where Communists killed three thousand civilians. The Hue massacre, he argued, should be attributed to the U.S. 
Chomsky's first point is wrong. His romantic faith that Communism could work in Vietnam is contradicted by the fact that Communism simply can not work in any nation. It is an inherently flawed economic doctrine that inevitably leads to totalitarianism. F.A. Hayek, the great economic theorist, pointed this out long before the onset of the Vietnam War. In his Road to Serfdom (1944), Hayek cogently argued that because modern economies are too complex to be managed by even the brightest of state bureaucrats, centralized economic planning and control will destroy economic productivity. It will also give the state monopolistic control over the most basic decisions of life. In so doing, Communism will furnish the state control of the means for all human ends, and “whoever has sole control of the means must also determine which ends are to be served, which values are to be rated higher and which lower – in short, what men should strive for.”  Communism, Hayek argued, would never work and the human costs involved in trying to make it work would be terribly high.
Cold War developments proved Hayek correct. In Eastern Europe, North Korea, China, and the Soviet Union, Communism was a colossal nightmare. According to the authors of The Black Book of Communism (1999), Communism was responsible for the deaths of possibly 100 million people during the course of the 20 th century. Communism killed. It also ruined economies. In the Soviet Union, for example, Communism produced poverty, food shortages, denial of basic services, massive pollution, low rates of productivity, terrible health conditions, corruption, lack of educational opportunities, and high rates of alcoholism. In the 20 th century, as David Horowitz has argued, history demonstrated Communism's “utter bankruptcy and historic defeat.” 
Vietnamese Communism was no exception. Contrary's to Chomsky's thesis, the Vietnamese Communists were not progressive, popular, or capable of building a prosperous society. Instead, they were despotic. Their economic policies, in turn, were disastrous. These facts are clearly demonstrated by the Communist's political actions and economic program before, during, and after the Vietnam War.
In 1945, immediately after establishing the DRV, the Communists dedicated themselves to the elimination of all opposition. They strove to replicate the horrors of Soviet and Chinese Communism. In a 1951 speech, Ho Chi Minh (who had studied and lived in the Soviet Union) proudly declared that “Marx, Engles, Lenin, and Stalin are the common teachers for the world revolution.” He also expressed great confidence in the future because “We have the most clear-sighted and worthy elder brothers and friends of mankind – comrade Stalin and comrade Mao Tse-tung.”  Following his elder brothers, Ho established a one-party state with a secret police force and numerous detention camps for dissidents. He strove to liquidate Trotskyites, political dissidents, and even women who had married Frenchmen. “All those who do not follow the line which I lay down,” he threatened, “will be broken.” 
The DRV's land reform campaign was particularly vicious. Contrary to Chomsky, it did involve mass killings. Its purpose was to destroy wealthy and middling landowners by stealing their property and giving it to poor peasants. The result was large scale terror, paranoia, perhaps 100,000 dead, and many thousands more who were imprisoned. Moreover, top Party leaders, including Ho Chi Minh, instigated and directed the campaign. As William Duiker has pointed out in his Ho Chi Minh (2000), “there is ample evidence that much of the [violence associated with land reform] was deliberately inspired by Party leaders responsible for drafting and carrying out the program.”  Economically, it was a disaster. By following the model provided by China and killing thousands of productive and successful land holders, many of whom owned comparatively small plots of land, the Communists were insuring the demise of their economic policies. The DRV's land reform campaign was a monstrous act that paralleled similar efforts in the Soviet Union and China. As Michael Lind has written in his Vietnam: The Necessary War (1999), “Communist agriculture could not produce good harvests – but it repeatedly produced bumper crops of the dead.” 
After carrying out their brutal policies in the North, the Communists sought to extend their power to South Vietnam. In 1957, they launched a terrorist campaign against supporters of South Vietnamese leader Ngo Dinh Diem. Over the next several years, Vietcong guerillas assassinated tens of thousands of individuals and abducted thousands more. They also killed many thousands of innocent civilians by shelling towns and cities with rockets and mortars. 
The South Vietnamese, moreover, were not devoted to the Vietcong, as was clearly demonstrated during the 1968 Tet offensive when they refused to rally to the Communist cause – as the Communists believed they would. Nor, for that matter, were the North Vietnamese as supportive of the Communists as Chomsky argues. After the 1954 Geneva conference, there was a mass exodus of North Vietnamese into South Vietnam, including as many as one million Catholics. In fact, in the immediate months after the conference, almost ten times as many Vietnamese headed South as did those who went North.  During the war, millions of Vietnamese realized that the Communists were destroying their chances for democracy and economic development. The war's aftermath confirmed their suspicions and demonstrated what the true aims of the Communists were. It also proved the complete fallacy of Chomsky's first point.
In 1975, after taking Saigon, the Communists quickly extended their Stalinist dictatorship throughout South Vietnam.  The new Socialist Republic of Vietnam (SRV) was corrupt and tyrannical. Its Stalinist leaders trampled on individual rights and established a string of “reeducation camps” for anyone not sufficiently supportive of the new regime. They forced possibly one million or more people into these cruel and primitive camps for weeks, months, or years, and without any legal trials. Camp prisoners suffered from severe malnutrition, as well as malaria, and dysentery. One journalist who interviewed former inmates noted that prisoners commonly suffered “from limb paralysis, vision loss, and infectious skin diseases like scabies caused by long-term, closely-packed, dark living conditions.” Because of these inhumane conditions, many prisoners killed themselves.  The Communists also eliminated freedom of movement, requiring all citizens to carry internal passports. They eliminated all political parties and conducted bogus political elections. They closed down the free press that had existed in South Vietnam and created two official papers and one official television channel. They launched a racist pogrom against Vietnam's ethnic Chinese citizens.  They swept aside all southerners, including almost all NLF leaders, from positions of power. They also subjected all citizens to daily education sessions to promote the Party's power and to celebrate the words of Ho Chi Minh and other great Communist luminaries, including Stalin.  One official poem, written by the head of the Communist Party Committee of Culture, contained these moving lines:
Oh, Stalin! Oh, Stalin!
The love I bear my father, my mother, my wife, myself
It's nothing beside the love I bear you.
Oh, Stalin! Oh, Stalin!
What remains of the earth and of the sky!
Now that you are dead. 
All of this was deeply discouraging to the people of Vietnam. One former Communist official, General Pham Xuan An, commented “All that talk about ‘liberation' twenty, thirty years ago, all the plotting, all the bodies, produced this, this impoverished, broken-down country led by a gang of cruel and paternalistic half-educated theorists.” 
