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SOURCE: Bill Moyers talks with Shelby Steele on PBS (1-11-08)
One Obama supporter put it this way in a widely circulated essay on the web: "The exit polls in New Hampshire were accurate for the Republicans and for the second tier Democrats. The only miscalculation was the amount of support for Obama. That miscalculation is about race. Iowa caucus goers stood by Barack, in part, because when voting with their bodies, in front of their neighbors, Iowans are held accountable. In the quiet, solitary space of the voting booth, some New Hampshire voters abandoned Barack."
We'll never know but as now the contest moves to Michigan, Nevada, and South Carolina where over half of the electorate is African American. But it's not as simple as numbers-race never is. That's why I invited Shelby Steele to our studios. Shelby Steele is one of our foremost public thinkers. His scholarship and ideas have earned him a senior fellowship at Stanford University's Hoover Institution and an influential audience in the public square. President Bush honored him with the National Humanities Medal in 2004 for his "learned examinations of race relations and cultural issues." for his bestselling book, THE CONTENT OF OUR CHARACTER: A NEW VISION OF RACE IN AMERICA, he received the National Book Critics' Circle Award and now he is out with another one. It's called A BOUND MAN: WHY WE ARE EXCITED ABOUT OBAMA AND WHY HE CAN'T WIN. And it's well worth your time.
Shelby Steele, welcome to THE JOURNAL.
SHELBY STEELE: Good to be here.
BILL MOYERS: The subtitle of your book, why we are excited about Obama. Are you excited about Obama?
SHELBY STEELE: Yes. Yeah. Actually, I am. Yes.
BILL MOYERS: Are you rooting for him?
SHELBY STEELE: I can't say that. You know, our politics are probably different. But I'm proud of him. And I'm happy to see him out there. He's already made an important contribution to American politics.
BILL MOYERS: But you go on to say why he can't win. Now, that would seem to suggest you don't think he can become President.
SHELBY STEELE: My gut feeling is that he's going to have a difficulty-- a difficult time doing that. The reason I think that we don't yet know him. We don't yet quite know. What his deep abiding convictions are. And he seems to have, you know, almost in a sense kept them concealed. And a part of the I think infatuation with Obama is because he's something of an invisible man. He's a kind of a projection screen. And you sort of see more your — the better side of yourself when you look at Obama than you see actually Barack Obama.
BILL MOYERS: You say in here that his supporters want him not to do something, but to be something.
SHELBY STEELE: Yes.
BILL MOYERS: To represent something. What do you think they want him to be?
SHELBY STEELE: I think to be very blunt about it, in a lot of that support is a desire for convergence of a black skin with the United States Presidency, with power on that level — the idea is that to have a black in that office leading a largely white country would be redemptive for America.
BILL MOYERS: Redemptive?
SHELBY STEELE: Redemptive. Would take us a long way. Would indicate that we truly have moved away from that shameful racist past that we had.
BILL MOYERS: That's perfectly logical isn't it?
SHELBY STEELE: Yes, it is.
BILL MOYERS: And desirable. You seem to--
SHELBY STEELE: I want it.
BILL MOYERS: Yeah, sure. And women want it for--
SHELBY STEELE: Yeah.
BILL MOYERS: In fact I feel for black women in this. Because they've got this first time unprecedented choice of a plausible woman candidate, as a Democrat, and a plausible black candidate.
SHELBY STEELE: Yeah.
BILL MOYERS: They must feel a tension.
SHELBY STEELE: They have to. I think that the black community in general has been very conflicted about Barack Obama. Precisely because he's been so successful among whites. And that makes black people nervous.
BILL MOYERS: Yeah. You say in here, white people like Barack Obama a little too much for the comfort of many blacks.
SHELBY STEELE: Yes. Yes.
BILL MOYERS: Why?
SHELBY STEELE: Well, the black American identity, certainly black American politics are grounded in what I call challenging. It's basically, they look at white America and say we're going to presume that you're a racist until you prove otherwise. The whole concept is you keep whites on the hook. You keep the leverage. You keep the pressure. Here's a guy who's what I call a bargainer who's giving whites the benefit of the doubt.
BILL MOYERS: Give me a simple definition of what you call a bargainer. And a simple definition of what you call a challenger.
SHELBY STEELE: A bargainer is a black who enters the American, the white American mainstream by saying to whites in effect, in some code form, I'm going to give you the benefit of the doubt. I'm not going to rub the shame of American history in your face if you will not hold my race against me. Whites then respond with enormous gratitude. And bargainers are usually extremely popular people. Oprah Winfrey, Bill Cosby, Sidney Poitier back in the Sixties and so forth. Because they give whites this benefit of the doubt. That you can be with these people and not feel that you're going to be charged with racism at any instant. And so they tend to be very successful, very popular.
Challengers on the other hand say, I presume that you, this institution, this society, is racist until it proves otherwise by giving me some concrete form of racial preference.
BILL MOYERS: Affirmative action.
SHELBY STEELE: Affirmative action. Diversity programs. Opportunities of one kind or another. And so, there is a much more concrete bargaining on the case of challengers. And you go into any American institution today and they're all used to dealing with challengers. They all have a whole system of things that they can give to challengers, who then will offer absolution.
BILL MOYERS: And what are the--
SHELBY STEELE: Then we'll say this institution is vetted now. It's not racist anymore.
BILL MOYERS: One of the worst things that can happen to you in this country is to be charged with being racially biased.
SHELBY STEELE: Yes.
BILL MOYERS: Racial stigma.
SHELBY STEELE: You never get over it. On your obituary, it'll be the first line. And there's almost no redemption. The good side of that is it makes the point of how intense this society is in its desire to overcome racism and its past.
BILL MOYERS: Yes.
SHELBY STEELE: So it's a good thing on the other hand. On the other hand, the bad side of it is that it has become a form of cruelty. And all you're doing is terrifying whites. I wrote in the last book, WHITE GUILT. Whites live under now, we've underestimated the power of this. Whites live under now this threat of being stigmatized as race. Our institutions live under this threat of being stigmatized as racist and they're almost panicked over it. What makes me sad there is then whites look at what happened to Don Imus. And now, they're never going to tell me what they really feel.
Whites know never tell blacks what you really think and what you really feel because you risk being seen as a racist. And the result of that is that to a degree, we as blacks live in a bubble. Nobody tells us the truth. Nobody tells us what they would do if they were in our situation. Nobody really helps us. They use us. They buy their own innocence with us. But they never tell us the truth. And we need to be told the truth very often.
You know, America is a great society, a great country. Has all sorts-- the values have gotten us to this place where we are the world's greatest society in many ways. Well, those values, yes, we had a history of terrible racism. But those same values will work for blacks. They will help us join the mainstream, become a part of it. But whites can't say that because then they seem to be judgmental. They're seen as racist. And so, no one says it to us.
BILL MOYERS: So you can understand though, why some whites would look to Obama as a redeemer from that--
SHELBY STEELE: They think that Obama is a way out of all of that. That he will bring an American redemption. And whites are very happy for that bargain and show gratitude and even affection for bargainers. Oprah Winfrey is the classic bargainer who has also a kind of magic about her that I think again reflects the aspirations of white America.
BILL MOYERS: But she never challenges white America.
SHELBY STEELE: No. She--
BILL MOYERS: She's successful in part because she makes us.
SHELBY STEELE: She makes you feel that this aspiration is possible. That-- it's-- real. White American women love Oprah. Love Oprah. And so, she makes them feel that way.
BILL MOYERS: Bill Cosby did that with his--
SHELBY STEELE: Bill Cosby did that.
BILL MOYERS: Cliff Huxtable.
SHELBY STEELE: Yeah.
BILL MOYERS: Remember? The--
SHELBY STEELE: But he made a big mistake, Bill Cosby.
BILL MOYERS: What?
SHELBY STEELE: He finally in the last few years has one of the iron clad rules for bargainers is they can never tell you what they actually think and feel. They can never reveal their deep abiding convictions. Because the minute they do that, they're no longer an empty projection screen. They become an individual. And whites begin to say, well, I didn't know you felt that way. I didn't know you believed that. And the aura dissipates. If Barack Obama starts to say, you know, I really think there's a value to racial preferences even though it conflicts with equality under the law, people are, you know, that that's a little too-- that's a little too revealing of who he might really be.
BILL MOYERS: So you're saying he can not serve the aspirations of one race without antagonizing the other?
SHELBY STEELE: That's right. That's right. They're two different agendas. And so his answer, this is the answer of all bargainers in a sense is to remain invisible as much as possible.
BILL MOYERS: What do you mean invisible? Because he's all over television.
SHELBY STEELE: He's all over television. But if you listen to his -- speeches 'change,' 'hope.' I mean, it's a kind of-- it's an empty mantra. I mean a surprising degree of emptiness, of lack of specificity. What change? Change from what to what? What direction do you want to take the country? What do you mean by hope? There's never any specificity there because specificity is dangerous to a bargainer.
BILL MOYERS: But, to be a successful politician in a presidential campaign in particular you have to engage a larger public. That's why so many politicians use ambiguity.
SHELBY STEELE: In Obama's case, there's more ambiguity. We have a pretty good idea. I mean, Hillary Clinton does the same thing, uses ambiguity. But we still have a pretty good idea of who she really is and what she wants to do with the country and so forth. John Edwards has probably got the straightest, most concrete message of any of them. We really know who he is. But Obama is still more invisible. We don't quite-- we don't know what he would do....
SOURCE: San Francisco Chronicle (2-15-08)
Judge Mark Forcum recommended that journalism graduate student Kevin Jones, 27, serve his jail sentence in the San Mateo County sheriff's work program, meaning he will probably pick up trash or do similar work rather than spend any time behind bars.
Forcum ordered Jones to complete his community service by helping students improve their reading and writing skills. He also ordered Jones to complete a driving course.
"This is one of the hardest types of cases," Forcum said before pronouncing sentence in San Mateo County Superior Court in Redwood City.
Forcum noted that Halberstam, 73, had died because of Jones' actions, but said Jones had taken responsibility and was remorseful. Halberstam's family was also "very forgiving," he said.
Halberstam's relatives were not in court, but his daughter, Julia Halberstam, 27, wrote in a letter to the judge: "My father would not have wanted to see Kevin Jones go to jail. Nor do I."...
SOURCE: Peter Read in the Australian (2-18-08)
LAST week marked a week for which some of the Stolen Generations have waited all their lives. The 1997 Bringing Them Home report polarised the nation. Prime minister John Howard's strong refusal to give an apology continued for the life of his government. An apology, promised first by Kim Beazley, later by Kevin Rudd, finally occurred in the federal Parliament last Wednesday.
Keith Windschuttle is one of the few historians to question seriously the accepted account of how Aboriginal children were removed in large numbers under fundamentally racist policies.
In these pages recently, while acknowledging some biological assimilation programs as obnoxious, he attacked my portrayal of events in NSW. He wrote, "Don't let facts spoil the day", but as usual his too-hurried research lead him into error.
What was happening in southern Australia? Conscious from the 1870s that the part-Aboriginal population was rapidly increasing, Victoria and NSW were trying the policy of the "designated reserve" from which Aboriginal people either could not or would not want to leave. But by the first decade of the 20th century it was clear that the policy was failing. Arable land in southern Australia was wanted by new settlers, the harsh regimes of some reserves were causing the residents to vote with their feet.
So a new policy, an exact opposite to the first, was evolving by 1910. This was progressively to reduce and ultimately to close the reserves by expelling the adults and removing the children. That is the context in which Robert Donaldson, the Protection Board's chief inspector from 1916, uttered the notorious words: "There is no difference of opinion as to the only solution of this great problem: the removal of the children. In the course of the next few years there will be no need for the camps and stations; the old people will have passed away, and their progeny will be absorbed in the industrial classes of the colony."
