Roundup: Media's Take
This is where we excerpt articles from the media that take a historical approach to events in the news.
Asaf Romirowsky and Jonathan Calt Harris, writing in frontpagemag.com (Jan. 28, 2004):
The university exists for the free exchange of ideas, right? Then why is it that representatives of one half the argument – the conservative half – need bodyguards and metal detectors when they speak on North American campuses, and their leftist counterparts almost never do?
Consider three suggestive parallels of how the Right needs security and the Left is welcomed.
Government officials. In September 2002, Benjamin Netanyahu, a former Likud (conservative) prime minister of Israel was to speak at Concordia University in Montreal, but he never made it. Nearly a thousand anti-Israel protestors rioted prior to the event,  smashing windows and hurling furniture at police, kicking and spitting on people going to the event. “By lunchtime,” notes the Globe & Mail daily, “the vestibule of Concordia's main downtown building was littered with paper, upturned chairs, broken furniture and the choking aftereffects of pepper spray.” 
In contrast, Hanan Ashrawi, a well-known Palestinian politician and activist, never faces such opposition. As she makes the rounds of American universities (such as the University of Colorado, Beloit, and Yeshiva), she speaks without interference, and what protests take place are completely non-violent. At Colorado College, students held small signs and a rebuttal was offered after the speech.  At the University of Pennsylvania , protesting students were so respectful, Tarek Jallad, president of the Penn Arab Student Society which sponsored her visit, commented: “I was very happy with the way the crowd showed her a lot of respect.” 
1960s activists. David Horowitz, a founder of the New Left movement in the 1960s and now a high-profile conservative, speaks often at campuses and often faces problems. Protestors at the University of Chicago shouted at him and disrupted his talk before he uttered a word.  At the University of Michigan, “the university administration assigned 12 armed guards and a German Shepherd to protect the safety” of those who came to hear him speak. 
By comparison, Angela Davis, a former Black Panther and still today a far-leftist, enjoys the highest of esteem when visiting campuses. As she tours American colleges, she meets no protests, requires no excessive security, and is dutifully acclaimed by campus newspapers for her “wise presence.” 
Middle East specialists. Daniel Pipes, director of the Middle East Forum, a Harvard University Ph.D., author of twelve books, and a recent Bush appointee to U.S. Institute for Peace, needs security precautions at more than half his campus appearances. At York University in Toronto, for example, security provisions included “a 24-hour lockdown on the building beforehand, metal detectors for the audience, identification checks.”  Multiple bodyguards escorted Pipes through a back entrance and kept him in a holding room until just before his talk. More than a hundred police, including ten mounted on horses, stood by to ensure the speaker's safety and the event not being disrupted. 
In contrast, John Esposito, head of Georgetown University's Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding, a Temple University Ph.D., the author of more than twenty books,  and key advisor to the Clinton State Department,  enjoys honor and praise at the campuses. He recently served as keynote speaker for the inauguration of Stanford University's new Islamic Studies program,  for example, with no hint of special security.
A clear pattern emerges. Speakers on the left are welcomed, conservatives require strict security measures.
William S. Lind, Director of the Center for Cultural Conservatism, writing on the website of the Free Congress Foundation (Dec. 2003):
Will Saddam's capture mark a turning point in the war in Iraq? Don't count on it. Few resistance fighters have been fighting for Saddam personally. Saddam's capture may lead to a fractioning of the Baath Party, which would move us further toward a Fourth Generation situation where no one can recreate the state. It may also tell the Shiites that they no longer need America to protect them from Saddam, giving them more options in their struggle for free elections.
If the U.S. Army used the capture of Saddam to announce the end of tactics that enrage ordinary Iraqis and drive them toward active resistance, it might buy us a bit of de-escalation. But I don't think we'll that be smart. When it comes to Fourth Generation war, it seems nobody in the American military gets it.
Recently, a faculty member at the National Defense University wrote to Marine Corps General Mattis, commander of I MAR DIV, to ask his views on the importance of reading military history. Mattis responded with an eloquent defense of taking time to read history, one that should go up on the wall at all of our military schools. "Thanks to my reading, I have never been caught flat-footed by any situation," Mattis said. "It doesn't give me all the answers, but it lights what is often a dark path ahead."
Still, even such a capable and well-bread commander as General Mattis seems to miss the point about Fourth Generation warfare. He said in his missive, "Ultimately, a real understanding of history means that we face NOTHING new under the sun. For all the '4th Generation of War' intellectuals running around today saying that the nature of war has fundamentally changed, the tactics are wholly new, etc., I must respectfully say...'Not really"...
Well, that isn't quite what we Fourth Generation intellectuals are saying. On the contrary, we have pointed out over and over that the 4th Generation is not novel but a return, specifically a return to the way war worked before the rise of the state. Now, as then, many different entities, not just governments of states, will wage war. They will wage war for many different reasons, not just "the extension of politics by other means." And they will use many different tools to fight war, not restricting themselves to what we recognize as military forces. When I am asked to recommend a good book describing what a Fourth Generation world will be like, I usually suggest Barbara Tuchman's A Distant Mirror: The Calamitous Fourteenth Century.
Nor are we saying that Fourth Generation tactics are new. On the contrary, many of the tactics Fourth Generation opponents use are standard guerilla tactics. Others, including much of what we call "terrorism," are classic Arab light cavalry warfare carried out with modern technology at the operational and strategic, not just tactical, levels.
Peter Robinson, a fellow at the Hoover Institution, served as chief speechwriter to Vice President Bush and special assistant and speechwriter to President Reagan. He is the author of How Ronald Reagan Changed My Life (Regan, 2003). In the WSJ (Jan. 22, 2004):
The White House communications director, Dan Bartlett, reported on Tuesday that by the time the president left to deliver his State of the Union address at the Capitol, the speechwriters were "on about draft 30 of the speech." From a speechwriter who went through the ordeal a few times himself, here's a report card:
* The Fatuity Factor: By the time a State of the Union address is in its 10th or 12th draft, it's easy for the speechwriters to start composing sentences that don't actually mean anything. Perhaps because they passed through so many hands -- his speechwriting staff was the largest in recent years, perhaps in history -- President Clinton's State of the Union addresses are especially rich in examples of empty rhetoric. Consider this beauty from Mr. Clinton's 1996 address: "Now is the time for us to look to the challenges of today and tomorrow, beyond the burdens of yesterday."
President Bush? I listened closely, but in all 54 minutes I never heard him utter a single sentence that didn't mean at least a little something. This may seem an odd category in which to award a grade. But within the speechwriting brotherhood, it's important. Even at the worst moments, everyone on the Bush staff kept his head. Grade: A
* Make 'Em Laugh: Humor is tricky in a State of the Union address. A few laughs would help set the audience in the House chamber at ease. But the occasion is supposed to be august. In 1992, President George H. W. Bush joked that Speaker Tom Foley and Vice President Dan Quayle, positioned on the rostrum behind him, "saw what I did in Japan [the President, ill with the flu, had vomited at a state dinner] and they're just happy they're sitting behind me." The elder Bush may have gotten a laugh, but he sounded undignified.
One of the finest moments this time took place during the president's discussion of the war on terror. Turning to the argument that the rebuilding of Iraq should be internationalized, the president deadpanned.
"This particular criticism," he said, "is hard to explain to our partners in Britain, Australia, Japan, South Korea, the Philippines . . . " As Mr.
Bush continued -- ". .. . Thailand, Italy, Spain, Poland, Denmark, Hungary, Bulgaria, Ukraine, Romania, the Netherlands . . ." -- his audience began to laugh. Then the audience interrupted him with applause. And when he finally completed the litany of nations that have committed troops to Iraq -- ". . . Norway, El Salvador, and . . . 17 other countries . . ." -- the audience gave him an ovation.
The best use of humor in a State of the Union address I've witnessed. Grade: A+
* The Speech He Got Stuck With: State of the Union addresses often amount to not one but two speeches: the speech the president got stuck with, which sounds like a hodgepodge, and, somewhere inside it, the speech the president wanted to deliver, which sounds unified, authentic and complete.
