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.
SOURCE: Financial Times (UK) (8-15-10)
Has Barack Obama just committed political suicide? By appearing to endorse the building of a mosque and Islamic cultural centre at the threshold of Ground Zero, has he set himself at odds with the majority of Americans who regard the idea as a desecration of “hallowed ground”?
Beleaguered Democrats fighting a rearguard action in upcoming mid-term elections are shaking their heads at this new handicap with which the president has burdened them. Republican notables such as Newt Gingrich and Sarah Palin, jostling for position in the wannabe president stakes, can scarcely contain their glee.
But the critics are deluded. If the quarrel over the mosque at Ground Zero turns into a debate on the sovereign principles of the American way of life, it is the president and Mayor Bloomberg who will emerge with honour, as the true custodians of what the founders had in mind.
Freedom of conscience and religious practice, Mr Obama said at the Iftar dinner, and again in brief clarifying remarks, define “who we are”. And in reaffirming this bedrock principle, it is Mr Obama, not his enemies, who identifies himself as an authentic American patriot.
This matters. In our present obsession with the fate of money (entirely understandable if you have a whole lot less of it than you once did), we forget that the reason why young men and women are putting themselves in the line of fire is precisely our resistance to fanaticism of the kind that imagined massacre, inflicted on a tolerant and secular society, to be a sacred duty.
Against this, as the president pointed out, we may summon military force, but in the end it is the ideal of toleration that will always be our strongest weapon. Of the constitutive importance of religious freedom to the creation of America there can be no doubt. Mr Obama, as usual, has his history right, and wants it acknowledged even at the expense of political prudence...
Posted on: Monday, August 16, 2010 - 06:39
SOURCE: Salon (8-15-10)
As the Second World War drew to a close, George Orwell looked back on the various prognoses of war and peace that had emerged in recent years. "All political thinking for years past has been vitiated in the same way," he observed. "People can foresee the future only when it coincides with their own wishes, and the most grossly obvious facts can be ignored when they are unwelcome."
Over the next several years, Orwell would elaborate a dystopian vision of the emerging Cold War, a vision in which warring superpowers would use distorted and self-serving political rhetoric to battle each other and their citizens.
In recent weeks, we have reached another historic juncture. The Iraq war, or at least the American military’s role in it, is drawing to a symbolic close. To mark this moment, the U.S. Ministry of Information has put its spin machine in high gear. Orwell would have had a field day with this one. He could not have invented a more Orwellian tale than the actual story of the U.S. withdrawal from Iraq.
Here is the official version, championed in its earlier moments by President Bush, Gen. Petraeus and the congressional hawks, and now trumpeted almost as loudly by the White House and State Department: Violence is down. Iraqis are finally (it’s about time, guys) taking responsibility for their own security. The March elections were a great step forward. Iraq, we can safely say, is on the path to a brighter future....
Posted on: Sunday, August 15, 2010 - 12:08
SOURCE: LA Times (8-15-10)
Alf Landon, the Kansas governor running as the Republican Party's 1936 presidential candidate, called it a "fraud on the working man." Silas Strawn, a former president of both the American Bar Assn. and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, said it was part of President Franklin D. Roosevelt's attempt to "Sovietize the country." The American Medical Assn. denounced it as a "compulsory socialistic tax."
What was this threat to American prosperity, freedom and democracy they were all decrying? It was Social Security, which Roosevelt signed into law on Aug. 14, 1935 — 75 years ago Saturday.
The opponents of Social Security were not right-wing extremists (the counterparts of today's "tea party") but the business establishment and the Republican Party mainstream....
Posted on: Sunday, August 15, 2010 - 12:05
SOURCE: LA Times (8-15-10)
Courts are almost never at the vanguard of social change. In general, they have required sweeping cultural shifts such as school desegregation only when it was clear that a substantial percentage of Americans supported them. So what does this portend for same-sex marriage litigation, which is likely to end up before the Supreme Court eventually, especially in light of recent federal court rulings in Boston and San Francisco in favor of same-sex marriage?
The first same-sex marriage cases, filed by gay couples in the 1970s, were nearly laughed out of court. But by the time of last week's ruling in support of same-sex marriage, more than 40% of the nation — and an even greater percentage in California — supported it. The question now will be whether that's enough of a cultural shift to influence the Supreme Court's thinking.
Before World War II, the NAACP refused to challenge school segregation, knowing that a case would lose in court because most Americans supported the status quo. But by the time the Supreme Court issued its landmark decision in Brown vs. Board of Education in 1954, half the country agreed with the outcome.
At the time that Brown barred state-mandated school segregation, however, 21 states and the District of Columbia still practiced it. Today, 45 states do not permit same-sex marriage. It would be unusual for the Supreme Court to turn a norm embraced by only five states into a constitutional command for the nation — unusual but not unprecedented: Roe vs. Wade in 1973 invalidated the restrictive abortion laws of 46 states....
Posted on: Sunday, August 15, 2010 - 12:03
SOURCE: WaPo (8-15-10)
When conservatives brand President Obama a socialist or a foreigner, his aides laugh it off. When critics disparage him as arrogant or aloof, they roll their eyes. But if liberals dare compare Obama to his predecessor in the Oval Office, the gloves come off....
In a host of arenas, Obama is holding on to the Bush administration's policies and practices, even some that he decried during his presidential campaign and vowed to undo. From the wars we fight to the oil we drill for, we're still living in the Bush era -- like it or not.
First, consider the strengthening of presidential power. Every president since Richard Nixon has fought to restore the authority of the executive branch that was diminished as a result of Watergate. No chief executive was as successful as Bush, especially since he had the help of Vice President Dick Cheney, who had dedicated much of his career to criticizing the 1970s reforms that he thought had emasculated the White House. Bush relied on signing statements and executive orders to implement initiatives such as warrantless wiretapping without having to get approval from Congress.
Obama has not done much to reverse the trend....
Although many Democrats initially decried Bush's deregulatory policies on offshore drilling after the BP oil spill in the gulf, it soon became clear that blame also rested with the Obama administration. In a series of penetrating articles for Rolling Stone, Tim Dickinson revealed how the Obama White House had not done much to repair the broken Minerals Management Service and had been willing to trade support for offshore drilling in exchange for votes on climate-change legislation. Ignoring the advice of scientific experts, the administration authorized an aggressive round of drilling in the gulf without adequate environmental review.