That was the context of a new policy which Windschuttle ignores, the reason why Aboriginal schools were created only up to 1918 and the reason why the removal rate of children accelerated after that time.
Windschuttle, on the basis of his rushed reading, asserts that not many babies were taken. But babies were commonly directly removed from stations without being listed on the files that Windschuttle uses. Nor does he consider the children born to unmarried Aboriginal mothers in public hospitals in the major cities. Such mothers had virtually no chance of keeping their children, but how many such babies were lost to the Aboriginal people in this way are unknown. Joy Williams, who developed a mental illness while a state ward and subsequently sued the NSW government, was one of them. Born in Crown St in 1942 to a stolen generation mother, she was immediately transferred to the Bomaderry home for Aboriginal babies. She has no record in the files that Windschuttle consulted.....
SOURCE: http://thechronicleherald.ca (Canada) (2-17-08)
2007 opened with the release of her critically acclaimed book, I’ve Got A Home In Glory Land: A Lost Tale of The Underground Railroad.
But even she couldn’t have what would happen later in the year. Late last year, she received the Governor General’s Award for Non-Fiction at a ceremony in Ottawa filled with memorable moments and the chance to make new friends in the Canadian publishing industry, such as Halifax poet Don Domansky, who also won the coveted prize last year for poetry.
Even now, more than a month later, she is still overwhelmed by the honour as she describes the occasion.
"There were 240 books that were shortlisted in my category alone, the non-fiction category, and that’s not counting all the books that weren’t being considered," she says.
As a result of all those long years of hard work and never-ending research, she now sees her schedule filling up alarmingly fast with speaking dates, including 24 for February alone. She has already landed a publisher for her second book, which she has begun researching, has started planning her third, and she hopes to start writing the second soon.
Based in Toronto, she treasures her time spent at her Nova Scotia home in Western Shore, even if it’s spent mostly working on her books.
"I wrote about a third of I’ve Got A Home In Glory Land in Nova Scotia," she recalled in a recent telephone interview. "I get to write overlooking the ocean. And, I’ve had a serious relationship with the Dal library."
Libraries are just one of Frost’s tools of the trade. She is an archeologist / historian who specializes in African-Canadian history, traveling all over North America to track down the details of her research. Like most good writers, she has a strong connection to her book.
"My great-grandmother is said to have been a slave in Virginia," she said in a previous interview. "The family story is that her husband was intermarried with the family of Robert E. Lee, took off his Confederate officer’s uniform after the Civil War and moved to Canada so he could marry the woman who had been his slave. She was Chinese and African American, and I have her photo along with that of her stern-faced white husband, ca. 1869, but that’s all I know. She died after bearing three children, and my grandfather, her son, died when my mother was two.
"I only know about her because my grandmother (whose husband was the one who died) sat me at the kitchen table at the age of 10 and showed me the family photos. She felt it very important that I understand that this woman, whose name she did not know, survived slavery and came to Canada with her husband. My grandmother had protested the Japanese internment in World War Two and believed in social justice more strongly than anyone I have ever met; she wanted me to know and remember that my great-grandmother had been a slave. The rest of my ancestry is Polish (my father was a concentration camp survivor), Italian, Irish, and English-Jewish so I look sort of Eastern European with red hair from the Irish side."...
SOURCE: Smithsonian Magazine (2-1-08)
I'm suggesting that, ironically, the secret to becoming a world "hyperpower" is tolerance. If you look at history, you see great powers being very tolerant in their rise to global dominance. So there is a sort of warning for today's hyperpower—the United States. The secret to our success for over 200 years has been our ability to attract the best and the brightest from all over the world. We can't just let every immigrant in. But it's important to not take a turn toward xenophobia and want to shut down the borders or root out certain groups, because history shows that that's always been the trigger of backlash and decline.
You give several examples of the rise of hyperpowers—nations that are unsurpassed militarily and economically— including the Roman Empire, the Tang dynasty and the Dutch Republic. But not everyone thinks of the Roman Empire as tolerant.
I'm not talking about tolerance in the modern human-rights sense. Rome had massive amounts of slavery; women had no rights. People were shredded at gladiator games. But the Romans were tolerant in the sense that they were indifferent to skin color and religious, ethnic or linguistic background. People of different ethnicities and religions were accepted into the Roman army and were able to become Roman citizens. The Romans thought of themselves as the chosen people, yet they built the greatest army on earth by recruiting warriors from any background.
But didn't the notion of tolerance change?
Of course. Once you get to the Enlightenment, the way that powers get to be hyperpowers isn't just by conquest. It's through commerce and innovation. Societies like the Dutch Republic and the United States used tolerance to become a magnet for enterprising immigrants.
You say modern America has a lot in common with the Mongol Empire. What about the United States would Genghis Khan endorse?
Genghis Khan decreed religious tolerance for all of his conquered peoples. So I think he definitely would approve of our constitutional protections of freedom of religion. I think he would also approve of the way the U.S. has been able to attract talented people from all over the world. The Mongols themselves had little technology, not even enough to bake bread. The only way they were able to conquer the great cities of Eastern Europe and the Middle East was by using Chinese engineers who knew how to build great siege machines. The parallel is that the U.S. was able to win the race for the atomic bomb because it was a haven for persecuted scientists from Nazi Europe....
SOURCE: http://www.dailycardinal.com (2-19-08)
History Department Chair Professor David McDonald introduced Selig as the department’s “most prominent and certainly our most visible alumnus.”
Selig graduated from UW-Madison with a history degree in 1956. As an undergraduate student with a deep love for baseball, Selig said he dreamed of someday becoming a history professor.
“When I was a kid walking around here … little did I ever dream that I was gonna wind up being the ninth commissioner of baseball,” Selig said. “But I believe that amongst other things my education played a great role in it all.”
After graduation, Selig joined his family business and “through an incredible series of events,” worked his way to becoming the president of the Milwaukee Brewers in 1995 and eventually commissioner of baseball in 1998.
Selig spoke highly of the education he received at UW-Madison. He said a history degree “prepares you better for what is to come than anything” he could think of.
“History helps me to understand not only what the situation is, but why it is,” he said. “The fact that I was a history major with a mind like this trained [me] to try to understand the genesis of any problem that has confronted me. What could I have taken that gave me a better education?”...
SOURCE: Francesca Mari in the New Republic (2-18-08)
This complaint is shared by Lewis Lapham, the legendary former editor of Harper's. In 2006, Lapham carped to a newspaper interviewer that in American universities, if a text doesn't reach "a politically correct standard on one or more of [the issues of race, gender, or class], it doesn't exist." But the social forces causing the degradation of literature to social commentary don't stop there. They extend from the news Americans receive to the government's selective disclosure of information. And there, the consequences are cause for alarm. "The people selling the great research on the weapons of mass destruction in Iraq certainly did not tell the truth," Lapham said. "It's advertising. ... That's the result of the politicization of research."
Lapham's zeal to combat the creeping debasement of truth in the culture, combined with his passion for history, drove him to leave Harper's after nearly thirty years and found Lapham's Quarterly. The Quarterly is billed as a historical journal and looks something like The Paris Review. Each issue, Lapham chooses a single theme--it premiered with "war" in November, "money" follows in March, and "nature" is slotted for the summer--and assembles a set of relevant texts. The material is wonderfully eclectic: Not just the stuff of history books, but pop-culture lists, CIA assassination manuals, and vintage memorandums proposing, for instance, a way to demoralize the Cuban people by spreading unflattering photos of an overweight Fidel Castro. This scrapbook of "literary narrative and philosophical commentary, diaries, speeches, letters, and proclamations" as Lapham describes it in his preamble, is essentially a 172-page expansion of the Harper's Readings section, itself a Lapham innovation from the start of his second term as editor in 1984. There's also some new content: four essays in the back by contemporary historians, each about 2,000 to 3,000 words long. But for all those essays, the journal's clearest message is this: Its editor's interest, and his genius, lies not in editing, but in curating.
Lapham seeks to provide readers with a more complete portrait of current events by using historical documents to reveal how we got here. The issue dedicated to war, and more specifically to the abhorrent (in Lapham's view) war in Iraq, presents excerpts including Henry V heroically landing on the beaches of Normandy, "The Battle Hymn of the Republic," and an excerpt from the Bhagavad-Gita about the "sacred duty of a warrior." Lapham wants both to offer literature on its own terms and to stimulate the reader's own thoughts. But he does this with the supreme confidence that after reviewing the texts, a reader will come to his same conclusions. Lapham might detest the use of literature for social commentary, but in Lapham's Quarterly he practices just that, in its most developed form--disguised in the words of others....
SOURCE: Chronicle of Higher Ed (2-22-08)
First things first: What is sensory history?
Sensory history considers not only the history of the senses but also their social and cultural construction and their role in texturing the past. It deals with the way that people thought about the senses, the cognitive processing of their sense perceptions, but it takes seriously the full social and cultural context of those experiences. Sensory history strives for the broadest possible framing. It stresses the role of the senses — including sight and vision — in shaping peoples' experiences in the past and shows how they understood their worlds and why.
You teach in South Carolina, and much of your work deals with antebellum Southern history. Is sensory history particularly relevant to that time and place? Did your interest grow out of its importance in that era?
My particular interest in antebellum Southern slavery grew out of my interest in the history of race, class, and political economy, and I wrote my first book on the history of time consciousness in the antebellum South (Mastered by the Clock: Time, Slavery, and Freedom in the American South, University of North Carolina Press, 1997). While researching the book, I came to appreciate just how important not only the sight of clocks and watches was to the formation of Southern time consciousness, but also the central role played by the sound of time on Southern plantations.
From there, I became much more sensitive not just to evidence indicating how people saw the world, but the importance of hearing, smelling, tasting, and touching to the elaboration of all sorts of Southern social relations, broadly construed. In a way, I doubt if I'd be so keenly interested or invested in sensory history without having become an historian of slavery and the Old South at the University of South Carolina....
SOURCE: Boston Globe (2-18-08)
With 35,000 copies sold since early January, the scholarly book has vaulted to seventh on the New York Times nonfiction list and recently climbed to 30th on the Amazon.com bestseller list, mainly populated by works of pop-culture icons John Grisham, James Patterson, Stephen King, and an array of self-help guides.
Those are strange bedfellows for a book academics hail as a major historical breakthrough. That is a clear sign that Faust's work has accomplished the rare feat of bridging the steep divide between the ivory tower and mainstream readers. Its commercial success has caught the eye of publishers and academics alike, who say its brisk sales and widespread public attention are strikingly rare for an academic, and nearly with out precedent for a sitting university president.
Knopf, the book's publisher, said it had returned to press six times to meet the unexpected demand, with 50,000 copies now in print.
SOURCE: Special to HNN (2-18-08)
If you heard the concept of "The Feminine Mystique" before -- or without -- reading the book, how and when did you hear of it? What did it mean to you? How did you react to the idea that there was a "feminine mystique"? Did a relative, spouse, neighbor, or friend read the book, and if so, what was their reaction? Did their reaction affect you in any way?
For people who read the book, can you tell me the year when you read it? Your age at the time? Were you married? Any children? Did you work for pay at the time? If so, at what? How did you come to read it?
Do you remember your overall reaction to the book? Did anything speak powerfully to you? Did anything anger you? What is your most vivid memory of reading it? Did it influence your life or relationships in any way?
Have you ever re-read the book? If so, why? Did your reaction change?
What is your ethnic or racial and socioeconomic background? Your current age and occupation? May I identify you by name if I quote from your response? Unless you explicitly give me permission to use your name in my book, I will not do so, nor will I offer details that might identify you.
