Roundup: Talking About History
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: New Republic (8-28-07)
Simply to find out who has donated to the ten existing presidential libraries is no easy task. In 2004, Josh Gerstein of The New York Sun went out to Little Rock and found a list of donors on a touch-screen computer on the third floor of President Clinton's $165 million library. That was the only way to get the names. Among those listed as "Trustees," who gave at least $1 million: the Saudi royal family and three...
SOURCE: Japan Focus (8-28-07)
SOURCE: FrontpageMag.com (8-29-07)
Jim Wallis' Sojourners reacted quickly to President Bush's comparison of Iraq to Vietnam. The Iraq-Vietnam comparison is in fact a frequent one for the Religious Left, but not the way Bush described it. For the Religious Left, every U.S. military involvement is "another Vietnam," i.e. a futile quagmire pitting enlightened Third World liberationists against clueless Western imperialists.
Bush challenged that narrative by pointing to Indochina's mass murder and oppression after the U.S. Congress of 1975 virtually cut off all aid to anti-communist resistance in Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos. After Indochina's "liberation" by Soviet-backed North Vietnam, the North Vietnamese-backed Pathet Lao in Laos, and the Chinese-backed Pol Pot in Cambodia, at least two million were murdered by these "liberators." Millions more endured imprisonment and...
SOURCE: Huffington Post (Blog) (8-28-07)
The good news is that George W. Bush at last has found parallels between his Iraq misadventure and the Vietnam War. The bad news is that he is again writing his own revisionist history. The president is on dangerous ground -- for both wars are based on a bed of lies and miscalculations.
American involvement in Vietnam escalated after an alleged attack on U.S. Navy vessels in the Gulf of Tonkin in 1964. The incident offered President Lyndon B. Johnson the pretext for expanding American involvement from an "advisory" role to combat operations. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney insisted in 2001 -- and ever since -- that Saddam Hussein had ties to Al Qaeda, a charge without foundation. They...
SOURCE: Counterpunch (8-25-07)
SOURCE: New Republic's Open University (8-24-07)
Judging by the latest PBS offering, Cities of Light, those very same film-makers have learned something in the interim, although they are still a long way from any semblance of historical objectivity. In its study of Islamic Spain, Cities of Light presented an unsurprisingly glorious image of a tolerant society in which all religions worked happily together under a benevolent Caliphate, a world in which Muslims,...
SOURCE: American Spectator (8-28-07)
Nothing that's happened in this summer's Silly Season so far has amused me half so much as President Bush's suddenly upsetting the media's whole rhetorical apple-cart by comparing Iraq to Vietnam. The media take that has now prevailed since the American-backed overthrow of the Taliban in Afghanistan in the autumn of 2001 -- that every further step in the War on Terror is further progress into a Vietnam-like "quagmire" -- has done a 180. Now they're dragging onto the stage one anti-Bush historian after another to proclaim that Iraq is nothing like Vietnam and that the President, as usual, has got it all wrong.
"What is Bush suggesting? That we didn't fight hard enough, stay long enough?" asks Robert Dallek in the...
SOURCE: http://www.nationnews.com (8-27-07)
Or, about two of the oldest churches on the African continent and indeed the world – the Egyptian Orthodox Church established by St Mark the gospel writer in AD 58 and the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, established AD 330.
It is ironic that while black priests here hardly breathe a word of history to their congregants, their leaders have extolled the two ancient Christian churches of Africa. For instance, former head of the Roman Catholic Church, Pope Paul VI, told the head of the Egyptian Orthodox Church on his visit to Rome in May 1973:
"You are indeed the head of the church whose origin goes back to the Evangelist Mark and which had...
SOURCE: Huffington Post (Blog) Click on SOURCE for embedded links. (8-26-07)
I wasn't going to write about George W. Bush's recent disfigurement of the history of the Vietnam War because I didn't believe it was worthy of a response. But when I read David Kirkpatrick's piece in The New York Times saying that Bush's remarks "sent historians scurrying toward their keyboards," I felt I better join my esteemed colleagues and "scurry" (like a rat?) to my computer.