After the spill, the Obama administration did impose a moratorium on drilling and stuck with it despite enormous political fallout; when a federal judge struck down the first ban, Obama imposed another. Yet the moratorium has been far from airtight, with loopholes allowing several kinds of drilling to continue....
We may live in the age of Obama, as many call it, but it's still Bush's world.
Posted on: Saturday, August 14, 2010 - 10:57
SOURCE: Foreign Policy (8-13-10)
"When I asked [Charles Hill] why he had never written his own big book he only smiled," notes his former student Molly Worthen in her 2007 book about him, The Man on Whom Nothing Was Lost. "There was no better way to get people to pay attention to ... your take on history, he explained, than to write ... beneath the byline of Henry Kissinger, George Shultz, and Boutros Boutros-Ghali. After all, who had ever heard of Charlie Hill?" But Hill, a former diplomat and senior advisor to a string of powerful men, wasn't being quite truthful with Worthen, and not only because he would soon publish an ambitious take on history under his own name.
Worthen's title quotes Homer's characterization of the wily Odysseus, whom Hill now presents as a master of the "creative dissembling" that he believes diplomats must undertake beneath the protocols of their profession, sometimes violating the truth and their superiors' trust. Hill's stated aim in Grand Strategies is "the restoration of literature as a tutor for statecraft," and he ranges from Homer through Salman Rushdie to argue for literature as a "supreme way of knowing" the world of diplomacy. He alsocalls the book "a primer" for Yale's richly funded, foreign-policy-oriented "Studies in Grand Strategy" program, which counts him as a "distinguished fellow" and "diplomat in residence."
But these literary and pedagogical claims shade over some highly personal motivations. Reading his own experiences back into a tapestry he weaves from a selection of great books, Hill interprets great literature and historical episodes to show that statesmen such as Albrecht von Wallenstein, Cardinal Richelieu, Charles Talleyrand, Oliver Cromwell -- and their confidential note-takers and informal envoys, Hill's own predecessors, such as Richelieu's Père Joseph and Cromwell's John Milton -- "possess a certain mad, enigmatic quality" and are amoral by conventional standards because they think that they can keep order only by shuttling back and forth across bounds of convention. Hill's own history as one of the Reagan officials whose silence compromised the federal investigation of the Iran-Contra scandal makes his attempt at self-justification clear....
"Only literature, Hill claims, is "methodologically unbounded" enough to show "how the world really works." But Hill has stacked the deck by starting with a highly specific notion of "how the world works" and interpreting literature to suit his paradigm. A more serious literary survey might show how writers such as Reinhold Niebuhr or Jurgen Habermas and their counterparts in fiction address recent shifts in popular beliefs about power and legitimacy that have brought down armed regimes -- the British in India, Afrikaners in South Africa, segregationists in the American South, and the Soviets in Eastern Europe -- with very little carnage. Jonathan Schell's The Unconquerable World, published in 2004, shows how world literature and history can help explain such shifts.
Early in Grand Strategies, Hill offers a chilling metaphor for his vision. He writes that he was transfixed by the gaze of the ancient Greek priest and emissary Laocoon as he and his sons are strangled by serpents in sculpted marble, "the first artistic depiction of the anguished reaction of a body to painful defeat.... For me it is a look that can be seen across the ages,.... whether the face is contorted in pain or in calm contemplation, of one who can... see clearly into the [tragic] essence of things." The classical tragic hero's gaze into the abyss is, "rightly understood ... a matter of Grand Strategy."
But the man on whom nothing was lost has missed liberal education's responsibility -- and its unmatched capacity -- to inspire an ethic richer than grand-strategic amorality amid perpetual conflict and mistrust. Instead, he has written Grand Strategies and is teaching the classics at Yale to show young Americans how to wield power and risk destruction with Laocoon's pitiless, gnomic gaze.
Posted on: Friday, August 13, 2010 - 17:56
SOURCE: Gazette.net (MD) (8-13-10)
It is not well known, but in 1973 Maryland became the first state in the nation to ban same-sex marriage legislatively with a Family Law clause (Section 2-201) stating that, "Only a marriage between a man and a woman is valid in this State."
Attorney General Douglas Gansler has ruled that Maryland can recognize same-sex marriages performed in other states. However, such marriages cannot take place in our state.
In 2004, the Maryland ACLU and Equality Maryland filed a lawsuit claiming that Family Law Section 2-201 violates Article 46 of the Maryland Constitution, which states, "Equality of rights under the law shall not be abridged or denied because of sex."
Three years later, the Maryland Court of Appeals in Deane & Polyak v. Conaway ruled 4-3 against the plaintiffs, leaving the statute in place. The majority concluded that, "Article 46 was not intended ... to reach classifications based on sexual orientation," and therefore Maryland law "does not draw an impermissible sex-based distinction."...
Posted on: Friday, August 13, 2010 - 11:47
SOURCE: The Nation (8-11-10)
A mere thirty-three years ago, on January 20, 1977, Jimmy Carter inaugurated his presidency by proclaiming from the Capitol steps, "Because we are free we can never be indifferent to the fate of freedom elsewhere.... Our commitment to human rights must be absolute." Most people had never heard of "human rights." Except for Franklin Delano Roosevelt in a couple of passing references, no president had really mentioned the concept, and it never had gained much traction around the world either. Carter's words sparked an intense debate at every level of government and society, and in political capitals across the Atlantic Ocean, about what it would entail to shape a foreign policy based on the principle of human rights.
The concept of rights, including natural rights, stretches back centuries, and "the rights of man" were a centerpiece of the age of democratic revolution. But those droits de l'homme et du citoyen meant something different from today's "human rights." For most of modern history, rights have been part and parcel of battles over the meanings and entitlements of citizenship, and therefore have been dependent on national borders for their pursuit, achievement and protection. In the beginning, they were typically invoked by a people to found a nation-state of their own, not to police someone else's. They were a justification for state sovereignty, not a source of appeal to some authority—like international law—outside and above it.
In the United States, rights were also invoked to defend property, not simply to defend women, blacks and workers against discrimination and second-class citizenship. The New Deal assault on laissez-faire required an unstinting re-examination of the idea of natural rights, which had been closely associated with freedom of contract since the nineteenth century and routinely defended by the Supreme Court. By the 1970s, rights as a slogan for democratic revolution seemed less pressing, and few remembered the natural rights of property and contract that the New Deal had once been forced to challenge. Carter was free to invoke the concept of rights for purposes it had never before served. (Arthur Schlesinger Jr. once called on future historians to "trace the internal discussions...that culminated in the striking words of the inaugural address." No one, however, yet knows exactly how they got there.)
