Roundup: Talking About HistoryFollow RU: Talking About History on RSS and Twitter
This is where we excerpt articles about history that appear in the media. Among the subjects included on this page are: anniversaries of historical events, legacies of presidents, cutting-edge research, and historical disputes.
SOURCE: CNN.com (9-22-12)
Brent Huffman is a documentary filmmaker and assistant professor at the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University. He started making a film about the Mes Aynak site in the summer of 2011 thinking he would be documenting the site before it was demolished and recording the process of rescue archeology. Now he hopes he can use his film to raise awareness to actually save Mes Aynak.
(CNN) -- Please bear with me as I ask you to briefly use your imagination. Close your eyes. Imagine Machu Picchu at dawn cloaked in fog. Now imagine the fog slowly lifting to reveal an enormous ancient city perched on the edge of a mountain.
Picture a sense of mystery being immersed in thousands of years of history as you walk between antiquated hewn stone structures. There is tranquility in the wind-blown stillness of the primeval site. You feel a renewed sense of kinship with the past and with your ancestors and feel a deep reverence for their lives and accomplishments.
Now imagine the menacing sound of bulldozers closing in and men at work. Their heavy machinery rattles the ground. You hear workers rigging dynamite to these massive stone structures. There is a brief lull and then the deafening blow of multiple explosions as Machu Picchu is razed to the ground.
Be at ease, Machu Piccu is a UNESCO protected site. But a very similar 2,600-year-old Buddhist site in Logar province, Afghanistan isn't so lucky....
SOURCE: Financial Times (UK) (9-21-12)
Richard Vinen teaches history at King’s College London and is the author of Thatcher’s Britain.
SOURCE: WSJ (9-21-12)
Mr. Guelzo, professor of history and director of the Civil War Era Studies Program at Gettysburg College, is the author of Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation: The End of Slavery in America (Simon & Schuster, 2004).
SOURCE: Guardian (UK) (9-17-12)
Eric Foner is DeWitt Clinton professor of history at Columbia University, New York. He is the author of many books, including, most recently, The Fiery Trial: Abraham Lincoln and American Slavery (2010), which has been awarded the 2011 Pulitzer prize for history.
SOURCE: National Review (9-17-12)
John Fund is national-affairs columnist for NRO.
SOURCE: Social Justice Journal (9-17-12)
Tony Platt is Visiting Professor of Justice Studies at San Jose State University.
The blogs are full of charges and countercharges about journalist Seth Rosenfeld's claim (in his recent book, Subversives: The FBI's War on Student Radicals, and Reagan's Rise to Power and published articles) that Black Panther Party cadre Richard Aoki was a "paid FBI informer."
Here are a few thoughts about the debate:
Rosenfeld's claim that Aoki was an FBI informant takes up only a few pages in his 734-page book and is not central to his argument. Rosenfeld, however, chose to publish an article about Aoki on the release date of his book, thus making the topic appear central to his book.
Rosenfeld's piece about Aoki, published in the San Francisco Chronicle on August 20th, summarizes what appears in Subversives, namely that Aoki was "an undercover FBI informer." His evidence is based on an interview with Aoki's FBI handler, internal FBI records, the expertise of an ex-FBI agent, and an interview with Aoki. Rosenfeld's book thoroughly documents his evidence and is persuasive.
Rosenfeld's book and August 20th piece do not provide many details about what Aoki actually did for the FBI or how long he was an informant. Recently, the FBI released another 221 pages about Aoki in response to a FOIA claim. In an article published on September 7th in the San Francisco Chronicle, Rosenfeld sums up his new evidence: Aoki was an FBI informant from 1961 to 1977; Aoki was a paid informant; and Aoki and the FBI terminated their relationship in 1977....
SOURCE: Chronicle of Higher Ed (9-17-12)
Edward J. Blum is an associate professor of history at San Diego State University, and Paul Harvey is a professor of history at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs. They are the authors of The Color of Christ: The Son of God and the Saga of Race in America, just published by the University of North Carolina Press.
