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: University of Buffalo Reporter (7-12-07)
Andreas Daum, professor in the Department of History, College of Arts and Science, presented "'Ich bin ein Berliner': Why Europeans Once Loved an American President and What Has Changed Since Then," as part of the UBThisSummer lecture series. Daum is a former John F. Kennedy Fellow at the Minda de Gunzburg Center for European Studies at Harvard University and author of "Kennedy in Berlin," the English translation of which will be published this fall by Cambridge University Press.
"How did it come that at the beginning of the 1960s, millions of Europeans admired an American president?" Daum asked. "Why did Europeans west and east of the so-called Iron Curtain...have high hopes in Kennedy? And why has the potential to hear an American president shrunk so dramatically since Kennedy's assassination?"
The United States' crucial combat and reconstruction roles in World War I and II help answer the first question, he said, as these events set the stage for the Kennedy's dramatic reception decades later. "World War I turned Great Britain from a creditor to a debtor nation, with the United States as the main source of support," said Daum, pointing out that by the end of World War II, "the United States represented the only economically sound power that would provide resources for the rebuilding of a devastated continent."
The spotlight remained on America into the Cold War, he added, presenting a counter-model to the Soviet regime that split the German nation into East and West. "In the 1950s and '60s," he said, "American's popular culture, lifestyle and Cold War pragmatism became important reference points for Europeans in the West in their attempt to find their own way out of the Cold War era."...
SOURCE: Charles Bittner in a letter to the editor of the AJC (7-12-07)
Atlanta's finest jaywalk right into mockery
The findings of the police investigation into the arrest and injury of world-renowned historian Felipe Fernandez-Armesto for jaywalking were preposterous ("Inquiry clears officer, but jaywalker won't step back," Page 1, July 5).
The report found that the arresting officer acted "appropriately." However, if that were indeed true, the city of Atlanta would never have been held up to ridicule by most of the civilized world, the American Historical Association would not be threatening to take their future convention business elsewhere, an admired visitor would not be contemplating a lawsuit against the city, the photograph of a group of "Atlanta's finest" would never have mockingly been displayed on the front page of British newspapers, and the taxpaying residents of the city would not be picking up the tab for either the arrest and jailing or for the six-month investigation that stemmed from this jaywalking incident.
Obviously, a simple jaywalking citation presented to the historian at the time of the violation would have been a considerably more "appropriate" method of managing this cosmic legal transgression. The Atlanta Police Department owes Fernandez-Armesto as well as the taxpayers of Atlanta an apology. To not issue one would be inappropriate indeed.
SOURCE: http://europe.courrierinternational.com (7-12-07)
SOURCE: Press Release (7-12-07)
Regarding the third class of fellows, Mr. Fletcher said, “Our focus this year was on emerging and mid-career scholars and writers. Working in the fields of art, literature, history, law, and education, this distinguished group, like the two before it, is approaching both the historical and modern-day challenges of integration and race relations in ways that are innovative and provocative.”
The Fletcher Fellows and their projects are:
• Hilton Als, New Yorker staff writer, “The Group” – recreates the turbulence of the 1950s and 1960s through the exploration of writer James Baldwin’s outsider status in the New York branch of the Civil Rights Movement and the Black Power movement, thus illuminating the less-than-monolithic nature of these movements.
• Cheryl Finley, Assistant Professor of the History of Art, Cornell University, “Picturing Black Power! U.S. Civil Rights and African Liberation Movements on Film”- examines the visual culture, particularly on film, of the American Civil Rights Movement and its adaptation by African liberation movements in the 1960s.
• Joy James, John B. and John T. McCoy Presidential Professor of Africana Studies and College Professor in Political Science, Williams College, “Winnowing DemocracyBlack Women in National Politics: 1964-2004, Fannie Lou Hamer to Condoleezza Rice” - offers a historical survey of black women in national politics, a first of its kind.
• Kenneth W. Mack, Professor of Law, Harvard Law School, “Representing the Race: The Transformation of Civil Rights Lawyering and Politics, 1920-1955” - looks at the changes in the profession and practice of civil rights law in the three decades leading up to Brown, which made Brown possible.
• Charles M. Payne, Professor in the School of Social Service Administration, University of Chicago, “Fragile Victories: Improving Urban Schools at Scale” - follows the effects on education in the years after Brown, with a particular interest in how the legacy of Brown can be used to effect positive change in the nation's urban schools.
The Selection Committee is chaired by Professor Henry Louis Gates, Jr., Alphonse Fletcher University Professor at Harvard University, and includes Professor K. Anthony Appiah, Laurance Rockefeller University Professor of Philosophy, Princeton University; Dr. James P. Comer, Maurice Falk Professor of Child Psychiatry at the Yale University School of Medicine's Child Study Center, Director of the School Development Program, and Associate Dean for Student Affairs, School of Medicine; Thelma Golden, Director and Chief Curator, The Studio Museum in Harlem; and Dr. Amy Gutmann, President of the University of Pennsylvania. The Committee selected the five Fletcher Fellows from the 70 applications submitted.
Professor Gates called it “the best group of applications that we've seen in the three years of the program.” Gates continued, “Our new fellows are taking a hard look at the real-world events around the time of Brown v. Board, in the arts world and the social world of law and politics, that gave rise to the Civil Rights Movement, and also at the long-term effects of those events on educational theory and practice, which were at the heart of the 1954 U.S. Supreme Court decision.”
With the fellowship program now in its third year, Mr. Fletcher is excited about the many varieties of scholarship and creative work funded thus far. He said, “The work of the five new fellows is highly independent and specific to their own fields of study. However,” he added, “it is also inextricably connected with the work of the previous classes of fellows by its dedication to promoting the goals and legacy of Brown v. Board.”
Information on the program is available at the Fletcher Foundation web-site www.fletcherphilanthropy.org <http://www.fletcherphilanthropy.org> .
The Fletcher Foundation is a not-for-profit private charitable organization created by Alphonse Fletcher, Jr. in 1993, approximately two years after his founding of Fletcher Asset Management, Inc. (FAM). Just as one of FAM’s primary goals is to generate strong investment returns by investing in “responsible” companies, The Fletcher Foundation seeks to invest in, and thereby provide strong returns for, communities. The Foundation in conjunction with charitable contributions from FAM and Mr. Fletcher supports a wide variety of programs and charitable activities, and is most strongly committed to projects that better the community at large. Projects include current use donations through the Fletcher Fund at the New York Community Trust and endowment scale gifts to select institutions in commemoration of the 1954 landmark Supreme Court Decision “Brown v. Board of Education.”
SOURCE: Jamie Glazov at frontpagemag.com (7-12-07)
FP: Larry Berman, welcome to Frontpage Interview.
Berman: Thank you for the opportunity.
FP: What inspired you to write this book?
Berman: So many aspects of this project interested me. During the Vietnam War, Pham Xuan An was a highly respected Time Magazine reporter who turned out to be a spy for the North Vietnamese. For twenty years An lived a lie and no one suspected him of being an enemy agent. That’s pretty intriguing by itself. An was later promoted to Major General and Hero of the People’s Army-- one of only two intelligence officers during the war ever promoted to the rank of General and Hero. When I first met An in July 2001, I was completing my book No Peace No Honor: Nixon, Kissinger and Betrayal in Vietnam. I wanted to use the story of An’s life as a window for understanding the complexities of the war from the communist Vietnamese perspective, the story of An’s life as an intelligence agent, his cover in journalism, his years in America, his friendships—the story of war and reconciliation.
FP: Tell us in general about who An was.
Berman: I’m not sure anyone really knows the real Pham Xuan An. Even after spending so much time with him, I always acknowledge this first since An fooled everyone with his perfect cover, not just journalists. During the war, An worked first for Reuters, then the New York Herald Tribune and finally for Time Magazine. He was known as an informative, witty, chain-smoking correspondent, regarded as the dean of his trade by foreign reporters covering the war in Vietnam. An’s information and security tidbits are so good about goings on within the Presidential Palace and South Vietnamese General Staff, it was rumored he must be working secretly for the CIA. An has access to U.S. and South Vietnamese military bases and was a regular at diplomatic receptions. His name appeared on every list of accredited MACV (Military Assistance Command, Vietnam) correspondents from 1965-1975. An supplied a large part of Time’s Vietnam copy and was responsible for checking the accuracy of battlefield maps that appeared in the magazine. When South Vietnam fell in April 1975, An stayed behind with his aging mother, but his wife and four children were evacuated to the United States. They were processed at Camp Pendleton and settled in Arlington, Virginia. That shows his complete cover and also raises some intriguing issues that I’m sure we’ll get to.
FP: What was his time like in the United States? What impact did American culture have on him?