I deeply appreciate any help you might give to this project. If you have suggestions for other people I might contact, please let me know. You can e-mail your responses to firstname.lastname@example.org
The Evergreen State College
Olympia, WA 98505
SOURCE: Boston Globe (1-27-08)
Lewis, a professor at New York University, received the Pulitzer Prize for both volumes of his two-part biography of W.E.B. Du Bois and is the author of eight other books, including "King: A Critical Biography" and "When Harlem Was in Vogue." He spoke from his home in New York City.
Q: What drew you to this period?
A: In a previous book, "The Race to Fashoda," I wrote about the speed bump that the British empire encountered with Islamic fundamentalism in the 1890s. For 10 years the world's mightiest empire was simply stymied in the Upper Sudan. Well, I'm a citizen of the American empire, and I began to see that we were headed for similar speed bumps. I thought it would be useful to write a book - a short book - about Islam in Europe. So off my wife and I went to Morocco, and we arrived in Rabat on the morning of 9/11. A meditation of a time long ago suddenly seemed very pertinent.
Q: It was going to be a short book?
A: But that's not what happened. The post-9/11 culture made it more and more difficult not to write a larger book in which the inferences about then and now would be clearer. I wanted to connect the Iberian history, which is I think fairly well known, with what it meant on the other side of the Pyrenees in terms of the geopolitics and ideology of the Catholic faith. So I spent a lot of time tracing the bargains that arose between these Germans and the bishops of Rome.
Q: Was Europe, in a sense, created by Islam as much as by Christianity?
A: Cautiously I would say yes, and that's what I wanted to emphasize. The Renaissance is profoundly indebted to what I call the conveyor belt of knowledge coming out of Toledo. We would all applaud that, the maintenance and enrichment of the knowledge of Plato and Aristotle, the science of the academy of Athens, the Hindu [mathematics]. In the negative sense, Islam also becomes the template against which Europe compares itself, fights, profits. Finally, the kind of theocracy that emerges in Europe is directly a consequence of Charles Martel's victory over Islam at the Battle of Poitiers in 732....
SOURCE: Robert Townsend at the AHA blog (2-12-08)
President George W. Bush used his address to the Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington last week to, once again, attempt to define his presidency as a long struggle against the dark forces responsible for the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. “Six and a half years ago, our country faced the worst attack in our history,” Bush said. “I understood immediately that we would have to act boldly to protect the American people. So we’ve gone on the offense against these extremists. We’re staying on the offense, and we will not relent until we bring them to justice.”
The Bush administration has continually used—and abused—this popular frame over the past seven years. As Philip Shenon writes in his new book-length expose, The Commission, Karl Rove began planning an electoral strategy based on strength against terrorism on Sept. 12th. Donald Rumsfeld, as we know, began planning an invasion of Iraq only hours after the towers came down. In so many ways, the Bush administration’s most disastrous policies—the invasion of Iraq, torture, wiretapping, Guantanamo, the unitary executive, and so on—were all enabled by the administration’s assertion that it had the unique ability to fight the good fight and prevent another terrorist attack.
But what if it was revealed that in the months leading up to Sept. 11, 2001, the administration had ample evidence that the attack was imminent, and was negligent in its response? What would become of the 9/11 presidency? The White House faced this very real problem in 2003 when public and congressional pressure forced Bush to sign a law creating a commission to examine the events surrounding the Sept. 11 attacks.
Philip Shenon, the New York Times reporter covering the 9/11 Commission, has since discovered the great lengths that the administration went to in order to neuter the findings of the Commission. Among his discoveries:
Vice-President Cheney consistently tried to kill the Commission, calling Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle early on and discouraging him from opening probes, saying they would be “a very dangerous and time-consuming diversion.” Many commissioners later suspected that he was the one directing then-White House Counsel Alberto Gonzalez in stonewalling the Commission.
Philip Zelikow, who was hired as “executive director” of the Commission, meaning he would run the day-to-day operations, was a close friend and former colleague of Condoleezza Rice’s who spoke with her many times during the investigation despite his pledges not to do so. Shenon writes that it was clear to some investigators “that they could not have an open discussion in front of Zelikow about Condoleezza Rice and her performance as national security advisor.” Rice, you will recall, was the primary person responsible for briefing Bush about the dangers of a potential attack that were laid out in memos like the one he received in August 2001 in her presence entitled, “Bin Laden Determined to Attack Inside the U.S.”
All investigators and staffers on the Commission were originally forbidden to talk to the press or even to the commissioners themselves. Only Zelikow was so empowered, thereby allowing him to control all access to it.
Zelikow also received multiple phone calls from Karl Rove over the course of the investigation. When commissioners discovered this fact, Zelikow ordered his secretary to stop keeping a log of his phone calls. Records from the Government Accountability Office show continued, frequent calls from Zelikow to the White House. (He claims the conversations were strictly non-political and involved matters relating to the University of Virginia, where he is a professor.)
Zelikow did not disclose to the Commission that he was the secret author of a white paper outlining a defense for pre-emptive war, which many credit as one of the key intellectual justifications for the Bush administration’s misbegotten invasion of Iraq. Zelikow later tried to add wording to the Commission’s report linking Iraq to Al Qaeda, despite a continued lack of evidence that this was the case.
Zelikow also apparently failed to disclose to the Commission the full extent of his work on President Bush’s 2000 transition team.
It would be a neater story if the White House had actually placed Zelikow on the team in order to have its own mole there, given its concern about the likely outcome of the report. Yet Commission chairmen Thomas Kean and Lee Hamilton apparently came to Zelikow on their own and hired him, apparently unconcerned with the myriad conflicts of interest his appointment could raise. According to Shenon, even then-White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card was surprised to hear Zelikow’s name mentioned as a candidate and was concerned there would be too much blowback to Zelikow’s hiring, given his administration ties. But Kean and Hamilton prevailed.
Zelikow was a historian and political scientist by training, and was deeply concerned with the historical record. He got the job of executive director in part because Kean and Hamilton were impressed by his idea that the Commission’s report shouldn’t collect dust on a shelf like many government reports, but rather should be written in plain English and sold as a work of popular history in bookstores across America.
When I was working on my doctoral dissertation, which later became the book When Presidents Lie: A History of Official Deception and Its Consequences, I found Zelikow’s work on the Cuban Missile Crisis to be first rate, both from an intellectual standpoint and that of a writer. I wondered about his appointment to the Commission, knowing not only that he was a close friend of Rice’s, but also that he was her co-author in a study lauded by the first President Bush about U.S. policy toward the breakup of the Soviet Empire.
As I wrote in The Book on Bush, published in early 2004, “Formerly a member of George H. W. Bush’s National Security Council staff, as well as a member of President George W. Bush’s Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board, Zelikow was also co-author with Condoleezza Rice of an admiring study of their ex-boss’s—and the president’s father’s—handling of the end of the Cold War. Without casting any personal aspersions on Professor Zelikow, who is also a first-rate scholar of the Cuban missile crisis, it is hard to imagine that anyone could conduct a thoroughly honest and potentially damning investigation of his friends and former colleagues. In October 2003, a group of families of September 11 victims wrote to the commission co-chairs asking that Zelikow recuse himself 'from any aspect of national security and executive branch negotiations and investigations' because of his past connections to the National Security Council and to key Bush administration officials.”
This didn’t happen, of course, but at the time, I imagined that if he was good enough for the other commissioners, he deserved the benefit of the doubt as both a scholar and an individual.
Shenon’s careful study calls all of those judgments into question. Shenon shows a man operating not as a historian or honest broker, but as a politician working under the protective cover of an independent scholar. And the result is that we are still living in the shadow of a 9/11 presidency, with all the catastrophic implications that entails. And much of the historical record of the tragedy of that day remains lost to us, forever, with no hope of recovery.
Letter of Response from Philip Zelikow
Philip Zelikow wrote me in response the above article and during the course of our exchange, made the following points in response to it. All the words are his but are lightly edited by me for the sake of clarity and continuity:
I saw your article on the Shenon book posted on the site of the Center for American Progress.
I appreciated your kind words about my scholarship and your initial tendency to give me the “benefit of the doubt” until you read Shenon’s book.
Rather than make a defensive argument to you, my only request is that, as a scholar, please check out some of Shenon’s charges before you repeat them.
To do that, you can check the February 11 edition of Steve Aftergood’s “Secrecy News” web bulletin, put out by the Federation of American Scientists, which provides quite a bit of information and links to more, plus Aftergood’s personal evaluation of the underlying data (he did some homework).
In addition, I invite you also to check either with former commissioners or former staff members of the Commission whom you respect, and check out the charges. In a staff full of individuals with former government service (many more with Democratic administrations or Democratic Hill staff in fact—and I led the hiring), it was also important to design a fact finding and writing process in which anyone—including me—had to subject their views to peer review and consensus argument. I designed that process to offset anyone’s potential biases, including mine, and I believe it worked.
[Insert from a second letter]
Mr. Shenon’s past reporting has indeed had problems—he was, for instance, the main press outlet in 2005 for the “Able Danger” claims then being promoted by former Congressman Curt Weldon, claims which several investigations have now shown were indeed baseless. (Contrast, if you are interested, the more sober reporting on that by Dan Eggen of the Washington Post, whose reporting was confirmed by subsequent inquiries.) There were other problematical episodes commissioners and staff were aware of during the course of the Commission’s work.
… Also, because there have been mistaken statements made by others on this: I played no part in drafting the statement the former commissioners issued last week. I also played no part in drafting the letter Slade Gorton prepared for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. Nor was I the drafter of the talking points prepared for commissioners (quoted in brief part in my message to you). My former deputy, and Hamilton staffer, Chris Kojm held the pen on that last document.
Also, several other former staffers are concerned about other specific errors and mischaracterizations in the book (including its stories of arguments about how to handle the Iraq-Al Qaeda issues) and have told me they are preparing a collective response of their own to set the record straight. But I have not been part of their drafting process and do not know how soon they will post their additional information.
These are very grave charges, which will be read by many of my colleagues and students. Again, I’m not trying to pick a fight. I just rely on respected scholars like you, whatever their political orientation, to check out such serious claims before they repeat them. As you’ll see, I’ve done what I can to empower people to do that.
White Burkett Miller Professor
Department of History
University of Virginia
SOURCE: New Republic (2-15-08)
I cannot let Amartya Sen's otherwise enjoyable piece ("Imperial Illusions", December 31) pass without a protest at his misuse of me as a straw man. Professor Sen may find Empire"rather didactic". He may even be justified in calling it"a guarded but enthusiastic celebration of British imperialism." But it is a complete misrepresentation to imply, as he does, that I have argued anywhere that"Americans [should] be inspired by ... early British rule in India". On the contrary, the first chapter of my book Empire pulls no punches in its account of Clive's role. Indeed, Professor Sen's account and my account of the era of Company rule have a strikingly large amount in common, though for some reason he does not acknowledge it.
Throughout Empire, I make it clear that I am on the side of Adam Smith, not Robert Clive. The British Empire (as opposed to"imperialism", a term of abuse) was only benign in so far as it promoted free trade, free migration and free capital mobility. It did not do those things until the mid-nineteenth century. Only then is it possible to speak of a"liberal empire." Only that empire offers any lessons for present-day America.
I quite agree, and have said myself, that any assessment of the costs and benefits of British rule in India needs to make the counterfactual(s) explicit. No one claims India would have stood still if there had been no 1757. With all due respect, however, Professor Sen's counterfactual of"Meiji India" lacks plausibility. Though I have often heard it argued, the notion seems to me utterly far-fetched that India could have adopted the Japanese route to economic and political modernization. (One might as well say, to take a European example, that Russia could have adopted the English route if only Peter the Great had read John Locke). Japan and India had scarcely anything in common. The proper comparison is surely between Mughal India and Qing China, which (with a few exceptions) was not subject to direct European rule, or between Mughal India and Ottoman Turkey. Do I need to point out that their economic performance was, if anything, worse than that of India in the period of British direct rule (1857-1947)? As for the Bengal famine of 1943, cited by Professor Sen as evidence of British misrule, he omits to mention that this was a direct result of the attack on Burma by that paragon of non-imperial modernization ... Japan.