It looks like Carter was an exception in another sense. He inaugurated the era of human rights in this country, but now it seems to be fading. Bill Clinton dabbled in human rights while outlining a new post–cold war foreign policy, but the Democratic politician now in the White House has spurned them. Few developments seem more surprising than the fact that Barack Obama rarely mentions human rights, especially since past enthusiasts for them like Samantha Power and Anne-Marie Slaughter have major roles in his foreign policy shop. Obama has given no major speech on the subject and has subordinated the concerns associated with human rights, such as taking absolute moral stands against abusive dictators, to a wider range of pragmatic foreign policy imperatives. As his Nobel remarks made plain, Obama is a "Christian realist" inclined to treat human sin, not human rights, as the point of departure for thinking about America's relation to the world's many injustices and horrors.
The rise and fall of human rights as an inspirational concept may seem shocking, but perhaps it is less so on second glance. Ever since Carter put human rights on the table, Republican presidents have found uses for them too, typically by linking them to "democracy promotion" abroad. There is no denying the powerful growth of nongovernmental organizations in the United States and around the world that has occurred since slightly before Carter's time, and impressively ever since. But George W. Bush, placing himself in an almost equally longstanding tradition, invoked human rights as the battle cry for the neoconservative vision of transforming the Middle East and beyond—at the point of a gun, if necessary—perhaps sullying them beyond recuperation. Obama seems to think so. If their current abeyance is surprising, perhaps it's because of a historical mistake: the belief that human rights were deeply ingrained in American visions of the globe in the first place...
Posted on: Friday, August 13, 2010 - 11:38
SOURCE: National Review (8-12-10)
Anti-Hispanic, anti-gay, anti-Muslim, anti-black — it is hard to keep track of all the recent allegations of bigotry....
We live in a complex, multiracial, and religiously diverse society. A majority of black voters in California opposed gay marriage. Most Muslims probably concurred. Some 70 percent of Americans expressed support for the Arizona law, an overwhelming figure that would have to include some Asians, blacks, and Hispanics. White and Hispanic congressional officials have faced ethics charges, often more serious than those leveled against Rangel and Waters.
In other words, there is no simple ideological, racial, or religious divide between a monolithic “us” and “them.” We have devolved to the point where promiscuously crying “Bigot!” and “Racist!” signals a failure to convince 51 percent of the people of the merits of an argument.
It is too often that simple — and that sad....
Posted on: Thursday, August 12, 2010 - 15:42
SOURCE: OneNewsNow (8-12-10)
The controversy over the decision to permit the construction of a $100-million, 13-story Islamic mosque and community center within 600 feet of Ground Zero is a triumph of political correctness and posturing over respect for the feelings of murder victims and common sense. The Cordoba House, named after the city in Spain that was once the center of Spanish Islamic culture, is the dream project of Feisal Abdul Rauf, a Kuwaiti-born Arab-American imam of a New York City mosque who says he hopes to improve American understanding of Islam and the wider Muslim world.
Rauf, however, brings a lot of baggage into the discussion of any building project so close to the site of where some 3,000 Americans and foreigners died in a mass terrorist attack in 2001. In September 2001 he told an interviewer for the CBS TV program 60 Minutes that the U.S. was itself "an accessory to the crime that happened" because of its allegedly bad policies in the Muslim world. (Translation: it was the victims' own fault. On another occasion he even cast doubt on whether the 9/11 hijackers were Muslim at all, implying a sort of conspiracy view of the incident.)
This year, the imam refused to say whether he agreed with the State Department designation of Hamas, the brutal Palestinian Islamist group that for years has controlled Gaza, as "terrorist," even though its operatives threw Palestinian political opponents to their deaths from rooftops and organized the firing of thousands of rockets, for years on end, against the civilian inhabitants of towns and communities inside the borders of Israel. Baggage indeed....
Posted on: Thursday, August 12, 2010 - 13:37
SOURCE: Huffington Post (8-10-10)
[Professor Astore currently teaches History at the Pennsylvania College of Technology in Williamsport, PA. He writes regularly for TomDispatch.com and can be reached at email@example.com.]
Yesterday, the Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF) and Veterans for Common Sense sent a startling letter to Secretary of Defense Robert Gates. It alleged that the military has sent some psychological casualties to chaplains for counseling, rather than to mental health care professionals for diagnosis and treatment. In a few cases, the letter alleges, chaplains sought to provide comfort through evangelism. In essence, it seems wounded and disturbed troops were encouraged to put their trust in Jesus: that He would provide for them if only they accepted Him.
General George S. Patton Jr. was fired during World War II for slapping soldiers with PTSD. Assuming the MRFF letter is correct, are we prepared to fire chaplains for seeking to alleviate PTSD and other disorders with a healthy dose of scripture and heartfelt appeals to Jesus?
I would advise against this.
I can well imagine that a few chaplains, perhaps of an evangelical bent, in their zeal to provide help, may have conflated their own personal conversion experiences and the resultant comfort they gained from them with the kind of professional care and treatment provided by mental health care experts. If one's own doubts and problems were resolved through heartfelt conversion, it's quite possible one would believe that evangelism in the name of Jesus could cure all ills -- a belief they may then have tried to transfer to hurting, even desperate, troops.
Such misguided ministering, if it exists, must stop.
But at the same time let's not forget that chaplains are invaluable as counselors. The equivalent at times to a"big brother" or"big sister," they are both part of a unit but also in a (moral) sense stand above it and the entire military system. It's a demanding job -- indeed, it's more than a job, it's a calling -- and the vast majority of chaplains perform it well.
Chaplains, of course, are not mental health care providers. Psychological trauma and other serious mental health issues clearly go beyond their abilities and training to treat and meliorate. The letter from the MRFF and Veterans for Common Sense reminds us of this fact, as well as of the burdens of war on our troops and of the dire shortages of qualified mental health care. It's the latter that requires the lion's share of our attention and resources.
That said, allow me a moment to praise military chaplains. The several I've known have been dedicated, decent, godly souls as well as good troops. They share in the burdens of their units even as they provide selfless counsel, spiritual or otherwise. One older chaplain I knew eagerly went through jump training prior to joining the 101st Airborne. If he was going to serve alongside airborne troops, he wanted to know what jumping out of airplanes was like.
National prayer breakfasts I've attended, run by military chaplains of multiple faiths, were always open to troops of any faith (or no faith at all). There were no distinctions between Protestants or Catholics, or for that matter between Muslims or Jews. As celebrations of non-denominational and undifferentiated spirituality, they were irenic, life-affirming, even moving.
