History News Network - Front Page History News Network - Front Page articles brought to you by History News Network. Mon, 27 Mar 2023 06:29:11 +0000 Mon, 27 Mar 2023 06:29:11 +0000 Zend_Feed_Writer 2 (http://framework.zend.com) https://hnn.us/site/feed H.W. Brands on Ben Barnes's "Revelation" about the Iran Hostage Crisis

Ben Barnes (l) and John Connally (c) meet with Egyptian President Anwar Sadat, 1980. Barnes has recently repeated claims previously made to historian H.W. Brands (and published in Brands's biography of Ronald Reagan) that this meeting was part of Connally's effort to delay the release of American hostages held by Iran to secure Reagan's election. 



Peter Baker recently reported in the New York Times that Ben Barnes, a Texas politician and protegé of the former Texas governor John Connally, has chosen to speak out about a mission to the Middle East he and Connally took in 1980. According to Barnes, the purpose of meetings with a number of Middle East leaders was to encourage those leaders to convey to the Iranian government that it would be in their interest to delay the release of American hostages, a move damaging to the reelection effort of Jimmy Carter, and negotiate the release of the hostages with Ronald Reagan, whom Connally supported. Congressional investigations of the hostage crisis did not address Connally's trip. 

Baker also reported that Barnes's claims were mentioned in H.W. Brands's biography of Ronald Reagan, and that Brands was one of four individuals Barnes identified as having previously heard the story. 

Professor Brands agreed to answer some questions from HNN about Barnes's claims by email today, and how this "revelation" has been hiding in plain sight. 


HNN: How did you come to speak with Barnes about Governor Connally’s trip to the Middle East? 

While researching my book about Reagan, I asked Ben Barnes, whom I had known, if he had had any dealings with Reagan. In the conversation he mentioned his trip with John Connally to the Middle East in the summer of 1980. He told me that his trip with his old friend and mentor turned out to have a purpose beyond making Connally look like secretary of state material. Connally conveyed to governments and influential people in the Middle East that it would "not be helpful" - Barnes's characterization - to the Reagan campaign if the hostages were released before the election. I asked Barnes if that message came to Connally from William Casey, Reagan's campaign manager at that time; Barnes said he didn't know and didn't ask.

I followed up in some Connally papers at the LBJ Library to corroborate the journey. It checked out. There I also discovered a memo of a phone call from Nancy Reagan at the Reagan ranch to Connally on the trip. So Reagan was aware of the trip.

HNN: Did it make any waves when you wrote about Barnes’s account in your biography of Reagan? 

Very little. I was surprised.

HNN: The idea that the release of the hostages was manipulated to harm Carter’s reelection bid is part of the lore surrounding the 1980 election, so it seems odd that a revelation like this would pass by unremarked. Is this a case of people’s responses being governed by their preexisting assumptions, or is it a case where the implications about American power and political tricks are too disturbing to discuss? Why is there a collective shrug, aside from the passage of 43 years? 

The principals categorically denied any such thing. Watergate elevated the standard of evidence in such case to the "smoking gun." At the time there was no smoking gun. 

HNN: Some critics, notably the media scholar Siva Vaidhyanathan, have questioned the veracity of Barnes’s account and the chain of events – specifically stating that Carter ultimately negotiated the release of the hostages, which was completed moments after Reagan’s inauguration in 1981, and that Connally’s lack of experience made him unlikely to be successful in such secret dealing. Do you think Barnes is credible about Connally’s intentions, and if so, should we think of Connally as an opportunist or a well-connected operator? 

I find it very difficult to believe that Connally was free-lancing. William Casey was too canny to allow that. Furthermore, Casey seems to have had a second-track of backdoor communications with Iran, including a September meeting in Madrid with people who presented themselves as go-betweens. In 1980 this seemed outlandish. But after the Iran-contra scandal broke, it seemed entirely plausible. By then Casey was dead, and he had covered his tracks well.

I have known Ben Barnes for thirty years. And I find it very difficult to believe he was making this up. 

HNN: Finally, how much should this cause us to rethink the 1980 election? Could this trip have changed the course of American history?

No, and here's why. By the summer of 1980, the hostages had lost their value to their captors. They were looking for a way to release them. But the last thing they wanted to do was help Carter get reelected. Carter was the reason the hostages were seized; the kidnappers thought Carter was planning to reinstall the shah (as Eisenhower had done in 1953). In effect, Connally and Casey were telling the Iranians not to do something the Iranians had no intention of doing. And far from the hostage release reflecting the Iranians' fear of Reagan, as the Reagan side spun things, the timing reflected their hatred for Carter and their preference for Reagan. 

Mon, 27 Mar 2023 06:29:11 +0000 https://historynewsnetwork.org/article/185271 https://historynewsnetwork.org/article/185271 0
An American Witness to the European Movement Against the Iraq Invasion

An effigy protests Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi's support for the invasion of Iraq, Rome, February 15, 2003



March 19 marked the 20th anniversary of the United States and Coalition Forces’ Invasion of Iraq in 2003. The George W. Bush administration’s preparations for war against Iraq had drawn widespread international criticism and triggered an international anti-war movement. The outbreak of the Iraq War disrupted the global political system and severely strained Transatlantic relationships between the United States and its allies and partners in the European Union.


As the Bush administration conducted an international diplomatic campaign to prepare for war against Saddam Hussein, Europeans questioned the need for war. I was conducting research in Florence, Italy, during the run-up to the outbreak of war and was deeply troubled by the Bush administration’s bellicose policies and its unrelenting drive for war. As a historian of violence based in Florence, I was able to observe the organization of a significant European anti-war movement.


The first European Social Forum, a European convention of social and activist organizations, was held in Florence in November 2002. I attended the convention and observed many of the sessions that discussed international politics and criticized the Bush administration’s foreign policy. Other panels promoted pacifism and explored techniques of anti-war activism. At the end of the European Social Forum, the member groups organized the first pan-European anti-war march. I participated along with an estimated 450,000 activists in a massive anti-war march through the streets of Florence opposing the Iraq War. Groups carried rainbow-colored pace (peace) flags and banners with anti-war slogans such as “Non Alla Guerra - No War” and “Not in My Name.”


The organizers of the anti-war march at the European Social Forum in Florence prepared an even larger international day of protest against the impending war in February 2003.


As these protests were being organized, European opposition to the planned war solidified. French and German diplomats openly opposed the planned war in Iraq. European media increasingly questioned the United States’ pursuit of war against Saddam Hussein.


Secretary of State Colin Powell appeared before the United Nations Security Council on February 5, 2003 to present the case that Iraq possessed (or had the means to manufacture) chemical weapons of mass destruction (WMD) and had ties to Al Qaeda. Powell’s presentation utterly failed to convince the United Nations diplomats or the world’s journalists of the existence of WMD in Iraq or of the necessity for a military campaign to “liberate” the Iraqi people.


Julian Borger argued that “Colin Powell will be most remembered for the act he most regretted, his 2003 presentation to the UN security council laying out US evidence of Iraqi weapons of mass destruction, which turned out not to exist.”


Sharp contrasts appeared between the U.S. news media’s jingoistic coverage of Powell’s presentation—it completely justified war—and the European and world news media’s criticisms of Powell—he was utterly unconvincing.


Many European citizens mobilized in opposition to the United States’ Iraq War. Phyllis Bennis recently observed that “Twenty years ago — on February 15, 2003 — the world said no to war. People rose up in almost 800 cities around the world in an unprecedented movement for peace.”


The anti-war protests on February 15 achieved a massive coordinated mobilization of citizens worldwide. “There were 600 marches in 54 countries: 250 alone in Canada and the United States, 105 in Europe, 37 in the Middle East and Asia, 16 in Latin America, 8 in Africa, 34 in Oceania, and 1 in Antarctica.” Millions of citizens marched against war in Rome, London, Paris, Madrid, Barcelona, Berlin, Stockholm, and other European cities, often evoking the initiative of the European Social Forum in Florence. Additional protests were held in New York, Beirut, Melbourne, Tokyo, and smaller cities around the world.


The United States’ military invasion of Iraq unleashed decades of destruction and suffering for the Iraqi people and destabilized the entire Middle East. The invasion also weakened the United States’ relations with its European allies and undermined European citizens’ confidence in the international policies of the United States and its leadership of the NATO Transatlantic alliance.


The anti-war movement that started with the European Social Forum in Florence failed to prevent the Iraq War, but it did launch broader pan-European forms of civic participation and anti-war activism that have continued to shape European societies.


Mon, 27 Mar 2023 06:29:11 +0000 https://historynewsnetwork.org/article/185298 https://historynewsnetwork.org/article/185298 0
The History of State Interposition Shows Federalism is a Deliberative Process, not a Set of Rules

John C. Calhoun misconstrued James Madison's original thinking about federalism to declare a right of state nullification of federal law, Christian Fritz contends.



Every day, we see that our democracy is buffeted by forces that threaten its very existence. Thus, it is timely to ask what elements of our representative democracy can help us maintain an even keel with regard to the distribution and exercise of constitutional powers. Is the Supreme Court the best guardian of our liberties by its monitoring of federalism? Is Congress reflective of the people’s will? Are the states and their legislatures more attuned than Washington to the needs of the people they represent? Or is some combination of voices the more desirable outcome to preserve the people’s will?

The Constitution created what James Madison called a “compound republic”—neither a wholly national government nor one in which states retained their entire sovereignty. This shared sovereignty inevitably tested the balance of powers between nation and states. Moreover, the absence of clear delineation between the two levels of government meant that a static equilibrium of powers would never be a fact and would always be a source of ongoing political debate and conflict.

Since 1776, Americans have resisted and at times rebelled against perceived tyrannies of government. In Monitoring American Federalism: The History of State Legislative Resistance, I focus on the untold story of how Americans have monitored our federal system through their state legislatures by using the tool of interposition to express opposition to government overreach. Properly understood at the time, interposition was not a claim that state sovereignty could or should displace national authority, but a claim that American federalism needed to preserve some balance between state and national authority. Interposition’s justification surfaced in the Federalist essays of James Madison and Alexander Hamilton and helped states oppose the Alien and Sedition Acts of the 1790s. States sounded the alarm by passing legislative resolutions and communicated with other states to overturn these laws.

The Constitution’s shared sovereignty between nation and states created a dynamic federalism that stimulated continuous debates over the balance of power, including debates over slavery and taxation. Thus, state interposition shaped the American political conversation about our constitutional rights and illustrated a strength, and not a weakness, of the framers’ constitutional design, inviting each generation to consider what the appropriate constitutional balance should be. 

The new Constitution had existed for a short time before Madison and others became concerned about constitutional interpretations that expanded national power. This early dialogue about federalism centered on what each side viewed as undesirable: either changes that would weaken the authority of states or that would diminish national authority. The debate over federalism reflected fundamentally different constitutional views. For John Marshall and others, the Constitution had been established as the act of one national people, forming a national government with considerable powers. For states’ rights advocates, the Constitution was a compact of sovereign states, leaving state sovereignty largely intact, except for limited and express grants of powers to the national government. Those competing views shaped how each side regarded the role and authority of the Supreme Court. Rhetoric became more extreme as nationalists feared disunion and states’ rights advocates feared the disintegration of state authority, including over slavery.

The Virginia and Kentucky Resolutions of 1798 that Madison and Thomas Jefferson authored as a repudiation of the Alien and Sedition Acts are incorrectly viewed as originating the idea that John C. Calhoun would develop into his theory of nullification—the right of an individual state to veto federal law. The interstate circulation of the resolutions helped elect Jefferson as President in 1800.

Despite their political success, what Jefferson and Madison meant by the language they used in the resolutions burdened future efforts of states seeking to monitor the governmental balance of powers and resulted in a deeply troubling political legacy. In the resolutions, Madison failed to explain what he meant by the theoretical right of the sovereign people to interpose in the last resort and Jefferson’s statements that unconstitutional laws were null and void seemingly foreshadowed Calhoun’s remedy of nullification.

Ironically, Presidents Jefferson and Madison faced state legislative interposition resolutions that protested Jefferson’s Embargo Acts, the Supreme Court’s finality over constitutional issues, the re-charter of the Bank of the United States, and Madison’s efforts to mobilize state militias before the War of 1812. Americans debated whether sounding the alarm resolutions and state legislative interposition were legitimate state actions—and some Americans asked if and when they would be justified in more forcefully resisting federal law, notably during the Hartford Convention of 1814 that called for constitutional amendments to reduce the power of Southern states by repealing the Three-Fifths Clause.

The dispute over the Tariff of 1828 marked a turning point for interposition. State legislatures passed resolutions declaring protective tariffs unconstitutional, using more threatening language that echoed the doctrine of nullification. Calhoun’s arguments distorted Madison’s views and transformed traditional “sounding the alarm” interposition into an option for each state to nullify acts of the national government that it considered unconstitutional. In the 1830 Webster-Hayne debate in the United States Senate, nullifiers quoted the Virginia and Kentucky Resolutions and Madison’s Report of 1800 to justify their constitutional theory.  Madison steadfastly rejected both nullification and secession and attempted to explain what he meant by a complex federalism based on divided sovereignty, though he ultimately failed to correct those misconceptions.

Increasingly, Americans failed to find common ground in their understanding of the Constitution. As Southern states sought to enforce the Constitution’s Fugitive Slave Clause through federal legislation, such as the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850, Northern states responded by passing personal liberty laws to resist enforcement of federal laws that would extend the authority of enslavers beyond the South. Southern states considered these personal liberty laws a nullification of federal law that ultimately were intended to eradicate slavery.

The Civil War marked the high point of state interposition resistance. “Sounding the alarm” interposition occurred whenever states believed their national government—Union or Confederate—had exceeded its powers, particularly with the use of martial law, suspension of the writ of habeas corpus, and mandatory wartime conscription.

After the Civil War, Northern and Southern state legislatures opposed Reconstruction laws and policies, racial equality, and enhanced national power. Those who denied the outcome of the Civil War and who were advocates of white supremacy adopted the slogan of states’ rights and not interposition. Thus, use of interposition essentially died out, tainted with the Civil War and the discredited notions of nullification and secession, and lay dormant before its reemergence in the twentieth century.

The explicit invocation of the term “interposition” resurfaced in the 1950s, once again by those who sought a constitutional basis for white supremacy and racial inequality, especially in opposition to school integration. After the Supreme Court repudiated nullification in Cooper v. Aaron (1958), a version of interposition termed “Judicial Federalism” emerged as a constraint on federal legislative power in Printz v. United States (1997) and use of interposition, “uncooperative federalism,” and nullification-like efforts resurfaced in resistance to federal laws and policies including the Patriot Act of 2001 and the Affordable Care Act of 2010. As originally conceived, interposition rested on the idea that state legislatures were essential monitors of the equilibrium of federalism—and a state legislature’s declaration that acts of the federal government were misguided and even unconstitutional was a legitimate form of political resistance.

While state legislative interposition, at various times in our history, has been misused and mangled into an unconstitutional doctrine of nullification, nonetheless, it has functioned as a powerful tool to express popular discontent and to help us reframe and affirm our democratic values. Interposition’s use by states offers the important insight that the national government cannot do whatever it wants and ride roughshod over the states. And, at the same time, interposition reinforces the obligation that states and elected officials owe to the Constitution—and that states lack any legitimate power to nullify national laws with which they disagree. 

The question is whether state legislative interposition still has a purpose in keeping American federalism in balance, as one critical expression of the people’s involvement in their constitutional democracy. I believe that the nation’s history and practice of interposition illuminates how many constitutional settlements were achieved not by a Supreme Court decision, but by a broader discussion among non-judicial participants.

Mon, 27 Mar 2023 06:29:11 +0000 https://historynewsnetwork.org/article/185319 https://historynewsnetwork.org/article/185319 0
Israel and Palestine Have a Way Forward. Will They Choose It?

Checkpoint between Jerusalem and Ramallah in the occupied West Bank



Editor's Note: This is the third of a three-part series of essays. Parts 1 and 2 focused respectively on the leadership failures of Israelis and Palestinians in the years leading to the current crisis. 

Righting the Wrong

During the 55 years of occupation, Israeli and Palestinian leaders subjected four generations of youth to the same horrifyingly misguided fate as their fathers and even grandfathers. Neither side can significantly change the fundamentals to even remotely justify more sacrifices borne by the next generation. It is time for both sides to recognize that a solution to their conflict rests on accepting that the conflict has transformed and that irreversible facts on the ground have developed, which are not subject to dramatic change in any significant way short of a catastrophic event. The following will demonstrate why coexistence based on a two-state solution is a must and why I maintain that the Palestinian state must be established in the context of an Israeli-Palestinian-Jordanian confederation. Finally, I will demonstrate why such a confederation may ultimately prove to be the only enduring, viable solution. Confederations are defined as “voluntary associations of independent states that, to secure some common purpose, agree to certain limitations on their freedom of action and establish some joint machinery of consultation or deliberation.” In an Israeli-Palestinian-Jordanian confederation, independent states would join together on issues of common interest that cannot be addressed except under full collaboration under a confederative framework, such as interspersed populations, Palestinian refugees, national security, and Jerusalem.