Professor Sen is an exceedingly distinguished economist. But if there were such a thing as a Nobel Prize for history, I am afraid he would not win it.
Response by Amartya Sen
I am grateful to Niall Ferguson, whose insightful writings I admire, for bothering to respond to my essay. It is a pity that his response seems to be generated more by irritation than by reading or reflection. Ferguson says:"It is a complete misrepresentation to imply, as he [Sen] does, that I have argued anywhere that 'Americans [should] be inspired by ... early British rule in India.'" But where did I"imply" that Ferguson said anything like this about early British empire (to be distinguished from later days)? What I had, in fact, said was:"If Americans are to be inspired by the disciplined regularity of early British rule in India, they would do well to avoid reading Adam Smith's The Wealth of Nations, particularly Smith's discussion of the abuse of state power by a 'mercantile company that oppresses and domineers in the East Indies.'" While I did quote some remarks of Ferguson in celebration of the British empire in general (I used his words, not mine), not every defense of the British Empire has come from Ferguson alone. However, a puzzle that remains is how Ferguson can think that an empire that in his view became"benign" only in the mid-nineteenth century, after a century of doubtful practice, can deserve such admiration as would be needed to yield an invitation to America to learn from British imperial experience.
A second puzzle is how the history of British imperial rule after the mid-nineteenth century appears so"benign" to Ferguson. Even if we ignore the huge famine of 1769-70 with which the empire began (there had been none in the century before British rule was established) as being part of the problems of"early British rule," is there no governance problem at all in the continuation of famines in what Ferguson sees as the"benign" phase of the empire, ending with a large famine--the Bengal famine of 1943--just four years before Indian independence (India has had no such famine since independence). Ferguson simply attributes that last famine to the Japanese attack on Burma (in line with the views of earlier defenders of the non-culpability of the Raj), but as has been brought out by a number of empirical investigations of that famine, it was largely caused by huge policy blunders (my book Poverty and Famine, 1981, discusses the question in some detail)....
SOURCE: The Hindu (2-14-08)
Jean Marie Lafont, who along with four others, on Thursday visited this town famous for its French architecture, said they were impressed to see the old monuments but "unhappy" over their dilapidated conditions.
Comparing the old monuments, especially the Jagatjit Palace, which is a replica of the Palace of Versailles, he told reporters, "The Palace in France has been declared a national monument and is more well maintained. The government should maintain these historical buildings for future generations."
Lafont visited the Jagatjit Palace, which now houses Sainik School Kapurthala, district courts complex, Shalimar Garden, Gole Kothi and Old Rest House.
SOURCE: http://www.artsjournal.com (2-13-08)
She co-authored with Westermann the recent report, Art History and Its Publications in the Electronic Age. Westermann, the vice chancellor of NYU Abu Dhabi, was formerly director of the university's Institute of Fine Arts, New York. She is now working out of NYU's Washington Square campus.
Classes will be co-educational and will (according to the press release) be conducted according to "practices consistent with the prevailing standards at NYU's Washington Square campus, including adherence to its standards of academic freedom." That's a relief. But will construction of the campus accord with human rights standards?
The sweetener is that Abu Dhabi is not only funding the whole project but "has also made a commitment to NYU that will enhance the University's investment in faculty and programming." (Translation: Big Bucks).
SOURCE: http://www.moneyweb.co.za (2-13-08)
HERMANN GILIOMEE: Well, I suppose one looks at some indicators. One looks at public confidence, one looks at the way in which the world assesses South Africa, and I think there's quite a lot in common between these three crises. The only thing is that at this particular time people still try and see the various crises like electricity, water supply, crime, corruption, as distinct crises - they don't see it as one general structural crisis.
MONEYWEB: So overall, and the big question that's elicited so much debate is, you believe South Africa can get out of it?
HERMANN GILIOMEE: Well, I said "can", ja. Usually when people discuss the article with me, they say to me, "you said to me we will". I said, no, we can. And if I look at the previous crises, the 1929-33 and '85-'90, people were actually more gloomy than now. They were feeling to a much greater extent, you know, that things are out of control, that they don't control their own destiny any more. And everyone was sort of - we used to joke in the '80s about South Africa, that the problem with the South African crisis is that there's no solution, you know. And then suddenly, you get really wise statesmanship, Hertzog and Smuts coming together in '33, and taking some crucial economic measures. And then within a year, the whole climate changes, and then again in '85, '86, how many people said, look, there is no hope whatsoever for South Africa. I remember one night at a cocktail party I made a joke. They said, "Oh, what leader in the National Party is able of making this major move?" - and I said De Klerk, and everyone burst out laughing.
MONEYWEB: Well, he certainly did it with the help of Mandela, and we turned that around. But why has it happened so quickly? Hermann, I left South Africa to go and do some business in Canada in early January, everything looked fine. I came back three weeks later and it was depth of depression.
HERMANN GILIOMEE: Ja, South Africa is like that. It is really a roller-coaster, and I think that 10 years of a fair degree of stability and economic growth has simply made us forget that we live in South Africa, and that South Africa does almost with a certain degree of regularity hit these major crises because of the strange nature of our economy, the strange nature of our population composition, and so on. And the worst things happen when things go so well. In the late '90s, we should have been much more alert to the power accumulation in the centre, but because it went so well we didn't worry about it. But in fact it was at that stage when we should have kicked up a major row and said, look, all the institutions of democracy are being eroded.
MONEYWEB: So it's partly our own fault?
HERMANN GILIOMEE: I think the whites in South Africa - it's almost as if they feel that they are entitled not to be confronted with such a major crisis. But also this one, particular one, the biggest mistake would be to deal with it in a piecemeal way. What we have is really the major loss of capacity on the part of the state. Now, to some extent it forces us to try and exist outside the state, but the major thing is that this is one single interconnected crisis, and it doesn't help if the CEO of Anglo American, what's it, Carroll....
SOURCE: http://www.catholicnewsagency.com (2-13-08)
Guglietta points out that the revolution that ended with the proclamation of the “Roman Republic” in 1848 and that forced the Pope to take up residence for nine months in Gaeta, south of Rome, had a profound effect on the Pontiff, who like Cardinal Giovanni Maria Mastai Ferretti, had openly sympathized with the European revolutionary movements.
“During this lapse of time, in fact, Pius IX progressively lost trust in the processes of the ‘revolution’ that were taking place in Europe and distanced himself from the liberal Catholic environment, beginning to see in the insurrection movement, as well as in the ‘modernity’ of that time, a dangerous snare for the life of the Church,” Guglietta writes.
The expert points out that “understanding what happened with the thinking of Pius IX in Gaeta is of significant historic relevance” and is an “area of research not yet explored.” Nevertheless, he said, the Pope’s sojourn in Gaeta was fundamental for his decision of proclaiming the Marian dogma of the Immaculate Conception.
SOURCE: Press Release--Gettysburg College Media Relations (2-12-08)
For their books about Abraham Lincoln, Frederick Douglass and Robert E. Lee, the winners are James Oakes, a professor at the City University of New York, for "The Radical and the Republican: Frederick Douglass, Abraham Lincoln, and the Triumph of Antislavery Politics," and diplomat/historian Elizabeth Brown Pryor for "Reading the Man: A Portrait of Robert E. Lee Through His Private Letters." Each author will receive $20,000 and a bronze replica of Augustus Saint-Gaudens life-size bust, "Lincoln the Man." An honorable mention and $10,000 prize will go to Chandra Manning, a professor at Georgetown University, for his book "What This Cruel War Was Over: Soldiers, Slavery, and the Civil War." A formal ceremony will take place April 1 in New York City. The Lincoln Prize is one of the nation's most generous awards in the field of American history.
"It is a rare moment in American history when three such iconic figures are illuminated in studies of such power and originality," said Gilder and Lehrman in announcing the prize Feb. 12. "With the works for which we honor them, James Oakes and Elizabeth Brown Pryor have made major contributions to our understanding of leaders who - by their writing, political leadership, and military genius, and by either their capacity for, or resistance to, change - altered the way America regards both itself and its people. We are proud to recognize and celebrate these superb literary and historical achievements."
"So much has been written about Lincoln, Lee, and Douglass that it is difficult to imagine the appearance of new contributions of unmistakable significance - much less the arrival of two such signal achievements in a single year," said Gettysburg College Prof. Gabor Boritt, who serves as chair of the Lincoln Prize. "Moreover, these works possess not only originality of thought and depth of research, but elegance of writing. The fine books by Oakes and Pyror have made a significant impact on the field - as has Chandra Manning's stunning examination of Civil War soldiers' attitudes toward slavery and emancipation - and they all richly deserve the honors they have earned."
Oakes is graduate school humanities professor in the history department at the City University of New York. He is the author of "The Ruling Race: A History of American Slaveholders" and "Slavery and Freedom: An Interpretation of the Old South." He earned his Ph.D. at the University of California at Berkeley, and has written many scholarly articles, encyclopedia entries and book chapters. The Lincoln Prize jury commended Oakes for using a "new comparative framework to analyze the careers of the wartime president and the nation's most important black leader."
Pryor, author of "Clara Barton, Professional Angel," has enjoyed distinguished careers as a historian and senior diplomat in the American Foreign Service, most recently working as senior advisor to the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe of the United States Congress. The Lincoln Prize jury praised her for "tackling a familiar subject in an unconventional way," adding that the book "captures Lee's central importance and the far-reaching impact of his decisions in a way that no other scholar has accomplished."
Manning, who has taught at Harvard and Pacific Lutheran University in Tacoma, Wash., is currently a professor of history at Georgetown University. "What This Cruel War Was Over" is her first book. Calling it "a signal contribution to Civil War literature," the Lincoln Prize jury said her book "shows that slavery was not only central to understanding the causes and consequences of the Civil War but is equally vital to understanding why and how the soldiers fought."
Gilder and Lehrman, together with Gettysburg College Fluhrer Professor of Civil War Studies Gabor Boritt, established the Lincoln Prize in 1990. The Gilder Lehrman Institute has amassed one of the nation's greatest private collections of American historical documents and devotes itself to education by supporting magnet schools, teacher education, curriculum development, exhibitions and publications. The three-member Lincoln Prize jury - comprised of University of Alabama professor George C. Rable; Loren Schweninger, professor at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro; and Colby College professor Elizabeth Leonard - considered 120 submissions.
Past Lincoln Prize winners include Ken Burns in 1991 for his documentary, "The Civil War," James M. McPherson in 1998 for his book, "For Cause and Comrades: Why Men Fought in the Civil War" and Doris Kearns Goodwin in 2006 for her book, "Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln." Last year's winner was Douglas Wilson for his book "Lincoln's Sword: The Presidency and the Power of Words."
Gettysburg College is a highly selective four-year residential college of liberal arts and sciences with approximately 2,600 students. It is located on a 200-acre campus adjacent to Gettysburg National Military Park in Pennsylvania. The college was founded in 1832.
SOURCE: Cinnamon Stillwell at the website of Campus Watch (2-15-08)
Georgetown professor John Esposito, director of the Saudi-financed Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding has a reputation as an apologist for radical Islam. And it's one he lived up to with a Stanford University speech last week titled,"Dying for God? Suicide Terrorism and Militant Islam."