Berman: It was in the mid-1940s when the Communist Party recruited An. The Party chose his cover in journalism and developed a carefully scripted artificial life history. In the years prior to his American journey, An befriended Colonel Edward Lansdale’s covert CIA team that was in Vietnam combating communism. In fact, it was Lansdale himself who helped expedite An’s trip by having the Asia Foundation sponsor An’s studies in the U.S. From 1957-59 An attended Orange Coast College in Costa Mesa, California, majored in journalism, interned at the Sacramento Bee and then drove across the country for an internship at the United Nations. He learned so much about American culture and the American people--their compassion, generosity, way of thinking, and their freedoms. He often spoke of how Americans taught him a new way of thinking, a way of looking at the world that the communist party could not do. He also said that Americans taught him about humanity
In the immediate aftermath of the war, An was probably the sole member of the victorious side who held no bitterness towards an enemy who had wrought so much death and destruction in his country. “I had lived and worked with Americans for so long. I knew them as good people. Most Americans believed what their government told them, they did not know the real Vietnamese. I had no reason to dislike the Americans, just as the Americans who knew me before the war had no reason to dislike me.”
FP: The entities that wrought death and destruction in Vietnam were the North Vietnamese communists and the Viet Cong, supported by their international communist backers.
Berman: You might want to consider what the United States did to Vietnam, including the use of Agent Orange, massive bombing campaigns, My Lai, the death of so many innocents, on all sides.
FP: Many horrible things happen in war. The U.S. had to drop two atomic bombs on Japan in WWII, but it was the lesser of two evils and it saved millions of lives. It was a just cause, as was the U.S. effort to save South Vietnam from communism.
Berman: Japan attacked the United States; what did Vietnam do to the United States?
FP: The North Vietnamese tyranny, with the help and support of international communist forces, was attempting to establish its despotism on a free people. South Vietnam requested the U.S. to help protect it from this totalitarian force. This was a time when the containment of communism was a critical issue. It all adds up pretty clearly to me.
The most important point here is that the North Vietnamese and Viet Cong perpetrated a mass terror that appears not to have interested the anti-war Left, let alone the likes of An.
And so I wonder: how about the Hue massacre, which was typical of communist behavior in the war? In the Tet Offensive of January/February 1968, the Viet Cong perpetrated a massacre in Hue, the ancient imperial capital. Let me briefly quote Jean-Louis Margolin from the Black Book of Communism (p.572) regarding what the communists did during the few weeks they controlled the city:
... at least 3,000 people were massacred, including Vietnamese priests, French religious workers, German doctors, and a number of officials and government workers. The number of deaths was far higher than in the massacres carried out by Americans. Some of the victims were buried alive; others were taken away to “study sessions”; from which they never returned.
Did the Hue massacre outrage An? How many hours of sleep did he lose over it?
And when the noble effort of the U.S. failed to save South Vietnam, we know about the killing fields and mass terror that followed.
But again, we will try not to reargue the whole Vietnam war here today.
Let’s try to return to An. What was the development of An's cover as a journalist? In what ways did he perform his job?
Berman: Let me first just say that the deaths at Hue saddened An. He had been living and working his cover with the Americans since the mid-1950s and had no contact with the communist party you are referring to. I just want it on the record.
In his cover as a journalist, An’s value came in disentangling the complexities of Vietnamese politics for American reporters in Vietnam, but he was equally valued by Vietnamese politicians, military commanders and intelligence officials because he previously lived in the United States and could explain the Americans to the Vietnamese.
For An, journalism was a cover for his job in intelligence, but An lived his cover just as if it was his real life, otherwise he would be dead. The communists had other agents operating in the press whose task was disinformation and shaping the news towards the communist perspective, but this was not An’s mission. I conducted research in archives throughout the United States, finding much material in the Papers of Robert Shaplen deposited with the Wisconsin Historical Society; the Neil Sheehan papers at the Library of Congress; the Frank McCulloch Papers at the University of Nevada; and the Edward Lansdale Papers at the Hoover Institution Library. My extensive analysis of Shaplen’s detailed notes from conversations with An reveal nothing that could substantiate the charge that An was trying to push false information or even an interpretation that could be construed as pro-Viet Cong.
FP: Yeh, the deaths at Hue saddened An alright, that's why he reached out in solidarity to the villians who perpetrated it. An may have been saddened by Hue, but in the sense that the victims were a necessary sacrifice in his eyes for the sake of building the utopia that he envisioned – typical of how all believers see the shedding of human blood being necessary for the engendering of their fantasy world.
The bottom line, again, is that An helped a vicious totalitarian regime.
Berman: An spoke out about his regrets. The revolution he joined twenty years earlier was a fight against colonialism and one to rid his country of foreign armies. He did not envision the totalitarian regime which emerged.
FP: An was very well familiar with the nature of the North Vietnamese regime. Please spare me the explanation of how anyone who knew anything about the North Vietnamese -- and who their role models and supporters were – could possibly have believed that a communist victory would bring a Jeffersonian-style democracy to South Vietnam.
On p.275 you write that An “joined the revolution imbued with nationalist ideals to fight against colonialism with hopes of creating a new society based on social justice and economic equality.”
With all due respect sir, this must be your sense of humor. Social justice and economic equality? The kind of social and economic equality that Stalin and Mao and the North Vietnamese had engendered?
Dr. Berman, if someone today began helping a communist movement that was supported by totalitarian entities out of an inspiration to create “social justice and economic equality” would you be able to guess the outcome of this experiment? Would you want any of your loved ones, let alone yourself, being part of the experiment? Would you really exonerate the individuals who would be complicit in creating the possibility of such an experiment?
In any case, again, let’s return to An:
Can you talk a bit about An’s method as an intelligence agent?
Berman: His mission as a spy was to provide strategic intelligence reports about U.S. war plans and send them into “the jungle,” as he referred to the chain of command. He would do this by writing reports in invisible ink that served as wrappings for traditional Vietnamese rolls and having them carried by his courier system to the VC base in Cu Chi. Eventually these reports made it all the way to Hanoi.
An was an astute analyst and demonstrated very early the capacity to distill complicated military plans into readily digestible reports for his superiors. Working for Time provided on the job training for being a spy because part of a reporter’s job is sorting rumor from fact in making the determination on what information is valuable and what is worthless.
Through it all, An understood that one slip up would bring instant capture and likely death. He had a start date for his assignment, but his mission would end only when his country was united or when he was captured. Another heralded spy and friend, the CIA’s Lou Conein, tipped his hat to An for “pulling it off all those years, for maintaining his self-control and never making a slip.” Conein’s admiration was of “one professional intelligence officer towards another man who played a similar role. You can’t help admiring a guy who is that skillful at his job.”
FP: What was An's impact on the war?
Berman: An is a “Hero of the Revolution” and received 4 special medals for specific acts contributing directly to his country’s defeat of the Americans. His early reports were so accurate that General Giap joked “we are now in the U.S.’s war room.” Each of An’s Exploit Medals receives detailed attention in my book precisely because An most definitely influenced the outcome of the war. During the early stages of the American build-up in Vietnam, An was the most valuable of all agents operating in the South because he had already established an almost impenetrable cover. He played an important role in identifying access points into Saigon for the 1968 Tet Offensive and helped analyze the entire counter-insurgency program. His final reports allowed for the expediting of the final offensive in April 1975.
FP: Right, so he facilitated the victory of tyranny over his people and helped spawn the bloodbath that followed. Lovely.
Berman: That’s a rather simplistic view of An’s role and the complexities of the battle for Vietnamese independence. I’ll have more to say about this shortly and I don’t expect to convince you, but there is another view of “history.” What happened inside Vietnam after 1975 came as a shock to many who had fought for liberation.
FP: And let me guess, many of those who fought for liberation went on to support communist liberations throughout the world, based on exactly the same principles, and then they were shocked all over again when the bloodbaths began right?
We obviously disagree on this.
Let’s move on.
So how did An see his mission and the communist party? If he lived in freedom and benefited from the beauty of freedom, why would he devote himself to a brutal tyranny? As an extension to that question, what did being a Vietnamese nationalist and patriot mean to him?
Berman: This is an important question. We need to go back in history, say September 14, 1945 when Ho issued the Vietnamese proclamation of independence with Jefferson’s stirring words, “we hold the truth that all men are created equal, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” Ho and his followers were grateful for America’s defeat of Vietnam’s enemy, Japan. Ho had helped rescue American pilots and furnished intelligence reports on Japanese operations, earning him the position OSS agent 19, code name Lucius. Ho soon wrote President Truman with a desperate plea that the United States come to the aid of Vietnamese self-determination. “It is with this firm conviction that we request of the United States as guardians and champions of World Justice to take a decisive step in support of our independence,” Ho wrote in a 1945 letter to Truman. “What we ask has graciously been granted to the Philippines. Like the Philippines our goal is full independence and full cooperation with the United States.”