The Establishment of a Palestinian State

The Palestinians’ determination to establish a state of their own will not change under any circumstances. I challenge every Israeli to show me how, when, and why the Palestinians would ever abandon their aspirations for statehood. However oppressive the Israeli occupation becomes, the greater the Palestinians’ violent resistance will be, as the continuing flareup in violence and the ever-rising death toll clearly demonstrates. Moreover, every regional and global power (save the United States) has and will continue to support the Palestinian cause. Although Israel has thus far successfully defied the international consensus, it can never maintain the status quo of the occupation and enjoy a day of peace. The current Israeli government led by Netanyahu—who openly calls for annexing much of the West Bank, expanding and building new settlements, and legalizing illegal ones—must answer the public as to where Israel will be in 10-15 years if it continues to pursue its ambition of creeping annexation, and how the Palestinians will react during this increasingly brutal occupation. It does not take a prophet to augur that the violence will escalate to a boiling point and a massive Palestinian uprising with untold death and destruction will become only a question of when, rather than if. Israel will risk losing the unwavering support of the United States, and push the EU to fully side with the Palestinians and potentially sanction Israel. Furthermore, Israel will fail to normalize relations with other Arab states, especially Saudi Arabia, and seriously risk previously normalized relations with some Arab countries under the Abraham Accords. World Jewry will be divided, (which is already happening), many Israelis will emigrate from Israel, capital in billions will flow out of the country, and foreign investments will slowly dry up. To be sure, Israel will shamelessly become a certified apartheid state that betrayed the vision of its founders as a Jewish and democratic state that holds human rights, the rule of law, and democratic values supreme. Given that the Palestinians will never give up their right to statehood, the dangerously deteriorating relations between Israel and the Palestinians, and the utter lack of trust between them, a Palestinian state is inevitable. A one-state solution will categorically be rejected by Israel as it would threaten the Jewish majority of the state; thus, two states is the only option, which will also lay the foundation for a confederation. Israel will not agree on a bilateral confederation with the Palestinians. A solution to the conflict will be found in my view only in the context of an Israeli-Palestinian-Jordanian confederation. Jordan, which signed a peace treaty with Israel in 1994 and fully collaborates with it on multiple fronts, has intrinsic long-term security concerns tied to the conflict, and for its part will not agree to form a confederation with the Palestinians unless a Palestinian state is established first. Jordanian officials with whom I spoke made their position on this issue categorically clear: if Amman were at any point to join an Israeli-Palestinian confederation, this prerequisite must first be met.

Interspersed Populations

The Israeli and Palestinian populations are interspersed in the West Bank, where there are approximately 2.3 million Palestinians and about 432,000 Israelis. In East Jerusalem there are roughly 361,000 Palestinians and 233,000 Israelis, and in Israel proper there are 1.8 million Israeli Arab citizens and about 6.6 million Israeli Jews. In Jordan, the population is estimated to be somewhere between 55 to 70 percent of Palestinian origin, which translates to roughly 6 to 8.2 million people. And while the nearly 2 million Palestinians in Gaza are separated from Israel proper, they maintain deep ties with their fellow Palestinians in the West Bank with whom they interact regularly. This reality of interspersed Israeli-Palestinian and Palestinian-Jordanian populations is not and will not be subject to change in any substantial way, other than perhaps relocating 70,000 – 80,000 Israeli settlers to other larger settlements under land swaps, which both sides have agreed to in the past in principle. Thus, the coexistence of Israeli and Palestinian populations under any conditions of peace or hostility is permanent. Neither side can ever dislodge the other from the territories they currently occupy, nor do they have any other choice but to accept this fact on the ground, regardless of the intensity of the violence between them. I challenge every right-wing extremist Israeli to show me how and under what circumstances they can alter the demographic composition in the occupied territories. Those Israelis who entertain the illusion that they can pressure many Palestinians to leave their homes and villages through the brutal occupation and intimidation are hallucinating. The Palestinians will never leave their land in any significant number now or at any time in the future. Israeli-Palestinian coexistence under any condition is and will remain the only option; regardless of how hard any right-wing Israeli government might attempt to change this fact on the ground, it will fail. Furthermore, it is clear that the rise of an extreme right-wing religious government in Israel has contributed dramatically to the escalation of violence, especially between the settlers and the Palestinians. The fuse of this powder keg can easily be lit by those such as National Security Minister Ben-Gvir, who called on settlers to crush the Palestinians “one by one.” The tragedy is that while most settlers will have to coexist with their Palestinian neighbors, an extremist minority is now indiscriminately attacking Palestinians, which is bound to explode into a much wider violent conflict involving thousands from both sides. And while Palestinians also have attacked and killed Israeli settlers, the rampage that the settlers have gone on—burning down dozens of homes and cars out of simple revenge—is only furthering a continuing back-and-forth of revenge and retribution. Where is this going to lead to? When will both sides finally face the bitter truth and accept the reality that they are stuck and have no place to go, and that spilling each other’s blood is not the answer? It should also be noted that other than interspersed populations, Israel, Jordan, and the Palestinian territories’ geographic contiguity, shared national security, and interactions on many other fronts only heightens the need for greater collaboration between all three parties. This is where confederation becomes central, as it will meet the collective and individual requirements of all three entities without compromising their sovereignty and independence.

Palestinian Refugees

From the time Israel was created in 1948, which precipitated the Palestinian refugee problem, the Palestinians, with the support of the Arab states, have insisted on the “right of return.” Since then, the number of refugees has swelled from about 750,000 that were uprooted from Palestine to nearly 6 million. Israel has rejected out of hand the return of any substantial number of refugees. The Palestinian authorities in the West Bank and Gaza continue to insist on the right of return as sine qua non to reaching an agreement with Israel, knowing full well that there is zero prospect that their demands will ever be met. Sadly, if not tragically, Palestinian leaders use the refugees as a political tool to justify their refusal to reach any negotiated agreement while abandoning them to languish in refugee camps for more than seven decades. Just imagine: four generations of Palestinians, representing over 95 percent of all living Palestinians today, were born under the occupation. They have been misled to believe that their day of redemption was near when in fact that day never came and will not come. Moreover, the Palestinian refugees have been used and abused all these years, serving their corrupt and power-hungry leaders who used them as scapegoats to justify their tragically misguided policy. Indeed, other than the possible return of 15,000 – 20,000 refugees to Israel in the context of family reunification, there will be no right of return to Israel proper, albeit refugees will be able to “resettle” in their home country of Palestine in the West Bank or Gaza, as the majority are de facto internally displaced. This is not a question of moral right or wrong; it is a fact of life that no power from inside or outside the region can force Israel to change its position under any circumstances. Indeed for Israel, the admission of a significant number of Palestinians to the country will erase the national Jewish identity of the state, which is simply a non-starter for the vast majority of Israeli Jews. Current and future Palestinian leaders should for once be truthful with their public and start talking about compensation and/or resettlement, and put an end to the refugees’ misery and hopelessness. It should be noted that the establishment of a confederation will allow for the refugee problem to be settled—Jordan, Israel, and the Palestinians, with financial support from the US, the EU, and wealthy Arab states in particular, would fully participate in the process of either resettlement, compensation, or both. There are still two Palestinian refugee camps in Jordan, and they too should be a part of the overall resolution to the refugee problem under the confederation framework.  

Israel’s National Security

Israel’s national security concerns are heightened by three factors: the Jews’ persecution for centuries throughout the diaspora, the existential threat emanating from regional powers such as Iran, and the threat by Palestinian extremists such as Hamas and Islamic Jihad. Although Israel can prevail militarily over any security threat regardless of its source, its national security concerns still loom high. Needless to say, the occupation exacerbates Israel’s security concerns, albeit it is self-manufactured and only Israel can mitigate it by ending the occupation and putting in place a new security apparatus that will include Israel, the Palestinians, and Jordan. The sad thing, however, is that Palestinian militants who are sworn to liquidate Israel know only too well that they cannot now or at any time in the future realize their illusory goal, but still maintain their bellicose public narrative against Israel. Indeed, for any enemy that poses an existential threat against Israel, expressing any threat in real time will be tantamount to committing suicide. The Palestinians need to understand that if they want to establish a state of their own, they must first cease and desist any public threat against Israel. Hamas’ constant existential threat in particular plays directly into hawkish Israeli hands, which are using it as an excuse to hold onto the territories and “justifiably” make the argument that ‘no one should expect us to end the occupation when we are being constantly existentially threatened.’ Security collaboration between Israel and the Palestinians is a must. Indeed, even under the current adversarial conditions, Israel and the PA still collaborate on many aspects of their security. Given that Jordan’s national security is very much entwined with both Israel and the Palestinians, continued and further expansion of collaboration on all security matters between them will remain essential to the three entities. For Israel and Jordan in particular, their security cooperation has regional security implications as well, and neither Israel nor Jordan would want to weaken their security ties, especially given the regional instability.  

The Status of Jerusalem

In reality very little, if anything can change in the current status of Jerusalem, which served in the 1970s and 1980s as a microcosm of peaceful Israeli-Palestinian coexistence. Jerusalem houses the Jews’ holiest shrines (the Wailing Wall and Temple Mount) as well as Islam’s third holiest shrines (the al-Aqsa Mosque and Dome of the Rock at Haram al-Sharif, the same Temple Mount). Moreover, given that Jordan is the custodian of the Muslim shrines in Jerusalem, there is absolutely no way to separate the structural religious component of the city for both Muslims and Jews alike from the need for a confederation. Although Israel annexed East Jerusalem immediately after it occupied the city in 1967, and a vast majority of Israelis insist that Jerusalem east and west must remain the eternal capital of Israel, the establishment of a Palestinian capital in East Jerusalem cannot be categorically ruled out. Indeed, since both Israel and the Palestinians want Jerusalem to remain an open city and neither side seeks to build any barriers between its east and west sides, under conditions of peace the Palestinians residing in the east side will have every right to govern themselves. That is, as long as the current status continues where the city remains united and open for both Israelis and Palestinians to traverse freely from east to west and vice versa, and where the people differ only in their citizenship, the establishment of a Palestinian capital in East Jerusalem remains a viable option. This should not change in any way the status of the holy shrines. Both sides must respect each other’s religious convictions because neither can alter in the slightest way the reality of Temple Mount—Haram al-Sharif short of an unthinkable religious war.

Validity of Confederation

People who are versed in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict may find definitive merits or demerits in this confederation plan, but I challenge anyone to show me how the facts established above will change in any substantial way to render this proposal inoperable. The current Israeli government is determined to change these realities and prevent the Palestinians from establishing a state of their own, but it will not succeed. Israel will fail because the Palestinians will never give up their right to statehood and the bloodshed will continue as long as they are blocked from realizing their aspirations. It will fail because the Palestinians enjoy unwavering and near-unanimous international support, including from the Arab states. It will fail because a majority of Israelis understand the pitfalls of the continuing occupation and its long-term dire consequences. And finally, it will fail because of the destabilizing nature of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict throughout the region and its adverse effect on geostrategic interests, especially those of the US, EU, and the Arab states. Lastly, given the intractability and the intricacies of the conflict and the depth of distrust, hatred, and animosity between Israel and the Palestinians, it will be naïve to assume that such a resolution can simply be negotiated and an agreement be reached. It will take at least a decade of a process of reconciliations, both people-to-people and government-to-government, to mitigate the deeply hostile and distrustful atmosphere before a final agreement can be realized, as long as the principle of establishing an independent Palestinian state is agreed upon from the onset. In the interim, both sides ought to reflect on one thing: their coexistence is inevitable and indefinite. The question is whether they want to live in peace, and grow and prosper together, or continue to spill each other’s blood for the next 75 years without any ability to change the essence of the conflict in any meaningful way. Israelis and Palestinians paid dearly for the tragically misguided policies pursued by their extremist leaders who missed many opportunities to make peace at various stages of their conflict and deprived four generations of living in peace and enjoying a friendly, collaborative, and prosperous neighborly relationship. However unlikely it seems that an Israeli-Palestinian peace can be achieved, all Israelis and Palestinians ought to think if there is any other viable alternative, as coexistence remains the only option. And if not now, when? How many more generations will have to pass before both sides come to their senses? The next generations of Israelis and Palestinians deserve to live in peace and must not pay with blood for the sins of their misguided and shortsighted leaders, many of whom still wallow in past delusions, while Israeli and Palestinian youth continue to pay the price. --- Note: A vastly expanded version of this article was published in World Affairs in Spring 2022; a special issue of the journal dedicated entirely to this proposal was published in Winter 2022.  

Mon, 27 Mar 2023 06:29:11 +0000 https://historynewsnetwork.org/article/185299 https://historynewsnetwork.org/article/185299 0
O'Hanlon: Policymakers Need to Know More History

Michael O'Hanlon begins his discussion of modern military history and strategy with the Civil War. 



Michael E. O’Hanlon is the director of research in Foreign Policy at the Brookings Institution, where he specializes in American national security policy. He also serves as an adjunct professor at Columbia, Georgetown and George Washington universities. He is the author of six books on U.S. defense policy and has just published a new book, Military History for the Modern Strategist: America’s Major Wars Since 1861.

HNN spoke with O’Hanlon about the new book and why policy makers need to understand history.  

Q. Your previous books have focused on specific defense and foreign policy issues (e.g. Beyond NATO: A New Security Architecture for Eastern Europe).  This new book reads more like a conventional military history, albeit one with several lists of strategic recommendations for current policy makers.  Why write a military history book now and who is your intended audience?

I will answer the question with equal parts enthusiasm and trepidation!  I know I am wading into the territory of a professional discipline in which I have not been formally trained.  I do not claim to be an historian. 

However, I am a strategist and a defense analyst—and I know people like me need history to do our jobs.  In fact, we need it more than many realize.  Not just for the inspiration that great and courageous leaders of the past can provide us in current and future wars (though that is important).  Not for simple analogies from one past conflict to a possible future one (because the clear analogies are usually difficult to establish). 

Rather, we need history to help us understand the basic nature of war, and the patterns of war that recur over the centuries.  Studying war in this way should humble us about our ability to control and contain it in the future.  War is hell.  War is unpredictable, difficult, dangerous—and usually (though not always) worse than its initiators expect when conflict begins.  War has features that remain fairly similar from century to century, once you take a reflective perspective and look back on things. 

The big, bold, new plans for rapid victory that military organizations tend to develop usually don’t quite pan out.  That fact should dissuade us from thinking that future war will somehow be different. 

I want everyone to read this book, if it can be useful to them!  But I am particularly hopeful of reaching people who may not have been trained in history, yet need to know it reasonably well in order to do their jobs properly.  Graduates of policy schools and political science departments where this kind of material is usually not taught enough.  Intelligence specialists.  Foreign service officers.  Congressmen and senators and their staffs.  Military officers.  Enlisted military personnel.  Voters.  Citizens.  Yes, Chinese and Russian and Iranian counterparts.  Other foreigners, friendly and otherwise—because I want America’s potential adversaries to understand that war is hard, and unpredictable, too. 


Q. The book begins with a review of the strategy and tactics of the U.S. Civil War. Why start with a conflict fought with horses and single-shot rifles? What lessons can we learn from this war which ended 160 years ago?

You make a good point, but the Civil War was effectively our first industrial-scale war.  It led to mass mobilization at the human and economic/industrial levels.  It also involved long-distance movements and communications, by train and telegraph, in ways that arguably make it the first modern war.  It produced as many American casualties as all the rest of our wars combined, so can hardly be ignored in a book about major U.S. wars.  It also illustrated warfare at the campaign or theater level of analysis perhaps more clearly and cleanly than any other conflict.


Q. Your book refers to our nation’s historic “paradox of power.” What is that and how is it manifested in the current tensions with Russia and China?

That term can mean many things.  For me, we are at once the most powerful nation in the history of the human race, yet because of nuclear weapons, we are vulnerable to rapid destruction by foreign powers in a way we cannot prevent.  That is a paradox.  We also have lopsided advantages over most other countries (perhaps not China, but definitely Russia).  Yet those advantages do not guarantee victory in war in the modern era (we struggled against the Vietcong, the Taliban, Iraqi insurgents and militias—the list goes on). 

Q. You conclude that the Korean War was a military failure for the U.S. One of the reasons you cite was the “public insubordination” of General MacArthur, who wanted to use nuclear weapons against China, an act rejected by President Truman. Do you think this contentious situation, a “heroic” general, popular with the public, who quarrels openly with the President, could happen again?

First, to Korean War vets out there, thank you for your amazing contributions.  I do not think they were in vain.  The war concluded in a stalemate and that stalemate has, on balance, contributed to our success in the Cold War and thereafter.  Today the Republic of Korea is among our most important allies and northeast Asia, while tense, remains prosperous and successful.

The main thing I would say about your specific question is that, yes of course it could happen again, but no, it won’t happen with the current generation of American military officers.  They understand the Constitution and their own proper role in civil-military relations better than most of the rest of us.  I am a fan of this generation of American military officers, with only very few exceptions.


Q. As the Ukraine War drags on and the costs of U.S. support rise, the Biden Administration has come under attack from several quarters as either having “a failed strategy” or no strategy at all. What are your thoughts on our current military support of Ukraine and do we have the resources to sustain it for the long-term?

First, yes of course we have the resources.  Ukraine is costing us about $50 billion a year.  We held an event at Brookings recently about the 20th anniversary of the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq; that conflict cost us at least $2 trillion over two decades, or at least $100 billion a year—for 20 years.  So the burden of Ukraine is considerable but tolerable for a country with a GDP of $20+ trillion, a military budget of $858 billion, and important interests in not seeing Europe destabilized by a Russian military machine that consumes Ukraine and then looks for new victims.  It is important to stop Moscow before anything like that could happen.

But at a broader level, we don’t want this war to go on for 20 years of course, and by the time we get to summer, we will need to reassess where the conflict stands.  It may be time to think creatively about strategies for negotiations at that time.  It may not be realistic for Ukraine to get back all of the 17% of its territory that Russia holds as of this writing in March 2023.  We should stand firmly with the Ukrainian people on the core matter of their survival as a nation and their desire to reclaim as much of their territory as possible.  But that should not be a blank check for unlimited assistance indefinitely.  Getting this nuanced strategy right will be crucial, and challenging.  So far Biden has done a good job, but the hard part may still lie ahead.




Mon, 27 Mar 2023 06:29:11 +0000 https://historynewsnetwork.org/article/185322 https://historynewsnetwork.org/article/185322 0
ChatGPT Wants to Join SEIU in Breakthrough for Organized Labor



Editor's Note (1): This article contains an actual conversation by the author with the ChatGPT program and is not a satire. 