Esposito claimed that Islamic terrorism grows primarily out of a sense of political and economic grievance and, of course,"occupation" on the part of"neo-colonial powers." This spin allowed him to deflect responsibility for Islamic terrorism to the West while negating the need for self-reflection among Muslims.
When an attendee asked him why no other impoverished or oppressed group around the world resorts to suicide bombings, Esposito stonewalled for several minutes before giving one of the few straight answers of the night:"I don't know."
Esposito displayed contempt for anyone calling for the theological and cultural reform of Islam. He described Middle East Forum director Daniel Pipes and Princeton professor Bernard Lewis as"among the Darth Vaders of the world," and Pipes and Islam scholar Robert Spencer as"Islamophobes." Others on the receiving end of Esposito's vitriol included Martin Kramer, Fouad Ajami, V.S. Naipaul, Max Boot, and Steven Emerson. Esposito has a penchant for laying into his opponents, but this juvenile behavior fails to answer the substance of his detractors' points.
The Islamic Society of Stanford University and the Muslim Student Awareness Network at Stanford University (MSAN), co-sponsors of the Islamic Awareness Series 2008, seem to share Esposito's views. Despite calling this year's offering,"Our Jihad to Reform: The Struggle to Define Our Faith," MSAN makes clear in an op-ed on the subject that such"reform" has its limits. As they put it:
Our reform will not be dictated by the likes of Daniel Pipes, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, and David Horowitz, according to their desires to subvert our tradition, but by Islamic scholars according to the Islamic notion of reform.
Apparently, Esposito fit the bill.
Esposito's leadership of a center dedicated to"Muslim-Christian understanding" failed to mitigate his hostility towards Christians. He referenced the Crusades three times in the first ten minutes, each in the false context of acts of purely Christian aggression. In a relativistic attempt to paint all religions as equally problematic, Esposito compared Islamic terrorists to"Christian militants," and referred repeatedly to"Christians blowing up abortion clinics" and the"Christian Right."
He reserved particular enmity for evangelist Pat Robertson who, according to Esposito, is on par with"Muslim extremists" and should be put"in prison" for publicly expressing a desire to see Venezuelan dictator Hugo Chavez assassinated. Yet Esposito has no qualms about calling for the release of Sami al-Arian, the former University of South Florida professor currently serving time in prison for terrorism-related charges.
Esposito's treatment of two self-described Arab Christian students in the audience further revealed this bias. When asked about the well-documented violence against Christians in Iraq and the persecution of Christians throughout the Muslim world, Esposito resorted at first to obfuscation and then bullying. After trying to chalk up the violence merely to"primitive" behavior, he cut off one young woman angrily, telling her that it was"an absurd question."
Esposito's standard answer to this line of questioning was that"all religions produce violence," followed by a litany of talking points in which he compared random and universally condemned acts of violence among Christians and Jews to the routine and often sanctioned bloodshed emanating from the Muslim world.
Moreover, he peddled the usual apologist fare on the definition of jihad. Like many of his contemporaries in the world of Middle East studies, Esposito downplayed violent jihad or holy war in favor of the"personal struggle" interpretation.
Esposito spoke hopefully about the results contained in his upcoming book, Who Speaks For Islam?: What a Billion Muslims Really Think. Citing statistics from the book, Esposito declared that anti-Americanism in the Muslim world is not based on hatred, but on"disappointment" that the U.S. isn't"living up to its ideals." Furthermore, Muslims, according to Esposito, admire the U.S., but believe that"Islam is denigrated."
It was this denigration that, according to Esposito, somehow justified the outrage in the Muslim world surrounding the Danish cartoon controversy. Esposito decried the current atmosphere in the West whereby, as he sees it, Jews and Christians are protected, but anything"anti-Islam" goes. Somehow Esposito managed to miss the death threats, imprisonment, lawsuits, firings, and condemnation meeting those who dare critique Islam these days.
Thanks to Esposito's equivocation, the Stanford students, both Muslim and otherwise, who came to take part in a series based on"awareness" and"reform" walked away with little prospect for either. But perhaps that was the intention all along.
SOURCE: Max Holland at his website, WashingtonDecoded (2-11-08)
The citizens who lost beloved ones on September 11, 2001 were once like most Americans: politically disengaged if not disenchanted, preoccupied with family and friends, earning a living, and life’s pleasures. On 9/10, a majority of them would undoubtedly have been hard pressed to name George Bush’s national security adviser. “Is it Colin Powell?” But her identity hardly seemed to matter outside the beltway until precisely 9:03:11 AM on September 11. At that moment a second passenger jet crashed into the World Trade Center, and it instantly became apparent that the federal government had failed miserably in a most fundamental obligation.
There are a hundred different ways to write about 9/11’s impact, but surely one of the most revealing is the unwanted civics lesson the bereaved families received after the terrorist attacks. For many of them, their last exposure to how federal government worked was probably a high school class, and they only dimly remembered “how a bill becomes law.” But they naturally wanted answers and accountability from their government in the wake of the terrorist attacks. Why had fathers, sons, and brothers, mothers, daughters, and sisters—non-combatants all—been killed, most of them pulverized beyond recognition, for the crime of showing up on time?
What these families received instead of prompt answers was an advanced and protracted course in high-stakes Washington politics. To denizens of the nation’s capital, who have devoted their lives to working in or covering government, none of this came as a particular surprise. To the families, particularly the so-called “Jersey Girls” who spear-headed the search for answers and accountability, it was in many ways a bitter education.
This clash is at the heart of Philip Shenon’s book on the 9/11 Commission. Shenon, who was the lead reporter on the panel for The New York Times, has written an account of the commission’s 20-month investigation from start to finish. In the process, The Commission unavoidably lays bare the difference between what we are taught to think about how the government works, and the actual, often deflating, reality. After reading it, one cannot help but think back to Attorney General Janet Reno’s response to the 1993 debacle at the Branch Davidian compound in Waco, Texas. Reno did the unimaginable: she promptly took responsibility for a decision that turned out to have terrible consequences. But her public contrition was the exception that proved the rule. In Washington, the single hardest thing to do is to get a government official or agency to own up to a mistake—the finely-honed strategies of avoidance would tax the imagination of any great novelist.
Shenon skips the first semester in the education, i.e., the protracted political wrangling that lasted more than a year before President Bush reluctantly signed the legislation creating the commission on November 27, 2002. The White House’s opposition was comprehensible if untenable, and almost certainly reflected the then-dominant mentality of Vice President Dick Cheney. Experienced Washington hands know that commissions tend to take on a life of their own and can be unpredictable. Besides, any bipartisan commission would be an irresistible vehicle for Democrats bent on making the Bush administration bear the lion’s share of responsibility for 9/11. And if they succeeded, George Bush could presumably kiss good-bye his chances of being re-elected.
Shenon’s basic argument, however, is that rather than becoming an instrument of Bush’s demise, the commission helped reelect George Bush. As the panel’s general counsel, Daniel Marcus, a liberal Democrat, put it to Shenon, the August 2004 final report, by “pulling its punches” to achieve unanimity, mainly served to remind Americans of a dire threat to their security and well-being. It thus played into the hands of the White House’s re-election strategy, which was to depict George Bush as far more reliable and steady than John Kerry in the face of this existential menace.
At least one commissioner, though, former Nebraska Senator Bob Kerrey (D), takes strong exception to the view Shenon posits. Kerrey argues that the 9/11 Report provided plenty of fodder for the Democrats’ 2004 nominee, and that the real problem was John Kerry’s failure to exploit fully what was in the final report. Rather than harp on the warnings that went unheeded inside the White House, Kerry stupidly (from a political point of view) concentrated on trying to express more enthusiasm for the report than did the White House, which abruptly decided it liked the final document after all. Kerry was also content with trying to outbid Bush in terms of the haste with which a Democrat would implement the panel’s recommendations.
Bob Kerrey may have a point. Any Democratic nominee with a sure instinct for the jugular—say, John F. Kennedy, who based his 1960 campaign on a non-existent “missile gap”—might easily have turned the 9/11 Report to partisan advantage. That John Kerry did not says more about his political instincts than about the report.
Shenon ignores this nuance, perhaps because it clashes with his major theme, which is a very dramatic one: that the commission’s ability to report the truth was neutered and neutralized by an executive director, Philip Zelikow, who was allowed to serve despite deep conflicts-of-interest, as well as surreptitious ties to the White House, including with then-national security adviser Condoleezza Rice. Although there are other revelations, the book’s axis of criticism is almost entirely about Zelikow, a University of Virginia professor and former director of the Miller Center of Public Affairs. Shenon’s book is a blistering critique of Zelikow’s performance, and a not-very-veiled criticism of the commission co-chairmen (Tom Kean and Lee Hamilton) who hired him in the first place, and then allowed Zelikow to stay on even after his multi-faceted conflicts-of-interest were fully revealed under oath.
Kean and Hamilton’s seeming obliviousness to appearances, which can be more important than private realities when the political and historical stakes are so high, certainly gnawed at the 9/11 relatives, several of whom called for Zelikow’s resignation or recusal from the most sensitive aspects of the inquiry about half-way through the commission’s term. In this regard, Shenon’s critique closely parallels the perspective of these 9/11 families, who believe the investigation they had to fight for tooth and nail was fatally compromised after Zelikow assumed the commission’s most important job.
Shenon goes to some pains to refute the most extreme interpretation of Zelikow’s hiring: that he was a “mole” emplaced by the White House to thwart the issuance of a devastating report. In fact, his name was put into play by former Senator Slade Gorton (R-Washington). Zelikow then quickly dazzled the co-chairmen, Tom Kean (R), a former governor of New Jersey, and Lee Hamilton (D), a former Indiana congressman, who were responsible for hiring an executive director. One measure of the suspicion generated by Zelikow’s appointment, however, is that this “mole” allegation is widely circulated and given credence (particularly on conspiracy-oriented websites) despite its falsity.
Shenon’s portrait of Zelikow is depressingly familiar to anyone who has worked under him, as I did. A lawyer and foreign service officer before entering academia, Zelikow has many of the traits once ascribed to a young Henry Kissinger, minus the accent and Central European charm. Zelikow is routinely described, and rightly so, as having a keen and quick mind. He speaks in complete paragraphs, and has a striking capacity for boiling down a complicated problem, conveying its essence, and proposing a solution. He is also, as Shenon depicts, tightly wound, arrogant, unctuous, and prone to bullying. Kissinger himself probably summed up Zelikow best when Kean asked him what he thought about appointing the University of Virginia professor. “[Zelikow’s] one of the most brilliant men I know,” Kissinger responded. “But you will not like him. Nobody does.”
If for no other reason, Shenon’s book is valuable because it finally provides a coherent explanation for how the 9/11 panel came to have an executive director who simultaneously oversaw the investigation and was a subject of it—an unprecedented situation. According to Shenon, Zelikow minimized, to a point of disingenuousness, the exact nature of his activities until (or so the commissioners thought) it was too late to fire him. Kean and Hamilton, of course, knew and appreciated from the outset that Zelikow was a friend and former colleague of then-national security adviser Condoleezza Rice, one of the principal officials whose conduct would be scrutinized. Zelikow had served with her on the National Security Council (NSC) under Brent Scowcroft during the presidency of George Bush’s father, and they had written a book together about German reunification. The commission co-chairmen were also aware that Zelikow’s connections were not just past but current; Bush had appointed him to the President’s Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board (PFIAB), one of the most sensitive advisory posts an administration “outsider” can hold.