In a world filled with images of Jesus, this one made headlines. He stood in a stained-glass window wearing a simple white robe and a dark tunic. When sunlight struck the glass just so, kindness radiated from his white face and warmth from his brown eyes. This was a comforting Jesus, and for decades he had been with this black congregation in Birmingham, Ala. But on Sunday morning, September 15, 1963, less than three weeks after Martin Luther King Jr. proclaimed his dream of racial equality, dynamite set by white supremacists exploded outside the 16th Street Baptist Church, and four little girls who had gone to the basement lounge to freshen up were dead. The face of Jesus shattered into a thousand shards of glass. In the blink of an eye, the prince of peace was a casualty of racism.
The bombing would become a pivotal moment in the civil-rights movement of the 1960s. The outrage that grew around the nation helped spur the voting-rights campaign and pave the way for passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. By 2004, two days after winning the Democratic nomination for a U.S. Senate seat, Barack Obama flew to Birmingham to give a speech at the city's Civil Rights Institute. He took the opportunity to cross the street and visit the church, by then a national historic landmark. When he entered, he observed a "still-visible scar" along the wall where the bomb had gone off. He saw portraits of the four young girls and thought about his two little daughters at home. He sat to pray, and above him in stained glass was the Jesus installed in 1965 to commemorate the bombing. This one seems sad, his arms stretched out, crucified. His hair is short, cropped; his face black.
The same year the church's black Jesus was dedicated, Mormon leaders in Salt Lake City resurrected an image of Jesus to present themselves to the nation and the world. The Christus, as the statue is known, was created in the early 19th century by a Dutch artist, but Latter-day Saints made it their own when they placed a replica in a Visitors Center in Temple Square. Jesus stands more than 11 feet high. He is made of all-white marble, and his hair flows below his shoulders. His right arm and pectoral muscle are exposed to reveal his chiseled physique. He could just as easily adorn the cover of a best seller as a Bible storybook....
SOURCE: The Atlantic (9-19-12)
Evan Thomas is the author of eight books, including The War Lovers and Sea of Thunder. Editor-at-large of Newsweek until 2010, he was the author of more than 100 cover stories there and won numerous journalism awards, including a National Magazine Award. He teaches writing at Princeton.
Dwight Eisenhower is a president whose reputation has improved over time. When he left office, he was regarded as a genial, grandfatherly figure but also as a caretaker who was a little out of it. At the time, in January 1961, his Farewell Address presciently warning against the "military-industrial complex" was little noticed; far more attention was paid to JFK's soaring (and, in hindsight, overreaching) inaugural speech, promising to "bear any burden."
We know now that Ike was quietly powerful, that he operated with a "hidden hand," as Princeton professor Fred Greenstein once put it. In my new book on how President Eisenhower kept America out of war, I examine his ability to bluff and outmaneuver the Soviets and, when necessary, his own generals. The Eisenhower leadership style sharply contrasts with what we have come to expect in our celebrity culture and tit-for-tat politics. Eisenhower was never showy or impulsive; he disdained partisanship and always played for the long term. He was patient and calm in the face of uncertainty. He needed to be, for he faced an unpredictable and dangerous foe....
SOURCE: Yale Global (9-14-12)
Jeff M. Smith is the Kraemer Strategy Fellow at the American Foreign Policy Council and author of a forthcoming book on Sino-Indian relations.
SOURCE: Slate (9-17-12)
Akhil Reed Amar is the Sterling Professor of Law and Political Science at Yale and the author of America's Constitution: A Biography.
...The most powerful portents of the future are to be found in America’s existing state constitutions, the proverbial laboratories of American democracy. These 50 documents have converged to form a distinctly American model of governance—call it “American exceptionalism,” if you like. For example, unlike the regimes in various democratic countries around the world—England, Germany, France, Israel, India, Australia—almost all 50 states follow the same basic formula, featuring (1) ratified written constitutions, (2) bicameral legislatures, (3) chief executives who look remarkably like mini-presidents, and (4) robust bills of rights enforceable in ordinary courtrooms....
SOURCE: The American Scholar (10-1-12)
Louis P. Masur is the author of Lincoln's Hundred Days: The Emancipation Proclamation and the War for the Union. He is a professor of American studies and history at Rutgers University.