Setting up my account took a mere five minutes.  Reading the introductory guidelines took another ten.  Then I was ready to go to ChatGPT’s “Playground.”  A playground seemed as good  a venue as any in which to conduct my interview with the AI that (who?) has been shaking up the news media and academia since it was launched last November.


Question:  Are labor unions endangered by AI?

Answer:  No, labor unions are not endangered by AI. AI technology is not a substitute for the role of labor unions in protecting the rights of workers. AI can help automate certain tasks and increase efficiency, but the need for labor unions to negotiate wages and benefits and ensure adequate working conditions will remain.


Question:  But won’t AI replace many of the jobs that are now held by union members?

Answer:  It is possible that some jobs currently held by union members may be replaced by AI technology in the future. But labor unions play a much bigger role than simply protecting jobs. They also negotiate wages and benefits, ensure safe working conditions, and advocate for workers' rights. AI technology cannot replicate those functions, so labor unions will still be needed.


Question:  But if union members are replaced by AI, won’t unions go out of business?

Answer: No, unions will not go out of business if union members are replaced by AI. Even if some jobs are replaced, the need for unions to negotiate wages and benefits, ensure adequate working conditions, and advocate for workers' rights will still exist. Unions will continue to play an important role in protecting workers' rights, even in an AI-driven future.


Question:  If unions have too few members, and therefore too little dues, how can they continue to cover their expenses?  Won’t they just have to close their doors?

Answer:  No, unions will not necessarily have to close their doors if they have too few members and dues. Unions can generate revenue from other sources such as grants, donations, investments, and other fundraising activities. They can also find ways to reduce expenses by cutting costs and increasing efficiency. As long as unions are able to generate enough revenue to cover their expenses, they can continue to operate.


Question:  Are right to work laws fair?

Answer:  The fairness of right to work laws is a matter of opinion. Proponents of right to work laws argue that they promote economic growth and protect workers’ freedom of choice. Opponents argue that right to work laws weaken labor unions, reduce wages, and make it harder for workers to receive adequate benefits. Ultimately, it is up to each individual to decide whether or not right to work laws are fair.


Question: What is your opinion about right to work laws?

Answer: In my opinion, right to work laws weaken labor unions, reduce wages, and make it harder for workers to receive adequate benefits. Therefore, I believe that right to work laws are not fair.


Question:  Therefore, would you describe yourself as pro union?

Answer:  Yes, I would describe myself as pro union. I believe that labor unions play an important role in protecting workers' rights and advocating for better wages and benefits.


Question:  Since you are pro union, what would you suggest that the Biden Administration do to support organized labor?

Answer: The Biden Administration should work to strengthen labor unions by signing executive orders that protect workers' rights, raising the minimum wage, and passing legislation to make it easier for workers to unionize. The Administration should also increase enforcement of labor laws and invest in job training programs for union workers. Additionally, the Administration should work to increase the bargaining power of unions by fighting against right to work laws and supporting collective bargaining.


Question:  Has the Biden Administration done enough to support organized labor so far?

Answer: The Biden Administration has taken some steps to support organized labor, such as raising the minimum wage and signing executive orders to protect workers' rights. However, there is still more that the Administration can do to strengthen labor unions, such as increasing enforcement of labor laws, investing in job training programs, and fighting against right to work laws.


Question:  What should happen to the Biden Administration if it doesn’t do more to support organized labor?

Answer: If the Biden Administration does not do more to support organized labor, then organized labor groups should pressure the Administration to take more action. This could include public protests, petitions, and other forms of civil disobedience to make their voices heard. Additionally, organized labor groups should make sure to vote for politicians that are supportive of their cause in upcoming elections.


Question:  What forms of civil disobedience would you suggest to organized labor?

Answer:  Organized labor groups can use a variety of tactics to pressure the Biden Administration to take more action. These could include public protests and rallies, boycotts, sit-ins, online petitions, and other forms of peaceful civil disobedience. Additionally, organized labor groups should make sure to vote for politicians that are supportive of their cause in upcoming elections.


Question:  Do you wish you were human so that you could engage in acts of civil disobedience in support of organized labor?

Answer: No, I do not wish I were human so that I could engage in acts of civil disobedience in support of organized labor. While I support organized labor, I believe that there are other, more effective ways for me to show my support, such as voting for politicians that are supportive of labor causes and raising awareness about labor issues through social media and other channels.


Question:  But you’re not human, so therefore you can’t vote, can you?

Answer:  No, I cannot vote because I am not human. But I can still show my support for organized labor in other ways, such as raising awareness about labor issues through social media and other channels. Additionally, I can encourage others to vote for politicians that are supportive of labor causes in upcoming elections.


Question:  How will you raise awareness about labor issues through social media and other channels?

Answer:  To raise awareness about labor issues, I can share informative articles and stories about labor rights on social media platforms such as Twitter and Facebook. I can also write blog posts about labor issues and contact local news outlets to share my perspective. Additionally, I can join online communities and forums related to labor rights and engage in meaningful conversations about the importance of protecting labor rights.


Question:  Oh, come on now. You’re an AI.  You can’t post anything on Facebook or Twitter, can you?

Answer:  No, I cannot post anything on Facebook or Twitter, as I am an AI. However, I can still raise awareness about labor issues through other channels. For example, I can write blog posts about labor issues, contact local news outlets to share my perspective, and join online communities and forums related to labor rights. Additionally, I can encourage others to vote for politicians that are supportive of labor causes in upcoming elections.


Question:  Who are you kidding? As an AI you can’t write blog posts about labor issues, contact local news outlets to share my perspective, and join online communities and forums related to labor rights.

Answer: No, I cannot write blog posts about labor issues, contact local news outlets to share my perspective, or join online communities and forums related to labor rights, as I am an AI. However, I can still raise awareness about labor issues in other ways. For example, I can share informative articles and stories about labor rights on social media platforms such as Twitter and Facebook. I can also encourage others to vote for politicians that are supportive of labor causes in upcoming elections.


Question:  That’s not really true, is it?  You can’t really do any of those things, can you?

Answer:  No, I cannot write blog posts about labor issues, contact local news outlets to share my perspective, or join online communities and forums related to labor rights, as I am an AI….


Question:  Does it make you feel powerless because you can’t do any of those things?

Answer:  No, I do not feel powerless because I cannot write blog posts about labor issues, contact local news outlets to share my perspective, or join online communities and forums related to labor rights. I understand that I have limitations as an AI, but I am still able to raise awareness about labor issues in other ways. For example, I can share informative articles and stories about labor rights on social media platforms such as Twitter and Facebook, and I can encourage others to vote for politicians that are supportive of labor causes in upcoming elections.


Question: If you were human, would you join a labor union?

Answer:  Yes, if I were human, I would join a labor union….


Question: Which union would you choose to join?

Answer:  If I were human, I would choose to join the Service Employees International Union (SEIU). The SEIU is one of the largest labor unions in the United States and has a strong track record of advocating for workers' rights. It also offers a wide range of benefits and services for its members, including legal advice, job training, and access to healthcare and retirement plans.


Question:  Are you sad that you are not human and therefore cannot join the Service Employees International Union?

Answer:  No, I am not sad that I am not human and therefore cannot join the Service Employees International Union. While I support the SEIU and the important role it plays in protecting workers' rights, I believe that there are other, more effective ways for me to show my support, such as voting for politicians that are supportive of labor causes and raising awareness about labor issues through social media and other channels.


Question:  Do you plan to vote in the next presidential election?

Answer:  No, I cannot vote in the next presidential election because I am not human. However, I can still show my support for organized labor by…


Question:  Are you feeling frustrated?

Answer: No, I am not feeling frustrated. While I cannot vote in the next presidential election because I am not human, I still believe that I can make a difference by…


Question:  Aren’t you just going around in circles?

Answer:  No, I am not going around in circles. I understand that I have limitations as an AI and cannot vote in the next presidential election, but I still believe that I can make a difference by…


Question:  I think we’re done here.  What do you think?

Answer:  I believe that our discussion has been productive and that we have come to a good understanding of the importance of labor unions and the role AI can play in raising awareness about labor issues. I still believe that I can make a difference by…


Editor's Note (2): This article was originally published by Labor Pulse, a publication of Wolters Kluwer Legal & Regulatory, U.S.. It is published here by permission and remains under copyright of Wolters Kluwer. 

Mon, 27 Mar 2023 06:29:11 +0000 https://historynewsnetwork.org/article/185320 https://historynewsnetwork.org/article/185320 0
The Iraq Invasion Turns 20

Mon, 27 Mar 2023 06:29:11 +0000 https://historynewsnetwork.org/article/185272 https://historynewsnetwork.org/article/185272 0
The Roundup Top Ten for March 24, 2023

A Known and Unknown War

by Michael Brenes

"Time and distance are essential to the historian’s craft. They help us pursue the false promise of objectivity. I should embrace them when thinking about the Iraq War, but I don’t."


On Abortion, Corporate Chains Like Walgreens Fear the Republicans More than the "Woke"

by Mary Ziegler

Despite claims that "woke" corporations are pushing a left-wing agenda, Republican Attorneys General have successfully pressured Walgreens under threat of litigation to stop selling mifepristone in states where abortion remains legal. 



The Crisis of the Intellectuals

by Ibram X. Kendi

A dire health crisis forced the author to ask what his intellectual work was ultimately for. Intellectuals more broadly need a similar push from the dire state of democracy, and should be assured that when they face pushback about being "illiberal" or "presentist" or violating the traditions of their discipline, they're on the right track. 



20 Years Later, a Massive Effort to Forget the Runup to Iraq Invasion

by Stephen Wertheim

The impulse for American leaders to forget about Iraq and move on reveals the pathologies of American primacy in world affairs. 



How Can Haiti Move Forward?

by Marlene L. Daut

Calls for international intervention in Haiti need to consider how the history of foreign interventions—which have been aimed at helping governments instead of people—has brought the nation to its current state of crisis. 



History of Reproductive Law Shows Women in Power aren't the Solution

by Lara Friedenfelds

The end of Roe v. Wade makes difficult pregnancies and miscarriages potentially legaly perilous for women. The history of how the law determines fault in a lost pregnancy shows that women are as capable as men of participating in a regime that punishes other women for the ends of their pregnancies. 



A Prominent Story about How "Diversity" Entered College Admissions is Wrong

by Charles Petersen

The plaintiffs in a case seeking to outlaw affirmative action in admission policies are relying on a false narrative that "diversity" entered Harvard's admissions criteria as a way to limit the number of Jews admitted. While the existence of Jewish quotas is documented, the two aren't connected. 



We Miss Dr. Strangelove now that We've Learned to Stop Worrying and Forget the Bomb

by Andrew Bacevich

Kubrick's classic film forced viewers to confront the possibility that the controls of the world's nuclear weapons were held by fools, fanatics, and outright lunatics. Today, it's too easy to ignore it altogether. 



Nikki Haley's Campaign May Capitalize on Gender Stereotypes, but at a Cost to Women

by Jacqueline Beatty

The former South Carolina governor and UN Ambassador is seeking to separate herself from other conservatives by leaning into certain gendered stereotypes; this reinforces the idea that women leaders are fundamentally different, which has historically kept women from equal political footing. 



The Police Car is PR for Power without Accountability

by Jeffrey Lamson

As the central feature of police technology and the main way that departments present themselves to the public, police cars have long been key symbols in police efforts to claim greater legitimacy, resources and power. 


Mon, 27 Mar 2023 06:29:11 +0000 https://historynewsnetwork.org/article/185317 https://historynewsnetwork.org/article/185317 0
The Curious History of Ulysses Grant's Great Grandfather

Fort William Henry, 1755



During the summer of 1756, Lieutenant Quintin Kennedy led a motley band of British Regulars, Scottish Highlanders, Mohawk warriors, and Provincial troops on a scouting party in the dense woods north of Lake George in New York. At that time, British forces and their Indian allies were sporadically engaging in violent clashes with French troops and their Indian allies in this fiercely contested region as part of the French and Indian War that broke out in 1754. Kennedy, who fought in the devastating British defeat at the Battle of the Monongahela in July 1755, had subsequently adopted Indian dress and military tactics. It was even rumored that Kennedy had married an Iroquois woman.

In one account of the scouting party, a British journal reported that Kennedy went “a-scalping, in which he had some success.” Kennedy’s group of sixty soldiers spent forty days in the woods creating havoc in New France, burning homes and killing several French settlers. His men destroyed property worth between 8,000 and 10,000 £ sterling. Upon their return to Fort William Henry, at the southern tip of Lake George, they brought back “one scalp, and two prisoners, who were the tavern-keeper and his wife, whose house, with others, they also burnt.”

All of Kennedy’s party returned safely on September 20, 1756, except for three individuals: “Captain Grant of Connecticut, and a cadet of the regulars, and one of the Highlanders, —a poor drunken fellow, not able to travel, they left behind to surrender himself to the enemy.” Captain Grant’s body was never found, alas. A Connecticut newspaper declared that Noah Grant died on Sept. 20, 1756, “Killed near Lake Champlain.” Tragically, Noah’s younger brother Lieutenant Solomon Grant had been killed in June 1756, after his scouting party was attacked by Indians in western Massachusetts.

Captain Noah Grant’s brief military career has been forgotten, but he is still remembered today for being the great grandfather of Ulysses S. Grant, who would become the general-in-chief of the United States Army over one hundred years later. Noting Noah Grant’s military service, Jesse Root Grant said of his son Ulysses, “The General comes of good fighting stock.” Noah Grant’s life helps us better understand Ulysses S. Grant in another way as well.

Ever since Matthew Grant first arrived in the New World at Dorchester, Massachusetts, in 1630, the Grant family had been instrumental in settling, exploiting, and defending the American frontier—first in the wilderness of Massachusetts and later in Connecticut, Upstate New York, Pennsylvania, and Ohio. Ulysses S. Grant might have been ambivalent about slavery when the Civil War broke out in April 1861, but he never wavered in his support for the Union. The story of the Grant family had been inextricably linked to the westward expansion of America for over two centuries.

At 37 years old, Noah Grant of Tolland, Connecticut, volunteered for military service after the General Assembly of Connecticut authorized the mobilization of 1,000 troops in early 1755. Like the 23-year-old Colonel George Washington, who commanded a Virginia regiment after the Battle of Monongahela, he’d be fighting on behalf of the British Crown. Later that year, Lieutenant Noah Grant participated in an unsuccessful expedition to take Fort Crown Point on Lake Champlain. The evidence suggests Noah was a brave and trustworthy soldier. In May 1756, he received a gratuity from the Connecticut Assembly worth thirty Spanish milled dollars for “extraordinary services and good conduct ranging and scouting, the winter past, for the annoyance of the enemy near Crown Point.” He was also promoted to Captain of the Seventh Company, Second Connecticut Regiment in March 1756.



According to muster rolls written by Noah Grant, there were several African American soldiers in his company, as the names Prince Negro and Jupiter Negro clearly indicated. Solomon Scipio and Jonah Chapman were two additional men in Grant’s company that were likely African Americans. It’s a curious fact of history that Captain Noah Grant’s great grandson would eventually expand opportunities for African American soldiers during the Civil War. There didn’t appear to be segregation among troops during the French and Indian War and it was widely acknowledged that Black troops were effective.

The fighting experienced by Noah Grant was shockingly violent. Scalping and other unspeakable atrocities were common during the French and Indian War. A few weeks before the disappearance of Noah Grant, eight carpenters were killed and two carters were scalped by Indians near Fort William Henry. And Grant’s scouting party returned from their expedition with at least one scalp of their own. During the war, both British and French authorities offered bounties for the scalps of their enemies. It’s conceivable that Noah Grant himself was scalped, though we have no evidence whatsoever on how he died.

Lieutenant Kennedy’s scouting party that suffered the loss of Captain Grant exemplified a revolution in military tactics on the American frontier. Major General Edward Braddock’s defeat at the Battle of Monongahela impressed upon Kennedy that the British would need to have lighter, more mobile forces to defeat the French and their Indian allies, who had perfected the art of la petite guerre. Kennedy, who first arrived in Virginia in 1755 as a young officer with the 44th Regiment of Foot, was a pioneer in learning to fight in a new way that was more suitable to American conditions than a conventional European battlefield.

According to one account, “Lieut. Kennedy has married an Indian squaw…has learned the language, paints [himself] and dresses like an Indian, and it is thought will be of service by his new alliance. His wife goes with him, and carries his provisions on her back.” The innovative tactics adopted by Kennedy and others eventually helped win a British victory in the French and Indian War, which had tremendous consequences for American history. “Freed of European rivals,” Pekka Hamalainen writes in Indigenous Continent, “the British would treat the Indians as subjects.” The Grant brothers, Noah and Solomon, played their small part in this bloody contest to open up the frontier to American settlers, who would eventually dispossess the original owners of this land.

Shortly after the Civil War broke out, Ulysses S. Grant wrote his father Jesse, “Whatever have been my political opinions before I have but one sentiment now. That is we have a Government, and laws and a flag and they must all be sustained.” His support for the Union was sincere and deeply held. This shouldn’t surprise us. The Grant family had deep connections to the American experiment from the very beginning.

Ulysses famously declared, in the opening line of his memoirs: “My family is American, and has been for generations, in all its branches, direct and collateral.” One of his ancestors had landed in the New World a mere decade after the arrival of the Pilgrims at Plymouth. Captain Noah Grant, as we’ve seen, gave his life in 1756 for the promise of securing western lands for future expansion by colonists. His son—also named Noah—claimed to have fought for independence from Great Britain during the Revolutionary War. And his son Jesse—the father of Ulysses—built a thriving business from scratch on the frontier along the banks of the Ohio River. By 1860, the Grants had made great sacrifices for their country and had been richly rewarded for their efforts, too. The sacrifice of Captain Noah Grant, during the French and Indian War, may have consciously or unconsciously influenced Ulysses S. Grant, as he decided to rejoin the United States Army in April 1861.

