History People Are Talking About: Archives 1-29-03 to 2-26-03History Being Talked About
THE KOREAN CRISIS AS NORTH KOREA SEES IT (posted 2-26-03)
THE KOREAN CRISIS AS NORTH KOREA SEES IT (posted 2-26-03)Gavan McCormack, research professor of East Asian history at the Australian National University in Canberra, Australia, and co-author of Korea Since 1850; from www.tomdispatch.com, a weblog of the Nation Institute:
From Pyongyang's point of view, the US was in breach of the 1994 Agreed Framework almost from its inception. It had been promised two light-water nuclear reactors (capacity: 2,000 MW) by a target date of 2003, half a million tons of heavy oil per year in the interim for power generation, moves towards"towards full normalization of political and economic relations," and a non-aggression pact. Pyongyang froze its nuclear development plans for a decade, hoping to hold the US to its word and secure its own removal from the American list of terror-supporting states. According to Colin Powell, addressing a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on February 5, 2002, the administration believed that Pyongyang was continuing to" comply with the [missile flight-test] moratorium they placed upon themselves and stay within the KEDO agreement [the Agreed Framework]." Whatever it then knew about the clandestine purchase of centrifuge technology, presumably from Pakistan, some time in the late 1990s, did not seem to affect this judgment, although much was to be made of it later.
After September 11, Pyongyang made every effort to associate itself with the mood of the international community by promptly signing the outstanding international conventions on terrorism and declaring its opposition to terrorism in the UN General Assembly. For all these gestures in the end it got nothing. The new Bush administration arrived in Washington convinced that the Agreed Framework should be a one-sided North Korean commitment to abandon its nuclear program. Even though the Department of State could find no North Korean connections to terror (other than the refuge it still offered to aging Japanese perpetrators of a 1970 hijacking), Bush nevertheless chose to describe it as part of the"axis of evil" and his government named it, along with other non-nuclear countries, a potential nuclear target in the Nuclear Posture Statement submitted to Congress in December 2001. The"2003" reactor pledge was never taken seriously. Delays were chronic and construction on the site, such as it was, only began in 2002, when a few large holes were dug and some foundations laid. Meanwhile, North Korea's energy sector steadily deteriorated. In November 2002, the US stopped the scheduled oil supplies, and in January 2003 canceled the entire deal, saying there would be no nuclear plant of any kind, ever.
As few Americans understand, starting with the Korean War in the early 1950s, when the US went so far as to dispatch solitary B-29 bombers to Pyongyang on simulated nuclear bombing missions designed to cause terror, Pyongyang has always viewed its nuclear program as a response to a perceived US nuclear threat. The North Korean government still takes the view, not unreasonably, that the only defense Washington respects is nuclear weapons -- a point made recently by the IAEA's Mohammad El Baradei who commented that the US seems bent on teaching the world that"if you really want to defend yourself, develop nuclear weapons, because then you get negotiations, and not military action." While Washington wrung its hands over, and vehemently denounced, Pyongyang's outlaw behavior, Congress was being pushed to authorize the development of small nuclear warheads, known as"Robust Nuclear Earth Penetrator" weapons, or"bunker busters," specially tailored to attack North Korea's bunkers and underground complexes. Yet Pyongyang, the barbarian, not Washington is always the one accused of"intimidation." ...
The situation today on the Korean peninsula bears an uncanny resemblance to the situation of one hundred years ago. Modern Korean nationalism, frustrated by foreign intervention for over a century, remains a powerful force, and beneath the state structures of north and south lies a shared Korean-ness. From the Korean standpoint, whether in Pyongyang or Seoul, the issue is one of sadae (reliance on powerful friends and neighbors) versus juche, self-reliance. One hundred years ago, and at successive moments since, many thought it wisest to look to great and powerful neighbors. That mindset made possible a century of national division and catastrophic, internecine bloodshed. Facing unprecedented crisis now, South and North Korea have to find some way to trust each other more than they trust any of the great powers that surround them. The stakes are even higher than they were a century ago, for this time the peninsula itself, and all of its people, are at risk.
WHY DO SOME CIVIL WARS END IN VIOLENCE AND OTHERS IN PEACE? (posted 2-26-03)Article carried by Ascribe Newswire about a new book by Barbara F. Walter, Committing to Peace: The Successful Settlement of Civil Wars:
"Why did negotiations in Bosnia bring peace," she asks,"while negotiations in Rwanda brought genocide?"
Walter found that even when the combatants have tired of civil war and can agree on peace terms, it is not enough. Only about half the agreements struck wound up being implemented.
Outside help is needed, she found. The period of demobilization and disarmament can be an especially treacherous time for the warring parties. There are strong incentives for each side to cheat while their foe is lowering its guard. Security guarantees from third parties are essential if the agreements are to stick.
"The clear message to policymakers," wrote a reviewer of the book in Foreign Affairs magazine,"is that settling civil wars cannot be left to the combatants themselves."
THE TEXTBOOK THAT FORGETS TO MENTION JIHAD (posted 2-26-03)Suzanne Fields, writing in the Washington Times (February 21, 2003):
One man's jihad can be another man's mission of distortion. The Islamist terrorists who attacked America on Sept. 11 cited their murderous rampage as a"jihad." The suicide bombers who terrorize Israeli schools, restaurants and malls called their mission their"jihad." But American school kids might never know anything about it.
A lot has gone missing in our textbooks."Patterns of History," for example, published by Houghton Mifflin and adopted as a world history textbook in high school classes in Texas and many other states, never even mentions the word.
A seventh-grade world history book by Houghton Mifflin, titled"Across the Centuries," defines"jihad" merely as a struggle for a Muslim"to do one's best to resist temptation and overcome evil." There's no mention of the fact that millions of Muslims - not all, but many millions - are taught to regard anything not under Muslim rule or control as"evil".
"Islam and the Textbooks," a 35-page report compiled by the American Textbook Council in New York, analyzes seven history textbooks widely used between the seventh and 12th grades and finds that millions of American schoolchildren are being cheated of accurate history. Politically correct advocacy groups have thoroughly intimidated teachers, administrators and school boards - and in a way that the most fundamentalist of Christians or the most orthodox of Jews never could.
THE STERLIZATION MOVEMENT (posted 2-26-03)Peter Carlson, writing in the Washington Post (February 25, 2003):
Just for the sake of argument, let's say the government decided that you are an idiot. Does it then have the right to forcibly sterilize you so you can't pass your idiocy on to future generations?
Yes, it does, the Supreme Court ruled in 1927.
"It is better for all the world," Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes wrote in the court's decision in Buck v. Bell,"if instead of waiting to execute degenerate offspring for crime, or to let them starve for their imbecility, society can prevent those who are manifestly unfit from continuing their kind. The principle that sustains compulsory vaccination is broad enough to cover cutting the Fallopian tubes."
The court's ruling -- and the eugenics movement that spawned it -- is the subject of"Race Cleansing in America," Peter Quinn's fascinating and frightening article in the February/March issue of American Heritage magazine. It's the shocking story of how crackpots and bigots used a ludicrous pseudoscience to craft a policy that forcibly sterilized more than 60,000 Americans in the 40 years after the high court's decision.
Eugenics was born in the late 1800s, when a handful of scientists and social reformers theorized that humans inherited a"germ plasm" that predetermined their physical, mental and moral traits. Thus, they concluded, the only way to stamp out disease, stupidity, crime and immorality was to prevent the sick, the stupid, the criminal and the immoral from reproducing.
In the early 1900s, this theory became popular with many white Protestant Americans, who believed they were mentally and morally superior to the hordes of Italians, Jews and Poles who were then swarming into American cities.
Cashing in on this WASP panic was Harry Laughlin, a former Iowa biology teacher who headed an organization called the Eugenics Records Office. Laughlin longed for an America where parenthood would be permitted only to"the best individuals of proven blood" while lesser humans would be"denied the right to perpetuate their own traits in subsequent generations."
Bankrolled by the Carnegie, Harriman and Rockefeller families, Laughlin lobbied, successfully, for stringent restrictions on immigration from southern and eastern Europe. He also crusaded for laws enabling states to sterilize criminals, paupers, the retarded and others of"inferior blood." By 1932, 28 states had enacted laws based on Laughlin's model, and they began forcibly sterilizing between 2,000 and 4,000 people a year.
GODS AND GENERALS IS GOOD HISTORY (posted 2-26-03)Mackubin Thomas Owens, a teacher at the Naval War College in Newport, R.I., writing in National Review (February 25, 2003):
Glory conveys what David W. Blight in his 2001 book Race and Reunion: The Civil War in American Memory, called the"emancipationist" view of the Civil War. Arising out of the Emancipation Proclamation and Lincoln's Second Inaugural, the emancipationist view remembered the war as a struggle for freedom, a rebirth of the republic that led to the liberation of blacks and their elevation to citizenship and constitutional equality.