How do chief executives get stuck with hodgepodges? For weeks, Cabinet secretaries, agency heads, chairmen of congressional committees, and members of the White House senior staff draw up lists of initiatives they insist the address must contain. Some of this material can be tossed out.
But a lot cannot. Speechwriters do their best to keep this portion of State of the Union addresses thematically unified. They always fail.
How was this portion of President Bush's address? Just fine. The president's own interest in the speech came and went -- he appeared a lot more intent on making his tax cuts permanent than on modernizing the electricity grid. But his delivery remained well-paced, the text itself craftsmanlike. And it isn't really the rhetoric in this portion of any State of the Union address that matters in any event. It's the dollars. By contrast with the spree over which George W. Bush has so far presided -- as this newspaper has pointed out, Mr. Bush has increased discretionary domestic spending more than any chief executive since Lyndon Johnson -- the hodgepodge of proposals the president advanced on Tuesday appears restrained. Grade: A
* The Speech He Wanted to Deliver: In 1992, President George H. W. Bush delivered one of the best speeches-within-a-speech in any State of the Union address, speaking with feeling about the end of the Cold War.
"[C]ommunism died this year," the elder Bush proclaimed. "There are still threats. But the long, drawn-out dread is over."
On Tuesday, President George W. Bush delivered a speech-within-a-speech of his own, devoting it to the war on terror. These first 25 minutes of his address proved beautifully written and powerfully delivered. "The work of building a new Iraq is hard, and it is right," the president declared. "And America has always been willing to do what it takes for what is right." Yet something was missing. Although the president provided a compelling defense of his actions in the 28 months since 9/11, he told us almost nothing about what comes next.
"[N]early two-thirds of [al Qaeda's] known leaders have now been captured or killed," the president stated. Did he mean to suggest that the war on terror is two-thirds over? If not, why not? At times the president spoke as if the war would end as soon as we caught "the remaining killers." At other times he spoke as if the war would continue until we had transformed the entire Arab world, remaking a region that "remains a place of tyranny and despair and anger." Which does he intend?
As he proved in his defiant address on Sept. 20, 2001, nine days after the terrorist attacks, George W. Bush knows how to sound Churchillian. In the State of the Union address, he should have told us whether the war on terror has reached the beginning of the end or only the end of the beginning. Grade: Incomplete
* "Good Enough": The president's failure to lay out our next objectives in the war on terror strikes me as serious. On the other hand, you can submit President Reagan's 1984 State of the Union address to the most minute scrutiny but find only the broadest hints about what he intended to do in a second term. Yet later that year he carried 49 out of 50 states -- and by the time he left office he had won the Cold War.
A pretty good speech is often good enough. Overall Grade: B+
Brian Klug, writing in theNation (Jan. 15, 2004):
In 1879 the German journalist Wilhelm Marr, a former socialist and anarchist, founded an organization that was novel in two ways. It was the first political party based on a platform of hostility to Jews. And it introduced the world to a new word: "anti-Semite."
Marr was an atheist, and the Antisemiten-Liga (League of Anti-Semites) was hostile to Jews on the secular grounds that they are an alien "race." However, his account of "Semitism" was not essentially different from the demonic conception of the Jew that had existed in Christian Europe for centuries. It boiled down to this: Jews are a people apart from the rest of humanity. They are the enemy. Wherever they go, they form a state within a state. Conspiring in secret, they work together to promote their own collective advantage at the expense of the nations or societies in whose midst they dwell and on whom they prey. Cunning and manipulative, they possess uncanny powers that enable them, despite their small numbers, to achieve their ends. The term "antiSemitism" has come to refer to this discourse, or variations on the themes it contains, because the same rhetoric persists whether Jewish identity is seen as religious, racial, national or ethnic. Sometimes this discourse is explicit; at other times it is the subtext of attacks on Jews. Anti-Semitism, thus defined, is not new.
But a spate of recent articles and books assert the rise of a "new anti-Semitism." This is the thrust of "Graffiti on History's Walls" by Mortimer Zuckerman, the cover story of the November 3, 2003, issue of U.S. News & World Report. In December New York magazine ran a similarly sensationalist cover story, titled "The Return of Anti-Semitism," which spoke of "a groundswell of hate" against Jews and suggested that Jew-hatred was now "politically correct" in Europe. At least three books recently published in English make the same claim: Never Again? by Abraham Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League; The New Anti-Semitism by feminist Phyllis Chesler; and The Case for Israel by Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz. Most of the contributors to A New Antisemitism?, edited by Paul Iganski and Barry Kosmin, take a similar view, with varying degrees of emphasis.
As the words "threat" and "crisis" in the subtitles of the books by Foxman and Chesler indicate, the "new anti-Semitism" is generally seen, by those who proclaim its existence, as a clear and present danger. Foxman believes that a "frightening coalition of anti-Jewish sentiment is forming on a global scale." Chesler goes even further: "Let me be clear: the war against the Jews is being waged on many fronts--militarily, politically, economically, and through propaganda--and on all continents." She even perceives a wider threat to Western civilization itself: "Who or what can loosen the madness that has gripped the world and that threatens to annihilate the Jews and the West?"
There is certainly reason to be concerned about a climate of hostility to Jews, including vicious physical attacks. On one Saturday this past November, for example, two synagogues in Istanbul were truck-bombed during Sabbath services, while an Orthodox Jewish school in a Paris suburb was largely destroyed by arson. Some researchers report a 60 percent worldwide increase in the number of assaults on Jews (or persons perceived to be Jewish) in 2002, compared with the previous year. At the same time, something is rotten in the state of public discourse. Anti-Jewish slogans and graphics have appeared on marches opposing the invasion of Iraq. Jewish conspiracy theories have been revived, such as the widely circulated "urban legend" that Jews were warned in advance to stay away from the World Trade Center in New York on September 11, 2001. And recently, certain public figures on both the right and the left have made negative generalizations about Jews and "Jewish influence."
The authors under review tend to lump all these facts together, along with a wealth of evidence for what they see as an explosion of bias against Israel: in the media, in the United Nations, on college campuses and elsewhere. They conclude that there is a single unified phenomenon, a "new antiSemitism." However, while the facts give cause for serious concern, the idea that they add up to a new kind of anti-Semitism is confused. Moreover, this confusion, combined with a McCarthyite tendency to see anti-Semites under every bed, arguably contributes to the climate of hostility toward Jews. The result is to make matters worse for the very people these authors mean to defend.
The claim that I am criticizing is not that there is a new outbreak of "old" antiSemitism but that there is an outbreak of anti-Semitism of a new kind. Thus the case in support of this claim is not merely cumulative: It does not consist simply in piling up one example after another. There is an organizing principle, a central idea that holds the case together. It is only in terms of this idea that many of the examples cited in the literature count as evidence of antiSemitism. Without this central idea, the case that is made with their help falls apart. So the question is this: What puts the "new" into "new anti-Semitism"?
Joanne Mariner, writing in findlaw.com (Jan. 21, 2004):
Roe v. Wade, the landmark Supreme Court opinion whose thirty-first anniversary falls on January 22, was not yet a decade old when I became pregnant. I was seventeen, living on my own, and the pregnancy was unwanted....
Even though, as the Supreme Court said in 1992, "an entire generation has come of age free to assume Roe's concept of liberty," the right to a safe and legal abortion remains under threat. According to NARAL Pro-Choice America, 335 anti-choice measures have been enacted since 1995. President George Bush has openly endorsed the goal of banning abortion, and some of his federal judicial picks have been anti-abortion zealots, a worrying indicator for his possible future nominees to the Supreme Court.
Publicly-funded abortion is not available in most states, except in narrow cases of rape, incest, or life endangerment. Since 1977, federal law has prohibited Medicaid from paying for the abortions of low-income women in most circumstances. Because fewer than half of all states offer supplemental funding that goes beyond these federal limitations, the possibility of abortion is foreclosed to many poor women.
Mandatory parental consent or notification rules, which exist in more than thirty states, deter many teenagers from exercising their constitutional right to a legal abortion. Minors with abusive parents may risk physical or emotional harm if required to disclose their pregnancy. Judicial bypass procedures, which the Supreme Court has ruled must be included in parental consent and notice laws, may be ineffective when the reviewing judge is hostile to abortion.