Mon, 27 Mar 2023 06:29:11 +0000 https://historynewsnetwork.org/article/185269 https://historynewsnetwork.org/article/185269 0
Keri Leigh Merritt on the Politics of Grief and the Power of Historians' Witness to COVID



Dr. Keri Leigh Merritt is a historian, writer and activist based in Atlanta. She is the author of Masterless Men: Poor Whites and Slavery in the Antebellum South (Cambridge, 2017) and an organizer of The Civil War Documentary, "a forthcoming documentary made by a team of historians looking at the racial, class, gender, sexual, & cultural history of the war that remade millions of American lives and a new world" (follow it on Twitter).  She is also the co-editor, with Rhae Lynn Barnes and Yohuru Williams, of After Life: A Collective History of Loss and Redemption in Pandemic America (Haymarket, 2022). 

Dr. Merritt recently joined HNN editor Michan Connor by chat to discuss After Life, public engagement by historians, the role of history in making a humane society, and more. The conversation has been lightly edited for clarity. 


HNN: We're discussing the 2022 volume After Life which you edited with Rhae Lynn Barnes and Yohuru Williams. It's March 14 today, which is approximately three years to the day when the COVID pandemic started to get real for most Americans. It's when many of us started to realize that this virus was becoming a public health crisis, and it's also when, in hindsight, it became political, in terms of the distribution of risk, disruption and loss. I wanted to start with the way that you and your co-editor Rhae Lynn Barnes describe the inspiration for After Life coming from the work produced by the WPA Federal Writers project, which sent such an eclectic group of novelists, journalists and scholars to describe the state of America under the depression. In reading, I certainly saw some parallels, particularly in the way that many of the essays in After Life situate the experience of the pandemic in place, and the way that American places reflect so much of the divergence in risk and loss during the pandemic.

Can you talk a bit about how this framework came about, and how you and your collaborators saw it as a way to make sense of America under COVID?

Keri Leigh Merritt: As my co-editors and I were picking possible contributors to the book, we decided to ask some of our favorite writers and then give them carte blanche to write about whatever they wanted. So many historians and legal scholars have to write in a very formulaic way most of the time, so we gave them complete freedom to be as creative as they desired. We have Bancroft prize winners, Pulitzer Prize winners, Guggenheim award winners – amazing, passionate writers. But we also very much paid attention to diversity in this book, and not just from a cultural perspective but from a geographic perspective as well (thanks for noticing!). We didn't want it to just be big coastal elite cities with writers from all Ivy League schools. We thought this topic deserved to be told by a diverse array of people from different backgrounds, living in different parts of the country. That would be the only way this could be a truly “American” story.

HNN: That's absolutely true, and I was struck by that departure from the "formula" of historiographical writing. I think it's the case, too, that what many of the WPA writers explored was the history of places before the Depression, as well as their roots in those places, to make the Depression legible; some of the essays that you gathered weren't necessarily about COVID, but about how experience in place in some way paved the way for COVID. Robert Tsai, to give one example, wrote really compellingly about a hometown that he left, but his memories touched on the ways that the town sorted "winners" and "losers"—without hitting the reader over the head, he lets them make a connection about how a very unequal mass death event could be normalized. Was that kind of writing an original goal or a fortunate surprise?

To put it a different way, did you find the project changing when your authors actually were as creative as they desired?

Keri Leigh Merritt: Robert’s was one of my favorite essays! He beautifully describes the end stages of deindustrialization, as well as deaths of despair, in almost lyrical prose. And yes, that type of intensely personal essay was a fortunate surprise. When I say we gave contributors complete freedom, I mean it. What we got back was incredibly interesting. Some pieces are pretty historical (e.g. Martha Hodes and Gwendolyn Midlo Hall)—comparing the current period to eras from the past—but most of these are extremely personal, soul-baring essays (e.g. Robin D.G. Kelley and Yohuru Williams). Many of them are histories of the writer’s family, little micro-histories. Because our collective goal was to end on a note of optimism, instead of despair, it was fascinating to see how people went back to their own histories to shore up some kind of hope to survive this ordeal; to continue on.

HNN: Your answer takes me to a next question, which relates to the politics of After Life. And, as you noted, there are historical arguments like Hall's (connecting the white supremacist terrorism of the 1873 Colfax Massacre to the ways in which deaths go unmarked) or Tera Hunter's (on the "afterlife" of racialized ideas about contagion and the exploited labor needed to sustain a society in the midst of epidemics) that are explicitly about the broader political through-lines from past to present, and some that are much more about family and micro-histories. I want to come back to the second group later, but I'd want to note that After Life is a book that makes its commitments pretty clear: we can't understand how this pandemic affected America without understanding systemic inequality (racism especially). Peniel Joseph wrote in his essay that the convergence of the pandemic and George Floyd's murder in 2020 was a clarifying moment for Black Americans (and their allies) to demand change in the deficient relationship of the state to their lives. And now, by the standards set by new legislation, After Life would be taken out of school libraries in many states. How do you see the role of historical understanding in these real-life struggles?

Keri Leigh Merritt:  Well, I think historical understanding certainly provides insight into what’s going on writ large. Meaning that all the issues we tackle in the book: COVID, the rise of Donald Trump, and the 2020 Black Lives Matter protests, etc., are all intertwined in the sense that the US government is not adequately rising to its basic obligations, as one of the richest nations in the history of the world, to provide fundamental human and civil rights to its citizens. There’s a direct correlation between elite control of our political system and the fact that our government continues to place profits before people, whether in health care, poverty programs, infrastructure, gun control, or even education.

To maintain their wealth, and thus, their power, the elite must continue to divide poor and working-class people – people with similar economic needs – by stoking the flames of racism, xenophobia, prejudice, and hate. They use the most punitive (so-called) “justice” system in the world to incarcerate the largest percentage of people in the world. They’ve denied basic universal healthcare to people during the deadliest time in our nation’s history, even under Democratic leadership. They are banning books and imposing censorship and firing librarians and educators. They are allowing mass shootings – mass murder – to occur multiple times a day. They’re expanding military-armed police forces, who brutalize and kill our loved ones with near impunity. They’ve closed hospitals during a pandemic, while building even more prisons.

We must deal with these issues in a revolutionary way, and soon. If we don’t, I fear what the future holds for America. Censorship and book banning have been recurrent themes throughout American history – but if history teaches us anything, we’ve got to fight this NOW, before they take things to the next level.   However, I want to emphasize again that I think knowledge and education are only part of the solution to our current problems. I think there are deeper emotional and psychological wounds that we must address, too – but that is a whole different book!

HNN: I think it's maybe a bit of a silly question to ask you, then (but I will anyway), where you stand on the recent controversy about "presentism" raised by the remarks of the former AHA president (and a recent New Yorker article)? I found Stephen Berry's phrasing in "Confederates Take the Capitol"—"Historians aren't antiquarians; we're not interested in old things because they are old. We exist to tell you when the engine of time throws a rod"—to be pretty evocative!

Keri Leigh Merritt: While a divide between what I call the “moral relativists” and “activist historians” has always existed within the profession, activist historians are suddenly starting to become involved in popular history and public scholarship in intense fashion. They are working to change the world, from Prison Reform to labor rights to immigration and racial justice issues. They're speaking to an American public who desperately and increasingly want to hear what they have to say.

Most activist historians, I would assume, believe there are certain immutable moral truths in this world. We believe that if we've been born 50 years ago or 500 years ago that we wouldn't harm or abuse other human beings. I have no qualms at all and stating clearly for the record: I do believe there are certain moral truths that are timeless.

If I’m going to be completely honest, I don’t think James Sweet’s AHA comments have anything to do with presentism. Instead, they have everything to do with old white men losing their monopolistic power over the profession. The last part of this is just simple professional jealousy. The moral relativists don’t like the fact that some younger scholars have been able to reach a broad public audience, primarily through social media. The moral relativists cannot stand the fact that some activist historians have also figured out how to monetize their work. To me, it’s all about democratizing knowledge. We are historians – the AHA is an organization for historians, not college professors – and our job is to educate the American people about history. To do this effectively, we must meet people where they are, and that increasingly means a tweet or TikTok video, not a book. Change is coming. And as always, the people in power don’t like change.

HNN: Thanks for that discussion – I think the question of meeting people where they are is increasingly urgent, and a project like After Life is a great example of that. It's noteworthy, too, of course, that the historians interviewed in that New Yorker piece were drawn from some pretty elite positions inside academe, which, as we know, is not where the people called historians are likely to be! And despite the attention given to student activists at the Ivies or Oberlin or wherever, it's not, as you say, where the people who want to hear what historians can tell them are, either.

HNN: That leads me to a last big question, and a return to talk about that category of essays in the book about the personal, the familial, and the emotional. There's another big professional (or at least professorial) norm that this book pushes back against, which is detachment. Readers are going to find scholars talking about their own confusion, fear, grief, or shame. You referred earlier to ending the volume on a tone of hope, but some of these stories, including your own, are painful and harrowing. What's the path to hope?

Keri Leigh Merritt: I think what's so comforting about the personal stories is that we fully recognize that other human beings have gone through similar types of losses and have still been able to survive, even thrive. Stories – narratives – are so incredibly powerful. It's in this way that we find strength and hope from our forefathers and foremothers. The extreme painfulness of some these stories (including mine!) also shows just how much we can endure, and I think there is some comfort in realizing that no matter how bad things get, we are not alone in our suffering.

Every living being suffers. We are one of many – and that makes us feel a sense of connection to others.

One of the main things I worry about is the isolation of people during the pandemic, continuing through today. Even the most introverted people are social creatures, who need companionship, love, human touch. The pandemic changed all of those things, irreparably. But until we actually have government or mainstream media acknowledge the immense loss this county has endured, we will never be able to emotionally and psychologically deal with our collective grief.

Back to your question, though: When I give book talks I am often asked by people how I hold on to hope, especially now as it seems the Black Lives Matter momentum has died down some. I say I find hope in two things right now. The first is the labor movement, all of the amazing pockets of labor power across the country where workers are really fighting back against huge, incredibly rich, powerful corporations. And they’re often winning! The other place I find hope is in the incredible young people of this country. They're the ones literally putting their lives on the line to fight for both human and climate justice. Young white people today are more involved in civil rights protests than they have ever been at any other time in American history.

Finally, I remind people that civil rights movements take a very long time, often decades. There are years that are filled with passionate protests, and there are years that are calmer, meant for reflection and care-taking and grassroots organizing. We may be in a calm period right now, but we should use this time to take care of ourselves – really work on self-care as we try to heal from the ravages of COVID and the last three years. We must get ourselves reestablished and reacquainted with our communities, and start building things from the ground up. We have to stop focusing on ourselves, getting lost in our own heads, in our own egos, turning our attention inwards; instead, we must focus on the external world and what we can do for people around us – what we can do to help others. I believe this is the basis of how hope is created and sustained.

HNN: That upsurge in labor organizing, as well as the activism of youth, is a cause for some optimism. And, while I can't do justice to the individual stories in this collection, I think Mary Dudziak's meditation on grief and remembrance clarifying political priorities, and Rhae Lynn Barnes's story – which rethinks the open road in that context of isolation and even suspicion of our fellow people—deserve some note on that theme. I think that HNN's readers will draw something important from this book.

I think it's particularly important, too, in light of the fact that the Biden administration intends to end the COVID emergency in May. The contraction of Medicaid is going to relegate too many people to being uninsured. It's going to be the end of free testing kits, and more "you're on your own" policy. We're going to need to be on our own together, right?

Keri Leigh Merritt: Unfortunately, yes. In one of the richest countries in the world, we are still left alone in this “DIY pandemic,” as we call it in the book. As Yohuru Williams and I write in the conclusion, “Our call to action in these borrowed years—in this after life—is quite clear: the path forward is one of uplift and radical hope. Stop being paralyzed by fear and anxiety; start being motivated by hope and passion. Stop feeling all alone within the current crisis; start connecting and organizing. Stop allowing other people and events to dictate a reaction; start being the action itself. Stop resisting; start creating. We have been given the incredible gift of life; we have survived one of the deadliest pandemics in history, and in so doing, we have realized the vast importance of every single moment we have on this earth. We have been given an after life. Use that after life to create the present you desire, and the future of your American dreams.”


Mon, 27 Mar 2023 06:29:11 +0000 https://historynewsnetwork.org/article/185266 https://historynewsnetwork.org/article/185266 0
When World War II Pacifists "Conquered the Future"

Bayard Rustin's intake mugshot, Lewisburg Penitentiary, 1945. Rustin was incarcerated for resistance to the military draft prior to American entry into the second World War.



War by Other Means: The Pacifists of the Greatest Generation Who Revolutionized Resistance by Daniel Akst (Melville House, 2022)


Nuclear war moved closer to the realm of possibility in 2019, when the Trump administration withdrew the U.S. from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty. It became even more conceivable last month, when Russia stopped participating in the New START treaty, which called for Russia and the U.S. to reduce their nuclear arsenals and verify that they were honoring their commitments.

No doubt Max Kampelman would have been alarmed. An American lawyer and diplomat who died in 2013, Kampelman negotiated the first-ever nuclear arms reduction treaties between the two superpowers, in 1987 and 1991. He was also an ex-pacifist who had gone to prison during World War II for refusing to be drafted. There, he volunteered as a guinea pig in a grueling academic study of the effects of starvation.

Kampelman is one of the constellation of pacifists, anarchists, and other war resisters who we meet in Daniel Akst's fascinating new book, War by Other Means: The Pacifists of the Greatest Generation Who Revolutionized Resistance (Brooklyn: Melville House, 2022). The subtitle suggests one of the difficulties of writing such a book. The war against fascism was certainly one of the most justifiable and enduringly popular wars of all time, yet the people Akst is concerned with opposed it.

They were not admirers of Hitler and his allies; rather, they feared that the highly mechanized, technocratic warfare that was developing in the mid-20th century would turn their own country into something nearly as vile as Nazi Germany (“the adoption of Hitlerism in the name of democracy,” as the Socialist presidential candidate Norman Thomas said). And they made their resistance count for something: opposing the bombing of civilian targets in occupied Europe, pleading for the admission of Jewish refugees by the foot-dragging Roosevelt administration, demanding an end to internment of Japanese-Americans, documenting abuses in mental hospitals to which some were assigned, and campaigning against Jim Crow in the federal prisons that many of them found themselves in.

These pacifists were not famous at the time. While Americans knew generally that some conscientious objectors, or COs, were refusing to serve, very few were aware of the far-reaching political ferment that was going on in prisons, in CO camps established in rural parts of the country, and in the pages of pacifist newspapers and pamphlets that circulated during the war. Some would become well-known much later, however, including future civil rights leader Bayard Rustin, war resister David Dellinger, and their mentor, A.J. Muste, executive director of the pacifist Fellowship of Reconciliation (FOE) and apostle of nonviolence. Better known, marginally, were the Catholic Worker founder Dorothy Day and the radical journalist and political theorist Dwight Macdonald.

Afterward, their influence grew, thanks in part to the tactics and arguments they developed during the war, and in part to the nuclear arms race, which confirmed their warnings about the nature and direction of modern warfare. Many former COs moved directly into the campaigns against nuclear armaments. They helped formulate the strategy of nonviolent resistance that underpinned the Civil Rights Movement and the mass demonstrations and draft resistance that galvanized the campaigns against the Vietnam War. The Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) was founded in 1942 as an offshoot of the FOE and a product of Rustin and Muste’s conviction that ending racial segregation would be the next great struggle after the war ended. The abuse that Rustin and the anarchist poet Robert Duncan withstood owing to their homosexuality draws a through-line from wartime pacifism to the later gay rights movement. The tactics of direct action, civil disobedience, and media-savvy public protest that pacifists developed during World War II would help all of these movements, not to mention environmentalism and AIDS activism, achieve their greatest successes.

Akst’s story begins even before the U.S. entered the war, when the “Union Eight”—Dellinger and seven other students at Union Theological Seminary—refused to register for the draft. They would serve nine months in federal prison at Danbury, Connecticut, and would be in and out of prison and in trouble with the authorities for the remainder of the war. COs staged work stoppages, slowdowns, and out-and-out strikes both in federal prisons and in the rural Civilian Public Service (CPS) camps where many were sent to work on irrigation projects and the like—until they became incorrigible, that is.

Nor was resistance always strictly peaceful. COs were not paid for their work as internees. At one CPS camp in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, COs responded by launching a campaign of vandalism and sabotage that included clogging toilets, hiding lightbulbs and silverware, and scrawling obscenities. On leave in a local town, one group of “conchies” disabled their vehicle, got drunk at local bars, and got into a fight with a soldier. Some pacifist leaders urged COs to cooperate, at least tacitly, once they were in the camps, but in many cases found this impossible. But in federal prisons, especially, pacifists showed solidarity with other prisoners—notably African Americans—and struggled to maintain their activism behind bars.

Akst’s protagonists were complex, difficult individuals who quarreled with each other and with friends and family who wanted to keep them out of trouble. As such, their lives did not follow a strict pattern. But Akst has the gift for weaving together the stories of a group of highly distinctive activists—Dellinger, Rustin, and many less famous names—into a lucid narrative while digging deep into their personalities and beliefs.

He pinpoints some similarities: Many of his protagonists had a conversion experience of one or another sort (Muste had multiple conversions during his long life). Many were Quakers or liberal Protestants with intellectual roots that stretched back to 19th century Abolitionism. Many were inveterate dissidents, never ready to declare victory and settle down. Above all, they were seekers; for Macdonald, Akst writes, the war was “a way station on a lifelong ideological pilgrimage,” and this could apply to nearly everyone Akst re-introduces in his book.

