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Reviewed for H-CivWar by Craig Buettinger, Department of History, Jacksonville University
Since the 1960s, Lincoln scholarship has particularly focused on his thoughts and policies about emancipation and race. Lincoln was no alabaster Great Emancipator. Indeed, some scholars argue he was a white supremacist, faintly committed to black freedom, barely distinguishable from the likes of Stephen A. Douglas. Lincoln's defenders argue he was a progressive on racial matters who proceeded cautiously given the racism of the electorate, often cloaking his goals in conservative, nationalist, or pragmatic garb. The foreword and seven essays in this volume address this debate.
In the foreword, Allen C. Guelzo offers parameters for determining whether a person is a racist. He identifies dishonor and enmity as the fundamental components of the racist mind, and personal, social, and institutional racism as the forms it can take. Briefly reviewing Lincoln's career, Guelzo argues Lincoln was not a racist on the grounds that he harbored no personal hostility toward blacks, disbelieved in innate inferiority, and, by 1864, albeit hesitantly, struck at social and institutional racism by setting aside the goal of colonization and advocating broadened voting rights and education in his reconstruction plan.
As Kenneth J. Winkle's study of the pre-presidential years makes clear, Lincoln's beliefs that slavery was morally wrong and that all men are entitled to basic "natural rights" set him apart from mainstream attitudes in Illinois. Winkle presents a wealth of new details on race relations in Springfield, observing that "Lincoln rose above the deepest prejudices he encountered" (p. 10), although his views shared or yielded to the racism in part. Lincoln did not advocate full equality for blacks and saw benefits to colonization. Winkle concludes that Lincoln's perception of the nation as a "House Divided" drew not only on great public events but also what he had seen of race relations at home in Springfield.
Phillip S. Paludan's essay analyzes several documents from 1862--Lincoln's public letter to Horace Greeley, his colonization proposals, and his colonization plea to a delegation of black leaders--that critics use to depict Lincoln as no true emancipator at all, but acting solely from base, racist motives. Paludan argues that each position was more complex than that. Paludan has no patience for works he considers reductionist, blind to context and timing. Lincoln's statement to Greeley, that his priority was to save the Union whether it required freeing none, some, or all the slaves, was a stroke to prepare public opinion for the emancipation step he had already decided upon but not yet announced. Lincoln proposed voluntary colonization only, never deportation, and his growing interest in black troops would provide blacks a way to ensure their right to stay.
The essay by Kevin R. C. Gutzman amounts to a reply to Paludan. In "Abraham Lincoln, Jeffersonian: The Colonization Chimera," Gutzman compares Jefferson's and Lincoln's mutual advocacy of colonization. Neither envisioned emancipation of the slaves without planning for colonization too. As Gutzman articulates, both men reasoned that intractable white prejudice foreclosed the possibility of equality for the freedmen; both had doubts about the ability of ex-slaves to improve themselves. So, as Lincoln said to the delegation of black leaders in 1862, the races had best be separated. Gutzman challenges the prevalent thesis among Lincoln scholars that the president used colonization as a ploy to prepare the public for his emancipation measures. He demands that Lincoln, like Jefferson, be taken at his word, without divining unstated stratagems. Gutzman also questions the accepted argument that Lincoln in his final two years abandoned his belief in colonization. Lincoln did cease to advocate colonization to the public, but Gutzman figures colonization was a moot point during the war and that Lincoln would have come back to it afterwards, and really was, like Jefferson, a lifelong colonizationist.
Lincoln's belief in natural rights to which all are entitled is the subject of James N. Leiker's essay. The concept of natural rights inherent at birth went back to John Locke. To Lincoln, the Declaration of Independence enumerated these rights--life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. In the nineteenth century, this Enlightenment outlook faced the rise of systemic racism that denied blacks humanity. As Leiker states, "Racial dialogue in Lincoln's time boiled down to a debate as to whether nonwhites met the criteria for natural rights laid out by the Enlightenment" (p. 90). Leiker tracks Lincoln's route through the crosscurrents of the race and color issues of the day to Lincoln's conclusion that the promises of the Declaration transcended ancestry. In the end, Leiker finds Lincoln open to criticism for respecting slavery where it existed; protected, said Lincoln, by the Constitution. In natural rights theory, political structures exist to defend natural rights. Logically, Lincoln should have concluded that natural rights trumped constitutional protections.
In "Abraham Lincoln, Emancipation, and the Supreme Court," Brian R. Dirck convincingly explicates Lincoln's mix of emancipation proposals in 1862 as the unified strategy of a trial lawyer. Lincoln approached emancipation along two tracks in 1862. He pressured Congress and the border states to enact programs of gradual, compensated emancipation. He declared slaves free in the Emancipation Proclamation, but excluded those in the border states and occupied areas of the Confederacy. To critics, these policies struck no direct moral blow against the evil of slavery and basically freed no one. In defense of these less than resounding blows to slavery, historians have previously argued that Lincoln had to take politics into account, doing what he could for freedom without driving voters to the Democrats. Dirck adds another context: the threat of the Taney court. Lincoln could count on proslavery Taney to exalt property rights, as he did in _Dred Scott_, and deny executive powers, as he ruled in _Merryman_. Readily envisioning a test case making its way before the Court, Lincoln constructed his policies accordingly. His insistence on compensation and the exemption of areas not in rebellion were legal maneuvers to thwart any antiemancipation decision that would revitalize slavery. As Allen C. Guelzo aptly comments in the foreword to this volume, Lincoln was determined to make emancipation "Taney-proof" (p. x).
Michael Vorenberg calls attention to the emphasis Lincoln placed on education for the freedmen. After he issued the Emancipation Proclamation, Lincoln came to view colonization as untenable, but the concern that underlay his colonization convictions remained. Former slaves would become "a laboring, landless, and homeless class" (p. 120), a drag on society. Replacing colonization, education became Lincoln's vision for the freedmen. Inspired by David Herbert Donald's classic essay, "Abraham Lincoln: A Whig in the White House," Vorenberg theorizes that Lincoln focused on education because of his Whig world view, in which schools were as important as internal improvements and presidential restraint. Lincoln, surmises Vorenberg, would agree with reparations advocates today who seek federal funding of educational opportunities for African Americans, robbed of education during centuries of bondage.
"All Politics are Local: Emancipation in Missouri," Dennis K. Boman's case study of emancipation politics in Missouri, explains Lincoln's lack of success in getting border states to act on his proposals. An intensely divided polity, Missouri was a border state where Lincoln's proposals went to linger or die, proving Lincoln's own observation that "I claim not to have controlled events, but confess plainly that events have controlled me" (p. 154). The essay moves the focus off Lincoln, creating an instructive counterpoint to the other essays in this volume.
With Gutzman in dissent, this volume takes the side that Lincoln was a progressive thinker who necessarily trimmed his policies to get by the societal racism, the Chief Justice, and the proslavery, border-state Unionists. In a secondary way, the book evaluates Jefferson, too. Whereas Gutzman aligns Lincoln with Jefferson, several authors distance Lincoln from Jefferson. Paludan concludes that Lincoln differed from Jefferson by advocating voluntary, not forced, colonization. Vorenberg concludes that Lincoln differed by thinking blacks capable of self-improvement. It's interesting to reflect that the value of Lincoln's stock as a racial egalitarian depends on his distance from Jefferson, whose stock is flat.
. For a current point and counterpoint of this debate, see Lerone Bennett, _Forced into Glory: Abraham Lincoln's White Dream_ (Chicago: Johnson Publishing Company, 1999), and James M. McPherson's review, "Lincoln the Devil," _New York Times_ (August 27, 2000).
. David Donald, _Lincoln Reconsidered: Essays on the Civil War Era_, second ed. (New York: Vintage Books, 1961), 187-208.
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To develop the somewhat eclectic vision of Guthrie, Jackson draws upon the approximately 2,000 songs contained in the New York offices of the Woody Guthrie Foundation; a collection employed by Billy Bragg and Wilco for the popular Mermaid Avenue recordings. Marking extensive use of these song lyrics, Jackson is able to enhance our understanding of Guthrie’s ideas beyond the biographical approach of Joe Klein and Ed Cray. Unlike music critic Dave Marsh who, in his 1990 collection of Guthrie writings Pastures of Plenty, concludes that the folksinger had no coherent political philosophy, Jackson maintains that Guthrie combined elements of socialism, communism, Christianity, populism, and the trade union movement to develop his vision that people should “come together for the greater good of all” (251). Thus, the singer was hardly the narrow ideologue which some detractors claim.
To make his case, Jackson begins with the Guthrie composition best known by most Americans, “This Land is Your Land.” Jackson argues persuasively that Guthrie’s ideas for this popular song were deradicalized in the post World War II period by ignoring the verses which challenged notions of private property as well as the historical context in which the song was written. Originally entitled “God Blessed America” and written in opposition to what Guthrie considered to be the narrow nationalism of Irving Berlin’s “God Bless America,” the folksinger questioned whether America was living up to the promise of the American dream. While in the post 9/11 world “God Bless America” has emerged as a new anthem in many ball parks, an alternative perception of America and the world is provided by artists incorporating all of Guthrie’s lyrics into their covers of “This Land is Your Land.”
Although Guthrie was born into a middle-class Oklahoma family, the Guthries suffered through financial and personal setbacks, and Woody ended up living with relatives in Pampa, Texas. While living in the Texas Panhandle, Guthrie witnessed the devastation of the Dust Bowl, joining the migrant pilgrimage to California in 1936 searching for new opportunities. Jackson chronicles how Guthrie’s experiences with the “Okie” migrants radicalized his political thinking and song writing, which began to focus upon themes of inequality and exploitation of farmers by banks and business interests. After moving to New York City in 1940, performing with the Almanac Singers, and working briefly with the Bonneville Power Administration, Guthrie’s repertoire of laboring songs expanded well beyond that of agricultural workers.Jackson also documents the evolution of Guthrie’s racial consciousness. Initially, he internalized many of the prejudices of his native Southwest in the early twentieth century. His travels and work with such black artists as Huddy Ledbetter, however, broadened Guthrie’s perspective. During the 1940s, the singer wrote numerous tunes denouncing Jim Crow and lynching. His classic “Deportee” (1948) makes connections between the plight of Oklahoma migrants and Mexican laborers in the United States.
Displaying respect for folk traditions, Guthrie’s songs often celebrated social bandits, such as Jesse James, who ostensibly robbed from the rich and supported the poor in the best Robin Hood fashion. Guthrie expanded this tradition by recording ballads championing contemporary outlaws such as Pretty Boy Floyd. Nevertheless, Guthrie recognized that individual acts of banditry would not alter social conditions. His solution to inequality is contained in the concept of union upon which Guthrie elaborated in numerous songs. By union Guthrie meant something broader than traditional labor organization, whose formation and goals he also supported. Jackson concludes that in his vision of union Guthrie included a coming together of all people—“regardless of race, religion, sex, politics, and class” (257)—to right the wrongs of society and create a better world. Perhaps a little naive, but certainly a cause worth the struggle.
Jackson’s argument is convincing, although he might be too quick to discount Woody’s class consciousness. Was there really room for bankers, racists, and profiteers, whom Guthrie associated with fascism, in his one big union? But paying more attention to the song writer’s class consciousness certainly does not make Guthrie into some narrow-minded ideologue or Stalinist. Jackson is on target in acknowledging the diverse sources of Guthrie’s thought, although he might expand upon Guthrie’s views of Christian socialism which are perhaps not so “particular” as Jackson surmises. The author recognizes that Guthrie was often inconsistent when it came to issues of gender inequality. He could write wonderful songs such as “Union Maid,” but Guthrie was also a womanizer. This is a complicated arena in which ideas of sexual exploitation often collide with sexual liberation, and Guthrie’s attitudes regarding women and sexuality are worthy of additional study—especially within the context of Guthrie’s post World War II family relationships.
Mark Allan Jackson makes a valuable contribution to the understanding of Woody Guthrie’s life and legacy, but there are still plenty of veins worth exploring in the rich deposits of music which Guthrie left us before Huntington’s chorea prematurely silenced his voice.
Michael Barone is a distinguished political analyst, commentator, journalist, and occasional historian, the author of two books on recent American history. He has now ventured on a subject that is more than three centuries and a full continent removed from his normal habitat. Even more venturesome, he is invading the turf of professional historians, including the most venerable and awesome of them all, Thomas Babington Macaulay. Barone's present work is not only on the subject Macaulay made his own, the English Revolution of 1688-89--on a much, much smaller scale, to be sure; Barone's fewer than 250 pages of text compared with Macaulay's five volumes, each more than twice that length--it is also (and this is no less daring) in the narrative mode of Macaulay's work.
In academia today, narrative history is as unfashionable as Macaulay himself. It is said to "privilege" political events over the social and economic forces that truly drive history, and, worse still, to privilege the individuals and elites that happen to dominate politics over the "anonymous" masses that are, or should be, the proper subjects of history--"history from below," as is said. The public has no such qualms. The histories that grace the bestseller lists are, for the most part, narratives, written by nonacademics and a few dissident academics. Barone's book is unashamedly and unapologetically in this genre. It is a detailed chronological narrative of the events (political, diplomatic, military) and the individuals (high-born and high-powered) that contributed to the English Revolution --a tale well told.
The title Our First Revolution is doubly provocative. "Our" refers not to England (whose revolution is the subject of the book) but to America, for whom 1688-89 was, according to Barone, the "founding event." But he makes it "their"--England's--"first revolution" as well, denying that distinction to the dramatic (revolutionary, one might think) events of 1641-60, complete with a regicide, a republic, radical ideologies, and massive deaths. Barone cites the astonishing statistics: 190,000 deaths in England, 3.7 percent of the population, a higher proportion than in either World War I or World War II; 60,000 in Scotland, 6 percent of the population; and 660,000 in Ireland, 41 percent of the population! (These figures include deaths from disease and starvation as well as battle casualties.) This is the first of the many curiosities that enliven this book: the bestowing of the term revolution, as an honorific, to a brief and relatively bloodless affair, the "Glorious Revolution," rather than to the prolonged and bloody period known as the "Civil War."
Another curiosity is the crucial role played by foreign affairs and foreign powers in this English Revolution, so that a good part of the narrative takes us abroad to the Netherlands and France. If religion was the primary cause of the revolution--James II's attempts to subvert the Church of England by suspending the penal laws against Catholics and appointing them to public office (he himself having been converted to Catholicism long before he became king)--the exacerbating factor was his alliance with Catholic France in the war against the Protestant Netherlands. It was the need to finance the war that gave Parliament the opportunity to support the Church, challenge the king, and thus play into the hands of William of Orange, the ruler of the Netherlands. William had every interest in joining the fray. First, because of the war itself, which had a religious as well as an imperial dimension (the Netherlands, with a population one-tenth that of France, was the only Protestant power to resist Catholic France); and not incidentally because, as the husband of Mary Stuart, James's daughter, he had good reason to aspire to the throne of England.