Numerous procedural restrictions continue to impede women's access to abortion. Now, in twenty states, women seeking abortion face mandatory delays in obtaining the procedure, a requirement that is often paired with the obligation of receiving state-dictated informational materials designed to discourage abortion. Such rules particularly burden women who live long distances from abortion providers, or whose transportation arrangements are difficult. Other state laws target doctors who perform abortions, imposing complicated regulatory schemes.
The latest effort to hobble reproductive rights has been to redefine what constitutes an abortion, via legislation like the federal Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act. Although the Supreme Court struck down the most restrictive of these laws, adopted in Nebraska, others have passed lower court scrutiny. Although they are supposed to cover only late-term abortions, the imprecise and unscientific language of such laws means that their scope threatens to extend far beyond the situations cited by their supporters.
Malcolm A. Kline, writing for Accuracy in Academia (Dec. 2003):
The Kwanzaa controversy somehow bypassed me, until my African bride forced me to evaluate it. My wife can trace her ancestry directly to Shaka, who reigned over much of sub-Saharan Africa until defeated by the combination of the most powerful European armies at the turn of the last century and tribal leaders who had grown disenchanted with the Zulu king. One of these defecting tribal leaders was, in turn, one of my wife's more direct ancestors. Shaka, in turn, was related to many of these tribal leaders.
"As an African-American and Pan-African holiday celebrated by millions throughout the world African community," the official Kwanzaa web site tells us,"Kwanzaa brings a cultural message which speaks to the best of what it means to be African and human in the fullest sense."
You see, I took it for granted that it was an African holiday. When we were still engaged, I watched a Kwanzaa TV commercial in the living room of my fiancée's apartment while my bride-to-be attended to some errand or other elsewhere. As I watched the commercial, I panicked. My mind raced. After all, the official holiday web site gives us advice on gifts, Kwanzaa colors and decorations and the celebration of the holiday itself.
I wondered whether I needed to buy presents for all my future in-laws, whether we would all exchange gifts, whether I needed to send special Kwanzaa cards to every member of the family I was marrying into, whether we would have a special dinner. Would I have to learn some special Kwanzaa songs?
As I was lost in this reverie, my African-born fiancée came into the room, looked incredulously at the television set and said,"What in the hell is this Kwanzaa?"
Samson Mulugeta, writing in Newsday (Dec. 29, 2003):
For decades, former dictators' career paths have tended to lead to luxurious retirements, untroubled by trial or punishment. With his arrest this month, though, Iraq 's Saddam Hussein joins a small but growing group: former despots facing justice.
The trend is a new one. Uganda 's Idi Amin had an opulent life of exile in Saudi Arabia for decades until he died in August. Amin's successor, Milton Obote, reportedly lives undisturbed in Zambia .
Nigeria 's Ibrahim Babangida and Guatemala 's Efrain Rios Montt, former military strongmen, kept enough political power to avoid even the bother of exile. Both are influential and untried at home, despite allegations that they engaged in corruption and state-sponsored killing while in office.
But since the end of the Cold War, a number of retired dictators have been hauled into court or jail. The trend has been pushed by U.S.-led military interventions (they ousted Hussein, Panama's Manuel Noriega and Yugoslavia's Slobodan Milosevic) and by the rise of United Nations-sponsored tribunals, which have tried Milosevic and former rulers of Rwanda and Sierra Leone.
Dictators also are under new threat from the willingness of courts in some countries, including the United States , Spain and Belgium , to hear charges against abusive leaders from other nations.
Independent of U.S. action, other peoples - notably in Africa - have moved more aggressively in recent years to prosecute their deposed autocrats.
In Africa, the former dictator of Chad , Hissene Habre, was comfortably exiled until Senegal agreed in 2001 to hold him for possible extradition to face trial in Belgium . Jean Kambanda, who as prime minister of Rwanda helped lead the 1994 genocide there, was sentenced to life in prison by a UN tribunal in 1998.
The most prominent previous attempt to jail a former dictator has been that against Chile 's Augusto Pinochet. His detention in Britain during 1998 and '99 came at the request of a Spanish judge and marked a growing "internationalization" of such cases. Pinochet was ultimately deemed too ill to stand trial and returned to Chile .
Also in Latin America , Argentines last year charged former military ruler Leopoldo Galtieri with human rights crimes. He died in January under house arrest.
Still, it seems that most deposed despots stay out of court. "Almost a century after the appearance of modern dictators, the world still doesn't have a template of how to handle these people," said historian Benjamin L. Apers, author of "Dictators, Democracy and American Political Culture."
Con Coughlin, writing in the Sunday Telegraph (London) (Dec. 28, 2003):
We are winning the war on terror. To some this statement might appear somewhat rash in view of how 2003 is drawing to a close. French flights to America cancelled because of a potential threat by al-Qaeda; a failed assassination attempt (the second this month) against President Pervez Musharraf of Pakistan ; and yet more US troops killed by a roadside bomb in Iraq .
But just because al-Qaeda still possesses the ability to blow up the British consulate in Istanbul, or some such similar outrage, does not mean that we should draw the conclusion, as does Correlli Barnett, the eminent Second World War historian , writing in the latest edition of The Spectator, that the Islamic militants are winning.
While defeatism such as this undoubtedly lends encouragement to the disparate groups of Muslim extremists who believe they are engaged in a timeless jihad against the West, it is also based on a fundamental misunderstanding of the war on terror's stated objectives. Following the September 11 attacks, it was obvious that Washington would intensify its efforts to confront al-Qaeda. But in many respects this was merely an extension of the counter-terrorism campaign that had already been waged by the US against Osama bin Laden's al-Qaeda network since the mid-1990s, when bin Laden first showed his willingness to attack American targets. When President Clinton left office in 2001, plans were well advanced for the Americans to assassinate bin Laden.
The most significant policy shift to emerge in Washington and, to a lesser extent, in London following the September 11 attacks was the introduction of the policy of pre-emption - hitting your enemies hard before they have the chance to hit you. President George W Bush first outlined this new policy in his address to Congress nine days after the September 11 attacks. He declared that apart from targeting terrorist groups that possessed "global reach", the US was determined to take on any country that provided "aid or safe haven to terrorism". In his State of the Union address in January 2002, he extended this policy to include "terrorists and regimes who seek chemical, biological or nuclear weapons".
When assessed on the basis of these criteria, then, the war on terror does not appear to be quite the calamity that some of its critics would have us believe. The Taliban regime in Afghanistan , which for many years provided a safe haven for bin Laden and his followers, has been decisively defeated, and bin Laden's operational infrastructure uprooted.
Many of bin Laden's key aides have been killed while others are in American custody - including some of those responsible for planning the September 11 attacks - and have revealed many details about al-Qaeda's methods and infrastructure to their interrogators. This information has resulted in many terror attacks being foiled, including a planned attack on the British embassy in Yemen and a repeat run of the September 11 attacks, with a hijacked civilian airliner set to crash into Las Vegas over Christmas. Foiled terrorist attacks, of course, do not generate as much publicity as those that are successful, but even within the narrow confines of the war against al-Qaeda, the past two years have hardly been a wash-out.
Paul Farhi, writing in the Washington Post (Dec. 28, 2003):
Democratic presidential candidate Howard Dean has a vision of where he'd like to take the nation. It turns out to be the 1960s.
In campaign stop after campaign stop, in overheated high school gyms and smoky union halls, Dean repeatedly offers this misty-eyed homage to that turbulent decade:
"When I was 21 years old," he says, "it was the end of the civil rights era, and America had paid an enormous price. Martin Luther King had been killed. Bobby Kennedy was dead. A lot of other people who are less well-known, including four little girls in a Birmingham church, had died so that we could have equal rights under the law for all Americans.
"But it was also a time of great hope. Medicare had passed. Head Start had passed. The Civil Rights Act, the Voting Rights Act, the first African American justice [was appointed to] the United States Supreme Court. We felt like we were all in it together, that we all had responsibility for this country. . . . That [strong schools and communities were] everybody's responsibility. That if one person was left behind, then America wasn't as strong or as good as it could be or as it should be. That's the kind of country that I want back."