According to Shenon, however, Zelikow failed to disclose on his résumé several more egregious conflicts-of-interest, including the critical fact that as a member of Rice’s transition team in 2000-01, he had been the architect responsible for demoting Richard Clarke and his counter-terrorism team within the NSC. As Shenon puts it, Zelikow’s reorganization plan “laid the groundwork for much of went wrong at the White House” in the months before 9/11. There was also the fact that Zelikow had secretly authored, at Rice’s request, the Bush administration’s post-9/11 national strategy paper released in September 2002, a doctrine that justified unilateral and pre-emptive attack whenever Washington felt threatened. Given his other entanglements, Zelikow’s role on the transition alone was probably sufficient to disqualify him from serving as executive director, and this latter involvement compounded the problem. It was as if J. Lee Rankin, Zelikow’s equivalent on the Warren Commission, had written a book with J. Edgar Hoover, frequented Jack Ruby’s burlesque joint, and donated money to the Fair Play for Cuba Committee before November 22.
Shenon quotes Kean as saying he “wasn’t sure” that he knew anything about Zelikow’s work on Rice’s transition team before he agreed to hire him, but when he did find out he found it “worrisome.” Hamilton, for his part, told Shenon, “I think I did [know], but I don’t think I’d swear to that.” In any case, Hamilton admitted that he did not know any of the “details” of what Zelikow had done during the transition. Zelikow, meanwhile, has provided various explanations whenever this issue has arisen. He has claimed, despite the absence of these entanglements on his résumé, that Kean and Hamilton knew all about his past work with Rice because he told them orally. They have no clear recollection of that. Zelikow has also insisted that his transition role was so widely and even publicly known that Kean and Hamilton could not have been unwitting. Lastly, Zelikow has attempted to defuse the extremely sensitive matter of his loyalties, by telling Shenon, for example, that “I don’t think Tom or Lee or I anticipated the extent to which the commission’s work would be used as a partisan battlefield.” It was this kind of patently false and dismissive remark that used to infuriate the Jersey Girls. They knew better at this point in their crash education.
In October 2003, as word of Zelikow’s conflicts spread, the 9/11 relatives’ umbrella group, the Family Steering Committee, released a statement demanding Zelikow’s resignation or recusal from the part of the investigation involving the NSC. Shaken by the demand, Zelikow decided on a pre-emptive strategy: he told Kean and Hamilton that he wanted to describe the exact nature of his pre-commission activities under oath. But even before Zelikow’s examination by general counsel Daniel Marcus, the co-chairmen made clear they wanted to keep the indispensable Zelikow in place, eight months into the investigation. Marcus was instructed to do what needed to be done on the recusal front, and “make it work.”
The upshot was that Zelikow was recused from that part of the investigation dealing with the NSC transition, and was barred from participating in interviews of senior Bush aides. The decision reportedly angered Zelikow, but he nonetheless accepted these limitations. Thereafter he would represent his recusal as voluntary, taken at his own initiative because of his integrity.
Zelikow, rather than tread lightly on those areas where his conflicts were manifest, is depicted by Shenon as inserting himself energetically into the most politically-charged areas of the investigation, and arousing suspicion that he had a bias in favor of the Bush administration. According to Shenon, Zelikow acted as Rice’s in-house advocate, repeatedly putting the best spin on her activities in the months leading up to the attacks, especially in comparison to those of the other key officials involved, such as counter-terrorism chief Richard Clarke and CIA Director George Tenet. Certainly Zelikow was hardly the only staffer to harbor a point of view. But few were as manifest about their biases, and there was only one executive director. The investigation was divvied up into 10 teams, and there appears to be a direct correlation between the frequency of Zelikow’s interaction with any given team, and the degree to which its members ended up disturbed and angry.
In an early response to Shenon’s embargoed book, after some of its disclosures had been first revealed on Washington DeCoded, Zelikow told ABC News that he didn’t think most of the 9/11 commission staffers would criticize his leadership. Out of a total of 85, Zelikow said, only about six were disgruntled, and given the circumstances “that was a pretty low fraction.” Thus, Shenon’s book was not representative because he relied primarily on the recollections of these malcontents. But one staffer told Washington DeCoded that when Kirsten Lundberg wrote up a case study on the 9/11 Commission for Harvard University’s Kennedy School, Lundberg was taken aback by the harsh reviews of Zelikow that poured forth, often unsolicited, from almost every staffer she interviewed. Lundberg confirmed, when interviewed, that criticism of Zelikow was not limited to a few malcontents. But she also said that virtually every staffer leavened their criticism of Zelikow’s management with praise for the other qualities he brought to the undertaking.
Zelikow refused to be interviewed in person for Shenon’s book, insisting instead that all questions be submitted in writing via email, which was also the way he answered them. This arrangement has led to an unusual circumstance, whereby the curious reader has instant access to the raw information that Shenon gathered for his book. Both Shenon and Zelikow have made the exchange available; Shenon on the book’s website, while Zelikow began distributing his version of the email compilation to interested journalists and others once word of the book began to seep out.
From these emails, it’s possible to juxtapose Shenon’s account with how Zelikow attempted to characterize his role when the commission’s work rubbed up against the Bush administration’s rationale for the invasion of Iraq. In a way, this was an issue even more sensitive than the Rashômon-like problem of how the White House performed in the months prior to September 11. Specifically, the issue here was what role the commission would play with respect to the White House’s assertion of a meaningful link between al Qaeda and Saddam Hussein’s security services.
The first episode concerned an interim staff report on the history of the State Department’s efforts to counter al Qaeda, which was drafted by Team 3’s Scott Allan, an attorney specializing in international law. When Zelikow returned the draft, according to Shenon, Allan was shocked to find that it had been altered in one direction: it now read so that it would surely be interpreted in public as supportive of the Bush administration’s unsubstantiated case. Allan was aghast, and a meeting was arranged between Zelikow and Team 3 to talk over the inserted language. Zelikow, at the outset, expressed “surprise” that anyone had gotten worked up about the changes. With the entire Team 3 arrayed against him, Zelikow backed off, the language was re-jiggered, and when staff statement was presented to the commission in March 2004, it generated only modest attention.
When Shenon raised this episode with Zelikow in two separate emails, in March and September 2007, the former executive director gave somewhat contradictory answers. He claimed initially that the dispute had not been over the substance at all, but over whether Allan’s statement was the proper place to discuss the linkage. Zelikow admitted subsequently to being “argumentative about this [subject], since I resented any implication of [a] political motive.” He then went on to claim that he “was probably too defensive about the matter, and I was defensive on behalf of [Douglas] MacEachin too [emphasis added], since I have a high regard for his integrity.”
Zelikow was thus asserting that the language had been drafted principally by MacEachin, a well-regarded former deputy director of intelligence at the CIA, and that Zelikow had merely inserted it into Allan’s draft in a misplaced act of respect. (MacEachin was the head of Team 1, charged with writing a history of al Qaeda). But MacEachin, who came out of semi-retirement after 9/11 to write a crash, all-source history of al Qaeda for the CIA, had neither drafted nor proposed anything that resembled Zelikow’s insertions. Indeed, MacEachin was known within the commission as the most outspoken critic of any claim of meaningful collaboration between al Qaeda and Hussein’s Iraq.
MacEachin also figured in a subsequent episode in which Zelikow displayed a skewed sense of history. Three months after Allan’s interim staff report, it was MacEachin’s turn to present Team 1’s findings before the commission. In keeping with a thoroughly-researched conclusion, the statement noted that while there were reports of contacts between Iraq and al Qaeda, “they do not appear to have resulted in a collaborative relationship . . . . We have no credible evidence that Iraq and al Qaeda cooperated on attacks against the United States.”
The statement was duly vetted by the so-called “front office.” Yet, when MacEachin actually presented the statement to the commissioners on Wednesday, June 16, it instantly created a media firestorm. The press picked up on the fact that the staff statement was directly challenging the Bush administration’s insinuations. When MacEachin returned to his office, he was bombarded by dozens of calls from reporters. In response to one query, which pointed out that the Bush administration was claiming the opposite, MacEachin flatly asserted that he stood by the statement.
When Zelikow eventually realized what was happening, and that the media was going to use the finding to impugn the White House, he exploded at the supposed temerity of the former CIA deputy director. You can’t do that! Zelikow screamed, according to one staffer. MacEachin refused to back down. President Bush and Vice President Cheney (the latter, in particular) then made a number of public statements reasserting a sinister connection. The following Sunday, Tom Kean, in an effort to dampen the still-raging controversy, pointed out to ABC’s George Stephanopoulos that MacEachin’s finding was an interim report, but also vindicated MacEachin’s unyielding stance. Commission members “do not get involved in staff statements.”
Ultimately, the 9/11 Report stoutly affirmed and only elaborated upon MacEachin’s finding. Yet when Shenon asked Zelikow about this celebrated judgment—the first indication that the commission would not simply parrot the administration line, vigorously advanced by Dick Cheney—in Zelikow’s recounting, all the accolades belonged to the commission’s executive director. As he explained to Shenon,
When we then came to judgment on how to describe the Iraq connection, I was the initial point person defending it, first to the commissioners and then to the American people . . . . I wanted to put myself behind that judgment and stake my integrity on it. I took some heat from folks like [William] Safire . . . . At the time, there was also a spectrum of views about these questions within the commission. But at that point I could look anyone in the eye—including any commissioner—and tell them, honestly, that we had looked hard and fairly at this, and there was simply no credible evidence of a connection between Iraq and 9/11.
Here, too, Zelikow’s account was an audacious rewrite of what actually happened. It seems fair to conclude that Zelikow has a supple relationship to the truth.
While Shenon makes the case that Zelikow was widely perceived by the staff to have dual loyalties—or at least a loyalty to something other than the task at hand—gauging Zelikow’s exact influence is nonetheless difficult. No one exercised more day-to-day influence over the investigation, and had more of a hand in drafting the final report than Zelikow. But Shenon veers toward giving the executive director too much agency, falsely depicting him as the architect of the report and the main obstacle to the truth being told. It makes for good drama but is simplistic and not accurate.
For one, it ignores what might be called the “foxhole effect” that typically occurs among the staff. Working on a commission combines the urgency of a political campaign with a sense that everything hinges on getting it right. Whatever institutional loyalties existed prior to the commission tend to get subsumed by an increasing dedication to the task at hand. And when the worker bees are as talented as the 9/11 staff was, the notion of a single executive director wielding the kind of control suggested by Shenon doesn’t add up. Typically, the executive director becomes preoccupied with getting the job done, and simply doesn’t have the luxury of policing the report, much as he might want to.
Another truth is that the formative die was cast by the legislation which set the terms for the bipartisan commission, and via the nature of the appointments to the panel by the White House and the congressional leadership from both parties. The panel’s essence was congenital bipartisanship, not nonpartisanship. At the point where the ownership, if not authorship, of the report was given to the commission, the nature of the panel dictated the lack of precise accountability that so disappointed the 9/11 families. Blame was spread so diffusely that everyone involved was responsible in some way, and, as a result, no one in particular was to blame.
the commission was to hold together and deliver a unanimous bipartisan
report that meant, by definition, a report with a “he said, she said”
quality to it—especially when it came to sorting out what had happened
inside the White House between Richard Clarke and Condoleezza Rice. The
commission was bound to the Sergeant Joe Friday
school of history—just the facts, ma’am, without analysis or
common-sense judgments. Anything much beyond that would have split the
panel down the middle, or very close to it. If one cost was to leave
citizens feeling dissipated and amorphous after reading the report . .
. well, that was a small price to pay for bipartisan unanimity.
These factors were beyond Zelikow’s control, though he surely played to them. But the decisive influence on the tone and content of the 9/11 Report was exercised by the commissioners, as it always is, even if the words were first put on paper by a staff with a far superior grasp of the source material. Shenon doesn’t exactly ignore these truths, but makes them appear relatively less important than Zelikow’s supposed ability to browbeat everyone into submission.