Under Communist rule, Vietnam became a totalitarian hell and an economic calamity. The workers paradise that Chomsky envisioned never came. Provided their opportunity to be free of American “imperialism,” the Vietnamese Communists – following the examples provided by China and the Soviet Union – used the economy to enrich themselves at the expense of the people they had professed to care so much for. They proved once again that Communism simply does not work. Since 1975, corruption has been rife, as has unemployment and poverty. Vietnam's per capita income and its GDP have remained extremely low. The peasantry has felt little incentive to work hard and is generally embittered. In 1988, parts of Vietnam suffered famine, with millions of people on the brink of death. Vietnam's educational system remains poor, as does its basic infrastructure. Prostitution, crime, and drug use plague the country.  One can go on and on but the point should be clear. Contrary to what Chomsky predicted, Vietnamese Communism has proven to be a total disaster.
The consequence of Communist rule was a mass exodus of as many as two million Vietnamese who fled Vietnam in small boats and rafts in the hopes of finding a better life in Indonesia, the Philippines, or the United States. Eventually, approximately one million Vietnamese came to the U.S., the nation that Chomsky believes is the enemy of the Vietnamese people. “There is no way out, no hope,” one individual declared, “….The best way to commit suicide is to take a boat. Either you go to the bottom of the ocean or to paradise – California.” 
Chomsky's response to the grim fate that has befallen Vietnam has been to rally to the SRV's defense and to blame everything on the U.S. In 1975 he celebrated Saigon's collapse.  In 1977 he declared that he would not sign any letter that would be distributed through the American media that protested human rights violations in Vietnam. In fact, he disputed claims that any significant violations were taking place and he reminded people of the “unprecedented savagery” of America's attack against Vietnam. He did acknowledge the existence of the reeducation camps, but insisted that some of the individuals in them deserved their fate. He also attacked the credibility of refugee reports, while happily using the reports of visitors to Vietnam who shared his politics. In later years, Chomsky simply argued that any problem that was occurring in Vietnam was the fault of the United States. The U.S. war, he insisted, guaranteed that the Communists would establish a Stalinist state. “Imposing harsh conditions on an impoverished Third World society,” he claimed, “….more or less compel[s] them to resort to draconian measures.”  Moreover, the SRV's reeducation camps were the best that could be expected, and the level of political repression was typical for a nation recovering after a war. 
Chomsky wants to absolve the Communists of their sins. This will not do. It was the Communists, not the U.S., that established a Stalinist state. They built the reeducation camps. They built the cult of personality around Ho Chi Minh, Stalin, and Mao. They killed, tortured, and imprisoned their political opponents. And they have destroyed, for some time to come, the hope that Vietnam could become a prosperous, productive, and democratic nation. To insist, as Chomsky does, that the U.S. is to blame for this tragic reality is to resort to Alice in Wonderland logic. It is to deny that the Communists were Communists, individuals who were doing nothing more than following the dictates of their own twisted ideology. These are facts, though for many on the Left such as Chomsky, they are embarrassing to acknowledge. As Doan Van Toai, a former Vietnamese revolutionary, has argued, intellectuals such as Chomsky have chosen to ignore or rationalize Vietnam's ugly fate. Astutely, Toai observes that such intellectuals will likely “continue to maintain their silence in order to avoid the profound disillusionment that accepting the truth about Vietnam means for them.” 
Chomsky's second point is his assertion that the DRV was independent of Soviet and Chinese aid and that the NLF was independent of Hanoi. Chomsky first advanced this point during the war. In 1972, he argued that “Administration spokesmen have held to the view that by destroying Vietnam we are somehow standing firm against Chinese or Russian aggression….One searches the record in vain for evidence of this policy.”  After the war, Chomsky reiterated this view. In What Uncle Sam Really Wants (1992), he argued that U.S. leaders simply invented the idea of a great North Vietnamese-Chinese-Soviet axis to scare Americans into supporting the war. Communism was not some ominous collection of powerful nations arrayed against the U.S. Instead, it was the idea that government should take care of its people, not the needs of an imperial power. This was not an acceptable idea to American imperialists. In Rethinking Camelot (1993), Chomsky wrote that “it was Ho Chi Minh's ‘ultranationalism' that made him unacceptable, not his services to the ‘Kremlin conspiracy' or ‘Soviet expansion'….”  The war, he contends, was an act of aggression against an independent nation that was unaided by the two great Communist superpowers. It was also an act of aggression against the NLF, a popular and nationalistic South Vietnamese organization that advocated popular economic and social programs. NLF authority, Chomsky writes approvingly, was “decentralized and placed in the hands of local people, in contrast to the rule of the U.S. client regime, perceived as ‘outside forces' by major segments of the local population.” NLF policies, particularly its land reforms, benefited the great mass of poor peasants. Moreover, Northerners did not influence the NLF, and did not become directly involved in the struggle against the United States until after 1965. The war, according to Chomsky, must be characterized as an “invasion” by the U.S. into a nation that simply refused to kowtow to American imperialism. 
Chomsky's second point can not be sustained. Scholars who have had access to Vietnamese, Soviet, and Chinese sources have now firmly established that both the Soviet Union and China provided the DRV with substantial military and economic assistance during the war. They have also established that Hanoi controlled the NLF. 
Chinese aid to the Communists was essential in the 1950s and the 1960s. At the 1954 Battle of Dien Bien Phu, Chinese advisers directed the Communist dominated Viet Minh army. China also furnished the Viet Minh with food, trucks, oil, canons, guns, artillery shells, and millions of bullets. Chinese aid enabled the Viet Minh's victory over the French.  From 1953 to 1956, China played a key role in assisting the North Vietnamese land reform campaign. Chinese Communists trained many of the campaign's leaders. The DRV official who directed the program, General Secretary Truong Chinh, was a well known supporter of Mao and the Marxist idea of class war. The killing of class enemies, Chinh believed, was a necessary component of the Vietnamese Revolution.  Finally, from 1965 to 1968 - as Qiang Zhai has pointed out in his recent, China and the Vietnam Wars (2000) - Mao sent 320,000 support troops to North Vietnam. China also supplied surface-to-air missiles, artillery, and essential logistical assistance.  The Chinese and the Vietnamese Communists celebrated their joint efforts and appreciated the bloody results. In one remarkable conversation that Mao had with North Vietnamese premier Pham Van Dong, and military leader Le Duc Anh, the Great Helmsman took particular pleasure in learning what effect Chinese anti-tank weapons had on American soldiers:
Pham Van Dong : Tanks will melt when they are hit by this weapon.
Le Duc Anh : And the drivers will be burnt to death.