Or at least, he had good reason to do so until June 1688 when, three years after James II's ascension to the throne, the queen gave birth to a son, thus displacing Mary (and William) as the presumptive heir. In England, Parliament and Protestants had even more cause for anxiety as they contemplated a succession of Catholic monarchs. (The deaths in infancy of the queen's earlier children and her repeated miscarriages fanned rumors that the new child was "suppositious," not really the queen's.) Six months later, William, abetted by the Whigs and even some Tories, invaded England. After feeble and futile attempts to ward off the invasion (Barone's chapter is called "The Civil War that Did Not Happen"), James took refuge in France with the queen and child. He returned once in a brief attempt to rally his forces, and when that failed, escaped again--with William's connivance, it was thought.
By mid-December William was installed in St. James's Palace. Three months later, after repeated compromises by both Houses, and the intervention of William himself, Parliament issued and William agreed to what became known as the "Declaration of Rights," which set down the conditions under which William and Mary became king and queen. That Declaration, officially passed as a statute with royal approval in December 1689, bore the title "An Act Declaring the Rights and Liberties of the Subject, and Settling the Succession of the Crown." It itemized the dozen ways in which James had tried to "subvert and extirpate the Protestant religion and the laws and liberties of this kingdom." Some involved the usurpation of Parliament's rights: suspending and executing laws, levying money, keeping a standing army and quartering soldiers, creating an ecclesiastical commission, all without the consent of Parliament.
Others were violations of individual rights: disarming Protestants and arming Papists, violating the freedom of parliamentary elections, abusing the judicial system, exacting excessive fines, and imposing illegal and cruel punishments. Another list asserted the "ancient rights and liberties" of Parliament; these were essentially the obverse of the abuses.
James, the Declaration made clear, had not only acted "utterly and directly contrary to the known laws and statutes and freedom of this realm," he had also "abdicated the government," making the throne "thereby vacant." That vacancy was thus filled by the Prince of Orange, whom "it hath pleased Almighty God to make the glorious instrument of delivering this kingdom from popery and arbitrary power." (This may be the inspiration for the term "Glorious Revolution," which came into usage almost immediately.) The Declaration went on to specify the line of succession: William and Mary were to have the crown during their lifetimes, after which it would pass to the queen's heirs and, in default of such heirs, to her sister Anne and her heirs. Only in the lack of the latter would it revert to the offspring of William (from a second marriage). Thus, the House of Orange was installed in England, but only partially and temporarily. It was in accord with these terms that, on William's death in 1702, Anne Stuart succeeded to the throne.
Reading Barone's account of the events leading up to the Declaration, and reading the document itself in the appendix, one might conclude that if the military phase of the revolution was a "civil war that did not happen," so the parliamentary phase might suggest a "revolution that did not happen." The Declaration echoed the assertions made in and out of Parliament that James had "abdicated." He had not been deposed, let alone executed (as Charles I had been in 1649). The statements of grievances and rights were couched in terms of "known laws" and "ancient rights and liberties." Again, it was James who had violated those laws and Parliament that was affirming old rights, not claiming new ones (certainly nothing like natural rights). And it was not religious liberty but a Church establishment that was being defended against James. In a sense, it was James who was promoting religious liberty by opening the door to Catholics and even Dissenters. Finally, the new regime itself was not really new; Mary was, after all, James II's daughter, a legitimate Stuart, and William was co-monarch only because he was Mary's husband.
This was the revolution--a restoration more than a revolution--that Edmund Burke so eloquently memorialized. On the centenary of the English Revolution, in the shadow of the French Revolution that had just taken place--a revolution that was indeed a revolution--Burke was moved to reflect upon his country's very different revolution. Quoting the title of the English Declaration, he italicized the words "settling" and "succession." The rights and succession, he pointed out, were "declared in one body, and bound indissolubly together."
Against those of his own countrymen (Richard Price, most notably, but his remarks apply to Thomas Paine as well) who were celebrating the English Revolution as having given the people the right to "choose our own governors, to cashier them for misconduct, and to form a government for ourselves"--in effect, to "elect our kings" --Burke insisted that the English had, in fact, renounced that right "for themselves, and for all their posterity for ever." The Revolution was "a parent of settlement, and not a nursery of future revolutions." It was made "to preserve our ancient indisputable laws and liberties, and that ancient constitution of government which is our only security for law and liberty" ("ancient," again, italicized). This was the "pedigree of our liberties" which had come down to the English as an "inheritance," a "hereditary title"--an "entailed inheritance," moreover, that they could not abdicate.
Burke's name does not appear in Barone's book--for good reason. Burke's revolution is not Barone's because the latter sees it in the context not of the French Revolution but of the American Revolution. And for the Americans, it was a revolution, their first revolution. In one sense, even in this reading, the American Revolution would appear to be a conservative revolution. The Americans were only claiming the rights and liberties that were theirs by virtue of their English heritage. They were abiding by the settlement of 1688; it was the English Parliament, having become corrupt and tyrannical, that was violating that settlement. Yet in appealing to that settlement, Barone claims, the Americans were affirming the principle that was revolutionary for England and for America alike: the principle of "parliamentary sovereignty, which is to say representative government."
Oddly enough, in spite of the title, the American Revolution occupies little space in the book: the opening paragraphs in which the English Revolution appears as a "glowing example" for the American Founders (as it was also a "founding event" for the British) and half-a-dozen pages toward the end where the settlement is said to provide a "template for the colonial rebels." Apart from the crucial idea of parliamentary sovereignty, the English Declaration of Rights, Barone points out, inspired key provisions of the American Bill of Rights: Amendments about the bearing of arms, the quartering of troops, searches and seizures, self-incrimination, jury trials, and cruel and unusual punishments--but nothing, he adds, about freedom of religion, freedom of expression, or freedom of the press.
"The new nation would have no monarchy or titled nobility, no religious tests for public office, and no national established church," writes Barone. He does not mention other not inconsiderable departures from the English model, such as a written constitution and a system of checks and balances designed precisely to limit parliamentary sovereignty. Nor does he mention the Federalist Papers, which encapsulate so much of the spirit and substance of the American Revolution and for which there was no equivalent in England.
Most conspicuously, the English model differed from the American on the subject of religion. If the English settlement was "a step forward for religious liberty," as Barone says, it was, as he also makes clear, "a very limited advance," certainly not religious liberty as the Americans understood it. The Toleration Act of 1689 removed the penalties imposed on those Dissenters who accepted the Trinity but did not attend Church of England services, but it did not admit even them to public office, and it retained the penalties for non-Trinitarians. (Not until the mid-19th century were the restrictions on Catholics, Dissenters, and Jews lifted.)
In two other areas, Barone attributes to the English a revolutionary impact upon America and the world. These emerged not in the revolution itself but in its aftermath. They were, as the title of his final chapter puts it, "Revolutionary Reverberations." Both were outcomes of the war with France that William pursued so energetically during much of the 1690s. The first was financial: the funding of the national debt and the establishment of the Bank of England, which enabled England to finance the war and had the more important result of making London the financial center of Europe (supplanting, ironically, Amsterdam, William's first domain). A century later Alexander Hamilton "consciously followed the example" of the English and adopted the same measures, to equally good effect, in America. (But he could have taken his example from the Dutch, who had established both the funded debt and the national bank almost a century earlier than the English.)
The second was the foreign policy implicit in the war. William may have waged the war against France partly to advance the cause of Protestantism, but in the process, he introduced a new principle in European affairs, the balance of power "against a hegemonic and tyrannical power," the model for the "anti-hegemonic foreign policy" that has guided both Britain and the United States until the present.
The English Revolution as America's "first revolution"--it is an intriguing idea and has caught the fancy of reviewers and publicists who make it sound as if that is the dominant theme of the book. But it does an injustice to a book that is only peripherally about America and is rather a valuable and most readable contribution to English history. In blessedly short space--short compared not only with Macaulay's five volumes but with most works of history--it depicts the reality of the English Revolution in all its particularity and complexity. This is not "Whig history" in the pejorative sense of that term, a history progressing neatly and assuredly, almost predictably and providentially, to its happy end of liberty, prosperity, and well-being. On the contrary, Barone repeatedly has occasion to remind us how "improbable" that end was. That word appears early in the book where the English Revolution is described as "a tremendously consequential event and a tremendously improbable one," and at the very end where that "improbable Revolution" is seen as "indispensable in bringing into being the world we live in today."
In the course of Our First Revolution we witness again and again the "accidents," "contingencies," and "improbabilities" that went into this fortuitous event. Indeed, the Revolution was so little inevitable, that having improbably happened, it could have been reversed: "Even after William III was installed as King, the success of his Revolution was still contingent. . . . The restoration of the Stuarts remained a lively possibility, and one sought by many in Britain, for more than fifty years after the coronation of William III & Mary II."
Happily, Barone hastens to add, the Revolution did endure.
This is the great virtue of narrative history; it comes as close to the existential reality as any history can. But it has its perils and limitations. It is not easy, in a rigorously chronological account, to make room for ideas that may have been as much the reality of history as laws and wars. John Locke, for example, earns exactly five citations in this book: three passing references to his name, two sentences in which he appears as the mentor of Lord Shaftesbury, the Whig notable, and one long sentence explaining that his Two Treatises of Government, often taken to justify the Revolution, had actually been written in 1683 in response to other events and had not been published until 1690. (Locke wrote it while he was living in the Netherlands, having taken refuge there with Shaftesbury, who had been accused of treason for, among other things, sponsoring legislation to exclude Catholics from the succession.)
But it was Locke himself, not later historians, who fostered the idea that the book was a defense of the Revolution. In the preface written after his return to England early in 1689 (in the company of Mary) he paid tribute to "our Great Restorer, Our present King William," who occupies the throne with "the Consent of the People," and to the People themselves, "whose love of their Just and Natural Rights . . . saved the nation when it was on the very brink of Slavery and Ruin."
Whatever its original intention, the Two Treatises was the most powerful philosophical rationale of the Revolution written at the time (and, probably, since), worthy, at the very least, of appearing in the final chapter together with the other "revolutionary reverberations." Certainly it deserves it for the sake of the American Revolution, where the Lockean ideas of natural rights, the right of property, civil society, the social contract, and the consent of the people played so prominent a part. The book may have been only a justification after the fact of the English Revolution, but it was surely a justification before the fact of the American Revolution. It also bears out Barone's thesis about the relation between the two revolutions. If Locke was not as influential in the American Revolution as some historians have made him out to be, he was influential enough. And he was an important link between the two revolutions--a common denominator, one might say.
There is one other ghost hovering over this book: Macaulay. This is even more curious, because in the acknowledgments at the very end, Barone tells us that 20 years ago, when he decided to write a narrative history (about 20th-century America), he bought, as a model for such a history, the five-volume set of Macaulay's The History of England from the Accession of James II. (The first volume had been published in 1849; the last, posthumously, in 1861.) With no prior knowledge of the period, Barone says, he found it difficult to keep the characters straight. But he was sufficiently interested in the subject to continue to read about it and, finally, to write about it. Yet except for a single three-word quotation from the History (cited by another historian) and a passing mention of his name, Macaulay and those five volumes are entirely missing from this book.
One can think of reasons for this lacuna: the assumption, perhaps, that modern scholarship has made Macaulay's History obsolete. Yet there are frequent quotations from Winston Churchill's book on his ancestor, the Duke of Marlborough (John Churchill), who played an important part in the Revolution; on the same grounds, that book, published in the 1930s, could also be said to have been superseded. Or it may be the disrepute in which Macaulay is now held, his "Whig interpretation of history" having been so thoroughly anathematized.
Yet Macaulay was not as naively or relentlessly Whiggish as he is often made out to be. In his statement of "purpose," in the opening pages of the History, he explained that he would trace the great achievement of the Revolution, the "auspicious union of order and freedom" that had resulted in unprecedented liberty and prosperity, in America as well as England. But he also felt it his duty "faithfully to record disasters mingled with triumphs, and great national crimes and follies far more humiliating than any disaster." As if in anticipation of the later criticism of narrative history as being exclusively political, he announced that he would not treat merely "of battles and sieges, of the rise and fall of administrations, of intrigues in the palace, and of debates in parliament." Instead he would relate the history of the people as well as the history of the government: arts and literature, religion and manners, dress, furniture, amusements, and the like: "I shall cheerfully bear the reproach of having descended below the dignity of history, if I can succeed in placing before the English of the nineteenth century a true picture of the life of their ancestors."
This is, indeed, what he did in his famous third chapter, "The State of England in 1685," over a hundred pages devoted to just those subjects enamored by social historians--population, occupations, the material and cultural conditions of life (roads and lighting, books and newspapers, the arts and sciences) as well as the various classes (agricultural laborers, factory workers, artisans, and paupers) who make up "the common people."
Apart from being an important historical source for the events of the Revolution (properly qualified and revised in the light of later scholarship), Macaulay, like Locke, is part of the history of the Revolution itself, of the national heritage. If, as Barone reminds us, the English Revolution is with us still--if we, in America as in England, enjoy the fruits of that Revolution--it is at least in part because we have inherited it from Macaulay. His bequest, to be sure, comes to us in somewhat tainted form. The fallacy of the "Whig interpretation" is its determinism, the assumption that law and liberty, enlightenment and prosperity, are the necessary and inevitable end-products of history. Today that critique has assumed a postmodernist dimension; it is not only the determinism that is called into question but the values themselves, which are said to be Eurocentric or ethnocentric, racist, sexist, elitist, or otherwise spurious and suspect. To bring Macaulay back into the picture, together with the Revolution that he celebrated (and, for generations of readers, perpetuated) is to reaffirm those values as part of the English and, hence, American tradition.
These are, in fact, the values that Barone derives from the English Revolution. His is Whig history in the best sense, a nondeterministic history that is properly appreciative of all the accidents and contingencies, complexities and idiosyncrasies encountered along the way--an improbable history culminating in that improbable event called, with good reason, the Glorious Revolution.
Encounter Books, the publisher of this provocative and penetrating new book about John F. Kennedy, could scarcely contrive a more apt confirmation of its thesis about the destructive self-delusion of the left than Time's cover package for the week of July 2 on "What We Can Learn from JFK."
"Americans are still trying to figure out nearly a half a century after his abbreviated presidency who Jack Kennedy really was," David Talbot's jejune thumbsucker tells us.
But whoever he was, we know he was great--or at least would have been great had he lived to fulfill his promise as "a man ahead of his time." Talbot faithfully reiterates the family/party line that "there was a heroic grandeur to John F. Kennedy's Administration," adding the latest thinly based revisionism that JFK had in mind a grand strategy to end the Cold War. In a separate piece Robert Dallek reminds us of the second part of liberalism's coda that Kennedy was committed to progress on civil rights, and the manner in which his murder helped propel the Civil Rights Act to passage has lent verisimilitude to the theme that his death amounted to a "martyrdom" for civil rights.
If we are still trying to "figure out" Kennedy after all these years, it is because, James Piereson's book argues, we so grossly distorted him in the aftermath of his death for a variety of confused and debilitating motives.
None of the eight--eight--articles in Time's JFKfest, including the obligatory pro and con on whether his killing was a conspiracy, mentions the one fact that Piereson finds most salient to probing the political effects of JFK's death: JFK was murdered by an ideological Communist.
