Reidblog [The Reid Report blog]

Think at your own risk.
Thursday, June 25, 2009
Iran's (accidental) Mandela
Mir Hossein Mousavi probably didn't set out to become the leader of the next Iranian revolution, but today, he finds himself a central protagonist in what looks for all the world like a struggle for the soul of Iran. The would-be president, who hasn't been seen in public for a disturbing amount of time and is essentially under house arrest, has the potential, at least on the surface, to become Iran's Nelson Mandela. That's both good news and bad news. The good news is that it means that eventually, he could win. The bad news is that it took Mandela more than 27 years.

The former hardliner who became a reformist during (and mostly after) the disputed election of 2009, defied his captors today. From the BBC:

Iran protest leader Mir Hossein Mousavi says he holds those behind alleged "rigged" elections responsible for bloodshed during recent protests.

In a defiant statement on his website, he called for future protests to be in a way which would not "create tension."

... A BBC correspondent in Tehran says the statement is a direct challenge to Iran Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei.

... "I won't refrain from securing the rights of the Iranian people... because of personal interests and the fear of threats," Mr Mousavi said on the website of his newspaper, Kalameh.

Those who violated the election process "stood beside the main instigators of the recent riots and shed people's blood on the ground", Mr Mousavi said, pledging to show how they were involved.

Mr Mousavi, a former prime minister, spoke of the "recent pressures on me" that are "aimed at making me change my position regarding the annulment of the election".

He described the clampdowns he and his staff were facing.

"My access to people is completely restricted. Our two websites have many problems and Kalameh Sabz newspaper has been closed down and its editorial members have been arrested," said Mr Mousavi, who has not been seen in public for days.

"These by no means contribute to improving the national atmosphere and will lead us towards a more violent atmosphere," he added.

Of course, there are differences, and the Mandela analogy isn't perfect (it never is.) For one thing, Mousavi is acting with at least the tacit support of very powerful insiders and leading clerics, including would-be "supreme leader" replacement, Ayatollah Hashemi Rafsanjani and former president Mohammed Khatami, and perhaps the speaker of parliament, who apparently was one of the 180 out of 290 members of Iran's parliament who snubbed Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's "victory party" this week. Mandela had no such official quasi-sanction. Still, like Mandela, the movement created in part by him has grown beyond Mousavi's person, to become an organic thing on its own, with his leadership, even in what looks like incarceration, combining with the support of people all around the world to give his supporters courage. And courageous they are.

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posted by JReid @ 11:15 AM  
Tuesday, June 23, 2009
Well, if you insist ... Shah's son positions himself for restoration
Reza Pahlavi, the son of the former dictator of Iran, cries freedom

What does a guy who left Iran when he was 14, lives in Maryland, and whose father was the dictator deposed in the 1979 revolution have to do with the "green revolution" in Iran? Well ... in a word ... nothing. A glance at TIME's list (or anyone else's) of the top ten players in the Iranian political system doesn't even reveal his name. But that hasn't stopped former "Crown Prince" Reza Pahlavi from talking ... and talking ... and talking ... revolution. And he's weeping about it too. It's almost like he's positioning himself on the side of the uprising in order to be "available" to be restored to the throne ... should the Iranian people cry out for his return, of course. (ahem)

Did you catch Pahlavi playing the Iran expert on CNN this morning? It's hard to believe he knows any more about what's going on in his former country than you or I. What about his tear-filled speech at the National Press Club, in which he clutched a picture of Neda, the young woman who has come to symbolize the rebellion, and declared that she is like his own child (if for instance, his child was an Iranian woman who wasn't related to the last guy to order his military police to mow people down in the streets of Tehran...) During his speech, the Crown Prince spoke Big:
Bear in mind that for the great majority of Iranians born after the Islamic Revolution, the unfolding events are the most significant transforming experiences of their collective memory. The courage of their convictions gives hope for peace and democracy in the most troubling region of the world. On the other hand, their defeat will encourage extremism from the shores of the Levant, to the energy jugular of the world. At the very least it will threaten regional tranquility and global economic recovery through fears of terrorism, slowdown of globalization and steeply higher energy prices. At worst, fanatical tyrants - who know that the future is against them - may end their present course on their terms: a nuclear holocaust.
Wow ... a nuclear holocaust? Hadn't heard that before from the Iran analysts who have actually crossed the border into that country in the last 30 years... And Pahlavi's doomsaying wouldn't have aaaaaanything to do with his ties to the nihilist American neoconservative movement that up until about a minute ago was seeking an excuse to, in the words of one of their political people "bomb bomb bomb, bomb bomb Iran" ... would it??? Perhaps the most important sentence in Pahlavi's green serenade was "Iranians born after the Islamic Revolution." Said revolution is kind of a sore spot for our friend Reza. As Dana Milbank appropriately snarks:
Yesterday, the 48-year-old son of a dictator was merely voicing his hopes that what his countrymen have begun over the last 10 days will become a revolution. "However, I often don't use the word 'revolution,' because I think revolution has a very negative connotation in everybody's collective memory."