Let's be careful, then, not to let instances of Christian evangelism in the ranks distract us from a healthy exercise of spirituality and religious feeling. Let's applaud our military chaplains even as we recognize that they too have limitations. But most of all, let's be sure to get our troops the professional mental health care they both need and deserve.
Posted on: Wednesday, August 11, 2010 - 14:51
SOURCE: CNN.com (8-9-10)
With all eyes focused on how the Democrats will do this November, the story about the divisions unfolding within the Republican Party have equally important long-term consequences for national politics. And now with the Tea Party movement as an additional force in the party, Republican leaders are struggling to contain tensions between right-wing activists and fiscal conservatives.
In recent months, these tensions have been growing because new faces have emerged within the Republican Party that don't fit neatly within the Tea Party fold.
One of the candidates who has received the most buzz in Republican circles is New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, dubbed "Gov. Wrecking Ball" by one columnist. How Christie fares in the coming year will be a critical test to gauging where the GOP might be in 2012....
Following the 2008 election, the conservative commentator and former speechwriter for President George W. Bush, David Frum, a CNN contributor, had warned that Republicans needed to be cautious about doing things to win in 2010 that would harm them in 2012 and beyond.
The threat is to radicalize the party by moving it so far off center that future Republican candidates would have trouble winning national office. As Frum wrote in his blog post with regard to health care reform, "We followed the most radical voices in the party and the movement, and they led us to abject and irreversible defeat."
If Republicans want to rebuild their party, they must make room for more pragmatic, fiscally minded conservatives like Christie, who are generating excitement in famously blue states....
Posted on: Wednesday, August 11, 2010 - 14:00
SOURCE: The Australian (8-12-10)
To a visitor's ears, there's something very Australian about using the acronym "GFC" to refer to the biggest global financial crisis since the Depression.
In the US GFC brings to mind the recipe for deep-fried chicken devised by Colonel Sanders. KFC stands for Kentucky Fried Chicken. Here, GFC should stand for Gillard's Fraudulent Claim.
The claim in question is that it was the fiscal stimulus injected by the Labor government that saved Australia from much more serious recession. According to one recent election ad, "Labor did what it had to do to avoid recession and protect jobs." The ABC's Kerry O'Brien unthinkingly recycles this line when asking Tony Abbott how he would have saved the 200,000 jobs Labor "created". It must have been music to Julia Gillard's ears when Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz gave her his seal of approval recently. He praised the government's debt splurge as "one of the best-designed Keynesian stimulus packages of any country".
Now, I like Stiglitz. Unlike some Nobel prize winners, he hasn't allowed the Swedish central bank's gong to super-size his self-esteem. But this is not the best argument I have heard him make, for three reasons....
Posted on: Wednesday, August 11, 2010 - 13:56
SOURCE: Bellingham Herald (8-10-10)
...Sadly, President Obama's racial fixation has become disturbing in recent months. By pandering to racial pride and grievance he is betraying the liberal tradition that enabled him to become president - a tradition represented by Frederick Douglass, Branch Rickey, Zora Neale Hurston, Stanley Crouch and others who spoke out against racial injustice and defining individuals by their color.
By obsessing with racial issues, Obama makes a mockery of a tradition that sought to "get beyond" race.
The cornerstone of that tradition was the notion of a colorblind society. Indeed, as recently as 1967, the NAACP - which stirs the racial flames today - agitated for no racial identification whatsoever on any form, such as birth certificates, marriage licenses, or job or loan applications.
Zora Neale Hurston, one of the 20th century's preeminent black writers, spoke for the colorblind ethic when she said, "Why should I be proud to be black? Why should anyone be proud of their skin color? Races have never done anything. All that is good and excellent is the work of individuals." And she meant it....
Posted on: Wednesday, August 11, 2010 - 13:47
SOURCE: Jacksonville Journal-Courier (8-10-10)
I’ll be 62 this month. Even if I live another 30 years, I won’t have to suffer much from the effects of global warming.
Some more uncomfortably hot days, a few more storms, perhaps more expenses for air conditioning. I’ll be gone before it gets too hot.
My children are in their late 20s. By the time they are ready to retire, they’ll be facing a different world for their “golden” years. Dangerously hot summers will be common across the southern U.S. coastal cities in Louisiana and Florida will be flooded. Thousands of animal and plant species will be extinct, with huge dead zones in the oceans. Unless we act now, these disasters will then accelerate during the lives of my grandchildren....
Posted on: Wednesday, August 11, 2010 - 13:45
SOURCE: WSJ (8-11-10)
Not long ago Barack Obama, for those who were spellbound by him, had the stylishness of JFK and the historic mission of FDR riding to the nation's rescue. Now it is to Lyndon B. Johnson's unhappy presidency that Democratic strategist Robert Shrum compares the stewardship of Mr. Obama. Johnson, wrote Mr. Shrum in the Week magazine last month, never "sustained an emotional link with the American people" and chose to escalate a war that "forced his abdication as president."
A broken link with the public, and a war in Afghanistan he neither embraces and sells to his party nor abandons—this is a time of puzzlement for President Obama. His fall from political grace has been as swift as his rise a handful of years ago. He had been hot political property in 2006 and, of course, in 2008. But now he will campaign for his party's 2010 candidates from afar, holding fund raisers but not hitting the campaign trail in most of the contested races. Those mass rallies of Obama frenzy are surely of the past.
The vaunted Obama economic stimulus, at $862 billion, has failed. The "progressives" want to double down, and were they to have their way, would have pushed for a bigger stimulus still. But the American people are in open rebellion against an economic strategy of public debt, higher taxes and unending deficits. We're not all Keynesians, it turns out. The panic that propelled Mr. Obama to the presidency has waned. There is deep concern, to be sure. But the Obama strategy has lost the consent of the governed.
Mr. Obama could protest that his swift and sudden fall from grace is no fault of his. He had been a blank slate, and the devotees had projected onto him their hopes and dreams. His victory had not been the triumph of policies he had enunciated in great detail. He had never run anything in his entire life. He had a scant public record, but oddly this worked to his advantage. If he was going to begin the world anew, it was better that he knew little about the machinery of government.
He pronounced on the American condition with stark, unalloyed confidence. He had little if any regard for precedents. He could be forgiven the thought that America's faith in economic freedom had given way and that he had the popular writ to move the nation toward a super-regulated command economy. An "economic emergency" was upon us, and this would be the New New Deal...
