This page includes, in addition to news about historians, news about political scientists, economists, law professors, and others who write about history. For a comprehensive list of historians' obituaries, go here.
SOURCE: Lee White at the website of the National Coalition for History (NCH) (5-31-07)
SOURCE: Staten Island Advance (5-30-07)
"Staten Island is a rich borough in history," Molinaro said. "We need somebody who can exemplify that, explain that."
Staten Island Advance/Irving SilversteinBorough President James Molinaro, right, and new borough historian Thomas Matteo talk at a press conference at Borough Hall.
Matteo, 58, succeeds Richard Dickenson, who served as borough historian from 1991 until his death last year.
Matteo said he was "humbled and honored" by the appointment, and said he would look to bring the Island's history "out of the dusty archives and into the light for the public to see, enjoy and learn."
He said one of his goals would be to create a digitized, online library of pictures and documents detailing borough history.
"Staten Island has been on the world stage since the Revolution," said Matteo, the former executive director of Sea View Hospital Rehabilitation Center and Home.
SOURCE: AP (5-30-07)
Stockstill died May 24 of complications following a heart transplant, according to the academy and Forest Lawn Memorial Park, Hollywood Hills, where a funeral was planned Wednesday afternoon.
Stockstill started as an assistant librarian at the academy's Margaret Herrick Library in 1982 and was named academy historian a year later.
In 1989, he began overseeing the administration of several Oscar categories, including documentaries, short films, music and foreign language, but he continued his responsibilities as academy historian.
He was also known for giving out Oscar statuettes backstage during the annual Academy Awards presentations. He kept track of all the serial-numbered trophies and created the database that tries to record the whereabouts of each of the more than 2,500 Oscars handed out so far.
Stockstill is survived by his wife Valorie, parents Michael and Marjorie, and brother Michael.
SOURCE: Gerard Baker in the WSJ (5-31-07)
Is it possible, then, that the writers who have spent the past few years predicting Europe's collapse could be wrong? The short answer is: no. Even a corpse has been known to twitch once or twice before the rigor mortis sets in. The longer answer is provided by Walter Laqueur in "The Last Days of Europe," one of the more persuasive in a long line of volumes by authors on both sides of the Atlantic chronicling Europe's decline and foretelling its collapse....
Unlike the Euro-bashing polemics of a few of those authors, Mr. Laqueur's short book is measured, even sympathetic. It is mercifully free of references to cheese-eating surrender monkeys and misplaced historical analogies to appeasement. The tone is one of resigned dismay rather than grave-stomping glee. This temperate quality makes the book's theme--that Europe now faces potentially mortal challenges--all the more compelling.
The demographic problem is by now so familiar that it hardly bears restating. Mr. Laqueur notes that the average European family had five children in the 19th century; today it has fewer than two, a trend that will shrink the continent's population in the next century on a scale unprecedented in modern history.
The failure of Europeans to reproduce makes it vulnerable to internal schism. Too often Europe has reacted to the growing threat posed by extremists among its minorities with a tolerance and self-criticism that has bordered on capitulation. Meanwhile, social tensions increase, not least because of high emigration to Europe from Muslim countries and high birth rates among Muslim populations. No one has yet found a good way of integrating those populations into mainstream European society....
Mr. Laqueur ponders whether Europe will really surrender to these adverse trends or finally resist. He is not optimistic. Perhaps Europeans will find ways to bolster their birth rates. Perhaps they will stiffen in the face of an escalating terrorist threat. Perhaps Muslims will assimilate better into Europe's democratic and tolerant societies. Perhaps the pro-American sensibilities and the pro-growth nimbleness of Eastern European countries will drive the rest of the Continent out of the ditch of stagnation and pacifism. Perhaps.
But then again, as Mr. Laqueur observes, museums are filled with the remnants of vanished civilizations. Abroad, the U.S. has long surpassed Europe in power, influence and economic dynamism; Asia may do so before long. At home, a profound demoralization has set in, induced in part by the continent's ruinous past century....
SOURCE: Cinnamon Stillwell at the website of CampusWatch (5-30-07)
What's ailing contemporary Middle East studies? A symposium earlier this month at Stanford University provided a clue.
A paranoid fixation on imagined American and Israeli"empire"; the refusal to accept legitimate criticism; an insulated, elitist worldview; an inability to employ clear, jargon-free English; and a self-defeating hostility towards the West: these vices and more were made clear at The State of Middle East Studies: Knowledge Production in an Age of Empire.
Professor of Iranian studies and comparative literature at Columbia University Hamid Dabashi captured the symposium's theme by asserting that the"Middle East is under U.S./Israeli imperial domination" and that America is an"empire without hegemony," engaged in a"monopolar imperial project."
Yet no one defined this"empire" or"imperialism." Nor did attendees learn what events in the Muslim world precipitated a more expansive U.S. foreign policy in the region after Sept. 11, 2001, or why Israel might have legitimate concerns about its bellicose neighbors.