For many reasons, the United States and Viet Minh did not bridge the chasm of the emerging Cold War forces that were already at work. Policy makers at the time had little interest in understanding the nature of the Vietnamese struggle for independence; instead, not losing Vietnam to communism would become US policy. Was Ho genuinely inspired by American ideals, or was he merely appealing for US support for short-term strategic benefit? Historians are still debating this. But whatever the motives and objectives of Ho and other Communist Party leaders, it is clear that many of Ho’s Vietnamese admirers took his words about independence and freedom seriously, and that they genuinely believed that this was the cause for which the Viet Minh and the Party was fighting. An was one of those Vietnamese who was inspired by Ho and the Party in this way.
I see some striking parallels between US motives and those of many of the Vietnamese who fought for the Communist side. For many of those who joined the Viet Minh, the NLF or even the Communist Party itself, the struggle against the Americans and their South Vietnamese allies was also a “noble cause”—a clear continuation of the struggle against the French colonialism which they so loathed and detested. Of course, during and after the war, many of those who supported and joined the Party discovered that these admirable goals had also become compromised by the Party’s authoritarian and tyrannical qualities.
An was one of these Vietnamese who was first inspired by the noble and admirable aspects of Ho Chi Minh’s message and later became disillusioned by the Party and his actions.
One more thing: it is ludicrous to suggest that Pham Xuan An or other young Vietnamese who joined the Vietnamese Communist Party during the late 1940s or early 1950s were motivated primarily (or even at all) by a desire to promote Soviet domination of Southeast Asia. As anyone with even a passing familiarity of the recent work on Soviet foreign policy knows, Soviet leaders did not consider Southeast Asia to be very important during the 1940s and 1950s. The USSR did not even recognize Ho’s government until 1950, and the amount of aid and support Moscow sent to Hanoi lagged far behind what the Chinese Communists were sending until the mid-1960s. In fact, the Vietnamese Communists did not move firmly into the Soviet orbit until the late 1970s—by which time An and many other Party members had become thoroughly disgusted with the Party and the betrayal of its original objectives. Whatever else An many have been, he was never a Stalinist or a tool of Moscow.
All An ever wanted for the Vietnamese people was the chance to determine their own future, free from foreign interference. He was imbued with nationalist ideals of creating a new society based on social justice and economic equality. His dreams for the revolution turned out to be naïve and idealistic, but the power of his life story is driven by the noblest of goals for Vietnamese nationalism. He would also pay a heavy price for holding onto his dreams. He had no idea back then that the Party he joined would turn into the brutal regime of 1975. He was not a hard core party member and anyone who says otherwise is misinformed. He was, as Germaine Loc Swanson said, a communist by obligation. He had no contact with the Party after his return to Vietnam in 1959. He was living with the Americans in a cover; he did not attend Party meetings or ideological sessions, which is why he ran into so much trouble when the war ended.
The new regime believed he was too American; not really a communist party member in the ideological sense and that is why they sent him away for a year of reeducation and then placed him under literal house arrest, but as An always said, it was too late to change him.
FP: Well we disagree. Everyone knew who the North Vietnamese were and who their supporters and role models were. They headed a ruthless despotism.
Throughout the 20th century all we heard was the same crock. Marxist revolution after Marxist revolution, mass terror after mass terror, which can be the only conclusion to the socialist impulse, and we still get this charade about how “shocked” many believers were and are about what happens when yet another Marxist revolution turns into a bloodbath.
In terms of the Soviet/Chinese support: lovely, the North Vietnamese and Viet Cong received more support from a communist tyranny that ended up killing 70 million of its citizens rather than one that killed 30 million of its citizens. Great.
There was Chinese Communist support and there was Soviet communist support, and we can debate in what order and to what degree and in what timing this all occurred. The bottom line is that the threat to South Vietnam in the Vietnam war was headed by communists, and these communists were supported by forces of communism internationally. And the people who involved themselves in helping these communists knew who they were helping.
Berman: I just want to remind readers that after the war ended in 1975, Vietnam went to war with Cambodia and soon toppled the Pol Pot regime and China then invaded Vietnam.
FP: Yes, that’s what happened.
Let me emphasize again: after everything that socialism perpetrated in the 20th Century, are you really going to tell me that someone else who is complicit in yet another building of a socialist paradise should be exonerated when the killing fields start because he really thought this time there would be an earthly utopia?
And again: the United States didn’t invade Vietnam. South Vietnam requested American assistance and the U.S. engaged in a noble cause to save South Vietnam from communism -- an effort that unfortunately failed thanks, in part, to monsters such as An.
Berman: This is precisely where we disagree. I agree that many of the US objectives in Vietnam were noble. I think that many US officials and certainly many of the American soldiers and civilians who served in Vietnam were motivated by a genuine desire to advance the cause of freedom and to defeat tyranny. However, I also think that the nobility of the US intervention in Vietnam was compromised in innumerable ways by American hubris, ignorance and arrogance—qualities that often led the US to fight and act in ways that were both counterproductive and morally deplorable.
So on the American side, very noble motives were often intermingled with baser impulses. But it simply does not follow from this that everything the US did in Vietnam was noble, or that responsibility for the US defeat lies partly with Americans! It might make us feel good to blame figures like An for our defeat, since it allows us to avoid having to take a hard look at our own strategic, military and political shortcomings. Unfortunately, however, these kinds of self-exculpating explanations don’t hold up when you actually look at the historical evidence. Do you really believe the US failed because of An or are you willing to consider other reasons?
FP: The U.S. failed because the anti-war movement crippled America. The North Vietnamese admitted this after the war, crediting the anti-war movement for their victory. So people like Jane Fonda and Tom Hayden, and people like An, can take credit for the boat people, the re-education camps and the killing fields.
In your own book you demonstrate that battles like Tet were military defeats for the communists. It was the anti-war media that influenced the public mindset and that lost us that war.
Berman: I knew you’d eventually have to play the FrontPage hole card-- Fonda, Hayden and the crew. Tell me how 550,000 U.S. troops in a country, massive bombings, defoliation and herbicide programs and everything else that constituted the American commitment and we were no closer to achieving our objectives in the South than we were when we started. There’s a big difference in what Fonda did by going to Hanoi and playing into the enemy’s hands compared to average Americans who protested the war in which there was always a light at the end of the tunnel. LBJ’s words created the credibility gap.
FP: The people who protested the war facilitated the victory of communism in Southeast Asia.
And let me ask this: An was dedicated to Vietnamese freedom and independence? Really? How much time and energy did he spend fighting the tyrannical barbarities of the North Vietnamese regime? How much of his soul was dedicated to defending political prisoners in North Vietnam, who suffered unimaginable torture and long years of captivity because they opposed despotism? How much did he protest the influences that the Soviet Empire wielded over North Vietnam?
Berman: He did more than you think and more than others. In the aftermath of the war he helped many of his brother-enemies escape, through his own heroic actions he helped the leading anti-communist in South Vietnam, Dr. Tran Kim Tuyen, escape from the approaching communist army and he helped several journalists who were later locked up by the new regime. All of this is documented in the book and hardly reflects the actions of what you call a monster.
FP: It was no mystery what would happen to South Vietnam after a communist takeover. And An and all the others got exactly what they wished for after 1975: a Stalinist regime. And An can take pride in the tens of thousands of boat people who drowned in the South Pacific escaping the tyranny that he had helped spawn.
The An you portray as helping his persecuted Vietnamese was the post-1975 An who became stuck in the hell he helped build, not the An who could have tried to prevent the enslavement of South Vietnamese people and to spare them the suffering and bondage of the North Vietnamese people.
Berman: That is just not accurate of An, who did not wish for the Stalinist regime and said so. He mocked the new regime’s dependence on the Soviet model and said that if he knew Vietnam was trading the US for the Soviets, he’d have stayed with the Americans. You’ve constructed an ideological straw man that my book specifically addresses. Pham Xuan An paid a heavy price for his views—house arrest, never being allowed to leave the country and no visitors between 1975-87.
FP: Again, the anti-despotic An is the An you describe after the victory of the communists, not the An who helped communism’s victory.
Let me get this straight: when An looked at North Vietnam, he didn’t see or know anything about the Red Terror that had occurred on a mass scale? He didn’t know anything about the Stalinist-style purges that had eliminated all opposition? He didn’t know about the forced collectivization of agriculture, which ended in horrifying results, taking tens of thousands of lives? With instruction and supervision from their Chinese mentors, the North Vietnamese enforced a “Land Reform” campaign that unleashed mass terror and exterminated tens of thousands of innocent Vietnamese peasants. Where was An’s dedication to Vietnamese freedom and independence there?
