"During World War II, my older sister and I helped my mother to plant a victory garden in the backyard of our house in Greenwich. We raised squashes, potatoes and other things that I can’t recall. Things were rationed, like butter and aluminum. The squashes were lying on the ground, and my older sister picked one and handed it to me. “Mom wants this,” she said with authority. I dutifully took it into the kitchen and with satisfied pride handed to my mother who reacted in horror. Why did you pick this? I replied my older sister had picked it and asked me to take it in. My older sister was called in. She blandly denied that she had picked it, and pointed to me as the villain, and I was thrashed. My older sister had a mean-streak.
During February of 1945, milk deliveries appeared at our door, thanks to a neighborhood milk man. One day he was talking to my mother about a place called Iwo Jima, and he said that his son was a Marine who was fighting there. I had no idea of the Pacific War. I had seen bodies of Marines lilled at Tarawa thanks to my grandfather. In August of 1945, I was taken to the movie Thunderhead, a sequel to My Friend Flicka, both dramas about horses, and there was a newsreel that showed Japanese planes crashing their aircraft into U.S. ships. I found this dismaying. I knew the Japanese were dying in the crash, but I could not grasp why they were doing it. Later I learned that the crashes were part of the battle of Okinawa but I had no idea of where that was taking place, and neither did my mother. I recoiled at the savagery of crashing a plane into a ship. What sort of a man did a thing like that?
But I do remember vividly the end of the war in Europe. I remember my sister and I piling into our mother’s Cadillac convertible with its red leather seats. We rode with the top down. There was joy in the air; happy, carefree delight was stamped people’s faces – Hitler had died, and the murdering Nazis had been defeated. In those days, the old Boston Post Road was the main road running straight up to Boston. There was as yet no I-95. So our cars edged into the traffic that filled the Post Road from curb to curb; car horns were blowing, people were yelling and making jubilant noises. I remember car horns were blowing incessantly, without cease, the din splitting the ears. I had first heard about the war from my mother when I was about three, when she told me about a young man from Pelham, New York, where I lived as an infant. Kenny Muir had been in the merchant marine and his ship had been shelled by a surfaced German submarine before the war began, and he had been mangled and killed while manning a gun mount. My mother never got over the death of Muir. She must have known him. As the war began, my father was a ham radio operator who recorded the battle of France, making vinyl records of Walter Cronkite’s reporting of the 1940 the debacle in France, “The fighting is raging nar the center.”
As a boy I was given a set of post cards, each one displaying the sunken or damaged battleships at Pearl Harbor. My mother also gave me a record that played all the anthems of each of the U.S. Armed Services, Army, Air Corps, the Marines, and the Coastguard.
So on V-E day, we crawled along in the midst of a torrent of vehicles, everyone cheering with relief and joy and triumph. Church bells were ringing in celebration. But the image engraved on my mind was this – we were sitting up on the back trunk of the car with its top down, and came to a row of poor, drab gray houses that had porches fronting the Post Road. On one porch, there was a gnarled, grizzled old woman who had no front teeth. She was wearing a huge baggy gray dress. She was sitting in her rocker on the porch, rocking back and forth, and in her hand she held an old bell that had no tongue, and she was hitting it with a small hammer, sending out the bells’ small tone over and over as she grinned an exuberant grin, hitting the bell again and again until she passed out of our sight and hearing. Evil, murdering evil had been crushed. It was a grand day. Everybody talked about it for weeks."
Why Katusha first? The Red Army captured The Bunker. They lost 5,000 men in the last mile.
The Jon Stewart Show is the favorite of all the shows my wife and I watch. Stewart’s view of life: his determination to reverence the facts, his intense desire to be free of cant or popular falsehoods, his determination to be free of fad, his suspicion of the fashionable and the current, his determination to be truthful, no matter what the cost, make him a special delight for us.
Could anyone have deflated the pompous idiocy of the White House Correspondents Dinner with more deftness, or more skin peeling sarcasm than Stewart? When you have CNN anchor Wolf Blitzer standing there in his tux, facing the TV cameras, saying, “I can’t believe that I am standing here with Jane Fonda," one makes the effort to suppress the urge to puke. (My language is vulgar, I realize, but then, so is Wolfie.)
I know Judith Miller, the disgraced The New York Times journalist. I knew her socially in the 1970s when she was dating Larry Stern, an editor at The Washington Post. We made friends there. Judy is very good looking, a virtue she is very aware of, and which she uses to great effect. Men adored her. We used to have lunch and trade tid-bits but we were simply friends. She was a very hard worker, very ambitious and productive, and I always respected her until the advent of the 2003 war when she like Hillary Clinton, were fed, spoonful by spoonful, the bigoted second hand nonsense originating in the white House --- the allegation that Saddam Hussein was developing WMD. He wasn’t, and had not been since May of 1991, and the “intelligence community” knew it.
The ideal of the journalists with whom I have worked and have respected, is the reverence for facts, especially inconvenient facts. All of us have tendencies, habits, deep rooted beliefs that, if not corrected prevent us from calmly and critically evaluating the information our sources give us. Reporters are a bit like bees that alight on different blossoms until we can come up with a mixture of truthful facts to be used in a story.
Bravo for Walrus for excoriating this puff of inane wind: “In her May issue editor's letter, ELLE Editor-in-Chief, Robbie Myers, writes: ‘There is something innately regal about Chelsea—a kind of grace that doesn't seem practiced, or trotted out just for public consumption. She's a person of substance for sure, a young woman who, while measured in her manner, has a fierceness of conviction, and a calling to make the world a better place.’"
First of all, I’m sure the most passionate admirer of this prose is the author. I am not sure of very many things in life, but I am quite sure of that. Sunshine beams at her from her parents, her associates, her friends. No sullen cloud would be impertinent enough to cast a shadow over this radiant language, and such dazzling virtuosity. The writer of this is being born aloft by the conviction that she has produced a prose masterpiece.
But has she?
As you get older, you notice that things that once were abundant in life are beginning to be taken away. What was once given you generously is now withheld. What was viewed as a surplus is now a scarcity. Your soul doesn’t age, but your body does. As your body withers, you suffer in truly incredibly ways and stages, ranging from unease and anxiety, to feebleness, and to periods of intense, seemingly endless, vivid pain. These sufferings can no longer be avoided. Praise, acceptance, friendship depend now on making constant efforts to acquire and maintain them. You have hardly any pride any more. The applause is dying out. The theatre is slowly emptying. The shadow that falls across all, is now falling on you. There is nothing you can do, no effort you can make, to become what you once were..
Your friends are suffering as well. They have the ailments that all older people have. They bear them with patience. But people don’t like to reveal their sufferings. They are proud by nature, and to admit suffer implies a sort of inferiority, and so they put on a brave face. But the truth is that what was once strong, daring, brave, and resolute, now exhibits a pitiable fragility. One has gained a new authority – the authority of suffering. You retain your youth in your soul, but your body is decaying. It labors to obtain the maximum, but ends with the minimum. Yet you soldier on, face forward, thinking that some fresh effort will enable you to experience another triumph before you die, some accomplishment that will soar and burst like a firework at this hour of your late age. But the truth dawns with great pain – you realize that you are no longer one of life’s contenders.
We don’t fear dying – what we fear is oblivion. All of us fear extinction. We do not want to have your name washed off some sidewalk by a garden nose. So doubts besiege us. What if our efforts really didn’t count? What if our bad decisions were the decisive ones? What if our dream of winning the respect of a group of the cultured and the perceptive people by creating something enduring and admirable -- what if that dream was unsound? Alas, those thoughts pierce the heart like sharp arrows. There is nothing more painful than the wounds they inflict. Yet the mind is full of them. We don’t fear dying; no, what we fear is that our efforts made no scratch on the face of the world’s anonymity.
So we work on, realizing that now the odds are against us. Yet we are not inert. We still believe that we can win out, turn the tide, and surprise the world. Can we produce something that would equal to something others did in their youth? It is possible. It has been done. There are exceptions. What is required? Defiance. Resolve. Bravery in defeat. The stamina of a George Washington. But maybe we are not yet defeated. Maybe we are going to blossom in our old age like Monteverdi or Verdi or Sophocles who did their best work in their 80s?
But the outlook for anyone with knowledge and taste is worrying.
It is very clear that the desire to be noticed at all costs, now rules the world. The multitude now has the decisive voice in culture. The question that drives the multitude is “What can I do to stand out?” There are ways, of course: film something and put it on YouTube, something funny like a cat trying to screw a dog. Or an eagle snatching up a baby in a park. That will bring you notice, if not fame. My wife, Carol, and I just watched the film “Birdman,” in which an aging actor stages a Broadway play that is designed to redeem him from his previous and very popular role as a cartoon franchise character, “Birdman.” The script is actually pretty droll. To redeem himself, Birdman is using a play based on a story by Raymond Carver, in which a man finds his wife in bed with her lover. An argument ensues, and a grief-stricken husband shoots himself in the head. The theater group practices this endlessly, with a fake gun. One actor, Mike, jeers at Birdman for using a fake gun. The actor says that he can see the red spot in the muzzle of the fake gun and tells him to get another. On opening night, Birdman, brandishes a real gun and manages to shoot off the end his nose. And what happens? Suddenly, he is a trending topic on Twitter, while a New York drama critic lauds the Birdman as having discovered, “super realism.’
But the script also has much to say about our culture. One of the characters in the play, Mike, condemns the “cultural genocide” of Hollywood.
But cultural genocide is in no way confined to Hollywood. Cultural genocide is widespread on TV and in popular literature. The world is working more and more to produce the mediocre and dubious. The production of the dubious takes no rest. It is tireless. And the dubious is not received with any reserve by the multitude; it is embraced as genius. It sells. It makes you rich. It puts yon television on talk shows where people have nothing notable to say. So what really rules the day? What are the Gods that the bulk of the people worship? Popularity, novelty, and SUCCESS. Wow! The popular must be superior or it wouldn’t be popular -- that is the extent of the multitude’s reasoning. Meanwhile, the multitude rolls its bulldozer over the bed of the emerging flowers of worth. Genuine accomplishment is nudged to the sidelines. The circle of people who are cultured enough to recognize excellence when they read it or hear it, is growing smaller day by day.
The astute, penetrating French writer La Bruyere, one of my favorite French authors, makes fun of the cheerless of trying to write excellent books. “'You write so well, Antisthenes, keep on writing, when are we going to see a folio volume of yours? deal with all the virtues and vices in a sustained, systematic work, which will have no end';
and they should add: 'and no popularity, either.”