Posted on: Wednesday, August 11, 2010 - 05:24
SOURCE: David Kaiser at History Unfolding (Blog) (8-7-10)
A Fourth Turning or Crisis inevitably has a large emotional component. We cannot say exactly why accumulated anger seems to burst forth every eighty years or so in modern societies, but we have seen it happen again and again, beginning with the American and especially the French Revolution in the late 18th century, and continuing through episodes like the Paris Commune and its violent suppression in 1870-1, the American Civil War, and even, perhaps, the great Indian Mutiny of 1857. In crises like the French and Russian Revolutions the violence becomes organized terror, leaving a terrible legacy behind. In the American Civil War and the much briefer German wars of the 1860s and 1870-1 the violence generally remained organized and military. One of Franklin Roosevelt's many great achievements was to channel American anger in productive directions between 1933 and 1945--first, against poverty and distress itself, then against the corporate interests that stood in his way, and finally against violently expansionist regimes abroad. Unfortunately we have not found such useful outlets during our current crisis.
George W. Bush, Dick Cheney and Karl Rove were certainly three very angry individuals indeed, and they intuitively seem to have sensed the anger in the country at large into which they could tap. 9/11 allowed Bush to mobilize the country to undertake vast imperial adventures in South Asia and the Middle East, even though the logic behind them clearly left a great deal to be desired--and even though he never caught the man actually responsible for the deaths of 3000 Americans on that day. Rove and Bush also cleverly mobilized peoples' anger over abortion and gay rights, while at the same time Fox News and Clear Channel stirred anger against bicoastal elites 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. All that was enough to increase Bush's popular vote significantly and win a narrow re-election in 2004. Then, however, a series of disasters, culminating in the economic crash of 2007-8, turned the nation's anger largely against him, and swept Democratic majorities and Barack Obama into office. Still, the anger against Muslims persists, as illustrated by the disgraceful controversy over the mosque near ground zero. Republicans now talking about amending the 14th Amendment to do away with birthright citizenship may eventually propose inserting "except Islam" into the 1st Amendment.
I have now come to believe that Barack Obama, that calm, measured, intelligent man who never loses his temper, would have been a much more effective President in fifteen or twenty years' time, after the crisis was over. He had every opportunity to mobilize anger on his own behalf when he came into office--against bankers and the regulators who failed to restrain them; against officials from the previous Administration who had tortured prisoners in violation of US and international law; against the Bush Administration for leading us into endless wars of highly dubious utility; and against the Republican Party that refused, in effect, to work with him on anything from the word go. But he did not, trusting the American public to appreciate a measured and unemotional approach and seeking to leave painful controversies like torture behind. Perhaps all this might have worked had the economic crisis not been so serious--but as it turns out, it hasn't.
The President and the Democratic Congress are feeling the heat not only about the economy--which would have been much worse without the stimulus package, but which, as some pointed out at the time, needed and still needs even more drastic action--but also about another emotional issue, immigration. Illegal immigrants have become another focus of outrage, and the Administration seems to be taking their side. The Republicans, of course, are making the situation worse by refusing even to hear of immigration reform that would allow some people to stay, but the President has gone out on a limb by asking the Justice Department to challenge the Arizona law. Numerous reports tell us that the White House's political strategists are convinced that that law will accelerate the movement of the Hispanic vote into the Democratic Party, but I am not so sure. A lot of anecdotal evidence suggests that Hispanic citizens resent illegals just as much or more than mainstream whites. In any case, the lawsuit certainly looks like an attempt by a relatively weak federal government to prevent states from responding to their peoples' will. I doubt that the White House's strategy will pay dividends this fall.
The combination of our first black President, widespread economic distress, and a relatively interventionist economic policy has also revived the kind of white racist anger that helped bring Ronald Reagan into the White House. Millions of white Americans still believe that government entitlements keep minorities in clover while the deserving middle class suffers. In fact, federal welfare has practically disappeared, but much of the population was already accustomed to regarding Democrats as the giveaway party. They may have voted Republican in any case, but they are making more noise now.
Another specter looms now, thanks to the federal court decision restoring gay marriage rights in California. I know some readers will be offended by this position, but I wish the judge had not handed that decision down. His legal logic--that a ban on gay marriage is a clear denial of equal protection of the laws--is surely strong, but I would have been willing (not that I have a direct stake in the matter) to wait a few more years for gay marriage in California and other blue states simply for the sake of our political culture. Younger people are far more liberal on this issue than oldsters, and as a result, California voters would almost surely have accepted gay marriage the next time they voted on it. Instead we may have a replay of Roe v. Wade, another bottomless source of conservative resentment. The country may be ready to move beyond this issue--or it may not.
Immigration now seems to be the hottest-button issue, and the President in any case has to get on top of it and tell the country in no uncertain terms what he thinks we should do. He is a good person to explain the obvious--that we cannot simply expel all illegal aliens, who are estimated to make up as much as 1/5 of the population of Arizona, for instance, and thus have no choice but to find a way to legalize some of their status. But clearly tougher measures against illegals are inevitable in any case. One reason, perhaps, that the last Crisis turned out so well for the United States was that this issue had been taken off the table in 1924, by a tough law whose provisions were not loosened until 1965. Meanwhile, whoever actually wins the Congressional elections this fall, they are certain to leave the electorate more polarized than ever. The most reliable political web site shows the Republicans certain to recapture Senate seats in the red states of North Dakota, Arkansas, and Indiana, and has also suggested that Blue Dog Democrats are particularly vulnerable. More paralysis awaits. President Obama has real legislative achievements--the stimulus, health care, and, perhaps, financial reform--but none of them has done anything to cure the emotional ills of the American people, and we shall all pay the price for that.
Posted on: Tuesday, August 10, 2010 - 13:42
SOURCE: Truthout (8-9-10)
Socialism had a checkered career in the United States. Its partisans never had a meaningful chance at gaining power. Around the turn of the 20th century, during the 1930s, and then again during the 1960s, however, they did influence the intellectual climate and the formation of various policy options. That influence grew weaker in the aftermath of the 1960s. But, today, the appeal of socialism has had something of a rebirth. Eight years of the Bush administration produced the largest shift of income in American history. According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (September 9, 2009), two-thirds of the nation's total income gains from 2002 to 2007 flowed to the top 1 percent of U.S. households. The last time such a large share of the income gain went to the top 1 percent of households - and such a small share went to the bottom 90 percent of households - was in the 1920s. Immediately following 9/11, President Bush and his neo-conservative friends began strengthening the national security state and implementing an overtly imperialist foreign policy. All this accompanied a domestic economic offensive. Waged in the name of the capitalist class - there is no other meaningful way to say it - policies were introduced intent on radically deregulating markets and business, curtailing social services, and preparing the conditions for legal judgments that would abolish limits on campaign spending. Following the election of Barack Obama, this offensive found a new target. Subsidies for home owners with mortgages, environmental programs, extension of unemployment benefits, litigation against employers of illegal immigrants, and national health insurance legislation accompanied bailouts of the banks and oversight legislation for the stock market that was described by The New York Times (May 21, 2010) as constituting "the most sweeping regulatory overhaul since the aftermath of the great depression."