Berman: I’ve already addressed this earlier, with a straight face and with facts based on what scholars have learned from years of research. Let’s not keep re-fighting the war here.
FP: Ok, but let it be said that after Saigon fell in 1975, the summary executions of tens of thousands of innocent South Vietnamese followed. There were to be two million refugees and more than a million people thrown into the new communist gulags and “re-education camps.” Tens of thousands of South Vietnamese boat people perished in the Gulf of Thailand and in the South China Sea in their attempt to escape what the likes of Sontag, McCarthy and Chomsky had helped create.
No one with a straight face could say that they didn’t know this is what the North Vietnamese would bring to the South. The fall of Saigon also facilitated the communist takeovers of Laos and Cambodia. The Khmer Rouge victory in Cambodia led to a killing field in which some three million Cambodians were exterminated. In just a few years after the communist takeovers in Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia, the communists killed more Indochinese citizens than had died on both sides in the whole Vietnam War.
An played a role in engendering these killing fields. And also in facilitating the deaths of American soldiers. And we are supposed to be sympathetic to him in some way? Please.
Berman: An went into hiding when Saigon fell in 1975 because he feared being killed. He was known only as a "friendly" correspondent. He was then sent away for a year of reeducation at a political institute because he knew nothing about Marxism, socialism and the communist party. In the book I specifically address the issue of An’s responsibility for the deaths of Americans and Vietnamese. What I have tried to do is explain the war through his eyes. Yes, An was responsible for the deaths of Americans. I’m not sure what else I can say except read the book.
FP: Oh I am sure An wasn't too ignorant about Marxism, socialism and the communist party. The point here is that the new totalitarian regime believed that he didn't know what he needed to know about it; he needed to be disinfected from his contact with the impure world and he needed to be educated properly. In other words, the process of Marxist revolutions eating their own children had begun.
Dr. Berman, I have read your book very carefully sir. Aside from our ideological combat here, I must say that you have done a great job as a historian and you have very successfully illuminated the life of this double agent. It is a very informative book that is also very interesting to read. So, again, aside from our differences on the Vietnam War and An, I commend you on an important feat as a historian.
So let’s return to An a bit more. Was An an agent of disinformation?
Berman: This is one of the big questions, that is, was An deliberately spreading false information in order to mislead his country’s enemy? The charge was initially made by Arnaud de Borchgrave in testimony before a Senate Sub Committee chaired by former American prisoner of war, Senator Jeremiah Denton. According to de Borchgrave, “He [An] was in charge of relaying disinformation to the U.S. Embassy and to journalistic colleagues.” Making the accusation is easy, proving it is something else. The charge has never been corroborated, despite several investigations and accusations. It remains perhaps the most sensitive, if not most central question, involving An’s cover—did he bias coverage of the war to favor the communists. I found no such evidence and believe me, I looked everywhere. That would have been a real newsmaker. The reason I came up empty is simple: if An had engaged in these types of activities, he surely would have blown his cover. He had more important things on his agenda than biasing the news.
FP: How did An pull it off for so long? Was he protected, lucky or just good at what he did?
Berman: He was good and he was also lucky. Ironically, when the war was over and Vietnam no longer divided, there were some within Vietnam’s Security Police Office, the “Cong An” who believed An’s ties with American and Vietnamese intelligence had been too close. They were also puzzled by his actions during the final days of the war when he saved so many South Vietnamese, especially Dr. Tuyen. Perhaps their Hero had survived for so long only because he had been worked for all sides, making him a possible triple agent. An only compounded matters by speaking fondly about his many friends in the CIA and CIO and so critically about his lost dreams for the revolution.
FP: Can you describe some of his friendships with Americans during and after the war?
Berman What makes An’s life story so interesting to me is that he apparently loved living his cover; being a correspondent for a free press was a dream come true in his vision of the revolution. For over twenty years An lived a lie that he hoped would become his reality—working as a newspaper correspondent in a unified Vietnam. He developed enduring bonds of friendship with many prominent journalists like David Halberstam and Neil Sheehan and with members of the American intelligence community like William Colby and the legendary Edward Lansdale. An admired and respected the Americans he met in Vietnam as well as during his time in the States. He just believed that they had no business being in his country. He came to admire Americans for their way of thinking, their values and the freedoms they possessed. He wanted his children to be educated in America because that was the place he had learned about humanity. At first, nothing was more difficult for me in writing about An’s life than trying to understand these friendships. In order to survive, An deceived those closest to him about his mission, yet hardly anyone rejected An when they learned he had been a communist spy. What kind of man can forge such enduring friendships based on a falsehood and, when the deception is unveiled, leave so few feeling betrayed? Why is it that so many refused to believe they had been source material for their friend’s reports to Hanoi?
FP: An liked being a correspondent for a free press while North Vietnamese citizens who believed in the right of a free press lingered in the North Vietnamese Gulag and suffered vicious torture and barbarity. He liked working for a free press so much that he worked to create a despotism for his own people where no one would be entitled to the freedom that America, a nation that he betrayed, gave him.
If there is a repulsive human being, this is certainly one of them.
Berman: You are entitled to your view, but Pham Xuan An did not work to create a despotism; he fought for the liberation of his country from foreign invaders; he fought for a vision that turned out to be naïve and later said so. What’s so hard to grasp here? He believed it was for the Vietnamese themselves to decide their future, not for the French or Americans. “In my life I had only two responsibilities. One was to my country as an obligation, the other one was to my American friends who taught me everything from A-Z, particularly American people. My wish is this. To fight until the country recovers independence and then renewal of diplomatic and normalization relations between the Vietnamese and American people and then I will die anytime smiling.”
FP: We are going in a circle here, but if An wanted a liberation of Vietnam he would have been fighting for the liberation of the Vietnamese in North Vietnam.
So was An a part of the reconciliation process between the two former enemies?
Berman: Pham Xuan An remained an Americophile throughout his life and happily he lived long enough to see a new chapter open between the United States and Vietnam. At the invitation of both the United States Ambassador to Vietnam, An was invited aboard the USS Vandegrift in November 2003 along with other dignitaries on the occasion of the first port call by an American Navy ship to Vietnam since the war ended in 1975. On that day An was in civilian attire and the only one to recognize him from the Vietnamese delegation was a Colonel who approached him and asked in Vietnamese, “excuse me, are you General Pham Xuan An?” An looked up and said, “yes I am.” The Colonel said, “nice meeting you sir,” and with An surrounded by so many high ranking American dignitaries he jokingly asked, “which side were you a General for?” Without hesitation, An answered “both sides!” The Colonel looked uneasy. “Just kidding,” said An. In telling me this story, An concluded, “You see, that is why they can’t let me out; they are still unsure who I am.”
FP: What is the story of An’s son, An Pham?
Berman: The slow winds of change eventually reached Vietnam in 1986 when the 6th National Congress launched Doi Moi, an economic renovation program to reform Vietnamese society and stimulate economic growth, thereby abandoning efforts to build a fully Communist society. A more tolerant attitude would prevail with respect to contact with the West and toward expression of opinion in the country.
It is within this context that a remarkable story unfolded involving bonds of friendship between former colleagues, a father’s dream for his eldest son and reconciliation between the two counties Pham Xuan An loved. “The party could only teach me ideological things,” explained An. “From the Americans I learned other important things about journalism, about another way of thinking. This is what I wanted for my son. I wanted him to have American friends.” An also believed that his son could represent a new bridge between Vietnamese and American peoples in the post-war period.
An’s former colleagues raised over $30,000. for Hoang An to attend the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill graduate program in journalism. An Pham returned to Vietnam in 1993 to begin work with the Foreign Ministry. In 1999 he secured a Fulbright Fellowship and attended Duke University Law School. He later served as an official translator between the President of Vietnam and President George W. Bush during the American President’s historic visit to Vietnam in 2006 and just last month An’s son was in the Oval Office translating President Bush’s words for Vietnamese President Nguyen Minh Triet. I guess Pham Xuan An’s dream had been realized.
FP: One cannot help from noticing that you speak of An with a tone of admiration and even awe. It is a bit baffling what there is to like about any individual who would dedicate his life to helping the enslavement and extermination of mass numbers of people by a Stalinist ideology – all the while enjoying the luxury of freedom of a society that he helped deny to his own people.