Bruyere then adds, “I renounce all books, past, present and to come. Beryllus falls into a faint at the sight of a cat, and so do I at the sight of a book. Am I better and more warmly clad, is my room sheltered from the north wind, do I sleep on a feather bed, after being sold in the market place for full twenty years? I have won a great reputation, you tell me, and a great deal of glory: say rather that I've acquired a great deal of useless wind. Have I a single grain of that metal that procures everything? The meanest attorney puffs out his statement, and gets refunded for expenses he has not incurred; he marries his daughter to a count or a magistrate. A man in coloured livery becomes a clerk, and is soon richer than his master; he leaves him a plebeian, and buys himself a title. B— gets rich by showing puppets in a salon, BB— by selling river-water in bottles. Another charlatan arrives here from over the mountains with his pack; he has no sooner unloaded it than rewards pour down on him, and he's ready to go back to where he came from equipped with mules and vans.”
The tone reminds one of Lytton Strachey or Conrad.
Bruyere was writing at the time of Louis XIV. So the flaws of human nature, its merciless cupidity, and its tendency to applaud the fake at the expense of the solid and real, its endless search for distraction, ends up being a timeless dilemma. But I do wonder what he would say of such things now?
Today, a novel has to be blatantly commercial to sell. No, I haven’t read Fifty Shades of Gray. Or look at The Hunger Games. What is more grotesque and heartlessly brutal than the gladiatorial contests of the Romans? What could be more horrible than a portion of a people being so poor and oppressed that they kill another group of people every year to placate merciless, controlling gods? But that is what you get in “The Hunger Games.
Yet, there are still things of priceless worth that should be mastered before the final curtain falls. The great historian, Jacob Burckhardt, who is a teacher of mine, confessed for a friend that he had in his nature “a one sided bent for contemplation” that became more and more “directed more and more upon essentials.” He says in one of his letters, that “…you wouldn’t believe how, little by little, as a result of this one-sided effort, the facta of history, the works of art, the monuments of all ages gradually acquire significance as a witness of a past stage in the development of the spirit…I am moved by a shudder of profound respect.”
The thought is especially poignant. The excellence of the thought and the expression are simply superb, but a question remains, Does anyone think like that any more?
Alas, in America, a fantasy holds us in its sway: we think that as life goes on, we find it easy to conclude, that, thanks TV or the Web that we, as a people, have grown wiser over time. It is fashionable now to believe that knowledge is so widespread that somehow our exposure to it has made us smarter, and better analysts of the world’s operations. This is not so. “Folly in all its forms, from the frivolous and ridiculous was never so manifest throughout the world,” said a Dutch historian in 1935. The man was Jan Huizinga, who would be killed at Auschwitz. He had just written a masterpiece, “The Waning of the Middle Ages.”
His view was that as the world grows larger and larger, it learns less and less. People remember less and less. What we see today as we look out, is not wisdom at all. Instead what we see is the confused rivalry between distraction and knowledge. The love of power in ourselves and which we admire in others, is nothing but that corrupt, contaminated love of domination that has always ruled human experience. But its nefarious work goes on unnoticed and uncorrected because of the reign of Distraction.
Today, the multitude locates power in the workings of Politics and Entertainment. Clearly there are moments when the two fuse, but most of the time, the result is extremely coarse and tawdry. In both cases, we dodge the question of whether their concepts, imagination, of the multitude, its allegiance to the truth of the facts -- can make any claim to be true wisdom. Instead, we incessantly witness those two contests – the contests between greed, corrupt will, deceit, make- believe, false hood, and idiocy – as they rage on. Worse, these days, it is clear that even among educated people, there is increasing indifference, a mounting lack of critical capacity, when it comes to viewing history and its relation to politics.
I wrote this closing chapter as part of a novel: it is night. A reporter has been witness all day long to horrible violence, and he takes refuge in an empty baseball park. It is 4 o’clock in the morning. He falls asleep, then wakes up. Lying there, exhausted, he gazes in fascination at a single star, a, a sharp bright point of light, is shining down in the vast darkness of a summer night.
“As he began to gaze at the thinning darkness, he began thinking that all he really wanted out of life was to be numbered among the doers, not the connivers or the players or the shifty slicksters. He wanted to be like the wandering stone masons who had built those majestic cathedrals in the Europe in the Middle Ages. He knew that history hadn’t even recorded their names. Yet they were men of character because to create a work of enduring importance required a bit of the hermit in their make up. One had to be a hermit to create anything; because one has to resist the lure of popularity and distraction and push on in the face of general indifference; and the stone masons had pushed and fought on. All that remained was what they had accomplished. They had no idea of the imperishable glory they had created.
"He continued gazing up at the tiny, sharply bright star, a dot in the vast darkness of the night. Since a small boy, Peter loved creation in all of its forms, and with all the force of his heart. What were the works of Bach or Tolstoy or r Stendhal, but displays of tremendous will and concentrated focus. What else? He was trying to find the right words. They had also displayed patience, loyalty, loyalty, yes, and a passionate attachment to a goal. What else? The single-minded pursuit of something not yet made.
"Peter wanted to dedicate his efforts to make of his life something rare, special, and enduring. He wanted to learn to see, to discover something that had never been fully perceived and appreciated. He wanted to discover a new aspect of reality the way Alhazen had discovered perspective. What drove the best of human beings was not a desire for fame or riches or influence, but the desire to create something enduring, something excellent that would endure beyond the reach of Time.”
One wonders if he did.
Once I interviewed a psychopath who was in prison. He was in his forties, charming, intelligent, sun tanned, lean, and all went well. As I was leaving, as we were shaking hands, eyes locked, he said to me, “its good I met you in here, Richard, because if I met you outside, I’d kill you in a minute,” and gave a friendly laugh.
I thought of that when lately I was thinking of the causes of WWII, and Hitler. You see the images of Hitler on the American Heroes Channel, (talk about misleading hyperbole), with his mustache, and you suddenly realize that we have to brush aside the idea that he was some mythic figure with supernatural powers. He was a man just like me and you. If you study his face without its mustache, you see that he has high forehead crowned by hair, and a thin, triangular face. It is not a handsome face, but a grim and unwelcoming face. The trouble starts when you study his mouth. That is where his innate cruelty is expressed very clearly. It is a sinister mouth. The lips are misshapen and vulgar, belligerent, with a hint of a sneer. Studying the mouth is worthwhile.
The difference between Hitler and the rest of us is that he was a psychopath who was brilliant, charming, equipped with a photographic memory like Napoleon, and, who, if you got in his way, would have you killed in a minute like my inmate. He was completely unscrupulous.
Hitler as a human being is utterly reprehensible, but as a strategist he is worth considering, especially when we consider IS and its methods.
Part of the gift of imagination is to be able to foresee effects. It we take an action what will its results be? What are the effects that a policy engenders? What are the consequences? What are the new things to which such a policy gives birth? What new formations or entities will it encourage” What elements does it contain that will it lead to failure? To have no idea of these is to open the path to disaster. Ready made assumptions kill imagination and dull the mind to the consequences of what they have enacted.
I know many people who don’t begin their lives in earnest until they retire. Suddenly they want to be people of widespread education and broad culture because now they have time to study. How often one hears, “Now that I don’t work, I am free to read.” B.S. To most of them, study means reading the newspapers or Hunger Games. Most could not pass a quiz about what they read. Yet suddenly they are to be seen gazing at art in museums, gazing at paintings, listening to classic music at concerts, not truly understanding what they artists meant or what their value of their art consisted of. They have been told it’s revered. They have been told that it is “great” art, and that “great” art is admired by well educated people, and they want to be well educated and admired, and so they fall in step.
The sheer shallowness of their minds is truly astonishing. They have never been forced to know the inner resources of their own nature. They do not know the conditions that allowed for the development of individual thought in history. They do not grasp the role of commerce in the development of art.
When you have spent your life diving in the shallows, doing the mental dead-man’s float, how do you develop a taste for depth? How do you learn to swim and carry yourself through the water? You can’t. There is in these eager seekers for self improvement a deficiency of personality– a lack of any depth of curiosity -- the lack of an ability to ask questions -- a lack of the ability to be deeply moved – a lack of the ability to apply themselves -- deficiencies that prevent them from learning to distinguish the true from the false. The self-educated take something that someone else has pronounced valuable, but they personally never ask themselves why it is so. What creates its value? Why is this painting more valuable than another? What creates its worth? What was its style? What was it attempting to render? Perhaps what others have called “valuable” really wasn’t valuable and enduring after all. Maybe its value was momentary, a prisoner of fashion, of fad, of idleness, and in the end maybe it was destined to end up on the scrap heap.
In late 1980s and early ‘90s, I was told by senior CIA officials, that for many years, American “national grassroots movements focused on building support of Israel” had been secretly funded by Mossad, whose purpose is to reinforce the strain of Christian fundamentalism in America, a group that displays no knowledge of the Bible and who thinks that the earth is only 6,000 years old. Such groups are now building big churches that teach Creationism, apparently taking great pride in being absurd.
Mossad used to fund pilgrimages trips to Israel and other events, these officials said.
Has that funding stopped?
Probably. A keen-eyed observer commented, “Certainly Israel (Mossad?) funds hundreds (thousands?) of trips to Israel each year. But I wonder how covert Israel needs to be in funding Zionist Christians? They've got lots of money and lots of natural fervor, and, though they may not really like Jews, they have deep ideological commitment to the return of all Jews to Israel. (Of course something like two thirds of all Jews will be killed upon the apocalypse, and the remaining converted to Christianity.”
On its web site, CUFI proclaims,
“There is a new Hitler in the Middle East—President Ahmadinejad of Iran—If we learned anything from the Holocaust, it is that when a madman threatens genocide we must take him seriously.[“
At a CUFI gathering in Washington, John Hagee, the head pastor, said, "President Obama is not pro-Israel."
And on the question of an undivided Jerusalem, Hagee said, "Turning part or all of Jerusalem over to the Palestinians would be tantamount to turning it over to the Taliban.”
Hagee also denounced climate change as a fraud, plus he opposes abortion, gays, etc.
Such views dumbfound us or make us gape and scratch our heads at the very least. CUFI seems to be in the forefront of every backward movement.
American Religious Right
One wonders if the Christian Right has spent much time reading the Bible. Are they aware that are two accounts of creation in Genesis or that there are two accounts of Saul being made king? David is twice introduced to Saul. There are two accounts of David having spared Saul’s life. We also read that Goliath was killed by David, yet in another account names Elhanan is the giant’s killer. Clearly there are two different writers at work writers with different intonations, phraseology, methods, styles, talents, and differing sets of facts and legends brought to coherent meaning by marvelous skill.
