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History People Are Talking About: Archives 1-29-03 to 2-26-03

History Being Talked About




  • THE KOREAN CRISIS AS NORTH KOREA SEES IT

  • WHY DO SOME CIVIL WARS END IN VIOLENCE AND OTHERS IN PEACE?

  • THE TEXTBOOK THAT FORGETS TO MENTION JIHAD

  • THE STERLIZATION MOVEMENT

  • GODS AND GENERALS IS GOOD HISTORY

  • ENLIGHTENMENT THINKERS CHASTISED FOR THEIR CONTEMPT FOR JEWS

  • TIBETAN MYTH MAY ACTUALLY BE REAL

  • EDITORIAL: IN FAVOR OF STUDYING HITLER

  • HITLER TAKING OVER HISTORY

  • ARE HINDU NATIONALISTS REWRITING TEXTBOOKS FOR POLITICAL GAIN?

  • DEBATE ABOUT GEORGE ORWELL

  • WORLD WAR I: OUR FORGOTTEN WAR?

  • WAS STALIN MURDERED?

  • RICHARD POSNER: ABOUT THE NEW BIO OF JUSTICE DOUGLAS

  • COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY'S ORAL HISTORY OF 9-11

  • KISSINGER'S DECISION TO IGNORE HISTORY

  • KEITH WINDSCHUTTLE: WHY I'M A BAD HISTORIAN

  • DISCOVERY WILL HELP MAP RISING SEAS IN THE SOUTHERN HEMISPHERE

  • WHAT NEW PRESIDENTIAL TAPE RECORDINGS PROMISE TO REVEAL

  • SHOULD HISTORIANS PAY ATTENTION TO EMOTION?

  • DID THE PAINT INDUSTRY HIRE A HISTORIAN TO WHITEWASH THEIR PAST?

  • DO TEXTBOOKS IGNORE THE DARK SIDE OF ISLAM?

  • THE U.S. ROLE IN DEPOSING SUKARNO

  • WAS STONEHENGE ABOUT GIVING BIRTH?

  • DON'T KNOW MUCH ABOUT HISTORY

  • MYTHS ABOUT THE JUKES CLAN

  • LEWIS & CLARK MYTHS

  • VIETNAM MYTHS

  • ORIGINS OF BLACK HISTORY MONTH

  • JUST HOW CONSERVATIVE WAS RONALD REAGAN?

  • WHY HITLER REMAINS FASCINATING

  • THE CHINA BOOK HITS THE NYT BEST SELLER LIST

  • DOWN SYNDROME: WORSE FOR THE PATIENT NOW THAT IT'S IDENTIFIABLE?


  • 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)

    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 Sa


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