Berman: I knew what I was getting into when I agreed to this interview. I’m glad to be here because FrontPage needs more conversations with people who don’t share your ideological lens on the world. Pham, Xuan An was a reflective man on the failures of the Vietnamese revolution and his country’s current political situation. “I didn’t fight for any of this,” he told me in reference to Vietnam's rampant government corruption, deriding what he described as “our new green communists.” He yearned for reform. You are just wrong to believe that An dedicated his life to help enslave and exterminate the Vietnamese people. My God, even the free Vietnamese in the US don’t believe this about An. Most brother-enemies have reconciled because they understand better than most that there were so many lies on all sides; that the struggle for Vietnamese independence was so much more complicated than you suggest. In closing, let me ask our readers one question: What would they have done had half-a-million troops invaded California (about the size of Vietnam). Would they fight in any way possible to save their homeland?
FP: If Nazis or communists in huge numbers tried to take over California, and were helped by international Nazis or communists to do it, and California was, for some reason, endangered to fall under a totalitarian regime, and Californians requested help from another democracy, and that democracy sent a half-a-million troops to help save Californians from tyranny – yes I could see that.
Did An dedicate his life to help enslave and exterminate the Vietnamese people? This phenomenon is much more complex than to caricature it in this light.
Throughout the 20th Century we have seen the phenomenon of the fellow traveler. We have seen the Western leftist intellectual who supports and venerates societies in which he himself would be exterminated. Today we see the radical Left venerating an ideology -- radical Islam – in which all leftist sacred ideals are mutilated. We see leftist feminists genuflecting in the direction of regimes where they themselves would be barbarized. We see the Noam Chomskys, leftwing Jews, embracing Hamas and Hezbollah -- Nazi organizations that are dedicated to perpetrating another Holocaust. We see the Jane Fondas, who already know what an American withdrawal in the face of totalitarianism yielded in an earlier conflict, supporting yet another military withdrawal in the face of totalitarianism in a new conflict.
So there is the real and horrifying phenomenon of the conscious/subconscious death wish of the believer. There is the reality of the believer who yearns to see human life and human blood sacrificed on the altar of utopian ideals. And there is the phenomenon of the believer who yearns for a society where he himself as an individual will be purged – where his own individuality will be submerged into a greater whole. And this phenomenon is very real; it is not a joke. . . .and I think it will have to be the subject of another discussion in another time and place.
Aside from our disagreements, Larry Berman, on who An was and what the Vietnam War was, you have clearly done a fantastic and professional job as a historian in gathering together and painting the life of An.
I apologize that things were a little rough in this interview, but these are the critical issues of our time my friend, issues that I guess we both feel very strongly about.
Thank you kindly for joining Frontpage Interview. It was a pleasure to have you here.
Berman: Thanks for an engaging conversation and for the kind words about my book and my scholarship.
SOURCE: New America Media (7-12-07)
SOURCE: San Francisco Chronicle (7-11-07)
She was 92 when she died on June 25.
Ms. Keller, past president of the Western Association of Women Historians, taught students for decades about themes such as ascendant patriarchy, slavery, polygamy and subjugation of women. Her teaching was not focused on facts and dates but on possible meaning, according to her son William Keller of Pittsburgh.
Her writings focused on justice and equity for women and African Americans, linking the discrimination against African Americans to the treatment of women as second class citizens in the 19th century.
Her son said Ms. Keller seemed to be inspired by the discovery that she was a distant relative of early women's rights advocate Elizabeth Cady Stanton.
"She wasn't a screaming feminist,'' her son said. "She was just determined that opportunity for women and African Americans were an essential part of democracy. She just continued to do article after article and book after book."...
SOURCE: The Star (Canada) (7-11-07)
The shrine to America's most shamed president here officially moves from private to federal hands under the guidance of 45-year-old Timothy Naftali, a Montreal-born historian and expert on presidential recordings.
Naftali is transforming the homage to Nixon from what critics had disparaged as a Disneyland-type tourist trap into an honest historical look at the life and career of the only U.S. president to resign in scandal.
He did it by meticulously dismantling an exhibit on Watergate that described the event as a "coup'' by Nixon's enemies, rather than the event that defined Nixon's life and legacy and in many ways the way Americans looked at presidents and the powerful.
Like Nixon himself, the exhibit did not go easily, metaphorically clinging to its cherished wing in the private library much as the 37th president did before his 1974 resignation.
"I'm a historian. I can't sugar-coat things,'' he said. "History is messy, dramatic, exciting. There are good people and bad people and that's what makes it interesting.
"You have to tell history with the bark off.''...
A one-time aide to Quebec premier Robert Bourassa, he left Canada over Quebec's language legislation.
"It seemed to me that the deck was stacked against civil liberties and I preferred to be in a country where I didn't have to worry about what language I spoke,'' he said.
He is now an American. But he will always be a Montrealer.
As he waxed about Nixon and presidential tapes and transcripts over coffee in downtown Los Angeles recently, he also spoke wistfully about Montreal bagels and his late, lamented love, the Montreal Expos.
"This was a great challenge,'' he said. "I didn't want people saying I was replacing one view of Watergate with my own, whatever mine happened to be.
"People deserve a 360 degree view of a subject as controversial and as important to a country as Watergate.''
He will give visitors the tools to come to their own conclusions about the greatest scandal in modern American political history....
SOURCE: Nixon Library (7-11-07)
Weinstein said that the transfer of the facility makes possible the eventual consolidation of Richard Nixon's pre-Presidential and post-Presidential materials, which have been housed in the private facility since 1990, with the official records of his administration that are currently at a National Archives facility in College Park, Maryland.
"President Nixon's administration is the best-documented Presidency in American history," Professor Weinstein added. "It will be an important destination for anyone interested in the Cold War, in U.S. relations with China and the Soviet Union, the Vietnam War and its impact at home, dramatic changes in the nation's economy, in the history of the Watergate scandal, and in the history of the Presidency.
"The new Nixon Library will be a nonpartisan facility that will provide an interactive, 360 degree view of the life and times of Richard Nixon," Professor Weinstein said, noting that the Library and Museum will be staffed by federal employees who report to the National Archives.
In 2006, Professor Weinstein designated presidential historian Timothy Naftali as the first director of the new Federal Nixon Library. Dr. Naftali emphasized that the new Library will be a major resource for everyone interested in modern American history. "The new Library belongs to the people of the United States," Dr. Naftali said. "It will be a center of discussion, debate, and scholarly exploration. Its mission is to inspire a love of history and critical thinking."...
SOURCE: Chronicle of Higher Education (CHE) (7-11-07)
Higher education once had two important aims, argues Mr. Hanson. The first was to teach critical information from the past, such as Shakespeare or "the significance of Gettysburg." The second was to teach "inductive inquiry." The purpose of that approach, he says, was to help students draw from "an accumulated storehouse of information, to present well-reasoned opinions -- the ideology of which was largely irrelevant to professors and the university."
In the 1960s, though, many educators and students came to view the nation as "hopelessly corrupt and incorrigible," says Mr. Hanson. "So if, for a mere four years, the university could educate students to counter these much larger sinister forces, the nation itself could be changed for the better," he writes....
SOURCE: New York Sun (7-11-07)
Two judges considering a lawsuit seeking access to so-called Presidential Daily Briefs provided to President Johnson during the Vietnam War era cast doubt yesterday on the spy agency's assertion that the way it updates the nation's chief executive is itself an intelligence method entitled to blanket secrecy under the law.
"It just doesn't compute to me," Judge Pamela Ann Rymer of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals said as a three-judge panel heard oral arguments on the case.
"It's not as if PDBs have never been made public or they haven't been talked about," Judge Raymond Fisher said. He noted that some have been officially released and that a book, "Bush at War" by Bob Woodward, quotes from a CIA brief prepared on the day after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.
A Justice Department attorney, Mark Stern, told the court that disclosing the amount of detail provided to presidents and "what sort of things they care about" could undermine national security. "This is the crystallization of intelligence," he said.
The suit was brought by a political science professor at the University of California at Davis, Larry Berman, as part of research he was doing on how political leaders in America responded to developments in the Vietnam War. At issue are just two PDBs he requested under the Freedom of Information Act, one from August 1965 and another from April 1968.
As part of his research, the professor discovered that the Johnson Presidential Library in Austin, Texas, released several briefs in part. The CIA now says that was a mistake, but Mr. Berman said in an interview that the release confirms that PDBs are more pedestrian than Langley acknowledges. "Even the reviewing archivists didn't recognize them as PDBs," the professor said in an interview. Last year, a federal district judge in Sacramento ruled against Mr. Berman. Judge David Levi upheld the CIA's right to withhold the entire series of presidential briefs without a document-by-document review. He based his ruling on a variety of grounds, including the claim that briefing techniques are protected intelligence methods.
"That's an extremely expansive definition of ‘method,'" one of Mr. Berman's attorneys, Duffy Carolan, told the appeals court.
Judge Fisher seemed to agree, saying Judge Levi may have made "an overstatement" when he sided with the CIA on that point....