"The assassination of a popular president by a Communist should have generated a revulsion against everything associated with left wing doctrines," Piereson writes. "Yet something close to the opposite happened. In the aftermath of the assassination, left wing ideas and revolutionary leaders, Marx, Lenin, Mao, and Castro foremost among them, enjoyed a greater vogue in the United States than at any time in our history." Piereson argues convincingly that it was the reaction to the assassination itself, within the mainstream American establishment as well as among liberal intellectuals, that caused liberalism essentially to suffer a nervous breakdown.
That Kennedy was killed at the hands of a Communist should have had a clear and direct meaning: "President Kennedy was a victim of the Cold War." Everyone had reasons for averting their gaze from this fact. For Lyndon Johnson, it would have carried frightful implications for foreign policy if it turned out that Lee Harvey Oswald had links to Castro or the KGB (which Piereson suggests is remotely possible). Liberals didn't want to dwell on this fact for a mix of other reasons. In the early hours after JFK was shot, we didn't yet know of Oswald's Communist background, and the media jumped to the conclusion that Kennedy's killing must have been the work of right-wing extremists. The day after the assassination, James Reston wrote in the New York Times that the assassination was the result of a "streak of violence in the American character" and that "from the beginning to the end of his administration, [Kennedy] was trying to tamp down the violence of extremists from the right."
This "meme," as we would say today, so quickly took hold that it could not be shaken, even after Oswald's noxious background began to come out. Indeed, the notion of collective responsibility would be repeated five years later after Robert Kennedy was murdered by a Communist Arab radical who professed deep hatred for America. Piereson's analysis prompts the thought that the phenomenon of liberal guilt owes it origin to JFK's assassination: "Once having accepted the claim that Kennedy was a victim of the national culture, many found it all too easy to extend the metaphor into other areas of American life, from race and poverty to the treatment of women to the struggle against Communism."
Piereson's discerning eye draws out the debilitating consequence of this: It de-legitimated the great liberal tradition of incremental reform, and robbed liberalism of its optimistic patrimony and belief in progress.
Alongside the idea of the collective guilt of American society, Kennedy's assassination disoriented American liberals in several other ways. "The claim that the far right represented the main threat to progress and democratic order," Piereson writes, "was no longer credible after a Marxist assassinated an American president." In addition, Piereson reminds us of the years prior to JFK's killing, when there was an extensive literature from liberalism's premier intellectuals sneering at the far right's preoccupation with conspiracy. The right's fascination with conspiracy theories, writers like Richard Hofstadter and Daniel Bell thought, was a sign of the unseriousness of conservatism. The obsession with JFK assassination theories--which was done in part to deflect the implications of Oswald's communism--has put the shoe on the other foot: From the Grassy Knoll to Halliburton's role in 9/11, it is now the left that is consumed with conspiracies.
The genius of this book is that Piereson situates his account of the radicalization of liberalism in the 1960s within the long tradition of liberal philosophy going back to the progressive era, and it's worth its price for the second chapter alone, which offers a trenchant synoptic account of the evolution of 20th-century liberalism.
Drawing on the perceptive self-criticism of Lionel Trilling and other mid-century liberal thinkers, Piereson notes that liberalism's rationalist and progressive assumptions were too brittle to survive a tragedy on the scale of Kennedy's assassination. The assassination "seemed to call for some kind of intellectual reconstruction" on the left. Instead, the left lost its mind. As the Time package attests, liberalism still has not come to grips with this, preferring instead to recycle the old themes and regurgitate the conspiracy theories for the umpteenth time.
Piereson was an academic political scientist before becoming the longtime executive director of the John M. Olin Foundation in the 1980s. As is well known (especially on the left), Olin's support for conservative scholarship was instrumental to building a counter-establishment over the last generation. The Olin Foundation, in keeping with the wishes of its founder, closed down and distributed all its funds in 2005. Reading Camelot and the Cultural Revolution, one might have wished it had closed down sooner to release Piereson to write works such as this.
This invaluable work comprises an introduction by the editor followed by nine essays on the highly contentious ending of the Pacific war. The individual essays assembled here display enormous merit, but this work is far more than the sum of its parts: It marks a key milestone in where the controversy has been, and where it is going.
Nearly two decades after the end of the Pacific war, Gar Alperovitz published Atomic Diplomacy: Hiroshima and Potsdam: The Use of the Atomic Bomb and the American Confrontation with Soviet Power. This work upended the prevailing consensus supporting the employment of atomic bombs. The incendiary core of Alperovitz's thesis was that the use of nuclear weapons had nothing to do with ending the war, with an utterly defeated Japan seeking to surrender, and everything to do with intimidating the Soviets. Alperovitz not only ignited a controversy, but insisted that American motives for unleashing the bombs constituted the focal point.
Atomic Diplomacy came outfitted with the appearance of masterly scholarship, and enjoyed tremendous success in convincing scholars who did not specialize in the area, as well as laymen. From the outset, however, relatively few other scholars who actually had waded into the archives--even those who stood on the political left with Alperovitz--accepted his thesis unalloyed. These other scholars differed markedly with Alperovitz's framework and, in many instances, with his scholarship.
In the lead essay by Robert James Maddox, Alperovitz's scholarship is subjected to blunt trauma. Maddox provides a litany of instances where Alperovitz truncated quotations or moved their context in a manner that altered their meaning. For example, Alperovitz quoted Harry Truman as remarking, just eight days after Franklin Roosevelt's death, that he "intended to be firm with the Russians and make no concessions." Truman's actual statement included the additional phrase "from American principles or traditions in order to win their favor"--which materially alters the sense of Truman's views.
Like other critics, by no means all on the right, Maddox correctly points out that Alperovitz builds key parts of his case on a host of postwar statements by civilian and military officials expressing reservations about the atomic bombs, or speaking confidently that alternative means existed to end the war without them. As Alperovitz intended, these quotations beguile the unwary reader to assume such views were expressed in 1945. The reality is that the documented record shows the overwhelming majority of officials supported the use of such weapons, or expressed no reservation in 1945.
Although the most public airing of the controversy came in 1995 over the proposed exhibit of the Enola Gay at the Smithsonian, the tectonic plates of the scholarly debate already had begun to shift around 1989-90. New revelations emerged to undermine fundamental premises of Alperovitz and his acolytes about Japan in 1945. The key findings in Edward Drea's seminal MacArthur's Ultra (1992) appear in this volume in his aptly-titled essay, "Previews of Hell." Drea demonstrates that, far from regarding their situation as hopeless, Japanese leaders believed fervently that if they could defeat or inflict terrible casualties on the initial American invasion of the Japanese homeland, they could secure a negotiated end to the war to their satisfaction. Just as critically, Drea shows that, thanks to code-breaking, American leaders knew this.
Buttressing Drea's work is Sadao Asada's essay, "The Shock of the Atomic bomb and Japan's Decision to Surrender--A Reconsideration." Among historians working in this field, Asada deserves honor as the most courageous. The deep-seated sense of "nuclear victimization" that pervades both popular and scholarly opinion in Japan has manufactured pervasive taboos outclassing any faced by revisionists in this country. A key part of the victim mentality is a near-quarantine observed by Japanese historians over critical examination of decision-making by Japan's leaders. Asada not only breaches this barrier, he violates the ultimate taboo by concluding that the atomic bombs trumped Soviet intervention as the key factor in ending the war.
In the long run, however, Asada's most profound contribution is his reframing of the controversy from a focus on American motives to a rigorous examination of what, exactly, were the effects on Japanese decision-makers of the various military and diplomatic policy options available to U.S. officials in 1945.
Before we get to the significance of Asada's contribution, however, there is some vital ground covered in the other essays. Gian Peri Gentile's "Advocacy or Assessment? The United States Strategic Bombing Survey of Germany and Japan" performs an invaluable service by smashing one vital foundation stone of revisionism. In 1946, Paul Nitze inserted into the Strategic Bombing Survey's summary Report on the Pacific War the conclusion "based on a detailed investigation of all the facts and supported by the testimony of the surviving Japanese leaders" that "prior to 31 December 1945, and in all probability prior to 1 November 1945, Japan would have surrendered even if the atomic bombs had not been dropped, even if Russia had not entered the war, and even if no invasion had been planned or contemplated."
Revisionists have seized upon this as a godsend, an authoritative judgment that the use of atomic bombs was not necessary.
Together with work by Barton Bernstein and Robert Newman, Gentile's review of the actual interrogation records of Japanese officials revealed their statements were literally the reverse of Nitze's assertion. Every Japanese official questioned but one (and he was contradictory) said he expected the war would have continued absent the shocks of the atomic bombs and Soviet entry. Further, Gentile notes the internal reports differed so widely on their interpretation of the data that they "settled nothing," in the words of George Ball. Gentile concludes that Nitze was actually steered by a hidden agenda of justification for a postwar Air Force with a huge conventional, not just nuclear, bombing capability.
The formidable Robert Newman contributes two essays. One addresses what he terms the trashing of Secretary of War Henry Stimson. Newman correctly points out that Stimson "was easily the least bloodthirsty and vengeful of our World War II leaders." Stimson's personal intervention spared Japan's ancient capital of Kyoto, a center of priceless cultural artifacts, from atomic bombing. Stimson was also the most effective exponent of the Potsdam Proclamation that "defined" unconditional surrender. (Actually, it provided a set of terms remarkable for their generosity to ordinary Japanese and stern only toward the leadership.) Newman particularly confronts charges that Stimson failed to subject the question of the use of atomic bombs to scrutiny commensurate with the moral implications. Newman points out that Stimson devoted much more time to the issue than his critics acknowledge.
A major eye-opener is Newman's essay based on the archived records of the protracted private gestation and swift, but highly public, death of the proposed 50th anniversary exhibit of the Enola Gay. Newman contrasts the public pronouncements and later defensiveness of Smithsonian officials with the damning evidence of their own words.
Two essays address one of the hottest, if not the hottest, flashpoints of the controversy: potential American casualties from invading the Japanese home island. In a key 1947 essay, part of Stimson's justification for the use of atomic bombs was the argument that an invasion of Japan might have produced a million American casualties. Revisionist historians have charged that they could not find archival documentation that senior American leaders were presented with any such number. D.M. Giangreco sets out his case that, from 1944, War Department planners labored under an assumption that an American invasion of Japan would cost at least 500,000 casualties, and possibly as many as two million. Giangreco maintains that scholars who attacked the high numbers erred because they did not comprehend how the armed forces went about the business of formulating casualty estimates--estimates everyone understood were necessarily speculative.
Michael Kort finds that Tsuyoshi Hasegawa's recent Racing the Enemy "makes the rubble bounce" of two essential pillars of the revisionist case. Hasegawa discredits the idea not only that Japan was close to surrender prior to Hiroshima, but that even an American offer to preserve the status of the emperor would have secured Japan's surrender. Hasegawa does not dispute that halting the war and saving American lives constituted a key motive for American leaders, and after dealing devastating blows to prior models of revisionism, Hasegawa presents his own retooled variant. He depicts events in the summer of 1945 as a "race," whereby President Truman and Secretary of State James Byrnes expedited the use of atomic bombs before Soviet entry into the war both to force a surrender of Japan without an invasion and to forestall Soviet advances. Hasegawa also makes an invaluable contribution with a sophisticated and thoughtful argument (with which I disagree) that it was Soviet entry, not the atomic bombs, that induced the Japanese to surrender.
Kort cites a variety of evidence that challenges not just Hasegawa's conclusions on key points, but also the idea of a "race," or the primacy of Soviet entry. In particular, Kort makes his most astute point by observing that the race thesis depends on the notion that American officials were confident that one or two atomic bombs would produce Japan's surrender. On the contrary, as Kort points out--and as Michael Gordin's Five Days in August develops in depth--there was pervasive doubt about what combination of events, including atomic bombs, it would take to secure Japan's surrender.
So where are we now in the controversy? I see Hiroshima in History as the tombstone over the original and most pernicious version of revisionism. This version focused on American motives and insisted that intimidating the Soviets, not ending the Pacific war, prompted use of the atomic bombs. This collection of essays comprehensively demonstrates the faulty structure of that case. But it does not mean that Truman's defenders can declare victory. The mainstream of the controversy is shifting to follow Asada's insight: The real historical issue is not American motives but the effect on Japanese leaders of the various options available to the United States. In that light, Hasegawa's Racing the Enemy marks a significant transition: He continues the argument about American motives but shrewdly moves beyond motives to ground an equal part of his case on effects.
A debate here is legitimate, but Truman's defenders should have no trepidation. It might have been possible to force Japan's capitulation with a campaign of blockade and (nonnuclear) aerial bombardment, but such a campaign aimed to end the war by starving the Japanese, mostly civilians, by the millions. Soviet intervention, added to an American blockade and bombardment, might have bolstered the likelihood of Japanese surrender. But Soviet intervention harbors not just geopolitical but profound moral implications. Historians who argue that Soviet intervention would have been preferable to atomic bombs fail to acknowledge the fact that a realistic death toll for Hiroshima and Nagasaki (100,000 to 200,000) is at least matched, and probably exceeded, by the cost of Japanese civilian deaths in Soviet hands--and would have been exceeded if the Soviets had secured still more Japanese territory and citizens.
Newman's hero Henry Stimson had it right: The bombs were not the best, but the "least abhorrent," choice facing American leaders.
HNN Hot Topics: Hiroshima ... What People Think Now
SOURCE: Special to HNN ()
We live in anniversary-obsessed times, as evidenced recently by a slew of publications inspired by such things as the fortieth birthday of the “Summer of Love” and the passage of sixty years since the end of British imperial rule in India. Historians, myself included, tend to be suckers for these sorts of retrospective moments. But as we struggle to retool a discipline long rooted in national frameworks to serve us better in a globally minded present, one kind of anniversary holds a special appeal: that of years such as 1968 and 1989 when popular upheavals broke out nearly simultaneously in disparate places. In 1998, historians put together panels and published books that took a thirty years look at student protests that had erupted in 1968 everywhere from Paris to Prague, London to Lahore, Berkeley to Buenos Aires—then segued in 1999 into retrospective assessments of the Chinese and Eastern European upheavals of 1989. Now, nearing the end of a new decade, the cycle is beginning again: the American Historical Review is planning a symposium on 1968 at forty, while some historians of 1989 have already issued a call for papers for a 2008 workshop (to lead to a 2009 publication) on that other late twentieth century annus mirabilis.
But 1919, an earlier global moment associated with far-flung protests (from anti-imperialist marches in East and South Asia, to revolutionary upsurges in Egypt and Argentina, to the Seattle General Strike) rarely gets this treatment. Its upheavals, though in some cases clearly linked, are still usually dealt with one-by-one. It is unlikely that any single book could alter this entrenched pattern. But if one could, it would be Erez Manela’s The Wilsonian Moment: Self-Determination and the International Origins of Anticolonial Nationalism, a carefully researched and gracefully written example of the new transnational history at its best.