Mao Zedong : Good. Can we produce more of this? One no longer needs to search in vain for evidence of Chinese support for the Vietnamese Revolution. Nor does one have to search in vain to find enough evidence to realize that Soviet assistance was also of fundamental importance to the DRV. According to the Oxford University Encyclopedia of the Vietnam War (1998), total Soviet bloc aid from 1955 to 1961 was over $1 billon. The Soviets supplied loans to build dozens of industrial plants and numerous power stations. By 1971, the Soviet Union had provided up to $3 billion in economic and military aid to North Vietnam.  Soviet military assistance included T-54 tanks, SA-7 Strela anti-aircraft missiles, and thousands of SA-2 surface-to air–missiles. Soviet aid, moreover, continued long after the war was over. In 1983, the Soviets were supplying the Vietnamese up to $4 million a day in economic and military aid. 
 The reference to Hanoi as the Eternal City is taken from Roger Kimball. See Roger Kimball, The Long March: How the Cultural Revolution of the 1960s Changed America (San Francisco: Encounter Books, 2000), pp.127-144. Hayden and Lynd are quoted in John Patrick Diggins, The Rise and Fall of the American Left (New York: W.W. Norton, 1992), pp.240-241, and in Todd Gitlin, The Sixties: Years of Hope, Days of Rage (New York: Bantam Books, 1987), p.266. Clark is quoted in Paul Hollander, Political Pilgrims: The Travels of Western Intellectuals to the Soviet Union, China, and Cuba (New York: Harper and Row, 1981), 271. Sontag is quoted in Norman Podhoretz, Why We Were In Vietnam (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1982), pp.90-91.
 Noam Chomsky, At War With Asia (New York: Vintage Books, 1970), pp.259-287. The speech Chomsky gave in Hanoi can be found on Frontpage magazine at: http://frontpagemag.com . In personal correspondence with me, Chomsky stated he “can't either confirm or deny” that he gave it. The speech is, however, entirely consistent with what he wrote in At War With Asia , and with his general stance towards the war. Chomksy also sought to deny what he wrote. When I confronted him with the fact that he “sang songs, patriotic and sentimental, and declaimed poems,” with the Communists, he wrote back: “I'll be interested to see where I produced the ‘words' that you have just invented and attributed to me….I realize that you feel it is your right to fabricate arbitrary slanders, but don't you think that this is going a little too far?” It was a stunning response. Chomsky's efforts, as well as the efforts of all the other activists who traveled to Hanoi, were warmly welcomed by the North Vietnamese. “Visits to Hanoi…” by American antiwar activists, one North Vietnamese Communist has commented, “gave us confidence that we should hold on in the face of battlefield reverses.” Quoted in Victor Davis Hanson, Carnage and Culture: Landmark Battles in the Rise of Western Power (New York: Anchor, 2001), p.416.
 Noam Chomsky, American Power and the New Mandarins (New York: New Press, 2002), p.9.
 On Chomsky's antiwar activities see Milan Rai, Chomsky's Politics (London: Verso, 1995); Keith Windschuttle, “The Hypocrisy of Noam Chomsky,” NewCriterion.com , May 2, 2003; The Committee of Concerned Asian Scholars, The Indochina Story (New York: Bantam, 1970); Harry Summers Jr., The Vietnam War Almanac (New York: Ballantine Books, 1985), pp.118-119.
 Robert Sklar, “The Intellectual Power Elite,” The Nation , March 24, 1969. Simon Head, “Story Without End,” The New York Review of Books , August 9, 1973. See Roy's foreword in the new edition of Chomsky's For Reason of State (New York: The New Press, 2003), pp.vii-xx. Roy adds a few exciting twists to the Left's attack against the war by blasting the U.S. for all the “dead birds, the charred animals, the murdered fish,” and yes, the “incinerated insects.” See Roy's foreword in the new edition of Chomsky's For Reason of State (New York: The New Press, 2003), pp.vii-xx. Zinn's comments are contained in the New Press edition of American Power and the New Mandarins , cited above, pp.iii-ix. Falk's comments were posted to the H-DIPLO website on July 23, 2003. See: http://www.h-net.org/~diplo.
 Quoted in Windschuttle, “The Hypocrisy of Noam Chomsky.”
 Chomsky, At War With Asia , pp.280-281.
 Noam Chomsky and Edward S. Herman, The Washington Connection and Third World Fascism: The Political Economy of Human Rights, Volume I (Boston: South End Press, 1979), p.432.
 Ibid, pp.342-345.
 Chomsky, For Reasons of State , pp.230-232.
 F.A. Hayek, The Road to Serfdom (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1944), p.101.
 David Horowitz, The Politics of Bad Faith: The Radical Assault on America's Future (New York: The Free Press, 1998), p.96. Stephane Courtois, Nicolas Werth, Jean-Louis Panne, Andrzej Paczkowski, Karel Bartosek, and Jean-Louis Margolin, The Black of Communism: Crimes, Terror, and Repression (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1999), p.4. Also see Richard Pipes, Communism: A History (New York: Modern Library, 2001). Robert Conquest, Reflections on a Ravaged Century (New York: W.W. Norton, 2000).
 Quoted in Bernard Fall, Ho Chi Minh on Revolution: Selected Writings, 1920-1966 (New York: Signet Books, 1967), pp.188-208.
 Courtois, et al, The Black of Communism , pp.565-575. Ho Chi Minh is quoted in Michael Lind, Vietnam: The Necessary War (New York: Touchstone, 1999), p.241.
 William Duiker, Ho Chi Minh: A Life (New York: Hyperion, 2000), p.475. Also see Courtois, et al, The Black of Communism , p.569.
 Courtois, et al, The Black of Communism , pp.569-570. Also see Lind, Vietnam: The Necessary War , p.151-156. Also see Spencer Tucker ed., The Encyclopedia of the Vietnam War: A Political, Social, and Military History (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1998), pp.447-448.
 Tucker, ed, The Encyclopedia of the Vietnam War , p.448. Guenter Lewy, America in Vietnam (New York: Oxford University Press, 1978), pp.272-274.
 See Lind, Vietnam: The Necessary War , p.149.
 The Communist victory in Vietnam and the U.S. withdrawal from Southeast Asia promoted the fall of Laos to the Communist Pathet Lao, and the Khmer Rouge's genocidal massacre in Cambodia. The dominoes, as American leaders predicted, did fall. The Communist victory in Vietnam also encouraged Soviet proxies in Ethiopia, Angola, Afghanistan, Nicaragua, and elsewhere.
 See Tucker, ed., The Encyclopedia of the Vietnam War , p.348. Doan Van Toai and David Chanoff, The Vietnamese Gulag (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1986). For an informative report on Vietnam written three years after the war see Carl Gershman, “After the Dominoes Fell,” Commentary , May, 1978.
 See Stephen J. Morris, Why Vietnam Invaded America: Political Culture and the Causes of War (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1999), chapter 7.
 See Robert Templer, Shadows and Wind: A View of Modern Vietnam (New York: Penguin Books, 1998).