It is a stirring piece of rhetoric, and one that inevitably draws cheers and sustained applause for the former Vermont governor as he campaigns through this state, which holds its first-in-the-nation Democratic caucus in three weeks. In this part of the farm belt last week, Dean used it as his closer almost every place he spoke.
His references to the '60s, Dean makes clear in an interview, are something personal. "We felt the possibilities were unlimited then," he said last week. "We were making such enormous progress. It resonates with a lot of people my age. People my age really felt that way."
As history, however, Dean's memories of the era are selective. Rather than the time of great national unity and purpose he describes, the 1960s were a period of great upheaval, and surely rank among the most divisive for America in the 20th century.
By 1969, the year Dean turned 21, the Vietnam War had split the country, fomenting sometimes violent protests on college campuses. Several long, hot summers of urban riots had turned cities into powder kegs of racial tension. Despite passage of the federal Civil Rights Act five years earlier, segregation and discrimination lingered, and poverty and educational disparity were rampant. Employment opportunities for women and minorities were still highly limited. Politically, the country was deeply divided as well, with Richard M. Nixon winning a narrow 1968 presidential election over Democrat Hubert H. Humphrey and independent George C. Wallace.
As Georgetown University history professor Michael Kazin puts it, "A lot of people would be glad not to go back to the '60s." ...
Dante J. Scala, a political science professor at St. Anselm College in New Hampshire , says Dean is tacitly summoning up the political ghosts of Sens. Eugene McCarthy ( Minn. ) and George S. McGovern (S.D.), two Democratic presidential candidates who, like Dean, took on their party establishment in 1968 and 1972, respectively.
"For liberals in this state, those years were the high-water mark," he says. In those primaries, "they made McCarthy and McGovern into credible candidates, and they succeeded in creating two earthquakes in the Democratic Party. Dean is doing the same thing. He's hearkening back to those heady days of the late 1960s when liberals were ascendant."
As for more moderate voters, Scala says, "They might be more wary of it, but they're not turned off by it. The problem for them is that they haven't found a candidate who lights them up the way Dean lights up reformed-minded Democrats here."
Kazin, the Georgetown professor and co-author of "America Divided: The Civil War of the 1960s," pegs Dean's message earlier in the decade, which Kazin calls "the high point of liberalism." This was a period when the optimism of President John F. Kennedy's New Frontier gave way to President Lyndon B. Johnson's anti-poverty programs, such as Head Start.
"He's evoking a sort of grass-roots version of LBJ's Great Society," says Kazin. "Liberals did have that vision. Obviously, the '60s were a time of tremendous division in the country, but liberals felt that things were going their way. It's certainly a contested period, but he's trying to claim it for liberals, which is quite appropriate."
Adds Kazin, "Every political faith has a golden age. Conservatives like the 1980s, when we won the Cold War and America stood tall again. If you're liberal, you remember the '60s the way Dean is doing now."
Peter Carlson, writing in the Washington Post (Dec. 28, 2003):
Ah, it's nice to be Neil Bush.
When you're Neil Bush, rich people from all over the world are eager to invest money in your businesses, even though your businesses have a history of crashing and burning in spectacular fashion.
When you're Neil Bush, you'll be sitting in a hotel room in Thailand or Hong Kong , minding your own business, when suddenly there's a knock at the door. You answer it and a comely woman strolls in and has sex with you.
Life sure is fun when you're Neil Bush, son of one president, brother of another.
Just how much fun was revealed in a deposition taken last March, during Bush's very nasty divorce battle. Asked by his wife's attorney whether he'd had any extramarital affairs, Bush told the story of his Asian hotel room escapades....
Meanwhile, back home in Texas , Bush serves as co-chairman of a company called Crest Investment. Crest, he revealed in the deposition, pays him $60,000 a year to provide "miscellaneous consulting services."
"Such as?" Brown asked.
"Such as answering phone calls when Jamal Daniel, the other co-chairman, called and asked for advice," Bush replied....
Neil Bush is the latest manifestation of a long tradition in American life -- the president's embarrassing relative.
There was Sam Houston Johnson, who used to get drunk and start blabbing to the press until his brother, Lyndon, sicced the Secret Service on him.
And Donald Nixon, who dreamed of founding a fast-food chain called Nixonburgers and who accepted, but never repaid, a $200,000 loan from billionaire Howard Hughes. His brother, Dick, had the Secret Service tap his phone.
And Billy Carter, who drank prodigious quantities of beer, authored a book called "Redneck Power" and took $200,000 from the government of Libya .
And Roger Clinton, a party animal who spent a year in prison for cocaine dealing and who later appeared in a movie called "Pumpkinhead II" playing a pol called Mayor Bubba.
But Neil Bush has surpassed them all. Bush has done something that no other American has ever accomplished: He has become the embarrassing relative of not one but two presidents.
In the late '80s and early '90s, Bush embarrassed his father, George H.W. Bush, with his shady dealings as a board member of the infamous Silverado Savings and Loan, whose collapse cost taxpayers $1 billion.
Now Bush has embarrassed his brother George W. Bush with a made-for-the-tabloids divorce that featured paternity rumors, a defamation suit and, believe it or not, allegations of voodoo.
Stephen F. Hayes, writing in the Weekly Standard (Dec. 29, 2003-Jan. 5, 2003):
ARE AL QAEDA'S links to Saddam Hussein's Iraq just a fantasy of the Bush administration? Hardly. The Clinton administration also warned the American public about those ties and defended its response to al Qaeda terror by citing an Iraqi connection.
For nearly two years, starting in 1996, the CIA monitored the al Shifa pharmaceutical plant in Khartoum, Sudan. The plant was known to have deep connections to Sudan's Military Industrial Corporation, and the CIA had gathered intelligence on the budding relationship between Iraqi chemical weapons experts and the plant's top officials. The intelligence included information that several top chemical weapons specialists from Iraq had attended ceremonies to celebrate the plant's opening in 1996. And, more compelling, the National Security Agency had intercepted telephone calls between Iraqi scientists and the plant's general manager.
Iraq also admitted to having a $199,000 contract with al Shifa for goods under the oil-for-food program. Those goods were never delivered. While it's hard to know what significance, if any, to ascribe to this information, it fits a pattern described in recent CIA reporting on the overlap in the mid-1990s between al Qaeda-financed groups and firms that violated U.N. sanctions on behalf of Iraq.
The clincher, however, came later in the spring of 1998, when the CIA secretly gathered a soil sample from 60 feet outside of the plant's main gate. The sample showed high levels of O-ethylmethylphosphonothioic acid, known as EMPTA, which is a key ingredient for the deadly nerve agent VX. A senior intelligence official who briefed reporters at the time was asked which countries make VX using EMPTA."Iraq is the only country we're aware of," the official said."There are a variety of ways of making VX, a variety of recipes, and EMPTA is fairly unique."
That briefing came on August 24, 1998, four days after the Clinton administration launched cruise-missile strikes against al Qaeda targets in Afghanistan and Sudan (Osama bin Laden's headquarters from 1992-96), including the al Shifa plant. The missile strikes came 13 days after bombings at U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania killed 257 people--including 12 Americans--and injured nearly 5,000. Clinton administration officials said that the attacks were in part retaliatory and in part preemptive. U.S. intelligence agencies had picked up" chatter" among bin Laden's deputies indicating that more attacks against American interests were imminent.
The al Shifa plant in Sudan was largely destroyed after being hit by six Tomahawk missiles. John McWethy, national security correspondent for ABC News, reported the story on August 25, 1998:
Before the pharmaceutical plant was reduced to rubble by American cruise missiles, the CIA was secretly gathering evidence that ended up putting the facility on America's target list. Intelligence sources say their agents clandestinely gathered soil samples outside the plant and found, quote,"strong evidence" of a chemical compound called EMPTA, a compound that has only one known purpose, to make VX nerve gas.