It is somewhat suspicious to current scholars that the pharaoh that oppressed the Hebrews is not ever named in the Old Testament. Many scholars used to think that it was Ramses the II who died about 1225 BCE. It has become the habit to date Exodus about 125- BCE. Moses is credited with writing Exodus, Numbers, Deuteronomy, but doubts arise. We read about the death of Moses, and clearly he wasn’t able to write about his own demise. So someone else was writing his biography.
The “Pro-Iranian Faction” on Gary Sick’s site.
I am a bit put out by remarks on Sick's site about the pro-Iranian faction on Gary’s site.
The word “faction” seems to denote something conspiratorial.
Who belongs to “the pro-Iranian faction on GGS 2?” What is it? The phrase sounds full of shadowy menace… “The sneaking pro-Iranian, faction whispered last night...” Orrin sees the pro-Iranian faction as misguided, faintly corrupt, intellectually misinformed, a renegade faction that has closed its mind to the truth. Apparently, this group cannot reason coherently or uprightly. It suffers from the defect of a disfiguring bias.
I do not belong to any faction. “I like to be first and alone on any road I travel,” said a great American poet. Having sympathies is personal, not communitarian. Unfortunately groups are always home to mediocrity so one avoids them. If my personal opinions happen to coincide with others, it is not a conspiracy. It makes for the pleasure of agreement, that happy surprise that occurs when we find another who thinks a bit like ourselves. That agreement does not make a faction either.
In any case, what does the “bias” consist of? Is it an inclination, propensity for, a predilection, a leaning whose goal is to promote what is untrue about Iran? In my case, I am a patriotic American who deeply loves my own severely flawed country, and who simply wants justice to be done to the Iranian people. We ordinary Americans, what do we gain by loving Iran and admiring its people? We gain a great deal – knowledge of the Persian Empire, the conquest of Persia by Alexander, knowledge of the wars of the Greeks and Persians, and most valuable of all, we get to know the great Persian poets and Persian epics. Is their any poet more delightful than Sadiq?
We want to obtain a measure of justice for the people of Iran, that desire in no way supports or sympathizes with the country’s oppressive regime.
With greetings to all, and wishing everyone a wonderful, spiritually enriching New Year.
Those were my thoughts as I read about the case of former CIA official Jeffrey Sterling who was recently convicted of espionage by a federal court in Alexandria, VA.
However, there are things to keep in mind as we consider this case.
By the year 2000, Iran had for years obtained expertise from Russia and Chinese nuclear specialists equipped to study any blue prints submitted to Iran by countries eager to help Tehran expand its nuclear program. Iran had for years had obtained from the black-market network of the Pakistani scientist A.Q. Khan, plans for developing nuclear weapons. Until 2003, Iran had a strategic goal in developing such a weapon – it was to be a deterrent, not against Israel, but the nuclear forces of Iraq’s Saddam Hussein.
To be plain, Iran certainly was capable of discerning a fake nuclear blueprint from a genuine one.
The CIA’s targets at the time were North Korea, Iraq, and Iran.
After 9/11, Iran was conspicuously efficient in supporting the U.S. / Northern Alliance against the Taliban, which Iran deeply hated, helping the U.S. to rescue its downed pilots, even giving U.S. forces maps on which Taliban targets were to be bombed.
This changed. Under President George Bush, Iran was now a member of “the Axis of Evil.” The earlier smiley face of Iran had been replaced by a harsh face of murder terrorism and exploitation. The designation, “the Axis of Evil," has always had for me the crudity of a cartoon. In addition, it was wrong. Even then, in 2003, Iran was making efforts to hand over to the U.S. top al Qaeda lieutenants, including a son of Osama bin Laden.
Since the Clinton years, low level US and Iranian talks had been taking in Vienna.
The Counterproliferation Division of the CIA’s Directorate of Operations now came up with what they thought was an ingenious plan. Find a prospect, a Russian that could act as an intermediary, vet him, cross-examine him, and use him to transport nuclear plans to Iran in order to sabotage its program. The highlight of this operation was the insertion of defects into the plans that would be passed on to the Iranians. In other words, the aim of this was to send Iran off on a wild goose chase.
(It has an old idea: you implant defects into a weapon for an enemy, and when war comes and he throws the switch, nothing happens. The CIA had already executed such a plan against the Soviets, and we are doing the same thing to China today.)
Then something unspeakable happened.
A scandal occurred. A CIA official told Jim Risen of The New York Times about the plan, and the pitiless furies of “national security” arguments were unleashed, aimed at proving that Risen was the source of articles about the plan printed in The New York Times. Of course, the burden of proving espionage lies with the government. A government should not be allowed to use mere proximity, tangential conversations or vague-mails to prove espionage. In the Sterling case, such encounters are merely circumstantial. They are not proof. A government may infer that something bad happened, but that is mere supposition. the government didn’t make its case. It had facts on peripheral issues e-mails, et, but there was no one piece of evidence that make clear that Sterling was Risen’s source.
Sadly, Sterling was charged with espionage. In making such charges, the burden of proof is always on the government making the charge. In the Sterling trial, The CIA official who allegedly spoke to Risen, Jeffrey Sterling was indicted and for seven years, the federal government brought pitiless pressure on Risen to name Sterling as his source.
One principle of journalism is always honored, one ideal is impetrative stands above all the rest – that is, never give up the name of a source, and unless they are dead and their family gives the reporter permission to the name.
I have read only news accounts of the case, but one fact strikes one as extremely curious. The Iranians never took the bait. One can infer that the Iranian officials thought the US-manufactured nuclear plans bogus. In spite of the CIA’s plan, the Iranians never stirred a hair.
This brings us to the National Intelligence Estimate of 2007. That document said, “We assess with high confidence that until fall 2003, Iranian military entities were working under government direction to develop nuclear weapons.
“We judge with high confidence that the halt lasted at least several years. (Because of intelligence gaps discussed elsewhere in this Estimate, however, DOE and the NIC assess with only moderate confidence that the halt to those activities represents a halt to Iran's entire nuclear weapons program.)
“We assess with moderate confidence Tehran had not restarted its nuclear weapons program as of mid-2007.”
No matter, and never mind.
According to news accounts, Sterling was initially charged with committing ten felonies, seven of which fall under the Espionage Act. The other charges were mail fraud and obstruction of justice. The mail fraud charge was dismissed by the judge last week before deliberation.
Sterling’s case was the first case involving an alleged leak to the press to proceed to a full trial in thirty years. The last case involved Samuel L. Morison, a Navy civilian analyst who was charged under President Ronald Reagan for leaking photographs of Soviet ships to alert America to what he perceived as a new threat.
Notably, Morison’s case was one of the first cases where the Justice Department used the Espionage Act to criminalize a leak. (Morison was later pardoned by President Bill Clinton.)
The conviction of Sterling seems to me to be a vast mistake, the wrong thing done for the wrong reasons.
A news account quoted Jesselyn Radack, a Justice Department whistleblower, attorney and director of the Government Accountability Project’s National Security and Human Rights Division. She said, “It is a new low in the war on whistleblowers and government hypocrisy that CIA whistleblower Jeffrey Sterling was convicted in a purely circumstantial case of ‘leaking.’ It shows how far an embarrassed government will go to punish those who dare to commit the truth.”
Sterling will remain free on bond until his sentencing, which is scheduled for April 24. His defense is working to “seek to have the verdict thrown out” and, if that does not happen, they will appeal.
I wrote of my encounter with the Shah’s secret police and a number of you were gracious in finding it interesting. But I also received this reply:
“Sale's article embodied self-importance. Sale's detailed description of his acting-out, playing a fool, so that the SAVAK stooges would think he was just another dumb American.” PSC
My story was simply a story, a memory, an offering made in good faith, not a piece of strutting or egoistical self-display.
When I was a very little boy I never heard a radio and the advent of TV was years off. I grew up in deep woods. Solitude is the perfect food for the young, solitary soul. I was intensely interested in what I heard and observed. My interests were entirely local. But I made great efforts to remember them and began a kind of mental journal.
By your twenties, a young person has a general idea of what his or her character is composed of, its habits, tendencies, inclinations, its strengths and its weaknesses. The Spanish philosopher Ortega said, “Tell me that you are interested in, and I will tell you who are.”
But when you are little kid, the figures of authority were viewed more in terms of the penalties they could bring rather than offering something to emulate. I simply knew that as a boy, that parents were to be feared and teachers were to be feared too. Unfortunately, fear suffocates thought.
What are we to be? That’s the chief question that a young person ponders. What are we to be? Little by little, figures jut up in our lives that we respect because of their talents, their more penetrating minds or their superior kindness. At a young age, we have no idea of what a “great” man is, much less the causes that act to create a “great” name.
Every young person is always trying to fashion trials and tests that determine the range of their talents, their abilities, their ideals, their true inclinations and propensities. We do this by observing and noting, and we specially note failures. Drastic failures discourage new, improved attempts.
But in our young lives, there are people who seem to embody everything that are strong, graceful and intelligent, and such people seem to display great extensiveness of ability, and on that account are widely admired by others. Our admiration is conditioned by the respect we feel for certain superiors. One of the reasons they loom so large is that a young person lacks any developed or reliable sense of prospective, so looming ideals of an earlier day begin to shrink in size, and new admirations replace the older ones.
When the Democratic convention began, its purpose was to nominate Hubert Humphrey for President. LIFE was assigned me to lead the coverage of the street disturbances along with Muhammad Ali’s personal photographer and other pairs of reporters and photographers. In this chapter, I try to describe what it is like to be suddenly thrust in a street riot.
This comes from my novel, Virtue’s Fool, which took me ten years to complete. Richard Sale
"Grant Park was not the usual park; it displayed belts of greenery that had been cut into major parallel streets between Michigan Avenue and Lake Michigan one and a half miles away. After the attacks of the afternoon, the police wanted to pen the kids up in Lincoln Park, keeping them away from the Hilton, but there were a variety of bridges and overpasses that went north and south and which crossed over the railroad lines and they led into Michigan Avenue. Many of the kids who had escaped the attacks up at Lincoln Park were now heading there. The exodus from Lincoln Park speeded up after the National Guard began to gas the kids and it found that there were too many bridges, too many choices, and the authorities had been outwitted. The wind suddenly shifted west, causing eyes to tear, faces grimacing, people stopping to try and put a handkerchief to their eye, many of them never having to sniff tear gas before in their lives.