On August 22, 2007, Bush told the Veterans of Foreign Wars at their annual convention in Kansas City, Missouri:
"The world would learn just how costly these misinterpretations would be. In Cambodia, the Khmer Rouge began a murderous rule in which hundreds of thousands of Cambodians died by starvation and torture and execution. In Vietnam, former allies of the United States and government workers and intellectuals and businessmen were sent off to prison camps, where tens of thousands more fled...
SOURCE: LAT (8-26-07)
How did George Gershwin's "Rhapsody in Blue" reflect both the Jewish and African American experience in America? Why was Ernest Hemingway's "The Sun Also Rises" so influential for modern fiction and journalism? What was Abstract Expressionism, and why did Jackson Pollock become a cultural hero for many Americans in the 1950s? How did Marlon Brando's performance as Stanley Kowalski in "A Streetcar Named Desire" transform American acting, first on stage and then in the movies?
If you are a college student taking a course in American history, you are unlikely to get the answers to any of these questions. The questions won't even be posed. Nor will the...
SOURCE: Houston Chronicle (8-23-07)
In his continuing attempts to justify escalation of the war in Iraq, President Bush has resorted to historical analogy, warning that a hasty retreat from the Middle East would trigger a bloodbath as it did in Cambodia and Vietnam in the 1970s. Not only is the comparison faulty, it is historically inaccurate.
"In Cambodia," Bush said, "the Khmer Rouge began a murderous rule in which hundreds of thousands of Cambodians died by starvation and torture and execution" and "in Vietnam, former allies of the United States, and government workers and intellectuals and businessmen were sent off to prison camps, where tens of thousands...
SOURCE: LAT (8-25-07)
FINDING IN THE DEBACLE of the Vietnam War a rationale for sustaining the U.S. military presence in Iraq requires considerable imagination. If nothing else, President Bush's speech to the Veterans of Foreign Wars earlier this week revealed a hitherto unsuspected capacity for creativity. Yet as an exercise in historical analysis, his remarks proved to be self-serving and selective.
For years, the Bush administration has rejected all comparisons between Iraq and Vietnam. Now the president cites Vietnam to bolster his insistence on "seeing the Iraqis through as they build their democracy." To do otherwise, he says, will invite a recurrence of the events that followed the fall of Saigon, when "millions of innocent citizens" were murdered, imprisoned or forced to flee.
The president views the abandonment of our...
SOURCE: WSJ (8-28-07)
It is odd and perhaps unfortunate that Albert Shanker (1928-97) may be remembered principally as the man who in 1968, as head of the New York City teachers union, shut down the city's schools with a series of strikes. It was all in a good cause, to be sure, but the controversy of that episode, over the years, has stolen drama from much else of note in Shanker's long and admirable life.
As Richard Kahlenberg reminds us in "Tough Liberal," a thoroughly researched and engaging biography, Shanker was a charismatic labor leader at a time of union decline, a powerful voice for educational reform at a time of bureaucratic complacency, and--not least--an eloquent advocate of an aggressive, pro-democratic American foreign policy at a time of defeatism and retreat.
Shanker's convictions derived from his early experiences as...
SOURCE: NY Sun (8-28-07)
It is sad and shameful that, under pressure from Israeli governments fearful of antagonizing the Turks, Jewish organizations in both Israel and the Diaspora have been so reluctant to acknowledge a historical truth that is well-documented and beyond serious challenge. Whether the Turks, who were fighting desperately to hold onto what was left of the Ottoman Empire, intended to kill every last Armenian they could hunt down, of whether they simply wanted to kill enough of them to make sure that Turkey no longer had an "Armenian problem" after the war, there can be no doubt that many hundreds of thousands, and probably well over a million, Armenians were deliberately murdered by them in the years between 1915 and 1918.
As understandable as may be...
SOURCE: Haaretz (8-25-07)
... This historical episode has become a political flashpoint in Washington, D.C., where all kinds of influence peddlers have been engaged in a fierce struggle over whether Congress should officially codify the Armenian massacre as genocide. The Turkish government has spent millions of dollars and twisted countless arms in an effort to trounce this resolution. More troubling, it has been able to enlist the support of the ADL - along with other Jewish organizations - in its campaign of denial.