 Quoted in Podhoretz, Why We Were In Vietnam , p.202
 Quoted in Hanson, Carnage and Culture , p.427.
 Templer, Shadows and Wind .
 Quoted in Henry Kamm, Dragon Ascending: Vietnam and the Vietnamese (New York: Arcade Publishing, 1996), p.238. George Herring, America's Longest War: The United States and Vietnam , 3 rd ed. (New York: McGraw Hill, 1996), p.302.
 At what Howard Zinn has called the war's last teach-in, Zinn, Chomsky, and the participants were joyous upon hearing of the fall of Saigon. “In the midst of the proceedings,” Zinn recalls, “a student came racing down the aisle with a dispatch in his hand, shouting ‘Saigon has fallen. The war is over,' and the auditorium exploded in cheers.” See Zinn's forward in Chomsky, American Power and the New Mandarins , p.viii.
 C.P. Otero ed., Chomsky: Language and Politics (Montreal: Black Rose Books, 1988), p.560. In 1977, Chomsky stated that he would sign “an appropriately worded protest” of human rights violations if it would be released through a country such as Sweden. He refused to sign any protest through the American mass media because it “supported the war through its worst atrocities.” See C.P. Otero, ed. Noam Chomsky: Radical Priorities (Montreal: Black Rose Books, 1981), pp.62-80. These statements nicely reflect Chomsky's efforts to avoid moral responsibility for his positions. He was quite happy to use the media to attack the war in Vietnam, but he will not use it to call attention to the SRV's human rights violations. Further, I have found no evidence that he has ever published any indictment of the SRV, either in the American or the Swedish media. To this day, he simply refuses to part ways with his Vietnamese comrades. When I asked him, in personal correspondence, to cite one book or article he had written that denounces the SRV, he responded: “Your…question is quite comical. I'll be glad to answer as soon as you send me the books in which you have condemned the murderous atrocities for which you share responsibility….And if you really cannot comprehend why this is the right answer, I'm afraid you are placing yourself well beyond the bounds of possible discussion.”
 Noam Chomsky and Edward S. Herman, After the Cataclysm: Postwar Indochina & the Reconstruction of Imperial Ideology. The Political Economy of Human Rights: Volume II (Boston: South End Press, 1979), pp.61-118. Chomsky argues that the U.S. actually won the war because it accomplished its goal of destroying Vietnam's chance to provide a “good example” of Third World economic development.
 Doan Van Toai, “A Lament for Vietnam,” The New York Times , March 19, 1981.
 Chomsky, “Vietnam: How Government Became Wolves,” The New York Review of Books , June 15, 1972.
 Noam Chomsky, What Uncle Sam Really Wants (Tucson: Odonian Press, 1992), p.10. Noam Chomsky, Rethinking Camelot: JFK, the Vietnam War, and U.S. Political Culture (Boston: South End Press, 1993), p.22.
 Chomsky, Rethinking Camelot , pp.56-63 and pp.90-93. Also see Noam Chomsky and Edward S. Herman, Manufacturing Consent: The Political Economy of the Mass Media (New York: Pantheon, 1988), pp.188-190.
 See the introduction and chapter 2 in Marc Jason Gilbert ed., Why The North Won the Vietnam War (New York: Palgrave, 2002). Gilbert writes that “it was Chinese and Soviet military aid that helped North Vietnam survive American escalation and eventually win the war.” George Herring, in turn, writes that Soviet and Chinese aid “played a crucial role in Hanoi's ability to resist U.S. military pressures.”
 John Lewis Gaddis, We Now Know: Rethinking Cold War History (New York: Oxford University Press, 1997), pp.161-163. Also see Morris, Why Vietnam Invaded America , p.125.
 Duiker, Ho Chi Minh , p.477.
 Qiang Zhai, China and the Vietnam Wars, 1950-1975 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2000), p.135. Also see Chen Jian, Mao's China and the Cold War (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2001).
 Odd Arne Westad, Chen Jian, Stein Tonnesson, Nguyen Vu Tung, and James G. Hershberg, “77 Conversations between Chinese and Foreign Leaders on the Wars in Indochina, 1964-1977,” Cold War International History Project Working Paper No.22 (Washington: Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, May 1998).
 Tucker ed., The Encyclopedia of the Vietnam War , pp.448-449.
 Summers, The Vietnam War Almanac , p.316. Also see Ilya Gaiduk, The Soviet Union and the Vietnam War (Chicago: Ivan Dee, 1996).
Posted on: Friday, April 9, 2004 - 17:07
Arnold Beichman, in the Washington Times (April 9, 2004):
The mutilation and gruesome display of four Americans in Fallujah, Iraq, last week raises a topic seldom openly discussed in the Middle East: the unusual kind of sadistic violence, historic in Iraq, reflecting the ethos of Iraqis when politically aroused.
What Iraqis in the street did to the Americans was copy what Saddam had been doing for years, by one form of torture or another, to the Iraqi people who accepted it as legitimate. In fact, Iraqi governance has for almost a half-century been based on the kind of violence that befell the American civilians. I will illustrate this anecdotally.
On a 1964 reporting tour of the Middle East, I entered Iraq. A year earlier, on Feb. 8, 1963, the military dictatorship of Abdel Karim Kassem, a general who had led the 1958 overthrow of the Western-allied Iraqi monarchy of King Feisal, was overthrown. Kassem was executed. His bloodied, uniformed corpse was sprawled over his office chair. Television cameras focused an entire day on the dead general as a still shot.
During my stay in Baghdad my wife and I were invited to an Egyptian Embassy party celebrating the country's independence day, There we met a charming English-speaking Iraqi diplomat and his American wife. They insisted we accompany them as their guests to an open-air Baghdad nightclub where we were entertained by a magician and Western dance music.
The next morning, I dropped into the U.S. Embassy for the pro forma briefing before embarking on my own interviews, I mentioned to the embassy officer how generously the Iraqi diplomat, head of the Foreign Ministry's protocol office, and his wife had entertained us. The embassy officer went to his office safe, twirled the knob, pulled out a folder, riffled through some 8x10 photos and tossed one at me with the question:
"Is that your protocol friend?"
It was, indeed, but in a rather frightening pose. After the overthrow July 14, 1958, of King Feisal, the king and his family and Prime Minister Nuri Pasha al-Said all were executed. But that wasn't enough. Their bodies then were tied to automobile rear bumpers and driven, auto horns blaring, through the streets of Baghdad.
And after that grisly tour through Baghdad streets, the mutilated corpses were hanged from a stretched steel cable for all to see. The photograph the U.S. Embassy officer produced showed my Iraqi protocolist bare-chested in shorts, with an eye-popping grin, pointing his forefinger at the dangling mangled cadavers. And then the embassy officer showed me the same photograph reduced to the size of tourist postcards which were sent around the Arab world with a legend in Arabic describing the photo....