Gods and Generals on the other hand reflects both what Blight called the"Blue-Gray reconciliationist" view and the"Lost Cause" interpretation of the war. The first developed out of the necessity for both sides to deal with the immense human cost of the war. It focused almost exclusively on the sacrifices of the soldiers, avoiding questions of culpability or the right and wrong of the causes. In this view, the war was the nation's test of manhood. There was nobility on both sides. The essence of this view was captured by Lew Wallace, a Union general who wrote Ben Hur:"Remembrance! Of what? Not the cause, but the heroism it evoked."
The second got its name from a book written in 1867 by Edward A. Pollard, who wrote that all the south has left"is the war of ideas." The Lost Cause interpretation was neatly summarized in an 1893 speech by a former Confederate officer, Col. Richard Henry Lee."As a Confederate soldier and as a Virginian, I deny the charge [that the Confederates were rebels] and denounce it as a calumny. We were not rebels, we did not fight to perpetuate human slavery, but for our rights and privileges under a government established over us by our fathers and in defense of our homes."
The Lost Cause thesis comprises two parts. The first was (and remains) that the war was not about slavery, but"states rights." The second was (and remains) that the noblest soldier of the war was Robert E. Lee, ably aided by his"right arm," Stonewall Jackson, until the latter's death at Chancellorsville in May 1863. For three years, Lee and his army provided the backbone of the Confederate cause. But though his adversaries were far less skillful than he, they were able to bring to bear superior resources, which ultimately overwhelmed the Confederacy. In defeat, Lee and his soldiers could look back on a record of selfless regard for duty and magnificent accomplishment.
Almost from the instant the conflict ended, the Lost Cause school towered like a colossus over Civil War historiography. Lost Cause authors such as the former Confederate general Jubal Early were instrumental in shaping perceptions of the war, in the north as well as in the south. Gaining wide currency in the 19th century, the Lost Cause interpretation remains remarkably persistent even today — as Gods and Generals illustrates.
The problem for Gods and Generals as history is that the first part of the Lost Cause argument is demonstrably false. Slavery, not states right, was both the proximate and deep cause of the war. There was no constitutional right to dissolve the Union. Southerners could have invoked the natural right of revolution, but they didn't because of the implications for a slave-holding society, so they were hardly the heirs of the Revolutionary generation.
It was an article of faith among advocates of the Lost Cause school that southern secession was a legitimate constitutional act and that the North had no right to prevent the southern states from leaving the Union. But as Charles B. Dew has shown in his remarkable book, Apostles of Disunion: Southern Secession Commissioners and the Causes of the Civil War, the seceding states justified their action primarily upon a starkly white supremacist ideology, arguing that Lincoln's election would lead to racial equality, race war, and most importantly,"racial amalgamation."
ENLIGHTENMENT THINKERS CHASTISED FOR THEIR CONTEMPT FOR JEWS (posted 2-26-03)
ENLIGHTENMENT THINKERS CHASTISED FOR THEIR CONTEMPT FOR JEWS (posted 2-26-03)Danny Postel, writing in the Chronicle of Higher Education about a new book by Adam Sutcliffe, Judaism and Enlightenment, which is said to be"not only new but startling" (February 26, 2003):
During the early years of the Enlightenment -- in the mid-1600s -- there was an intense fascination with Jewish themes and texts. The Reformation ushered in a renewed emphasis on the Old Testament, a turning to Christianity's Jewish roots. Scholars in the new discipline of Christian Hebraism mastered Hebrew and pored over ancient Jewish texts like the Kabbalah,"scouring" them, Mr. Sutcliffe writes,"for further proofs of the truth of Christianity" and drawing inspiration from the study of Jewish history.
But much of this new focus on Judaism was laced with animosity toward its subject. In what Mr. Sutcliffe describes as a"barbed embrace," early Enlightenment thinkers simultaneously idealized and repudiated Judaism, an attraction-repulsion that surfaced repeatedly. Indeed, Mr. Sutcliffe writes, philo-Semitism and Judeophobia were"frequently intertwined in the same text and even in the same sentence." Paradoxically, however, as Enlightenment thought became increasingly hostile to religion, it focused on Judaism as the source of Christendom. To attack Christianity at its roots, thinkers such as John Toland and Voltaire turned their critical ire on its Jewish foundations.
For the champions of the new Empire of Reason, Judaism came to represent everything they were against.
To them, Judaism embodied tribalism, scripturalism, legalism, and irrational adherence to tradition. Where the Enlightenment upheld reason, Judaism wallowed in myth. The Enlightenment stood for the universal, Judaism for the particular. Enlightenment meant cosmopolitanism, Judaism insularity. The Enlightenment promised progress, Judaism threatened atavism. In short, the Enlightenment came to define itself, Mr. Sutcliffe argues, as the antithesis of all things Jewish.
It was against the backdrop of this self-image, he argues, that the Enlightenment faced a vexing challenge to its own logic. At the deep heart's core of Enlightenment values was the principle of tolerance. Jews, for Enlightenment thinkers, represented the quintessence of intolerance: intellectually closed off and culturally sealed in.
Can an intolerant group of people be tolerated? If Judaism, as Mr. Sutcliffe frames it, was understood as"intrinsically inimical to any notion of individual intellectual freedom, then how can it be encompassed within the bounds of a toleration that is based on the absolute paramountcy of this ethical value?"
TIBETAN MYTH MAY ACTUALLY BE REAL (posted 2-25-03)Guy Gugliotta, writing in the Washington Post (February 17, 2003):
Sometime around 600 A.D., the legend goes, King Ligmagya of Zhang Zhung married Semokar, sister of ambitious Tibetan leader Songsten Gampo. It was a classic union of state, intended to rid Ligmagya of a potential rival by co-opting him.
Except Semokar did not like living with Ligmagya on the bleak, windblown plateau of northwestern Tibet. She importuned her brother to rescue her, but Songsten Gampo did better than that. His assassins killed Ligmagya, then turned Zhang Zhung into a vassal state -- ushering in a Tibetan empire that lasted 250 years. For much of modern history, the existence of Zhang Zhung was regarded mostly as a fictional prop in the legend of the empire's rise to prominence. Parts of the story may have been true, but it was written ex post facto by Tibetans, probably inflating what was originally a face-off between rival warlords.
Over the past decade, however, research by amateur historian and explorer John Vincent Bellezza has begun to put a historical and archaeological foundation under the legend of Zhang Zhung. Tramping 30,000 miles across an area about the size of Texas and California combined, Bellezza documented 512 sites in northern and western Tibet, indicating that a far-flung civilization preceded the empire. Zhang Zhung was real, perhaps even an empire in its own right.
EDITORIAL: IN FAVOR OF STUDYING HITLER (posted 2-25-03)Editorial in the Independent (London), February 17, 2003:
IF BRITONS have to be obsessed with a single period of history, or with a single person in history, then 1939-45 should be that period and Adolf Hitler should be that person. Discuss.
Today's exam paper is set by the Office for Standards in Education (Ofsted), which believes that school history is too skewed towards post-1900 Europe, in particular the Second World War, and even more particularly Hitler.
We disagree. Those are precisely the biases that a nation that seeks to understand itself ought to have in educating its children. We ought to know most about the recent history of our region of the world, which also happens to include the greatest example of evil to have afflicted modern societies. And the themes are vast: the doctrine of the just war; the role of the individual in history; the foundations of European unity. Many are acutely relevant to today's crisis over Iraq. Of course, Ofsted is right on a narrower question. Its inspectors found that, in too many cases, pupils were studying Hitler early on at secondary school, again for GCSE and then again for A-level. Sadly, it must be suspected that in few cases would that reflect the interest and enthusiasm of pupils; mostly it reflects the lack of imagination of teachers.
This lack of imagination means that too many schools take the safe option of simply replicating the national interest in Hitler, Churchill and the Holocaust. Popular history, in books and television, is saturated by these linked themes - although not saturated enough for a new slim volume from the ambitious historian Andrew Roberts, entitled Hitler and Churchill: Secrets of Leadership.
Teachers are justified in recognising the importance of this period, but they have no excuses for returning to it time and again. The national curriculum allows, and the Education Department provides schemes of work for, a huge range of subjects, from the achievement of the Islamic states from 600-1600 to why it has been so hard to achieve peace in Ireland.
Let everyone learn the lessons of the Second World War by all means, but then broaden minds by leading them down some less well-trodden paths of the human story as well.