Then, the connection:
The U.S. had been suspicious for months, partly because of Osama bin Laden's financial ties, but also because of strong connections to Iraq. Sources say the U.S. had intercepted phone calls from the plant to a man in Iraq who runs that country's chemical weapons program.
The senior intelligence officials who briefed reporters laid out the collaboration."We knew there were fuzzy ties between [bin Laden] and the plant but strong ties between him and Sudan and strong ties between the plant and Sudan and strong ties between the plant and Iraq." Although this official was careful not to oversell bin Laden's ties to the plant, other Clinton officials told reporters that the plant's general manager lived in a villa owned by bin Laden.
Several Clinton administration national security officials told THE WEEKLY STANDARD last week that they stand by the intelligence."The bottom line for me is that the targeting was justified and appropriate," said Daniel Benjamin, director of counterterrorism on Clinton's National Security Council, in an emailed response to questions."I would be surprised if any president--with the evidence of al Qaeda's intentions evident in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam and the intelligence on [chemical weapons] that was at hand from Sudan--would have made a different decision about bombing the plant."
The current president certainly agrees."I think you give the commander in chief the benefit of the doubt," said George W. Bush, governor of Texas, on August 20, 1998, the same day as the U.S. counterstrikes."This is a foreign policy matter. I'm confident he's working on the best intelligence available, and I hope it's successful."
Wouldn't the bombing of a plant with well-documented connections to Iraq's chemical weapons program, undertaken in an effort to strike back at Osama bin Laden's terrorist network, seem to suggest the
Clinton administration national security officials believed Iraq was working with al Qaeda? Benjamin, who has been one of the leading skeptics of claims that Iraq was working with al Qaeda, doesn't want to connect those dots.
Borzou Daragahi, writing in Newsday (Dec. 30, 2003):
Painstakingly restored and maintained by successive Iranian governments since 1958, the citadel at Bam was one of the most important archaeological sites in Iran and a popular tourist attraction.
Its collapse in a powerful earthquake Friday dismayed archaeologists and conservation specialists, in particular.
"It's a cultural catastrophe," said Iraj Afshar Sistani, a Tehran historian and author. "This historical city constituted one of the wonders of Iran 's heritage."
Masserat Amir-Ebrahimi, a Tehran cultural expert, likened the loss of the citadel to the 2001 demolition of the giant Buddha statues in central Afghanistan by the hard-line Taliban regime.
The impressive reddish-gray castle compound, made of sun-dried mud bricks, palm-tree trunks and straw, was the greatest mud-brick structure in the world, dominating the Kavir Desert in southeast Iran , an arid and mountainous area near the Afghan and Pakistan borders. Tens of thousands of people visited each year, including one American who reportedly died in the quake.
At least 2,000 years old, the citadel of Bam has been subject to countless invasions during its history and was completely sacked on several occasions.
Part of a major trade route, Bam became one of the first places in Iran to adopt Islam. Its Zoroastrian inhabitants built the first mosques found in Iran , said Bernard Hourcade, a geographer and Iran specialist at Paris ' National Research Center .
The citadel was abandoned by its inhabitants in 1722 following an Afghan invasion of Iran . It was thus spared the burdens of modernization and preserved as an archaeological treasure.
"It's like a city frozen in time that gives the perfect picture of ancient cities of the old Iranian plateau," said Remy Boucharlat, an archaeologist at the University of Lyon, France, specializing in Iran.
Spread out over four square miles, the old city of Bam was perched on a 200-foot-high rock and dominated by 38 towers, some rising as high as 120 feet. Four walls protected the city from potential invaders.
Bam was a perfectly preserved specimen of an ancient fortress city, Boucharlat said. It included high walls, residential quarters and administrative buildings on a natural hill, streets, several mosques, bathhouses and windtowers.
"In short," Boucharlat said, "it's a true lesson in architecture."
Over the past two decades, the oasis town that developed around the ancient citadel has struggled to house and employ a new generation of young Iranians, and its identity as an archaeological city has been partly eclipsed by a growth in manufacturing jobs and a plan to turn the area into a tax-free trade zone to lure foreign investment. Daewoo, a Korean car manufacturer, has set up a car-seat factory there.
Migrant workers from the countryside and from Afghanistan flocked to the city, boosting the population of the sleepy village - which had no more than 13,000 inhabitants during its medieval peak - to nearly 80,000 in the city and 100,000 in the outlying areas.
With the ancient citadel leveled, global cultural experts have already begun planning for its possible restoration.
Jean-Benoit Nadeau and Julie Barlow, writing in the Toronto Star (Dec. 26, 2003):
A recent editorial in one of Canada's leading papers condemned the French decision to ban religious symbols from public schools as an attempt at "social engineering." It's a strange argument, given that most of France's history is one vast experiment in social engineering - and looking at modern France today, one could hardly say it's been a failure.
As fellows of the Institute of Current World Affairs, of Hanover, N.H., we spent two years studying the French and trying to explain what makes the French tick.
One of our main conclusions was that the French system functions according to values and assumptions alien to Canadians, who pride themselves on their multicultural, British-style democracy. Democracy à la française involves a huge central state whose purpose it is to determine the common good, and this calls for a lot of social engineering.
French social engineering began five centuries ago.
To understand what France was back then, it is more useful to compare it to today's Balkans - it was a patchwork of lesser and bigger duchies, each with their own language, culture and religion. In order to create a single French identity, French kings set out to erase these differences.
This process was brutal and slow, but successful. At the time of the French revolution, half of the French still didn't speak French.
By 1900, most understood it and left their local language - Occitan, Breton, Alsacian, Corsican, or Basque - at home.
During this period, the French closed parishes, and forbade many religious orders. To this day, the French never appoint high civil servants to work in their home region, for the purpose of breaking down social ties and avoiding local power cliques. Now that's social engineering.
Part of the reason France waged total war on its own cultural differences was to overcome an essential trait of the French political
culture: extremism. Just to give a sense of this: From 1789 to 1958, the French went through four democratic regimes, three monarchies, two empires and one fascist dictatorship, each ending in a coup, a war or a revolution.
The reason France didn't dissolve into a banana republic throughout this was that their very strong central state acted as an arbitrator of the common good in spite (some say, because) of the political instability. Whether they were Protestants, Breton or Corsicans, French citizens had to fall into line, and they did.
For most of the 19th century and the better part of the 20th, France was the theatre of a struggle between Republicans and other groups who claimed they knew better what the common good was.
First it was the Royalists, who morphed into ultra-Catholics. The Republicans won, most of the time, but lost one big time in 1940 when the Catholics, using the political crisis resulting from the defeat to the Germans, seized power, scuttled the Republic, imposed a dictatorship and applied their anti-Semitic program. It was horrible, but the French came out of it even more militantly secular.
As a result of five centuries of social engineering, "assimilation" became a positive political concept in French politics.
Debra Schifrin, reporting on NPR about the history of walls (Dec. 30, 2003):
In the first century AD, the Roman emperor Hadrian built a massive stone wall dividing England and Scotland . British archaeologist Nick Hodgson says Hadrian built the wall to keep marauding bands in the north out of the Roman province of England .
Mr. NICK HODGSON (British Archaeologist): If the wall had not been there, such groups would have been able to penetrate the province very, very rapidly. The wall was there to allow the army to do something about their presence.
SCHIFRIN: While the wall succeeded in protecting the English villages to the south, Hodgson says, it made life very difficult for the people to the north of the wall.
Mr. HODGSON: They were cast out of the Roman Empire once the wall had been arbitrarily cut through the island of Britain and cut a good deal of the population off.
SCHIFRIN: Two hundred and fifty years later, Hadrian's wall was overrun by forces from the north. In fact, all the great walls were eventually overrun, according to Jonathan Roth, professor of military history at San Jose State University . Even the Great Wall of China , built up over a millennium to its peak of 4,000 miles long, was overrun several times by the Turks, Mongols and the Manchus. But there is a dispute among historians about the main role of these walls. Many historians like Roth now argue they were not built primarily for defense, but for economic functions.
Professor JONATHAN ROTH ( San Jose State University ): They were enormously expensive to build and enormously expensive to man and relatively ineffective in keeping enemies out. What they could do is prevent wagons from crossing, and that's the sort of thing you would collect customs duties.