Only Nur Yalman, professor of social anthropology and Middle Eastern studies at Harvard University, made reference to Islamic terrorism. He also reported on the atmosphere of political unease in both Egypt and Turkey from whence he had just returned.
Also popular was equating criticism of Middle East studies with a U.S./Israeli/Jewish plot. Dabashi condemned Middle East scholar and critic Martin Kramer, calling his book, Ivory Towers on Sand: The Failure of Middle Eastern Studies in America, an agent of"U.S. and Israeli intelligence." Yalman bemoaned a speech Kramer gave last year on the relatively stable geopolitical situation of Jews today, implying that such a condition represented a threat to Muslims. Dabashi denounced David Horowitz, Stanley Kurtz, Daniel Pipes, and Campus Watch for, as he put it,"helping Bush in his crusading war against Islamic terrorism."
Dabashi also singled out Stanford's Hoover Institution, the American Enterprise Institute, and the Heritage Foundation, accusing them of acting, horror of horrors, in"the service of national security." He was particularly aggrieved that with the ascendance of these think tanks, Middle East studies were no longer under the strict purview of the"academies." He didn't mention that higher education's failure to adequately address the subject has been the cause of this evolution.
The late Columbia University English and comparative literature professor Edward Said was the undisputed godfather of the day, with countless references to his theories on post-colonialism and Orientalism. Like Said, several speakers rejected what they saw as Western condescension and hostility towards the Muslim world. Yet it was they who seemed mired in antagonism.
Discussion about the plight of women in the Muslim world was marred by anti-Western sentiment. Professor of gender and women's studies at the University of California, Berkeley, Minoo Moallem, dismissed such concerns as being part of an"imperialist narrative."
University of Washington anthropology and law professor Arzoo Osanloo picked up on this theme by decrying"Western, paternalistic attitudes towards Muslim women." Osanloo was concerned that"Islamic liberalism" would be"obscured by Western involvement," particularly in Iran.
Osanloo tried to focus on"Islamic feminism," but her insistence that women had made great strides in post-Islamic revolution Iran through the use of Sharia law was a stretch. It didn't help that she omitted any reference to the Iranian regimes' current crackdown, including brutal beatings, on unveiled women and their arrest and detention of Haleh Esfandiari, the Iranian-American director of the Middle East program at the Woodrow Wilson Center for Scholars in Washington, D.C.
Osanloo's stated desire to"move beyond the binarism of East vs. West" was belied by an attitude of stubborn opposition to everything Western. There was no acknowledgement by any of the women present that Western culture has given them lives that would be the envy of their counterparts in the Middle East.
Similarly, the willful blindness of a group of scholars and students denouncing the West from their positions of power and privilege in the favored surroundings of Stanford University came across as utterly hypocritical.
Hamid Dabashi and Minoo Moallem's reliance on academic jargon added to the esoteric nature of the proceedings. Schooled on a philosophical foundation of Jacques Derrida, Michael Foucoult, and the obsession with semantics over objective reality found therein, both speakers were largely incomprehensible.
Expressions such as"diasphoric cultural mediators,""amphibian intellectuals,"" contextualization,""performance of the self as its own other," the"inability to handle the otherness of the other,""Eurocentric partriarchy,""imperialist masculinist,""gendered Orientalism," and the obscure statement,"regions are not facts but artifacts," provide just a sampling.
It was excruciatingly boring at times, and the fact that they read straight from their own work only made it worse. The young man nodding off in his chair during Moallem's talk was an indication that the audience may not have been entirely engaged.
Thankfully, the other speakers spoke in plain English and Yalman even stated at one point that he was"uneasy with the abstract nature of the conversation."
Indeed, those concerned with the negative influence such academics may be having on future generations should be comforted by the very real possibility that their students rarely understand a word they're saying.
SOURCE: Alexandra M. Lord at the website of the Chronicle of Higher Ed (5-30-07)
"How long did you adjunct," whispered the professor, "before you became a public historian?" He glanced over his shoulder, as though concerned that we might be overheard discussing that great taboo for Ph.D.'s, a nonacademic career path.
Surely the only reason I had left academe was because I couldn't get a job, right?
Even as I searched for a polite answer -- I was never an adjunct and I happily left a tenure-track position to become a public historian -- I knew that whatever I said would do little to eradicate the prejudices he and many others have about nonacademic careers.
I have attended many scholarly conferences since I left academic work six years ago. At each meeting, I have encountered people who find it hard to believe that anyone would choose to leave voluntarily or that anyone who is not a professor can be a scholar.
An academic conference, as everyone knows, is as much about spotting the university on your name tag as it is about learning new ideas. Stories abound of graduate students and professors casting covert looks at name tags only to discover that they have been wasting their time talking to a "nobody."
After leaving academe, I worried that I would become a nobody. True, I had never felt like a somebody as a graduate student, a postdoctoral fellow, or even a professor at a small land-grant university, but my reputation would, I was sure, worsen as a nonacademic.
Just before my first conference as a public historian, I looked at several academic blog sites. One blogger, musing about the many independent scholars and public historians she saw at conferences, described us as "failed scholars."