HITLER TAKING OVER HISTORY (posted 2-25-03)Cahal Milmo, writing in the Independent (London) (February 18, 2003):
[T]he Government's schools watchdog issued a warning yesterday, reported by The Independent, that pupils' understanding of history was being imperilled by a "Hitlerisation" of teaching of the past in schools. A report by Ofsted, which expressed concern that secondary pupils were repeatedly studying Hitler is part of a wider debate about the nature of Britain's enduring obsession. Those concerned at the ubiquity of the Third Reich in the history classroom - and beyond to the nation's bookshops and living rooms - fear it stunts understanding of other periods and leads to an unhealthy personality cult.
On the opposite side of the argument there are those who point to the monstrosity of the Nazi regime and its leader, arguing that it is difficult to run out of important issues relating to Hitler to highlight to the wider population.
Karen Pollock, director of the Holocaust Educational Trust, said: "There is no harm in revisiting the subject of Hitler in schools and beyond as long as it is revisited from a different angle each time.
"The important thing with Hitler is that you do not demonise him or detach him as a human being - the Nazi regime and the Holocaust was about other individuals and other ordinary people who were capable of extreme deeds. It is an understanding that has many applications in our society."
The battle to turn Hitler from a cartoon villain into a nuanced historical figure is, for many, at the heart of the debate.
Experts in this field of "Hitlerography" point to the early 1990s and German reunification as the beginning of Britain's new interest in Hitler, driven by genuine interest in German history and a more jingoistic fear about nascent Teutonic expansionism.
Certainly, the market and appetite for products has expanded dramatically. A rash of new books, led by the top selling biography written by Ian Kershaw, has helped drive book sales on the Second World War to unprecedented levels.
According to figures published by Nielsen BookScan, a data monitoring company, the number of hardback books on the subject sold between 1998 and 2000 more than doubled to 337,000. The number of paperback sales is estimated at several million. Amazon, the internet bookseller, offers 1,651 titles featuring Hitler in the title - the vast majority are biographies and academic works on the Third Reich.
The right-wing historian Andrew Roberts, who this month publishes a work contrasting the leadership styles of Hitler and Winston Churchill, said that the Nazi leader attracts most interest among an Anglo-American readership.
He said: "It is driven by the fact he lived within the lifetimes of many Britons and remains the purest example of human evil we have in history. People want to understand why the nation that produced Beethoven and Goethe also produced Adolf Hitler."
Running alongside the book sales is a renewed interest from the broadcasting world. The American network CBS announced plans last year for a mini-series on Hitler's early years, based on the first volume of Mr Kershaw's biography.
Filming for the drama, which stars British actor Robert Carlyle as Hitler and Stockard Channing as his mother, is to begin this spring.
The BBC had a similar pounds 10m project with Rupert Murdoch's Fox Studios but dropped the idea after protests from anti-Nazi groups in America.
A vigorous trade also exists in Hitler memorabilia. The trade, distasteful to many, is almost entirely based on the internet, allowing retailers from America to Italy to ply their wares internationally.
ARE HINDU NATIONALISTS REWRITING TEXTBOOKS FOR POLITICAL GAIN? (posted 2-25-03)Rama Lakshmi, writing in the Washington Post about a controversy in India over new textbooks that claim Hindu history can be traced to settlements along the mythological Saraswati River:
For decades, history books have maintained that the Indus Valley people, who settled an area that straddles modern India and Pakistan about 3000 BC, were the subcontinent's earliest civilization, preceding the birth of Hinduism. Historians have held that the Aryans, said to be the descendents of an Indo-European race who came to India from near the Caspian Sea around 1500 BC, gave birth to Hindu thought.
Hinduism became the region's predominant religion. Today, 84 percent of India's 1 billion people are Hindus.
That predominance, however, did not prevent India from embracing secularism when it achieved independence in 1947 and enshrining it in the country's first constitution. Ruled by the staunchly secularist Congress party for most of the past five decades, India pursued policies designed to ensure equality for Muslims, Christians and followers of other minority religions.
Nevertheless, many Hindus regarded their religion and culture as supreme. A political force since the 1920s, Hindu nationalism reached the peak of its influence in 1998, when the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) formed a coalition government with several other parties. The BJP-led coalition set about a slow but systematic program to place historians sympathetic to Hindu-nationalist ideology in charge of research institutions and to introduce changes in history textbooks in schools.
Last summer, the Culture Ministry appointed a special committee of experts to prove that the Saraswati was not merely a mythological river, dismissed by historians as nothing more than a figment of the imagination of Hindu sages who praise it as the "greatest of mothers, greatest of rivers and greatest of goddesses" in the Vedas. If the panel succeeds, the birth of Hinduism would be pushed back at least 1,000 years by establishing that the ancient Indus Valley civilization was Hindu in character.
"Saraswati is not only a matter of Hindu faith, but also fact," said Ravindra Singh Bisht, director of the Archaeological Survey of India, who supervises excavation along what is believed to be the course of the river. "The overwhelming archeological evidence of ancient settlements along the course of what was once the Saraswati River proves that our earliest civilizations were not confined to the Indus river alone. Those who wrote the Hindu Vedas on the banks of the Saraswati were the same as the Indus Valley people."
The BJP-led government already has taken steps to make these findings official. In October, it ordered several significant changes in the history textbooks, one of which was to change the name of the Indus Valley civilization to the Saraswati River civilization.
DEBATE ABOUT GEORGE ORWELL (posted 2-25-03)Tim Rutten, writing in the Los Angeles Times about a grand debate between historian Louis Menand and New Republic editor Leon Wieseltier, with occasional appearances by Christopher Hitchens, regarding George Orwell's greatness:
"The point is not that Orwell made things up," Menand writes."The point is that he used writing in a literary, not a documentary, way; he wrote in order to make you see what he wanted you to see, to persuade."
As Menand sees it,"Here we arrive at the challenge presented by the 'Orwell Was Right' button. Hitchens says that there were three great issues in the 20th century, and Orwell was right on all three: imperialism, fascism and Stalinism. What does this mean, though? Orwell was against imperialism, fascism and Stalinism. Excellent. Many people were against them in Orwell's time, and a great many more people have been against them since. The important question, after condemning those things, was what to do about them, and how to understand the implications for the future. On this level, Orwell was almost always wrong."
Menand taxes Orwell with only a halting support of decolonization for the Indian subcontinent; of being initially soft on Hitler and of totally misreading -- in"1984" -- the potential consequences of a world divided between competing ideological blocs, both of which, he imagined, would be totalitarian.
Running just beneath the surface of Menand's essay are the preoccupations of his 2001 prize-winning intellectual history"The Metaphysical Club:
A Story of Ideas in America." In it, Menand delineated the U.S. Civil War's impact on the circle of New England intellectuals -- William James, Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr., Charles Sanders Pierce and John Dewey -- that gave rise to American pragmatism.
As Menand wrote in that volume,"The lesson Holmes took from the war can be put in one sentence. It is that certitude leads to violence." ...
This is a dispute of consequence; it's not only about Orwell, but the way in which ideas are being used to shape our response to Islamic and state terrorism.
WORLD WAR I: OUR FORGOTTEN WAR? (posted 2-24-03)Summary of an article in The Virginia Quarterly Review as provided by the Chronicle of Higher Education (February 24, 2003):
World War I is one of America's"forgotten wars," writes John Milton Cooper, a professor of history at the University of Wisconsin at Madison. It"was never the 'great war' for Americans the way it was for Britons and Europeans," he writes. That's because American soldiers entered the war only 18 months before the armistice, and most of them never saw action, Mr. Cooper writes.
In contrast, World War II"was America's 'great war' in all the ways that its predecessor had not been," he writes."American participation lasted over twice as long. American mobilization and contributions were even more massive than before, and this time they were indisputably decisive in winning the Allied victory," Mr. Cooper writes.
Still, while World War I has not exerted a great"hold on American memory," it deserves to be remembered as"the precursor and shaper of memory" that later led the United States to abandon isolationist policies and assume a greater role in world affairs, he writes.
The American public" came out of World War II with an enduring commitment" to international involvement and collective security -- at last"heeding the warnings" of Woodrow Wilson -- and Americans sold themselves on that proposition as a matter of"rectifying the past errors from the previous war," Mr. Cooper concludes.
WAS STALIN MURDERED? (posted 2-24-03)Leonida Krushelnycky, writing for the BBC website (February 24, 2003):
Fifty years ago, on 5 March 1953, the Soviet leader Joseph Stalin died. His political life as a dictator who dominated millions has been minutely dissected over the decades. But his last days continue to provoke speculation and argument. Did he die of natural causes following a brain haemorrhage or was Stalin killed because he was about to plunge the Soviet Union into a war its people were in no position to fight?
The night of 28 February began in the usual manner for Stalin and his closest political circle, Lavrenty Beria, Nikita Khrushchev, Nikolai Bulganin and Georgi Malenkov.