SCHIFRIN: Enough customs duties, Roth says, to pay for the wall and then some. In that sense, he says, the walls served their purpose well. If the fence was only a secondary role of giant walls in ancient world, Roth says, it became even less important in walls built in the second half of the 20th century. The invention of airplanes, tanks and high explosives made walls much less effective as military barriers. Roth points to the Berlin Wall, which the Soviets built around West Berlin in 1961. Its purpose was to stop the thousands of East Germans who were crossing into West Germany . Roth says the wall was flimsy.
Prof. ROTH: You could take a sledgehammer really, as people did, and knock it down. It's a barrier to stop civilians from crossing. It's not intended to stop soldiers and armies and tanks.
SCHIFRIN: But some civilian East Germans did find a way to get past the wall. That has also been true for Mexicans illegally crossing the steel and metal fences that line the US-Mexican border. Belinda Reyes, a research fellow at the Public Policy Institute of California, says one illegal immigrant made this analogy.
Ms. BELINDA REYES (Public Policy Institute of California): If you look at a cow, and the cow eats the grass on this particular place and there's no more grass, even though there's a fence, if there's grass on the other side, they're going to jump over the fence and eat the grass on the other side. So he was, like, 'Are we going to be stupider than the cow?'
SCHIFRIN: Reyes says while the US is failing in its stated goal of stopping illegal immigration, it is succeeding in its symbolic goal: to show Mexicans and Americans that something is being done. Ironically, as we move into the 21st century, military historian Jonathan Roth says, walls are regaining a military function, because instead of fighting armies, countries are now fighting civilians. They are fighting terrorists.
Prof. ROTH: Tanks and planes don't really defend against terrorists, whereas barbed wire and concrete walls can.
SCHIFRIN: The great walls in history have been relatively rare because few empires or countries had the economic power and military strength to build them. But when an empire builds a wall, it often foreshadows the empire's eventual decline. Archaeologist Nick Hodgson says, for instance, that the great Roman walls kept attackers out, but they also kept the Romans in.
Mr. HODGSON: It really meant the end for the expansion of the empire. The forward-pushing Roman world of the republican early empire disappeared. And it became very much a static item, the Roman Empire .
SCHIFRIN: The word 'limit' comes from the Latin word 'limes,' which means 'border' or 'boundary.' History may be teaching us that although walls can symbolize the greatness and strength of a civilization, they can also symbolize its limits.
John Burnett, reporting for NPR about the history of Kellogg, Brown & Root, the construction company at the center of controversy in Iraq (Dec. 24, 2003):
I'm standing here below Mansfield Dam, 12 miles west of Austin in the Texas hill country. This massive concrete structure holds back 370 billion gallons of water above the Colorado River . The dam was constructed by the Brown brothers, Herman and George, between 1937 and 1941. It is the breakout project that transformed them from road builders into superbuilders, and it's emblematic of the daring jobs on which their company built its reputation. And the dam would not have been possible without the assistance of a young, ambitious Texas congressman named Lyndon Johnson.
Working inside Congress, LBJ helped get the dam legalized, authorized and enlarged. In so doing, he taught the Browns the crucial value of federal connections, a lesson the company has carried forward through the decades.
Is there a historical continuum between Brown & Root's cultivation of people in power from Lyndon Johnson to Dick Cheney?
Mr. JOE PRATT ( Historian/Author): I would say there is a historical continuum from the first day Herman Brown entered construction to what we're seeing in Iraq today, and that continuum is public sector contracting is a tricky business, and personal contacts are a very important part of it.
BURNETT: That's Joe Pratt, a historian at the University of Houston who has co-written a biography of the Brown brothers. Their lifelong friendship with LBJ was based on mutual affection and pragmatism. They donated millions of dollars to his political campaigns over the years, and won it all back and more in lucrative government construction projects. Robert Caro wrote in his first volume on Johnson, "The Path to Power," 'Brown & Root became an industrial colossus thanks to Lyndon Johnson.'
(Soundbite of phone conversation)
President LYNDON JOHNSON: Hi, George. How are you?
Mr. GEORGE BROWN: Pretty good.
Pres. JOHNSON: I just wanted to check in with you.
Mr. BROWN: Well, I'm glad to hear you, my friend.
Pres. JOHNSON: I was kind...
BURNETT: This is an excerpt from a phone conversation between President Johnson in the Oval Office and George Brown at his office in Houston . Their friendship had already begun to cause them problems when they spoke here on Valentine's Day 1964. They discussed the controversy that had erupted over two huge construction projects the government had awarded to Brown & Root, NASA's Manned Space Center outside of Houston , later renamed the Johnson Space Center , and a massive never-completed scientific project to drill down to the Earth's mantle, known as Project Moho.
(Soundbite of phone conversation)
Pres. JOHNSON: Did you see the Mark Shaw's column on Brown and Johnson on NASA and Moho?
Mr. BROWN: NASA and Moho--Johnson...
Pres. JOHNSON: Said you had a 500 million one on NASA.
Mr. BROWN: Yeah. (Laughs) I just told him I never had talked to you about NASA or Moho neither. Never had been mentioned to me. I didn't know what Moho was. And I never talked to anybody, never heard of it, but that didn't make any difference. Went ahead and printed it anyway.
BURNETT: At the time there was wide suspicion among newspaper columnists and the Republican minority in Congress that Brown & Root's contributions to Johnson earned it the inside track on multimillion-dollar contracts.
The sharpest criticism would come from its work in Vietnam . Brown & Root was part of a consortium of four big construction companies known as RMK-BRJ. They were contracted by the Navy to build ports, airfields, bases, ammunition depots and hospitals in South Vietnam . It was the first time the US military had assigned private contractors on a large scale to do work usually performed by combat engineers and Navy Seabees. Brown & Root's portion of the contract would be worth $380 million.
Dan Briody is a Connecticut-based author who's writing a book about Halliburton.
Mr. DAN BRIODY (Author): While they were in Vietnam , you know, the situation is not unlike it is in Iraq right now. There was a lot of looting and problems with keeping equipment in their hands, and also the consortium was criticized for overspending and overstaffing, much like it has been criticized in Bosnia and is being criticized right now by Henry Waxman.
BURNETT: By 1967, the General Accounting Office faulted the Vietnam builders, as they were called, for massive accounting lapses and allowing thefts of materials. The grunts' nickname for the company, Burn & Loot, seemed to ring true. Congressional critics were howling for investigations into cost overruns and alleged political payoffs. Out in the streets, anti-war protesters railed against Brown & Root as the embodiment of what President Dwight Eisenhower had called the military-industrial complex.
James Carter is a doctoral student in history at the University of Houston who has been researching nation-building in South Vietnam during the 1950s and '60s.
Mr. JAMES CARTER (University of Houston): You could draw the parallel line to Iraq that the anti-war movement has picked up on immediately the way contracts are let, and the enormous sums of money that are being given away to Halliburton, Kellogg Brown & Root, in order to rebuild Iraqi infrastructure when Brown & Root and others, Morrison, Knudson and Raymond--they were given large sums of money in the 1960s to rebuild southern Vietnam infrastructure which had been destroyed by years of war and neglect. The parallels are just endless.
(Soundbite of drumming)
BURNETT: Last spring, a new generation of anti-war protesters, such as this group in Austin , rediscovered Brown & Root, which is now called Kellogg Brown & Root.
(Soundbite of protest)
Unidentified Man #1: And it's one, two, three. What are we fighting for?
Unidentified Man #2: Iraq .
Unidentified Man #1: Don't ask me, I don't give a damn. The next stop's Iraq again.
Unidentified Man #2: That's right.
Unidentified Man #1: And it's five, six, seven...
BURNETT: One of the most striking echoes of history is the reappearance of Donald Rumsfeld. As Defense secretary, today's he's a staunch supporter of reconstruction contracts in Iraq awarded to KBR. In August 1966, as a young Republican congressman from Illinois , Rumsfeld stood up in Congress and excoriated the Johnson administration for the stench of cronyism. Rumsfeld's speech in the congressional record could easily have come from the current Halliburton critic, Congressman Henry Waxman, the California Democrat. Again, James Carter.