I was stunned by the casual dismissal of scholars whom this blogger candidly admitted she did not know. ...
SOURCE: Marty Lederman (blog) (5-30-07)
That's the description of the CIA "enhanced interrogation" program by someone who has studied it -- Philip Zelikow, the Executive Director of the 9/11 Commission and, until recently, a close advisor to the Secretary of State. In what the New York Times describes as a "blistering lecture" delivered in April, Zelikow called the program "immoral."
The Times piece brings together at least three interesting stories. The first is the Zelikow lecture. Oddly, the Times story does not disclose where the lecture was delivered. Presumably it was this lecture, "Legal Policy in a Twilight War," delivered at the University of Houston Law Center on April 26th, but I have not been able to find the lecture itself online. (If anyone knows of it . . . .)
Philip Zelikow: Legal Policy for a Twilight War
SOURCE: Globe and Mail (Canada) (5-28-07)
Professor Dossa's complaint, as we understand it, is that he has been subject to much criticism, not to discipline. Academic freedom and freedom of expression, which we all support, does not render any of us immune from being criticized. Professor Dossa attended a notorious conference whose Holocaust revisionist theme - whether Professor Dossa agrees with that theme or not - was advertised by the organizers worldwide.
A keynote speaker at the conference was David Duke, former imperial wizard of the Klu Klux Klan. Professor Dossa labels himself a scholar of "the global South". If he was not previously familiar with Mr. Duke's call for revisiting the accepted history of the Holocaust, he might therefore have been familiar with the same Mr. Duke's call to revisit the accepted history of the trans-Atlantic slave trade, which in Mr. Duke's published view was a salvation rather than a nightmare for Africans. The position taken by CAUT that Professor Dossa was being admonished for attending a conference expressing "unpopular views" is, quite frankly, offensive to us. The conference expressed abhorrent, racist views. As an academic Professor Dossa had a right to attend this event, but we would hope Canadian academics of good conscience would condemn it.
Prof. Irving Abella
Prof. Aviva Freedman
Prof. Victor Glickman
University of British Columbia
Prof. Nora Gold
University of Toronto
Prof. Michael Grand
Prof. Ernie Lightman
University of Toronto
Prof. Jack Mintz
University of Toronto
Prof. Maureen Molot
Prof. Ed Morgan
University of Toronto
Prof. Arthur Ripstein
University of Toronto
Prof. Bryan Schwartz
University of Manitoba
Prof. Gil Troy
Prof. Carol Zemel
SOURCE: Maureen Dowd in the NYT (5-30-07)
I called Professor Kagan to ask him if Thucydides, the master at chronicling hubris and imperial overreaching, might provide the new war czar with any wisdom that can help America sort through the morass of Iraq.
Very much his sons’ father, the classicist said he was disgusted that the White House, after a fiasco of an occupation designed by Rummy, “is still doing one dumb thing after another” by appointing General Lute, a chief skeptic of the surge.
Professor Kagan said that one reason the Athenians ended up losing the war was because in the Battle of Mantinea in 418 B.C. against the Spartans, they sent “a very inferior force” and had a general in command who was associated with the faction that was against the aggressive policy against the Spartans.
“Kind of like President Bush appointing this guy to run the war whose strategy is opposed to the surge,” he said dryly.
With cold realism, Thucydides captured the Athenian philosophy in the 27-year war that led to its downfall as a golden democracy: “The strong do what they can and the weak suffer what they must.”
What message can we take away from Thucydides for modern times?
“To me,” Professor Kagan said, “the deepest message, the most tragic, is his picture of civilization as a very thin veneer. When you punch a hole in it, what you find underneath is hollow, the precivilized characteristics of the human race — animalistic in the worst possible way.”...
SOURCE: NYT (5-30-07)
... Yes, big, tough President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad — the man who shows us how tough he is by declaring the Holocaust a myth — had his goons arrest Haleh Esfandiari, a 67-year-old scholar, grandmother and dual Iranian-U.S. citizen, while she was visiting her 93-year-old mother in Tehran. Do you know how paranoid you have to be to think that a 67-year-old grandmother visiting her 93-year-old mother can bring down your regime? Now that is insecure.
It’s also shameful. Haleh directs the Middle East program of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington. She went to Iran in December to visit her aging mother — a trip she’s made regularly for the past decade. According to her husband, Shaul Bakhash, himself a renowned Iran expert in the U.S., while Haleh was traveling to the Tehran airport on Dec. 30, to return home, she was stopped by three masked, knife-wielding men — Iran’s Intelligence Ministry always needs three men and three knives when confronting a grandmother — and they stole her belongings and her U.S. and Iranian passports.
This was followed by six weeks of intermittent questioning by Iran’s Ministry of Intelligence. Then, on May 7, Haleh was arrested. Yesterday, she was formally charged with “endangering national security through propaganda against the system and espionage for foreigners,” an Iranian spokesman said — apparently because of her work organizing academic conferences of Iranian and U.S. experts....