They watched a film in the Kremlin then retired to Stalin's country home, 10 minutes outside Moscow, for yet another night of feasting. By the early hours of 1 March, Stalin's guests had gone back to their homes in Moscow. What happened next was out of the ordinary for a man as obsessed with security as Stalin. He gave an order for his guards to retire for the night - he was not to be disturbed. This change to Stalin's normal behaviour intrigued Russian historian Edvard Radzinski, and a few years ago he tracked down one of the guards on duty that night, Pyotr Lozgachev.
The guard confirmed that it was not Stalin who gave the guards the order to go to bed, rather the order was conveyed by the main guard Khrustalev."Stalin would taunt the guards by saying 'Want to go to bed?' and stare into our eyes," Lozgachev said."As if we'd dare! So of course we were glad when we got this order, and went off to bed without thinking twice." The guards slept late the following morning, and so, it seemed, did Stalin. Twelve o'clock, one, two o'clock came and no Stalin. The guards began to get worried, but no one dared to go into his rooms. They had no right to disturb Stalin unless invited into his presence personally. At 6.30 a light came on in Stalin's rooms, and the guards relaxed a little. But by the time 10 o'clock had chimed they were petrified. Lozgachev was finally sent in to check on Stalin."I hurried up to him and said 'Comrade Stalin, what's wrong?' He'd, you know, wet himself while he was lying there. He made some incoherent noise, like"Dz dz". His pocketwatch and copy of Pravda were lying on the floor. The watch showed 6.30. That's when it must have happened to him."
The guards rushed to call Stalin's drinking companions, the Politburo. It was their tardiness in responding and calling for medical help that put questions of doubt in Radzinski's mind.
Did they already know too much and so did not need to hurry to the"old man's" side? Mr Radzinski says Yes. He asserts that Stalin was injected with poison by the guard Khrustalev, under the orders of his master, KGB chief Lavrenty Beria. And what was the reason Stalin was killed?"All the people who surrounded Stalin understood that Stalin wanted war - the future World War III - and he decided to prepare the country for this war," Mr Radzinski says."He said: we have the opportunity to create a communist Europe but we have to hurry. But Beria, Khrushchev, Malenkov and every normal person understood it was terrible to begin a war against America because the country [Russia] had no economy.
RICHARD POSNER: ABOUT THE NEW BIO OF JUSTICE DOUGLAS (posted 2-21-03)Richard Posner, writing in the New Republic (February 23, 2003):
I met justice William Douglas, the longest-serving member of the Supreme Court, when I was clerking for Justice William Brennan. Douglas struck me as cold and brusque but charismatic--the most charismatic judge (well, the only charismatic judge) on the Court. Little did I know that this elderly gentleman (he was sixty-four when I was a law clerk) was having sex with his soon-to-be third wife in his Supreme Court office, that he was being stalked by his justifiably suspicious soon-to-be ex-wife, and that on one occasion he had to hide the wife-to-be in his closet in order to prevent the current wife from discovering her. This is just one of the gamy bits in Bruce Allen Murphy's riveting biography of one of the most unwholesome figures in modern American political history, a field with many contenders. Murphy explains that he had expected the biography to take six years to complete but that it actually took almost fifteen. For Douglas turned out to be a liar to rival Baron Munchausen, and a great deal o0f patient digging was required to reconstruct his true life story. One of his typical lies, not only repeated in a judicial opinion but inscribed on his tombstone in Arlington National Cemetery, was that he had been a soldier in World War I. Douglas was never in the Armed Forces. The lie metastasized: a book about Arlington National Cemetery, published in 1986, reports:"Refusing to allow his polio to keep him from fighting for his nation during World War I, Douglas enlisted in the United States Army and fought in Europe." He never had polio, either.
Apart from being a flagrant liar, Douglas was a compulsive womanizer, a heavy drinker, a terrible husband to each of his four wives, a terrible father to his two children, and a bored, distracted, uncollegial, irresponsible, and at times unethical Supreme Court justice who regularly left the Court for his summer vacation weeks before the term ended. Rude, ice-cold, hot-tempered, ungrateful, foul-mouthed, self-absorbed, and devoured by ambition, he was also financially reckless--at once a big spender, a tightwad, and a sponge--who, while he was serving as a justice, received a substantial salary from a foundation established and controlled by a shady Las Vegas businessman.
Editor: See also:"On Further Review, It's Hard to Bury Douglas's Arlington Claim," Washington Post.
COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY'S ORAL HISTORY OF 9-11 (posted 2-19-03)
COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY'S ORAL HISTORY OF 9-11 (posted 2-19-03)Kirk Johnson, writing in the NYT about Columbia University's oral history of 9-11 (February 14, 2003):
Many of the interviewers said that from the very beginning, the boundaries of teller and listener were blurred. Unlike other oral history projects that sought to record the voices of Holocaust survivors or World War II veterans, 9/11 was not really yet in the past when the team set out. There were no safe and objective boundaries, no decades of detachment and distance to provide shelter.
The project's organizers also started with the assumption that everyone in the region experienced 9/11 — not just people in Lower Manhattan. That widened the net of potential subjects to include everyone from Muslim store owners in Brooklyn to single mothers in the South Bronx, and of course, by extension, the interviewers themselves as well. And because the goal was to have people talk about how their life stories changed over time because of 9/11, that meant building relationships, staying in touch, learning when to call and when not to call.
The listening was anything but passive.
"I was less a historian than a participant," said Temma Kaplan, a professor of history at Rutgers University who did 18 interviews."I wanted to be comforted, and confronted, not quite a voyeur but to be part of what was going on."
Sometimes, being so close was too much to bear.
KISSINGER'S DECISION TO IGNORE HISTORY (posted 2-19-03)Paul Monk, writing in the Australian Financial Review about Daniel Ellsberg's relationship with Henry Kissinger (February 14, 2003):
Kissinger visited Rand on November 8, 1968, three days after Nixon had won the election, and told a Rand audience,"I have learned more from Dan Ellsberg than from any other person in Vietnam." That learning had been chiefly, from 1965 onward, about how to ask the right questions in Vietnam. It had led Kissinger to publicly state, in 1967-68, that the US had no rational alternative but to get out of Vietnam, while trying to arrange a"decent interval" between its exit and a communist takeover.
Kissinger asked Henry Rowen, president of Rand, for a study of options in Vietnam. Ellsberg was chosen to head the project. The paper was completed by Christmas Eve and taken by Ellsberg to New York to show to Kissinger. They discussed it on and off for several days and Kissinger listened closely to Ellsberg's advice as to how the incoming president might overcome bureaucratic obstacles to divergent and well-informed advice reaching the top. Then Ellsberg gave Kissinger a very specific piece of advice about the dangers of entering the secret world:"Henry, you're about to receive a whole slew of special clearances, maybe fifteen or twenty of them that are higher than top secret ... First you'll be exhilarated by some of this new information ... But second ... you'll feel like a fool for having studied, written, talked about these subjects ... for years without having known of the existence of all this information ... what amounts to whole libraries of hidden information, which is much more closely held than mere top secret data ... The danger is you'll become something like a moron. You'll become incapable of learning from most people in the world, no matter how much experience they may have in their particular areas that may be much greater than yours."
What Ellsberg did not know in December 1968 was that Nixon, despite his campaign promise about peace with honour, had no intention of ending the war in Vietnam and that Kissinger was complicit in what was, from the outset, a whole new round of lying to the American Congress and people. Morton Halperin called him in August 1969 to tell him, from inside the administration,"Nixon's stayingin; he's not getting out."27 This was clean contrary to public hopes and perceptions at that time, but as Ellsberg remarks, those who believed Nixon's public rhetoric had not read the Pentagon study. His own work on that study had led him to see that the president was part of the problem and had burned out of him the desire to be"in any sense a 'president's man"'. Still, he conceived the hope that"Nixon could be induced to think again", through Kissinger.28 He went to see Kissinger at San Clemente, in August 1970, with the idea of encouraging him to read the Pentagon study."In effect, I had the idea of leaking information into the White House about what was actually visible from the outside ... I wanted Kissinger to worry that the trend of his policy was foreseeable, so that it might seem less viable to him."29 This time he found Kissinger unresponsive and indisposed to learn, in just the manner that Ellsberg had warned him of a mere 20 months earlier.
Did he have a copy of the study in the White House? Yes. Had he read it? Answer,"No, should I?" Ellsberg: Absolutely. Kissinger:"But do we really have anything to learn from this study?" Ellsberg's heart sank."I thought: My God! He's in the same state of mind as the rest of them all along. They each thought that history started with his administration and that they had nothing to learn from earlier ones. Yet, in fact, each administration, including this one, repeated the same patterns in decision-making and pretty much the same (hopeless) policy as its predecessors without even knowing it. That was what there was to learn from the study, and Kissinger obviously needed it."