Lest I be misunderstood, I should make it clear that Manela’s book, published in June by Oxford University Press, is not and does not claim to be a comprehensive history of 1919. For starters, he has as much to say about 1918 (when excitement about imminent liberation from imperial control swept through many lands) as he does about 1919 itself (when protests were triggered by news that World War I’s Great Power victors, meeting in Paris, wanted to keep their own imperial possessions in tact and expand Japanese holdings in China). In addition, when it comes to 1919 itself, while Manela covers a great deal of ground, both geographically (the Middle East, Asia, plus Paris and Washington, D.C.) and linguistically (using materials in Chinese, Arabic, French, and English), he does not go into detail or even mention every place where people took to the streets that year. Due to his emphasis on colonized countries, the Seattle General Strike falls outside of his purview, as do the German protests of early 1919. And even where the developing world is concerned, he makes the sensible decision to focus on just four notable struggles: Egypt’s 1919 Revolution, China’s May 4th Movement, Korea’s March 1st Movement, and Indian protests against the Rowlatt Act (a hated law passed by the British Raj that extended into peacetime repressive wartime “emergency” limitations on civil rights). This inevitably leads to some lacunae: Latin America is merely mentioned in passing, for example, and Ho Chi Minh only makes a cameo, even though (like Mao and Gandhi, two figures about whom Manela has much to say) he too was radicalized by the Peace Conference’s refusal to help colonized people realize the dreams of liberation inspired by Wilson’s talk of “self-determination” and a “New World Order.” There is still, in other words, room for a future global study of 1919—subtitled no doubt, if recent publishing trends continue, “The Year that Changed the World."
This said, Manela does much more than just provide us with a careful look at four discrete case studies linked via the person of Wilson—a man presented here (via his own writings and colorful quotation from diffuse primary sources) as someone who somewhat curiously (given his own ambivalence on issues of racial equality and the rights of colonized peoples) was venerated for a time in widespread locales as a Messianic figure able to and intent upon bringing a benighted age of empires to a dramatic close. What makes The Wilsonian Moment more than simply a set of interesting 1919 tales is the persuasive case for the interconnected nature of these national stories that the author makes. Again and again, without downplaying the significance of local factors, he teases out striking similarities relating to the motivations that drove people to the streets in different parts of Asia and the Middle East and the rhetoric nationalists turned to in order to mobilize broad populations.
Manela also underscores other ways that individual nationalist struggles benefit from being placed into a transnational frame. He points to the roles that overseas communities played in specific upheavals (stressing, for example, the centrality of exiled Korean nationalists in the March 1st Movement). He emphasizes the awareness that writers in one country where protests were underway often showed in the plight of neighboring or far-off people fighting imperialism (citing Mao’s 1919 criticisms of colonial oppression in India as a case in point). And he reminds his readers that anti-colonial nationalists from different places sometimes drew inspiration from and even crossed paths with one another while in the West. This happened at the Peace Conference itself and in other quite different venues, such as a farewell dinner held in New York for Indian activist Lajpat Rai, an occasion organized by an American supporter of Irish independence at which “a Chinese delegate gave a speech hailing Sun Yat-sen.”
The end result of all of this movement between Western and non-Western settings is a book that makes a compelling case for the value of taking a robustly international approach to events usually viewed through either a national lens (in the case of protest movements) or a Euro-American one (in the case of the Paris Peace Conference). And there are many other things to admire about this ambitious book, besides the elegance with which it shows how truly transnational history can and should be done. Not the least of its other charms is its readability and liveliness. Many of the chapters open with striking quotations and close with telling anecdotes. And even some of the chapter titles are memorable (my favorites: “Laying India’s Ailments before Dr. Wilson” and “A World Safe for Empire?”).
Finally, though Manela does not belabor this, The Wilsonian Moment is a timely book. The year 1919 was not, alas, the last time that Western promises of impending “liberation” from oppression quickly came to be seen as hypocritical and hollow talk. Anne-Marie Slaughter is thus right on target when she notes, in a back-cover endorsement, that “given its emphasis on the tragedy of disappointed expectations raised by universalistic rhetoric, this book should be read by anyone interested not only in history, but in American foreign policy.”
SOURCE: Boston Globe ()
"Except the Lord keep the city, the watchman waketh but in vain," warns Psalm 127 -- as does David Gelernter, the militantly neoconservative Yale computer scientist and patriotic rhapsodist who cites that verse often in "Americanism." Many Americans do sense that a national-security state full of armed watchmen needs the chastening, hastening biblical faith that fortified Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King Jr., and unsung others to uphold a distinctively American, republican way. But how to renew it?
Gelernter's claim that Americanism is itself a great religion will offend secularists and many religious people. He argues plausibly that the American creed of "liberty, equality, and democracy," seeded by Puritans and their oft-ambivalent legatees, can't be separated from biblical faith, historically or now: It "was a distillation of biblical (especially Old Testament) principles [that] created a new force in the world's spiritual history."
But Gelernter's own distillery doesn't work. His "new force" is driven by "American Zionism," our sense of ourselves as "a new chosen people in a new promised land" -- a jarring reminder to liberal Protestants that their forebears called themselves "God's New Israel," named their towns Salem, Canaan, and Sharon, and slaughtered Native Americans they called the "Amalekites." When their legatees assail Israeli Zionism now, isn't it partly out of displaced guilt? If Israel gives back the West Bank, shouldn't they give back the blood-soaked banks of the Charles?
Gelernter wouldn't restore Puritan theocracy, of course. "The Bible has no official status in America," he acknowledges; it's only "a melody that keeps running through [Americans'] heads." But we're at our best, he insists, when we move within biblical motifs of communal obligation, sacred mission, and prophetic rebuke to our high opinion of ourselves as rational actors in control of our fate.
So how would he revive the faith of Lincoln and King? Gelernter delivers contradictory answers in a rambling sermon. Like Norman Podhoretz's "The Prophets" and Elliott Abrams's "Faith or Fear," this book demonstrates that neoconservatives siphon our Hebraic and Puritan wellsprings into justifications for more armed watchmen, not a faith that "keeps the city."...
SOURCE: Special to HNN ()
If this book were published in the 1920s, Brendan McConville would have been likely accused of treason. In the wake of World War One, the Bolshevik Revolution, and the first Red Scare, scholars who dared to suggest that the thirteen American colonies were culturally “British” were often labeled as unpatriotic. In 1928, Charles Grant Miller, a writer for the Hearst newspaper syndicate, exposed such historians in The Poisoned Loving Cup: United States School Histories Falsified Through Pro-British Propaganda in the Sweet Name of Amity. His book attacked prominent students of America’s past—Albert Hart Bushnell and David Saville Muzzey took most of the heat-- for suggesting that before the Stamp Act crisis of 1765 ordinary colonists were “proud of being Britons.” Miller was incensed by this Anglocentric view of American history and he accused Muzzey of interpreting the eighteenth century “through King George’s eyes.” His call to arms was quickly heeded by patriotic organizations such as the Veterans of Foreign Wars, the American Legion, and the Sons of the American Revolution.
One can only imagine how Miller might have responded to McConville’s The King’s Three Faces, but it certainly would have been harsh. The Boston University history professor has written a devastating critique of the Whig interpretation of the American Revolution. No historian to date has set out with such thoroughness—and such force—to dismantle this sacred cow of American historiography.
So what has gotten McConville’s interpretive sensibilities in such a tizzy? Namely the way most of us have learned early American history. He argues that the narrative of eighteenth-century life we have come to embrace is too “forward looking,” too “liberal-capitalist,” too “democratizing,” and too driven by the American Revolution. He describes the latter as the “scholarly vortex that sucks all that came before it into its deterministic bowels.” McConville’s gripe is with a form of teleological history that fails to interpret colonial America on its own terms. If we forget that the American Revolution happened we can see the thirteen colonies for what they truly were—strong bastions of British royalism where most ordinary people held a deep affection for the monarch well into the 1770s. The actual American Revolution was not the inevitable result of decades of Enlightenment-inspired anti-British sentiment. It was rather a sudden, abrupt, heart-wrenching break with England that was driven more by anti-Catholicism than ancient or contemporary ideas about politics.
The kind of historical narrative McConville finds disturbing just happens to be the one that most undergraduates bring with them to the college lecture hall. For example, I like to start my undergraduate course on the history of early America by asking students what appears to be a fairly straightforward question: Why is it important to study the colonies? Without fail, my students answer by saying something about how the main reason for learning about colonial America is so that we can better understand the American Revolution and the larger history of the United States.
Such answers, of course, contain some truth. The American Revolution did not occur in a historical vacuum and we have to know something of the colonies to make sense of it. But the way that my students initially approach the history of pre-revolutionary America is utterly ahistorical. They are caught in McConville’s vortex. When pushed, they all believe that the seeds of democracy, republican government, and capitalism were planted in the soil at Jamestown and Plymouth, watered over the 169 years of British colonization in America, and blossomed in that glorious Philadelphia summer of 1776.
This approach to the American past has always had a stranglehold on the nation’s historical imagination. Public schools, in their quest to use history to produce good members of society, have canonized this view. The social studies movement has done little to help the cause of responsible historical thinking since it interprets the past as a means toward an end—the shaping of young democratic minds. History is little more than the background information needed to teach a larger lesson about citizenship. Social studies pick and choose from the past in an attempt to, as Bernard Bailyn has described it, “indoctrinate by historical example.”
But this is not how historians should think. We are not intellectual imperialists who treat the past as something to be conquered and reshaped into our own image. While we always need to learn from the past and occasionally pass judgments upon it, pedagogical and moral lessons must be taught only after we have explored these lost worlds in all their complexity. It is for these very reasons that all students of American history should read The King’s Three Faces. It is a model of the kind of historical thinking that we need. McConville refuses to be taken in by a presentist Whig agenda. He introduces us to a past that most Americans would consider strange—a “foreign country,” as David Lowenthal has described it. The historian’s job is to serve as a tour guide through this unfamiliar terrain and McConville, as a first rate practitioner of his discipline, is up to the task
The King’s Three Faces begins in 1688 with the Glorious Revolution and the ascendancy of William and Mary to the throne. American colonists—especially Protestant dissenters-- were not thrilled with the new monarchs’ commitment to the Anglican Church, but at least William and Mary were not Catholic. Their Protestant religion was a comfort to those in America who feared that James II, the ousted King, would have used his power to overturn the English Reformation. Over the next several decades, as British wars with the French continued to threaten the Protestant future of the colonies, the inhabitants of America developed a contractual relationship with their monarchs, particularly those of the new Hanoverian line (George I, II, and III). This contract was not rooted in the Lockean political philosophy that has long been a staple of Whig historiography; but was rather based on faith in the King as a Protestant ruler who would protect the colonies against Catholic encroachments on their religious and political liberties.
After 1688 the people fell in love with their Protestant monarchs. A host of new holidays enhanced the emotional ties between the King and his subjects. McConville makes a compelling argument—one that is contrary to much of our received wisdom--that the colonists’ love for the monarchy intensified as the eighteenth century advanced, while affection for the King among English men and women went through a period of decline. Colonial America, in other words, was the most royal place in the British Empire.
According to McConville, America remained connected to the Empire by three passions: love, fear, and desire. The colonists loved the King, they feared Catholics, and they desired the consumer products that the British Empire provided for them. The Hanover Kings were intimate friends, not remote and distant monarchs. Some colonists even used divine right language to describe the King. The Hanovers were seen as benevolent rulers appointed by a Protestannth-century print and popular culture was saturated with this kind of religious “neo-absolutism,” but historians conditioned to search the colonial record for signs of an inevitable and secular Revolution have simply missed or ignored such ubiquitous references.
If indeed McConville is correct about this monarchial love fest then it becomes that much more difficult to explain why the American Revolution happened when it did. By 1765, as Parliament became more aggressive in enforcing taxation schemes to raise revenue in the wake of the French and Indian War, the colonists turned to their king to defend them against what they perceived to be legislative tyranny. Since all of the colonies had their own popular assemblies, they did not believe Parliament had the right to tax them. In fact, they did not believe Parliament should have any jurisdiction over the colonies. Their connection to the Empire came through their “imperial Father,” the King. Their right to rule at home, they believed, stemmed from seventeenth-century colonial charters issued by the monarch, not Parliament.
By the early 1770s the colonists were also making a connection between parliamentary corruption and their historical memory of the Catholic tyranny of James II. Parliament’s behavior toward them was not unlike the kind of popish corruption that had threatened them during the Glorious Revolution. Such fears were confirmed when Parliament decreed that Catholicism would be the established religion in Quebec. In the wake of the Quebec Act the colonists appealed to the King’s love and justice to save them from further legislation that might undermine their British Protestant liberties.
In the end, George III did not come through for his loyal subjects. As it became clear that he was unwilling to defend the colonies against the acts of Parliament, the affectionate bonds between the colonists and the King began to break apart. McConville’s Revolution thus happened suddenly, not unlike a young man blindsided by the realization that his one true love no longer wants him. And the colonists did not take the breakup very well. They acted as scorned lovers, lashing out in violence against royal officials, Anglican clergy, and anyone else who showed sympathy for the monarch. They destroyed and degraded any and all symbols of the King, including the equestrian statue of George III erected by New Yorkers in 1770. (The fact that such a statue would be built as late as 1770 provides added support to the book’s thesis). Such patriotic iconoclasm, McConville writes, “stands as a testament to the powerful grip the monarchy had on provincial imagination and emotions for the seventy-five years before 1764.”
By July 1776, the long courtship between King and colonists had come to an abrupt and nasty end. After eight years of war the colonists managed to heal their emotional wounds and move on with their lives by creating a new political and social world for themselves. We, as Americans, are familiar with this world. For the past two centuries we have grown rather comfortable living in it. But McConville has reminded us that a different kind of comfort—a comfort found in the King’s protection and care—pervaded the world that Americans inhabited before 1776. While this world is quite foreign to our modern republican sensibilities, it is nevertheless a world worthy of our exploration, even if the past that we find there may not always be useful.
SOURCE: Providence Sunday Journal ()
Then again, perhaps the mind shouldn’t be boggled. In his best known work, Reckless Youth, Hamilton took 800 pages to portray John F. Kennedy’s first 30 years, and, in Bill Clinton, An American Journey, roughly the same number to get Clinton from Arkansas to the White House. So his latest book is just another big pile of prose dumped at the busy intersection of history and journalism.
Size wouldn’t matter, of course, if Hamilton proved something new. He doesn’t. His basic argument—that the second half of Clinton’s first term witnessed “possibly the greatest example of self-reinvention as president in office in modern times”--is more asserted than proved and often disappears entirely in the book’s avalanche of details.
Book I, “Paradise Lost,” begins with the Clintons moving into their new home and Hillary throwing tantrums (and lamps), cursing at her husband about office space and co-presidential powers. Then come the “gates”: Travelgate, Troopergate, Nannygate, Whitewatergate, and the other nickel-dime scandals that slimed the administration’s early months. The President seems hapless: trying to make everyone happy, denying access to nobody, and left vulnerable by his genial chief-of-staff, old friend Mack McLarty, whose nickname (“Mack the Nice”) reveals his lack of toughness.
The ultimate disaster, of course, is Hillary’s complicated, ill-fated health care plan. Hamilton, who has a penchant for weird literary allusions, characterizes the working group pushing for it as “similar to the convict-scientists in Solzhenitsyn’s great novel The First Circle, led by an inexperienced first lady and her deputy, a mad, secretive management consultant,” Ira Magaziner.