Worse, the beatings in Lincoln Park had attracted hundreds of newsmen, all of whom had now headed to the Hilton to cover what was soon to be called, “The Wednesday Night Massacre.”
Roger Snider stood squarely out in the middle of Michigan Avenue, next to the Hilton, behind the police line, his hands thrust into the pockets of his white gabardine jacket, wearing expensive, tasseled loafers and dress slacks. He had eaten a steak dinner, had two scotches and now he felt full and contented. He had spent his afternoon drinking at a local bar where Norman Mailer, who had suddenly left to go speak at the bend shell, leaving him with McCarthy staffers most of whom were in a glum mood. (Roger would only learn later that Mailer was watching the spectacle that violent night from the safety of the nineteen floor of the Hilton.)
In November of 1976, after all kinds of intrigues to which I was no participant, The Washington Post gave me a $500 advance and sent me to Iran to do a series on that country. The editors gave me no guidance. I kept asking what I was to write about, and they would reply, “You’ll find something.” At that time, I was married to an Iranian woman who had never been to Iran. Her father was the Iranian Press Attaché in Washington, and I was very close to him, closer than to my real father. He taught me to love Iranian music, to learn passable Farsi, history and to love the Persian poets. My favorite was the poet Saadiq, from Shiraz.
So I went off to Iran. It was like sending a six year old to build an intricate computer.
I had learned from being in the first racial riot in Washington, D.C, that the way to get news is to go where no one wants you or expects you. In Iran, I planned to learn about Islam by going to the mosques. Everyone in America apparently saw the mosques as horrible and frightening. I suspected they had never visited one. But the mosques were the center of opposition to the Shah.
The night I arrived, I met my mother-in-law in Shemiran, a Tehran wealthy suburb close to the Shah’s palace. That Thursday evening was a holiday, and all over the city, the throats of sheep were being cut. I remember the gamey smell of the blood trickling in the joube or street drain. The next day, I went to south Tehran to go to the mosque there. It was a big mosque and was supposed to be a center for resistance to the Shah. Since the Shah had required that I become a Shia in order to marry, and I had done so and had my name inscribed in the rolls at Iranian Embassy on Massachusetts Avenue. As a result, I felt I really needed to try out my religion, which I had studied, in order to move beyond the mere academic and gain a genuine knowledge. I was accompanied down to the south Tehran mosque by a dark-skinned gentleman from the Iranian Ministry of Information. He was in his forties. Courteous, smooth, polite.
By now everyone’s eyes are half blind from the endless glare of the electoral aurora borealis, and our ears deafened by the roar and rattle of the artillery of candidates seeking our vote. The call, ordinary vision that sees ordinary life as something urbane, dispassionate and good humored has been buried by tons of sludge composed mainly of falsehood, exaggeration and unsound hyperbole. It is a vile time.
Most everyone knows the plain facts of life, but groups drastically vary in understanding their political importance of such facts. Both groups have but a limited understanding of the other. One party looks at the ideals of the other with skeptical distaste. Both can scarcely believe that the other can be of the same race and history. The result is that both are easily attracted by the flashy but unsound.
If you enjoyed the first part of this piece, its excellence is not my doing. The asides and reflections are my own, but the text has mainly been based on a magnificent book, “Fortress Israel: the inside Story of the military elite who run the country – and why they can’t make peace,” by a former colleague and friend, Patrick Tyler. There are a lot of books on Israel lodged in my library, but Tyler’s is one of the best.
It is history of the first distinction – accurate, incredibly well researched and brilliantly written. The excellence of his retailing certain incidents, his keen insights into the personalities of the actors, his talents of staging and his sense of connection with what he relates to a broader framework of cultural reference -- are all first class.
But to return to the narrative.
By 1956, in Israel, Nasser had become, “Hitler on the Nile.” This clearly displays a lack of proportion and certain hysteria, but it was a widespread Israel’s military. Egypt’s large, formidable army and its leader threatened Israel’s existence and France and Britain also shared this view.
It was Egypt’s nationalization of the Suez Canal that led to a secret alliance between the British and the French whose purpose was to destroy Nasser his armies.
“British parliament’s decision this week to grant ‘Palestine’ diplomatic recognition is essentially a symbolic move since Britain’s government, headed by Prime Minister David Cameron, is not obligated to translate it into actual government policy.
“Passage of the motion, in contrast, legitimates (sic) the position that Israel is to blame for the conflict and that Palestinians are the weak side, in need of international support for their cause.” So said a recent article in The Guardian.
This new fact deserves some consideration and to understand it, we need to peruse an earlier time.
The Jews of Europe had long been bossed, exploited, mistreated, humiliated, persecuted, and murdered. The Jews were among the best and brightest of the European peoples. Nietzsche with great eloquence stomped on the anti-Semitism of his day by asserting just that, but clearly the Jews have had a tragic history. They had been thrown out of Spain; there were pogroms that targeted the Jews in Russia, and the culmination of Europe’s anti Semitism came with Hitler’s homicidal plan to murder them in an industrial scale, a crime so horrible that to think of it floods one’s heart with grief. That vast Nazi massacre destroyed the members of a benevolent, talented and optimistic culture and left the survivors with a sense of having been deeply wronged that nothing could make right. “One can do nothing before the permanent soul of a race,” said Gustav le Bon, and that race not only survived, it flourished by establishing its own state in Palestine.
“Nothing is more terrible than a body of men who have been afraid and are afraid no longer,” said Gustave le Bon. The new state of Israel was not simply going to be settlers; they were going to be conquerors as well engaging in a constant battle to survive.
In 1948, Israel had won its first war against the ill-disciplined, poorly trained Arab armies. Now, conscious of their uncertainty of their fate in the region, the Israelis spoke as masters of the situation. Suddenly there was no one more aggressive in war than Israel’s military. They were aware of the helpless and slaughter by the Germans, but unfortunately, the wounds to self-love are the most difficult to heal. Israel’s military were going to triumph at whatever cost and they would triumph because of their unending pugnacity and intellectual resourcefulness. Their aim was to make the Zionist enterprise to succeed at all costs. “We will make a cemetery of France,’ said Carrier, “rather than fail to regenerate it in our own way.”
Or as Robespierre put it, “The republic is the destruction of everything opposed to it.” That was the attitude of Israel’s military culture. It was to be inexorable, tireless, and endlessly devious.
Israel knew that its neighboring Arab nations were resentful and very hostile, but their armies were divided, amateur and poorly trained, and Israel’s military was on the march. From the first, Israel’s military tried to concentrate the entire nation’s power in itself. The people is of a nation are far less excitable than a crowd; but certain events – national insults or threats of an invasion – can arouse it instantly. It is not always easy to explain the acceleration of certain sentiments under the influence of a constant, exciting cause but the Arabs provided the acceleration. Constant cross border attacks had killed any sympathy between the two groups, and to Israel, the presence of Arabs and the threat they posed could rouse Israel’s military in an instant. A lot of Israel’s aims embodied a desire for vengeance or conquest. This feeling can be seen in Israel’s unending pugnacity. Within just a few years after the victory of 1948, Israel became cocky and believed that it owed nothing to anybody. Being the Chosen to rule the nations of the Earth thanks, to a biblical promise, apparently exonerates you from playing by rules unless they are gamed on your favor.
To take an example.
"The net effect was more people living in crowded and insanitary conditions than ever before, alongside a thriving population of rats, whose fleas carried the plague virus.
The outbreak was believed to have started in December 1664 after goods imported from Holland were carried to a house in Long Acre. Initially deaths were few and restricted to the St. Giles and Long Acre areas. By June however, there were signs it had spread to the City and after sixty-eight deaths in St. Giles, the hope it would be short-lived and parochial was shattered: 'Now there died four within the city, one in Wood Street, one in Fenchurch Street and two in Crooked Lane'." Defoe
The author, a well-connected city merchant, locates his address with characteristic exactitude: 'I lived without Aldgate, about midway between Aldgate church and Whitechapel Bars, on the left hand or north side of the street'. (Whitechapel Bars marked the eastern boundary of the City’s liberties at the junction of Aldgate High Street, Whitechapel High Street and Petticoat Lane).
The U.S. media constantly belittles, derides, or haughtily stares down its nose at Islam when it doesn’t slander it, and the media does these things hour by hour, day in, and day out. Almost all the judgments of Islam in the media are political judgments which have no basis in fact. They are made in ignorance and one wonders such judgments can be made with such facility since there has been no attempt by reporters or commentators to inform themselves of the facts of the world’s great religions. American reporters describe Islam as a shadowy, vaguely criminal menace whose reach extends to the edges of the Earth and whose presence darkens the light of the sun. It is a system that desires to enslave free men, they say. No distinctions are made between the bloodthirsty, predatory fanatics in Iraq and Syria who use Islam to gain their own self-interested ends, and a religion whose goal is to improve and enlighten human conduct and perfect the human mind. In other words, it’s a bit like saying that the Sicilian Mob is merely a form of Capitalism.
The so--called “Christian Right” in America, whose main motive is to inflame its own sense of self-righteousness, displays very little, if any, sound understanding of Christianity, and they by instinct deride Islam, and their preachers appear to be cut from the same coarse cloth of ignorance, rigid bigotry, hostility and inane dogmatisms that inhabit much of the media. I listened very briefly to a local TV broadcast where a Christian preacher described Muhammad as a kind of Arab Hitler gobbling up the countries of Belgium and Holland. Everything was conquest, everything was consolidation and slavery. My jaw dropped as I listened. Clearly, there is not in this man’s Christian nature, any hesitancy, any caution, nor any sign of wanting to respect what he did not know. His vulgar goal was to cry up Christianity and cry down Islam. One wonders what was the effect of this ignorance had on his followers. It clearly would not be a good one.
This mischaracterization of Islam is truly disgusting to anyone with any mental integrity.
One of the most interesting expositors of Islam was Sayyid “Ameer Ali (1849-1928) He makes it clear that Islam was based on sound ethical and metaphysical principles. It believed, he said,” in the unity, immateriality, power, mercy and supreme love of the Creator.” It believes in charity and brotherhood among mankind; it believes in subjugating the passions; its followers are to manifest an outpouring of gratitude for what God as created and given them since is God s generous and good; it believes in the accountability of human behavior in reference to an afterlife. (The good in God’s eyes goes to heaven, bad goes to hell.)
“I believe, as a general rule, Governments achieve the reverse of their stated objectives. I hesitate to call it a unique universal law and there may also be other formulations.” This masterly formulation by Walrus is by and large true, I think.