... in the Middle East, no maxim has greater legitimacy than "the enemy of my enemy is my friend."
Posted on: Friday, April 9, 2004 - 16:21
Paul Belien, editor of the Flemish quarterly Secessie, in the WSJ (April 8, 2004):
Tonight, Belgian television will show the BBC documentary"White King, Red Rubber, Black Death," about Belgian King Leopold II's reign of terror in his private Congo colony in 1885-1908. The documentary, hardly the stuff of controversy anywhere else, almost didn't make it onto the airwaves here.
Louis Michel, the Belgian foreign minister, and the Royal Palace both pressured state television not to broadcast"White King." The Royal Palace expressed its" concern" about the documentary's"historical accuracy.""This is a partisan work and its thesis is completely one-sided," Mr. Michel said."The film is a biased diatribe."
As a compromise the state television documentary was"put into the right context" by Belgian"specialists." Jan Van den Berghe of Belgian television says:"We have had the facts qualified by Belgian specialists such as the curator of the Royal Museum of Central Africa in Tervuren."
The blood-stained history of the former Congo Free State isn't much in dispute anywhere except in Belgium, where it is seldom mentioned. The CFS was a private colony of Leopold II's until 1908 when he sold it to Belgium. He turned the CFS into a labor camp, laying the foundation of his immense personal fortune. His managers on the ground -- the king never set foot in the Congo himself -- used mutilation and killing to get the natives to bring in the rubber. Often, wives and children were taken hostage without food or water to speed up the work. In the 23 years of CFS rule, about half the Congo's 20 million inhabitants perished.
But why should Belgians of today deny this history, or get upset about a BBC documentary? A major reason is the artificial nature of the Belgian state. Francophone Belgian newspapers suggested last week that by discrediting Leopold II's record, the BBC tarnished the image of Belgium's monarchy today, thereby undermining Belgian national unity. The Belgian state houses two peoples -- Dutch-speaking Flemings and French-speaking Walloons -- in an uneasy balance.
The monarchy is seen by many as the glue keeping a state together that lacks a unifying national identity. Leopold understood the problem. He thought a common project of colonization by Flemings and Walloons would bring the nation together. In his diary in 1861, he wrote it was"a patriotic duty" to create"a Belgian Empire." The Belgians, lacking in nationalist feelings, wanted nothing to do with Leopold's dream. For years, until international indignation forced Belgium to take over in 1908, Belgian politicians kept their distance. Jules Malou, a late 19th century prime minister, said that he assumed it to be"not a bad thing that a King like ours should have a favorite hobby to drain off his surplus energy."
However, Leopold had his Belgian supporters, mostly among the French-speaking half of the country then more committed to building Belgium. Leon Hennebicq, in 1904, called Belgium"the laboratory of Europe.""Indeed," he wrote,"we are a nation under construction." The country is characterized by an identity of non-identity. Belgium is a post-national state and as such, according to some, the model for the future Federal Europe.
The central role is played by the king. Being neither Fleming nor Walloon, the king is an independent arbiter. No one may ever question his motives. Without the civic glue that binds countries with a national identity, Belgium would not have survived but for its social welfare system and its royal family."The monarchy is the only way to keep an artificial country such as Belgium together. In a homogeneous country, I would be a republican, but not in Belgium," Belgium's Socialist leader Louis Tobback said in 2001....
Posted on: Thursday, April 8, 2004 - 19:25
Gil Troy, in the Montreal Gazette (April 04, 2004)
It is generally recognized that America's military triumph brought, as one observer noted,"absolute ruin ... old men, old women, young women, children from tots to teens carrying packs, pushing carts, pulling carts, evidently ejected by the conquerors and carrying what they could of their belongings to no where in particular."
The looting following the U.S. bombardment only intensified the misery. Contemplating the devastation in Germany , 1945 - not Iraq , 2003 - months after Berlin fell, President Harry Truman remarked,"What a pity that the human animal is not able to put his moral thinking into practice! I fear that machines are ahead of morals by some centuries."
Ours is an age of instant history. The perpetual, 24/7 news cycle bombards us with dramatic pronouncements and quick verdicts - even before events have finished. Yet the more complicated a historical process might be, the more time it needs to gel. Most lasting historical changes take hold with slow-acting cement rather than with instant crazy glue. That is why, even after a year, the hasty announcements of both victory and defeat in Iraq are ill-advised and premature.
Reconstruction sounds benign and progressive but it is almost always messy and nasty. The"occupiers" and the natives seeking to wrench Germany and Japan from their ugly pasts in the 1940s were lucky that there was no CNN to cover each misstep, every policy clash, all the chaos and the suffering - which lasted for years. Contrary to our nostalgia-tinged recollections of postwar Germany , Truman in 1945 noted that the Soviets had exacted"retribution to the nth degree."
There were purges throughout Europe as collaborators in hated regimes were removed, often forcibly. The much-vaunted"denazification" process in Germany petered out relatively quickly but the great German economic miracle - like the great Japanese recovery -- took years to nurture.
Historian David Reynolds reports that in Germany"the days of ruin, famine and barter" lasted at least until 1947, and in 1950 - five years after the war - unemployment was still in the double digits, while two-thirds of German households"had no living room and less than half had access to a bath."
In Japan , the situation was so unstable that amid a sustained campaign of strikes, protests and industrial sabotage - what we would call (low-level) terrorism - the Joint Chiefs of Staff warned Truman that if Japan succumbed to Communism," Russia would gain, thereby, an additional war-making potential equal to 25 per cent of her capacity." The spectre of China - which had already fallen to the Communists - haunted America 's Asia experts.
Conflicts regarding how to proceed compounded the challenges of pacifying, purging, rebuilding, and re-educating. In 1947, American policy-planners were still weighing the risks of rebuilding Germany and Japan as either industrial or military powers. Former secretary of the treasury Henry Morgenthau, Jr,. wanted to see Germany deindustrialized; former president Herbert Hoover wrote a special report envisioning a rebuilt Germany as the economic engine of a prospering and free Europe .
The division of Germany into American, British, French and Russian occupation zones fed the chaos. Even the three non-Communist allies clashed. In 1949, as the U.S. State Department followed the Hoover recommendations unofficially, the Allies mollified the French by dismantling the Hermann Goerling steel works, eliminating 3,000 desperately-needed jobs.
With the policy-makers' penchant for fighting the last war, Americans and their allies debated how to avoid the mistakes of the First World War - the"war to end all wars" that led to a bigger war, partially because of the lingering resentments over the way the war ended.