William Lloyd Garrison, the fiery abolitionist editor of the Liberator, had struggled for decades to see slavery abolished, but when Abraham Lincoln issued the preliminary Emancipation Proclamation on September 22, 1862, the long-awaited action came as a disappointment. Garrison was furious. Lincoln’s decree would free the slaves in rebel-controlled areas in the seceded states on January 1, 1863, a hundred days away. The delay was intended to give the Confederate states a chance to return to the Union and thus prevent the proclamation from applying to them. Lincoln also believed that the public needed time to digest this unprecedented development. “The President can do nothing for freedom in a direct manner, but only by circumlocution and delay,” lamented Garrison, who on an earlier occasion declared, “If he is 6 feet 4 inches high, he is only a dwarf in mind.”
What was taking Lincoln so long? Did he not understand that slavery caused the rebellion and that to end it he must immediately attack the institution? In a speech delivered on October 1, 1861, nearly a year before the preliminary Emancipation Proclamation, U.S. Senator Charles Sumner had thundered, “It is often said that war will make an end of Slavery. This is probable. But it is surer still that the overthrow of Slavery will at once make an end of the war.” Sumner kept steady pressure on the president, visiting the White House not once but twice on July 4, 1862, to implore Lincoln to sanctify the day by emancipating the slaves. Yet Lincoln did nothing more than try to placate Sumner—the Massachusetts senator, he said, was only a month or six weeks ahead of him in his thinking.
The timing of the final proclamation was part of the withering criticism it faced, and the decree has never fully escaped allegations cast by commentators across the political spectrum: that it was unconstitutional, that it could not be enforced, that it would lead to racial warfare, and that it hardly liberated anyone. The soulless language of the document has seemed especially galling to some. In 1948, Columbia historian Richard Hofstadter quipped that the Emancipation Proclamation had “all the moral grandeur of a bill of lading,” and the censure has stuck. In recent decades, a shift in scholarly focus to those outside traditional channels of power suggested that Lincoln did not free the slaves, but rather, the slaves, by running away, freed themselves. Lincoln the emancipator was reduced to Lincoln the procrastinator.
It is lamentable that we have distanced ourselves from the proclamation and have allowed it to be diminished by criticisms of its timing, prose, and perceived efficacy. Lincoln was a cautious politician, and he would not be pressured. He once told the story of a man with a mill, located at the top of a hill, whose water supply came from a lake. The man “opened the sluice a trifle & the water rushed out, widening the passage until its volume swept off mill & miller.” If not handled with care, emancipation could have been the torrent that drowned one and all. Lincoln took every precaution to make certain that would not happen; freedom hurried could be freedom lost. His deliberate decision making may have driven radicals to despair, but it assured the triumph of the final Emancipation Proclamation....
SOURCE: WaPo (9-12-12)
Michael Collins, a retired Air Force major general, was the command module pilot of Apollo 11. He remained in lunar orbit while Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin landed in the Sea of Tranquility in July 1969.
Before manned space flights began, officials pondered what background they should seek in the crew for this bizarre new venture: Danger lover? Bullfighter? Mountain climber? Should they search for people who were self-aware and calm in extreme conditions? A deep-sea diver, perhaps? Finally, they settled on — and President Dwight Eisenhower supported — experimental test pilots, people who had already guided complex new flying machines. Thus the original seven astronauts were selected in 1959.
In 1962 I was a budding test pilot at Edwards Air Force Base in California — our Mecca — and much interested in joining NASA’s second crew selection. Pondering the competition, I wrote to my father on April 19 that “Neil Armstrong will be on the list . . . because he has by far the best background.” Neil, a former Navy fighter pilot, was a combat veteran employed by NASA at Edwards. He was testing new Air Force and Navy aircraft, as well as rocket ships. His flights in the rocket-powered X-15 alone put him a stratosphere above the rest of us.
It was no surprise that Neil advanced to make the first docking in space, as commander of Gemini 8, and then moved to Apollo, where Buzz Aldrin and I joined his crew. By then he had proven his technical competence many times over, but I didn’t really know the man behind the reputation....