"I was suddenly depressed, but I went on to answer, 'Well, I certainly do think so. It's twenty years of history and there's a great deal to be learned from it.' He said, 'But after all, we make decisions very differently now.' My depression deepened. I said: 'Cambodia didn't look all that different.' ... He said, 'You must understand, Cambodia was undertaken for very complicated reasons.' I said, 'Henry, there hasn't been a rotten decision in this area for twenty years that wasn't undertaken for very complicated reasons. And they were usually the same sort of complicated reasons."'
KEITH WINDSCHUTTLE: WHY I'M A BAD HISTORIAN (posted 2-19-03)Keith Windschuttle, the Australian revisionist who claims that historians have overemphasized the persecution of aborigines; in the Australian (February 12, 2003):
IN the February edition of the Australian Book Review, Alan Atkinson described an article of mine on this page (December 9) as"heart-sinking". I had provided a list of examples of the abuse of scholarship in Aboriginal history, showing that interpretations of frontier warfare and genocide were based on invented incidents, concocted footnotes, altered documents and gross exaggeration of the Aboriginal death toll in colonial Tasmania.
What made Atkinson's heart sink, however, was not this catalogue of misconduct. Instead, he was dismayed that my critique was based on such an outdated concern as getting the facts right."Windschuttle aims to take the discipline of history back to some golden age," he lamented,"when it was all about facts." Atkinson is one of the contributors to the National Museum of Australia's book Frontier Conflict, launched on Monday. The book's contents come from a conference staged in December 2001 ostensibly to debate the topic but actually to demonstrate that the historians who dominate this field dismiss my criticisms. Significantly, other authors who have questioned their orthodoxy, such as Perth journalist Rod Moran, who has shown the"Forrest River Massacre" of 1926 never occurred, were not invited to participate, even though a museum exhibit gives a misleading account of this very incident.
The conference papers respond mainly to articles I wrote in 2000 and 2001, but they reflect the same attitude their authors have taken in the past two months to my own book. Few have been troubled by the malpractice of their colleagues. Instead, most have portrayed me as the bad guy for raising these issues.
While some non-academic commentators were concerned at my book's findings -- Michael Duffy (Courier-Mail, December 14) wrote"allegations of scholarly fraud on this scale are virtually unknown" -- academic historians tried to disparage them. One contributor to the museum conference, Raymond Evans (Courier-Mail, December 20) said all I had uncovered in the work of Henry Reynolds, Lyndall Ryan and Lloyd Robson was"a clutch of regrettable mistakes", including no more than"half a dozen alleged gaffes" in Ryan's The Aboriginal Tasmanians. Ryan herself (The Australian, December 17) described these as"a few minor errors that can easily be rectified".
However, Ryan's book -- and this refers to her 1996 second edition, which she claimed she had corrected -- goes well beyond a few forgivable gaffes. There are at least 17 cases where she either invented atrocities and other incidents or provided false footnotes, plus another seven cases where the number of Aborigines she claims were killed or captured is either outright false or exaggerated beyond belief. Robson committed a similar degree of fabrication.
DISCOVERY WILL HELP MAP RISING SEAS IN THE SOUTHERN HEMISPHERE (posted 2-18-03)Brady Haran, writing for the BBC (February 15, 2003):
The Isle of the Dead is a creepy place, surrounded in mystery and the subject of ghost stories.
It is located in waters just off the Port Arthur convict colony in Tasmania, Australia.
But researcher John Hunter is not interested in the 1,000 convicts buried there - he is fixated on a small carving on rocks near the waterline.
Etched in stone more than 160 years ago, the carving has yielded information about the history of sea levels.
The marker - a benchmark carved in a vertical rock face - was made by amateur meteorologist Thomas Lempriere.
It is thought to be one of the earliest benchmarks cut in the world and probably the first in the Southern Hemisphere.
However the benchmark was useless until its accompanying records were recently uncovered in the archives at the Royal Society, in London.
It had previously been thought the records, detailing levels in 1841 and 1842, were burned.
The information gives an indication of water levels before global warming, and can be compared with current measurements.
Dr Hunter, from the University of Tasmania, said it was an honour to use Lempriere's old records.
The first ideas that the volume of the sea could be altered by changes in the amount of ice on the earth were only recorded in about 1842
"When working with Lempriere's data, my over-riding feeling was one of privilege - the privilege of putting these records to use after such a long time.
"We have no evidence that Lempriere's sea level observations were ever taken seriously by the Admiralty in the United Kingdom or ever put to any practical use, until now."
The records, when carefully compared with current sea levels and movement of the cliff face itself, indicate an overall rise in the ocean level of 1mm a year - totalling between 16cm and 17cm.
Tidal expert Dr David Pugh, from the UK's Southampton Oceanography Centre, was also involved in the project.
He said: "This is an important result for the Southern Hemisphere, and especially for Australia, providing a benchmark against which Australian regional sea levels can be measured in 10, 50 or 100 years time."
WHAT NEW PRESIDENTIAL TAPE RECORDINGS PROMISE TO REVEAL (posted 2-18-03)Adam Clymer, writing in the NYT (February 18, 2003):
As loudspeakers played the tape-recorded voices of Franklin D. Roosevelt, John F. Kennedy, Lyndon B. Johnson and Richard M. Nixon, scholars, journalists and curious citizens pondered what presidential tape recordings have already added to history and what still-secret tapes may show, and whether the 18 1/2-minute gap would ever be filled. The hum from the gap was also played.
At a two-day conference on the tapings, which concluded this afternoon at the Kennedy Library here, John Carlin, archivist of the United States, said it would be several months before experiments on blank tape from the Nixon era would show whether it was worth exposing the erased part of the tape to the risks of restoration by current technology. The erasure on the June 20, 1972, tape, remains one of the great mysteries of the Watergate era. H. R. Haldeman, Nixon's chief of staff, took notes that indicated he and the president had discussed Watergate in the June 20 meeting, just three days after the burglary.
Archivists from the three collections of presidential materials with tapes offered predictions about what the remaining tapes would show once they were released.
Maura Porter said the unreleased tapes of Kennedy's Oval Office and Cabinet Room meetings would probably offer insights into the 1963 Nuclear Test Ban Treaty and the effort to get the Senate to approve it.
Ms. Porter said other topics would include relations with Latin America and dealings with President Charles de Gaulle of France and Chancellor Konrad Adenauer of Germany. But because the tapes are of meetings where many voices overlap and the sound quality is often poor, she said it might take as many as six years before the job was finished.
Regina Greenwell of the Lyndon B. Johnson Library in Austin, Tex., said future releases, from the last two years of the Johnson administration, would probably shed light on the Vietnam peace talks in 1968 and on Johnson's decision not to run for a full term in that year. Because almost all the tapes are of telephone conversations of high audible quality, she thought the releases would be completed in three years.
John Powers of the Nixon Presidential Materials Project in College Park, Md., where the papers and tapes seized by Congress in the Watergate investigation are kept, said the peace talks that ended the Vietnam War and the bombing of North Vietnam at Christmastime in 1972 would be covered in future releases. The job should be finished in two years, Mr. Powers said.
SHOULD HISTORIANS PAY ATTENTION TO EMOTION? (posted 2-17-03)Scott McLemee, writing in the Chronicle of Higher Education (February 17, 2003) (subscribers only):
[The study of feelings, once the province of psychology, is now spreading to history, literature, and other fields.]
Recent university-press catalogs offer both sweeping theories of affect and monographic studies on how particular emotions were expressed (or repressed) during specific historical periods. The proliferation of scholarship strikes even the people doing it as a new and surprising development."Historians have wanted to distance themselves from emotion," says William V. Harris, a professor of history at Columbia University,"As in other occupations, we just want to go on doing things the way we're used to doing them."
In Restraining Rage: The Ideology of Anger Control in Classical Antiquity, Mr. Harris cites an incisive argument for why scholars might want to keep their distance. It comes from the influential intellectual historian R.G. Collingwood, who declared in 1935 that"irrational elements" -- meaning"sensations as distinct from thought, feeling as distinct from conception" -- formed"the subject-matter of psychology ... not part of the historical process."...
Mr. Harris, the author of respected volumes on Roman imperialism and ancient literacy, calls Restraining Rage"much the most difficult book that I've ever done." The challenge certainly did not come from a want of material. Greek and Roman authors wrote about anger constantly. (They, in turn, followed the undisputed classical poet of their own day, Homer. After all, the first line of The Iliad is"Sing, goddess, the wrath of Achilles.") But a reader needs to be as encyclopedic as Aristotle himself to interpret the original documents."I found myself sounding off on topics where people may think I don't have any expertise," says Mr. Harris.