Let us be clear from the outset: This debate is not about the veracity of scholarship or the merits of comparative historical interpretations. Academic authorities agree on this matter, and the evidence that the campaign against the Armenians constituted the first genocide of the 20th century is overwhelming and...
SOURCE: FrontpageMag.com (8-27-07)
There are, of course, no memorials for the millions of Chinese slaughtered by the Japanese (the incredible orgy of up-close-and-personal brutality known as the Rape of Nanking killed more people than both atomic bombs combined -- and, unlike the Bomb, it was up close and personal). And somehow we never hear any speeches about how we must "never again" see another Bataan Death March.
This points to a reflexive anti-Americanism among the kind of people who engage in this peculiar kind of historical mourning. But if that’s all there is to it, you might ask why no special liturgies for the greater numbers who died in the purely conventional firebombings of Tokyo by B-29s...
SOURCE: Nation (5-11-98)
It is my duty," wrote the correspondent for The Times of London at the liberation of the Nazi death camp at Belsen, "to describe something beyond the imagination of mankind." That was how I felt in the summer of 1979 when I arrived in Cambodia. In the silent humidity, houses, office blocks, hotels and schools stood empty, as if vacated that day. In the ruined National Bank, blown up by the retreating Khmer Rouge, a pair of spectacles rested on a ledger. When the afternoon monsoon broke, the streets nearby ran with money as thousands of brand-new bank notes washed away in the gutter. Children, orphans, collected and dried them for fuel; I can still hear the crackle as the money burned.
As if in a mirage, a pyramid of cars rose on a football field. It included an ambulance, a fire engine, police cars,...
SOURCE: Progressive.org (8-22-07)
But instead of recognizing it for what it was—a reckless imperial overreach, just like his own Iraq War—Bush twists the history of the Vietnam War to try to buttress the one he’s got us in now.
Check this out: He says we should have stayed in Vietnam longer.
“The price of America’s withdrawal was paid by millions of innocent citizens,” he told the Veterans of Foreign Wars. By the way, he’s counting the victims of the Khmer Rouge, who came to power only after the U.S. ruined Cambodia.
And he’s not counting the three million people the U.S. killed in Southeast Asia during that war....
It is, of course, amazing that Bush is even bringing up Vietnam.
Back on April 13, 2004 he was asked about the Vietnam analogy at a press conference.
But Bush did not want to hear anything about it. "The analogy is...
SOURCE: WaPo (8-24-07)
Bush's comparison of the two conflicts rivals Richard Nixon's "I am not a crook" utterance during Watergate and Bill Clinton's "I did not have sexual relations with that woman, Miss Lewinsky," in producing unintended consequences of a most damaging kind for a sitting president.
It is not just that Bush's speech to the Veterans of Foreign Wars convention on Wednesday drew on a shaky grasp of history, spotlighted once again his own decision to sit out the Vietnam conflict, and played straight into his critics' most emotive arguments against him and the Republican Party.
More important, Bush has called attention to the elephant that will be sitting in the room when his administration makes its politically vital report on...
SOURCE: MSNBC (8-23-07)
The Soviet Union was in its final days of existence when I visited Vietnam in late December of 1991. The cold war was about to end forever with the collapse of one of the two adversaries that had kept it going for 40-odd years. A lot had changed in Vietnam, too, I discovered during my trip. The coziness between Moscow and Hanoi, once comrades within the Soviet bloc, had curdled into mutual hatred. Throughout the country, but especially in the North, the Vietnamese had come to despise the large resident Russian population for its cheap spending habits and arrogance. Visiting Americans, by contrast, were welcomed with smiles (“Russians with dollars,” we were called.) On the day I visited the old U.S. Embassy in Saigon—the where some of those iconic photos symbolizing American defeat were taken—I discovered government workmen removing a plaque that once commemorated the North’s victory over the “U.S...