How could this presidency be saved? By a strong chief-of-staff, says Hamilton. One who could “impose order on Bill’s endless chaos” by taking a “masculine approach” and rejuvenating a demoralized staff that had come to resemble “castrati in the Golden Carriage Palace of the Forbidden City—intimidated into servility by an activist First Lady.” Enter Leon Panetta.
Just like that, the Clinton presidency goes from “Paradise Lost” to “Paradise Regained.” Hillary, “the Red Queen” (we get some Lewis Carroll to go with our Milton), recedes into the background, and Bill goes from success to success. Except, of course, Monica is already there, setting the scene for the next whopping, inevitable tome (“Paradise Re-Lost”?).
I’m not sure anyone should want to read this book. Its only sustained arguments recycle respected journalists such as Elizabeth Drew; Hamilton himself seems capable only of analysis-by-adjective, as in the Magaziner reference or his casual characterization of Barry Goldwater as “half-crazed.” Even the melodramatic gossip is largely recycled.
So unless you’re an aficionado of bad prose and savor sentences like, “To try and bite the gay military bullet prematurely was to risk an early politico-military battle,” you should pass this one up.
SOURCE: Washington Decoded ()
These are some of the questions Larry Berman poses in a fascinating new book, Perfect Spy. Berman, a political science professor at the University of California-Davis and the author of three previous books on Vietnam, has made a formidable contribution to untangling the twisted skeins of truth and lies that made up the life, and the myth, of a man whom the Vietnamese Communists now proclaim as their most important and productive spy during the Vietnam War’s American phase.
Despite the author’s conscientious efforts—which included dozens of trips to Vietnam to interview Pham Xuan An and a number of An’s espionage associates and controllers, along with prodigious archival research in the United States and extensive interviews with An’s American friends and colleagues—much about Pham Xuan An’s life still remains shrouded in mystery. An, like the professional intelligence officer that he was, set strict limits on his cooperation with Berman. An refused to name most of his sources of information, and while eager to discuss his journalistic career, he was almost maddeningly vague about many aspects of his parallel covert life as a Communist spy. The Vietnamese government provided Berman only very limited assistance and support, and the files on An held by the Vietnamese intelligence service and by the many other intelligence services with officers An admittedly contacted (the CIA, the South Vietnamese, the French, the British, and the Taiwanese, among others) remained closed to Berman, and to all outsiders.
Because of these vital limits, which the author freely admits, this book does not provide the complete story of Pham Xuan An’s espionage activities. That story will have to await the opening of Vietnam’s intelligence archives. Until that time—if indeed, it ever comes—Berman’s book will stand as the definitive, first-hand account of An’s life as a Communist undercover operative.
It is now well known that thousands of Communist officers and agents were active in all branches of the old South Vietnamese regime during the Vietnam War. After the war ended, however, the victorious Communist regime concluded that three individuals out of this vast army of spies had made such important contributions to the cause that they deserved to be promoted to the rank of “major general” in the Vietnamese military intelligence service. One of the three, Vu Ngoc Nha, had penetrated the inner sanctum of the South Vietnamese Presidential Palace before he was caught and imprisoned in 1969. Another, Dang Tran Duc, had worked for more than a decade as a mid-level officer in South Vietnam’s Central Intelligence Organization (CIO) before he was exposed and forced to flee to the jungle a year before the war ended. Pham Xuan An, the third Communist “super-spy,” worked as a journalist for Western news organizations, and in contrast to his two colleagues, An’s efforts went undetected for the duration....
SOURCE: http://blogcritics.org ()
Indian Summer follows a now-fashionable school of history writing where dates and numbers are considered slightly less important than details like what the kings ate and the queens wore. Be seduced by a beautiful British heiress whose craving for profound love distracts her from the attractions of a glamorous husband to the intellectual charms of an Indian Prime Minister. A Shakespeare-quoting lawyer breaks up a country by scaring fellow Muslims of Hindu dominion; a half-naked fakir breaks up marriages by persuading the wives to renounce sex. Underneath echoes the birth pangs of two infant nations whose dream of independence gets distorted into a nightmare of terror.
This is a book about the other side of Midnight.
On the stroke of midnight, on August 15th, 1947 as "clock hands joined palms in respectful greetings", a 57-year-old handsome man with soulful eyes and readymade smile stood up to utter, in pin drop silence, the most memorable lines of his life: "Long years ago we made a tryst with destiny. And now the time comes when we shall redeem our pledge; not wholly or in full, but substantially. At the stroke of midnight hour, while the world sleeps, India will awake to life and freedom."
The speaker was Jawaharlal Nehru, the first Prime Minister of independent India. A lonely Cambridge-educated widower who could never bring himself to love his ailing uneducated wife, Nehru was besotted with Edwina Mountbatten. She was the restless spouse of India's last British viceroy Lord Louis Mountbatten. With Britain surrendering the jewel of its crown, Edwina would soon leave Delhi with her husband and go away from Nehru, because "duty has to be put before desire." Their intimacy would grow stronger. Exchanging letters for the rest of their lives, Edwina would confess of not being “interested in sex as sex” while Nehru would send her photographs of erotic sculptures of Konark’s Sun Temple....
SOURCE: Washington Decoded ()
[Mr. Bohning covered Latin America for The Miami Herald for almost four decades. His first-hand knowledge of the Cuban exile community, the CIA, and their anti-Castro activities from the late 1950s into the late 1970s is probably unrivaled among American journalists, according to historian Max Holland. Before and after retiring, Bohning spent 10 years researching the U.S. government’s secret war against Cuba, and in 2005 published a reliable and unsparing book about Washington’s fixation on Cuba from 1959 to 1965.]
David Talbot believes John F. Kennedy’s assassination was not the deranged act of a lone gunman, but the result of a much larger conspiracy.
Talbot’s prime suspects are identified in Brothers’ opening pages: “The CIA, Mafia and Cuba—Bobby [Kennedy] knew they were intertwined. The CIA had formed a sinister alliance with underworld bosses to assassinate Fidel Castro, working with mob-connected Cuban exile leaders.” Consequently, immediately after the assassination of his brother the president, Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy began hunting for the responsible party within this trio of possible culprits, according to Talbot.
A central thesis of Brothers is that Bobby Kennedy only gave lip service to the U.S. government’s official verdict. While publicly endorsing the Warren Commission’s findings of a lone gunman, RFK believed the assassination was a conspiracy and quietly dedicated himself to identifying those responsible. This quest, in turn, helped fuel his 1968 presidential run, which ended tragically with his own assassination in June of that year. Talbot was a teen-age volunteer in that campaign in which RFK won the California primary, only to be mortally wounded minutes after his victory speech. Undoubtedly, this was a formative moment in Talbot’s life; unfortunately, he shows little evidence of having moved on from a 16-year-old’s starry-eyed view of the Kennedys.
An inextricable sub-theme of Brothers involves the U.S. government’s efforts, beginning in late 1959 under President Eisenhower and persisting until 1965, to rid Cuba of Fidel Castro. Essentially, Talbot contends that unintended consequences from these efforts, or “blowback” in intelligence lingo, precipitated John F. Kennedy’s assassination.
I do not profess to be a student of the Kennedy presidency or the assassination per se, yet I do know something about the U.S. government’s secret war against Cuba. And when it comes to the subject of Cuba and the Kennedys, Brothers is not only a disappointment, but strives to turn that history upside down. Talbot attempts to do this via a familiar tactic: he draws from the recollections of staunch Kennedy friends and insiders, with proven track records of bending the historical record so that it reflects kindly on the Kennedy brothers. But in a new twist, Talbot also dredges up on the most dubious sources imaginable to further his argument.
An example of the latter is Angelo Murgado Kennedy, a Bay of Pigs veteran who claims to have been close to Robert Kennedy. Had Talbot asked any of Murgado’s fellow veterans, he would have heard him described as a “persistent liar,” “a charlatan,” and a man with “no credibility”—and these are the printable comments.
Murgado’s name first surfaced in Joan Mellen’s risible, mind-numbing conspiracy book, Farewell to Justice, in which she defended the indefensible—the 1967-69 persecution of Clay Shaw by an out-of-control New Orleans prosecutor named Jim Garrison. Prior to Mellen’s 2005 book, Murgado had been virtually unheard of amongst the Cuban fighters identified in the rather robust literature about the Bay of Pigs. Yet in Mellen’s book Murgado suddenly appeared as a member of the inner circle—he was part of RFK’s intelligence “brain trust” on Cuba.
Curious about Murgado’s bona fides, right after Mellen’s book appeared I asked Erneido Oliva, the deputy commander of the Bay of Pigs brigade, and the late Rafael Quintero, one of the first Cuban nationals to enlist in the brigade, about Murgado. Oliva and Quintero (who died in October 2006) were both known for having grown close to Robert Kennedy in the aftermath of the debacle. They told me then they had never heard of Murgado. Oliva went further and wrote in an e-mail that Mellen’s description of Murgado as having been part of RFK’s “brain trust” was BS, and spelled it with capital letters. When asked again about Murgado in light of Talbot’s book, Oliva repeated that he had never heard of Murgado until I brought up his name in 2005.
Murgado is not instrumental to Talbot’s tale, but he is exceptionally useful. Through him Talbot buttresses the notion that hard-line Cuban exiles hated President Kennedy, presumably to the point where they were motivated to kill him. Murgado, elaborating on the tale he first told Mellen, was so alarmed by the murderous talk in Miami’s exile community that he approached RFK and offered to keep an eye on the most dangerous exile elements for the attorney general. Murgado told Talbot how he and two other prominent Cuban exiles met with RFK at the Kennedy compound in Palm Beach. “I was thinking we have to control and keep a sharp look on our Cubans, the ones that were hating Kennedy,” Talbot quotes Murgado as saying. “I was afraid that one of our guys would go crazy. Bobby told us to come up with a plan and do it . . . . He was fanatic about his brother, he would do anything to take care of him.”
In the summer of 1963, Murgado’s alleged surveillance work led him to New Orleans, of all places, where he came across a “curious gringo” named Lee Harvey Oswald. Murgado’s team, Talbot writes, “came to the conclusion that Oswald was an FBI informant,” and after returning to Florida the dutiful Murgado reported on his surveillance targets, including “the mysterious Oswald.”
Are we really supposed to find this bunkum credible? To believe Murgado is to believe that Robert Kennedy preferred to entrust his brother’s security to an obscure Cuban exile rather than the one agency actually charged with protecting the president, the U.S. Secret Service. More to the point, Murgado is a former building inspector for the city of Miami who plead guilty in 1999 to accepting bribes in return for zoning favors. Even criminals sometimes tell the truth, of course, but surely Murgado’s word is subject to a big discount, and his claims are not to be believed absent rock-solid corroboration. In place of confirmation, however, Talbot suggests that Murgado should be believed because his story has “not been refuted.”
Everything about Talbot’s credulous use of Murgado can also be applied to Talbot’s use of unproven assertions allegedly made by E. Howard Hunt, the recently deceased former CIA officer most noted for leading the Watergate break-in during the 1972 presidential campaign. Talbot supplies information that was not even directly propagated by Hunt, but comes from his long-estranged son, St. John Hunt, a meth addict for 20 years, meth dealer for 10 of those years, and twice-convicted felon....
In his review of my book, Brothers: The Hidden History of the Kennedy Years, Don Bohning asserts that I take a “starry-eyed” view of the Kennedys. But Bohning comes to this conclusion because he has chosen to view this historical chapter through his own prism – that of his CIA sources. In the interests of full disclosure, Bohning – or the editors of History News Network – had a duty to reveal that Bohning was named in declassified CIA documents as one of the Miami journalists whom the CIA regarded as an agency asset in the 1960s. But neither Bohning, nor HNN in its editor’s note, disclosed this pertinent information.
A CIA memo dated June 5, 1968 states that Bohning was known within the agency as AMCARBON 3 -- AMCARBON was the cryptonym that the CIA used to identify friendly reporters and editors who covered Cuba. (AMCARBON 1 was Bohning’s colleague at the Miami Herald, Latin America editor Al Burt.) According to the agency memo, which dealt with New Orleans prosecutor Jim Garrison’s investigation of the Kennedy assassination, Bohning passed along information about the Garrison probe to the CIA. A follow-up agency memo, dated June 14, revealed that “Bohning was granted a Provisional Security Approval on 21 August 1967 and a Covert Security Approval on 14 November 1967 for use as a confidential informant.”
A declassified CIA memo dated April 9, 1964 explained that the CIA’s covert media campaign in Miami aimed “to work out a relationship with [South Florida] news media which would insure that they did not turn the publicity spotlight on those [CIA] activities in South Florida which might come to their attention...and give [the CIA’s Miami station] an outlet into the press which could be used for surfacing certain select propaganda items.”
While researching my book, I contacted Bohning to ask him about his reported ties to the CIA. Was he indeed AMCARBON 3? “I still do not know but… it is possible,” Bohning replied in one of a series of amicable e-mails and phone calls we exchanged. “There were several people in the Herald newsroom during the 1960s who had contact with the CIA station chief in Miami.”
Bohning took pains to explain that he was not a paid functionary of the CIA, insisting he was simply a dutiful reporter working every source he could as he went about his job. And, as I wrote back to him, I’m fully aware that agency officials – looking to score bureaucratic points with their superiors – could sometimes make empty boasts that they had certain journalists in their pocket. I also told him that I understood that many journalists, particularly in those Cold War days, thought it was permissible to swap information with intelligence sources. But in evaluating a journalist’s credibility, it is important for readers to know of these cozy government relationships. The fact that Bohning was given a CIA code as an agency asset and was identified as an agency informant is a relevant piece of information that the readers of Washington Decoded have a right to know.
Even more relevant is that, over the years, Bohning’s journalism has consistently reflected his intelligence sources’ points of view, with little or no critical perspective. Bohning’s book, The Castro Obsession, is essentially the CIA’s one-dimensional view of that historical drama, pure and simple, down to the agency’s self-serving claim that it was the Kennedys’ fanaticism that drove the spy outfit to take extreme measures against the Castro regime. Bohning’s decision to invoke former CIA director and convicted liar Richard Helms’ conversation with Henry Kissinger, another master of deceit, as proof that Robert Kennedy was behind the Castro plots speaks for itself.
In Bohning’s eagerness to shine the best possible light on the CIA, he goes as far as to attempt to exonerate David Morales – a notorious CIA agent whose hard-drinking and violent ways alienated him not only from many of his colleagues but from his own family, as I discovered in my research. Among my “thin” sources on Morales were not only those who worked and lived with him, but his attorney, who told more than one reporter that Morales implicated himself in the assassinations of both Kennedy brothers.