SOURCE: Houston Chronicle (5-28-07)
The Reagan Diaries is the latest from the prolific Brinkley, who in July joins the history department at Rice University. The 767-page Diaries represents a substantial selection from the daily record Ronald Reagan kept during his White House years. Brinkley was selected to edit it after his 2005 book about the D-Day assault on Pointe du Hoc, France, won the admiration of former California Gov. Pete Wilson and Nancy Reagan. Mrs. Reagan, who's custodian of the diaries, had the final say.
Brinkley, who will sign The Reagan Diaries at Brazos Bookstore today, discussed the book with Chronicle books editor Fritz Lanham.
Q. What are some of the things you learned about Ronald Reagan that you didn't know, some of the things that surprised you?
A. I always knew he was a conservative, but I learned more and more that he was a pragmatic conservative. He had a firm vision of where he wanted to lead the country in regard to fighting communism and cutting taxes, among other things. But he was highly practical in achieving results, meaning he was always willing to compromise with Democrats and negotiate with adversaries.
You see the man who calls the Soviet Union the Evil Empire and says, "Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall," working constantly behind the scenes to try to get sweeping arms reductions with that same adversary. It's across the board. He's very close to Tip O'Neill and Ted Kennedy and personally likes them. He holds no malice toward his adversaries. The only person he really can't handle is (Moammar) Gadhafi of Libya.
Reagan as statesman lives by the adage "never paint your adversary into a corner." I didn't know that about him.
Q. What are some of the things that are left out of the diaries, some of the things you'd like to have known more about and don't find there?
A. I edited my condensed version so that the average Joe can read it like a book, from beginning to end, in a manageable-sized volume. But in 18 months I'm bringing out in three volumes the complete diaries, which will probably be in a boxed set. That will be annotated more heavily and with a larger glossary and will be the definitive diaries.
Q. I was really wondering if there are things that Reagan doesn't address in his diaries that you would like to have seen addressed?
A. He left behind so much writing for a president that it's hard to quibble if something is not there. The truth is I had the opposite problem — so much material, and it's very hard to edit a president who's writing while in power. This is real-time prose. I had to make some severe cuts on domestic and energy policy, for example, just because there wasn't room. I favored Reagan and foreign policy in this volume....
SOURCE: Telegraph (UK) (5-29-07)
Notable among his books were The Algeria Problem; Hirohito: Behind the Myth; The Last Emperor, a study of the boy emperor Pu Yi; and Kiss the Hand You Cannot Bite, an account of the rise and fall of the Ceausescus in Romania.
In Hirohito, published in 1989, Behr concluded that, far from being the innocent tool of the Japanese military in their rampages through Asia and the South Seas, as he came to be portrayed in postwar mythology, the emperor had actually been aware since the early 1930s of exactly what was going on. One of the most hated men in history, Behr said, became the ultimate survivor.
Walter's book is so good in every way it's almost criminal. What a thrill it was to walk along the ocean and, on successive days discover that after 47 years of, um, relative ignorance, someone could finally explain not only relativity theory but also quantum mechanics to me in a way that made sense. (I took a semester of physics for poets so maybe I understood it once before, but I don't think so.) I also got the thing with that fellow's cat. The thing about Walter is that he writes the way Bill Clinton talks. His intellectual and emotional empathy for his subject is boundless, but he does not play favorites. I found this bending-over-backwards stance to be a little annoying when I read his Kissinger biography, but to be fair to that, with the exception of the Allende chapter, he gave you all the evidence to hang the guy even if he wanted to let him off. With Einstein, Walter's empathy is tested by the pretty awful way he treated his first wife and his various delinquencies as a dad. But again, if you want to hang the guy, it's all there. No less important, the prose just bubbles along, making the most abtruse subjects imaginable coherent to people like me who don't know from science at all. And while the author does not shrink from value judgments, I noticed none that offended my own personal and political sensibilities, which, given my many differences with the former managing editor of Time, president of CNN, and present president of the Aspen Institute, is a remarkable achievement. You can't help loving Einstein nearly a much as Walter does by the time you're done. I don't usually find myself agreeing with America on the number one nonfiction book at the time, but in this case, I finished the book in awe of Walter's achievement. And the fact that he did it while having a day job (and a well-deserved reputation as world-champion party-goer), as well as being a dad, husband, etc., well, I gotta say it's annoying, but there it is.
By the way, Walter also makes a better case for Einstein's involvement with his Jewish identity and peoplehood than I've seen before, and is also good on his politics, and this new collection offers plenty of opportunity for follow-up. And The New York Review published this, but I've not read it yet.
SOURCE: Dave Noon's Blog (5-24-07)
That is why the president is more right than he knows to reject calls for an arbitrary departure date. The price of liberty in Iraq will be, if not eternal vigilance on the part of the United States, then certainly 10 years' vigilance.
Fergie, 21 May 2007:
[T]he decision to overthrow Hussein was one of history's great non sequiturs.