Posted on: Thursday, April 8, 2004 - 18:54
Derek Catsam, Fellow, Virginia Foundation for the Humanities, in Safundi:
In April ten years ago a remarkable thing happened. Many have called it a “miracle,” but that seems rather to ignore the human agency of more than four decades of struggle against an apartheid system that had made South Africa a skunk among nations. South Africa may have become a “Rainbow Nation of God,” in Bishop Tutu's apt phrase, but it was largely because of years of fighting, resistance, sacrifice, and loss.
Who can forget the image of some of Afrikanerdom's most staunch defenders, the men of the military, saluting Nelson Mandela as their planes flew overhead in honor of the relatively peaceful transition from National Party rule to African National Congress ascendancy? In the darkest years of apartheid in the mid-80s, when P.W. Botha, Die Groot Krokodile, imposed onerous states of emergency and stood steadfast in the face of the world with his much anticipated and highly disappointing “Rubicon” speech while allowing his security forces to run roughshod over the Southern tip of Africa, who ever would have dreamed that Africa's most affluent and powerful country would be led by a Xhosa from the erstwhile Transkei?
Yet it happened. And in 1999, when Mandela pointedly chose not to run for a second term, unlike his lessers who took presidencies for life across the continent, Thabo Mbeki took office bloodlessly, almost seamlessly. Soon Mbeki will begin a second term that will hopefully be his last. There is no telling, of course, whether Mbeki will prove to be a vital transitional figure in South African history, or if his occasional megalomania will manifest in an attempt to change the Constitution and serve a third term. One hopes that Mbeki's discretion, or, barring that, the civil infrastructure of this new South Africa will be firmly entrenched enough to prevent Mbeki from doing what so many African leaders before him have done, namely made their countries' coffers their own, taken power through force, and abandoned all of the hope and promise that came with the fall of the colonial control that held the continent for much of the twentieth century.
One of the most contentious and yet important undertakings of the past ten years was the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Headed by Desmond Tutu and operating with a mandate from both the provisional Government of National Unity and the permanent constitutional structure that took its place, the TRC forged through South Africa 's grimmest past in hopes of revealing long-obfuscated truths and thus bringing about reconciliation. This effort was imperfect at best, but one must assume that South Africa today would have been worse without it. It was only through the work of the Commission that individual victims' voices could rise and merge with those of others in a chorus of cleansing and tears and anger and frustration and loss and longing and love that, while painful for many was absolutely necessary. Further, amnesty hearings allowed the perpetrators of apartheid's bureaucratic and martial mechanism to come forth and seek a form of absolution after testimony. This effort was at times problematic, as murderers and rapists and thugs and thieves and criminals and bigots and racists often times told half truths, continuing to keep their secrets and thus to torture their victims evermore. But even amidst this rogues' gallery many facts came to light, truths to bear. Many of us have mixed feelings about Dirk Coetzee and Eugene “Prime Evil” de Kock, but their revelations did more good than harm to a country struggling to reconcile a painful past with a hopeful present.
What the future holds is impossible to glean. Poverty and AIDS and the lingering manifestation of decades of racism have fueled a level of mistrust that may be a long time in dissipating. Thabo Mbeki has many issues to confront, including his own proclivities towards power mongering, his sometimes mystifying seeming obeisance to Robert Mugabe, or at least to what he believes Mugabe once was, and his truly vexing positions on AIDS. But these are many of the questions of a civil society in flux, of a liberal democracy dealing with mixed constituencies. If in 1984 someone had painted a picture of this South Africa to those who today read Safundi that person would have been seen as blithely whistling through the graveyard, ignorant of South African society and history. Now, twenty years after South Africa entered its grimmest years, ten years after Mandela took the oath of office, the New South Africa, that Rainbow Nation of God, forges ahead. It is not a miracle. Perfections notwithstanding, it is something far better, far more beautiful and inspiring.
Posted on: Thursday, April 8, 2004 - 18:26
Mark A. Peterson, in Common-Place.org (April 2004):
...The outcry against gay marriage rests on the assumption that marriage is a"natural" institution rooted in timeless religious and cultural practices. But President Bush and his supporters have got their history wrong, at least with respect to religion, government, and marriage in Massachusetts. The Puritan colonists who founded Massachusetts might not have welcomed same-sex households, but they were not afraid to use the power of government to redefine marriage. And they surely would have agreed with today's gay-marriage advocates that the state and its concern for fairness, not the church and its concern for sanctity, should govern the social rules for joining two people in perpetual union.
The English Puritans who founded Massachusetts in 1630 formed a society as committed to religion as any in history. But for them, marriage was a civil union, a contract, not a sacred rite. In early Massachusetts, weddings were performed by civil magistrates rather than clergymen. They took place in private homes, not in church buildings. No one wore white or walked down the aisle. Even later, when it became customary for ministers to preside at weddings (still held in private homes), the clergy's authority was granted by the state, not the church.
Massachusetts' founders insisted on civil unions, not as a reluctant compromise with the state, but as a direct outgrowth of their religious beliefs. Puritans were dissenters from the Church of England, which like the Catholic Church treated marriage as a sacrament. In England, the king was"defender of the faith," bishops sat in the House of Lords, and the Church of England had legal authority over all religious matters, including marriage. Puritans strongly opposed this system. They wanted to adhere strictly to the Bible in shaping their forms of worship, but as they read it, the New Testament offered no precedent for bishops, ecclesiastical courts, and royal control over religion. What's more, they held that the Bible sanctioned only baptism and communion as sacraments, since these were the only sacraments that Jesus took part in himself.
Marriage remained important to Puritans (it was often used as a metaphor for the divine love between believers and God), but they wanted to remove it from the realm of sacred authority, leaving only the sacraments under church control. This radical change was impossible to achieve in England, where the unified church and state used its power to persecute dissenters. But when they migrated to Massachusetts, the Puritan founders were free to shape their new society according to their beliefs. As a result, Massachusetts had no bishops, no ecclesiastical courts. The state regulated all aspects of the marriage process, from"publishing the banns"–an announcement of the intent to marry that was an early predecessor to the marriage license–to the marriage ceremony, the giving of dowries, property and inheritance rights, and in rare cases, divorce....
Posted on: Thursday, April 8, 2004 - 18:14
Philip Bobbitt, the author of the forthcoming War on Terror, holds the Walker Centennial Chair at the University of Texas Law School; in the NYT (April 4, 2004):
The idea of ''the enemy'' is uncongenial to the countries of the post-cold-war West, countries that until recently believed they had no natural predators. Two new titles address the post-Sept. 11 recognition that we do indeed have enemies in the world.