In discussing my “tendentious” view of the CIA’s dissembling on the Bay of Pigs operation, Bohning seeks to exculpate disgraced covert operations chief Richard Bissell, the architect of the fiasco. Bohning writes that he doubts Bissell lied to JFK about the doomed plan’s chances for success. And yet this is precisely the way that the Miami Herald, Bohning’s own newspaper, covered the story when the CIA’s internal history of the Bay of Pigs was finally released in August 2005. “Bissell owed it to JFK to tell him” the truth about the Bay of Pigs plan, the newspaper quoted a historian who had studied the CIA documents. But “there is no evidence that he did.” Bohning too was quoted in the Herald article, and his view of Bissell was decidedly less trusting than it is in his review of my book. “Bissell seems to have had a habit of not telling people things they needed to know,” Bohning told the Herald.
Bohning’s pro-CIA bias also compels him to brush aside former Congressional investigator Gaeton Fonzi’ strong suspicions of a CIA involvement in the assassination. It is true that the House Select Committee on Assassinations, which found evidence of a conspiracy in its 1979 report, did not include the CIA in its list of suspects. But Bohning stops conveniently short of what has happened in ensuing years. After Washington Post journalist Jefferson Morley revealed that the CIA’s liaison with the committee, a veteran agent named George Joannides, had withheld information about his own connection to Lee Harvey Oswald from the committee and undermined its investigation in other ways, a furious G. Robert Blakey, former chief counsel of the committee, retracted his earlier statement that the agency had fully cooperated with the Congressional investigation. Instead, said Blakey, the CIA was guilty of obstruction of justice. Blakey told me, as I reported in my book, that he now believes that Mafia-linked “rogue” intelligence agents might have been involved in the assassination. In short, these developments have bolstered Fonzi’s earlier suspicions.
Bohning criticizes me for accepting the credibility of a source named Angelo Murgado, a Bay of Pigs veteran aligned with the Cuban exile leader Manuel Artime – and as Bohing concedes, a minor figure in my book. But Bohning provides no evidence that Murgado’s story about investigating suspicious activity in the Cuban exile world for Bobby Kennedy is false. The exile community is known for its flamboyant internal disputes. Bohning solicits comments about Murgado from his own corners of this world and chooses to accept their validity. But many of the sources in the anti-Castro movement that Bohning has cultivated over the years have their own dubious pasts and shady agendas. I was forthright with my readers about Murgado’s drawbacks as a source, including his criminal record, which Bohning presents as if he’s revealing it for the first time. I tried to put Murgado’s statements in their proper context and allow readers to make their own conclusion. But Bohning is rarely as transparent about his sources and their motivations in his Cuba reporting.
Bohning is equally selective in rejecting Howard Hunt’s late-hour confessions about Dallas. Until the final years of his life, Hunt – a CIA veteran of the anti-Castro wars and the notorious ringleader of the Watergate burglary team – took a view of the Kennedy assassination that was espoused within agency circles in his day, i.e., that JFK was the victim of a Havana and Moscow-connected plot. This Communist plot theory of the assassination was rejected by the Warren Commission (whose work Bohning continues to find persuasive), as well as investigators for the Church Committee and the House Assassinations Committee, as well as most reputable researchers. But Hunt’s unfounded charges about a Communist conspiracy never landed him in hot water with critics like Bohning. It was only when Hunt broke ranks to implicate members of the CIA – and himself – in the crime that Bohning felt compelled to heatedly question his credibility.
Unlike his earlier charges, Hunt’s allegations of a CIA connection to Dallas were based on what he claimed was first-hand, eyewitness evidence. Hunt told his son, St. John, that he was invited to a meeting at a CIA safe house in Miami where the plot to kill Kennedy was discussed, and he implicated himself in the plot as a “benchwarmer.” It is true that during his career, Hunt did indeed act as a CIA disinformation specialist, and he might have had inexplicably devious reasons for fingering former colleagues like Morales, as well as himself, in the crime. And his son, St. John, did indeed once lead a roguish, drug-fueled life, as he has freely told the press and as I reported in my book. But I have seen the confessional notes written in the senior Hunt’s own hand, and have heard his guarded confessions on tape – as have other journalists. The authenticity of this material is undisputed. So, despite his colorful past, St. John’s character is not the central issue here. It’s the material that his father himself left behind as his last will and testament. Bohning has no reason to dismiss Howard Hunt’s sensational allegations out of hand – other than his blind faith in CIA sources who still stick to the party line on Dallas. While Hunt’s confessions are clearly not the definitive word on the subject, they are at least worthy of further investigation on the part of serious, independent journalists and researchers.
But when it comes to the subject of the CIA’s secret war on Cuba – an operation that Robert Kennedy, among other knowledgeable insiders, believed was the source of the assassination plot against his brother – Don Bohning is an obviously partisan chronicler. Again and again Bohning has chosen to present the CIA in the most flattering light and its critics in the most negative. I accept Bohning’s insistence that he was not a CIA stooge. But he should stop acting like one.DON BOHNING'S REPLY 8/6/07
It’s too bad that David Talbot devoted his entire response to critiquing my review of his book, Brothers: The Hidden History of the Kennedy Years, rather than at least try and offer a defense for his errors and distortions of history.
His modus operandi, however, appears to be aimed more at going after those who criticize him than acknowledging his own deficiencies, i.e., his insulting internet remarks about Mel Ayton, the British historian who was the first to debunk a BBC report last fall that Bobby Kennedy was assassinated by the CIA.
It is true that reporting by Talbot and his colleague, Jeff Morley, expanded on the evidence but they were certainly not the first to report on it. In fact, Morley contacted me – saying he was writing a piece for the New Yorker which never materialized - to put them in touch with Manny Chavez, a retired air force intelligence and friend of CIA operative David Morales, one of those the BBC report implicated in the RFK assassination.
I had put Ayton in touch with Chavez and Grayston Lynch, a CIA contract employe who also knew Morales, several weeks before and Ayton had an article on the internet weeks before Talbot and Morley published their own version. Talbot vilified Ayton by, among other things, calling him a horse’s rear end for his temerity to complain that he was first.
It’s interesting to note also that the Morley/Talbot piece says they had a death certificate dated in 1962 [six years before the RFK assassination] for Gordon Campbell, a ranking official at the JMWave CIA station in Miami who the BBC also implicated in the slaying. At the same time, a recent book by Bradley Ayers, a former Army Ranger assigned to JMWAVE in 1963 and the apparent original source for the BBC’s story, claims to have had meetings with Campbell at JMWAVE a year after Talbot and Morley claim his death certificate says he died.
It’s true, as I note in the preface to my own book, The Castro Obsession: US Covert Operations Against Cuba 1959-1965, that I had contact with the CIA beginning in 1965 through the early 1970s, as did dozens of other journalists who covered foreign affairs in those days; just as they had contacts with American and foreign diplomats and other U.S. government and foreign officials. The appropriate editors at The Miami Herald were well aware of those contacts throughout that time.
Talbot is correct when he says in his response that while researching his book he had asked about my reported ties to the CIA, but that is not the excuse he gave to my publisher, Potomac Books, to get in touch with me.
In July 2005, a couple of months after my book was published, I received word from my publisher saying David Talbot, the founder of Salon.com, was trying to get in touch with me. I had never heard of David Talbot, but had a vague idea of Salon.com so provided Talbot with my phone number. After I hung up, I “googled” Talbot for some background on him and discovered he was among the Kennedy assassination conspiracy buffs.
Shortly after that, on July 7, 2005, I sent him an e-mail [of which I still have a copy.] beginning: “Out of curiousity, after our conversation, I did a google search and see you have been among those who question the Warren report on the Kennedy assassination. I believe I told you – and I said in my book – I have seen no convincing evidence yet to convince me to disbelieve the findings of the Warren Commission, although it obviously left a lot of dangling uncertainties.”
To my knowledge, no review of my book was ever written by Talbot, and I am assuming that by telling him I still accepted the Warren Commission report, flawed as it might be, that I was not of the right persuasion for his needs.
I have never filed a Freedom of Information Act on myself, but subsequently have seen the declassified documents that identify me as Amcarbon3, whatever that means. As for being a CIA informant, I guess that if having lunch occasionally and exchanging news about the Cuban exile community that also qualifies me as an informant for the State Department, the Commerce Department, any other U.S. government agency that dealt with Cuba as well as various Latin American foreign ministers and other officials.
As far as I am concerned, none of my contacts with the CIA violated any journalist ethics, as did Kennedy aide Richard Goodwin’s close friend Tad Szulc of the New York Times certainly did by promoting a clandestine program – codenamed AMTRUNK - through the CIA and aimed at subverting Cuban military officers.
Declassified documents show that among those who met with Szulc at a safe house in the Washington area was David Morales, who Talbot all but ties to the Kennedy assassination.
Talbot might also have asked Goodwin about AMTRUNK when he interviewed him for Brothers, as well as Operation Mongoose, the covert anti-Castro program developed by Goodwin, but which rated not a single mention by Talbot.
Obviously, as Talbot suggests, I view events through my own prism, just as he or anyone else does, but I have tried throughout my journalistic career to do it without resorting to distortion, such as Talbot obviously does.
As noted in my review of Brothers, Talbot recites from a Miami Herald story of August 12, 2005, based on Volume III of the late CIA historian Jack Pfeiffer’s history of the Bay of Pigs. In it, Pfeiffer notes that a memo had been prepared in November 1960 for a briefing on the project by CIA Director Allen Dulles and Richard Bissell, the head of CIA covert operations and, as such, in charge of what was to become the Bay of Pigs.
The memo says that the plan as conceived was unachievable. Talbot writes that “there is no evidence that Bissell informed Kennedy of the CIA’s bleak assessment.” What he doesn’t say is that neither is there any evidence that he didn’t.
The very next paragraph in The Miami Herald story, which Talbot conveniently chose to ignore but which he obviously read, is that “Historians say it is unclear whether” Dulles and Bissell passed the assessment along to Kennedy.
As Talbot notes in his rebuttal, I am correctly quoted in the same story as saying that “Bissell seems to have had a habit of not telling people things they needed to know.” That was mostly a reference to his dealings with Jake Esterline, the CIA’s project director for the Bay of Pigs, and Marine Col. Jack Hawkins, the project’s paramilitary chief, which I knew something about, but could have applied to Bissell in this case as well.
In the case of the Kennedy briefing it would seem more likely the grim assessment may have been passed on to Kennedy since Dulles also was present. It’s unlikely anyone, including Talbot, will ever know for sure, even though Talbot seems to think otherwise.
In this case, Talbot couldn’t even get the source correct for uncovering Pfeiffer’s Volume III. If he had, he could have read the volume first hand, instead of relying on the Herald story, by going to Villanova University Professor David Barrett’s website.
Talbot attributes the volume’s declassification to the non-profit National Security Archive, which has obtained a wealth of Cuba material under the Freedom of Information Act, but in this case it was Barrett who found the Pfeiffer document in the National Archives and posted it on his website.
Talbot also errs in saying Bissell was the architect for the 1954 coup in Guatemala that ousted President Jacobo Arbenz from office. It was not Bissell, but the late Frank Wisner, who was in charge, as Bissell himself acknowledges in his memoirs.
As noted in the review, Bissell also is accused by Talbot of sending word to the Bay of Pigs training camps in Guatemala for the Brigade members to “mutiny” if the invasion is called off at the last minute. There is absolutely no evidence that indicates Bissell sent any such message, again despite Talbot’s categorical assertion otherwise.
In terms of distorting history, Talbot also does it with my own book as well. An example can be found on page 49 of Brothers when, referenced to my book, he writes: “The Bay of Pigs catastrophe sent shock waves through the agency, particularly among the agents who had worked closely with the Cuban émigrés on the operation. CIA men muttered darkly [dark appears to be a favored Talbot word throughout] that Kennedy was guilty of ‘criminal negligence’ or even worse.”
Contrary to what Talbot implies, the episode occurred on the eve of the Bay of Pigs, not after, following President Kennedy’s last minute cancellation of the D-Day air cover. The ire expressed in the above paragraph was directed, not at Kennedy, but at Bissell and Gen. Charles Cabell, the deputy director, after Cabell had returned from a session with Secretary of State Dean Rusk in an unsuccessful effort to get the air cover restored. Rusk got Kennedy on the phone and offered it to Bissell and Cabell to make their point directly with the President. They declined. Bissell went home, leaving Cabell to return to headquarters to deliver the bad news and face the music of irate subordinates.
As I wrote: “Cabell was greeted by a firestorm of anger when he returned to Quarters Eye and delivered the message. Hawkins, according to Bissell, yelled, “Goddamn it, this is criminal negligence.” It apparently suited Talbot’s scenario to have the people “mutter darkly” against Kennedy after the Bay of Pigs failure, rather than before it had even begun.
Another selective quote taken by Talbot from my own book, obviously to reinforce the idea that the CIA and Cuban exiles were involved in the Kennedy assassination, is one by Rafael Quintero, a Cuban exile who was close to Bobby Kennedy.
Many Cuban exiles hoped/believed that the missile crisis would bring an invasion of Cuba that would spell end of Fidel Castro’s rule. Instead, an agreement was reached between Moscow and Washington for the withdrawal of the missiles.
Quintero had been one of sixty commandos chosen to parachute into Cuba. His reaction at the time of the agreement, as he told me, was “Talk about the word treason at the Bay of Pigs, this was even bigger for us, the people involved.” It’s a quote that Talbot uses that certainly serves his purpose of throwing suspicion on Cuban exiles in the Kennedy assassination.
What he doesn’t tell you is that Bobby Kennedy had called Roberto San Roman and Quintero to Washington at the start of the missile crisis and wanted them to get a boat and sink a Russian ship attempting to break the naval quarantine that had been set up by the United States. That, presumably, would provide an excuse for an invasion. [A version of the same incident also is reported by Evan Thomas in his biography of Robert Kennedy.]
Neither does Talbot tell his readers – which can also be found in my book - that Quintero came to believe, as he told me, that had Bobby Kennedy lived, Castro would be have been long gone. Quintero also supported – as did Talbot – in Bobby Kennedy’s 1968 campaign for the presidency, which you don’t read in Brothers.
As for Howard Hunt and David Morales, I never met either one. But I would agree with Talbot that Morales had a reputation – even among some of his colleagues – of being somewhat of a thug.
Be that as it may, it is no excuse for erroneously putting him in Bolivia at the time of Che Guevara’s capture and death [according to the Larry Sternfield, the CIA station chief in Bolivia at the time and would certainly know], or in the Chilean presidential palace at the time of President Salvador Allende’s suicide when it was under bombardment by the Chilean military. And just as Morales had a reputation for being “thuggish,” so did Hunt have a reputation among many of his colleagues, of being a blowhard.
Finally, it is inconceivable that Talbot could write about the Kennedys and Cuba without a single mention of Operation Mongoose, the post Bay of Pigs campaign to unseat Castro, headed by Bobby Kennedy, through his surrogate, Gen. Edward Lansdale; a covert program that contributed to the Soviet decision to install nuclear missiles in Cuba.
It might also be noted that I attended, as an observer, a 1996 conference on the Bay of Pigs, which also included discussion of Mongoose, sponsored by the National Security Archive on St. Simon’s Island off the Georgia coast. As we were walking out of one session, I asked the late Arthur Schlesinger Jr., who was in attendance, if he had learned anything from it. His reply: “Yes, the CIA didn’t like Mongoose any better than we [in the White House] did.”