Particularly Pahlavi's. His family had lived a life of great extravagance until Ayatollah Khomenei deposed the shah in 1979, a year after Jimmy Carter hailed the monarch as "an island of stability." Even yesterday, the former crown prince was defensive about those days. "They had orders not to hit -- fire on people," he said of his father's troops, who, whatever their orders, managed to kill thousands.

Ah, the good old days. And of course, being a patriot, Pahlavi is only too happy to serve his country by restoring them. More Milbank:

Whatever the Iranian demonstrators are seeking, there is little evidence from their Twitter feeds that they are seeking the restoration of the monarchy -- and Pahlavi, who was a teenager getting flight training in Texas during the Islamic revolution, was shrewd enough not to propose it. "This is not about restitution of an institution," he said. But should a democratic Iran "choose to have me play a more prominent role," he added, "let that be their choice."
Yes, of course. "Their choice." And as to the potential nuclear holocaust that will ensue if the revolution he is most decidedly NOT a part of fail?

Luckily, Pahlavi had a solution: himself. While he said repeatedly that he is not running for any office, he also spoke of his "supporters" and even his "platform" of human rights for his homeland.

"People support me because of the very fact that we are talking the same language: freedom, democracy, human rights," the shah's son said. "I'm not demanding people to support me today because of me. I'm demanding people to support me so that I can best serve them achieve what their goal is, which is achieve freedom."

Pahlavi does have his supporters: about 500 of them ... in Los Angeles. Plus this guy in London. And coincidentally, the last time he stepped into the spotlight was back in 2001, following the September 11 terror attacks, as ordinary Iranians took to the streets to declare their love for America, causing Pahlavi to step forward and ... surprise! ... offer himself as a potential future leader of Iran. From 2001:

Despite his cold-generated cough, the prince spoke enthusiastically for almost two hours, about his vision of Iran and the progress of his campaign for democracy in Iran, whicj he discussed in an interview with the Middle East last year.

Commenting on what his mother Empress Farah Pahlavi, told London Arabic daily Asharq Al-Awsat two days earlier - that her son wants to return and serve his country like any ordinary citizen- the Shah in exile sys the important thing is that the people of Iran are given the right to chose how they wish to be governed. Whether the future for Iran involves a republic or constitutional monarchy, is not the issue at this time, he says. The first aim shold be for the wishes of the Iranian people to be recorded in a free and fair election.

"My mission in life, from the day I started 21 years ago, remains the same, " said the man who most Iranian liberals in exile, as well as an increasing number of Iranians at home, consider him to be the hope of salvation from what many describe as its current nightmare.

He outlines his vision for a comprehensive strategy to give Iranian people freedom of choice and real democracy, in his book, " Winds of Change: the Future of Democracy in Iran" published feb 2002 in Washington by Regency Publishing Inc., which he dedicated to the memory of all Iran's fallen heroes and patriots.

" My goal is to reach a stage when the Iranian people can go to a national referendum and vote their conscience and vote for their future. That day, the day the Iranians go to the polls, is the end of my mission in life. What they want to do afterwards is entirely up to them and I stand ready to serve them in whatever capacity that they see fit. "

So what are we restoring, my liege? From the book "Great Britain and Reza Shah: The Plunder of Iran, 1921-1941" by Gholi Majd, we learn of Reza's grandfather, Reza Shah:

In his 1946 book, Millspaugh provides an indication of the prevailing terror practiced by Reza Shah. Millspaugh states that Reza Shah "had imprisoned thousands and killed hundreds, some of the latter by his own hand." As the consequence of the terror, "Fear settled upon the people. No one knew whom to trust; and none dared to protest of criticize. ... Evidence also appeared abundant and pitifully convincing, that he (shah's) terror operating on a timid and sensitive people had shaken nerves and unbalanced minds. Moreover, he let loose a spirit of violence that lent sinister implications to the mercurial temperament of the people, the disunity of the country, and the disorganization and weakness of the government."

State Department records provide a vivid account of hte reign of terror inflicted on the people of Iran between 1921 and 1951. for twenty ears, the country was a complete and brutal military dictatorship. Parliament became a rubber stamp and complete censorship was imposed. Iran's newspapers and their editors were early victims of the dictatorship. The suppression of newspapers, the physical violence (specially the savage beatings administered by Reza Khan himself), and even the murder of recalcitrant editors are described in the records. There are many instances of arrest and subsequent disappearance of opponents, including numerous members of the ulema, the most notable that of Seyed Hassad Modarres. the arrests and extrajudicial killings of political personalities are described in detail in the American records...