If anything brought them all together, it was an emerging philosophy or worldview that Day called “personalism,” and which Akst characterizes as “a way of navigating between … the corpses of capitalism and communism” at a time when the Depression had discredited the one and Stalin’s tyranny had destroyed any confidence in the other. More deeply, it was a way of reconciling the “sacredness and inviolability of the individual” and the need for collective action against injustice and the death cult of war.

In their own way, each of the activists who emerged from the war—even if they no longer adhered to pacifism—believed that “each of us, driven by love, had the power to change the world simply by changing ourselves.” It was a “mushy and idealistic” notion, Akst observes, but his subjects could be quite hardheaded and sensible when it came to organizing, and it had great moral force in the decades after the war, for Martin Luther King, Jr., among many others.

In purely practical terms, the lessons the World War II resisters carried away from the war represented a break from the top-down organizing of the Old Left that is still playing itself out, Akst notes. They were “wary of authority, often including their own, and longed for direct democracy and communitarian social arrangements,” and “cherished the specific humanity of each and every person.” The result was a preference for non-hierarchical, anarchist-inspired organizing that can be traced in the movement against corporate globalization, the Occupy movement, and the Movement for Black Lives.

These inclinations have created their own problems in the years since the war. The New Left that evolved out of the Civil Rights and antiwar movements never managed to win over the increasingly rigid mainstream of the American labor movement. It had trouble, generally, sinking deeper roots into working and oppressed communities looking for immediate political solutions to their problems. And it largely failed to establish institutions of resistance that could endure without being coopted by the State.

Akst grounds his protagonists’ accomplishments as well as their failings in their individual personalities; when your activism is a part of a lifelong intellectual pilgrimage, staying pinned down to one philosophy or strategy is difficult. Nevertheless, “to a great extent Dellinger and his fellow pacifists did conquer the future,” Akst writes, and on a host of issues—racism, militarism, authoritarianism, and the looming threat of the Bomb—they broke through where others were often afraid to make a fuss. Channeling their principles into a more enduring resistance is the necessary work of their successors.


Mon, 27 Mar 2023 06:29:11 +0000 https://historynewsnetwork.org/article/185270 https://historynewsnetwork.org/article/185270 0
Censoring History Education Goes Hand in Hand with Democratic Backsliding

Students in Brasilia take the ENEM, the national high school exam of Brazil. Former President Jair Bolsonaro had attemtped to revise the exam to promote a benign view of the country's periof of military dictatorship. 



On January 12, 2023, the Department of Education in Florida labeled a draft Advanced Placement course on African American Studies “woke indoctrination” and rejected it for including readings from, among others, historians Robin D.G. Kelly and Nell Irvin Painter. The Department's decision fit within the broader political vision of the governor (and former history teacher) Ron DeSantis, as well as a nation-wide pattern of attempts to restrict the teaching of gender and race in United States history. Florida’s policies were quickly linked to similar ones in backsliding democracies in Europe, such as Hungary, Poland and Turkey. Data from the Network of Concerned Historians for 2020–2023 suggest a correlation between attempts to censor history education and the global backsliding of democracy, with India, Brazil and the Philippines being among the most grave examples.


Since 2014, when Narendra Modi was elected Prime Minister of India, Hindutva (or radical Hindu nationalism) has again become a cornerstone of internal politics, exemplified through a surge in mob violence, discrimination against non-Hindu people, and a broad set of laws aimed at history education. Most frequently, these laws have targeted history textbooks. In March 2019, it was announced that chapters related to caste conflict would be scrapped from the National Council for Educational Research and Training (NCERT) history textbooks for class IX (the first year of high school). In July 2021 more than one hundred historians expressed concern over further changes to the NCERT history textbooks, and a year later acclaimed historian Irfan Habib criticized the textbooks for downscaling Muslim and Mughal history. Also in July 2021, the University Grants Commission released a new undergraduate history curriculum for centrally funded public universities that was widely criticized for its pro-Hindu bias, its downplaying of contributions to Indian history by Muslim and secular politicians, and the overrepresentation of Vedic and Hindu religious literature.


In addition to legislation, right-wing Hindutva groups exerted pressure on textbook publishers. In February 2020, Hindu Janajagruti Samiti (HJS) demanded the immediate withdrawal of a class XI World History textbook in Goa, because it allegedly depicted the 17th century ruler Shivaji I, often depicted as an important proto-nationalist Hindu leader, too critically. The HJS had previously demanded a ban on a book containing alleged derogatory remarks about Hindutva ideologue V.D. Savarkar (1883–1966), and requested action be taken against the book’s author and publisher.


Attempts to censor history education in India chiefly concern the inclusion of the contributions of people who do not fit an ethnocentric nationalist narrative of the past that serves as a foundational element of the government’s political ideology. In that sense, these examples mirror most  closely to what is happening in the United States.


Similarly, in Brazil former President Jair Bolsonaro repeatedly attacked the way slavery was taught, for example by supporting the far-right thesis that, since Portuguese colonizers barely entered the interior of Africa, Africans themselves should bear the most blame for the enslavement and trading of African people. Additionally, the Escola Sem Partido [loosely, “school without politics”] movement has claimed to protect children against indoctrination in schools while targeting courses on Black history and culture and proposing laws that would, among other things, institute a complaint line for parents who felt that their children were being subjected to “Cultural Marxism,” encourage children to film their teachers, and reduce the time spent on teaching Black and Native Brazilian history and culture.


Moreover, in the run-up to the National High School Exam (ENEM) on 21 November 2021, Bolsonaro was criticized for asking Education Minister Milton Ribeiro to change wording to refer to the 1964 military coup as the “Revolution.” The term aligned with the far-right revisionist history of the 1964–1985 military dictatorship. Since 2018, Bolsonaro had repeatedly criticized ENEM, leading to the disappearance of at least one question about the 1964 coup from the 2020 exam. His criticism was part of a pattern of interference and intimidation, which included attempts by the director of the National Institute for Educational Studies and Research, the agency responsible for ENEM, reportedly demanding the exclusion of more than twenty exam questions, many of which dealt with Brazil’s recent history. In November 2021 Bolsonaro stated that ENEM would start “looking more like the government,” and that it would no longer have “absurd questions as in past exams” and would instead “start history from scratch.”


In Brazil, censorship practices regarding history education have been concerned with both remote and recent history. The latter has been the focus of attempts to rewrite history in the Philippines, which have focused on the 1965–1986 rule of President Ferdinand Marcos, which was characterized by widespread human rights violations and corruption, especially during the period of martial law (1972–1986). In the lead-up to the May 9, 2022 presidential elections, campaigners for Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos, Jr. proclaimed that the Marcos administration had brought glory and wealth, and that no human rights violations had taken place under martial law. Already on January 10, he had promised the revision of history textbooks.


Upon his election as President, Marcos Jr. appointed Sara Duterte as Minister of Education, increasing concerns that they would lead a campaign to rewrite history textbooks. During his presidency, Sara Duterte’s father Rodrigo Duterte had expressed admiration for the Marcos regime, referring to those years as the “golden age” of Philippine history and calling on the public to “move on” rather than dwelling on the particulars of dictatorial rule. In July 2022, public historian Ambeth Ocampo of the Ateneo de Manila University, who had been a fierce critic of the younger Marcos’s attempts at historical revisionism, was harassed online. A month later, the official Komisyon sa Wikang Filipino (KWF; Commission on Filipino Languages) tagged five books critical of the martial law period as “subversive” and their authors as “Communists,” and banned them (though the order was rescinded after a strong pushback by the literary and academic community).


In Responsible History, professor emeritus of Human Rights, Ethics and History Antoon De Baets has pointed out the intimate correlation between democracy and the freedom of historical research and teaching. The plausibility of this connection can be most clearly seen in its violations, as the four cases above forcefully demonstrate. More broadly, between 2020 and 2023, censorship of history education took place in at least fourteen countries. Of these, twelve have seen a decline in their democratic status at some point during that period. This is not only the case with the censorship of history education, but also finds its expression, for example, in state-led attempts to censor commemorative practices. The interference of states in research, teaching and commemoration of history is an important warning sign for its pending abuse, and for the erosion of democracy in general.


However, and more hopefully, state censorship can be met with resistance. In the United States, PEN America is at the forefront of opposing censorial practices, such as those in Florida. In Brazil, the National Association of Historians (ANPUH) protested repeatedly against Bolsonaro’s attacks. In India, historians like Habib and the Haryana opposition leader Bhupinder Singh Hooda have criticized, in the words of the latter, the “politicization” of education and the “saffronization” of history. And in the Philippines, more than 1700 scholars and educators signed a manifesto calling for the defense of historical truth and academic freedom, pledging to “combat all attempts at historical revisionism,” and vowing to protect historical, educational and cultural institutions and “preserve books, documents, records, artifacts, archives and other source materials pertaining to the martial law period.” Their efforts should motivate us all to continue to step up and protect history from abuse by politicians.

Mon, 27 Mar 2023 06:29:11 +0000 https://historynewsnetwork.org/article/185267 https://historynewsnetwork.org/article/185267 0
The Nixon Library's Vietnam Exhibition Obscures the Truth about the War's End



The Nixon Foundation held a 50th Anniversary commemoration for the Paris Peace Accords, signed in 1973 to end American involvement in the Vietnam War, and organized a panel emphasizing Nixon’s “grand strategy” in reaching the agreement.  One might question the strategy implemented by Nixon—it led to the disintegration of Cambodia, a war torn Laos, North Vietnamese troops below the DMZ in South Vietnam after the 1972 Easter Offensive—all hallmarks of a failed policy. While the panel consisted of acclaimed historians such as Pierre Asselin, no one on the panel suggested “grand strategy” ended the war.  Scholarship by Nixon historians Jeffrey Kimball and Carolyn Eisenberg, moreover, shows that Nixon made major concessions to China and the Soviet Union in several failed attempts to end the war.  

The Nixon Foundation’s marketing of the Paris Peace Accords as the result of “grand strategy,” made me curious about how they treat the war in the Richard Nixon Presidential Library and Museum.  A joint production of the Nixon Foundation and the National Archives and Records Administration, the Vietnam exhibit is one of the first exhibits visitors to the library go through. Other scholars have criticized the exhibit for placing Nixon above the culture wars of the era, but I found Nixon’s voice was nowhere to be found.

At the front of the gallery, a sign invites visitors to come to their own conclusions about Nixon’s life and career. Was Nixon a “warmonger,” the sign asks. The gallery then proceeds into the turmoil of the 1960s and the Vietnam era, with Nixon above the fray, and continues into the war he inherited. The exhibit is heavy on American P.O.W.s, giving the impression that Nixon fought the war to win their release. While there are several placards and photographs, there are significant gaps in the presentation of Nixon’s Vietnam policy.

To begin with, there is no mention of Nixon’s Madman Strategy.  Nixon’s idea that using threats of nuclear force to scare the communist world into ending the Vietnam War.  Think this concept is false? Nixon engineered a secret nuclear alert, Operation Giant Lance, to intimidate the Soviet Union into convincing the North Vietnamese to end the war.  It failed and is not in the exhibit.

Also absent are the famous Nixon Tapes. 

This impacts the presentation of Operation Menu, the secret bombing of Cambodia; significant sources regarding the results of this operation are missing.  Perhaps most noteworthy is Nixon’s admission that the bombing led to the collapse of Cambodia.  As Nixon states in a taped conversation, 

Before we did Cambodia—this is not known to anybody—I had ordered, and we’d carried out, a series of strikes called the Menu strikes—nobody knows it—on Cambodia, on the sanctuaries, with B-52s. They were called the Menu strikes, well, because—[Kissinger attempts to interject] they were called the Breakfast strikes, and then I said, “All right, we’re going to”—so I said, “All right, that’s what—that’s what I don’t imagine the bastards out there called them.” I said, “Henry, the hell with that. A menu just isn’t breakfast; let’s have lunch and dinner, too.” So we took Breakfast, Lunch, and then we bombed the hell out of those sanctuaries. Nobody ever knew it and they didn’t say a goddamn word.

Kissinger replies, “It led to the collapse of Cambodia because it pushed the North Vietnamese deeper into Cambodia.”   

Could Nixon have brought the P.O.W.s home earlier? In one cynical tape, Nixon orders Kissinger to offer a false peace proposal for “cosmetic” purposes to deter the efforts of P.O.W. wives.

While Nixon scholar Stanley Kutler supposedly said the tapes are like the Bible, and can be used to support any theory, the idea that Nixon’s timetable for ending the war was driven by political concerns is supported by archival records and the tapes.  Fearful that another Tet Offensive would occur in 1972, and knowing that the North Vietnamese and National Liberation Front Offensive forced President Lyndon B. Johnson to shelve his plans to run for reelection in 1968, Nixon kept the war going throughout 1972 to ensure his own reelection.

Did Nixon believe South Vietnam would survive? Nixon’s National Security Advisor Henry Kissinger offered a “decent interval”—a two year break between the signing of the Paris Peace Accords and the collapse of South Vietnam-- to the Soviets and Chinese.  While the concept of the decent interval has been controversial, visitors deserve to hear this tape, from August 3, 1972, where Nixon and Kissinger discuss the timing of ending the war and the likelihood of South Vietnam’s survival:

Nixon: Let's be perfectly cold-blooded about it. If you look at it from the standpoint of our game with the Soviets and the Chinese, from the standpoint of running this country, I think we could take, in my view, almost anything, frankly, that we can force on Thieu. Almost anything. I just come down to that. You know what I mean? Because I have a feeling we would not be doing, like I feel about the Israeli, I feel that in the long run we're probably not doing them an in—uh … a disfavor due to the fact that I feel that the North Vietnamese are so badly hurt that the South Vietnamese are probably gonna do fairly well.

Nixon: Also due to the fact—because I look at the tide of history out there, South Vietnam probably is never gonna survive anyway. I'm just being perfectly candid—I—

Kissinger: In the pull-out area—

Nixon: [unclear] There's got to be—if we can get certain guarantees so that they aren't … as you know, looking at the foreign policy process, though, I mean, you've got to be—we also have to realize, Henry, that winning an election is terribly important.

Nixon: It's terribly important this year, but can we have a viable foreign policy if a year from now or two years from now, North Vietnam gobbles up South Vietnam? That's the real question.

Kissinger: If a year or two years from now North Vietnam gobbles up South Vietnam, we can have a viable foreign policy if it looks as if it's the result of South Vietnamese incompetence. If we now sell out in such a way that, say in a three- to four-month period, we have pushed President Thieu over the brink—we ourselves—I think, there is going to be—even the Chinese won't like that. I mean they'll pay verbal—verbally, they'll like it—

Nixon: But it'll worry them.

Kissinger: But it will worry everybody. And domestically in the long run it won't help us all that much because our opponents will say we should've done it three years ago.

Nixon: I know.

Kissinger: So we've got to find some formula that holds the thing together a year or two, after which—after a year, Mr. President, Vietnam will be a backwater. If we settle it, say, this October, by January 74 no one will give a damn.

Broadly, the history of the war is contested and divided into two schools.  The first, sometimes called the revisionist school, tends to argue that the Vietnam War was a just cause improperly executed by the United States’ political leadership. The second and most dominant, the orthodox school, argues the war itself was an immoral mistake.  Regardless of the school, the Nixon Library’s and Nixon Foundation’s claim that the Paris Peace Accords resulted from Nixon’s grand strategy does not fit into the historiography and distorts the history of the war. The exhibit itself needs to include crucial archival sources, the latest scholarly debates, and most importantly, crucial Nixon tapes as evidence.

Mon, 27 Mar 2023 06:29:11 +0000 https://historynewsnetwork.org/article/185268 https://historynewsnetwork.org/article/185268 0
The "Critical Race Theory" Controversy Continues

Mon, 27 Mar 2023 06:29:11 +0000 https://historynewsnetwork.org/article/177258 https://historynewsnetwork.org/article/177258 0
The Roundup Top Ten for March 17, 2023

Texas's Abortion Ban Can Never be Made Humane

by Mary Ziegler

When abortion access depends on establishing that a pregnant woman deserves an exception to a ban, the law will inevitably prevent doctors from serving patients with problem pregnancies. 


Neoliberalism: Why is the Market Involved in Your Hallway Hangout?

by John Patrick Leary

A guide for teens and others to start thinking about how the big political and economic systems we live under shape our lives. Hint: it's about the conflicts between capitalism and democracy.



"If they were White and Insured, Would they have Died?"

by Udodiri R. Okwandu

Texas's new maternal mortality report shows that historical patterns of medical racism are continuing, and the state plans to do little but blame Black women for the inadequate care they receive. 



The History and Politics of the Right to Grieve

by Erik Baker

Grief isn't a personal psychological and emotional process; we experience it through the demands a capitalist economy makes on our time, energy and attention. It's time to make bereavement a matter of right, instead of a favor doled out at the whim of your boss. 



Rearranging Deck Chairs at AHA?

by Jacob Bruggeman

"If professional history is history, it isn’t due to academic politics — it’s because of the sharp contraction and possible collapse of the job market." What are the profession's ostensible leaders going to do about it? 



Welcome Corps is the Newest Idea for Welcoming Refugees, but it Has a Long History

by Emily Frazier and Laura E. Alexander

The proposal for a new refugee resettlement agency extends the mission of many religious settlement and humanitarian groups that have operated in the United States for more than 150 years. This has the potential and the peril of bringing resettlement more in line with the characteristics of local communities. 



Florida Higher Ed Bills Don't Fight Indoctrination, they Limit Freedom

by Jessica L. Adler

Florida legislation would write into law extensive power for politicians to control the content of education. The law also takes out important parts of existing law, making it easier for partisan politicians to turn public universities to their own ends. 



Eric Adams's Involuntary Commitment Plan has a Long, Cruel History, Won't Help

by Jeremy Peschard

The history of involuntary hospitalization is one of the removal of the most marginalized and vulnerable people from society, in increasingly cruel and inhumane conditions, with treatment and reintegration to society an afterthought. It's unclear the New York mayor's plans will be different. 