Talbot’s selective use or non-use of information available is obviously filtered through his own prism of events.
DAVID TALBOT'S REPLY 8-12-07
Mr. Bohning's latest remarks are so rambling and wrongheaded that they're not worth another detailed rebuttal. But two of his statements cry out for a response. First, Bohning has clearly only read selective passages of"Brothers," or he would not make the utterly false claim that it does not include"a single mention of Operation Mongoose, the post Bay of Pigs campaign to unseat Castro, headed by Bobby Kennedy." A quick look at my book's index would have demonstrated for Bohning that I devote 10 pages to Operation Mongoose. And if he had read those pages, he would have seen how critical I was of the doomed program and Robert Kennedy's intemperate leadership of it.
Finally, since Bohning returns to the delicate subject of his CIA connections, let me challenge him directly on his characterization of that relationship. Does he truly think there is nothing"unethical" about a journalist slipping information about an ongoing criminal investigation to a government agency whose charter forbids it from getting involved in domestic affairs? According to the CIA documents that I cited above, that is precisely what Bohning did when he passed along information about Jim Garrison's New Orleans investigation to the spy agency in the late 1960s. In the interest of history, it would be enlightening to know the full extent to which journalists like Bohning acted as confidential government informants on the Garrison case and other JFK-related matters.
DON BOHNING'S REPLY 8/13/07
Unfortunately, as he did with his previous rebuttal to my critique, Talbot makes no effort to explain his own many errors, omissions and distortions contained in his account of U.S.-Cuba relations during the Kennedy administration, some of which I described in my review of his book on Washingtondecoded.com. To help him, and readers, to remember, a catalog of but a few such examples are provided here.
On page 47, citing a Miami Herald story of August 15, 2005, Talbot states categorically, without any evidence, that the recently available third volume on the Bay of Pigs by the late CIA historian Jack Pfeiffer “contained proof that [CIA covert operations chief Richard] Bissell concealed the operation’s bleak prospect when he briefed him about it shortly before [it was after] JFK’s election.” The report contains no such proof. Pfeiffer cites a briefing memo prepared for Bissell and CIA Director Allen Dulles that said the plan as proposed at the time – five months before the Bay of Pigs - was “unachievable." Talbot chooses to ignore a sentence in the same story that says: “Historians say it is unclear whether CIA director Allen Dulles and his deputy passed this assessment along three days later, at Kennedy’s post-election national security briefing in Palm Beach.”
On page 11, he introduces Bay of Pigs veteran Angelo Murgado Kennedy, [whose credibility has been questioned since he first surfaced in Joan Mellen’s 2005 book, Farewell to Justice, a defense of Garrison's investigation into JFK’s assassination] as a credible source, and devotes several pages to him later in Brothers. As Talbot does note, Murgado was convicted of bribery as a City of Miami building inspector but says no one has refuted Murgado’s claims of being close to and working for Bobby Kennedy. Yet Talbot dismisses as a “convicted liar” former CIA director Richard Helms who is quoted in a declassified document telling Henry Kissinger that Bobby Kennedy was running an assassination plot against Fidel Castro. As far as I know, no one except Talbot has refuted those claims either. One might also wonder if Talbot would have acknowledged that Murgado was a convicted felon if not for an email I sent him on November 29, 2005, in response to his request for information on Murgado. I told him in the email that four different people had “told me separately that they do not believe Murgado/Kennedy to be a credible source.” The four included Erneido Oliva, deputy commander of the Bay of Pigs brigade, who was extremely close to Bobby Kennedy. I added that I had heard “two reports…that Murgado may have been fired or had a felony conviction for something he did while working either the City of Miami or City of Hialeah zoning department.”
On page 46, Talbot again categorically attributes to Bissell something for which he provides no evidence, when he writes “… Bissell had sent a very different message to the military leaders of the Bay of Pigs brigade in their Guatemala training camp. They were informed that ‘there are forces in the administration trying to block the invasion” and if these ‘forces’ succeeded the brigade leaders were to mutiny against their U.S. advisors and proceed with the invasion.”
Unfortunately, I must confess to some sloppiness myself in my earlier rebuttal, saying that Talbot did not mention Operation Mongoose in Brothers. Having read the book some weeks ago, the point I had noted to myself and intended to make was nowhere does he tell readers that Kennedy aide Richard Goodwin, described by Talbot as being a “benign influence in White House foreign policy,” headed the task force that created the Mongoose program. As a single example of his “benign influence,” Goodwin recommended an August 22, 1961, memo to President Kennedy that the United States “continue and step up covert activities aimed, in the first instance, at destruction of economic units, and diversion of resources into anti-underground activities.”
Additionally, the memo came within the same time frame as Goodwin’s much ballyhooed meeting with Cuba’s Che Guevara at a hemisphere meeting in Uruguay; a meeting to which Talbot devotes several pages. Nor does Talbot mention that Mongoose not only contributed to the Soviet decision to put nuclear missiles in Cuba, as Castro made clear at a 2002 missile crisis conference in Havana, but the aftermath of Mongoose lingers today in the form of the U.S. economic embargo against Cuba, was first imposed by the U.S. Commerce Department in February 1962, as a component of the multi-agency Mongoose program.
The above represents only a very small sample of the obvious tweaking or overlooking of the facts employed by Talbot in writing about U.S.-Cuba relations during the Kennedy administration.
While not an error per se, given what is now known, it is difficult to understand how Talbot could write, as he does, that the Kennedy focus on Cuba “was not simply a morbid one. John Kennedy had an intellectual and even playful curiosity about the Cuban experiment.”
SOURCE: H-Environment ()
Walter J. Fraser Jr. _Lowcountry Hurricanes: Three Centuries of Storms at Sea and Ashore_. Athens: University of Georgia Press, 2006. xiii + 319 pp. Plates, tables, map, appendix, notes, bibliography, index. $24.95 (cloth), ISBN 0-8203-2866-9.
In the wake of hurricane activity during the first decade of the twenty-first century, historians have begun to make sense of the natural disaster's relationship with the human and natural environments. Among recent works, two authors have focused on hurricanes and the Caribbean. Louis A. Perez's _Winds of Change_(2000) and Matthew Mulcahy's _Hurricanes and Society in the British Greater Caribbean_ (2005) have caught environmental historians' attention by documenting how the natural phenomenon impacted the region's politics, society, culture, and economy. Just as historians have explained how climate affected this region's development and identity, Perez and Mulcahy individually argue that destructive storms also deserve closer analysis in defining people and place.
In _Lowcountry Hurricanes: Three Centuries of Storms at Sea and Ashore_, Walter J. Fraser Jr. follows Perez and Mulcahy's observations to explain how destructive squalls shaped the South Carolina and Georgia coast. By documenting lowcountry residents' reactions to hurricanes and cyclones, the Southern historian summarizes how these storms "profoundly affected the human, built, and natural environments" (p. 251). He stresses that hurricanes' violent and destructive forces presented weather related problems to each generation of coastal residents by dramatically altering the physical environment, weakening or destroying the rural and urban infrastructure, and threatening human life. Although not an environmental historian by training, Fraser creates a straightforward narrative by synthesizing natural disasters with traditional social, political, and economic issues.
_Lowcountry Hurricanes_ consists of nine chronological chapters documenting storms' alteration on South Carolina and Georgia from 1686 to 2004. The first chapter presents a century-long overview of hurricanes during the colonial period and early republic. At the beginning of the narrative, Fraser provides some brief scientific background on hurricane formation and the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Potential Damage Scale. Environmental historians will find this information of interest as it provides a basic foundation for associating the natural world with human action, yet Fraser's narrative adds this information as forethought instead of a comprisal. The introductory chapter also describes how European and African inhabitants reacted as eighteenth-century storms disrupted the burgeoning English colony. The power of hurricanes was amplified along the South Carolina and Georgia coast because of its shallow, gradually sloping sea floor and low-lying coastline. As a result, destructive storm surges played havoc with coastal towns, developing plantations, and the shipping industry.
The first chapter also introduces two recurring themes throughout the book. The first addresses how hurricanes hindered the lowcountry's urban, rural, and seafaring economy. For example, powerful winds and flooding either damaged or destroyed exposed coastal towns, such as Charleston and Savannah, while reeking havoc on refuge-seeking ships. Ocean storm surges also pushed saltwater up tidal rivers, breaching embankments separating rice fields from water sources, and thus contaminated the crop. Ironically, the two most consistent months for lowcountry hurricanes coincided with the rice crop's final stages of cultivation. Fraser's invocation of hurricanes' cataclysmic effects raises questions of why victims did not move. In _Lowcountry Hurricanes_ the author explains that people experiencing financial success continued to live in the region, risking life and capital during the hurricane season, while less fortunate Euro-Americans often moved to safer environments.
The second theme of _Lowcountry Hurricanes_ is the relationship between the region's racial issues and natural disasters. Although economics partially determined which Euro-Americans chose to live in the lowcountry even after devastating storms, slave institutions mandated that African Americans stay during the hurricane season. As a result, enslaved people experienced higher mortality rates, as "the loss of life among the lowcountry slave population perhaps accounted for as many as 90 percent of all deaths at sea and shore" (p. 53). Fraser describes how enslaved African Americans were constantly subjected to flooding and winds while living on exposed sea islands, flood-prone tidal rivers, or inland wetlands. After storms, planters increased the already strenuous workload by forcing enslaved laborers to restore the damaged plantation landscape. Even after abolition, slave descendents remained more susceptible to natural disasters as racial economic factors prevented African Americans from obtaining economic and social mobility away from these low-lying areas.
The six central chapters devoted to hurricanes in the nineteenth century further promote Fraser's themes. In the nineteenth century, race and class still determined who stayed and who left. Also, international newspapers and travel literature sensationalizing the natural disasters possibly discouraged potential inhabitants, for Fraser argues, "the horrific details of [hurricanes] likely gave pause to any white immigrants who were considering relocating to the lowcountry" (p. 54). As a result, the settlement patterns contributed to the lowcountry's distinctiveness by creating an economic void, lack of cultural diversity, and social stagnation.
The book's central chapters also illustrate the relationship between rice cultivation and hurricanes by noting how weather defined agriculture, class formation, economic development, and population migration. During the antebellum period, rice propelled the lowcountry's market economy. The growing slave population increased in relation to the cash crop's success, while planters and slaves developed more wetlands to produce higher crop yields. As a result, economic development placed more people in harm's way of hurricanes, multiplying the destruction. Hurricanes disrupted the South Carolina and Georgia rice industry by displacing people, and destroying labor-intensive levees and fields. The amount of damage determined if planters would continue to cultivate rice during the next season or relocate to safer land to start a new life.
The final two chapters summarize hurricanes' role in the twentieth-century lowcountry. As Fraser explains, "the four hurricanes of the 1890s, an unprecedented number for a single decade, shattered the fragile lowcountry economy based on rice, phosphates, timber, lumber, and the export business--major employers of the region" (p. 202). The faltering lowcountry rice industry eventually collapsed from devastating hurricanes in 1910 and 1911. African Americans' loss of jobs, combined with a depressed economy, led to displacement of farmers and field hands. On the other hand, business leaders sought to attract alternative revenue sources, leading to the rise of tourism, military development, and the shipping industry.
Increasing tourism and residential development along the South Carolina and Georgia coastline presented a new set of questions in relation to hurricanes. The growing coastal population and resort development impacted the fragile sea islands, which served as a natural buffer zone against storm surges, by eroding protective sand dunes. Development along the coastal zone led to increasing insurance costs, property liability, and anxiety. Despite these problems, developers and boosters saw their right to alter the environment as they saw fit and calculating its cost-benefit analysis above the risk of property destroyed by potential hurricanes.
_Lowcountry Hurricanes_ is a useful history explaining why weather has played a critical role in defining a region. However, Fraser's focus on the catastrophic events looses sight of how residents rebuilt after each wave of destruction. What efforts did these people make to combat the next hurricane season, if any? There is no mention of people's structural adaptation to survive storm surges before 1911, yet the Battery in Charleston and elevated colonial and antebellum building foundations represent architectural contributions located along the Georgia and South Carolina coast that still endure today. Did these constructions represent a gradual understanding of hurricanes that determined where people could and could not live up to the late twentieth century? Although Fraser's use of primary sources focuses on newspapers, letters, and journals, I am curious if more research in state statues--through lawmakers' acts and citizens' petitions--could have revealed more information on colonial and antebellum society. Also, I am surprised that Fraser did not dig deeper in plantation journals (he cites only edited volumes) to provide descriptive material concerning how hurricanes affected plantation crops. His observation of people's migration after hurricanes is an important theme that leaves me asking more questions on the subject. Specifically, how many people left after each hurricane? How did their exodus specifically shape the compounding generations of people who remained?
Fraser, however, shines in his detailed descriptions of key hurricanes. Events, like the 1822 hurricane, read as intriguing narratives to describe the devastation that such powerful natural disasters could produce. For those readers who have never experienced a hurricane first hand, Fraser's descriptions closely approximate the anxiety, chaos, and fear of having to ride out such a storm. He also poses tough questions of modern society's relationship with hurricanes. What is the role of the state and business in protecting the ever-expanding coastal population? Should people risk the erratic hurricane patterns and build on sea islands or should they respect the destructive nature of hurricanes and use these valuable landscapes as much needed buffer zones? In this regard, this book contributes to our understanding of development ethics in the twenty-first century and a broader interpretation of natural disasters' impact on society.
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Only seven years into the new millennia, and according to Amazon, we have already had (in no particular order) Janet Wallach’s Desert Queen: The Extraordinary Life of Gertrude Bell: Adventurer, Adviser to Kings, Ally of Lawrence of Arabia, HVF Winstone’s Gertrude Bell: A Biography, Laura Lukitz’s A Quest in the Middle East: Gertrude Bell and the Making of Modern Iraq, Paul Rich’s Arab War Lords and Iraqi Star Gazers: Gertrude Bell’s the Arab of Mesopotamia and Heather Lehr Wagner and Milbry Polk’s Gertrude Bell: Explorer of the Middle East, not to mention the republication of Bell’s own works: The Desert and the Sown: The Syrian Adventures of the Female Lawrence of Arabia and Gertrude Bell: The Arabian Diaries, 1913-1914. Georgina Howell’s Gertrude Bell: Queen of the Desert, Shaper of Nations is just the latest incarnation—and it is pregnant with fact.
Georgina Howell, a British journalist, has penned a worshipful—indeed hagiographical—biography. Indeed, Bell is Howell’s heroine. Yet, do not be mistaken about the book’s thesis; it relegates Bell’s work in Iraq to the last third of the book—mystifyingly, given the country’s prominence in her life and today’s analogy-driven climate. Although, this may be down to the ink already spilt on Bell’s Baghdad years (take Janet Wallach for instance). A reasonable criticism one could lay at Howell’s door is that she appears to be a slave to Bell’s voluminous diaries. This is unfair; for it becomes abundantly clear just how indispensable Bell’s chronicles are the further we delve. It is for this reason that Howell’s hardback was shortlisted for the 2007 Samuel Johnson Prize for non-fiction.