Most Americans didn't know who Niall Ferguson was in Spring 2003, so -- unlike those emanating from the Great Singular Orifice of respectable liberal punditry -- his views were doing nothing to drive American public opinion toward supporting this moronic war. So on that count, at least, I don't suppose Ferguson has much for which to atone. And he's not speaking in Friedman Units, so there's something.
Nonetheless, from the publication of Empire onward, Ferguson has relentlessly advocated that the United States bear the White Man's Burden in Iraq and elsewhere, and he can't be let off the hook for that. Smart people bought his book and repeated his elegant phrases, and -- whether he's directly at fault or not -- here we are, still feeding the pig. Fergie's had his misgivings, of course, and has been claiming for nearly three years that the US has been doing a poor job of it -- but his complaints, as best I can tell, have always centered on the unwillingness of the US to commit the time and resources to the war in Iraq. Now, at preceisely the moment that one presumes Ferguson would be castigating the war's opponents for not bearing their imperial responsibilities like real Englishmen Americans, he at last declares the war a "tragedy" and a "nonsequitur," denouncing Bush along the way for wreaking "havoc" with his doctrine of preemptive war.
It says a lot, though, that Ferguson still conceives of Bush as the victim in this drama. (It is, after all, the "Tragedy of King George" rather than "The Folly of Empire.") Sure, Ferguson makes passing reference to the "tens, if not the hundreds, of thousands" of bodies coughed up by this "tragedy," but the real story for Ferguson resides in the "corpses" of Wolfowitz or Tony Blair and in fragile lives of Bush, Olmert, Musharraf and Prince Bandar -- "the only principals left standing." Not to be too obtuse, but all the other "principals" appear to be standing quite fine on their own. Wolfowitz lost his job at the Defense Department and then the World Bank, but he's looking pretty healthy to me. He'll probably even find new love by month's end. Same for Tony Blair, who (aside from a little arm cramping after five years of trans-Atlantic reacharounds) seems positively radiant by comparison with the hundreds of thousands of people condemned to die by his and King George's war -- a war, Ferguson would rather not highlight, that he also thought was "winnable" until quite recently.
SOURCE: Ralph Luker at Cliopatria (HNN Blog) (5-28-07)
SOURCE: HNN Staff (5-29-07)
SOURCE: AHA Blog (5-28-07)
SOURCE: http://www.news8austin.com (5-29-07)
Jesus de la Teja was sworn in on Tuesday.
The duties of the state historian include enhancing the knowledge of Texans regarding Texas history and heritage.
The new State Historian says he got to this point thanks to a very famous author.
"I wound up working for James Michener as a research assistant and that's what got me totally hooked on Texas history," he said.
In March, de la Teja also assumed the role of President of the Texas State Historical Association.
SOURCE: Globe and Mail (Canada) (5-28-07)
Writing in the influential Literary Review of Canada, Shiraz Dossa, a tenured professor at Nova Scotia's St. Francis Xavier University, said that his academic integrity and academic freedom were grossly impugned by the university administration, an assault on his reputation that he said has yet to be remedied.
He accused the president and chancellor of authorizing a "small Spanish Inquisition" to denounce him - a campaign he said was initiated by two Jewish professors and the Christian chair of the political science department.
Prof. Dossa also wrote that the attack on his reputation was launched by The Globe and Mail's editorial board and by columnists John Ibbitson and Rex Murphy, whom he described as being "intellectually just a cut above the Trailer Park Boys" and ignorant of the Middle East.
James Turk, executive director of the Canadian Association of University Teachers, likened the treatment of Prof. Dossa to the 1950s McCarthy period in the United States when academics and others were subjected to intense pressure not to attend events that were unpopular.
This is the first time Prof. Dossa has spoken out since the storm erupted over his attendance at the Tehran conference in mid-December.
His two-page essay appears in the issue of the LRC that will be posted today on its website, www.reviewcanada.ca. Although the monthly publication's circulation is small, it is widely read in the academic, journalistic, political and public-service communities.
In an interview, Prof. Dossa said he wrote the essay because he wanted to set the record straight and because he still hasn't received an apology from either St. FX president Sean Riley or chancellor Raymond Lahey, the Roman Catholic bishop of Antigonish where the university is located. He also said he has refused to speak to his department chair, Prof. Yvon Grenier, since December. ...
SOURCE: Independent (UK) (5-28-07)
So why has the distinguished journalist Ryszard Kapuscinski, who died last January at 74, been posthumously "outed" as a spy for the communist-era secret police, and his reputation tarnished for ever?
The revelation, in a Polish weekly magazine last week, which prompted an outraged denial from his widow, was the latest damaging leak to emerge from the Institute of National Remembrance where the secret files are held.
Poland has unfinished business with its Soviet-era past, and the stage-managed leaks by historians with access to the archives are part of a political war as the country moves to expose collaborators almost two decades after the fall of communism.
The debate, now focusing on whether the 53 miles of secret files should be thrown open completely, has split families and the political elite. The turmoil has divided the historic figures of the Solidarity movement, the trade union that opened the way to democracy in Poland.