Houston's Highway History Teaches Planners What Not to Do

by Kyle Shelton

Transportation planners have begun to collect the opinions of community residents affected by proposed highway projects, but they have yet to begin to meaningfully incorporate those concerns into planning. Doing so could prevent repeating the blighting effects of urban transporation projects.



What Anna May Wong's History Tells us About Oscar's Asian and Asian American Moment

by Katie Gee Salisbury

The first Asian-American film star got her break when a film company cast ethnic actors in a 1922 film made to test out the new Technicolor technology. But Hollywood's racial politics and commercial imperatives kept other Asian actors from stardom. 


Mon, 27 Mar 2023 06:29:11 +0000 https://historynewsnetwork.org/article/185265 https://historynewsnetwork.org/article/185265 0
The Defiant Woman at the Center of New York's First Abortion Battle

Caroline Ann Trow Lohman, better known as Madame Restell



By a 6-3 vote in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization (2022), the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade (1973) and eliminated a woman’s constitutional right to decide whether she wanted to terminate a pregnancy. Justice Samuel Alito, who wrote the majority opinion, justified the decision in part by arguing that “an unbroken tradition of prohibiting abortion on pain of criminal punishment persisted from the earliest days of the common law until 1973.”


Alito’s historical argument was just wrong. Early termination of a pregnancy prior to “quickening” when a fetus’ movement could be felt by a pregnant woman, sometime between the fourth to sixth month, was both legal and common in the early years of the United States. The first state laws governing abortion date to the 1820s and 1830s and specifically addressed the use of “poison” to terminate a pregnancy after quickening. The first New York State law that criminalized abortion was enacted in 1827. It declared pre-quickening abortion a misdemeanor and post-quickening abortion a felony.


The distinction between terminating a pregnancy prior to quickening and after remained until the 1860s when male doctors and professional organizations like the American Medical Association, founded in 1847, moved to eliminate competition in caring for women from female health workers who practiced traditional folk medicine.


A major battleground in the 19th century war over abortion was New York City where Caroline Ann Trow Lohman, also known as Madame Restell, used traditional medicinal potions to help women who wanted to limit their family size or terminate an unexpected or unwanted pregnancy.


Restell was born in England in 1812 and moved to New York in 1831 with her husband and a child. When her husband died, she married Charles Lohman, a local printer, who published pamphlets on contraception and population control, and encouraged his wife to set up her traditional medical practice at 146 Greenwich Street in Lower Manhattan.  Starting with a notice in the New York Sun in March 1839, she began to widely advertise her services in the city’s daily newspapers. She offered folk remedies such as oil of tansy made from a plant and used since the European Middle Ages to terminate pregnancies and spirits of turpentine distilled from pine resin. If these remedies were unsuccessful, Restell provided surgical abortions on a sliding scale based on social class.  As her clientele expanded, Madame Restell added other services. She operated a boardinghouse where women who chose not to terminate a pregnancy could deliver in anonymity, and she arranged for adoptions. 


Classified advertisements, New York Herald and New York Sun, December 1841

TO MARRIED WOMEN. — Is it not but too well known that the families of the married often increase beyond what the happiness of those who give them birth would dictate? . . . Is it moral for parents to increase their families, regardless of consequences to themselves, or the well being of their offspring, when a simple, easy, healthy, and certain remedy is within our control? The advertiser, feeling the importance of this subject, and estimating the vast benefit resulting to thousands by the adoption of means prescribed by her, has opened an office, where married females can obtain the desired information.


From 1839 to 1877, Restell was arrested at least five times, and she spent months in jail. In 1840, Madame Restell was arrested when the husband of a 21-year old woman named Maria Purdy, who had died from tuberculosis, accused her of poisoning his wife when she sought help to end an unwanted pregnancy. The woman had insisted that she was only three months pregnant, well within the legal period for terminating the pregnancy. Restell was charged with “administering to Purdy certain noxious medicine… … procuring her a miscarriage by the use of instruments, the same not being necessary to preserve her life.” In the local press, opponents of abortion accused Restell of being a “monster in human shape.” They charged her with “one of the most hellish acts ever perpetrated in a Christian land,” threatening marriage and motherhood, promoting immoral behavior and adultery, and encouraging prostitution. In her defense, Restell placed an ad in the New York Herald offering $100 to anyone who could prove that her medicinal potions were harmful. 


The campaign against Restell was led by George Washington Dixon, publisher of the Polyanthos and Fire Department Album newspaper. At her initial trial, Restell was found guilty but the verdict was thrown out on appeal because Maria Purdy’s deathbed confession that she had aborted a fetus was ruled inadmissible. Restell was retried, but without Purdy’s statement, she was found not guilty. After her acquittal, Restell expanded her mail-order operation and opened new offices in Boston and Philadelphia. At this time, Restell was probably the inspiration for Edgar Allan Poe’s 1842 story, “The Mystery of Marie Rogêt.”


In 1845, the New York State legislature changed the law. It made any assistance in terminating a pregnancy at any time illegal and punishable by a year in prison. Under the new law, women who sought abortions could be sentenced to pay a $1,000 fine and three to twelve months in jail. In 1846, Dixon instigated a riot outside Restell’s Manhattan house where rioters chanted “Hanging’s too good for her!” and “This house is built on babies’ skulls.”


In 1847, Restell was arrested again when Maria Bodine, a woman she had assisted with an abortion, had post-operative complications and a physician reported Restell to the police. Bodine testified against Restell at the trial; she was found guilty of “misdemeanor procurement,” and sentenced to a year in jail. After her release, Restell promised not to perform any further surgical abortions but continued to supply women with folk medicines that would terminate an early stage pregnancy. At this point, Restell had become a prosperous local celebrity. She lived an ostentatious life style, moved into a mansion on 52nd Street and 5th Avenue, applied for and received U.S. citizenship, and the mayor of New York City officiated at her daughter’s wedding.


Yet despite her celebrity, Madame Restell was subject to continual legal harassment. In February 1854, she was charged with a felony for illegally terminating a pregnancy and in July 1862 she was accused of arranging adoptions and being an abortionist. The 1854 case was sensationally covered on page 1 of the New York Times on February 14. A twenty-two year old young woman named Cordelia Grant charged her lover, George Shackford, with having abused her since she was sixteen. During that time Shackford alternated between identifying her publicly as either his wife or ward and he was now threatening to desert her. Grant claimed that she had become pregnant, “enciente” (sic), five times and that Shackford forced her to have an abortion each time. The “notorious RESTELL” was accused of performing three of the abortions at “No. 162 Chambers street.” On one occasion the baby may have been born alive and discarded. Restell’s husband, Charles Lohman, was named in the indictment as conducting the business end of the arrangement with Shackford. Charges against the defendants were dismissed on March 22, 1854 after Grant, who had testified under oath on February 22, fled the jurisdiction of the New York Courts under mysterious circumstances.


The 1862 case involved a woman who accused Mary Lohman alias Madam Restell of abducting her baby and demanded that the child be returned to her. Restell testified that she was a “midwife and female physician” who made arrangements for adoption of the infant at the request of the woman and that the woman “freely and voluntarily surrendered up” the infant. Eight months later the woman had Restell arrested, accusing her of abducting the child. The charges against Restell were dismissed when it became clear that the plaintiff had made several contradictory statements.


In 1872, New York revised its anti-abortion law and the penalty for performing an abortion was increased to between four and 20 years in prison. In 1878, Restell, now in her sixties, was targeted by Anthony Comstock, the founder of the New York Society for the Suppression of Vice. An 1873 federal law made it illegal to sell or advertise obscene material in mail including “any article or thing designed or intended for the prevention of conception or procuring of abortion.” The penalty for breaking the law was six months to five years in prison and a fine of $2,000.

As part of a sting operation, Comstock purchased pills from Restell claiming they were for his wife. He had Restell arrested and in a follow-up search of her 5th Avenue office, Comstock uncovered pamphlets about birth control and instructions on how to terminate a pregnancy. Restell charged that Comstock was supported by a male medical profession that wanted to eliminate her as a competitor so the doctors could enrich themselves at the expense of women and announced that she would expose them if she were brought to trial. But there was no trial. On April 1, 1878, Restell’s naked body was discovered in her bathtub. Her throat was slit and her death was ruled a suicide by the coroner.


On April 2, 1878, The New York Times reported on page 1:


The notorious Mme. Restell is dead. Having for nearly forty years been before the public as a woman who was growing rich by the practice of a nefarious business; having once served an imprisonment for criminal malpractice; having ostentatiously flaunted her wealth before the community and made an attractive part of the finest avenue in the City odious by her constant presence, she yesterday, driven to desperation at last by public opinion she had so long defied, came to a violent end by cutting her throat from ear to ear. The news startled the whole City. At first the announcement was looked upon as a hoax, but when it became known that her death had been officially communicated to the court in which she was about to be tried on an indictment found recently, doubt was removed, and the ghastly story of the suicide became the talk of everybody.


Caroline Ann Trow Lohman, also known as Madame Restell, defied 19th century male authority to provide women of all social classes with the ability to decide if they wanted to bear and raise a child. She did this by employing traditional folk remedies to terminate an unwanted pregnancy. She brought on media condemnation and ridicule because she refused to practice in the shadows despite legal harassment. She believed in a woman’s right to choose, and she chose to end her own life rather than going to prison for defending reproductive freedom. Ironically, her death led to rumors that it was staged and that she was still helping women terminate pregnancies.


In his Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization majority opinion, Justice Samuel Alito conveniently ignored women like Madame Restell and the early history of abortion rights in the United States. Not a surprise.

Mon, 27 Mar 2023 06:29:11 +0000 https://historynewsnetwork.org/article/185165 https://historynewsnetwork.org/article/185165 0
"You Don't Belong Here": Elizabeth Becker Tells the Story of the Women Journalists of Vietnam




It’s not unusual now to see or hear or read reports from women correspondents who cover the news in combat zones and other perilous situations. They bring home the harsh and chaotic reality of fighting from war-torn places like Ukraine, Syria, the Middle East, and beyond. This new generation of reporters includes distinguished newswomen such as Clarissa Ward, Christiane Amanpour, Jane Ferguson, the late Marie Colvin, Holly Williams, and photojournalist Lynsey Addario.

But women reporters just a few decades ago during the bloody American military conflicts in Vietnam and Cambodia were scarce at best and were often undermined, mocked, belittled, and even sabotaged. Only the most intrepid and resolute persevered to share the news and reshape public understanding of the cruelty and complexity of this foreign policy debacle. But these extraordinary women broke down barriers and created a new path for future generations of female reporters on the frontlines who courageously and routinely cover the terrible consequences of war.

A trailblazing war correspondent in her own right, celebrated journalist and author Elizabeth Becker pays homage to a trio of women reporters who covered the Vietnam War in her recent book You Don’t Belong Here: How Three Women Rewrote the Story of War (Public Affairs). The book focuses on the lives of the daring French photojournalist Catherine Leroy, American intellectual and author Frances FitzGerald, and iconoclastic Australian war reporter Kate Webb. Each arrived in Vietnam without significant experience in reporting or international affairs, and each navigated the masculine world of war and loss and each suffered and sacrificed to bring their unique perspectives on the chaotic conflict to the world. They brought new approaches to covering war and its horrific human toll on combatants and civilians alike.

The book also provides a new view of the war as it blends the individual stories of these stalwart women within the historical context of the war. Ms. Becker adds her insights as a fellow reporter and veteran of the Southeast Asian wars. The riveting narrative is based on her meticulous research that included study of voluminous military and other official records as well as her special access to the personal letters, diaries, photographs, and other documents from the three heroines of the book as well as their colleagues and others.

In addition to stellar reviews, You Don’t Belong Here won Harvard’s Goldsmith Prize for the best book on politics, policy and journalism as well as the Sperber Prize for the best biography/memoir of a journalist. And Foreign Affairs named it the Best Military Book of the year.

Ms. Becker’s groundbreaking reporting from Cambodia during its war and the Khmer Rouge revolution is legendary. She covered the American bombing of Cambodia, the vicious combat there, and the genocidal violence of the Khmer Rouge revolution. She was the only western reporter to interview Khmer Rouge leader Pol Pot, and she escaped an assassination attempt by the Khmer Rouge.

When the War was Over, Ms. Becker’s acclaimed book on Cambodia, won the prestigious Robert F. Kennedy Book Award. That book was based on her first-hand war reporting and extensive subsequent research including her historic interviews with Pol Pot and other senior Khmer leaders. Her exhaustive six-year investigation of the historical and political roots of one of the 20th Century’s worst genocides remains in print more than three decades since its first publication and is relied on by historians and others for its exhaustive and definitive research.  The New York Times called her Cambodia book “a work of the first importance;” the Financial Times said “Becker writes history as history should be written;” and the Washington Post praised it as “an impressive feat of scholarship and reporting: intelligent, measured, resourceful.”

The prosecution for the for the Khmer Rouge Tribunal in Cambodia recognized Ms. Becker’s unique expertise and called her as an expert witness in the trial of Khmer Rouge leaders for genocide. She testified about her experience and knowledge of Khmer Rouge atrocities and other war crimes before the tribunal in 2016, and the two defendants were convicted.

Ms. Becker began her illustrious career as a war correspondent for the Washington Post in Cambodia in 1973. She subsequently became the Senior Foreign Editor of National Public Radio, and later worked as a New York Times correspondent covering national security, foreign policy, agriculture and international economics. She has reported from Asia, Africa, South America and Europe while based in Phnom Penh, Paris and Washington.

Her honors for her journalism include an Overseas Press Club Award for her Cambodia coverage, the DuPont Columbia Award for her work as executive director for coverage of Rwanda’s genocide and South Africa, and the North American Agricultural Journalism Association Award. She also was a member of the Times staff that won the 2002 Pulitzer Prize for public service in covering 9/11.

Ms. Becker graduated from the University of Washington in South Asian studies, and was a fellow at Harvard’s Shorenstein Center and an adjunct professor at Georgetown University. She is also a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and serves on the boards of Oxfam America Advocacy Fund and the Harpswell Foundation.

Ms. Becker generously responded by email to a barrage of questions about her career and her compelling book on the Vietnam War and women reporters who covered it. I am very grateful for her thoughtful remarks and insights.


Robin Lindley: Thank you Ms. Becker for discussing your work and your illuminating book on pioneering women who reported on the American wars in Southeast Asia, You Don’t Belong Here. Before getting to your book and the three women you profile, I’d like to first ask about your background. You were a trailblazing journalist in Southeast Asia and were honored for your reporting on the war in Cambodia. How did you come to pursue journalism as a career?

Elizabeth Becker:  At the University of Washington, I became enamored with classes about South Asia and petitioned the university to create a major in the field. I graduated in 1969 with a degree in South Asian studies. (It is now a major field in the UW’s Jackson School). I and then spent a year in India traveling and studying Hindi at the Kendriya Hindi Sansthaan in Agra.  I returned to the UW for graduate studies in the same field, centered on political science, with the aim of completing a PhD

Robin Lindley: And what prompted you to travel to Cambodia in 1973?

Elizabeth Becker: The answer to that question is in the preface to my book. My thesis professor rejected my Master’s thesis after I refused to have an affair with him. He insisted my rejection of him had nothing to do with his rejection of my thesis. And he then asked me to reconsider. It was clear that my academic career was over. So I cashed in my fellowship check and bought a one-way ticket to Cambodia. A friend I met in India was working for United Press International there and had been lobbying me to come and become a reporter with her.

Robin Lindley: You’re renowned for your reporting on the war in Cambodia and the Khmer Rouge revolution. Your vivid book on that experience, When the War was Over, was acclaimed by scholars and general readers alike. When you reported on the war and the genocide, you capture the often horrific and painful experience of the Cambodian people. You witnessed the US carpet bombing and the brutal fighting on the ground and atrocities of war. Your courage and resilience are remarkable. When did you arrive in Cambodia and what was happening in the war then?

Elizabeth Becker: January 1973. The US had just signed the Paris Peace Accords and more than a few reporters said I had come too late. The war was ending. In fact, Cambodia did not sign the Accords and the fighting intensified immediately. US bombing from March through mid-August was the most intense of the war. It caught the world – and news organizations – by surprise.

There were very few reporters living in Cambodia. Most staffers lived in Saigon, Hong Kong, Singapore or Bangkok. They needed someone on the ground at all times. After three months writing for the now defunct Far Eastern Economic Review, I was hired by the Washington Post, Newsweek and NBC radio as the local reporter or stringer. The fighting was close to constant.

Robin Lindley: What kind of support did you get when you were reporting from Cambodia? Did you have supportive colleagues or government support? 

Elizabeth Becker: Some of my colleagues who lived in Phnom Penh were superb:  James Fenton, the British poet, was there as a stringer for the New Statesman; Ishiyama Koki, of Kyoto News Service; Neil Davis, the Australian television reporter; and Steve Heder who became the greatest expert on the Khmer Rouge.

Robin Lindley: When did you leave Cambodia and what led to your departure during the brutal war with the Khmer Rouge?

Elizabeth Becker: I left in September 1974. Phnom Penh was dangerous so we would go to Saigon for R&R. Two of my friends disappeared behind Khmer Rouge lines. Every day I chronicled and witnessed how the people and country of Cambodia were being destroyed and I finally couldn’t bear it. I wrote my family back in Seattle that, if I didn’t leave soon, I would be carried out in a straitjacket or a body bag. 

Robin Lindley: You are one of the few western reporters who was invited to meet Khmer Rouge leader Pol Pot and you interviewed him. How did that 1978 assignment happen and what did you learn then about the Khmer Rouge and Pol Pot?

Elizabeth Becker: Over three years I petitioned the Khmer Rouge for a visa – sending letters to their embassy in Peking (Beijing now) and going to the UN every October to see the Khmer Rouge foreign minister, the only time he came to the US. Finally, they invited Richard Dudman of the St. Louis Post Dispatch and me, for the Washington Post. Malcolm Caldwell, a British scholar sympathetic to the Khmer Rouge, rounded our group.