Secrecy News: Links
SOURCE: NYT (7-11-07)
Why they continue to seek counsel from the man who kept the Vietnam War going for years just to protect Richard Nixon’s electoral chances is beyond mystifying. But Mr. Kissinger holds their attention with all his warnings of “American impotence” emboldening radical Islam and Iran. Can’t W. and Mr. McCain see that American muscularity, stupidly thrown around, has already emboldened radical Islam and Iran?
The president mentioned in his speech yesterday that he was reading history, and he has been summoning historians and theologians to the White House for discussions on the fate of Iraq and the nature of good and evil.
W. thinks history will be his alibi. When presidents have screwed up and want to console themselves, they think history will give them a second chance. It’s the historical equivalent of a presidential pardon.
But there are other things — morality, strategy and security — that are more pressing than history. History is just the fanciest way possible of wanting to deny or distract attention from what’s happening now.
SOURCE: http://www.scoop.co.nz (7-10-07)
'The Struggle for Tamaki Makaurau' details the 1741 Auckland invasion by Ngati Whatua ancestors who almost completely wiped out the existing Te Waiohua population, a branch of Tainui.
The book is likely to be controversial says its author, AUT University historian Professor Paul Moon.
"In 1840, Ngati Whatua chiefs signed the Treaty of Waitangi as the tribal representatives of Auckland," he says.
"The fact that Ngati Whatua had only been in the area for 99 years when they signed the Treaty has led other iwi to challenge the tribe's tangata whenua status."
The professor adds, however, that Ngati Whatua did dominate Auckland during that 99-year period and by 1840 were its exclusive occupants.
SOURCE: http://the.honoluluadvertiser.com (7-10-07)
Oestreicher, who hails from Sycamore, Ill., has conducted more than 500 lecture presentations throughout the United States on the American Civil War for the past 35 years. He wears an authentic Union Army officer's uniform for his presentations .
His novel "Present and Accounted For," featured at the 2005 Book Expo America in New York City, is currently in pre–production as a made–for–TV movie. A sequel, "With Full Honors," was released in December 2005.
SOURCE: Robert Townsend writing at the website of the AHA blog (7-9-07)
Unfortunately, in an e-mail today the author of the blog reported a number of efforts to crack his or her identity, which had come uncomfortably close. Sadly, it appears that the opportunities for reaching a wider audience provided by the medium made it all too easy to cast back the veil of anonymity. Rather than risk potential damage to a budding career, the author decided to close down the site. As someone who still remembers the anxieties of graduate school it is hard to fault the decision, but it is a terrific loss to the profession.
SOURCE: David Forsmark at frontpagemag.com (7-10-07)
If ever a critique was written "more in sorrow than in anger," it is John Agresto’s Mugged by Reality: The Liberation of Iraq and the Failure of Good Intentions. In fact, the tone of the book is often of deep disappointment and disillusion, bordering on depression.
Agresto, an idealistic neocon intellectual, joined the effort to rebuild Iraq and was tasked with establishing a modern university system. He was a visionary whose enthusiasm for his job soon dissolved into frustration and defeat.
Agresto begins his book by declaring that the effort to build democracy in Iraq has failed irretrievably —but not for any of the theories proposed by Democrats or their accomplices in the media. In fact, Agresto first demolishes every leftist conspiracy theory about why that is the case before offering his reasons.
The problem, Agresto writes, is not bad intentions of any sort by the Bush or his advisors. The problem, he asserts, is the very nature of Iraqi society itself, along with American miscalculations and naivete about what could be accomplished there.
Agresto contends the biggest failure of the American "help" in establishing a democratic government in Iraq was that those in charge "forgot what made America great in the first place."
In the United States, he points out, politicians represent territory and therefore have to appeal to common themes that cut across group identity (in most cases, anyway). In Iraq, however, the Governing Council was fashioned as though it were part of a Lani Guinier proportional representation scheme. The Bush Administration succumbed to political correctness and delegates were selected to represent sectarian interests.
At just the time that Iraq needed — and had the potential — to overcome sectarianism, Agresto writes, "The CPA thought it should choose the heads of various parties and sects vying for control, thus magnifying rather than muting the very divisions that so many Iraqis rejected." [author’s emphasis]
Agresto relates many anecdotes of rampant and casual corruption and writes of cultural divides so deep that the task of bridging them seem daunting.
More controversial is Agresto’s picture — based on a few weak personal experiences — of the U.S. troops as a rather thuggish occupying force whose heavy footprint is creating enemies out of ordinary Iraqis. (He does, however, offers a disclaimer that "some of the finest people I ever met" wore the uniform.)
His assertion that the military should recruit a better class of people makes John Kerry’s "joke" about only dummies serving in Iraq sound mild. Perhaps a reading of The Long Road Home would give him some insight into the kind of people who join the Army.
In short, Agresto’s thesis is: We assumed Iraq was ready to adopt a democracy compatible with Western ideals because it was more secularized and modern than than most Middle Eastern countries, and all that was required to set the process in motion was political liberation from Saddam Hussein.
But Agresto says this was wrong. Under the lid of Saddam’s oppression lurked the same dark, sectarian strife that plagues the rest of the Islamic world. The core of Iraqi society that we sought to liberate either does not exist or is powerless in the face of radical forces.
Unfortunately, Mugged by Reality contains no real discussion of the presence of Al Qaeda in Iraq, or any contribution the terrorist organization might have made to reopen the Sunni/Shiite conflict, other than a brief notion that suicide bombers tend to be foreigners. Agresto turns even this into a negative, proposing that if Iraqis are not willing to die for their country they will never get anywhere!
One could argue Agresto’s experience is narrow, and he is too apt to apply his viewpoints to the country at large. That’s a valid point; every page of Mugged by Reality is written at a very personal level.
SOURCE: Press Release--UNO (7-10-07)
As UNO enters the final year of its first century, two faculty members have published a book that attempts to do just that. Presented in chapters that focus on the school's different eras and incarnations, University of Nebraska at Omaha is a chronological account of the history of Omaha's metropolitan university.
In bringing the book to life, history professor Oliver Pollak and library archivist Les Valentine pored over thousands of images from UNO's photographic collection and composed extended captions to chronicle the school's development from a privately funded, Presbyterian-influenced college to a full-blown member of the University of Nebraska system.
Pollak, who wrote the captions as well as chapter introductions for the book, said he had been trying to initiate some type of collaboration with Valentine for a while.
SOURCE: CUNY News Announcement (7-10-07)
In recommending Professor Alterman for this recognition, Brooklyn College’s English Department chair, Professor Ellen Tremper, described him as “one of the very few public intellectuals in America under the age of 60 who is just as comfortable in the university as in the newsroom, as well as in most places in between.”
Alterman, who holds a B.A. in History and Government from Cornell University, an M.A. in International Relations from Yale, and a Ph.D. in U.S. History from Stanford University, joined the faculty of Brooklyn College’s English Department in 2004 to teach journalism courses. He previously had served as an adjunct professor of journalism at New York University and Columbia, and is a senior fellow of the World Policy Institute at the New School.
In addition to his academic pursuits, Professor Alterman will continue to serve as a media columnist for The Nation, as senior fellow, and “Altercation” blogger for Media Matters for America (formerly at MSNBC.com). The busy professor is also senior fellow at the Center for American Progress, where he writes and edits the “Think Again” column, and is a history consultant to HBO Films.
Professor Alterman is also the best-selling author of a half-dozen books, the latest being When Presidents Lie: A History of Official Deception and Its Consequences (2004). This book caused former Nixon White House attorney John Dean to opine: “I’ve never read a better explanation of why presidents lie.” Other books by Alterman include The Book on Bush: How George W. (Mis)Leads America (2004); What Liberal Media?: The Truth About Bias and the News (2003); Sound and Fury: The Making of the Punditocracy (second edition 2000); It Ain’t No Sin to Be Glad You’re Alive: The Promise of Bruce Springsteen (1999); and Who Speaks for America? Why Democracy Matters in Foreign Policy (1998). He is currently working on a history of postwar American liberalism.
Alterman is a frequent lecturer and contributor to many of the prominent national publications in the United States and a number in Europe. In recent years he has been a columnist for Worth, Rolling Stone, Mother Jones, and The Sunday Express (London).
SOURCE: Max Boot in the NYT Book Review (7-8-07)
A professor at the University of Sheffield in England and the author of an acclaimed two-volume biography of Hitler, Kershaw focuses on 10 important decisions by Axis and Allied policy makers in the early years of the war. His contention is that the “fateful choices made by the leaders of the world’s major powers within a mere 19 months, between May 1940 and December 1941,” largely determined the course of future events — not only the outcome of World War II but also the shape of the postwar world.