SOURCE: Arkansas Democrat-Gazette (5-29-07)
A doctor's receptionist looked at me, wide-eyed, and said with a Southern drawl, "You're going to the Middle East? You must be so brave! Aren't you afraid?" Such statements tend to make me smile; in fact, I often repeat them to amused Jordanians.
I have been in Amman, Jordan, for two weeks at this writing, and I seldom feel afraid. In this era of "random acts of violence," I must admit that traveling can be a little stressful, but fear does not affect me any more in Amman than it would in New York, Washington, D.C., or London. As a Middle East historian, I also have a profound sense of obligation (not shared by all who write about international relations) to pursue an in-depth understanding of the culture, language and people of the region.
Amman is a wonderful place for that kind of study. The capital city is festooned with beautiful rose gardens, bustling markets and stately mosques. At the University of Jordan, one can witness a dramatic parade of female style that displays the wide variety of interpretations of the term "Islamic dress." Some women waft by in delicately embroidered black chiffon from head to toe. Others wear tight, trendy clothes, sparkly head scarves and intense eye makeup. Still others don form-fitting, street-length coats with tattered jeans and Nikes peeking out of the bottom.
Most students, like college students everywhere, congregate in mixed-gender groups at a place called Snack Lebanon, which serves addictive Lebanese-inspired junk food, but others flock to the KFC and McDonald's nearby.
Politeness, hospitality and dedication to family form the essential components of this culture. Family values are truly internalized, and young people often talk about the importance of spending time with parents and siblings. ...
"I love the American movies," a young woman in full Islamic dress gushed enthusiastically, "Mel Gibson and George Clooney-very handsome!" Unfortunately, American citizens can no longer escape the stigma of our ineffective leadership. A candid Jordanian colleague confided: "Jordanians are very interested in world events and education. We always respected the American people, knowing that you are very educated. The government policies were something separate, something Americans could not always control. But when you re-elected President Bush in 2004 after his disastrous policies, we could not understand. It takes a long time for a country to gain respect, and now it is lost in such a short time." This statement bored into my already bruised conscience. Americans can still feel welcome in this part of the Middle East, but for how long?
On May 25, The Washington Post published the first news report based on the text of the book, which Gerth wrote with New York Times reporter Don Van Natta Jr. According to the Post, historian Taylor Branch, a key figure in the book's description of the Clintons' purported "secret pact of ambition," described the story as "preposterous."
From the May 25 Washington Post article:
According to Gerth and Van Natta, even before the Clintons were married they formulated a "secret pact of ambition" aimed at reinventing the Democratic Party and getting to the White House. The authors cite a former Bill Clinton girlfriend, Marla Crider, who said she saw a letter on his desk written by Hillary Clinton, outlining the couple's long-term ambitions, which they called their "twenty-year project."
Crider was first quoted about the letter in a book by a former National Enquirer reporter in 2000, at the time describing it as more about Bill Clinton's infidelities and the "little girls" he had. Gerth and Van Natta, however, report that they re-interviewed Crider and that she said the earlier book's account was "not totally accurate." In this telling, Crider described the note as being more about the couple's political plans, with little discussion of their personal relationship.
The authors report that the Clintons updated their plan after the 1992 election, determining that Hillary would run when Bill left office. They cite two people, Ann Crittenden and John Henry, who said Taylor Branch, the Pulitzer Prize-winning historian and close Clinton friend, told them that the Clintons "still planned two terms in the White House for Bill and, later, two for Hillary." Contacted last night, Branch said that "the story is preposterous" and that "I never heard either Clinton talk about a 'plan' for them both to become president."
SOURCE: Lloyd Billingsley at FrontpageMag.com -- Review of Larry Berman's Perfect Spy: The Incredible Double Life of Pham Xuan An, Time Magazine Reporter & Vietnamese Communist Agent (Smithsonian Books) (5-29-07)
There is even a character who represents Pham Xuan An in the 2002 remake of The Quiet American, starring Michael Caine. The film was a big hit in Vietnam where An is the communist equivalent of royalty. He got all those honors by helping the Communist regime prevail, and for being responsible for thousands of American deaths.
An joined the Communist party in 1953, at the tail end of the Stalin Era. "I followed what they told me to do," An helpfully explains. The Party wanted him to choose journalism and learn American culture, in order to become a better spy. According to Larry Berman, Pham Xuan An was motivated only by the "noblest of goals for Vietnamese nationalism." An fought "for liberty and against poverty," according to Berman, a political science professor at UC Davis and author of three books on Vietnam.
An became a spy, Berman explains, "when Communist Party leaders recognized that the United States was well under way in a process of replacing the French colonialists in Vietnam." Actually, the emerging colonial power was the Soviet Union, whose expansion the United States was trying to contain.
According to Party bosses, An was the only agent they sent to America, where he attended Orange Coast College, then became something of a celebrity while interning at the Sacramento Bee. He struck up key friendships and learned the culture well before Communist Party bosses ordered him back to South Vietnam. There his language, networking and schmoozing skills proved a strategic asset for the VC major cause: unification of the country under a Soviet-backed Communist dictatorship. An's many contacts provided him with classified information, which he never had to steal. His reports put the Viet Cong right in the U.S. war room.