Mr. CARTER: Donald Rumsfeld was overtly critical of Johnson's handling of the war. And I'll read a short passage from this. Quote, "Why this huge contract has not been and is not now being adequately audited is beyond me. The potential for waste and profiteering under such a contract is substantial," unquote.
BURNETT: The parallels extend even to the construction of detention facilities. In the '60s protesters denounced Brown & Root for building detention cells for the US military in South Vietnam to hold Viet Cong prisoners. As historian Joe Pratt explains, they came to be derisively called tiger cages.
Mr. PRATT: They were very small. They were very--they looked inhumane and the protests centered on the profits that Brown & Root and other companies made in building them.
BURNETT: And today Brown & Root has constructed the detention facility in Guantanamo for suspected terrorists.
Mr. PRATT: Yeah. It looks a little less inhumane than the tiger cages, so they might have learned a lesson from the Vietnam War experience there.
BURNETT: Brown & Root learned some other lessons as well. Hang tough, keep the client happy, do good work and massage the public relations. The criticism will blow over. The presidents and their parties will come and go, but Brown & Root outlasts them all.
An interview with Pilar Rahola, featured on PageMagazine.com:
A Catalan from Barcelona, Pilar Rahola is a highly colorful figure on the Spanish scene. She is known for her feminism, as well as for her frank and direct manner. A former parliamentarian, Pilar Rahola sat in the national legislature in Madrid for eight years, first as part of the republican left, then as the founder of the Independence Party. However, she decided to leave political life just over a year ago to devote more time to her other passions. She has just published "The History of Ada," a metaphor for abandoned children, those child-slaves or children-soldiers one finds all over the world, that is, when they are not turned into human bombs.
She has also decided to step forward to denounce the flagrant imbalance in the handling of information from the Middle East. Her most recent piece, "In Favor of Israel," is to be published in a book in which fifteen Spanish intellectuals, including Jon Juaristi, president of the Cervantes Institute and Gabriel Alviac, a well-known journalist with El Mundo [translator's note: a Spanish daily newspaper], seek to re-establish the facts.
Marc Tobiass (of proche-orient.com) talks with Pilar Rahola.
Marc Tobiass: Why did you feel the need to write "In Favor of Israel"; to participate in the publication of this book?
Pilar Rahola: Since the start of the second intifada, the Spanish press, on the right as well as the Left, has taken a particularly aggressive approach toward Israel, an approach that leaves out the reasons for Israel's actions and tends to ignore the Israeli victims in this conflict. In this situation, a small minority of intellectuals, public personalities-sensitive to the Jewish question in general and to Israel particular-felt deeply touched by this problem. Outraged by the return of Judeophobia in Spain, we, each in our own way, began to write articles; to use the media to condemn this situation. And then Oracia Vasquez Real, an important writer in Spain, suggested that we coordinate our activity; that we collect into one work the vision of the Middle East conflict held by fifteen well-known intellectuals.
Marc Tobiass: For whom did you write this book, and with what objective?
Pilar Rahola: Fundamentally, this book is addressed to the anti-Jewish school of thought in Spain. The goal of our book is to launch a debate about Judeophobia in Spain. We are convinced that the current view of the conflict, so Manichaean-with the good, always the Palestinians, and the evil, always the Israelis-has deep roots. It comes from an ancient anti-Jewish feeling that exists in Spain and that also explains the history of Spain. This feeling softened slightly after the Franco era [translator's note : post-1975], but today there is a virulent resurgence of this savage feeling to the point where one can find genuinely anti-Semitic expressions in the Spanish press. In essence, this is a provocative book in the face of totally pro-Arab thinking in Spain, that is completely uncritical of the mistakes of the Arab world in general and of the Palestinians in particular.
We want to counter this flagrant imbalance.
Marc Tobiass: This imbalance is not specifically Spanish, nor, for that matter, is the Judeophobia. You rightly recall in your piece the troubling remark of Hermann Broch [translator's note: Austrian anti-Nazi novelist, 1886-1951] denouncing the indifference of Europe as the worst of the crimes in the bloody madness of the Hitler era.
Pilar Rahola: Yes, I think that Europe was indifferent on the surface because it felt guilty within. I believe that this indifference unquestionably comes from Judeophobia. And in the ultimate paradox, the Jewish soul is part and parcel of Europe. Europe cannot be explained without its Jewish soul, but it is also explained by its hatred of the Jews. Thus, all the repeated attempts of Europe to get rid of its Jewish soul are, in fact, a kind of suicide.
After the Holocaust, after Auschwitz, that is, after the ultimate stage in the destruction of the Jewish soul-a process which lasted for centuries in Europe-Europe is shattered, many of its elements are dead, but it also has a bad conscience; it knows it is guilty. Since then, Europe has looked for and found in the Palestinian cause the expiation for its guilt. It is from this that the uncritical and Manichean attitude toward the Palestinian cause emerges-it is, primarily, the last heroic (European) adventure. Further, the more the Jews are presented as being the evil party, the bad ones, the less difficult it is to carry the responsibility and the guilt. This is a process of collective psychology. From such a perspective, there essentially is no difference between France, for example, and Spain It is unbelievable how Europe continues to hate its Jewish soul, even after it has expelled it!...
Marc Tobiass: Isn't this legitimization of hate the true obstacle to peace?
Pilar Rahola: Without doubt. I believe that Europe is directly responsible, and not only for the conflict. In the final analysis, who, if not Europe, created the Jewish problem in the world? In a certain sense, one can even say that Europe is the actual founder of the State of Israel. Europe expelled its Jews-its Spanish Jews, its Russian Jews, its French Jews, and its German Jews. It expelled them from its body, even though these Jews felt themselves to be European to the core.
Christopher Hitchens, writing in Slate (Jan. 5, 2004):
Having been screened by the special operations department of the Pentagon last August (see Charles Paul Freund's piece in Slate ), The Battle of Algiers is now scheduled for a run at the New York Film Forum . Unless I am wrong, this event will lead to a torrent of pseudo-knowing piffle from the armchair guerrillas (well, there ought to be a word for this group). I myself cherished the dream of being something more than an armchair revolutionary when I first saw this electrifying movie. It was at a volunteer work-camp for internationalists, in Cuba in the summer of 1968. Che Guevara had only been dead for a few months, the Tet rising in Vietnam was still a fresh and vivid memory, and in Portuguese Africa the revolution was on the upswing. I went to the screening not knowing what to expect and was so mesmerized that when it was over I sat there until they showed it again. I was astounded to discover, sometime later on, that Gillo Pontecorvo had employed no documentary footage in the shooting of the film: It looked and felt like revolutionary reality projected straight onto the screen.
When I next saw it, in Bleecker Street in the Village in the early 1970s, it didn't have quite the same shattering effect. Moreover, in the audience (as in that Cuban camp, as I later found out) there were some idiots who fancied the idea of trying"urban guerrilla" warfare inside the West itself. The film had a potently toxic effect on Black Panthers, Weathermen, Baader-Meinhof, and Red Brigade types. All that needs to be said about that"moment" of the Left is that its practitioners ended up dead or in prison, having advanced the cause of humanity by not one millimeter.
Those making a facile comparison between the Algerian revolution depicted in the film and today's Iraq draw an equally flawed analogy. Let me mention just the most salient differences.
1) Algeria in 1956—the"real time" date of the film—was not just a colony of France . It was a department of metropolitan France . The slogan of the French Right was Algérie Française . A huge population of French settlers lived in the country, mainly concentrated in the coastal towns. The French had exploited and misgoverned this province for more than a century and were seeking to retain it as an exclusive possession.
2) In 1956, the era of French and British rule in the Middle East had already in effect come to an end. With the refusal by President Eisenhower to countenance the Anglo-French-Israeli attack on Egypt at Suez in November of that year, the death-knell of European colonialism had struck. There was no military tactic that could have exempted a near-bankrupt France from this verdict. General Massu in Algiers could have won any military victory he liked and it would have changed nothing. Frenchmen as conservative as Charles de Gaulle and Raymond Aron were swift to recognize this state of affairs.