These are the turning points he chooses:
1) The decision by the British War Cabinet in late May 1940, led by the new prime minister, Winston Churchill, to fight on after the fall of France and not to pursue, as some suggested, a negotiated settlement with Nazi Germany.
2) Hitler’s decision in July 1940 to attack the Soviet Union the following year, ensnaring Germany in a war it could not win. 3) Tokyo’s decision in September 1940 to join the Tripartite Pact with Italy and Germany and to occupy French Indochina. This led to an American embargo on the export of iron and scrap metal and brought conflict with the United States one step closer. 4) Benito Mussolini’s decision in October 1940 to focus the bulk of his war effort not on North Africa, where the British were vulnerable, but on the invasion of Greece, which turned into a debacle that tied down German troops and eventually led to his own downfall. 5) The decision by Franklin Roosevelt in August 1940 to send 50 old American destroyers to Britain, followed by Congress’s approval of the Lend-Lease deal in March 1941, symbolically committing the United States to the anti-Axis cause by (as Roosevelt put it) all “methods short of war.”....
6) Stalin’s failure in the spring of 1941 to heed numerous intelligence reports warning of an impending German invasion — a mistake that cost the Soviet Union dearly when Germany’s Operation Barbarossa began on June 22. 7) Roosevelt’s initiatives in July-August 1941 to embargo oil shipments to Japan, extend conscription, draw up the Atlantic Charter of war aims with Churchill and provide armed escorts to merchant shipping in the western Atlantic — all steps that drew America into an “undeclared war.” 8) The decision reached by the Japanese cabinet and emperor between September and November of 1941 to embark on the southern strategy of grabbing European colonies in the Pacific, beginning with a pre-emptive strike on the United States Navy. 9) Hitler’s decision, in the days following Pearl Harbor, to declare war on the United States, thus sparing Roosevelt the necessity of persuading his countrymen to fight the Nazis as well as the Japanese. 10) Hitler’s decision in the summer and fall of 1941 to begin the mass extermination of European Jewry, making the Holocaust a major feature of the conflict....
SOURCE: NYT Book Review (7-8-07)
Why had he waited so long to tell? his critics asked. (As if there had ever been a time when he wouldn’t have been criticized for it!) A historian, writing in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, wondered why the revelation had come out “in such a tortured way.” (As if there wasn’t ample evidence of what was “tortured” about Grass in all the books leading up to this one!) Another writer in the Frankfurter Allgemeine conjectured that the last, unfulfilled mission of Grass’s Frundsberg tank division was to get Hitler out of Berlin. (“In other words, Grass could have freed Hitler.”) A writer in Die Tageszeitung accused Grass of “calculating”; shouldn’t he have written to the Swedish Academy and offered a premature refusal? (“A former Waffen SS man would never have been considered for this prize.”) A piece in the Neue Zürcher Zeitung said of Grass: “Posing as a self-assured moralist ... ” and so on. Both the Süddeutsche Zeitung and the Frankfurter Rundschau complained about the lateness of the admission. But good writers write about the important stuff before they blab about it; good writers don’t tell stories before they’ve written them!
I wrote an article for the Frankfurter Rundschau — in defense of Grass, of course. I also wrote Günter. I complained about the “predictably sanctimonious dismantling” of his life and work in the German media — “from the cowardly standpoint of hindsight.” I wrote: “You remain a hero to me, both as a writer and as a moral compass; your courage, both as a writer and as a citizen of your country, is exemplary — a courage heightened, not lessened, by your most recent revelation.”...
In my view, the most unfortunate of the Grass attacks was Lech Walesa’s declaration that he was glad he never met Grass — thus avoiding the plague of shaking Grass’s hand, which the former Polish president said he would not do. In August 2006, Walesa also called for Grass to give up his honorary citizenship to the city of Gdansk — bestowed on the author for how he’d paid tribute to the suffering in Danzig in “The Tin Drum.” Walesa soon retracted his remarks — he called them “too hasty.” By the time I went to Warsaw, in early September of last year, my Polish publisher told me that the Poles were “divided” about Grass’s revelation. What I noted in Warsaw was that Grass’s many readers had already made their peace with him; those who had not read him, or those who had read only “The Tin Drum,” were the ones calling for him to give back his Nobel Prize....
SOURCE: James Loewen email to HNN and others (7-9-07)
I have just finished my end of a new second edition of LIES MY TEACHER TOLD ME. By the end of calendar 2007, LIES will reach approx. 1,000,000 in sales. While the new Harry Potter book will reach this milestone about 4 hours after it comes out, later this summer, nevertheless, I'm happy and hope to get my publishers (the New Press and Simon & Schuster) to celebrate with some kind of event around Xmas.
Besides, I have invented a new index, called the"scholarly bestseller index," which takes the number of footnotes and multiplies by copies sold. By that measure, LIES scores 819,000,000 (yes, I counted the footnotes, just for this email!), while H. Potter scores 0.
Despite its success, LIES gets disparaged by some readers who feel it is out of date, textbooks must have improved. Therefore the new edition rests not only on my original research, based on twelve textbooks published mostly in the late 1980s, but also on my careful study of six new books published between 2000 and 2007. Every chapter has been revised in light of these new books and also to reflect ongoing scholarship about, say, Columbus, or John Brown, or ... In addition, I have added a chapter on what textbooks say, don't say, and should say about 9/11 and the War in Iraq. While researching this chapter last summer, I discovered that two of the six new textbooks were identical or nearly identical for paragraph after paragraph! The resulting scandal became a front-page NEW YORK TIMES story in late July, 2006.
A thousand details attend the publication of a substantial book like LIES, even though it is"only" a second edition, and I have just finished dealing with most of them. Today I ship to Simon & Schuster via overnight mail the corrected galley proofs, which have occupied me for some time. I now hope to attend to backed-up emails, etc. In addition to the new second edition of LIES MY TEACHER TOLD ME, Simon & Schuster will also bring out a revised version of LIES ACROSS AMERICA: WHAT OUR HISTORIC SITES GET WRONG.
Recently I signed a contract with Teachers College Press to write a short book for teachers of social studies/history, to be titled TEACHING WHAT HAPPENED. Although I have enjoyed working with The New Press and Simon & Schuster, I was asked by James Banks,"guru" of the multicultural education movement, to write this volume for his series, and I concluded I would enjoy the experience. It will be especially useful for teachers who attend my workshops, which I continue to give around the U.S.
SUNDOWN TOWNS continues to make a splash. Reviews of Elliot Jaspin's new book, BURIED IN THE BITTER WATERS, have mentioned SUNDOWN TOWNS as the more general study; Jaspin focuses on a dozen sundown towns or counties and treats them in depth. State agencies concerned with human rights in Illinois and Indiana have asked for work specific to sundown towns in those states. The Unitarian/Universalist Church nationally engaged me to do two workshops on the topic, and now some congregations and an anti-racist group within that denomination appear to be taking up the call to"out" and change sundown towns that remain overwhelmingly white to this day.
SOURCE: Press Release--Northwestern (7-5-07)
A funeral service and burial were held today (July 5) in Mr. Ver Steeg’s hometown of Orange City, Iowa.
Mr. Ver Steeg was a noted scholar who headed the University’s Faculty Planning Committee on the 1960s that developed strategic plans for academic and research focus for the increasingly ambitious institution. These plans, now largely implemented, envisioned increased emphasis on graduate education and research. Mr. Ver Steeg also led committees that planned the construction of the University’s lakefill campus and the expansion of its main library. The Ver Steeg Lounge on the third floor of the library is named in his honor.
He joined Northwestern as an instructor of history in 1950, teaching the department’s survey course in American history. Mr. Ver Steeg attained the rank of full professor in 1959, the same year he was a visiting professor at Harvard University where he was the First Senior Member of the Center for the Study of Liberty in America. In 1966, he lectured on American history at the Summer Institute of Stanford University held at Alpbach, Austria.
Mr. Ver Steeg was named dean of the Graduate School in 1975. In his 11 years as dean, the school made many improvements, including the expansion of research and the development of the life sciences. In 1986, Mr. Ver Steeg resumed his teaching responsibilities and continued to teach courses in American history until his retirement in 1992.
Northwestern recognized Mr. Ver Steeg’s contributions to the University by establishing the Clarence L. Ver Steeg Professorship in the Arts and Sciences. In 2006, Mr. Ver Steeg and his wife funded an endowment at Northwestern for the Dorothy Ann and Clarence L. Ver Steeg Distinguished Research Fellow award, the University’s first endowed recognition for excellence in research by a Northwestern faculty member.
A prolific author, Mr. Ver Steeg published 11 monographs and textbooks, dozens of scholarly articles, and more than 100 book reviews. He received the Albert J. Beveridge Prize of the American Historical Association in 1952 for his book, “Robert Morris, Revolutionary Financier” (University of Pennsylvania Press).