The territorial imperative of modern specialists is a minor issue compared with the difficulty of grasping how the ancients understood emotion. The English word"anger" has connotations overlapping reasonably well with the Latin ira (as in"irate"). But things grow more complicated in classical Greek, which possesses an extremely rich vocabulary of anger, making firm distinctions among states we treat as similar.
No free-born Greek citizen would ever confuse cholos (experienced by women, children, the poor, and the sickly) with menos (the wrath of gods or heroes). The righteous indignation of nemesan had nothing in common with the experience of orge, a sort of full-body fury, impossible to conceal from others, in which violent retribution became an almost biological necessity....
The idea that civilization rests on the ability to control our feelings (including what Sigmund Freud called the"renunciation of instinctual gratification") has been the"grand narrative" implicit in most scholarly accounts of emotion, according to Barbara Rosenwein, a professor of history at Loyola University Chicago. Once, the story goes, people experienced the world with an almost childlike immediacy. Their emotions were strong, spontaneous, and fairly uncomplicated. But the rise of complex economies, state bureaucracies, and intellectual expertise intervened. People grew more self-conscious about what they felt, and even more so about how they expressed it.
In an essay titled"Worrying About Emotions in History" that appeared last year in the American Historical Review, Ms. Rosenwein challenges the whole paradigm. It rests, she says, on a"hydraulic" metaphor of emotions as"liquids within each person, heaving and frothing, eager to be let out." Up through roughly the Middle Ages, they gushed without restraint; then modernity built a dam. The hydraulic imagery is deeply embedded in ordinary language, where feelings"build up" until they are"released" or, possibly," channeled" into something productive, with rationality thus serving as a kind of psychic steam engine. The model has been undermined, Ms. Rosenwein says, by both cognitive research and social constructionism.
People have always lived, she says, in"emotional communities" that shaped their judgments of weal and woe (the cognitive element) as well as how they understood and expressed what they felt (the cultural element). Examples of emotional communities include"families, neighborhoods, parliaments, guilds, monasteries, [and] church memberships" -- in short, the range of groups and institutions, large and small, in which people live and work.
Studying the history of emotion in this way, Ms. Rosenwein writes, would mean noticing how people" continually [move] from one such community to another -- from taverns to law courts, say -- adjusting their emotional displays and their judgments of weal and woe (with greater or lesser success) to these different environments."
DID THE PAINT INDUSTRY HIRE A HISTORIAN TO WHITEWASH THEIR PAST? (posted 2-14-03)Geoffrey Cowley, writing about Rhode Island's attempt to in Newsweek (February 17, 2003):
Childhood lead poisoning has declined steadily since the 1970s, when cars stopped spewing leaded exhaust into the environment and lead paint was formally banned. Yet 40 percent of the nation’s homes still contain lead paint from the first half of the 20th century, and 25 percent still pose significant health hazards. Chicago alone identifies more than 12,000 lead-poisoned kids each year, New York City more than 7,000....
Instead of suing the companies for past injuries to tenants or property owners, the state of Rhode Island and other plaintiffs are asking the courts to declare lead paint a “public nuisance”—and force the companies to spend billions cleaning it up. “Public nuisance doesn’t require that we prove negligence by the manufacturer,” says Leonard Decof, an outside trial lawyer who is arguing the Rhode Island case—”simply that the public has been forced to suffer an unwarranted hardship.”...
Has the industry been responsible? While debating the nuisance question, the contestants in the lead suits are also wrangling bitterly over the companies’ past behavior. No one now denies that lead is toxic and shouldn’t be used in house paint. It fell out of favor in the early 1950s as cheaper and less toxic alternatives took hold, and the federal government banned it in the ’70s. The question is whether the manufacturers recognized the dangers, or should have, while they were marketing it.
Australian doctors linked childhood lead poisoning to the paint on outdoor verandas in 1904, just as the U.S. lead industry was beginning to mass-produce the stuff. In 1914, physicians in Baltimore started reporting seizures, coma and death among kids who chewed their lead-painted crib railings. Similar reports cropped up regularly during the 1920s, and pediatricians started warning that the problem might be far more pervasive than it appeared. By the companies’ account, these early reports raised no legitimate concerns about interior house paint. The early poisoning victims had all gnawed paint off furniture or toys, according to Dr. Peter English, a Duke University physician who serves as a consultant to the lead and tobacco industries. Lead companies promptly addressed those known hazards, English argues in court papers and a book titled “Old Paint” (he declined to be interviewed), but they had no reason to worry about doors, walls or woodwork. Until 1949, he says, there was no indication that such interior surfaces could pose hazards.
Other experts insist there was ample cause for concern, and they accuse the industry of cynically denying hazards that should have been obvious. “From the 1920s on, the industry treated the lead-paint problem as a public-relations issue,” says David Rosner, a Columbia University historian who has served as a consultant for the plaintiffs. Instead of “actively warning parents not to use lead around children,” he says, “the industry challenged reports of lead poisoning and promoted lead paint as a boon to health.” Rosner and historian Gerald Markowitz of New York’s John Jay College chronicle the lead-paint saga in a new book titled “Deceit and Denial.” And though their bias is clear, their facts punch some holes in the paint companies’ story.
No one accuses the lead manufacturers of hiding health information; industry leaders learned about childhood lead poisoning through the same case reports that doctors and health officials were reading in the 1920s and ’30s. But as quoted by Rosner and Markowitz, those reports raised clear concerns about woodwork and windowsills as well as toys and furniture. As early as 1915, Harvey Wiley, the former Department of Agriculture official who created the Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval, described lead paint’s “subtle” and “cumulative” hazards and concluded that wallpaper or nonlead paint was “better for indoor use.” By the early 1930s, many physicians were calling for the removal of all lead from children’s environments. The Lead Industries Association (LIA) responded by funding research projects at Harvard and Johns Hopkins. But by Markowitz and Rosner’s account, the industry worked harder to dampen health concerns than to air them. Even as European countries banned indoor lead paint, LIA secretary Felix Wormser railed against “unfair and unfavorable publicity” and maintained a policy of challenging “alleged cases of lead poisoning” in order to “calm misapprehension about the toxic properties of the metal.”
DO TEXTBOOKS IGNORE THE DARK SIDE OF ISLAM? (posted 2-14-03)Larry Witham, writing in the Washington Times (February 7, 2003):
A review of world history textbooks used in U.S. classrooms found that they routinely sanitize the problems of Islam while treating events in Western history and Christianity more critically. The report, released last week by the American Textbook Council, notes that topics such as jihad, the advocacy of violence among militant Islamists, the record of Muslim enslavement, and the harsh subjection of women are glossed over in U.S. textbooks. The study suggests that the rosy treatment of Islam may arise from the lobbying of the Council on Islamic Education, which has sent publishers guidelines and definitions for textbooks and has protested against those that it says offend Muslims.
THE U.S. ROLE IN DEPOSING SUKARNO (posted 2-14-03)Jane Perlez, writing in the NYT (February 13, 2003):
When the State Department's official history of Indonesia for the stormy years of 1964 to 1968 was released, Joesoef Isak asked a group of students to download it from the Internet and assigned them a quick translation into Indonesian of its more than 600 pages.
The publication of"C.I.A. Documents: The Effort to Overthrow Sukarno" quickly sold out when it first appeared here last year. Mr. Isak, who said he gave the Indonesian version a more salacious pitch by incorporating C.I.A. in the title, is going back for a second printing.
As a journalist, Mr. Isak, 74, worked closely with Sukarno, the first president of Indonesia, and was jailed as a political prisoner for more than a decade by Suharto, the military dictator. Publication of the papers was a mission close to his head and his heart.
"The historical memory is short," said Mr. Isak, as he sat in his makeshift office at the back of his house."I wanted to get our young generation to understand Sukarno."
The volume, released in the United States 18 months ago, is a juicy collection of State Department and Pentagon cables, a smattering of C.I.A. assessments and memorandums of Oval Office conversations on what the Johnson administration thought it should do about the leftward leaning Sukarno, who in Washington's eyes then was a troublemaker.
The United States, fixated on the threat of Communism in Asia, was thrilled that Sukarno fell from power months after an abortive 1965 coup. Suharto replaced him."One of the most dramatic political reversals in recent history," exalted a White House official in a 1966 briefing paper....
At the publication of the Indonesian translation of the American documents -- timed for last Sept. 30, the 37th anniversary of the abortive coup -- the publisher said he found himself in the minority in an overflow audience, consisting mostly of former political prisoners.
"The majority were screaming against the C.I.A., and about the Americans as imperialists," Mr. Isak recalled."My stance was: 'We know the C.I.A. was more or less connected with the Sept. 30 coup. But the C.I.A. is not the problem, it's our problem. I'm not blaming the C.I.A., it's their job. We have to ask ourselves, how can they operate successfully here.'"