Ian Buruma and Avishai Margalit's book ''Occidentalism: The West in the Eyes of Its Enemies'' is written against the backdrop of the late Edward Said's influential work ''Orientalism.'' Said drew attention to the West's elaborately constructed accounts of an exotic East, and to the grotesque generalizations of the many writers who depicted an Orient where life was cheap, the mentality inscrutable and people were either hopelessly passive or irrationally volatile.
As Said noted in one of his last essays, however, many in the Middle East had themselves ''slipped into an easy anti-Americanism that shows little understanding of what the U.S. is really like as a society.'' They had adopted their own kind of overgeneralizations about ''the Other,'' the West of the East. Buruma, a noted British journalist, and Margalit, a professor of philosophy at Hebrew University, call this ''Occidentalism,'' and in their fine book they show that although such an image serves the purpose of militant Islamism, its history is far older than Al Qaeda and its influence far wider than Asia.
Occidentalism consists of a complex of assumptions about Western culture -- that it is arrogant, materialistic, secular, superficial and rootless, and that the United States, against which such charges are scarcely without foundation, is its chief representative. The authors discover the origin of this stereotype not in the East, however, but in the reaction of elements within the West itself to the universalist ideals of the Enlightenment, a reaction that then spread to non-Western societies.
This claim is the most ambitious and impressive aspect of ''Occidentalism,'' and yet as an argument it surely needs further development. Heidegger, Pol Pot and Mao Zedong may all have despised the cosmopolitan city, with its political corruption, loose sexual mores and commercialized glamour. Solzhenitsyn, Osama bin Laden and Herder may all have preached against sterile rationalism and the instrumental, secular view of life. But it is unpersuasive to locate the universalizing goals of Maoism in the ideas of the supremely localist Counter-Enlightenment, and just as unpersuasive to link the blood-and-culture movements of the Counter-Enlightenment to radical, global Islam. Buruma and Margalit are on firmer ground when they show that all these elements are united in their portrayal of the cowardly West as so weakened by its addiction to material pleasures that it is unable to make the sacrifices necessary for its own defense.
If Occidentalism can be found in the minds of Al Qaeda's supporters, it also makes an appearance in the writings of some of the West's defenders, like Lee Harris, the author of ''Civilization and Its Enemies: The Next Stage of History.'' The title of this work brings to mind classic predecessors: Freud's ''Civilization and Its Discontents'' and Karl Popper's ''Open Society and Its Enemies.'' Unlike Buruma and Margalit, Harris does not strive to complement earlier work so much as to extend it to the contemporary political scene. Bin Laden, the Palestine Liberation Organization and the Iraq of Saddam Hussein are treated to a socio-psychological critique that would not be out of place in a Freudian analysis of a family: by bestowing unearned wealth, status and even statehood on certain groups, Harris argues, the West has encouraged their ''fantasy ideologies,'' which intoxicate and decivilize them. As a consequence, we face antagonists who, regardless of our attempts to placate them, have made us their enemies for no other reason than that they profoundly wish to be our enemies. Because we do not appreciate this dynamic, we persist in trying to propitiate rather than confront them.
Much as Popper once attacked illiberal dogmatism, Harris now reproves the liberal West. In its complacency and comfort, it has forgotten the basis of its own existence -- namely, a ruthlessness that it once practiced. We need, he says, to attend to the lesson of Kurosawa's ''Seven Samurai'' -- that only violent men of honor can save us from the violent thugs who beset us. Unfortunately, he says (in his own display of Occidentalism), we have so debased our virility, our sense of shame and honor, that we risk not being able to produce men who can honorably practice the ruthlessness required to protect our society.
Posted on: Thursday, April 8, 2004 - 17:11
Juan Cole, in his blog (April 1, 2004):
The Iraqi minister of Housing and Rebuilding, Bayan Baqir al-Zubaidi, denied Wednesday that the current Iraqi governing council had passed laws giving Iraqi Jews the right to return and to reclaim their lost property.
(Until 1948 there was a large Iraqi Jewish community, and in the twentieth century, Baghdad was a third to a half Jewish. Jews were disproportionately well off, and played a multitude of central roles, from novelist to jeweler. After the state of Israel was formed in 1948, Iraqi Jews increasingly became the target of Arab anger because of massacres of Palestinians, razing of villages, and the brutal expulsion of 750,000 or so Palestinians from Palestine by the Israelis. The Israelis have never paid any compensation to the Palestinians for the property usurped from them. It was grossly unfair that the Iraqi Jews were punished for what happened in Palestine; most of them had been uninterested in Zionism and were unconnected to those event. Many felt discriminated against once they went to Israel, which was dominated by Ashkenazim or European Jews)
Al-Zubaidi pointed out that the interim constitution only promises the right of return and of compensation for expropriated property to Iraqis who suffered persecution under the Baath government. (The Jews were chased out of the country in the early 1950s under the monarchy, which lasted until 1958. The Baath did not come to power to stay until 1968). He also suggested that if US soldiers and civilians, with all their security, were not safe in Iraq, then it would be hard for Iraqi-Israeli Jews to wander freely about the country buying up real estate (as is falsely rumored).
Actually, I think Iraqi Jews should have the right to return, and to be compensated for their losses. But I think that right should be negotiated by the UN or the Arab League and should be made dependent on the Palestinians receiving compensation for their losses, and given the same rights with regard to returning to Israel as are offered to Iraqi Jews with regard to Iraq.
Posted on: Monday, April 5, 2004 - 22:17
Juan Cole, in a book review in the Nation (March 2004):
... In Inventing Iraq, [Toby] Dodge analyzes what he describes as the failure of British nation-building in the 1920s. He identifies two camps in the British civil administration of the country. One camp--what I call the J.R.R. Tolkien strain of British colonialism--consisted of romantics like Dobbs, who saw the countryside, its "gentry" and the tribes as the repository of all that was noble, and who distrusted the cities and their Westernizing effendis. The other group celebrated the virtues of the rational individual and sought to establish connections between such people and the state. On the whole, the devotees of romantic ruralism won out, seeking to rule Iraq through the tribal sheiks. Dodge, ever attentive to ironies, points out that the British thereby profoundly changed the position of the supposedly "untainted" sheiks and made them conduits of colonial administration . . .
The British used their power to recognize sheiks as a way of rewarding the cooperative, and of punishing those unwilling or unable to keep their clans in line. Where administrators perceived a clan as unruly, they decertified them as tribes and seized their lands, giving them to others. The British were faced then, as the Americans are now, with ruling a huge territory on the cheap because of the disillusionment of the postwar public. To compensate for lack of troops, they relied on air power, conducting bombing raids from the sky against tribes that rebelled or refused to pay taxes. The airplane also allowed a close surveillance of the population in a manner that the supposedly despotic predecessors of the British, the Ottomans, could never have dreamed of achieving. This aspect of British rule in Iraq has long been understood by, among others, the eminent historian of Iraq Peter Sluglett. In his 1976 study, Britain in Iraq, Sluglett quotes Member of Parliament Leopold Amery as saying, "If the writ of King Faisal runs effectively through his kingdom, it is entirely due to the British airplanes."