I kept thinking of familiar predicaments, the Iraq Invasion of 2003, the Vietnam War, the Great Depression of 1932, etc., but one figure and one country seem to be to embody the dictum of Walrus, and that would be Germany and its leader, Adolph Hitler.
The 1919 peace agreement at Versailles saddled Germany with the blame for the war, wrecked its economy, humiliated its citizens, and formed the festering resentment that for years sat in the national soul. The British maintained its economic blockade of Germany for a year after the armistice, causing the deaths of thousands of Germans by starvation. A more generous policy would have been the best course, but Germany’s foreign opponents were greedy, cruel, exploitative, and oppressive and enjoyed inflicting pain on their defeated enemy.
These remarks are follow-on to my essay about Chatterers. The responses on Pat’s site were so intelligent and pointed that they inspired me to think about minds I had learned the most from growing up. French writers had often acted as ideals for achieving mental integrity, and one writer I treasured was Jean Bruyer who died in the 17 century.
I loved the masterpieces of the French literature because they were lucid, piercing, ingenious, clever and straightforward. The French never resorted to using awkward or ostentatious phases unlike their English contemporaries. Bruyer’s book was called, “Characters,” and in reading it, I discovered that Bruyer was a wonderful philosopher and aphorist. I read his book so often in the Penguin paperback that it finally fell to pieces. But the radiant light of Bruyere never dimmed, never faded, and never became usual.
His essays are free on the web.
Bruyer is unique because he sees the personalities that he studies steadily, accurately, and in detail. Many annoy him, some outrage him, but all were of interest to him. He can be scornful, but not venomous. He dislikes, but he doesn’t hate. He disdains, but he doesn’t damage. He has none of the vitriolic bitterness of Swift, for example.
My love of French literature carried ne to unusual places. In 1967, I read a history of the French novel beginning with the Princess of Cleves and ending with six volumes of Proust, and it took more than a year to do and it led me to an interesting character. I once got an interview with a French man, Paul Mus who was in exile and teaching at Yale. It was only my third day at LIFE Magazine, and I had to take a tour in the Text Department, and a writer from, the Text Department kept grumbling about being forced to do an interview with “some god dam Frenchman.” He had to take train on a Friday night to interview him, and he was out of sorts, and he grumbled so much that I finally volunteered. I had just been hired as the Entertainment Reporter, even though I had applied to be a war correspondent.
Paul Mus was “the goddam Frenchman and he was the first man of genius I had ever met. He was squat, block faced silver haired, and with a presence that smote you like a physical force. He boasted that during World War II, while riding on the Metro, he had razored off the gold buttons of the German officers, an offense punishable by death.
It was clear to me that no one had stood up to him for a number of years; by habit, he was used intimidating and being obeyed and admired. But I was there to get a story, and when he told me he wouldn’t talk to me because he hated Life Magazine’s publisher, Henry Luce, I worked up my courage and told him that Henry Luce had been death 18 months, and while I didn’t mean to be rude, but I thought his remark obtuse.
Silence fell. He eyed me coldly. He asked me what I knew about France, and I briefly told him. He then said, out of all the French literature you’ve read what did you like best? I replied, Baudelaire’s notebooks. That was not entirely true, but we were in duel of wits, and he said “What about them?” and I said that Baudelaire hated the Belgians because he thought they were a people born to think in unison. I said I feared that the Americans would end up very much like the Belgians. He stared at me as I had been an elephant who had just sung a soprano aria in an opera.
The purpose of leisure, talking with each other, is clearly to enjoy the pleasure of affable company, and also to listen and become inspired by what we hear. But excessive drinking soon peels off the foil of civilization that we expected to enjoy. A couple I know well hosted a small gathering, but one of the members of the company showed up more than half drunk. When the rest of the company saw this person, their hearts sank into their shoes. This half drunken person always lowers the tone of any group they go to.
Until advent of this person, the gathering was polite and friendly. But no sooner had this person sat down, not only did they not test the waters or try to discover what people had been saying, they instead began to bleat and bray noisily and disconcertingly, and, unfortunately this person was self centered uncouth, coarse, and the incessant drinking has hammered their wits flat. This person had no liveliness s of wit – it was all elephantine facetiousness.
The ruckus at Ferguson transplanted me back to 1968 where, as a new reporter for LIFE Magazine, I was summoned to cover the street demonstrations with my partner, Howard Bingham, Mohammed Ali’s personal photographer.
I spent years working on a novel based on what I and the other team members saw and experienced. The book also contains a very passionate love story. The book is called, “Virtue’s Fool.”
In August of 1968, when the Democrats held their convention in Chicago, Life Magazine had assigned five teams to cover the streets. The team leader was Peter Fielding, who had spent five months living with a notorious 4500 member gang, called The Blackstone Rangers. He was accompanied by his photographer Howard Bingham. Another team was led by Barnaby Hart, a bespectacled man, 6 feet two, who could bench press 345 pounds in his street clothes. His body was broad and massive, not across the shoulders, so much as from back to chest. He was one of those people who are always finding something to admire and feel excited about. His photographer was a tough Pole named Gomel, an excellent photographer, who boasted that he never scared, asserting that he had no fear in his nature, he said. There was Roger Snider, the magazine intellectual, and Jarrod Macklin, was promiscuous but charming man, who dressed in excellent clothes, proving that while pretending to be unfashionable you could still be fashionable as long as your shirt, jeans and loafers were expensive. An intellectual lightweight. Snider described him a man of ideals but no principles.
The text follows below. It describes Wednesday afternoon, the third day of vicious rioting. This scene begins in the afternoon and moves to the evening.
UPI Terrorism Correspondent | June 18, 2002 at 8:13 PM
In the wake of a suicide bomb attack Tuesday on a crowded Jerusalem city bus that killed 19 people and wounded at least 70 more, the Islamic Resistance Movement, Hamas, took credit for the blast.
Israeli officials called it the deadliest attack in Jerusalem in six years.
Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon immediately vowed to fight "Palestinian terror" and summoned his cabinet to decide on a military response to the organization that Sharon had once described as "the deadliest terrorist group that we have ever had to face."
Active in Gaza and the West Bank, Hamas wants to liberate all of Palestine and establish a radical Islamic state in place of Israel. It is has gained notoriety with its assassinations, car bombs and other acts of terrorism.
But Sharon left something out.
Israel and Hamas may currently be locked in deadly combat, but, according to several current and former U.S. intelligence officials, beginning in the late 1970s, Tel Aviv gave direct and indirect financial aid to Hamas over a period of years.
Israel "aided Hamas directly -- the Israelis wanted to use it as a counterbalance to the PLO (Palestinian Liberation Organization)," said Tony Cordesman, Middle East analyst for the Center for Strategic Studies.
Israel's support for Hamas "was a direct attempt to divide and dilute support for a strong, secular PLO by using a competing religious alternative," said a former senior CIA official.
According to documents United Press International obtained from the Israel-based Institute for Counter Terrorism, Hamas evolved from cells of the Muslim Brotherhood, founded in Egypt in 1928. Islamic movements in Israel and Palestine were "weak and dormant" until after the 1967 Six Day War in which Israel scored a stunning victory over its Arab enemies.
After 1967, a great part of the success of the Hamas/Muslim Brotherhood was due to their activities among the refugees of the Gaza Strip. The cornerstone of the Islamic movements success was an impressive social, religious, educational and cultural infrastructure, called Da'wah, that worked to ease the hardship of large numbers of Palestinian refugees, confined to camps, and many who were living on the edge.
"Social influence grew into political influence," first in the Gaza Strip, then on the West Bank, said an administration official who spoke on condition of anonymity.
You cannot speak falsely about a party or country simply because they are your rivals. I confess that I am stunned by the sudden resurrection of Cold War sentiments in the U.S. media. But much worse, is the U.S. government’s attempt to make a judgment that declares Russia’s wickedness to be the cause of the terrible Ukraine shoot-down of an airliner ,when it knows it lacks adequate information to make such a judgment stick. Our judgment that we are always right never leads to a genuine truth. That kind of predominating certainty flatters the national conceit, and national conceit is a hungry deity that soon casts about for victims. Nothing can be more ridiculous indeed than the way in which we exaggerate another’s vices and extenuate our own. The whole is an affair of prejudice on one side of the question, and of partiality on the other. The administration doesn’t act as if it’s judgments are merely hypotheses. No, instead, they desire to think in decrees.
So what you see happening today is the transformation of individual convictions that become overwhelming in force because they are repeated endlessly by those in authority. The cautious restrictions of what once was called, “Iron objectivity” had been discarded as too ineffectual and cumbersome. Few in the media have the intellectual or moral strength to resist what is told them by their leaders. The collectivities have the habit of drowning anything that is private and not collective.
"It was in 440 BC that Greece set up a group of Greek city states called the Delian League, founded by Cimon, which would end up becoming the Athenian Empire led by Pericles.
There was one central conception that gained strength after the Greek’s victory in the Persian Wars and that was establishment of the democratic political system in which the numerical majority possessed all authority and all power of decision in the state. Under Pericles, this became “Imperial Democracy,” and the success of this system set in motion the seeds of its own destruction, just as it always does and has. Too put it simply, Athens was a city state that could not stay still. It was always meddling, always stirring up and attacking its allies and enemies alike. In the past, Persians had been the most deadly and constant enemies of Athens, as was Sparta and other Greek city states. Slowly, Pericles seized control of the allies’ wealth in order to fight the Persians, but in attempting to block a Persian move in Egypt, the fleet of Athens was almost totally destroyed. The Athenian Empire ended when the Spartans defeated Athens in the Peloponnesian War, and Sparta itself would thereafter be defeated by the Thebans. On the heels of the Thebans came Macedonia. But during that time Athens’ greed for power, its mania for expansion prevented any chance of stability in the region and that greed produced its ruin.
The communal life of Athens was the climax of the Greek development of the state or the polis. The government of Athens was so constituted that it would be compelled by its very nature to strive for power over its neighbors. The classic city state was held in place by two competing forces, education and power, according to an outstanding Greek scholar, Werner Jaeger. (Jaeger and Jacob Burckhardt are the best interpreters of Greek culture that I know of.) The antagonism between education and power was inevitable. When the state asked the citizen to sacrifice himself to serve the purposes of the state, it was assumed that the individual’s purposes were more or less identical to the state’s. There was no room for personal judgments and no personal freedom in the modern sense. The individual’s aims had to agree with the aims of the whole community and its parts, and they agreed to serve those ends with all their energy and determination. There was a widespread belief among the Greeks that the welfare of the community and its parts can be measured by an objective standard. Earthly justice was based on the justice of heaven. The Greeks had long considered that their ethical standard rested on justice (dike). The happiness of the state was founded on that idea. The crisis of the state was therefore a crisis in education. Education always reacted very strong to any attack on established authority, because the city’s greatest pride was founded on being the defender of justice and the defender if the unjustly oppressed.