To Berman's credit, he includes the judgment of An's Time colleague Zalin Grant who said in a 2005 letter to the New Yorker that after enjoying access to briefings by generals Westmoreland, Abrams and ambassadors Lodge and Bunker, on operations and strategy, An would disappear, "presumably to brief his comrades in the tunnels of Cu Chi. I have always questioned the American journalists who insist on romanticizing An. It was one thing to have been against the Vietnam War – many of us were – but quite another to express unconditional admiration for a man who spent a large part of his life pretending to be a journalist while helping to kill Americans."
Berman concedes An's actions brought suffering and death to many, "albeit in indirect ways." As Berman told the Sacramento Bee, "He spied just for his country. Whether he was an enemy or not, I consider that a noble thing." An claims that he never knowingly hurt anyone and was just defending his country. That will come as little consolation to relatives and friends of those with names on that long black wall in Washington. Perfect Spy is a sack dance on their graves.
According to Berman, the VC won the battle of Ab Bac because of his An's work. The United States withdrew troops in 1973 and in 1975, the Russian tanks of North Vietnam rolled into Saigon. Though grateful for his work, the new regime thought An had too much contact with Americans and submitted him to a "detoxification" process before making him a big star. Berman doesn't go into it, but the new Stalinist regime in Vietnam was more repressive than its Soviet sponsors, without liberty but with plenty of poverty. (Readers might want to consult The Vietnamese Gulag by Doan Van Toai and David Chanoff, and various Amnesty International reports.)
No detail here about the "re-education" camps, and nothing about the fleeing boat people, though An supposedly tipped some off to the best ocean currents and shipping routs. One doubts it, along with his claim that, "If I had known during the war that we would just be trading the Americans for the Russians, I'd have stuck with the Americans.
Berman's fathomless credulity buys it all but maintains some sense of mystery. Why, for example, was the son of a Pham Xuan An, a key Communist spy, allowed into the United States at a time when visas were hard to get? An Phem, who had also studied in the USSR, graduated from the University of North Carolina then went to law school at Duke on a Fulbright fellowship. Perfect Spy includes a photo of Ah Phem posing in Ho Chi Minh City with President George W. Bush.
Berman suggests this is a question that might never be answered, but he does settle others. Perfect Spy goes the extra mile to serve up a worshipful regime-approved treatment of a dutiful Communist Party member, a Vietnamese general, an agent of totalitarianism, and a man responsible for thousands of American deaths. That is how he should be remembered, not as a friendly guy who thought seals' testicles were an aphrodisiac and became known as the best trainer of fighting cocks in Saigon.
Some people fake their deaths but Pham Xuan An faked his life. He fooled many American journalists and leftists, because they wanted the same things, including American withdrawal. Perfect Spy succeeds at showing adversaries of the United States just how easy it is to spin American academics and journalists.
SOURCE: Andrew Bacevich in an op ed in the WaPo (5-27-07)
Among the hundreds of messages that my wife and I have received, two bore directly on this question. Both held me personally culpable, insisting that my public opposition to the war had provided aid and comfort to the enemy. Each said that my son's death came as a direct result of my antiwar writings.
This may seem a vile accusation to lay against a grieving father. But in fact, it has become a staple of American political discourse, repeated endlessly by those keen to allow President Bush a free hand in waging his war. By encouraging "the terrorists," opponents of the Iraq conflict increase the risk to U.S. troops. Although the First Amendment protects antiwar critics from being tried for treason, it provides no protection for the hardly less serious charge of failing to support the troops - today's civic equivalent of dereliction of duty.
What exactly is a father's duty when his son is sent into harm's way?
Among the many ways to answer that question, mine was this one: As my son was doing his utmost to be a good soldier, I strove to be a good citizen.
As a citizen, I have tried since Sept. 11, 2001, to promote a critical understanding of U.S. foreign policy. I know that even now, people of good will find much to admire in Bush's response to that awful day. They applaud his doctrine of preventive war. They endorse his crusade to spread democracy across the Muslim world and to eliminate tyranny from the face of the Earth. They insist not only that his decision to invade Iraq in 2003 was correct but that the war there can still be won. Some - the members of the "the-surge-is-already-working" school of thought - even profess to see victory just over the horizon.
I believe that such notions are dead wrong and doomed to fail. In books, articles and op-ed pieces, in talks to audiences large and small, I have said as much. "The long war is an unwinnable one," I wrote in this section of The Washington Post in August 2005. "The United States needs to liquidate its presence in Iraq, placing the onus on Iraqis to decide their fate and creating the space for other regional powers to assist in brokering a political settlement. We've done all that we can do."
Not for a second did I expect my own efforts to make a difference. But I did nurse the hope that my voice might combine with those of others - teachers, writers, activists and ordinary folks - to educate the public about the folly of the course on which the nation has embarked. I hoped that those efforts might produce a political climate conducive to change. I genuinely believed that if the people spoke, our leaders in Washington would listen and respond.