Today, it is Arab nationalism that is in crisis, while the political and economic and military power of the United States is virtually unchallengeable. But the comparison of historical context, while decisive, is not the only way in which the Iraq analogy collapses. The French could not claim to have removed a tyrannical and detested leader. They could not accuse the Algerian nationalists of sponsoring international terrorism (indeed, they blamed Gamal Abdel Nasser in Egypt for fomenting the FLN in Algiers itself). They could not make any case that Algerian nationalism would violate the Non-Proliferation Treaty or even threaten to do so. Thus, French conscripts—not volunteers—and Algerian rebels were sacrificed for no cause except the lost and futile one of French reaction. The right-wing generals of the Algeria campaign, and some of the extreme settlers, actually did conduct an urban guerrilla rearguard action of their own, in Paris as well as Algeria , and did try to bring off a military coup against de Gaulle, but they had been defeated and isolated by 1968.
Market Caps Off Sustained Rebound
Ben White and Carrie Johnson
Washington Post, January 1, 2004, Page E1
Year’s Big Rally Helps Investors Regain Ground
New York Times, January 1, 2004, Page A1
Energized by the Economy, Small Stocks Lead the Way to Big Gains
New York Times, January 2, 2004, Page C1
These articles report on the stock market’s performance in 2003 and assess the prospects for 2004. The articles report that the market’s prospects for another strong year in 2004 are good, based on predictions that the economy will be healthy.
None of these articles ever mention the price to earnings ratios of the various market indexes. The price-to-earnings ratio is the most important measure of the stock market’s value indicating whether it is currently undervalued or overvalued compared to historic patterns. Discussing the stock market’s value without making reference to its price to earnings ratio is comparable to assessing the value of an apartment building without ever considering how much rent it generates. For a sports analogy, this is like assessing running backs in football without ever considering their average yards per game or per carry.
Historically, the price-to-earnings ratio for the stock market as a whole has averaged approximately 15 to 1. If the price-to-earnings ratio were considerably higher than this (e.g. it hit a bubble peak of 33 to 1 in March of 2000), then an investor would be foolish to hold stock even if the immediate prospects for the economy were very bright. Alternatively, the price to earnings ratio has sometimes been under 10 to 1, as was the case in the mid-seventies. In such situations, the stock market is likely to provide good returns, even if the economy is not performing very well.
At present, the ratio of price to trend corporate earnings is approximately 20 to 1. At this ratio, investors can anticipate lower than normal returns over the long run. Historically, stocks have provided an average real return of 7 percent annually. If the price to earnings ratio remains at 20 to 1, then investors can anticipate average real returns of approximately 5 percent annually (see “Stock Returns for Dummies” [http://www.cepr.net/stock_market/Stock%20Returns%20for%20Dummies.pdf].
Erik Todd Dellums, a Brown University graduate and actor and son of former Rep. Ronald V. Dellums, writing in the SF Chronicle (Jan. 4, 2004):
I am an African American, professional actor, semiotician and film lover. I am, therefore, underemployed, underappreciated and an afterthought in Hollywood. I am also a man who rarely sees an accurate depiction of black people and American history in film and on television. It's something I've grown used to, but now I'm mad as hell and not going to take it anymore!
All people who truly care about honest representations of American history in Hollywood should boycott the heavily promoted"Cold Mountain." At a cost of $80-plus million and sporting a stellar cast and crew, this film adaptation of Charles Frazier's acclaimed best-seller opened Christmas Day and is being touted as the film to beat at the Academy Awards. It has generated glowing reviews for Disney, Miramax and all involved.
It is also a sham, a slap in the face of African Americans whose ancestors gave their lives in the Civil War, fighting for true freedom (take that, President Bush) from the most heinous form of slavery known to modern man: the American slavery system. How could a three-hour film depicting life in the heart of Virginia and North Carolina during the Civil War use only momentary shots of black people picking cotton and a few black actors portraying runaway slaves as its total picture of slavery during this period?
In an article in the Washington Post, the film-makers have said that slavery and racism were simply"too raw" an emotional issue to present in their film. In other words, who would want to see a love story with the beautiful Jude Law and Nicole Kidman set in the reality of the Southern monstrosity of slavery?
The film opens with a depiction of one of the more important battles of the Civil War, one in which the Union-trained black soldiers tunnel under Confederate lines -- a battle in which blacks suffered their highest rate of casualties of any Union division in the fight. Yet, it is almost impossible to spot any black actors fighting in this film (as three University of Virginia history professors recently noted in another Post article). It plays like"Saving Private Ryan," another Hollywood epic in which black contributions to history -- namely the Battle of Normandy -- are left out. Shame on you, Hollywood.
The Weinstein brothers (owners of Miramax, the distributors of"Cold Mountain") are smart, astute businessmen with keen cinematic sensibilities. They should know better. Could you imagine"The Pianist" or"Schindler's List" ever being made with but a few seconds of the reality of the Holocaust? Of course not. A film with such a gross misrepresentation would never make it past page one of a screenplay! And in reality, isn't the Holocaust, which occurred a mere two generations or so ago, emotionally"rawer" than slavery?
Ben Macintyre, writing in the London Times (Jan. 3, 2004):
Michael Howard's credo, published in The Times yesterday, included this little self-revelatory nugget: "I believe," declared the Tories' answer to Martin Luther King, "that these islands are home to a great people with a noble past." This statement might seem as straightforward as some of his other platitudes ("injustice makes us angry": well I never) but it hints at a broader truth.
History is the new politics, and the politician who can wield history effectively is worth any number of prepackaged beliefs.
Once history was mostly a matter of commemoration, damp remembrance ceremonies and dry scholarship. Increasingly it is about control and interpretation, preservation and national self-image.
I counted eight different "history" stories in the newspapers yesterday, each of which said at least as much about the political present as the historical past.
In Iraq , a monument to British troops killed in the horrible 1914-21 Mesopotamian campaign has been vandalised. Before the latest Gulf conflict, most Britons (and practically all Iraqis) were entirely ignorant of this small but bloody footnote in British imperial history. Today the image of a defaced memorial to 40,000 British dead in the desert west of al-Zubayr is freighted with modern symbolic relevance.
Colonel Tim Collins anticipated this when, in his now-famous peroration before battle, he declared: "Your deeds will follow you down history. Iraq is steeped in history." The deeds of the soldiers who fought in Mesopotamia in the First World War have indeed followed their latter-day counterparts to Iraq , and the vandalism of the monument is inevitably linked with the continuing effort to subdue Iraqi resistance, and with national pride on both sides. Preserving the monument is partly a matter of defending, not what was done there in 1914, but what is being done there now.
Britain is not alone in conflating past events with present politics. France has just invited Germany to attend the D-Day anniversary celebrations for the first time. The invitation is couched as reconciliation, but the move is clearly intended to reinforce the drive for a European defence force. In Japan, the Prime Minister, Junichiro Koizumi, made a point of offering new year prayers at the country's most notorious militarist shrine, to the fury of China, at a time when Japan is about to send troops to Iraq in the largest military deployment since 1945. Switzerland , meanwhile, has finally passed a law pardoning citizens who were prosecuted for helping refugees in the Second World War. It is no accident that the law, intended to demonstrate awareness of the darker side of Swiss neutrality, came into force on the day that the head of the far-right anti-immigration Swiss People's Party took office as Justice Minister.
Politicians have always used (and often abused) history, for better and worse, the most recent examples being Tony Blair and Saddam Hussein. Blair's prewar oratory echoed with Churchillian gravity and clumping references to our martial past; conversely, Saddam liked to depict himself in the ancient role of Islamic hero, defending his homeland against infidel crusaders.
Perhaps because the future is so uncertain, the world is fascinated by history as never before. History journals, books and television programmes have undergone a huge renaissance, and historians enjoy a role once reserved for novelists and poets, as the imaginative story-tellers who interpret our own time by explaining an earlier era. The downside, however, is to make the past ever more vulnerable to those who have a political point to make.