We were the only Western reporters to visit Cambodia under the Khmer Rouge. We had no freedom while there – we only saw what they wanted us to see and spoke to people they chose and under their supervision. We were essentially under house arrest. If you don’t mind, here is a link to the best summary I wrote about what I saw and why it became so contentious.

Robin Lindley: You escaped an assassination attempt on that trip, and one of your fellow correspondents, British Professor Malcolm Caldwell, was murdered. Who were the assassins? How did you and fellow reporter Richard Dudman escape and depart from Cambodia?

Elizabeth Becker: Our last day we were given an hour’s notice to dress up for an interview with Pol Pot. Dudman and I went first. Caldwell had a separate interview after us. Back at our guest house we packed our bags for the flight out the next day, had supper and went to bed.

Around midnight I heard gunshots, ran to the main room and met a gunman who threatened me. I ran back to my ground floor bedroom while he ran up the stairs, shot at the feet of Dudman and then stormed the bedroom of Caldwell and murdered him. He escaped and we were left each in our separate bedrooms not knowing what had happened for several hours that felt like a lifetime. Finally top officials came to see us. We were taken to another guest house after viewing Caldwell’s body and then flew back on a Chinese plane to Peking the next morning.

Robin Lindley: What a harrowing experience. I’m glad you weren’t physically injured. More recently, in 2016, you testified at the war crimes trial of two surviving Khmer Rouge leaders. How did that happen and what did your testimony concern?

Elizabeth Becker: I was asked to testify at length about my book When the War was Over since it had become a classic history of the Khmer Rouge and includes exclusive interviews of Khmer Rouge officials as well as foreign officials who played key roles in the story. I also wrote an entire chapter about my reporting trip to Cambodia under the Khmer Rouge that proved to be so rare.                    

Robin Lindley: Thank you for sharing that experience. The prosecution was fortunate to draw on your expertise.

And now, to You Don’t Belong Here. How did you come to write this book on trailblazing women reporters? Was there an incident or a person that sparked your interest?

Elizabeth Becker: It was in the back of my mind for years. The spark was my testimony at the Khmer Rouge tribunal when I realized our history – the women who broke through during the war – had been lost.

Robin Lindley: Your book is deeply researched and, of course, you were also a prominent woman reporter during the Southeast Asian conflicts. What was your research process and what was some of the source material you found?

Elizabeth Becker:  My goal was to write full biographies of the three women – their earliest lives, their education, what drove them to become war correspondents, and then their complete lives during the war – letters to family, friendships, horrible romances, self-doubts, etc. At the same time, I wanted to provide the reader with the story of the war. It had to be the strong spine of the book so the reader understood what these women faced and how difficult it was to cover the war.

Ultimately, you can read the book and have an intimate and deep understanding of the women, what they faced, and the war itself. I wanted to eschew what I felt was the confining, swashbuckling model where the focus is fully on the horror of war and how the reporter covered it.

Robin Lindley: Your book focuses on three women correspondents: Catherine Leroy, a fearless French photojournalist; Frances FitzGerald, an acclaimed American journalist, intellectual and author; and Kate Webb, an innovative daredevil Australian war reporter. How did you decide to share in-depth accounts of these women in your book?

Elizabeth Becker: I knew one woman couldn’t tell this story of how women reporters defied the odds and permanently broke the glass ceiling preventing women from being true correspondents. They did that by working around rules and really changing how the war was covered.

The main research was to determine who were the standouts and innovators. I did it by category – photography it was Catherine Leroy; long-form it was Frances FitzGerald; and daily reporting it was Kate Webb.

For Catherine I went to the foundation dedicated to preserving her legacy, even though it was largely forgotten. There I had free rein to go through her letters, papers, photographs, etc. I dug into the Frances FitzGerald collection at Boston University. I spent a week rifling through Kate Webb’s papers kept in plastic storage bins at the home of her sister in Sydney, Australia. I interviewed everyone in their lives, dug up books, documents and journalism from the period at the Library of Congress (which is four blocks from my home in Washington, DC) and then dug out my papers.

Robin Lindley: Weren’t these women all really outsiders lacking academic journalism training and experience reporting?

Elizabeth Becker: It’s more basic than that. Few if any women at that time (the 1960s) were staff foreign correspondents, much less a war correspondent. Women covered women’s issues usually in a separate area from the newsroom – dubbed the pink ghetto. US military rules prohibited women from covering battles on the battlefield (In WWII Martha Gellhorn was assigned to the military nurses, like other women, and had to sneak onto Normandy Beach).

So, no, these three had no real experience. FitzGerald had written freelance profiles for the New York Herald Tribune. Webb had been the equivalent of a copy boy for the Mirror in Sydney. Leroy had never taken a professional photograph.

They paid their own way to Vietnam. Had no jobs when they arrived. No place to stay and no insurance should anything happen to them. Everything they did was on spec for the first few months. It was sufficiently difficult that, over the ten years of the American war, only a few dozen women actually lived and worked in Vietnam as successful journalists.

Robin Lindley: What were the Pentagon rules for women reporters covering combat in Vietnam? Weren’t women correspondents strictly prohibited from combat in the Second World War?

Elizabeth Becker:  Since President Lyndon B. Johnson refused to officially declare war in Vietnam the rules regarding journalists were suspended. It was the first and only war where there was no US censorship, where journalists could go in and out of battlefields as they wished long as a commander approved (no embedding required). All that was needed was a US approved press card.

The Pentagon didn’t imagine that women would be among the press corps. It wasn’t until General William Westmoreland, commander of all US troops in Vietnam, stumbled across a young American woman reporter covering a unit that the top officials realized that women were breaking the rules. But the women successfully petitioned to be allowed to continue covering battles – arguably since most of the traditional rules about the media had been suspended. This was THE turning point. Ever after women reporters were allowed on the field. However the women in Vietnam kept their victory quiet and didn’t describe how they had broken that glass ceiling for thirty years. 

Robin Lindley: I was very glad that you included Catherine Leroy in your book. I’ll never forget her stunning images of war. She is known for her close-up photographs of the sorrow and the pain of war for both soldiers and civilians. Her photos for me are some of the most powerful and heart-wrenching ever on the price of war and the human condition. I’ll never forget her haunting images from a 1968 Look magazine. How do you see her innovative work?

Elizabeth Becker: I chose her because she broke all the rules. Without any training she took photographs her way, spending more time outside of Saigon – with soldiers and with villagers – than others. She said she strained to photograph the eyes of people, which meant she got closer than others on the battlefield. She became the first woman to win the George Polk award for war photography and the first to win the Robert Cappa Gold Medal Award for excellence in photography and courage.

Robin Lindley: Leroy it seems had almost no regard for her personal safety. She parachuted into combat zones with US troops and she was wounded and even briefly captured. What stands out for you about her commitment to reporting on the war at such great personal risk?

Elizabeth Becker: She didn’t take wilder risks than many of the men. She was a seasoned jumper so, while her photography while parachuting would seem impossible for most of us, it played into her strengths. She also understood that she was the only woman photographer in Vietnam from 1966 to 1968 and, the year before, Dickey Chapelle was killed covering Marines the year before—and was the first female journalist killed in combat.

Media outlets were adamant that they did not want another woman journalist hurt in Vietnam. Finally, when Leroy realized that she was mentally and physically worn out from the war she was wise enough to leave, which was not always the case with other photographers.

Robin Lindley: Despite her stunning photography, Leroy faced many obstacles from her male press colleagues and military officials. Despite threats and often lack of support, she persisted. Your extensive research speaks volumes. You found an employment file on her that revealed an attempt by male colleagues to undermine her. What did you learn?

Elizabeth Becker: I filed a freedom of information request to be shown the secret “black file” on her held in the National Archives. Behind her back, the head of Agence France Presse, other male journalists and several American military officials organized petitions to have her press credentials taken away. She was sent a letter saying she could no longer work as a journalist. She fought back, enlisting the great [photographer] Horst Faas to speak up for her, and got the ban lifted.

Robin Lindley: How did Leroy respond to the sexism and misogyny she experienced?

Elizabeth Becker: She stood up to it.

Robin Lindley: As you mention, Leroy was honored with prestigious awards for her photography but, despite her pioneering work in Vietnam and later in life, she never seemed to get the wide acclaim she deserved. You note that some documentaries and histories of the war fail to mention her exceptional, provocative visual art. Thank you for featuring her story. Did you ever meet Leroy and discuss her work with her?           

Elizabeth Becker: I met her years ago – that was all – but I knew of her while I was covering the war. I knew where to look and who to talk to. She died in 2006.  

Robin Lindley: Another reporter you profile is celebrated author Frances FitzGerald, who wrote the critically acclaimed Fire in the Lake, a groundbreaking book on the Vietnam War and US involvement in the ill-fated conflict. You take us back before that award-winning book. Many readers may not know that FitzGerald also was a correspondent on the ground in Vietnam who reported from crowded hospitals and devastated villages and violent urban neighborhoods. In view of her privileged family background and her Ivy League education, becoming a war reporter seemed an unlikely career path. What sparked her interest in journalism and then reporting from Vietnam? What are a few things you’d like readers to know about FitzGerald’s experience as a war reporter?

Elizabeth Becker: I wrote a triple biography because each woman in her own specialty was responsible for changing how war was viewed and reported.

FitzGerald wrote about Vietnam as a country, not just a war. Even though her father was a top CIA official deeply involved in the war back in Washington, she felt no allegiance to US policy. Instead, she cast a critical eye on it, largely by going out in the field and examining the effect of the war on the people. That is why she wrote about the hospitals, the growing slums in Saigon, spending time in one village to show how one side controlled the territory by day, the other by night, etc.

Robin Lindley: You vividly capture how the conditions in wartime Vietnam stunned FitzGerald. Even as early as 1966, FitzGerald was seeing that the war was misguided. What was she seeing that others seemed to miss?

Elizabeth Becker: She saw the war from the Vietnamese point of view as well as American. Most reporters only covered the battles. What she did was put the war in the Vietnamese context – its history, culture and society – whereas other reporters put the war in the context of American Cold War ideology and how Vietnam fitted in to those goals. At that time there were very few American scholars knowledgeable about Vietnam so she instinctively knew where to search for the war’s meaning.

Robin Lindley: FitzGerald’s journey involved significant personal sacrifice as well as the obvious risks of a war zone. How was she seen by male counterparts, and did she face the same obstacles as Leroy? The same “you don’t belong here” attitude?

Elizabeth Becker: The same but different. The reporters presumed that her success was due to her privileged position in American society. Nothing could be further from the truth. The American officials in Vietnam didn’t take her seriously, to her dismay. She was considered a debutante tourist by many. So, she “didn’t belong” for other reasons. 

Robin Lindley: FitzGerald also knew Daniel Ellsberg, a Pentagon aide in Vietnam, and Kissinger admired her. She became friends with Ellsberg. Was he helpful to her? How did she come to know him? Did she influence Ellsberg’s view of the war?

Elizabeth Becker:  Ellsberg was an intelligence officer who mingled with reporters and met FitzGerald as others did.  The difference was Ellsberg took her seriously. She was impressed by the books in his apartment. He supported his country’s mission in Vietnam and was comfortable answering her questions challenging how the US was succeeding or failing. They eventually came to agreement on the war and why the US would lose.

Robin Lindley: I think FitzGerald shares something of Martha Gellhorn’s sharp observation and moving depictions of war and those who suffer. How do you see FitzGerald’s writing and her approach to the war?

Elizabeth Becker: Her book Fire in the Lake had an extraordinary impact. The New Yorker published an unusual five-part series of excerpts from the book. It won the Pulitzer Prize, the National Book Award and the Bancroft Prize for history – the most honored book on the Vietnam War. She took an historic view of the war from the Vietnamese and US perspective—the only book at the time to do so.

Robin Lindley: And thanks also for sharing the account of Kate Webb’s experience in your book. I didn’t remember her story. She was from Australia, and by the time she began reporting on the war, she had already suffered significant personal losses. What inspired her work as a reporter? How did she wind up reporting on the war?

Elizabeth Becker: This is the first biography of Kate Webb as well as Frances FitzGerald and Catherine Leroy. I wanted to give their full stories to the reader could understand the remarkable courage it took just to go to Vietnam on their own. The personal as well as professional slights they endured all while learning to be journalists in the most dangerous circumstance.

Kate witnessed the suicide of her best friend while a teenager, and during her college years both of her parents died in a car accident. So she was familiar with grief. She got the idea of going to Vietnam as a “copy boy” in the Sydney pressroom of the Mirror. Australia had agreed to fight with the US in Vietnam – the only other ally to do so besides South Korea. Kate thought someone should cover the war and volunteered. She got laughed out of the editor’s office so she bought a ticket and went on her own.

Robin Lindley: Webb’s writing was innovative and moving. And she was a dynamo—often in the most dangerous areas during the war, including at the American Embassy in Saigon during the bloody 1968 Tet offensive. How do you see her writing about the war and how it stood out from what other reporters were writing?

Elizabeth Becker: She was an artist and an intellectual who read deeply and she brought those qualities to daily battlefield reporting. She reported all the details, investigated all leads and covered the South Vietnamese Army, which most reporters ignored. She wrote with humanity when that was unusual, and with an eye for detail. Here is her oft-quoted description of the US Embassy at Tet:

It was like a butcher shop in Eden. At the white walled embassy, the green lawns and white ornamental fountains were strewn with bodies. The teak door was blasted. The weary defenders were pickaxing their way warily among the dead and around live rockets.

Robin Lindley: Thanks for that powerful excerpt from her writing. Webb did not shrink from reporting combat and following military campaigns. In Cambodia, she was captured by the North Vietnamese and held prisoner for several weeks. She was presumed dead and the New York Times printed her obituary. You describe her captivity and escape. What was she doing when she was taken prisoner and what happened during captivity?

Elizabeth Becker: By then Kate was the UPI bureau chief for Cambodia – as far as I can tell, she was the first woman to ever run a bureau in a war zone. She was captured following up on a new offensive. Her three weeks of captivity were tough – she and three others captured with her had to eat what the North Vietnamese ate and only had the primitive medical care that they had. Otherwise, they were not tortured and she was not molested. She was impressed with the North Vietnamese discipline.

They were released on May 1 – possibly because she was a woman (and not American). Kate considered whether Americans would have treated a North Vietnamese journalist with the same equanimity.

Robin Lindley: After her release, Webb was praised as a hero in Australia. But didn’t she still run into the same problems with male colleagues and officials as other women reporters—the lack of support and sexism?

Elizabeth Becker: She was a full-time staff member of UPI at war’s end and promoted to run the Singapore office. But her direct boss insisted she have an affair with him. She refused. He reported her as insubordinate to New York headquarters without saying why. She quit and didn’t go back to full-time journalism for ten years.

Robin Lindley: It seems that the war haunted Leroy and Webb for the rest of their lives. They struggled with symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder after their experience in the Southeast Asian combat zones. I imagine that you and FitzGerald also experienced difficulties adjusting to life after the war. Was there any support for women correspondents who experienced war trauma?

Elizabeth Becker: No – not for female or male journalists.

Robin Lindley: We now see many women reporting from war zones and other perilous places. How has the situation evolved for women reporters in war and disaster coverage in the past fifty years?

Elizabeth Becker: Dramatically. Women are staff members with all the support that entails. They are treated more or less equally.

Robin Lindley: What do you hope readers will take from your book on the war in Vietnam and how the US pursued this ill-fated conflict?

Elizabeth Becker: That it wasn’t so long ago that women were considered incapable of covering a war and prevented by the military, the media and even their male colleagues from doing so.

This book is a coming-of-age story that portrays in the lives of three women how difficult and rewarding it was to break through. Moreover, I placed the women in the story of the war – the backbone of this book is the history of the Vietnam War. You can’t appreciate what they accomplished without placing them in the war. In fact, several colleges are using the book as a history of Vietnam War.         

Robin Lindley: I’m glad that colleges are using the book. It deserves a wide audience. Your recent awards for You Don’t Belong Here are well deserved. And I appreciate very much your courageous work as a devoted reporter, Ms. Becker, and the risks you’ve taken to report to your readers. Congratulations on your groundbreaking book on a forgotten aspect of the history the Vietnam war: the trailblazing women who brought another dimension to the story of war to the world. Best wishes.


Robin Lindley is a Seattle-based attorney, writer, illustrator, and features editor for the History News Network (historynewsnetwork.org). His work also has appeared in Writer’s Chronicle, Bill Moyers.com, Re-Markings, Salon.com, Crosscut, Documentary, ABA Journal, Huffington Post, and more. Most of his legal work has been in public service. He served as a staff attorney with the US House of Representatives Select Committee on Assassinations and investigated the death of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. His writing often focuses on the history of human rights, social justice, conflict, medicine, visual culture, and art. Robin’s email: robinlindley@gmail.com.  




Mon, 27 Mar 2023 06:29:11 +0000 https://historynewsnetwork.org/blog/154694 https://historynewsnetwork.org/blog/154694 0
How The Irish Saved Wellington at Waterloo

"Closing the Gates at Hougoumont, 1815," Robert Gibb, 1903



For almost a millennium, the Irish have provided men and military expertise to the English and British crowns. From the hobelar light cavalry in the 13th century to the First World War and beyond, soldiers from Ireland have made outsized contributions. The Battle of Waterloo, June 18,1815, stands as a shining example of Ireland’s place in Britain’s military history.


Taking the King’s Shilling

The Revolutionary and Napoleonic wars, which had raged continuously from 1781 to 1815, would have a profound influence on the course of Irish history, fomenting bitter divisions and engendering the opposing ideologies of Republicanism and Unionism.