Yet, as Dodge points out, the airplane quickly demonstrated its limits, in large part because it depended on raw power and fear rather than on legitimate authority. The British used night bombing and incendiary explosives to destroy villages around Samawah in 1923 as a means of forcing the population to surrender its rifles and submit. While the destruction of six villages and the killing of 100 men, women and children terrified the peasants, they simply dispersed from the area and took their rifles with them. The Royal Air Force high command considered following the fleeing Iraqis, but concluded that further bombing would only be a slaughter. According to Dodge, the high command feared that the British public would discover exactly how they were ruling Iraq. His points about the political limits of air power are well taken, but it should be remembered that after 1923 the number of bombing raids actually increased. At that point, Squadron Leader Arthur Harris (who is not mentioned in Dodge's index) invented the heavy bombing techniques he later practiced in Hamburg and Dresden . . . .
Posted on: Thursday, April 1, 2004 - 21:37
Juan Cole, on his blog (March 28, 2004):
The pundits and politicians who keep saying that Clinton's anti-terrorism policies and Bush's are the same are missing a key piece of the puzzle. The policy outline was the same, but the implementation was very different.
Hint: The key piece of evidence is the Millennium Plot. This was an al-Qaeda operation timed for late December 1999. Forestalling this plot was the biggest counter-terrorism success the US has ever had against al-Qaeda.
the plot involved several key elements:
*Los Angelese International Airport would be blown up.
*(Possibly: The Needle in Seattle would be blown up).
* The Radisson Hotel in Amman Jordan, a favorite of American and Israeli tourists, would be blown up. A lot of the tourism for the millennium was Christian evangelicals wanting to be in the holy land.
* Bombs would go off at Mt. Nebo, a tourist site in Jordan associated with Moses.
* The USS The Sullivans would be targeted by a dinghy bomb off Yemen.
The story of how the LAX bombing was stopped on December 14 has been told in an important series in the Seattle Times. Extra security measures were implemented by US customs agents, leading to the apprehension of an Algerian, Ahmed Ressam, with a trunk full of nitroglycerin, heading for LAX (he wanted to start his journey by ferry from Port Angeles, Washington).
Ressam grew up fishing in the Mediterranean and going to discos. But like many Algerians, he was radicalized in 1991. The government had allowed the Islamic Salvation Front (FIS), an Islamist party, to contest elections. FIS unexpectedly won, however. The military feared that they would never allow another election, and would declare an Islamic state. They cancelled elections. FIS went into opposition, and the most radical members formed the Armed Islamic Group (GIA), which got money from Usama Bin Laden, then in the Sudan. Ressam seems to have been GIA.
Ressam fought in Bosnia in the early 1990s. Then he settled in France and became part of the terrorist Groupe Roubaix, which carried out attacks in that city (pop. 98,000, near Lille in the north). In spring of 1998 he flew to Afghanistan and was trained in two camps under the direction of Palestinian-Saudi Abu Zubaida. Abu Zubaida recruited Ressam into an Algerian al-Qaeda cell headed from London by Abu Doha al-Mukhalif. Ressam was assigned to form a forward cell in Montreal, from which he and several other Algerians plotted the attack on LAX.
What Clarke's book reveals is that the way Ressam was shaken out at Port Angeles by customs agent Diana Dean was not an accident. Rather, Clinton had made Clarke a cabinet member. He was given the authority to call other key cabinet members and security officials to "battle stations," involving heightened alerts in their bureaucracies and daily meetings. Clarke did this with Clinton's approval in December of 1999 because of increased chatter and because the Jordanians caught a break when they cracked Raed al-Hijazi's cell in Amman.
Early in 2001, in contrast, Bush demoted Clarke from being a cabinet member, and much reduced his authority. Clarke wanted the high Bush officials or "principals" to meet on terrorism regularly. He couldn't get them to do it. Rice knew what al-Qaeda was, but she, like other administration officials, was disconcerted by Clarke's focus on it as an independent actor. The Bush group-think holds that asymmetrical organizations are not a threat in themselves, that the threat comes from the states that allegedly harbor them. That funny look she gave Clarke wasn't unfamiliarity, it was puzzlement that someone so high in the system should be so wrongly focused.
In summer of 2001 the chatter was much greater and more ominous than in fall of 1999. Clarke wanted to go to battle stations and have daily meetings with the "principals" (i.e. Rumsfeld, Ashcroft, Powell, Tenet). He wanted to repeat the procedures that had foiled the Millennium Plot. He could not convince anyone to let him do that.
Note that an "institution" is defined in sociology as a regular way of getting certain collective work done. Clarke is saying that Clinton had institutionalized a set of governmental routines for dealing with heightened threats from terrorists. He is not saying that Clinton bequeathed a "big think" plan to Bush on terrorism. He is saying that he bequeathed the Bush administration a repertoire of effective actions by high officials.
He thinks going to such a heightened level of alert and concerted effort in 2001 might have shaken loose much earlier the information that the CIA knew that Khalid al-Mihdhar and Nawaf al-Hazmi were in the US. As it is, the INS wasn't informed of this advent and did not start looking for them until Aug. 21, 2001, by which time it was too late. Since they made their plane reservations for September 11 under their own names, names known to the USG, a heightened level of alert might have allowed the FBI to spot them.
So it just is not true that Bush was doing exactly the same thing on terrorism that Clinton was. He didn't have a cabinet-level counter-terrorism czar; he didn't have the routine of principals' meetings on terrorism; he didn't authorize Clarke to go to 'battle stations' and heightened security alert in summer of 2001 the way Clinton had done in December, 1999.
The key to understanding Clarke's argument is to understand how exactly the Millennium Plot was foiled.
Meanwhile, the Bush slime machine has thrown up the charge that Clarke admitted that there was an al-Qaeda-Saddam connection in Sudan in the early 1990s. This is such a non-story that it is incredible to me that anyone even bothers with it.
Clarke is straightforward that he suspected an Iraq-Bin Laden link in the very early 1990s in Khartoum. He also admits that Saddam tried to have Bush senior assassinated in Kuwait in 1993. What he told Wolfowitz in spring of 2001 was that there hadn't been any Iraqi terrorism against the US in ten years. Note that he does not say "there never had been." I am personally skeptical that even the early 1990s Khartoum-Baghdad links are based on good intelligence. But Clarke is entirely consistent if you read him knowing the whole story of al-Qaeda in the 1990s. His critics still don't get it.
Posted on: Thursday, April 1, 2004 - 21:27