Shenon could have made a more sophisticated argument: namely, that Zelikow, even while he was being loyal to the 9/11 mission by pushing for full disclosure of relevant documents, was essentially trying to get the Bush administration to act in its own self-interest. Zelikow likes to point out that “I was not a very popular person in the Bush White House when this [investigation] was going on. There’s a lot of carryover of that to this day.” While that is true amongst the maximalist defenders of executive privilege, like Vice President Cheney, it also skirts the point.
As Zelikow himself has been known to observe, there is actually no such unitary thing as “the White House” or “the Bush administration.” Every presidency is like a “Medieval village,” with intensely competitive factions, shifting alliances, and backchannels of communication. Zelikow, notwithstanding his abrasiveness, was in effect an external agent for those within the administration who advocated modest cooperation with a temporary commission that had the potential to do enormous harm to Bush’s chances for re-election. Put another way, Zelikow acted in the classic role of a expensive outside counsel: helping clients to act in their own best interests, even if they have to be dragged, kicking and screaming, into doing it. If the 9/11 Commission had not secured access to the President’s Daily Brief, apart from turning the report into a whitewash, the 2004 Democratic nominee would certainly have been able to paint the incumbent administration as obsessively secret and obstructionist, if not the perpetrators of a cover-up.
Perhaps because Shenon does not pay sufficient attention to the commission’s elemental nature, the greatest deficit in the commission’s work—all but ignored in the hullabaloo about the final report—eludes him. Unlike most comparable efforts, virtually none of the paper trail forming the basis for the report was made available in supplementary volumes. Citizens have not been permitted access to the documents that would allow them, at least, to go beyond the mere exposition of facts. It is enormously telling, but entirely in keeping with the panel’s essence, that the commissioners agreed to sequester the documents for five years, until at least January 2009—far too late to affect the 2004 campaign, and Bush’s effort at re-election, and just long enough to be a non-factor in the 2008 election, when it was easily presumed another Clinton would be a candidate.
Even though Shenon’s book falls short of depicting the commission in full, it nonetheless is likely to have an impact. It may do for the 9/11 Report what Edward J. Epstein’s 1966 book, Inquest, did for the Warren Report—or more accurately, what Inquest did to the reputation of the Warren Commission. Epstein made skepticism of the Warren Commission’s probity mainstream and respectable, as his book inexorably drew attention to forensic irregularities that had been swept under the rug rather than frankly explained. The poor decisions there were traceable to Chief Justice Earl Warren, whose self-regard was such that he did not think that due investigative process (such as an independent examination of the autopsy X-rays and photographs by forensic experts) needed to be followed. If Earl Warren and his fellow commissioners affirmed a fact, well, by God, the American public would surely accept it as true.
But elision left the Warren Commission vulnerable to Epstein’s thesis: that the Warren Report was an exercise in delivering a politically palatable version of what happened, rather than the absolute truth. The commission never recovered its reputation after the controversies that erupted in 1966—nine years before it became undeniable that the CIA had withheld information from the panel about its attempts to assassinate Castro.
The parallel with Shenon’s book is not exact; for one, there is not the outstanding question of “whodunit,” notwithstanding all the Oliver Stone-like conspiracy theories about the Bush administration. Still, the revelations contained in The Commission are bound to have a negative effect on the public’s perception of that panel. Few readers will come away from Shenon’s account of the inner workings believing that Zelikow did not taint the proceedings.
Appearances beget perceptions which do become reality, yet Kean and Hamilton seem to have been curiously impervious to this truism. In their own account of the commission’s investigation, they made several, lofty-sounding remarks about avoiding the Warren Commission’s fate. Unfortunately, they failed to understand that the first ineradicable doubts about that panel arose from self-inflicted mistakes, not because it did not lay its hands on certain CIA documents.
The 9/11 commissioners (excepting Fred Fielding, who is now White House counsel) have issued a statement disputing Shenon’s portrait of Zelikow and defending their executive director’s integrity. This statement is nearly identical to the “Talking Points” Zelikow drafted and distributed to the media once word of Shenon’s book began to seep out. Yet, the former commissioners, no matter what their private regrets now, have no other choice but to close ranks. They forever fused their report and reputations with Zelikow in 2003. And if, as one staff member laments, Shenon’s book means “we won’t even get our five years now,” Tom Kean and Lee Hamilton will have no one to blame but themselves.
As for many 9/11 relatives, their parting lesson in the ways of the capital came when Zelikow became a principal officer at the State Department, shortly after Condoleezza Rice became secretary of state in 2005, despite having received the largest “no” vote of any nominee for that post since 1825.
Zelikow’s appointment was not the only example of what Ralph Nader likes to call Washington’s “deferred bribe syndrome,” but it certainly was one of the more prominent. Little wonder that so many 9/11 relatives are cynical after the unsought civics lesson.
© 2008 by Max Holland
 Following 9/11, relatives of the victims eventually banded together to form the Family Steering Committee (FSC) to press for an independent federal investigation. The FSC was composed of 12 individuals who represented various groups that had been founded in the wake of the attacks, including the “September 11th Advocates” or “Jersey Girls,” as this group of four women (originally) was dubbed by the press. September 11th Advocates is now the primary organization for relatives who remain active.
 Although there was a joint congressional investigation soon after the 9/11 attacks, the interval between September 11 and the commission’s creation—442 days—far exceeded the amount of time that passed between comparable crises and the appointment of a special panel. President Roosevelt appointed the Roberts Commission nine days after the surprise attack at Pearl Harbor, for example, and President Ford appointed the Rockefeller Commission 13 days after the allegations about illegal domestic activities by the CIA appeared in print. Kenneth Kitts, Presidential Commissions & National Security: The Politics of Damage Control (Boulder, CO: Lynne Rienner, 2006), 139.
 Shenon, Commission, 413.
 From December 1998 to December 2003, I worked at the Presidential Recordings Project at the Miller Center of Public Affairs, which Zelikow ran before taking leave in January 2003 to work on the 9/11 panel. At Zelikow’s request, I agreed to be interviewed for a vaguely-described job with the commission. But that position never materialized, though subsequently, I gave an informal talk about presidential commissions to one of the teams. I have also been critical of Zelikow’s scholarship on the Kennedy presidential recordings.
 Shenon, Commission, 61.
 Ibid., 65.
 Judith Miller, “Keeping US No. 1: Is It Wise? Is It New?” NYT, 26 October 2002. Zelikow, who was interviewed by Miller for this article, coyly described the new doctrine as “aggressively opaque” but did not disclose his principal role in drafting it. Other analysts cited by Miller described the new strategy as the “Hertz doctrine” (as in “We’re No. 1”), because it advocated a kind of military superiority not even sustained during the Cold War. Shenon points out that Abraham Sofaer, a Hoover Institution fellow, was the very first outside witness to testify at the 9/11 panel’s first public hearing, which occurred just days after the Bush administration commenced the US invasion of Iraq. At that time, March 2003, it was not public knowledge that Zelikow had authored the strategy paper justifying pre-emption. Sofaer, a former State Department legal adviser, was an unabashed supporter of the new doctrine and even called on the commission to endorse it explicitly. Shenon, Commission,103-104.
 Ibid., 61.
 Ibid. Zelikow tried to make the case to Shenon that the recalibration of Clarke’s role represented continuity rather than a demotion. But that was decidedly not Clarke’s perception, and separate efforts by former Senator Warren Rudman (R-New Hampshire) to warn the president about the terrorist threat were also rebuffed. A contemporaneous remark by Zelikow suggests the mindset at the time. “The two words they [Rice’s NSC staff] use the most often are discipline and strategy,” Zelikow was quoted as telling The New York Times in an article about the new administration’s foreign policy. “It comes out of a sense that the Clinton people were too undisciplined, and they let events drive them . . . [the Bush team is] trying hard to recover choice.” David E. Sanger, “A New View of Where America Fits in the World,” NYT, 18 February 2001. Clarke’s subordination was not personal, in other words, but reflected Rice’s priorities and concept of how she wanted to run the NSC.
 “It was very well-known I had served on this transition team and had declined to go into the administration,” Zelikow told ABC after news of Shenon’s forthcoming book broke in Washington DeCoded. Justin Rood, “Ex-9/11 Panel Chief Denies Secret White House Ties,” ABC News, 30 January 2008. A Lexis-Nexis search, however, turned up only one news story from February 2001 (in The Washington Post) that described the NSC’s reorganization, and Zelikow’s assistance in “organizing the NSC along [Brent] Scowcroft’s lines.” The only mention of what might happen to Richard Clarke’s brief came in the article’s last paragraph. “Still up in the air is what to do with the NSC Office of Transnational Threats, initiated and headed under Clinton by Richard A. Clarke. Clarke has remained in place while the administration decides what to do with the office.” Karen DeYoung and Steven Mufson, “A Leaner and Less Visible NSC; Reorganization Will Emphasize Defense, Global Economics,” WP, 10 February 2001.
 Shenon, Commission, 61.
 Ibid., 169. Marcus, according to Shenon, was not certain that Zelikow had deliberately “blind-sided” the co-chairmen. But Marcus found Zelikow shockingly oblivious to his own conflicts, blinded by ego and ambition, and furious whenever anyone dared question his integrity.
 Rood, “Ex-9/11 Panel Chief Denies Secret White House Ties,” 30 January 2008.
 Lundberg’s study was conducted while the intense experience was still very fresh in mind. It was not adversarial or investigative in nature, and it was sponsored by Harvard history professor Ernest May, a colleague of Zelikow’s brought aboard the 9/11 staff to help write the final report. Kirsten Lundberg, “Piloting a Bipartisan Ship: Strategies and Tactics of the 9/11 Commission,” Case Studies in Public Policy & Management, John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University, 20 October 2005.
 Interview of Lundberg, 13 February 2008.
 Shenon, Commission, 323.
 The final report read, “But to date we have seen no evidence that these or earlier contacts ever developed into a collaborative operational relationship. Nor have we seen evidence indicating that Iraq cooperated with al Qaeda in developing or carrying out any attacks against the United States.” 9/11 Report, 66.
 Shenon, Commission, 393.
 Rood, “Ex-9/11 Panel Chief Denies Secret White House Ties,” 30 January 2008.
 It’s entirely possible that Zelikow only decided to accept the job as executive director after learning that he would not be leading an investigation that promised to doom the Bush administration by uncovering “smoking gun”-quality documents in the President’s Daily Briefs (PDBs) or NSC records. In the Kennedy School case study, Zelikow talked openly about sounding out then chief of staff Andrew Card and Condoleezza Rice in December 2002/January 2003—before he agreed to take the job. Shenon’s emphasis on Zelikow’s alleged surreptitious communications while he was executive director may be misplaced, because the most important information exchange with Rice probably occurred earlier, in December/January. See Lundberg, “Piloting a Bipartisan Ship,” 9-10.
 Judging from their book, Kean and Hamilton (and their ghostwriter) were remarkably ignorant about the work of the Warren Commission. They wrote, “ . . . the Warren Commission convinced us of the need to clearly reference our sources. The Warren Commission . . . . had this problem: probably good conclusions, but the reader couldn’t tell where they were coming from. If we were going to write a definitive historical account, every fact and conclusion in the report had to be easily referenced to its source—which is why we ended up with two hundred pages of endnotes.” Thomas H. Kean and Lee H. Hamilton with Benjamin Rhodes, Without Precedent: The Inside Story of the 9/11 Commission (New York: Knopf, 2006), 29. Not only does the Warren Report have 62 pages of notes in agate type, but that commission also provided all the referenced documents in 26 supplementary volumes, along with thousands more un-footnoted documents.