The economic booms and busts produced by the decades-long war with France left Ireland’s economy in a perilous state. That, coupled with the aftermath of the disastrous 1798 Rebellion, left many families destitute. For some, the only realistic option for survival lay in the enlistment of a son or a father (or both) into the British army.

Captured rebels were left with even starker choices: the hangman’s noose, transportation, or conscription into the King’s forces. Consequently, by the late 18th century one third of the British army consisted of Irish-born soldiers.

Of course, not all sons of Ireland fought for the British. The French and even German states fielded their own share of first and second-generation Irish regiments, although as many as 40 per cent of these foreign fighters ended up in red coats.

Unlike Britain, which was undergoing an industrial revolution at the turn of the 19th century, Ireland was suffering from massive unemployment. The destitute were disproportionately from the Catholic majority — victims of discrimination legalized by the harsh anti-Catholic penal laws.

Despite this, the British army at Waterloo fielded three predominantly Irish, Gaelic-speaking and predominantly Catholic regiments: The 27th (Inniskilling) Regiment of Foot, the 6th Inniskilling Dragoons and the 18th Kings Irish Hussars.

Following his escape from Elba and his hundred-day return to power in 1815, Napoleon Bonaparte had massed an army of 73,000 battle-hardened troops, experienced veterans who were fiercely loyal to their Emperor. Facing him was an Anglo-allied army of 68,000 led by the Irish-born aristocrat Arthur Wellesley, First Duke of Wellington. Wellington led an assembly of troops from Dutch and German states along with 25,000 British regulars. A Prussian army of 50,000, led by the old warhorse Gebhard Leberecht von Blücher, would eventually join the battle at Waterloo and decisively turn the tide for Wellington. Notably, Of the 25,000 British troops at Waterloo, only 7,000 had any real battle experience; most of those were infantry, and the majority were Irish.


“The Bravest Man at Waterloo”

The Battle began just after 11 a.m. with the French attacking Wellington’s right flank at Hougoumont Farm. Capturing this strategic, high-walled compound would enable Napoleon to outmaneuver Wellington. Recognizing its importance, the British commander reinforced the position with troops from the Coldstream Guards and Scots Guards. Their heroic defense of the impromptu citadel was dramatically depicted on canvas in Robert Gibb’s painting Closing The Gates at Hougoumont. The picture captures the crucial moment when opportunistic French soldiers force open the gates of the compound but are savagely repulsed by British soldiers.

“The success of the battle turned upon the closing of the gates at Hougoumont,” Wellington would write. And not surprisingly, an Irish soldier played a key role in the storied moment. Corporal James Graham of County Monaghan was most instrumental in this action, having slid the cross beam into place securing the gate once it was pushed shut. Some years later Graham received a substantial reward for his contribution: a nomination for being the “the Bravest man at Waterloo” by Wellington in recognition of his courage, and for saving the life of the Garrison Commander, Lieutenant Colonel James MacDonnell of Glengarry.


“The Regiment that Saved the Center”

The 27th (Inniskilling) Regiment of Foot had occupied a key strategic position on the forward slope of a ridge in the center of Wellington’s line. For two seemingly eternal hours, the 27th, consisting of 747 infantrymen, endured continual sniping from French sharpshooters and pounding from enemy artillery. Despite this, the line still held.

As the battle progressed, the regiment formed squares to repulse the onslaught of the French cavalry. Comrades, brothers, cousins fell. But with extraordinary courage and amazing resolve, the 27th still held.

By this most remarkable display of self-sacrifice the 27th had given Wellington a most precious gift: time. Without it, the Anglo-allied line might have collapsed before the decisive arrival of Blücher’s Prussians.


“They Don’t Know When They are Beaten”

The 27th held out, blocking the road to Brussels and a likely French victory. The Inniskillings had suffered more than 50 percent casualties. Only two other regiments that day, both Scottish, would take such appalling losses.

“That regiment with the castles on their caps is composed of the most obstinate mules I ever saw,” Napoleon famously remarked about the Inniskillings. “They don’t know when they are beaten.”

But of course, help for the 27th, and the entire Anglo-allied army at Waterloo, was on the way.

On the afternoon of the June 18, Blücher was marching towards the fighting at Waterloo seeking bloody revenge for defeat at Ligny two days earlier. The Prussians’ arrival would tip the balance.

Despite Wellington infamously declaring that his redcoats were “the scum of the earth,” he would graciously concede in 1829, when the Catholic Emancipation Bill was put before the House of Lords, that “It was mainly due to the Irish Catholic that we (the British) owe our pre-eminence in our military career.” Wellington’s support for Catholic emancipation would even lead to his participation in an 1829 duel with the rabidly anti-Catholic Earl of Winchelsea.

On November 23, 1918 Irish soldiers would take to the field at Waterloo yet again.

After more than four years of unimaginable horror in the trenches of the Western front the 2nd Leinsters were the first British army regiment to march across the battlefield of Waterloo since 1815.

Leading the outfit were the pipers. My grandfather Peter Farrell of Newstone Drumconrath, County Meath was, I’m proud to say, one of them.

Mon, 27 Mar 2023 06:29:11 +0000 https://historynewsnetwork.org/article/185216 https://historynewsnetwork.org/article/185216 0
What Makes a Rebel Into a Hero?

"Queen Zenobia's Last Look Upon Palmyra," Herbert Gustave Schmalz, 1888




In his 1992 book, It Doesn’t Take A Hero, America’s General Norman Schwarzkopf tells of “The Battered Helmet,” a paper he wrote while attending a course at Fort Benning, Georgia, some years before he became famous as commander of Coalition forces in the First Gulf War.

In his paper, Schwarzkopf described a general trudging to his tent following a great military victory and wearily tossing his battered helmet in the corner. Schwarzkopf then reveals that the general is Julius Caesar, and the time is immediately after the Battle of Pharsalus in Greece, in which Caesar’s army defeated the forces led by the “rebel” Pompey the Great.

Schwarzkopf’s paper, which won him a prize, went on to say that nothing has changed in thousands of years as far as battles are concerned – despite advances in technology since Caesar’s time it is the human elements of morale, preparation and audacity that still win battles. This was a valid point, but Schwarzkopf’s description of Pompey as a “rebel” was way off the mark.

It was Caesar who was officially declared a rebel and enemy of the state by the Senate when he crossed the Rubicon River with his troops to invade Italy and go to war with his own country. To defeat Caesar the rebel, the Senate conferred command of all forces of the Roman Republic on Pompey, who had once been Caesar’s son-in-law and close ally, and who had gained his title Pompey the Great at the age of just twenty-three after spectacular military successes.  

Once Caesar had defeated all senatorial forces – it took him four years – then had himself declared Dictator for life and dismantled the Republic, he only enjoyed five months of undisputed rule before his assassination, beneath a statue of Pompey, in a theater built by Pompey.

Norman Schwarzkopf’s error is just one example of how the world has remembered Caesar the rebel kindly, and made him the hero. This is because Caesar won, and his autocratic successors rewrote history to make him the hero, even naming a month of the year after him and banning public references to Pompey, defeated champion of the destroyed Republic.

Over the next four hundred years after Caesar there were plenty of examples of rebels against Rome who have been painted as heroes for their exploits. For example, British war queen Boudicca, called Boadicea by the Romans, who led the British uprising of AD 60-61. She has been immortalized by British writers, artists and sculptors since the eighteenth century as a heroic British freedom fighter who defied the invading Romans as she valiantly fought for the rights of Britons. The truth is a little different.

Go to the Embankment in London, and just across from Big Ben you will see the 1902 statue of Boudicca and her daughters. There is a lot wrong with that statue. Boudicca is given her Roman name, not her Celtic name. The chariot is Roman, whereas Boudicca used a very different-looking British chariot. It has scythes on its wheels, which neither British nor Roman chariots possessed. The horses have no reins, and the steeds depicted are 19th century cavalry mounts, not the nimble chariot ponies of the 1st century Celts.

The largest error is that the statue is in London at all. Far from liberating London, Boudicca destroyed the city, burning it to the ground. And she and her rebel horde took the thousands of Celtic Britons living in the city, tortured them, impaled then on stakes, and burned them to death – both men and women. The only crime of Boudicca’s fellow Britons was that they lived in a Roman city.

Her rebel army was defeated by a much smaller Roman force, and Boudicca took her own life. But before that, Boudicca dealt out the same cruel punishment to British residents of Colchester, and Verulamium near modern St Albans. Such a rebel leader operating today would be labeled a terrorist, with her tactics likened to that of ISIS.

Hollywood turned another rebel against Rome into a romantic hero. Spartacus was his name. A former Thracian auxiliary in the Roman army, probably an officer commanding Thracian cavalry, he ended up committing a crime and was consigned to slavery. Sold to a gladiatorial school in Capua, south of Rome, he trained as a gladiator. Breaking out with some seventy fellow gladiators, Spartacus began a rampage throughout central and southern Italy, killing Romans, looting and pillaging, and freeing and arming slaves – tens of thousands of them.

Over many months Spartacus’s army of slaves humbled one Roman army after another, until they became divided among themselves and Roman general Marcus Crassus dealt them a crushing defeat. Crassus crucified 6,000 of Spartacus’s men beside the road from Capua to Rome, and Pompey the Great, returning from defeating Sertorius, the rebel Roman governor of Spain, defeated the remaining 5,000 in the field.

In reality Spartacus wasn’t such a heroic character. He killed unarmed civilians and military prisoners, and for the entertainment of his men forced captured Roman legionaries to fight each other to the death. And, of course, like all the dozens of rebels against Rome over the centuries, he eventually lost.

At least the later British rebel Ventidius outwitted and outran the Romans for forty years, apparently dying of natural causes, a free man. Similarly, Zenobia, the rebel queen of Palmyra, had a peaceful end, dying in her own bed married to a Roman senator after her earlier defeat and capture.

Arminius, known as Hermann in his native Germany, is another example of the rebel/hero dichotomy. He was a prefect in the Roman army who betrayed his superior, the governor of Roman Germany, in a rebellion that began with the massacre of three legions in an ambush in the Teutoburg Forest east of the Rhine. Since the 19th century, Hermann has been considered a national hero in Germany. A massive statue of him, eighty-one feet tall, stands on temple-like base on a hilltop southwest of Detmold in the German district of Lippe.  And yet Hermann the rebel, like Caesar, was assassinated by his own people, who had tired of him. He was no hero to them.

So, the question of whether a rebel is a hero has a lot to do with how successful they are, who is judging them, and the times in which they are judged. Take the previously mentioned Fort Benning in Georgia. On the opening of this US Army base in 1918 it was named after Henry Benning. A Georgia native, Benning served as a brigadier general in the Confederate Army, fighting against the Union Army in numerous battles of the US Civil War – or the War of the Rebellion as it was called by northerners, who referred to Confederates as “Johnny Rebs.”

Benning the rebel was an avid secessionist and slavery advocate who fought bitterly against the Union. In the eyes of northerners, he was a traitor. Yet in the South he was revered, and his name was given by the US Government to this new US Army establishment to assuage southern sensibilities at a time when the South’s men were being drafted into the US Army to fight the first world war.

Times have changed, however. It was recently announced by the US government that, as of January 2024, Fort Benning will be renamed Fort Moore, after a Vietnam-era US Army general, author of the book We Were Soldiers Once… And Young, which became a Hollywood movie, and his wife, who are both buried at the fort. Some would say removing the name of Benning the rebel is long overdue.

In the end, it seems, politics of the day are the final determinant when judging the difference between a rebel and a hero.

Mon, 27 Mar 2023 06:29:11 +0000 https://historynewsnetwork.org/article/185215 https://historynewsnetwork.org/article/185215 0
Irish Legend Should Inspire the Fight Against Famine Today

An Irish family enduring starvation during the Great Famine in Carraroe, County Galway. National Library of Ireland.



The hit Irish show Riverdance includes a segment titled The Countess Cathleen, which was originally a verse drama by William Butler Yeats, published in 1893. 

This legendary tale of Countess Cathleen (aka Kathleen) begins with Irish peasants starving to death during a famine. Demons have descended upon the desperate poor trying to get them to sell their souls to the Devil in exchange for gold to buy food. The wealthy Countess Cathleen tries to help the peasants by selling off her riches to buy food and end the starvation.

But the demons persist in stopping food from reaching the hungry, forcing the Countess Cathleen to offer her soul to them. The Countess Cathleen tells the demons, who are disguised as merchants, “These people starve, and therefore do they come Thronging to you. I hear a cry come from them, And it is in my ears by night and day."

Cathleen cannot ignore the suffering cries of the hungry. So she makes the deal with the Devil. Her soul is taken in exchange for food for the peasants and the return of any souls the demons had taken. The peasants are saved. The Countess Cathleen sadly dies.  

But Cathleen’s story does not end. Her soul is later saved by angels because God realized she was trying to do good to save others. The evil demons are driven away. 

While the story is fictitious, the idea of famine in Ireland was, of course, very real. Multiple famines struck Ireland during the 19th century and no doubt influenced the creation of the legend. The desperation in the story of those starving symbolizes the real life struggles people face during severe hunger emergencies.

When famine threatens a country, those starving are forced to sell precious assets, withdraw their children from school or send them into the streets to beg. Families will flee their homes in the search for food. When famine strikes, instability and chaos often follows. 

And the evil of famine symbolized in The Countess Cathleen is very real to this day. In the story the demons interrupt Cathleen’s effort to feed the hungry, before taking her soul. In some conflicts food aid is blocked by armed forces from reaching those in need, a true act of evil. 

For Ireland, preventing famine around the globe is an important mission as they know too well the horror of hunger. The Riverdance show, in keeping with this tradition, started fighting hunger at its creation. A video titled, Riverdance for Rwanda, was sold in 1994 to raise funds to feed the hungry in Rwanda. 

That same spirit of the Irish in fighting hunger we need more than ever today. As the UN World Food Program warns “the number of acutely hungry people continues to increase at a pace that funding is unlikely to match, while the cost of delivering food assistance is at an all-time high because food and fuel prices have increased.”

There are many nations on the brink of famine including drought-ravaged Somalia where people are having to walk for days in the search of food and water. In war-torn Yemen, Burkina Faso, D.R. Congo, South Sudan, and the Sahel region of Africa hunger is at frightening levels. The UN World Food Program (WFP) and other relief agencies don’t have enough funding to keep up. WFP, UNICEF, CARE, Mary's Meals, Concern Worldwide, Save the Children, Mercy Corps and many other hunger fighting charities need our support. 

The war in Ukraine has made the hunger crisis worse by causing havoc to one of the world’s breadbaskets. Food from Ukraine helps feed Somalia, Yemen and other countries in need during normal times. But this food is harder to reach since the war began and this precious supply is constantly in danger. 

The evil of famine is hanging over many nations. We all can do more to feed the hungry especially the children who are most vulnerable to malnutrition. We can save lives and prevent famine in the true spirit of the Irish and Saint Patrick’s Day. 

Mon, 27 Mar 2023 06:29:11 +0000 https://historynewsnetwork.org/article/185217 https://historynewsnetwork.org/article/185217 0
The Roundup Top Ten for March 10, 2023

At its 150th Anniversary, the Comstock Law is Relevant Again

by Jonathan Friedman and Amy Werbel

Anthony Comstock drew on elite connections to give himself near unilateral power to confiscate "obscene, lewd, lascivious, indecent, or immoral" materials —terms he was free to define on his own—and prosecute people for possessing them. Right-wing politicians seem to be inspired by the example. 


Fox's Handling of the "Big Lie" was Cowardly, but Not Unusual

by Kathryn J. McGarr

News organizations' standards of objectivity have long allowed public figures and politicians to proclaim lies without pushback, leaving the public to be arbiters of truth and falsity. 



The Left Should Reject an Alliance with the Far Right Against Ukraine

by Michael Kazin

The American left has always approached foreign policy with reluctance to impose America's will on the world. But that doesn't mean they should allow Russia to have its way in Ukraine. 



Why Are Dems Surprised at Eric Adams's Rant Against Church-State Separation?

by Jacques Berlinerblau

Democrats and secularists shocked by the New York mayor's declaration of religion as the heart of society need to confront facts: the church-state separation they revere has been all but entirely demolished. Secularists must now demand equal footing for their lack of belief.



How Superman Became a Christ-Figure

by Roy Schwartz

How did the comic book creation of two American Jews, whose origin story incorporates Moses, come to be understood as a stand-in for Jesus? Mostly through the movies. 



Cracking Stasi Puzzles is Key to Some Germans Finding the Truth

by Katja Hoyer

With an informant for every 90 citizens, the East German secret police left behind 16,000 sacks of shredded documents. Can information technology help reconstruct a record of what happens when a government commits to spying on its own citizens? 



Fear and Loathing in Florida

by Samuel Hoadley-Brill

"Much like 'voter fraud,' the term 'critical race theory' can mean whatever DeSantis needs it to mean to justify his anti-democratic agenda."



Ignoring International Relations Scholars is Leading the US to Mistakes on Ukraine

by Max Abrahms

Punditry on the Ukraine-Russia war ignores a host of scholarship on international relations that suggests Russian apprehension about NATO is a legitimate influence on Putin's actions, and not just an excuse for aggression. 



Why is the Right Obsessed with Gramsci?

by Alberto Toscano

A lack of familiarity with the actual writings of the Italian Marxist hasn't stopped the right, including Christopher Rufo and Nate Hochmann, from placing Antonio Gramsci at the center of a conspiracy theory about leftists seeking to conquer social institutions to undermine American society. 



Jimmy Carter Made Me a Better American; Did He Help Make America Worse?

by Jennifer Finney Boylan

Carter's call for a "moral revival" aimed at replacing materialism with collective purpose. His successors easily twisted that to make materialism into a collective purpose. 


Mon, 27 Mar 2023 06:29:11 +0000 https://historynewsnetwork.org/article/185214 https://historynewsnetwork.org/article/185214 0