Were these policies "socialist" enough? Newsweek certainly thought so: its headline on February 16, 2009 ran "We are all socialists now!" Powerful elements of the far right galvanized around this perception. Healthcare was attacked at a recent Conservative Political Action Conference (2/20/10) as a "secular socialist machine." A huge billboard went up in Iowa displaying a photo of President Obama alongside photos of Lenin ("Marxist socialism") and Hitler ("national socialism"). A phalanx of wildly popular and reactionary radio talk show hosts like Glen Beck, Rush Limbaugh, and Bill O'Reilly now use "socialism" as a catch-all term to condemn any policy that strengthens the social welfare function of the state. It is the same with the right-wing populist "tea party," Anti-welfare state, anti-intellectual, implacably opposed to immigration and increasingly racist, they are openly hostile to all proposals for redistributing wealth. Oddly enough, however, right-wing fears about socialism are not completely unfounded. Polls by Pew, Gallup, and Rasmusson noted that 29 percent of the American public views socialism in a positive light and 37 percent consider it superior to capitalism - and the numbers rise to 43 percent among those between 18 and 30 years of age (Common Dreams May 18, 2010). But the polls note, significantly, that the respondents are not necessarily clear about the meaning of terms like socialism. Many leftists use the socialist ideal to decry the shortcomings of the Obama administration. Others don't. Legitimate criticisms about half-baked foreign policies in Afghanistan and Iraq abound with often over-heated claims about one "sell-out" after another on the domestic front. Some left critics suggest that finance reform will not affect banks that are "too big to fail;" others insist that healthcare reform requires a "single payer" plan or a "public option;" still others demand greater emphasis on job creation. Certain of these charges are undoubtedly legitimate. Referring to the more radical elements of the New Deal, however, FDR famously told the unions of his time "make me do it." Shortly following his election, President Obama uttered the same words. Yet the difference in context is striking. In contrast to the 1930s, there has been little organized action from below on any issue concerning foreign or domestic policy (including nationalizing the banks or a single payer health care system) that might force the hand of the current president.
Many once-enthusiastic supporters of President Obama have become disillusioned. But, while never as radical as many assumed, he is no more opportunistic than was FDR, Willy Brandt, or a host of other leading post-war socialists. It's understandable why Obama himself doesn't wish to describe himself as a socialist. He is, after all, a pragmatic politician. Less clear is why left-wing activists and intellectuals don't discuss his programs in socialist terms either approvingly or negatively. Either it is because they, too, are afraid of the socialist label or because they identify socialism with some sectarian or utopian ideal. Ignoring socialism leaves progressive forces in the position of identifying with liberalism (the notorious "L-word") or plain "democracy" - though has done nothing to dispel conservative attacks. Preserving a doctrinaire understanding of socialism, by contrast, renders it politically irrelevant. Better to consider a notion of critical solidarity and highlight the "socialist" elements of existing proposals that seek to regulate capital and redistribute wealth. Articulating criteria for judging this or that piece of legislation, while targeting and then pressuring conservative "allies," is part of the challenge facing contemporary socialists. Commitment to principles should not excuse refusing to engage what exists. After all, if it means anything at all, socialism is ultimately a political project rather than a model program or a prefabricated ideal.
Posted on: Monday, August 9, 2010 - 15:11
SOURCE: Tabsir (Blog) (8-9-10)
[Daniel Martin Varisco is Professor of Anthropology at Hofstra University.]
As I child I have vivid memories of attending an avowedly fundamentalist revival meeting on the then hot Cold War theme of “The Impending Holocaust,” the theme being that the Russian communists were poised to invade America, knock down all our electricity networks and raze every church to the ground (imagine what they would do to God-fearing virgins). It was those commie atheists who could not stand seeing any house of worship. Now it is clear that the fearmongers among us have switched Satanic enemies. Islam has replaced Communism as the Devil’s international workshop (of course Islam long held that status before any German freethinker or British social theorist thought up the idea of communism). A church on every corner, a synagogue here and there and even an occasional Masonic temple, but “our” God preserve us from any mosques.
The current torrent of media hype about building a “mosque” near Ground Zero is part of a deeper Islamophobic fervor in direct lineage with the same unfriendly folks who have self-righteously hated Injuns, Negroes and Jews and found verses in the King James Version of the Bible to back up their hatred. Today’sNew York Times carries a story by Laurie Goodstein about efforts across the country to stop construction of Islamic places of worship. If this is yet another tempest brewed in Tea Party forums, it looks more like a lynch mob than a ladies aid society brunch. As Goodstein warns:
Feeding the resistance is a growing cottage industry of authors and bloggers — some of them former Muslims — who are invited to speak at rallies, sell their books and testify in churches. Their message is that Islam is inherently violent and incompatible with America.
Opposition to mosques is not new. In the past the usual reason stated was fear of traffic flow or similar civic concerns, but now, as Goodstein notes, the gloves are off. Hatred of Muslims did not begin with 9/11, nor with the 1979 Iranian hostage crisis. It has always been there in Christian tradition, which once faced a legitimate political threat from Muslim armies. But it is also of the same cloth as the long history of Christian anti-semitism against Jews, who were obviously never a military threat to Europe or America. While many of the Islamophobes out there, like jihad-blinded Robert Spencer, the obsessive David Horowitz and other media-made hate advocates, constantly claim they are not against Islam but only Islamism, the disclaimers mean little, especially to those who are only too ready to find easy targets of blame.