Niall Ferguson in Colossus (2004) illuminates the parallel-like statements between General F.S. Maude and President George W. Bush in two epigraphs to his sixth chapter (p.200). Nevertheless, a more fitting—yet undersubscribed—analogy can be attributed to British strategic thinking in the face of World War I and World War IV (Norman Podhoretz’s lexicon) respectively (and both principally in relation to Iraq). Here, Howell catalogues Gertrude’s geist c. 1917:
Nowhere in the war-shattered universe can we begin more speedily to make good the immense losses sustained by humanity... It’s an immense opportunity, just at this time when the atmosphere is so emotional; one catches hold of people as one will never do again, and establishes relations which won’t dissolve… It’s the making of a new world (p.278).
Akin to the Wilsonian-orientalist (or what Christopher Hitchens groups as “idealistic Arabists”), former British Prime Minister, Tony Blair, articulated some eight decades later that: “This is a moment to seize. The kaleidoscope has been shaken, the pieces are in flux, soon they will settle again. Before they do, let us reorder this world around us.”
Only history will tell if Blair (and for that matter, Bush) will reiterate Bell’s later reservations: “I sometimes wonder whether we should not have done better to leave the Arab provinces under the nominal suzerainty of Turkey, the birth of new states is attended with so much travail!” (p.363). How much do Bell’s letters read like today’s deadlines! (The letters to her father, Hugh and stepmother Florence are one of the great correspondences of the twentieth century; from orders for cotton gowns to the new-fangled British air warfare being tested on recalcitrant Iraqi Arabs and Kurds). Aside: One sincerely believes that Blair and Bush are principled enough not to join the ranks of those politically-motivated, activist-cum-apologist, post-Iraq peaceniks.
Bell’s gender colonizes each stroke of Howell’s pen (though not overtly feminist in tone) ensuring that the reader fully comprehends Bell’s feat. Most paradoxical of all was not her political prowess per se but just exactly where it operated: a misogynist landmass of all places! A giant among womankind, Gertrude Bell shared the political DNA of a repertoire of Great Britons, both past and present; Elizabeth I (multifaceted), Queen Victoria (bereaved) and Margaret Thatcher (pioneering). This is penned succinctly by Howell:
She spoke six languages, and could write a good letter or hold a discussion in any of them… Few have rivalled her in the sheer range of her abilities. As a “Person” she had come to fulfil the highest aspirations that John Stuart Mill had envisaged for women (p.73).
Howell undergirded her analysis proclaiming:
Gertrude was not using her inherited power and position in the enterprises she took on. The only help she accepted was the family money that funded her exploits. For everything else she depended on her intellect, her courage, and her thirst for learning (p.122).
Notwithstanding the latter statement’s incontrovertible exactness—the former is practicing in knowledgeable ignorance. Indeed, one must question that without such a distinguished family name would Gertrude’s “thirst” have been quenched? Indubitably not.
The Bells were the sixth-richest family in England (northern industrialists in the booming economy of empire). But Howell reminds us that money played no part in her taking a First in Modern History, nor did money fashion Bell’s escape from a menacing tribe that captured her in Arabia Deserta.
Despite such a well-to-do upbringing, Bell appeared to be rather self-effacing when climbing the orientalist ladder. It is fitting to paraphrase Christopher Hitchens here—who earlier reviewed the hardback in the Atlantic Monthly—and his memorable characterization of 2000 Presidential would-be George W. Bush. Omitting “in” and “un” along the way, Bell, we learn through Howell, is unusually curious, abnormally intelligent, amazingly articulate, fantastically cultured, extraordinarily educated, and apparently quite unassuming.
After her brilliant achievements at Oxford and before her assignment in the Middle East, Bell helped catalogue the injured, missing and dead during the First World War. Howell recounts Bell's work in detail.
The 400-pages-plus hardback is not just another book concerning an eccentric lady traveller. This passionate biography tells of a woman with an inexhaustible zeal. Unfortunately, things haven't turned out well in the nation she helped create.
Does Bell deserve the reverence attributed to the Founding Fathers? She is a Founding Mother of sorts. Well, History is still out.
SOURCE: H-Environment ()
Environmental historians are no strangers to controversy. In the last twenty-five years numerous scholars have studied the history of environmental protection in Nazi Germany, a provocative topic if there ever was one. Braving criticism for seeming to draw parallels between modern"green" parties and one of the most brutal regimes in history, historians have explored such things as the protection of natural areas, forestry, air pollution laws, and the Nazis' highway construction program. The most sophisticated scholarship appears in recent anthologies and monographs, and focuses primarily upon the conservation movement (also called the nature protection or _Naturschutz_ movement). Contributors to these latest works argue that, although there were troubling ideological and personal connections between the _Naturschutz_ movement and the Third Reich, these relationships do not suggest that modern environmentalists have fascist leanings. Moreover, the Nazis often failed to implement highly touted measures like the Imperial Nature Protection Law or ecologically sensitive forestry practices; their commitment to"green" ideas was far less important than industrialization and war.
In _The Green and the Brown: A History of Conservation in Nazi Germany_, Frank Uekoetter demonstrates, nonetheless, why a study of nature protection in the Third Reich remains vital. Drawing upon a variety of national, provincial, and city archives, he shows that nature protectionists were opportunists, attracted mainly to the Nazi regime because it seemed to offer more systematic preservation of natural areas. The author also maintains that such opportunism was a"slippery slope" that discouraged conservationists from reflecting on the moral implications of their cooperation with the Nazis. Reinforced by a logical structure, meticulous research, and revealing examples, Uekoetter's argument also serves as a warning to modern environmentalists, who may be determined to pursue their own agenda without careful reflection.
The author is well qualified to explore the environmental history of Nazi Germany. A research fellow at the Forschungsinstitut des Deutschen Museums, Dr. Uekoetter has published extensively on topics ranging from conservation to air pollution policies, and he co-edited _Naturschutz und Nationalsozialismus_, a collection of essays from the Fachkongress,"Naturschutz und Nationalsozialismus" in 2002. Sponsored by German minister for the environment Jürgen Trittin, this conference brought together government and academic experts for the first time, and broadened awareness of this subject beyond a relatively narrow, specialist readership.
Uekoetter's well-organized monograph should continue to expand interest in this topic. Constructing his argument on a logical foundation, Uekoetter starts with a useful"Note on Vocabulary," and then follows with three short chapters that explore the importance of this topic, the ideas shared by conservationists and Nazis, and the institutional connections between the _Naturschutz_ movement and the regime. Some readers may find that his analysis of ideological connections between Nazis and nature protectionists repeats arguments from the early and mid-1990s by Michael Wettengel, Karl Ditt, and others. Yet Uekoetter references more recent work by Thomas Lekan and Friedemann Schmoll which discredits the notion that nationalistic, right-wing ideas within the conservation movement put them on a direct path to National Socialism. Instead, as he argues in chapter 3, institutions were the glue binding nature protectionists to the regime. In chapters 4 and 5 he proves this point, for the most part, by exploring a series of four notable _Naturschutz_ campaigns. Chapters 6 and 7 consider the legacy of Nazi environmentalism on the conservation movement and on the land itself, while chapter 8 is a conclusion. This structure, flowing from basic issues and arguments to a series of notable case studies, makes the book accessible to academic readers unfamiliar with the topic and to an English-language audience. A short bibliographic essay and a series of well-chosen photographs and illustrations do the same.
The main strength of this book, however, is the author's skillful use of archival sources to illustrate the inconsistent attitude toward conservation displayed by the Nazi regime, and the opportunism exhibited by conservationists. Uekoetter has wisely chosen four prominent but very different cases to illustrate his point. These include the campaign to limit mining on the Hohenstoffeln Mountain in Baden, the expansion of Hermann Goering's Schorfheide Reserve near Berlin, the regulation of the Ems River in Westphalia, and the protest against a hydroelectric project in the Wutach Gorge. Uekoetter draws several lessons from these disparate campaigns. Above all, Nazi leaders showed no consistent attitude toward the preservation of nature. From the highest level, Adolf Hitler displayed little or no concern for conservation, while interest was only marginally higher among the second tier of Nazi chieftans. Hermann Goering, for instance, promoted the Imperial Nature Protection Law of 1935 because it enhanced his prestige, and his intense interest in the Schorfheide stemmed more from his obsession with hunting than any other factor. Heinrich Himmler demonstrated a similar lack of enthusiasm for nature protection, intervening to protect the Hohenstoffeln Mountain only because it was associated with a medieval castle.
Faced with this indifference, rank-and-file conservationists were highly determined and opportunistic. In the case of the Hohenstoffeln, the novelist Ludwig Finckh campaigned obsessively in the 1930s to prevent mining on the crest of this scenic mountain top. Drawing upon the personal papers of Ludwig Finckh in the Baden State Archives, memoranda from the Berlin Document Center, and other regional sources, Uekoetter shows that Finckh was both a right-wing anti-Semite, and a man willing to pull any strings to further his cause. Collaborating with another author, Finckh argued in 1934 that it would be an"absurdity" to destroy such a famous mountain in an era characterized by respect for"blood, and soil and race" (quoted, p. 91). Yet Finckh's campaign floundered when it spilled into the public. Referring to a 1934 speech by Finckh, Baden's Prime Minister stated,"This extraordinary activism of Dr. Finckh is at odds with our official line of reasoning which refuses any kind of agitation in the general public"(p. 93). Apparently it was acceptable for Finckh to lobby behind the scenes, but a threat to the state when he campaigned openly. In the end, Finckh and his supporters persuaded SS Chief Heinrich Himmler--through back channels--to halt mining on the mountain. Uekoetter uses correspondence in the files of the Reich Conservation Agency to demonstrate that such opportunism had a price. Even after World War II, the former chief of this agency, Hans Klose, conceded that it was a"very clever move" to use Himmler"as an instrument for a good cause" (p. 98). No dedicated National Socialist, Klose seemed unaware of the moral implications of cooperating with the architect of the Final Solution.
Other archival sources reveal a similar combination of frustration, cynicism, and determination on the part of conservationists. Forced to work with the state, leaders of the nature protection movement adopted a flexible, if fatalistic approach to major preservation campaigns. In the case of the Ems River, Uekoetter scrutinizes correspondence between the local and provincial leaders in Westphalia to show how conservationists sometimes adopted extremist rhetoric while in other cases they appealed more romantically to"the landscape's peculiar scenic beauty" (p. 116). In any event, government officials insisted that conservationists voice their protest behind closed doors, in accordance with the Reich Nature Protection Law of 1935 (RNG). Consequently, Germany's nature protection movement was forced to take what it could get, even after having demonstrated its loyalty to Hitler and the regime.
Above all, it was the sense of opportunism that bound nature protectionists to the state, according to Uekoetter. Scholars might disagree with Uekoetter's assertion that," compared with other, more aggressive groups, the rightist tendencies within the conservation movement were weak" (p. 27), but they cannot deny that legislation like the RNG encouraged the conservationists to think that the Nazis were serious about _Naturschutz_. Uekoetter's chapter,"On the Paper Trail, the Everyday Business of Conservation," makes it clear that the RNG gave new legal tools to the conservation movement and encouraged them to engage in a frenzy of bureaucratic work. Here the author scours government files from Westphalia, Düsseldorf, and Bielefeld to show that"Once again, the national conservation law defined an important watershed, and administrative files grew notably in volume after 1935" (p. 138). Among other things, paragraph 20 required government officials to consult with nature protection advisors prior to major construction projects, while paragraph 24 excluded indemnity for actions taken to carry out the law. In particular, many rank-and-file conservationists saw paragraph 24 as a practical tool to protect the countryside, and not as a symbol of the Nazis' dedication to a mystical _Volksgemeinschaft_, where collective rights prevailed over those of the individual. While this conclusion is not fully satisfying--after all, some leaders of the nature protection did praise this law as the expression of Nazi ideology--the archival sources reveal that most conservationists experienced the RNG in the reams of correspondence, decrees, and attempts to create small protected areas.
In the end, the RNG probably created more paper work than tangible achievements on the ground. Uekoetter wisely refrains from any sweeping conclusions about how many new preserves were created or whether the Nazis' conservation policies were good for the environment. The best that can be said, according to Uekoetter, is that Nazi-era conservationists were able to prevent the worst effects of rapid industrialization and the transformation of entire landscapes through swamp drainage projects, new highway construction, and other schemes. In this sense, the Nazi regime was typical of other nations in the industrial world, modernizing its economy, transforming its landscape, clogging its rivers and skies with pollution. While Germany's commitment to conservation was probably more serious than in other industrialized nations, this by no means suggests that Nazi Germany was a"green" state.
In the end, Dr. Uekoetter must be given credit for writing an accessible and revealing work on a provocative topic. Writing in a clear, unadorned manner, he notes in the end that, while reverence for nature could coexist with extremist, right-wing slogans,"it would be short-sighted to focus on ideological issues only" (p. 207). After all, it was a"tactical rapprochement" that drew conservationists to the Nazis (p. 208). It was a rapprochement that the German _Naturschutz_ movement refused to discuss in the years after World War II, and an alliance that modern environmentalists ignore at their own peril.
. Some basic works in this field include Karl Ditt,"Naturschutz zwischen Zivilizationskritik, Tourismusförderung und Umweltschutz: USA, England und Deutschland 1860-1970," in _Politische Zäsuren und gesellschaftlicher Wandel im 20. Jahrhundert. Regionale und vergleichende Perspektiven_, ed. Matthias Frese and Michael Prinz (Paderborn: Wesrfälisches Institut für Regionalgeschichte, Landschaftsverband Westfalen-Lippe, 1996); Raymond H. Dominick III, _The Environmental Movement in Germany: Prophets and Pioneers, 1871-1971_ (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1992); Gert Gröning and Joachim Wolschke-Bulmahn, _Die Liebe zur Landschaft. Teil III: Der Drang nach Osten. Zur Entwicklung der Landespflege im Nationalsozialismus und während des Zweiten Weltkrieg in den"'eingegliederten Ostgebieten"_ (Munich: Minerva,1987); Thomas Lekan, _Imagining the Nation in Nature: Landscape Preservation and German Identity, 1885-1945_ (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003); Michael Wettengel,"Staat und Naturschutz 1906-1945: Zur Geschichte der Staatlichen Stelle fur Naturdenkmalpflege in Preußen und der Reichsstelle fur Naturschutz," _Historische Zeitschrift_ 257 (1993); Thomas Zeller, _Straße, Bahn, Panorama: Verkehrswege und Landschaftseranderung in Deutschland von 1930 bis 1990_ (Frankfurt and New York: Campus, 2002); Franz-Josef Brueggemeier, Mark Cioc, and Thomas Zeller, eds., _How Green Were the Nazis? Nature, Environment, and Nation in the Third Reich_ (Athens, Ohio: Ohio University Press, 2005); Joachim Radkau and Frank Uekoetter, eds., _Naturschutz und Nationalsozialismus_ (Frankfurt and New York: Campus, 2003).
. Friedemann Schmoll, _Errinerung an die Natur. Die Geschichte des Naturschutzes im deutschen Kaiserreich_ (Frankfurt and New York: Campus, 2004); Lekan, _Imagining the Nation_.