SOURCE: Oxford University Press Blog (9-7-12)
Jennifer Burns is Assistant Professor of History at Stanford University and the author of Goddess of the Market: Ayn Rand and the American Right. A nationally recognized authority on Rand and conservative thought, she has discussed her work on The Daily Show, The Colbert Report, Book TV, and has been interviewed on numerous radio programs
The Host: The biggest difference, of course, is Jon vs. Stephen, but I had an unexpected reaction. Where most people seem to think Stephen Colbert would be a more difficult interview, I actually found him to be personally warmer and easier to talk to than Jon Stewart. Some of this was because I felt more confident the second time around. But the interview itself was also less serious and more of a performance, whereas on The Daily Show I felt I was being grilled by a formidable intellect. Before The Daily Show interview, the producer told me it would be extemporaneous, and that Jon didn’t have notes. But as I was waiting for my interview with Colbert to start, I was told he was finalizing his jokes. When I was seated on the set, I could see a detailed note card on Stephen’s side of the table. I’m pretty sure we veered off the script, but that level of planning was reassuring. The Colbert producer also did a great job of helping me understand what would create a good interview. Her top piece of advice (which I also heard at The Daily Show): “Don’t be funny!”...
SOURCE: Jerusalem Post (9-12-12)
‘Palestinians" are the first people to come to mind when the word "refugee" is uttered in a Middle East context. And Palestinians have paid dearly to reinforce this misconception.
Largely dispossessed by their fellow Arabs, Palestinians have lived as second-class citizens in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria and elsewhere in the region. Palestinians’ dismal treatment by their Arab brethren is undoubtedly due in part to strongly held prejudices and exclusionary nationalist loyalties.
But the perpetuation of the Palestinian "refugee" problem has also served as a means of undermining the legitimacy of Israel, as if it was the Jewish state – not extremist, uncompromising and sorrowfully incompetent Palestinian leadership – which was responsible for the flight of Palestinians from Palestine after the failed attempt to violently snuff out the State of Israel at conception.
In reality, however, there was at least one additional population movement in the region around the same time...
SOURCE: Lee Ruddin (9-11-12)
Lee Ruddin is Roundup Editor at HNN. He lives in England.
Reading Lynne Olson’s Citizens of London: The Americans Who Stood with Britain in Its Darkest, Finest Hour made me think of the British officials who supported America during its hour of need 11 years ago. The Bush Administration was caught like a rabbit in the headlights back in 2001, as the symbols of America’s economic and military power lay smouldering, but three Brits ensured that their transatlantic cousins did not stand alone. Given the 11th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, I feel it is both a worthwhile and timely exercise to recall the support given by Tony Blair, Alastair Campbell, and Sir Richard Dearlove.
London at the time of Blitz was a city in peril, with Hitler’s Luftwaffe bombing almost nightly, and the capital burning throughout the day. Yet three Americans – Edward R. Murrow (CBS radio broadcaster), W. Averell Harriman (a Roosevelt appointee to administer the “Lend-Lease” program), and John Gilbert Winant (U.S. Ambassador to the Court of St. James’s) – witnessed the suffering of Londoners up close and personal and, says Olson, suffered with them. Her book wonderfully illustrates that the presence of three Americans in the heart of Blitz-hit London illuminated beyond any doubt just how much America really cared for and assisted Britain.
Such care and assistance was evidently at the forefront of the then-Prime Minister’s mind and which, I would argue, directed his course of action in the immediate aftermath of 9/11 and determined Whitehall’s relationship with Washington for the duration of his premiership. As Blair reminds readers of his autobiography, Tony Blair: A Journey, he reminded Americans (upon leaving a New York remembrance service on September 20th) that his ‘father’s generation went through the Blitz [and] they
know what it is like to suffer this deep tragedy and attack. There was one country and one people which stood by us at that time. That country was America and those people were the American people. As you stood by us in those days, we stand side by side with you now. Your loss is our loss. Your struggle is our struggle.
Blair had spoken about being ‘shoulder to shoulder with our American friends in this hour of tragedy’ “That Tuesday” evening, but by physically standing at Bush’s side (and the First Lady’s during her husband’s speech to a joint session of Congress) and embracing members of the congregation at St. Thomas Church nine days after the worst terrorist attack in America’s history made American’s feel, as Blair had hoped, ‘a real arm of solidarity [was] stretched out towards them.’