The career of Pericles was made possible only by the great new extensions in the power of the masses. Plutarch says that Pericles’s bought the people off, thanks to grants of land. But beneath the surface smoldered the inextinguishable spark of revolution among the politically dispossessed aristocrats, or what were called oligarchs, and the rest of the citizens. While the foreign policy of Pericles won success after success, the aristocrats were loyal or feigned loyalty and contorted them self into grotesque forms paying flattery to those in power in feats of gigantic hypocrisy.
“According to new research from psychologists at the University of Virginia and Harvard, people would rather do something -- even engage in a little masochistic distraction -- than sit and do nothing but think.
“The researchers conducted a series of studies involving nearly 300 men and women, ranging in age from 18 to 77. Subjects were asked to sit alone in a room for six to 15 minutes, away from cell phones and other distractions, and "entertain themselves with their thoughts." Afterwards, they were asked what they thought about the experience.
“How did people react? On average, most subjects said they didn't enjoy having nothing to do. And this effect was found across all ages.
"What is striking is that simply being alone with their own thoughts for 15 minutes was apparently so aversive that it drove many participants to self-administer an electric shock that they had earlier said they would pay to avoid," the psychologists wrote in a paper describing the research.
“The paper is scheduled to be published July 4 in the journal Science.”
It is apparent from those studies, that the bulk of the American people are a very deeply demoralized people. Clearly we have learned to think and experience in unison. The old adage that to know more is to be more is being discarded. We are rapidly becoming a people who intellectually perform the dead man’s float instead of trying to learn something new or even try to examine and reflect about the events of our personal biographies. The goal of our lives is to be ceaselessly entertained. We have become “characters unable to undergo the effort of sustaining thought,” in the words of John Dewey.
A child, whatever else it is or does lives wholeheartedly. No young mind begins as being jaded or bored. The life of a young child is full of fascination and wonder. Children are little souls in the making, and what they are interested in finding out makes clear what kind of child we really are. Activity works hand in hand with discovery. No person of common sense strives to be mediocre. My life has abounded with talented, colorful characters, brilliant episodes death threats, narrow escapes that result from the thirst of a broad experience, and I am not alone in this. The contributors to this site such as William Cummings, F.B. Ali, (who has written a beautiful memoir,) Walrus, David H., Neill Richardson, Harper, are people of wide experience and broad culture and could say the same thing about episodes in their own lives.
The child is full of energetic joy and vigorous curiosity. When we are little and can discern an interest that appeals to us, we hurl ourselves at it without reservation and attack it with persistent energy. When I was a kid, I found life enormously interesting. What did I think about? Well, of course, the major figures in my life were my dad, mom and my older sister.
But aside from my family life, my mind was always aboil with interests and a thirst for experiences. When I was a very little kid I built miniature trains, even building the tracks using a tiny hammer and tiny nails to hammer the rails down into the ties. I would then work to create landscape for the trains to snake about in, and that activity gave me great satisfaction.
We did not yet have TV yet, so as a kid of five, left alone to myself, I once dug up the skeleton of a horse that had been buried behind the rural barn behind our house in Connecticut. I remember standing in the kitchen, holding the horse’s thigh bone, thinking my mother was on the verge of fainting dead away. I constantly explored the woods. I loved the countryside and the quiet, sun-speckled forest with their little brooks. I loved field mice and toads, chipmunks and birds, and big green frogs, and all kind of snakes. During the summer, I would keep a chipmunk in a little cage and feed it with peanut butter and take it out and hold it, completely fascinated, until it was time to set it free. Such encounters develop our compassion.
By Richard Sale, author of “Clinton’s Secret Wars”
The stated aim of the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003 was to promote an American style democracy in Iraq, and this meant creating a free market economy and building of a society based on the rule of law, according to then President George W. Bush and his advisors.
Using the “war on terror” as a premise, U.S. companies made millions attempting to build courts, ministries political parties, police, yet the funding necessary to promote a democracy in Iraq was meager, inadequate and ill-funded. According to Middle East experts like former Ambassadors David Mack and Ned Walker, and former president of the Middle East Institute, Phil Stoddard, the Bush administration disdained nation-building from the start. It thought it could dislodge the old system without having thought through what it would take to put a new system in place.
In fact, American attempts to create a workable democracy in Iraq were nothing but a hollow pretense, and the U.S. failure was chiefly due to America not understanding the structure of political power in Iraq. Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein had run the country with the help and support of the secular Sunni Moslems in Iraq who made up 50% of the population. The Bush design was to rebuild Iraq, a foreign country, by decapitating the group who had run it for decades and instead giving new power to rival tribes and religious sects, mainly the Shia Islamics, many of whom were allied to Iran.
Whitney Bruner, a former CIA official who had been the CIA Chief of Station in Baghdad for three years, told Truthout that an Iranian spy by the name of Ahmed Chalabi had for years tried to lure the United States into a low-intensity war against Iraq to defeat the Iraqi ruling group, the Baathists, who were seen by the Bush Administration as Arab Nazis. “The aim of Chalabi and the neocons was to destroy secular Sunnis in Iraq,” Bruner said. “Chalabi was an Iranian spy, smoothing the way for Iran,” Bruner said, a verdict confirmed by former senior CIA officials, some with active security clearances.
America’s business community extols moral qualities such as its love of independence, frugality, self reliance, relentless determination, freedom from restraint, superiority of imagination, etc. Yet, in practice; it focuses on another and darker aspect of human life which aims at enriching itself at the expense of everybody else. No one ever professes this openly, except the dogma’s political opponents, and most of them are engaged in the same nefarious game. Everyone professes to serve unselfish ends as a recipe for being thought well of. Of course, unthinking hypocrisy is common for all walks of life, but the bedrock fact is that we humankind are greedy creatures. War has bred greed into our natures and nothing is going to breed it out of us. Like pugnacity, larceny and the appetite for plunder sits at the root of our nature. “The powerful to what they can, and they weak grant what they must,” said the Athenians.
Most human beings confuse being busy with being alive. It then follows that most human beings do not examine what is under their noses. No, they are always searching for some far off glory, and, for the ordinary-minded, the gaining of wealth and showing it off, is the most popular and unimaginative ways of achieving this. Taking what is not yours is a delight to many. Piracy, plunder, exploitation and pillage have been with us for a very long time. The thirst for gold, slaves, excitement had has been the major motive for conquerors up to the present day, and for the businessman, outwitting others, defeating them, humiliating them, reducing them to poverty and desperation is merely a signal of their prowess. In other words, if your victims had proved smarter, more industrious and more ruthless, had more character, been more inventive, and more ruthless and heroic, they would not be victims. They think like the Greeks in Of course, this is completely heartless way to think.
But while the creatures of business may mouth axioms and precepts about self reliance and dedicated effort, no one betrays these precepts faster than a businessman. As part of their ideology, they forbid any remedy or dodge any penalties for criminal acts they may have done in pursuing their fortunes, and if curbs or punishments are put forward by the federal government or some other body, they resist them with the utmost strenuousness. They haughtily ignore rules put forward to prevent the carrying out of their unsound and reckless schemes. Businessmen have a highly mystical view of their drive to achievement which they see as uncontrolled by ordinary psychological checks and motives. When a businessman crook is confronted for breaking rules, he manifests the innocence of a freshly laid egg.
A new study proclaims that America is no longer a democracy, but an oligarchy whose needs are to be met at every turn at the expense of the general welfare. There was hardly a whimper of protest as the mass media reported the contents of the study. I guess everybody was busy with their cell phones and Twitter and other milestones in our organized drive for national triviality to stop and think about what the study’s conclusions might mean to the bulk of our people.
Apparently wealth and power are the grim idols that the world adores. The rich feel that they are not a product of their environment, but their environment is a product of them. Today America is governed by the rich, the study says, and we add that the rich think themselves superior not only in money but also in spiritual value. It is their money that has built America’s prosperity, its military and its economic power, its standing in the world, and its ability to steer events in their favor. Monetary success clearly bestows greatness.
The key to hardcore criminals is greed. They are greedy as a tiny tick burrowing in fur. They have no elevated ends of life. They burrow ceaselessly to obtain such things as their food, sex, tobacco, drugs, comfort, additional privilege and the safety of sleep. Their desire is simply to perpetuate their life under any circumstance, however mean, so long at gives them shelter and sustenance and poses no threat to them.
Many of the murderers I’ve known, so callous when it comes to taking the lives of others, whimper when the time comes for the State to take theirs. Killers are unsociable, aggressive, coarse, sometimes malignant creatures who have no spirituality in their souls or minds. They are far, far beyond any sense of shame. You would think that they would grasp that dying is as natural as being born, but no, not them. When their execution nears, some of them plead, beg, and cravenly bargain without any remorse. (They are exceptions. A middleweight boxing champion at the Arizona State Prison, who had shot his girl friend, donned his championship robe and threw punches all the way into the Gas Chamber Chair. Another inmate simply wanted a fine cigar and was happily puffing away at it when the gas hit him and he bridged and died.) But for most killers, they exist for the sake of one more meal, one more day, one more cigarette, one more night of safe sleep. Mere existence no matter how paltry is fine for them. Concern for their victims doesn’t exist. Their remorse is simply a posture, a pose, a bargaining chip for more leniencies, a begging for more time before the end.
I will give you a case of a killer to consider.
A critic of Evolution thundered recently: “Scientific observations do not support biological evolution! What about the icons of evolution that have been presented in textbooks for almost 50 years? Don’t these icons support biological evolution? Some of these do show microevolution within species. This type of evolution, even if it permanently points in one direction, is not evolution. It is no more evolution than dog breeding.” (What???) “However, if a dog could be bred into a cat, that would be evolution. Even icons like the peppered moths that were only examples of microevolution, used pinned dead moths on black tree trunks that were not a natural resting place for the moths. Hackle’s embryos, ape-to-man drawings, the horse series, etc.”
The above is taken from a site urging the teaching of Creationism as an alternative to Evolution. That these words are incoherent are not the worst of their faults. Unfortunately, these remarks leave the question of evolution validity or falsehood. Not only are they erroneous, they are misconceived.
In the summer of 1988, I wrote the following exclusive for UPI.