 Epstein’s conclusion read, “In establishing its version [emphasis added] of the truth, the Warren Commission acted to reassure the nation and protect the national interest.” Edward J. Epstein, Inquest: The Warren Commission and the Establishment of Truth (New York: Viking, 1966), 154.
 “For decades, the Warren Commission’s findings have been poked and prodded by conspiracy theorists, in large measure because the commission is not perceived as having had full access to the most secretive materials in the government.” Kean and Hamilton, Without Precedent, 25. This assertion is both true and ahistorical. Also, it could easily be argued that the analogy Kean, Hamilton, and Zelikow used to justify the 9/11 Commission’s access to the PDBs was false. The Warren Commission was charged with investigating the murder of President Kennedy in lieu of a trial of the alleged assassin, Lee Harvey Oswald. It was not tasked with investigating US foreign policy, either overt or covert, and had no obligation to do so until and unless Oswald could be tied to a hostile power. By contrast, the PDBs were part and parcel of the 9/11 Commission’s legislative mandate from the outset, and failure to gain access to them would have turned the 9/11 Report into a whitewash.
SOURCE: Zachary M. Schrag at http://institutionalreviewblog (2-2-08)
In response to the October 2007 announcement in the Federal Register calling for comments about the existing guidance on expedited review, oral historians and their allies have flooded OHRP with complaints about IRB review of oral history and requests for an unambiguous exemption.
As the original announcement noted, comments sent in response to Federal Register notices are a public record. Mr. Glen Drew and Ms. Toni Goodwin of OHRP kindly sent me copies of all 65 comments on expedited review. Of these, 38 commented on oral history or folklore, with all but one of those seeking exclusion for such research.
The comments came from a wide range of scholars. University historians ranged in rank from graduate students to chaired professors. Non-university historians included those working for federal and state agencies and for private companies. Historians of science and medicine—among those most familiar with the medical research that led to the current regulatory scheme—were particularly vocal. The American Historical Association weighed in against IRB review—reversing its 1998 stance—as did the American Association for the History of Medicine, the American Folklore Society, and the Society of American Archivists. Scholars in sociology, English, psychology, medicine, and American studies also called for oral history's exclusion from IRB jurisdiction, as did one IRB chair.
These scholars' complaints about IRB review of oral history will be familiar to those who have followed this controversy. Many noted IRBs' demands that scholars submit questions to be approved in advance, a practice that outrages oral historians who pride themselves on their ability to improvise questions in response to their research and the stories they hear.
Of the 38 comments, only one did not condemn IRB jurisdiction over oral history. Yet even that comment, by Claytee White of the Oral History Research Center at UNLV, does not endorse IRB review as practiced at most universities. Rather, White notes that she spends only 15 minutes clearing each project, suggesting blanket approval for her work rather than the project-by-project review that is the focus of most complaints.
The comments acknowledge that"memory can be painful," but they also point out that"historians are professionally obliged to ask our interview partners probing questions independent of the benefit or harm for the interviewee." Because they do not expect IRBs to understand this, historians—and the IRB chair—suggest that other oral historians would be better equipped to judge oral history projects than IRBs with few or no historians as members.
The scholars do not think IRB members mean-hearted, just hopelessly unfamiliar with the practice of oral history."University IRBs do not have the necessary background to appreciate that oral history research is different from other research involving human subjects," wrote one. Nor do they expect this to change. A historian of medicine notes that"as long as IRB members are active, overworked faculty volunteering their time, they will be unable to track the nuances of a style of research they see very rarely."
For this reason, the historians do not seek modification of the current system, but an unambiguous removal of oral history from IRB jurisdiction. At least 14 comments, including the American Historical Association's, endorsed the 2006 recommendation of the American Association of University Professors"that research on autonomous adults whose methodology consists entirely in collecting data by surveys, conducting interviews, or observing behavior in public places, be exempt from the requirement of IRB review—straightforwardly exempt, with no provisos, and no requirement of IRB approval of the exemption."
As I noted in my own comment, the present guidance was adopted in 1998 in response to six comments about oral history, one of which included the American Historical Association's endorsement of oral history's inclusion on the list of methods eligible for expedited review. Now that the AHA and 36 others have called for the wholesale exclusion of oral history from IRB review, I hope OHRP will be as responsive as its predecessor was a decade ago.
Here are excerpts from the comments on oral history in PDF form.
SOURCE: http://www.thestate.com (2-12-08)
When he retired in 1985, Hollis described to a writer for The State a 47-year “love affair” with USC, including 38 years on its history faculty.
Hollis was buried Sunday at Elmwood Cemetery and Gardens in Columbia.
His contribution for the ages was his two-volume history of the university, which was the first state-chartered, fully state supported college in the nation in 1801.
The two books are: “University of South Carolina : South Carolina College, Volume 1” and “University of South Carolina: College to University, Eighteen Sixty-Five to Nineteen Fifty-Six.”
Elizabeth West, the university archivist, said the books are “the standard” for researching the institution.
“Any time a student is researching the history of the university, I send them to the Hollis volumes,” West said.
SOURCE: http://www.gainesville.com (2-9-08)
Justin McCarthy, a history professor a the University of Louisville, was greeted by applause in a half-full University Auditorium and spoke about his research on what others say was genocide against the Armenian people during World War I.
Armenians cannot claim that the Ottoman Empire's intention was genocide because it is clear from his research that the Armenians fought back during the war and even formed guerrilla armies, McCarthy said.
"The Ottomans were defending themselves against this guerrilla war," he said. "The Armenians cut the Ottomans' telegraph lines and revolted when the military came into their towns."
When the Ottomans attempted to relocate the Armenians, Armenians raised up against their own government, McCarthy told the crowd.
McCarthy argued that the relocation of the Armenians was justified because the Ottomans feared them after they sided with their enemy, Russia.
"Lives were lost during the deportation, but the Ottomans never intended to kill the Armenians," McCarthy said.
SOURCE: Dissent (2-1-08)
But when I first arrived at the Alameda County Superior Courthouse, located in what was the gritty area of downtown Oakland in the late 1980s, I had little desire to serve on a criminal trial. I simply assumed that no sane assistant D.A. would accept me as a member of a jury because I was a professor, a Berkeley resident, and a lifelong liberal activist.
Turns out I was wrong. The young assistant D.A., impeccably dressed for success, immediately established that I was a professor of American history at the University of California, as well as a liberal who had lived in Berkeley for decades. I was sure I would be home within the hour. Then, she looked me straight in the eye and asked, “If I can convince you that a person recklessly endangered people driving under the influence of alcohol, would you be willing to convict such a defendant?” I hesitated, thought about it for a long moment, answered truthfully, and said, “Yes, I would do that.”
Suddenly, I was serving on my first trial. As we listened to the witnesses’ testimonies, the evidence was overwhelming. The white-haired, elderly African-American man who now sat in the courtroom casually dressed in mismatched pants and jacket had left a party, driven his truck down a hill, careened across the street, and smashed into a telephone pole. Several neighbors had witnessed the spectacle. When the police arrived, he could not walk a straight line. The breathalyzer test made them wonder how he was able to stand upright. He wasn’t just driving under the influence. He was stone drunk.
As we filed into a stuffy, dim room to discuss the evidence, we sat around a long table that reminded me of the film Twelve Angry Men. But we were not twelve white men. The jury included ten individuals from ethnic and racial minorities. Half of us were women. One man immediately pointed at me and said I should be the forelady because I was a professor and probably knew how to do these things. The rest immediately agreed. I accepted, not sure I really knew “how to do these things.”...
After living with each other for two days, we returned to the jury box with the invisible bonds we had forged inside the jury room. The judge asked if we had reached a verdict. I stood up, looked at the rheumy eyes of the defendant, and reluctantly told the judge that we had indeed reached a unanimous decision.
The judge thanked us with considerable graciousness and, before he dismissed us, he acknowledged how hard this case must have been for all of us.
I had a queasy feeling as I left the courthouse. “He shouldn’t go to prison,” I muttered to myself. “He desperately needs help.” But then I thought of the kids who had been playing on that street and how his truck might have hit one of them instead of a pole.
I had missed a lecture and a seminar that week. But I knew I had been profoundly transformed by this experience. True, I had marched in endless protests for civil rights and against the Vietnam War and cast votes every year. But I had never experienced democracy in such a direct and profound way. I had sat with eleven other citizens for two days. Together we had wrestled with tough moral and legal decisions, and when we parted, it was with genuine affection and respect.
As I walked down the stairs of the courthouse, the assistant D.A caught up with me. “Why did you risk putting me on a jury?” I asked her. She smiled. “Because I believed you and, the truth is, it was my first trial.”
"Senior investigators on the 9/11 Commission believed their work was being manipulated by the executive director to minimize criticism of the Bush Administration," according to a new book on the Commission.
"Investigative staffers at the Commission believe [executive director] Philip Zelikow repeatedly sought to minimize the administration's intelligence failures in the months leading up to 9/11, which had the effect of helping to ensure President Bush's re-election in 2004," no less.
That is the sensational thesis of "The Commission: The Uncensored History of the 9/11 Investigation" by New York Times reporter Philip Shenon.
The claim was immediately disputed by the former Commissioners and by former staff.
"The author is mistaken in his criticism of the role of Executive Director Philip Zelikow. The proper standard for judgment is the quality of the report, and there is no basis for the allegations of bias he asserts," according to a February 8 statement issued jointly by the Commissioners (except White House counsel Fred Fielding).
Michael Hurley, a Commission staff member who led the team on counterterrorism policy, concurred in an email message to Secrecy News.
"The Shenon book depicts Philip Zelikow as a manager who bullied the 9/11 Commission staff. He didn't bully the staff. Zelikow assembled a stellar group of independent-minded professionals, many of whom had substantial and distinguished careers in their fields. They were not the sort who could be bullied or manipulated," said Mr. Hurley, a former CIA operations officer who served in Afghanistan after September 11.
"No piece of evidence, no matter how damning to Bush, Rice, or Richard Clarke got left on the cutting room floor," he added.
Mr. Shenon's engaging book provides new details on the efforts of former national security adviser Sandy Berger to destroy documents at the National Archive; the discovery of a highly classified Memorandum of Notification authorizing the killing of Osama bin Laden that was signed by President Clinton on December 24, 1998 then modified a few months later for reasons that remain obscure; John Ashcroft's attempt to embarrass Commissioner Jamie Gorelick, which had the unintended effect of unifying the Commission; and lots of interesting, gossipy details about the internal dynamics of the Commission, some of which, as noted, have been disputed.
Last week, Mr. Shenon posted his extensive email exchanges with Mr. Zelikow on the book's web site (www.thecommissionbook.com). Mr. Zelikow also released almost the identical material, in slightly different format and with a bit of material not included by Mr. Shenon (such as a memo sent to Walter Pincus of the Washington Post regarding a paper by Paul Pillar). The Zelikow release is here.
In either version, Zelikow's detailed messages, which are neither defensive nor vindictive, tend to deflate the more breathless allegations of his critics, and add a dimension of understanding to the Commission report and its public reception.
"One of the most neglected observations in the report was in our section comparing the Millenium period (end 1999) with the 'summer of threat' in 2001," Mr. Zelikow wrote to Mr. Shenon on September 20, 2007 in a passage that was not included in the book.
"We made the point there that the main driver in all the attention in the earlier period was the massive publicity surrounding the Ressam arrest. [Ahmed Ressam was convicted of plotting to bomb Los Angeles International Airport on New Year's Eve 1999.] We contrasted that with the muffling secrecy of Summer 2001."
"Imagine what might have happened if the Moussaoui arrest had gotten the kind of publicity and extended coverage that accompanied the Ressam arrest. We had evidence from [Khalid Sheikh Mohammed] that, had he known of the Moussaoui arrest, he might have cancelled the operation," Mr. Zelikow wrote.