There is little doubt that support from “across the pond” (including the band of the Coldstream Guards playing “The Star-Spangled Banner” during the Changing of the Guard ceremony), to quote Labor’s longest-serving PM, provided a ‘source of strength.’ Cynics will not doubt say “Well, he would say that, wouldn’t he?” But the simple fact of the matter is the President, his Principals, and the population-at-large did genuinely appreciate the support offered by Brits, Buckingham Palace, and Blair especially, as Sir Christopher Meyer, United Kingdom Ambassador to the United States (but who’s diplomatic skills are pushed to the limit when talking about Mr. Blair), illustrates in his autobiography.
‘Blair had become an American hero,’ Meyer writes in DC Confidential: The Controversial Memoirs of Britain’s Ambassador to the U.S. at the Time of 9/11 and the Iraq War. ‘More than any other European politician he seemed to have understood the shocking impact on the [U.S.] of 9/11: on [Bush], on the [A]dministration … and on the American people themselves,’ he concludes. What impressed Meyer most, though, was Blair’s nuanced policy-thinking and, in this particular instance, his five-page, ‘first rate’ international strategy for tackling Al Qaeda (penned by himself, no less, and not by Foreign Office mandarins) which incorporated “soft” as well as “hard” power elements.
Talking of “soft power,” and the ability to co-opt (as opposed to coercing with the “hard” variety), Blair’s very own Head of Communications, Alastair Campbell, had a moment in the spotlight and did nothing if not shine when enlisted (six weeks after 9/11) to turn around the Administration’s losing communications battle. As the political aide noted in the fourth volume of his diaries subtitled The Burden of Power: Countdown to Iraq, he feared that Bush officials were putting out messages that were interpreted positively in the likes of, say, Austin, Knoxville, and Independence but negatively in cities such as Aleppo, Karachi, and Istanbul.
The Commander-in-Chief was, to be sure, aware of the American-centric – even inward-looking – line coming out of the Administration and the need to engage with the Arab world in an attempt to get public opinion on side and to forestall any talk of civilizational war between Muslims and Christians. So much so, in fact, a communicator-in-chief was sought to provide advice on the running of a properly co-ordinated international structure and Campbell did not disappoint Karen Hughes at the White House, Torie Clarke at the Defense Department, or Condoleezza Rice at State with his strategy to eliminate conflicting signals from different parts of Government since, as Mary Matalin (Vice-President Richard Cheney’s press woman) said when leaving an October 24th meeting with him, ‘they had been pressing for this kind of approach for ages.’
We cannot say for certain just how influential or indeed how successful Campbell’s communications paper was because the public relations battle for the hearts and minds of the Muslim world continues to this day and will, alas, no doubt continue for many more. What we can say for certain, though, is just how influential and indeed how successful his presence and memo was to those members of the Administration whose minds had wandered during the anthrax scare and whom then, going deeper into the Fall, needed to refocus on the bigger picture.
The same can be said, to a certain degree, for the intelligence services. Whilst there have been some obvious failures and many less-obvious successes post-9/11, the fact that Sir Richard Dearlove, head of the Secret Intelligence Service (commonly referred to as MI6), flew to Washington to meet with his opposite number at the Central Intelligence Agency, Director George Tenet, a day after the attacks illuminated anew the bedrock of Anglo-American relations: the intelligence-sharing relationship. Arriving in a private jet on September 12th – as U.S. airspace was closed to all other aircraft and the Pentagon was still smoking – moved Tenet so much, Gordon Thomas author of Secret Wars: One Hundred Years of British Intelligence Inside MI5 and MI6 tells us, that he toasted the “special relationship between our countries” that evening before beginning the fight back with Dearlove the very next morning.
At a time when much is made of the regulatory spat(s) between Bank of England Governor Mervyn King and U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner it is important to remember, Andrew Roberts, author of A History of the English-Speaking Peoples Since 1900, informs readers, that King arguably stood the closest to America since his ‘swift and decisive … action to avert panic-selling of dollars’ ensured a financial crisis was not borne out of a national security one.