Unfortunately, far too many people in the United States have a history of wearing historical blinders. Those who paste “America: love it or leave it” on their SUV bumpers seldom pause to consider that many of their ancestors would probably not have been allowed to even enter the country if such prejudice overruled the constitutional law of the land. And at the start of this democratic experiment all men were only created equal if they were men and for the most part neither “black” nor “red.” My Sicilian grandfather told me stories about how Italians were treated on the wrong streets of Manhattan at the start of the 20th century. Newcomers almost always faced hurdles unless they could show pure blood ancestors present at the first Thanksgiving. So what were those pilgrims really thankful for? That there were no Jews, no Muslims, no poor Italians or Irish, no illegal alien Mexicans? How about no Mormons?...
I constantly hear people complain that “moderate” Muslims do not speak out against terrorist acts perpetrated by Muslims. Well, many have and continue to do so. One of these is Feisal Abdul Rauf, who is the latest tar-and-feathered Muslim leader for daring to promote interfaith dialogue near a site that exposed the depths of the very need for such dialogue. Rightist commentators have searched for any quotes to brand Feisal as a rabid Muslim radical bent on turning America into a new caliphate. Few bother to read his major work, where his states a principle that his work over the years ably validates:
Islamic law is clearly against terrorism, against any kind of a deliberate killing of civilians or similar ‘collateral damage.’ The roots of terrorism lie not in theology but in human psychology and in the hatred born of violent conflict over politics, or power, and economic assets such as land.
Several years ago I appeared on a local Long Island Catholic diocese television program called Our Muslim Neighbours, moderated by Father Tom Hartman and Rabbi Marc Gellman, the dynamic duo of the God Squad. Appearing on the same show was Feisal Abdul Rauf, who was speaking about his newly released book, What’s Right with Islam: A New Vision for Muslims and the West. I note on the back cover of the book that Rabbi Irwin Kula, President of the National Jewish Center for Learning and Leadership, commented on this book: “A must read for anyone who wants to contribute to repairing our world post-9/11 – and that needs to be each one of us.” There are also tributes from theologian Hans Küng, former archbishop of Canterbury Lord Carey and Karen Armstrong. Yet in all the vitriol being leveled against Imam Feisal as a shari’a maniac clothed in a Western suit, no one bothers to actually read this book or look at his life work.
There are estimated to be about 1900 “mosques” in the United States. This is about the same number as “Christian Science” reading rooms nationwide. Would you like to count Christian churches? The Hartford Institute suggests that there are about 335,000 Christian congregations, about 300,000 of which are Protestant. So it will take some time and quite a bit of successful missionary work (assuming Iran does not nuke us into a dark age and make all the women wear chadors) for Islam to catch up with its older sibling monotheism. Of course we all know that there is never any violence hatched in a church, only in mosques and some would claim in all mosques. Fortunately, as the Goodstein article notes, there is considerable interfaith dialogue addressing those who spew out hate of Islam. But I suspect that the mosque cow will be milked for some time to come, as long as Sarah Palin can cash in on her less than bear-minimum speaking engagements and Glenn Beck can find more Nazi parallels.
Posted on: Monday, August 9, 2010 - 14:21
SOURCE: Got Medieval (8-2-10)
There are any number of reasons why an American might oppose the Cordoba House, the planned $100 million Muslim-financed community center that has come to be known in the press as the "Ground Zero mosque." I don't think any of them are particularly good reasons, but the universe of potential justification is much broader than the narrow scope of this humble blog. There is one justification being floated around, however, that is both within this blog's purview and completely and totally bogus. Indeed, this particular justification is such an egregious and purposeful misreading of medieval history that I feel I must speak up.
Last week,* Newt Gingrich released a Newt Directstatement at Newt.org concerning the project. As you may have heard, he's somewhat opposed to it. And to explain why, he offered this history lesson:
The proposed "Cordoba House" overlooking the World Trade Center site – where a group of jihadists killed over 3000 Americans and destroyed one of our most famous landmarks - is a test of the timidity, passivity and historic ignorance of American elites. For example, most of them don’t understand that “Cordoba House” is a deliberately insulting term. It refers to Cordoba, Spain – the capital of Muslim conquerors who symbolized their victory over the Christian Spaniards by transforming a church there into the world’s third-largest mosque complex. [...I]n fact, every Islamist in the world recognizes Cordoba as a symbol of Islamic conquest. It is a sign of their contempt for Americans and their confidence in our historic ignorance that they would deliberately insult us this way. [emphasis mine]It's that appositive phrase there buried in the middle of my quote that is the problem. In these twenty-five words, Newt offers the final word on medieval Cordoba: "the capital of Muslim conquerors who symbolized their victory over Christian Spaniards by transforming a church there into the world's third-largest mosque complex." This fact, the transformation of a church into a mosque, is the only thing we should think of when we hear a modern Muslim use the word "Cordoba," according to Mr. Gingrich.
Notice how carefully he's phrased his claim to give the impression that during the medieval conquest of Spain the Muslims charged into Cordoba and declared it the capital of a new Muslim empire, and in order to add insult to injury seized control of a Christian church and built the biggest mosque they could, right there in front of the Christians they'd just conquered, a big Muslim middle finger in the heart of medieval Christendom. Essentially, they've done it before, they'll do it again, right there at Ground Zero, if all good Christians don't band together to stop them.
The problem is, in order to give that impression of immediacy, Newt elides three hundred years of Christian and Muslim history. Three hundred years. The Muslims conquered Cordoba in 712. The Christian church that was later transformed into the Great Mosque of Cordoba apparently** continued hosting Christian worship for at least a generation after that. Work on the Mosque didn't actually begin until seventy-odd years later in 784, and the mosque only became "the world's third-largest" late in the tenth century, after a series of expansions by much later rulers, probably around 987 or so.
Then there's the matter of the two odd verbs in Newt's summation of Cordoba's history: "transformed" and "symbolized". Surely, a mosque as great as The Great Mosque of Cordoba has symbolized a lot of things to a lot of people over the years. But Muslim historians writing about the Great Mosque don't point to it as a symbol of Muslim triumph over Christians; rather, they treat it primarily as a symbol of Muslim victory over other Muslims.
Keep in mind that when ground was broken on the Great Mosque, the vast majority of the men who had been personally responsible for conquering the Iberian peninsula were long dead and most of their sons were dead, too. Sure, a few extremely ancient grey beards might have been present as very, young men, and a few older men might have been able to talk about what their fathers had done during the Conquest, but Muslim control of Spain was simply a fact of life for them, not something they felt they had to justify to the Christians.