A native of Orange City, Iowa, Mr. Ver Steeg attended Northwestern Junior College, now Northwestern College, in Orange City. He joined the U. S. Army Air Forces in 1942 and saw combat as a navigator in a B-24 squadron, participating in missions over Hong Kong, New Guinea and the Philippines. He accumulated more than 400 hours of combat flight experience and was awarded the Air Medal with three oak leaf clusters and five battle stars.
Mr. Ver Steeg received a bachelor’s degree in absentia from Morningside College in 1943 and received a master’s degree in political science in 1946 and a doctorate in history in 1950 from Columbia University in New York City. While pursuing his graduate degrees, Mr. Ver Steeg served as a lecturer and instructor in Columbia’s history department.
In addition to his wife of more than 63 years, Mr. Ver Steeg is survived by a son, John Ver Steeg, and daughter-in-law, Jane (Pierson) Ver Steeg, of Washington, D.C.; and a sister, Nelvina Ver Steeg Thomas of Orange City.
SOURCE: Steve Plaut at frontpagemag.com (click here for embedded links) (7-9-07)
... Perhaps the best known Israeli academic expatriate who has made a career out of impugning and defaming Israel is Dr. Ilan Pappe, until recently a lecturer in political science at the University of Haifa, now at the University of Exeter in the UK. Pappe openly calls for Israel to be exterminated. He was the main inciter of the British academic unions to declare a boycott against Israeli universities. Pappe may be best known for having fabricated a "massacre" of Arabs by Jews in 1948, an imaginary massacre that never took place and for which no evidence whatsoever has ever existed. Together with a graduate student under his supervision, Pappe decided one fine morning that members of the Hagana Jewish militia had massacred Arabs in the coastal town of Tantora south of Haifa in 1948 during Israel's War of Independence. Journalists present at that battle witnessed no massacre. Even Arab propagandists had never alleged one had taken place. Arab survivors of the battle spoke of being helped and fed by the Hagana militiamen.
Pappe's graduate student later admitted in court that the whole story of the Tantora "massacre" was an invention. Pappe, however, continues to tout the "massacre" libel anywhere he can find himself an audience, and - since its invention - the story has become part of the official canon on every Islamofascist and anti-Semitic web site on earth, including Palestinian and Neo-Nazi ones. Pappe was not fired for that fraud, although he should have been, and today roams the world proclaiming that he is the "victim" of "persecution" by his old University of Haifa comrades. That claim was cited by the British boycotters as a justification for their own campaign against Israeli universities.
Pappe is not the only expatriate academic hater of Israel who has made Britain his home. The vogue hatred of Israel and Jews among the British chattering classes seems to have made Britain a welcoming refuge for such people. Of the expatriate defamers of Israel there, the one with the most serious academic reputation is Avi Shlaim, on the faculty at Oxford. Shlaim is a far-leftist who has made a career out of one-sided bashing and misrepresentation of Israel and the Middle East conflicts. Unlike many of the other expatriate anti-Israel propagandists, Shlaim actually has some bona fide academic publications, although he is much better known for his pitbull attacks against Israel, such as those he publishes in Palestinian propaganda journals. Such propagandizing seems to "count" as "scholarship" at Oxford these days, and not only there. In Shlaim's "research", the Arabs have always wanted peace and true democracy, while the obstacle to peace has always been Israeli wickedness and racist Zionist colonialism. He participates in the anti-Semitic (some would say Neo-Nazi) organization "Deir Yassin Remembered" and can be seen here in collaboration with Paul Eisen, a man widely regarded to be a Holocaust Denier who claims that there were no Jews murdered in Auschwitz gas chambers.
Shlaim was in the headlines recently for his struggle to get DePaul hatemonger Norman Finkelstein tenured on the basis of the latter's vulgar anti-Semitic screeds, a struggle that failed. While Finkelstein has never published a research paper in a refereed academic journal, Shlaim was willing to serve as Finkelstein's academic cheerleader because he identifies with Finkelstein's political agenda. Shlaim is one of two names that Finkelstein lists as recommenders for him on his own resume. The second name is Noam Chomsky. Neither is from the same purported academic discipline as Finkelstein. Shlaim is one of the people featured in Professor Efraim Karsh’s Fabricating Israeli History: The New Historians (Frank Cass & Co, Ltd. London, 2000), about pseudo-scholars inventing "New History." Shlaim's articles are standard fodder in classroom bashings of Israel at many campuses....
SOURCE: Seattle Times (7-6-07)
Fortunately, Weiner has stepped back from his daily coverage of the so-called U.S. government "intelligence" agencies to look at the big picture.
With "Legacy of Ashes," Weiner punctures claims by the spymasters at the Central Intelligence Agency that they have a track record of thwarting enemy threats and serving their nation well. Most important, Weiner has based his exposé on 60 years of CIA internal documents, obtained legally through perseverance. Weiner believes fervently in the importance of an effective spy agency, and thus presents his investigation in the spirit of building up, rather than tearing down. He says the Central Intelligence Agency's ineptness "constitutes a danger to the national security of the United States."
In fairness, Weiner documents the positive, what he calls "acts of bravery and cunning," such as recruiting spies in hostile territory, providing reliable information during the early years of the Vietnam War and running a successful counterattack against Soviet troops in Afghanistan. But the CIA's own documents provide another saga, that of "folly and misfortune," causing Weiner's exposé to feel both devastating and depressing. Only the most xenophobic patriots will be able to finish this massively documented book without a sense of shame for the bad behavior of a U.S. bureaucracy on the global stage, and without a sense of anger at the misuse of resources.
SOURCE: Chronicle of Higher Education (CHE) (7-9-07)
The recent arrest in Iran of Haleh Esfandiari, director of the Middle East program at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, has ignited a storm of protest around the Western world. To many Americans, it is but one more sign that Iran, in particular, and the Muslim Middle East, in general, are inhospitable to women and to freethinkers. For some years, America's popular reading list has bolstered that view, ignoring political complexities of the region in favor of a simple narrative.
Best sellers like Azar Nafisi's Reading Lolita in Tehran: A Memoir in Books (Random House, 2003), Khaled Hosseini's The Kite Runner (Riverhead Books, 2003), and Åsne Seierstad's The Bookseller of Kabul (Little, Brown, 2003) have enforced and embellished the one-sided picture of Middle Eastern culture. Call it the "New Orientalism."
In the 1970s, Edward W. Said's influential Orientalism (Pantheon Books, 1978) offered a decisive critique of entrenched Western assumptions that construed Europe as the norm, from which the "exotic" and "inscrutable" Orient deviates. Not infallible — but certainly profound and engaging — Said's views fired the imagination of such influential scholars as Homi Bhabha and Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, now central to postcolonial and subaltern studies.
But a new version of earlier assumptions pervades our culture today. The old European Orientalist writers of the 18th through the 20th centuries treated Middle Eastern culture and people as having been great in the remote past, but devoid of complexity and agency in the present. The New Orientalists don't improve on that. Whether it is Nafisi's women reading Western literature in postrevolutionary Iran, a brave bookseller smuggling works into Seierstad's Taliban-run Kabul, or Amir's guilt at tolerating the rape and repression of his kite-runner friend in Hosseini's book, they all reduce the cavernous and complicated story of the region into "us" and "them" scenarios....
SOURCE: LAT frontpage story (7-8-07)
In effect, that means transforming the black sheep of presidential libraries into an institution that will eventually be entrusted with the vast trove of Nixon's White House material that the government seized in the 1970s, fearing its destruction.
A stylishly dressed, excitable man possessed of rapid speech and animated hands, Naftali is standing with a cup of coffee in what the wreckers left of the Watergate exhibit: an empty room, the walls big and blank and coated with primer. For Naftali, a Cold War scholar and expert in presidential recordings, it represents a cleared canvas.
Several months ago, Naftali approached the Nixon Foundation's director, John Taylor, a former Nixon aide who helped write the zealously pro-Nixon text of the original Watergate exhibit, and announced his intention of tearing the exhibit down.
"I said, 'In order to start the process of reforming...' " Naftali says, then chooses a more diplomatic word: " 'Changing the museum, I need to begin with Watergate.' "
Naftali, who gave up his job at the University of Virginia to take this post, presents himself as neither a hater of the 37th president nor an apologist for him. Although he freely dispenses political opinions — in his blog, he has inveighed against warrantless spying and nominated President Bush as "one of the worst presidents of the last century" — he is tactfully tight-lipped about Nixon.
He will happily tick off Nixonian achievements — in foreign policy, the environment, civil rights — that he wants visitors to learn about at the library. Yet asked for a general assessment of Nixon, the kind scholars love to give, he smiles and says, "Who?"...