“WASHINGTON – Israel’s intelligence agency, Mossad, has been penetrated by “highly placed” Soviet moles and a full-scale internal counterintelligence investigation is under way, U.S. intelligence sources said.
“The sources described the Soviet infiltration as the most serious blow to Israeli intelligence since the 1970s, and said U.S. intelligence also was breached as a result.
“A Justice Department source said that U.S. counterintelligence agents became aware of the Israel-Soviet espionage pipeline when data stolen by Jonathan Jay Pollard, a U.S. Navy analyst convicted of spying for Israel “was traced to the Eastern bloc.”
“Intelligence sources said that the data came to the Soviet Union via the old rat lines, and included advanced weapons technology strategic plans for Turkey and moderate Arab countries. Israel also gave to the Russians sensitive communications gear stolen by Pollard ‘that proved to be extremely compromising,’ one said.
“Another major blow to U.S. security was Pollard’s gift to the Soviets was that of the firing locations, sequences and coordinates of the U.S. war plan against the Russians. Another was giving the Soviets information about the techniques used by the U.S. Navy to track Soviet subs around the world.
It cost some labor to put these musings of mine together because I am not a scholar on Russian history or the Cold War, but an obsessive reader who turns to books to try and figure out what is happening in certain areas of the world. And it seems to me that the suspicious superiority with which we greet Russian pretensions today is not new, unique or surprising.
John Dewey once said that “habits are conditions of intellectual efficiency,” but when reactions to something new is habitual, we are in a lot of trouble. There have been many warnings by distinguished historians who claim that failures in international diplomacy are chiefly due to a certain national willfulness in pushing ahead idealistic conceptions to save the universe, combined with an inability to see events from another’s point of view. We see this today in the Ukraine crisis. We Americans don’t see other countries for what they truly are, because when a conflict comes, we look for similarities where we should be looking for differences. When we don’t find similarities, we become bitter. We Americans believe that if other nations had made more strenuous efforts to adopt our priceless values, our structures, and worshipped our innovation and hard work, their countries would have turned out to be more like ours -- not good to be equal to us, but sufficient enough for history. There is only way to salvation in the world, we have taken it.
What lies at the base of many of our attitudes of judgment is national conceit. We don’t see others as being different from us. We don’t attempt to see events of another’s history objectively, but through the narrow lens that idolizes our national self image, an image that has never truly existed, but which never gets repudiated by U.S. public opinion because it is so flattering to us and to our pretensions of virtue. In our eyes, the events of our history seem just another testimony of our unique success in the world.
“I don’t like other people. And they don’t like me either.
“My mom says it’s because I’m selfish. But if she improved herself instead of criticizing me all the time, maybe I would have had a new father by now. I don’t have a father, by the way. The old one left.
“I used by BB gun again yesterday. The bird fell. I watched it hit the ground. I wonder what the bird was thinking. Anyway, who cares? Who cares about what a bird thinks? That is why I practice and train. I train to hit targets. I train to get better skills.
“What do I really like to do? I like video games where soldiers kill enemies. It takes skill to kill enemies. It is exciting too. You don’t get bored. On the screen the enemy soldiers pop up from the ground all of a sudden, and you have to hit them to win. You have to pile up points. In the game, when you hit a guy, the blood gets splashed on the ground. I like that. The blood makes it more real. Blood doesn’t bother me, by the way.
“My friend, Roger, has a father who shoots real guns. He is training me to shoot! Roger’s father is okay because Roger gets to do what he likes. At my house, my mom doesn’t like me, as you probably can tell: I am a poor student, I’m messy, I don’t tidy up my room. The other day I left my shower towel on the bed, and she comes in and says in that voice of hers, “Is it really too much to ask that you pick up your stuff? You know the burdens I’m under. You know I can’t bear things. I can’t do all of this alone.” She goes saying that while other boys make their mother’s proud, she has nothing to be proud in me. And I think, proud of what?
“Anyway, life is boring, and I hate school. I have a Latin teacher who doesn’t like me. Why study a language that no one speaks anymore? It is fun watching her getting angry at me. It like watching a dog growling and showing its gums. I saw dog like that once. My mom is after me about school again today, but why should I pay attention? We all sit like groups of grouse on the ground, little seated birds being preached at. My class is full of weenies. A lot of teachers think that I am a boy after their own heart, but I want nothing to do with all that learning shit. It’s not for me. Even before I went to school, knew I would cut a poor figure – I knew it before I went there. So what? Let the other kids be the center of attention. If I could do what I like and do what I really wanted, I would be able to hunt all the time, be out in the big, vacant lot near our house all the time. In school, I cannot study. I sit there at my desk, and I stare at the books, I tried to make out what they meant, but I couldn’t. I really tried, but nothing happened. My mind just doesn’t work. I just sit there.
I used to be the Intelligent Correspondent for UPI and the “Washington Times,” and later for a UPI publication called “The Middle East Times.”
I came across these articles that date from 2003 and it is astonishing, even now, to realize how much US policy in Syria has been driven by pro-Israeli zealots within the U.S. government.
07/17/03 (Washington Times) ) Depicted by the Pentagon as a mere border skirmish, the June 18 strike into Syria by U.S. military forces was, in fact, based on mistaken intelligence and penetrated more than 25 miles into that country, causing numerous Syrian casualties, several serving and former administration officials said.
Although diplomatic relations between the two sides have been frosty after the fall of Saddam Hussein's regime in Iraq, the two nations have close intelligence ties, which have become strained as a result, these sources said.
"I think this was a deliberate effort to disrupt cooperation between U.S. and Syrian intelligence agencies," an administration official said.
According to a report in The New York Times, administration officials said that attack, carried out by Task Force 20, a Special Operations force, was based on intelligence that a convoy of SUVs, heading for Syria, was linked to senior fugitive Iraqi leaders.
"The (intel) was that senior Iraqis, perhaps even (former Iraqi leader) Saddam Hussein were getting out of the country," a State Department official told United Press International.
The ensuing raid "was conducted under the rules of hot pursuit," an administration official told UPI on condition his name not be used.
In the same Times report, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and Gen. Richard Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, defended the attack, saying it was based on "solid intelligence."
A successful conversation requires two minds that are similar in strength. A conversation is an exchange of words derived from your experience and your feelings, ideals, aims, hopes, etc. Both minds must have some sound knowledge of the outside world and a grasp of some of its major events. Both speakers should also be talented listeners which implies extensive contacts with different and varying personalities, a wide range of circumstances, and both people speaking must possess a knowledge of the events of their life that they can recount truthfully. Every human being is a vessel of unique experiences of life.
So a conversation thus has to be based on the truth of facts and the truth of personal perceptions. Both listener and speaker should have a sincere desire to share what they’ve learned. You should never talk as if your virtues are a matter of personal accomplishment, The spaciousness and the range and amplitude of each mind will make itself seen in dialogue so there is no need to rush for results. It is natural for people to take each other’s measure, but one should hold back and simply perceive. Each should gauge the other in silence by listening. Half of the pleasure of conversation is sharing insightful perceptions that are accurate to the observed facts. The knowledge of each doesn’t have to be identical, but the replies of each have to form some kind of coherence. The alternative is a dreary exchange of half-thought, half-understood gibberish or merely repeating stale clichés and superficial commonplaces that rule the day and manifest no new knowledge.
Robert Gates in his new memoir used very well chosen words to scorch the U.S. Congress for its defects, calling it, “uncivil, incompetent, parochial, and hypocritical.” Of course, he could have gone to say it is also narrow, self-serving, ill humored, boorish, egoistically self absorbed and largely ignorant of the affairs it pretends to manage.
But let’s leave that for another time.
We can enlarge on the perceptions of Gates by using the words of Vaclev Havel, a clear thinking, articulate and courageous opponent of the Soviet control of Czechoslovakia, a dissident who eventually became the president of his country for two terms.
Havel, during his second presidency, was confronted with the future of his country. He was a man of broad mind and generous sympathies, and he had great insight into the erratic and irresponsible Slovak politicians, and he was engulfed in the most pressing question of the time which was the debate over whether the Czechs and the Slovaks should separate and form two different countries. Havel thought that any such separation would be a “grave misfortune.”
Unfortunately, Havel was almost entirely helpless in debating the problem, and he grew furious over what he called, “the dictatorship of partisanship.” This very phrase is very telling. Havel abominated the “excessive influence of parties in the system of political power,” and accused political parties of being “a state within a state.” He accused the parties of loyalties they demanded counted more than the will of the electorate. He had seen firsthand the pre-election maneuvering that had a tendency to supersede and overpower the broad interests of society.
Newspapers daily retail the abruptly horrific, the superficial, the instantly shocking, the bizarre and the unstable, and in so doing, they smother any attempt at personal observation or personal thought. If a bucket of water is constantly poured over your head, you will soon find it hard to breathe. If your ambition is to want to half-learn something that is not really essential to your own life and your individual consciousness, but it happens to be popular with the dull mass, read newspapers or go to the web. News is the opium of the people.
All of us harbor a growing need to be startled, to be shocked, outraged or made curious by the horrible, distorted and the morbid. This need grows in us all the time as our lives contracts and the mind becomes more bored with itself and shuns the discipline of learning something valuable. I suffer from this myself. I daily read articles on Israel, Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan, the war on terror, the collapse of Iraq, but how much of these do I remember after I put them down? I read things about teacher’s salaries, the stock market, fracking, the profiles of successful companies, etc, but the inescapable fact of life is that memorization is required to learn anything. What is left in the mind after you put such things down? To read something and afterwards not stage and pass a mental quiz is to have totally wasted your time. Why read something if you cannot remember what it said? Mental progress above all requires having to war with your own lazy inclinations. Reading something and not being able to recall what it said, reminds one of intelligent people who lightly toss off, “Oh, I read that in high school,” as if that is all that could be said on the matter. Is their mind the same as it was in high school? Hasn’t their sense of taste, the appreciation of structure, the growth of their inner critic that sorts the good from the bad, the mediocre from the excellent -- have those things not changed drastically since then?
I was not attempting to be cruel in talking of the seamy side of Camelot. I was trying to address a certain nostalgic myopia, a mood of acquiescent credulity that could be heard and seen everywhere on the anniversary of President Kennedy’s death. To romantize things is to falsify them. There is a certain willful conceit in some forms of admiration, and that was what I objected to.
My wife objected to what I had written, noting that President John Kennedy “inspired us. You have to remember that.”