The mosque was indeed begun in the wake of a Muslim conquest--just not the conquest of the Christians. Rather, it was ordered built by the Umayyad emir Abd-ar-Ramman I, probably in part to commemorate his successful conquest of Cordoba in the 750's, fought against other Muslim chieftains loyal to the rival Abbasid Caliphate, and his successful repulsion of subsequent Abbasid attempts to dislodge him by force throughout the 760's.*** This is, incidentally, probably why the Great Mosque--unlike almost every other Mosque in the Muslim world--is built facing south. Usually, Mosques are built facing Mecca, as Muslims are meant to pray towards the holy city. But the Great Mosque is oriented as if it were actually built in Damascus, the original capital of the Umayyads and the city from which abd-ar-Ramman had had to flee in exile when it was conquered by the Abbasids. Damascus is north of Mecca, while Cordoba is much further west. By pointing his Mosque south, Abd-ar-Ramman I was telling his Muslim rivals, "This exile to Iberia is a temporary thing; you may hold Damascus for now, but in the eyes of our god, my family still controls it."
Still, the Muslims did "transform" a Christian church, didn't they? Possibly, but only in a very qualified sense. Most standard histories of Cordoba will note that the Great Mosque is built on the site of the Basilica of St Vincent, Martyr, a Visigothic church that was itself built on the ruins of a Roman pagan temple. And archaeological work has confirmed that the present site of the Mosque did at one time belong to some sort of Christian church. There's no indication that the present-day structure included any elements from that church, though, and exactly when it was razed and under what circumstances is unclear.
Muslim historians of the late tenth century tell that Abd-ar-Ramman bought the church from the Christian congregation after sharing it with them for fifty years "following the example of Abu Ubayda and Khalid, according to the judgement of Caliph Umar in partitioning Christian churches like that of Damascus and other [cities] that were taken of peaceful accord".**** The Christians, we're told, took their money and relocated their church to the outskirts of Cordoba. Now obviously, these are Muslim historians writing two-to-three-hundred years after the events they describe, so we must always take their accounts with a grain of salt (as we would with any historian's work, Muslim or not) and consider the political motivations responsible for their histories.
These tenth-century historians were writing to please the ears of the Cordoban caliphs, Abd-ar-Ramman III and his successors, in the wake of yet another victory of Muslim over Muslim. Abd-ar-Ramman III, after all, is the one who declared Cordoba to be an independent caliphate, not just an Umayyad emirate. In rewriting the history of the Mosque of Cordoba, these historians were writing imperial justifications for their patron, explaining why Cordoba deserved to be the capital of its own caliphate, held up as the equal to Damascus, site of the Great Mosque of the Umayyads, and even Mecca, the holiest of cities, which was still under Abbasid control.
This is the important fact that Newt hopes those who read his polemic will be ignorant of: for a ruler to be legitimate in Muslim eyes in the tenth century, during the time when the Great Mosque was being expanded into its present-day dimensions, it was important to emphasize the peaceful succession of Islam from the other religions in the area. A caliph was expected to have arrived at an accord with the Christians and Jews over which he ruled.****** Far from "symboliz[ing] their victory" the Mosque was held up by Muslim historians a symbol of peaceful coexistence with the Christians--however messier the actual relations of Christians and Muslims were at the time.*******
So what should modern Christians think when they hear a Muslim use the word "Cordoba"? Well, I know that Newt hasn't been a Catholic for very long now, but maybe his priest ought to direct him to read a little thing called "The Catholic Encyclopedia". Allow me to quote from the 1917 edition (which has the virtue of being in the public domain and easily searchable) and its entry on Cordoba:
In 786 the Arab caliph, Abd-er Rahman I, began the construction of the great mosque of Cordova, now the cathedral, and compelled many Christians to take part in the preparation of the site and foundations. Though they suffered many vexations, the Christians continued to enjoy freedom of worship, and this tolerant attitude of the ameers seduced not a few Christians from their original allegiance. Both Christians and Arabs co-operated at this time to make Cordova a flourishing city, the elegant refinement of which was unequalled in Europe.The article then discusses the persecution of the Christians under Abd-ar-Ramman II, which included the martyrdom of St. Eulogius. Then it continues with the rule of those rulers who expanded the Mosque:
In 962 Abd-er Rahman III was succeeded by his son Al-Hakim. Owing to the peace which the Christians of Cordova then enjoyed [...] the citizens of Cordova, Arabs, Christians, and Jews, enjoyed so high a degree of literary culture that the city was known as the New Athens. From all quarters came students eager to drink at its founts of knowledge. Among the men afterwards famous who studied at Cordova were the scholarly monk Gerbert, destined to sit on the Chair of Peter as Sylvester II (999-1003), the Jewish rabbis Moses and Maimonides, and the famous Spanish-Arabian commentator on Aristotle, Averroes.So it's easy to see why a group of Muslims creating a community center in the heart of a majority Christian country in a city known for its large Jewish population might name it "The Cordoba House" They're not, as Gingrich hopes we would believe, discreetly laughing at us because "Cordoba" is some double-secret Islamist code for "conquest"; rather, they're hoping to associate themselves with a particular time in medieval history when the largest library in Western Europe was to be found in Cordoba, a city in which scholars of all three major Abrahamic religions were free to study side-by-side.
*While I was away in Italy. Suspicious? I think so. [RETURN]
**This is a loaded "apparently" for reasons that will become clear later in this post. [RETURN]
***If your eyes glaze over at the sea of Abds, Umayyads, and Abbasids, let me put it another way. If it's legitimate for Newt Gingrich to say the Great Mosque of Cordoba was built by Muslim Conquerors in their capital city wishing to symbolize their victory over the Christians, then it'd be just as legitimate to describe the Statue of Liberty as being built by English conquerors in their capital of New York to symbolize their victory over the Dutch.
****Idhari, al-Bayan 2, pp. 341-342. Cited in Nuha N. N. Khoury, "The Meaning of the Great Mosque of Cordoba in the Tenth Century" Muqarnas, 13 (1996), pp. 80-98.[RETURN]*****
*****Sorry, I know, using a footnote to cite an actual source isn't really what you expect from me. Those who traveled down here in search of a joke--maybe some sort of pun on those weird Muslim names--my deepest apologies.
******Again, see Khoury for this, in particular, pp. 83-85. [RETURN]
*******Earlier histories don't mention the church of St. Vincent at all. Instead, they refer to the site of the new mosque as a place where the previous ruling Muslim dynasty had mercilessly executed several Muslim martyrs. So by this reading in creating the mosque, Abd-ab-Ramman I was consecrating the memory of Muslims killed by Muslims, not desecrating the memory of Christians killed by Muslims. [RETURN]
Posted on: Monday, August 9, 2010 - 13:50