This, I can now see, was an illusion.
The people have spoken, and nothing of substance has changed.
SOURCE: Raymond Ibrahim in National Review Online (5-16-07)
Islamic apologist extraordinaire Karen Armstrong is at it again. In an article entitled “Balancing the Prophet” published by the Financial Times, the self-proclaimed “freelance monotheist” engages in what can only be considered second-rate sophistry.
The false statements begin in her opening paragraph:
Ever since the Crusades, people in the west have seen the prophet Muhammad as a sinister figure.… The scholar monks of Europe stigmatised Muhammad as a cruel warlord who established the false religion of Islam by the sword. They also, with ill-concealed envy, berated him as a lecher and sexual pervert at a time when the popes were attempting to impose celibacy on the reluctant clergy.
In fact, “people in the west” have had something of a “dim” view of Muhammad for nearly half a millenium before the Crusades. As early as the 8th century just a few generations after Muhammad Byzantine chronicler Theophanes wrote in his Chronographia that:
He [Muhammad] taught those who gave ear to him that the one slaying the enemy or being slain by the enemy entered into paradise [e.g., Koran 9:111]. And he said paradise was carnal and sensual orgies of eating, drinking, and women. Also, there was a river of wine … and the women were of another sort, and the duration of sex greatly prolonged and its pleasure long-enduring [e.g., 56: 7-40, 78:31, 55:70-77]. And all sorts of other nonsense.
This passage totally contradicts Armstrong’s claims: 1) It wasn’t only during the Crusades when, as Armstrong would have it, popes desperately needed to demonize Muhammad and Islam in order to rally support for the Crusades that Westerners began to see him as a “sinister figure.” Many in the West have seen him as that from the very start. 2) Thus claims of Muhammad being a “lecherous pervert” were not due to any “ill-conceived envy” on the part of 12th-century popes trying to “impose celibacy on the reluctant clergy.” (Indeed, this last notion posited by Armstrong an ex-nun appears to be more telling of her own “ill-conceived envy” against the Church.) 3) Despite the famous mantra that the West is “ignorant” of Islam dear to apologists like Armstrong this passage reveals that, from the start, Westerners were in fact aware of some aspects of the Koran.
Having distorted history, Armstrong next goes on to distort Islamic theology:
Until the 1950s, no major Muslim thinker had made holy war a central pillar of Islam. The Muslim ideologues Abu ala Mawdudi (1903-79) and Sayyid Qutb (1906-66), among the first to do so, knew they were proposing a controversial innovation. They believed it was justified by the current political emergency.
1) Even better than a “major Muslim thinker,” Allah himself proclaims: “Fight those who believe not in Allah nor the Last Day, nor forbid what has been forbidden by Allah and His Messenger [i.e., uphold Sharia], nor embrace the true faith, [even if they are] from among the People of the Book [Jews and Christians], until they pay tribute with willing submission, and feel themselves utterly subdued” (Koran 9:29). Muhammad confirms: "I have been commanded [by Allah] to fight against mankind until they testify that none but Allah is to be worshipped and that Muhammad is Allah’s Messenger” (Bukhari B2N24; next to the Koran, the second most authoritative text in Islam). The word “until” in both quotes should demonstrate the perpetual nature of these statements: there are still Jews and Christians who have yet to be “subdued”; and all of mankind has yet to “testify that none but Allah is to be worshipped and that Muhammad is Allah’s Messenger."
2) Based on the above (as well as countless other Koranic verses and oral traditions of Muhammad, not to mention the course of conquest the first “rightly-guided” caliphs followed), Islam’s jurists and theologians throughout the ages have all reached the consensus binding on the entire Muslim community that whenever the Muslim world is militarily capable, it must go on the offensive until it subsumes the entire world. Moreover, this world-view was postulated and acted upon well before Armstrong’s blame-all the Crusades ever took place.
3) So Qutb and Mawdudi were certainly not, as she puts it, “the first major Muslim thinkers to do so.” Their claim to fame is that they were great articulators of jihad who awoke the umma to its obligation an obligation, however, which was formulated by the great sheikhs of Islam (such as revered scholars Ibn Taymiyya and Ibn al-Qayyim of the 13th century) who, in their turn, based it on the words of the Koran and Muhammad. But Armstrong is right in that they did stress jihad due to the “current political emergency” but not in the way she means (i.e., “self-defense”): in their lifetime the Ottoman empire which, until its last moribund centuries, waged one jihad after another, terrorizing and conquering many of its Christian neighbors fell and there was no longer a central Muslim sultanate, or “caliphate,” to maintain even a semblance of Islamic power, authority, and expansion. This needed and still needs to be rectified under Islam’s worldview....
SOURCE: http://www.kansascity.com (5-28-07)
McCullough had been scheduled to speak that day in the Truman Library auditorium. Now he will speak at 4:30 p.m. on the front steps of the library, 500 W. U.S. 24 in Independence.
Admission is free. Some reserved seating is available by calling 816-235-6222. Others are encouraged to bring lawn chairs or blankets.