In fact, the collection of documents are not so juicy as to show C.I.A. involvement in the coup attempt or in the specific events that allowed Suharto to emerge as the winner afterwards. They do show an American effort after the coup attempt to encourage the Indonesian military's wholesale effort to wipe out the Communist opposition. Generally accepted estimates from historians range from 300,000 to one million dead in the killing rampage.
In one cable dated Dec. 2, 1965, Ambassador Marshall Green tells of giving money to one of the civilian operators in the army backed anti-Communist effort, saying:"The chances of detection or subsequent revelation of our support in this instance are as minimal as any black bag operation can be."
Three of the more sensitive documents, from the C.I.A. and the National Security Council, were not declassified, and material from three other documents was substantially deleted, according to the office of the State Department historian.
Even so, the history was deemed sensitive enough that when the C.I.A. realized the publication coincided with the first visit to Washington of the current president of Indonesia, Megawati Sukarnoputri, who is the daughter of Sukarno, in September 2001, the agency hastily recalled the volume from the Government Printing Office. The book was reviewed one more time before being released.
WAS STONEHENGE ABOUT GIVING BIRTH? (posted 2-14-03)Pat Hagan, writing in the Scotsman (February 10, 2003):
IT'S a mystery that has puzzled historians for generations. But now perhaps the most extraordinary explanation of all has been put forward for the mysterious stone-circles of Stonehenge - that they bear an uncanny resemblance to the female sexual organs. The theory, proposed by Professor Anthony Perks from the department of obstetrics and gynaecology at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, is that the layout of the most famous megalithic monument in Europe is based on the human vulva and the organs surrounding the opening of the birth canal.
Its real significance, argues Prof Perks in the latest edition of the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine, is that Stonehenge was built to symbolise birth at the end of the Ice Age, when infant mortality was much higher than it is now.
He even predicts that if archaeologists were to dig at the centre of the stone circle, they may discover the body of a child in the area that represents the birth canal. Many theories have been put forward previously, from Stonehenge being a temple at which to worship heavenly bodies to a docking station for aliens from outer space.
But the latest interpretation is based on the layout of the giant stones. According to Prof Perks, the outer ring of stones represents the outer edge of a woman's labia and the altar stone is meant to signify the clitoris.
The theory, he admits, is controversial, but he says the evidence supporting Stonehenge as a symbol of life is strong."Stonehenge was a place of life and birth, not death, a place that looked towards the future."
DON'T KNOW MUCH ABOUT HISTORY (posted 2-14-03)Editorial in the Wall Street Journal (February 14, 2003):
"Don't know much about history."
When Sam Cooke recorded that line back in 1960, it was part of a love song. But if Bruce Cole of the National Endowment for the Humanities is right, it could be our epitaph.
According to a recent survey of America's most elite universities, nearly all college seniors could identify Beavis and Butt-head but 40% could not place the Civil War in the right half-century. A national history test of high-school seniors found a majority of them identifying Germany, Italy or Japan as a U.S. ally in World War II. Still another survey of Americans at large found a third attributing the line"from each according to his ability, to each according to his needs" to the Constitution rather than Karl Marx.
That's the bad news.
The good news is that the NEH is making a little history of its own via its"We the People" initiative (www.wethepeople.gov). This Tuesday prize-winning historian Robert V. Remini will add some oomph when he talks about the Founding Fathers in what will be an annual"Heroes of History" lecture in Washington. That same night the NEH will announce the six winners of a national contest for the best essays from high-school juniors on"The Idea of America."
MYTHS ABOUT THE JUKES CLAN (posted 2-12-03)Scott Christianson, writing in the NYT (February 8, 2003):
For more than a century, the Jukes clan has been presented as America's most despised family. Social science researchers long believed they were a case study of dysfunction, a bunch of genetically linked paupers, criminals, harlots, epileptics and mental defectives, whose care had placed a huge financial burden on taxpayers. The family's pedigree was used for decades as a textbook example of how heredity shaped human behavior and helped lead to calls for compulsory sterilization, segregation, lobotomies and even euthanasia against the"unfit."
Over the years, several historians and biologists have criticized the methodology of two Jukes studies as flawed and have said that many of their conclusions were fabricated. But the true identity of the family -- who were dubbed the"Jukeses" by researchers -- has remained a mystery, their names hidden by a code devised by the original investigators.
But now new information about the Jukeses has been found in archives at the State University of New York at Albany and in records of a forgotten Ulster County poorhouse. It turns out that many family members were neither criminals nor misfits, and that quite a few were even prominent members of Ulster County society.
This is a"major discovery because it provides closure to a badly flawed error in the interpretation of human behavior," said Elof Axel Carlson, professor of biochemistry and cell biology at the State University of New York at Stony Brook, who is an expert on the Jukes case."In fact, they were not biologically flawed and doomed -- they were simply poor scapegoats."
LEWIS & CLARK MYTHS (posted 2-12-03)Edward Rothstein, writing in the NYT (February 8, 2003):
[T]here is now some disillusionment with the very idea of exploration, which once had an almost mythic status....
In a provocative new book,"Exploring Lewis and Clark" (Knopf), a historian, Thomas P. Slaughter, argues that this [explorer's] mythology was even pursued by Lewis and Clark, neither of whom was what he seemed. Exploration, Mr. Slaughter proposes, is really a competition:"Exploring is a race with no second place." Explorers are collectors, chroniclers, owners and often killers.
Mr. Slaughter, who teaches history at the University of Notre Dame, argues that the 13 volumes of journals from the Lewis and Clark expedition are full of distortions, claiming firsts when there were few, describing exaggerated dangers, misunderstanding encounters with Indians, and ruthlessly constructing future reputations. Mr. Slaughter writes of Lewis and Clark,"They already feared that they were lesser men than the great explorers whom they emulated."
But while Mr. Slaughter's close readings reveal elaborately mythological machinery, he also inadvertently reveals a countermyth. In his readings, explorers almost uniformly resemble competitive imperialists, randomly killing animal life, blind to the visionary harmony of American Indian life, missionaries for a misguided culture. This is the familiar, postmodern vision of the Western explorer, a distorted inversion of its predecessor.
VIETNAM MYTHS (posted 2-10-03)Lou Marano, writing in UPI (February 5, 2003):
The final battle of the Vietnam War will not be for the hearts and minds of Indochinese villagers, but rather for the hearts and minds of future generations of American children.
As part of that continuing struggle, a husband and wife filmmaking team has made a documentary about the war that disputes the conventional wisdom on whether it was winnable, the men who fought it, and the Vietnamese allies America betrayed.
"We didn't know where the research would lead us," said Calvin Crane, director of the four-hour series. "But the working hypothesis was that the history of the Vietnam era was different from what has been presented."
"We just let the story tell itself," said Christel Crane, producer of "The Long Way Home Project." She said the series raises questions that historians should pursue. "This is just the beginning. I think other films should be done."
Part One, "Men vs. Myth," supports the fact that, overall, the Vietnam military was the best-educated force American has ever sent into combat. "One-third of those who died in Vietnam came from the top 10 percent income bracket," Christel Crane said in a Washington interview.
It's true that a large proportion of upper-middle class males, especially in the northeastern states, ducked Vietnam. But the United States had a huge population, even then. Hundreds of thousands of men from comfortable backgrounds were willing to serve.
Part Two, "How We Won the War," relies on the research of historians Lewis Sorley and Mark Moyar to show that by the summer of 1970 the Communist forces in South Vietnam were decimated and most of the countryside was in friendly hands. I left Vietnam in January of 1969 but was unaware of this success until decades later.
Part Three, "How We Lost the War," shows how we snatched defeat from the jaws of victory and betrayed an ally.
Part Four, "The New Diaspora," tells the story of the preternaturally resilient Vietnamese refugees from communism, their suffering and successes.
Is the documentary "balanced"? Not if balance means interviews with North Vietnamese Communist leaders or antiwar activists. But as Christel Crane points out, an endless series of films has taken that approach. Balance is contextual. Still, I think "The Long Way Home Project" would have been stronger if counterarguments had been addressed.
ORIGINS OF BLACK HISTORY MONTH (posted 2-6-03)Darrell Bowling, writing on MSNBC.com (February 3, 2003):
While you are remembering the achievements of great people like Fannie Lou Hamer, Rosa Parks, Louis Armstrong, Jesse Owens and A. Philip Randolph, here is a quick question. Who is considered the “father of black history”? And why was February chosen as Black History Month?
As children, we joked that the only reason February was chosen was because it is the shortest month of the year. The truth is, February was chosen because of the tremendous number of African-American pioneers and institutions born in this month — from W.E.B. Du Bois and Langston Hughes to the NAACP and the first Pan African Congress.