She is right. That is a wife’s chief function, but she is correct. I was an admirer of John Kennedy because I admired his wit, his directness, his ability to think on his feet, his intellectual self confidence and fearlessness, his gift for accurate perceptions without which all sound and stable thought is impossible. As I said before, he could seize the essence of an issue as if coring an apple. That is no small gift. Toughness of mind was another ingredient needed for success, Kennedy felt,, and he was tough.
Kennedy was a superb listener. When he looked at a document it was with total absorption. He seized its essence with ease. Someone said of him that when he was listening to someone, he was totally there with the speaker. He would lean forward, his chin protruding slightly, and listen, not bothering to want to convey his own thoughts, but to hear completely the other person’s. Lenin, it was said, could exhaust people by listening to them. Kennedy did the same. By holding back, he urged the speaker forward towards full disclosure, without revealing his own mind and its designs. The closed air compelled the more open to speak, said a poet.
President Kennedy’s assassination was a horrible event. To have his wife and the nation having to watch a young President have his brains blown out of his head in front of the eyes of the world, ending a great perhaps, was something ineradicable to those who witnessed it.
That kind of heartless murder is an event every decent human being has to mourn and reflect on. “Each day is yours to live – just as it comes – the rest is luck,” says Euripides. So it was.
But the facts of John F. Kennedy’s career have to be kept in mind. John Kennedy was a brilliant young man. He had a photographic memory, he could write well, and he could immediately understand the heart of a matter at issue as if coring an apple. His handling of the Cuban missile crisis showed a tenacious nerve, a colossal focus, a mind fertile in gradations and expedients and quickness of wit. His conduct has rightly been praised to the roof.
Once again and again and even again, the term “Munich appeasement” is being used by people who should know better, using the phrase as a vulgar tool to attack any American effort to achieve an agreement with Iran on its nuclear enrichment program. Unfortunately, much of the popular understanding of Munich Agreement is entirely mistaken. “Munich appeasement” is a merely label plastered on a bottle that had in most cases never been opened much less tasted.
In the late 1930s, Germany had clearly rearmed, its intentions were clearly aggressive, and clearly, the British, like the French, had not. Their countries had no heart for rearmament. But before the meeting with Hitler, Prime Minister Chamberlin in fact had set in motion a secret policy to confront Hitler, the object of which was to “inject resisting power” into those states neighboring Germany that Hitler clearly wanted to turn into “vassals.”
Chamberlin’s design was to increase financial and economic aid into possible “vassal states” that would make them less dependent on Germany aims. Its goal was to “ensure that Germany’s style was “cramped in every way possible, with a minimum of any provocation” that might be a cause for war. This secret intent to increase anti-German resistance would be buttressed by the public declaration that the French and British were united in resisting Hitler’s designs.
This of course was false posturing. The French generals were muddled ad confused and wanted to avoid war at all costs, and the British were basically unarmed.
The secret British policy was to secretly play for time. It is to Chamberlin’s credit that he did this. Why then all this footwork? At his meeting with Hitler on Sept. 29, Chamberlin permitted the German reoccupation of the Sudetenland, and the agreement enabled Chamberlin to return to London and announce he had secured “peace in our time.”
But the reality was far different. Chamberlin had secured peace for 12 months, just in time for the British Air Ministry to introduce the fast, eight-gun Spitfire fighter into squadron service. A biographer of British intelligence said, “That stay of war proved to be decisive in the defense of the United Kingdom –the Battle of Britain which took place in the summer of 1940 and which resulted not only in victory but ended Hitler’s plan for an invasion.
The lesson of course, was to stall in the face of military weakness until you had gained some position of strength. John Kennedy took that lesson to heart – that without military strength you could do little in foreign policy.
Thank you for Pat for your magnificent story. Everything works: the drawing of the characters, the positioning, the crafted dialogue, the historical background, the underlying tensions.
But in thinking of the Gettysburg Address, one is reminded Lincoln is often portrayed as a man who, when a little boy, read the Bible a lot and he became a great writer because of it. Nothing could be further from the facts. His eloquence was not natural. His excellence with words is the result of a very conscious literary artistry. Everything he wrote betrays a great effort of mind and an intensely critical inner ear.
As a young boy, Lincoln tried to be a poet, wanted to be one, but knew he lacked that gift, but he had a tenacious to know things. One of my teachers, Jacques Barzun, once wrote of Lincoln’s work, “Pick up any volume of Lincoln’s works as if you were approaching a new author. Pretend you know nothing of the anecdotes; nothing of the way the story embedded in these pages comes out. Your aim is to see a life unfold.”
On December 8, 1981, the correspondent from Toronto, John Honderich filed what he thought was a routine story. A document stamped “Confidential” and sent from the Canadian Embassy in Washington, DC to Ottawa, saying that the U.S. was cancelling a Canadian-U.S. deal involving Lockheed’s anti-submarine plane, the “Aurora,” which had been in the works. Since so few military deals had been pending between the U.S. and Canada, Canada appeared to have been singled out for persecution by the Pentagon. Anyway, that was the slant that Honderich’s decided that his story was to take. The story went out.
But then Honderich got a call from a long-time source who told him that, “You have much more here than you think.” The document that had been leaked, complete with special numbers, security designations, route markings, was a U.S. electronic intercept. It meant that the top U.S. code-breaking outfit, the NSA, had cracked Canada’s unbreakable” code. It meant that America had been caught reading it ally’s mail. But Honderich didn’t seem to know what he had. When I talked to him, he said he had never heard of the NSA. But he had started calling Canadian officials before any publicity could harden them into silence. In reply to Honderich, the Canadian Exterior Affairs Minister (the equivalent of the U.S. Secretary of State, said that Canada’s computerized diplomatic code was “very nearly fool-proof and only rarely does it not fit our purpose.”
A very polite brush off.
The Tea Party is heading a revolt against the idea of government by the majority of citizens elected by national popular vote. To the Tea Party people and the extremist Republicans, a national mandate is a fraud on its face. It signifies nothing but the victory of superior numbers is nothing but a war between the mass versus the most qualified, insightful and effective and the most visionary minority party. A victory in a U.S. national election is to them merely a crude popularity contest, and the means must be found to bypass it. Hitler, after all, was elected by a popular majority.
To the Tea Party people and the extremist Republicans, the nation’s fate does not rest on superior numbers. Its fate depends on the political devices of certain of essential, critical white minorities, and it is only those particular, self-chosen minorities that matter. Isn’t this what we are seeing in the shutdown? The Tea Party and extremist Republicans are saying that that any state has the right to declare specific federal laws void within the borders of the resisting states, and instead there should be set up a “concurrent majority” of the legislatures of each state in addition to the federal legislature to assent to a law for it to have nation-wide effect.
Before we go further let me say stoutly that I have no interest in politics. I have always had the attitude of that mythical old New England woman in her nineties in who, when asked why she had never voted replied, “I never vote. It only encourages them.” I didn’t vote until the 1992 George H. Bush Bill Clinton contest, and I voted for Bush because of his handling of Saddam. I spectacularly disliked Bill Clinton and only slowly changed my mind because in the case of Serbia and Milosevic, the iron at last entered him and he went to battle.
Out my open window, the Paris sky showed a cold gray above the half-hid rooftops glistening in the rain. It was the month of May.
I was 23-years old. I lay atop the hard bed in the attic room, my eyes wide open, and listened to the dripping of the shower on the eaves, the constant patter of rain on the roof slates. Earlier that morning, carrying my suitcase, I stepped from the double door of the bus depot and found myself in a dirty, run-down section of the city. A weak sun greeted my eyes. The solid gray overcast had clear to split into blue pieces, and what had begun by being a damp, dismal day was how lit up by a weak, anemic sun. Even that was something at least, I thought.
National conceit governs the world. No country views itself with impartial eyes.
No country ever gives a full and solid account of its shortcomings, its
failures, its lack of skill and essential capacities.
In order to belittle each other, every country relishes holding up another’s failures, likes to endlessly deride, to depict a rival nation in dark colors as the seat of all the evil in the world – America has done this to the point of exasperation. Yet you learn nothing by dwelling on your idea that you virtues, habits, and victories are superior in meaning and majesty to everybody else’s, yet we Americans continue to do this to the point of nausea.
I have just read two articles whose clumsy language and oceanic complacency irked me t the bottom of the soul. One of them was by Sebastian Junger urged that the United States striker Syria and the other was a retort to Russian leader Putin’s Op-ed in the New York Times.
We have two schools of conceit here. The first school makes us feel invulnerable
in our righteous purposes to the extent that we feel that we are able to correct
the wrongs of the world through brute force, our action to be driven and
excused by our superior “values” and our selfless worship of humanitarian aims.
It is not American welfare that we pursue, it is the worlds. The second article
is a school for helping to develop more insidious and commonplace and
impenetrable national vanity.
Eugene Robinson, in a recent Washington Post column called the ruler of Syria, Bashar Assad, a "thug." In another column he referred to Assad as "The urbane ophthalmologist-turned-ogre." (I thought that Assad had begun as a computer expert.) In any case, Robinson, who really should know better, is now joined by a vast multitude of the unthinking idealistic because of his belittling, commonplace remarks. Recent media reports, in talking about Assad, have carelessly thrown around references to Munich, the Holocaust, and have used such phrases such as "Assad’s gangster regime," "brute," the "Assad criminal crowd," "The Assad gang," which sounds very much like anti-American Soviet propaganda after WW II.
Much of U.S. media is pro-Israel by conditioned reflex and have been marketing threats that pretend that if we don’t bomb Syria and then, after that, bomb Iran, it will "be the end of civilization as we know it," the same dogma using the same words that Republican Party hacks and party bankers used in 1933 when President Franklin D. Roosevelt tried to get the country off the gold standard. Insults directed at Assad have reached a horrific pitch of intensity.
Why is this happening?
In 1962, I read a book by Earle Stanley Gardiner, the creator of Perry Mason. The book described the Baja Peninsula in California as a wild, lawless place that demanded caution of any visitor. He also talked about Superstition Mountain, near Phoenix, where prospectors were found beheaded by the local Indians, their heads placed in their laps. Anyone who has ever seen that mountain, dim, gloomy and shrouded by rain, can understand the shivers produced by such stories. And farther on in the book, Gardiner pointed to the dangerous area of Senora in northwest Mexico where the Apaches had stayed on the warpath until 1940, only twenty years before. The warriors rode unshod ponies and raided Mexican villages, slaughtering everyone until the late 1930s, when Mexico military forces finally cornered Geronimo III and his warriors in a box canyon and killed every Indian that they could find. A handful of Apaches escaped and were still believed to be at large and roaming the mountains, and they were still regarded as a menace.