SOURCE: The Atlantic (9-10-12)
Andrew Cohen is a contributing editor at The Atlantic and legal analyst for 60 Minutes. He is also chief analyst and legal editor for CBS Radio News and has won a Murrow Award as one of the nation's leading legal analysts and commentators.
On September 11, 1957, 55 years ago tomorrow, a national catastrophe was unfolding, one you likely have never heard about before. At the Rocky Flats nuclear weapons facility near Denver, inside the plutonium processing building, a fire had started in an area designed to be fireproof. Soon it was roaring over, through, and around the carefully constricted plutonium as one Cold-War-era safety feature after another failed. The roof of the building, the building itself, were threatened. And plumes of radioactive smoke went straight up into Colorado's late summer night air. High into the air, if you believe the witnesses.
For 13 hours on the night of the 11th, into the morning the next day, the fire raged inside that building, until firefighters put it out (with water -- exposing themselves, and perhaps the entire front range of Colorado, to an even greater risk of radiation). When it was over, Energy Department officials, and the Dow Chemical officials who then ran the facility, did not share the extent of the catastrophe, or the radiation danger, with local officials or the media. For years, no one really knew how bad it had been, what it meant for those exposed to the radiation, or how such a dangerous event could be prevented in the future.
For some, the story of Rocky Flats, one of the most disgraceful episodes in the annals of America's interaction with the atom, is ancient history. For others, it's a current event. For Kristen Iversen, it's a burden she lives with, physically and psychologically, every day of her life. Iversen is the author of a new book on the subject -- Full Body Burden: Growing Up in the Nuclear Shadow of Rocky Flats, a striking tale of innocence in a time and a place of great danger. It's the story of an American family buying into the myth of nuclear safety, a story of an abuse of trust for which our government still hasn't fully atoned....
SOURCE: NYT (9-8-12)
SOURCE: Weekly Standard (9-3-12)
Ryan L. Cole is a freelance journalist.
Louis Serurier, a French diplomat stationed in Washington in the early 19th century, observed that the War of 1812 lent America “what it so essentially lacked, a national character founded on a common glory to all.” The American war effort was hardly flawless, and the final outcome may have been inconclusive, but battling Great Britain to something resembling a draw gave an adolescent country a sense of national purpose, some international prestige, and a final, definite separation from the Crown.
But the two intervening centuries have been unkind to that legacy. The war’s bicentennial, now upon us, has so far mostly offered commentators a chance to reflect on how little Americans care about their second war of independence, and how the little they do know is stitched together from questionable sources (Johnny Horton’s “The Battle of New Orleans,” for example).
Perhaps fittingly, Congress, regarding the occasion as less important than the 200th anniversaries of the Lewis and Clark expedition and Abraham Lincoln’s birth, declined to give this bicentennial the lavish, taxpayer-funded treatment afforded to its predecessors. So with no national commemoration, the relevant states, cities, sites, and museums are organizing various smaller activities to mark the occasion. Whether the results will be a string of reminders about (and hand-wringing over) our indifference to the war remains to be seen....
SOURCE: Israel Hayom (9-6-12)
Clifford D. May is president of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, a policy institute focusing on terrorism and Islamism.
It was Herbert Hoover’s misfortune to be president of the U.S. when the stock market crashed in 1929. Three years later, Franklin Roosevelt would blame him for the Great Depression and defeat him at the ballot box. Historians ranking American presidents have placed Hoover near the bottom of their lists ever since.
If you’ve read Amity Shlaes’ masterful “The Forgotten Man: A New History of the Great Depression,” (and if you haven’t, do so without delay) you know there was more to Hoover’s economic thinking than is generally recognized. But for the last 20 years of his life, Hoover spent much of his time and energy on national security, laboring over what he called his “magnum opus,” a combination revisionist history of World War II, memoir and scathing critique of Roosevelt’s foreign policy.
“Freedom Betrayed: Herbert Hoover’s Secret History of the Second World War and its Aftermath” was completed almost half a century ago but published only last year following a herculean editing job by historian George H. Nash. According to Nash, Hoover’s 900-word tome should be read “as an argument that challenges us to think afresh about our past.” It should be read also, I would suggest, as an argument that challenges us to think afresh about our present and future....