And the answer to the question “Who is the father of black history?” is Dr. Carter G. Woodson. Woodson didn’t graduate from high school until he was almost 22 years old. But in 1912, he received his Ph.D. from Harvard, becoming the second African-American to do so. Convinced that the role of African-American history was being ignored or misrepresented, Woodson began his quest to educate America about the accomplishments of black Americans.
Woodson’s journey began in New Canton, Va., on Dec. 19, 1875. The son of former Virginia slaves, Woodson was born into a large, poor family whose education was sporadic at best. But he was able to teach himself, mastering the fundamentals of reading, writing and arithmetic. Looking to further his education, Woodson moved to Huntington, W. Va., where he was forced to earn his living as a coal miner. In 1895, Woodson entered a Huntington high school, where it took him less than two years to receive his high school diploma. Two years later, he had earned a degree from Berea College in Kentucky.
In 1915, he founded the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History. Woodson realized the need for special research into the black American’s life and history. The association began pressing for a “Negro History Week” as a way to explore the contributions of African Americans. This dream became reality in 1926.
Woodson became an educator, teaching high school and later serving as the dean of liberal arts at Howard University and West Virginia State College. He earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in 1908 from the University of Chicago, and a Ph.D. from Harvard in 1912.
From there Woodson traveled to Asia and Europe, where he spent a semester at the Sorbonne in Paris. He mastered several languages, which enabled him to teach in the Philippines.
In 1976, the renamed Association for the Study of Afro-American Life and History expanded Black History Week into Black History Month.
In the book “Mis-Education of the Negro,” Woodson wrote:
“When you control a man’s thinking you do not have to worry about his actions. You do not have to tell him not to stand here or go yonder. He will find his ‘proper place’ and will stay in it. You do not need to send him to the back door. He will go without being told. In fact, if there is no back door, he will cut one for his special benefit. His education makes it necessary.”
Woodson fought for the education of black people and the celebration of black culture. His idea of taking time to acknowledge blacks’ accomplishments is as relevant today as it was 70 years ago.
JUST HOW CONSERVATIVE WAS RONALD REAGAN? (posted 2-5-03)Philip Gailey, writing in the St. Petersburg Times (February 2, 2003):
There is no question that Reagan was one of the most conservative presidents of the 20th century. However, a close examination of his record suggests that he was not the heroic embodiment of conservatism the faithful would have us believe. In some key areas, his rhetoric was more conservative than his record. Revisionism or heresy? Maybe it's a little of both, depending on how you feel about the man and his presidency. Two recent magazine articles offer useful, nonpartisan - and in some ways surprising - appraisals of the Reagan record. Under the headline of "Reagan's Liberal Legacy," Joshua Green writes in the Washington Monthly:
"A sober review of Reagan's presidency doesn't yield the seamlessly conservative record being peddled today. Federal government expanded on his watch. The conservative desire to outlaw abortion was never seriously pursued. Reagan broke with the handlers in his administration and compromised with the Soviets on arms control. His assault on entitlements never materialized; instead he saved Social Security in 1983. And he repeatedly ignored the fundamental conservative dogma that taxes should never be raised."
After Reagan's early victories on defense and tax cuts, according to Green, the Gipper "never seriously tried to enact the radical agenda he'd campaigned on." Conservatives still celebrate the massive cuts in income tax rates Reagan achieved in the first year of his presidency. However, that Reagan raised taxes four times between 1982 and 1984 is rarely mentioned. "Just two years after declaring, "there is no justification" for taxing corporate income," Green writes, "Reagan raised corporate taxes by $120-billion over five years and closed corporate tax loopholes worth about $300-billion over that same period."
While the devout credit Reagan with ending the Cold War with his massive defense budgets, they just as soon not talk about the fact that toward the end of his presidency Reagan, despite his bellicose rhetoric, came to believe that nuclear weapons could and should be abolished. Is it possible that disarmament was the endgame of his military buildup all along? It certainly didn't seem to be at the time.
Looking back, the Reagan Revolution wasn't much of a revolution, even if Democrats thought it was at the time. In some ways, the Reagan agenda - or at least the parts of it he cared about - was less radical than Newt Gingrich's Contract With America or George W. Bush's presidential agenda. In fact, Bush is now being hailed on the Republican right as the new Reagan, a bolder and more ideological version of the original.
WHY HITLER REMAINS FASCINATING (posted 2-5-03)Ian Kershaw, writing in the Guardian (January 29, 2003):
In keeping Hitler and nazism in the public eye, nothing has played a greater part than an increasing awareness of the Holocaust. Somewhat surprisingly, the persecution and extermination of the Jews of Nazi-occupied Europe took a long time to establish itself in public consciousness. Even for many surviving Jewish victims, the memories were too recent and too painful to revive and dwell upon until long after the end of the war. The Eichmann trial in Jerusalem, then the Auschwitz trial in Frankfurt stirred new interest in the early 1960s. But this remained largely confined to scholarly circles and survivors. Both trials prompted important research in Germany, especially at the renowned Institut fur Zeitgeschichte in Munich. German universities at this time, by contrast, hardly offered lectures or seminars on the Holocaust.
This gross deficiency began to be remedied in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Historical scholarship since then has made massive strides both in research on Nazi extermination policy and on the Jewish communities that were destroyed. The breakthrough to wider consciousness about the Jewish catastrophe was not, however, primarily the work of scholars, but of new forms of mass-media portrayal. A television docu-drama of 1979 called simply Holocaust, and portraying in soap-opera form the fate of German and Jewish neighbours, was suitably awful, but produced - amid much criticism - new public awareness of the murder of the Jews. An outpouring of works of all kinds on the Jews under Nazi rule followed. More recently, Steven Spielberg's film Schindler's List played an even more important role in spreading awareness to vast audiences which would never struggle through an academic tract on the subject.
Alongside such mass-media dramatisation, other changes were taking place. As awareness of the monumentality of the horror deepened, and sensitivity to racism in western society more generally increased, the victims began to be seen as more than just the objects of persecution and extermination. Their voices were now heard and listened to. The memory and experience of the Holocaust became institutionalised through museums such as the Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, the permanent exhibition in the Imperial War Museum in London, and the Jewish Museum in Berlin. As the core racial thrust to Nazi ideology and policy became ever more apparent, historians started to look at new and differing aspects of the Holocaust, and broadened their investigation to previously neglected victims of nazism, such as Gypsies and homosexuals.
THE CHINA BOOK HITS THE NYT BEST SELLER LIST (posted 2-5-03)Amanda Paulson, writing in the Christian Science Monitor (January 29, 2003):
A new book claims the Chinese discovered America in 1421, but historians refute thesis.
To the Norsemen, the Japanese, and the Carthaginians; to the Irish, the Africans, and a long list of others who, it is claimed, crossed the oceans to America long before 1492, add one more: the Chinese.
They toured up and down both coasts of the Americas, established colonies, made maps, and left behind chickens. That, at least, is the theory posed by former British naval officer and amateur historian Gavin Menzies.
What is surprising is not so much the claims themselves but the buzz they've created in popular culture both here and in Britain - especially given that few professionals in the field find his case convincing. Mr. Menzies's book, "1421: The Year China Discovered America," has sold more than 75,000 copies since it hit British shelves in October. It debuted in the US at No. 8 on the New York Times bestseller list earlier this month. Mr. Menzies, who reportedly received an $ 800,000 advance from Bantam, has appeared on TV and radio. He's been profiled in the New York Times magazine. A PBS documentary is close behind.
"He's come up with a story people want to believe in," marvels Gillian Hutchinson, curator of cartography at London's National Maritime Museum who heard Menzies give a lecture last spring at the Royal Geographic Society. "There was almost a religious fervor in the audience."
Julie Robotham, writing in the Sydney Morning Herald about a doctor's interpretation of a 16th century painting that apparently features a child with Down Syndrome (January 27, 2003):
It was the light in the painting that first drew Andrew Levitas towards it. Radiating from the infant Jesus in a rare, nocturnal nativity scene, it illuminated from below the faces of the dozen figures around the crib.
But as Dr Levitas approached he noticed something even more striking in the Dutch renaissance piece. The small, angelic figure depicted next to Mary was unmistakably a person with Down syndrome. The flat face, folded eyelids, small nose and downturned mouth showed it without any doubt. And the shepherd standing one row back also appeared to have the same distinctive characteristics. At a major exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum in New York City, among some of the most documented paintings in the world, Dr Levitas had made a discovery: it was the earliest clear depiction of Down syndrome painted 3 1/2 centuries before the condition was defined by John Langdon Down in 1866.
What was more, the unknown painter of The Adoration of the Christ Child, circa 1515, did not appear to be making any special point about the condition. The Down syndrome characters were participating in the scene in the same way as everyone else. ...
His finding is reviving an old controversy among doctors and historians: might life have been better for such children before the syndrome was recognised?
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