And this about the ascension to the Peacock Throne (with help from the American CIA) of Reza's father, Muhammad Reza Shah Pahlavi, from the book "All the Shah's Men" by Stephen Kinzer:
One morning soon after his arrival, the new secret police, called Savak, organized a crude maneuver to impress upon him the terms of his incarceration. A gang of thugs turned up in front of his home, and they began shouting violent anti-Mossadegh slogans. At their head was none other than the gang leader Shaban the Brainless, who had become on e of the regime's favorite enforcers. Fora time the mob seemed ready to storm the house. It retreated after one of Mossadegh's grandsons fired several rifle shots into the air from inside. Several minutes later two Savak officers arrived and asked to see the prisoner. They carried a letter for him to sign. It was a request that Savak agents be assigned to protect him. Mossadegh, who understood the realities of power, signed it without protest. Within an hour Savak agents took up posts outside and inside the walled complex where he lived. their standing orders, which did not change for the rest of Mossadegh's life, were to allow no one other than relatives and a few close friends to visit him.

In the weeks following the coup, most of Mossadegh's cabinet ministers and prominent supporters were arrested. Some were later released without charge. Others served prison terms after being convicted of various offenses. Six hundred military officers loyal to Mossadegh were also arrested, and about sixty of them were shot. So were several student leaders at Tehran University. Tudeh and the National Front were banned, and their most prominent supporters were either imprisoned or killed.

Hussein Fatemi, who had been Mossadegh's foreign minister, was the most prominent figure singled out for exemplary punishment. Fatemi was a zealous antimonarchist, and during the turbulent days of August 1953 he had attacked the Shah, whom he called "the Baghdad fugitive," with special venom. .... In one speech, he addressed the absent monarch: "O traitor Shah, you shameless person, you have completed the criminal history of the Pahlavi regime! The people want revenge. They want to drag you from behind your desk to the gallows." Now that the tables were turned, the Sha had his chance, and he did not miss it. Just as he had promised Kermit Roosevelt, he arranged for Fatemi to be summarily tried, convicted of treason, and executed.

Fatemi had once compared the Shah to a snake "who bites mortally when the opportunity presents itself." In the end he was among those who suffered the deadly bite. Becasue of his fate, and also because he was the only member of Mossadegh's inner circle who was a descendant of the Prophet Mohammad, his memory is honored in Iran today. One of the main boulevards in Tehran is Dr. Hussein Fatemi Avenue.
Ah, the good old days!

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posted by JReid @ 7:24 AM  
Wednesday, April 22, 2009
Pat Buchanan vs. History
I read with interest Pat Buchanan's latest column for the fast-failing Human Events (they keep sending me increasingly desperate fundraising emails, meaning they're either on death's door or mimicking those electronic stores that stage "Going Out of Business" sales every week for years on end...)

In his column, the wonderfully entertaining (and occasionally on point) Buchanan lambastes President Obama for being too cudly with leftist LatAm leaders and for not walking out on Daniel Ortega's 50-minute anti-Western and anti-American (and let's face it, for Pat, anti-white) diatribe during the recent Summit of the Americas (for the record, Pulitzer Prize winner Eugene Robinson took President Obama to task for not "slapping back" at Ortega's rant, too.) Pat's beef:

For 50 minutes, Obama sat mute, as a Marxist thug from Nicaragua delivered his diatribe, charging America with a century of terrorist aggression in Central America.

After Daniel Ortega finished spitting in our face, accusing us of inhumanity toward Fidel Castro's Cuba, Obama was asked his thoughts.

"I thought it was 50 minutes long. That's what I thought."

Pat goes on to defend America's role in Latin America as one of a "liberator." But here's the problem. Ortega is the same guy Buchanan and Company's favorite president, Ronald Reagan, tried to oust in a CIA-sponsored coup, in which the "rebels" were a gang of thugs paid for with drug money, and with clandestine U.S. sales of armaments to of all people, Iran. Around here, we call it "Iran Contra," and if Congress and the Independent Counsel had had any cojones, it would have resulted in the impeachment of the then-president and vice president, and charges against several officials under the Trading with the Enemy Act, not to mention the fact that Oliver North would be in prison instead of working for Rupert Murdoch. Back to the speech. As Murdoch's Fox News reported it:

Ortega, meanwhile, droned on about the offenses of the past, dredging up U.S. support of the Somoza regime and the "illegal" war against the Sandinista regime he once led by U.S.-backed Contra rebels in the 1980s. Ortega was a member of the revolutionary junta that drove Anastasio Somoza from power in 1979 and was elected president in 1985. He was defeated in 1990 by Violeta Chamorro and ran unsuccessfully twice for the presidency before winning in 2006.

Of the 19th and 20th centuries, Ortega said: "Nicaragua central America, we haven't been shaken since the past century by what have been the expansionist policies, war policies, that even led us in the 1850s, 1855, 1856 to bring Central American people together. We united, with Costa Ricans, with people from Honduras, the people from Guatemala, El Salvador. We all got together, united so we could defeat the expansionist policy of the United States. And after that, after interventions that extended since 1912, all the way up to 1932 and that left, as a result the imposition of that tyranny of the Samoas. Armed, funded, defended by the American leaders."

Ortega denounced the U.S.-backed attempt to overthrow Fidel Castro's new Communist government in Cuba in 1961, a history of US racism and what he called suffocating U.S. economic policies in the region.

And while Ortega isn't exactly a paragon of virtue, he is the twice-elected president of Nicaragua, unlike what the Contra regime would have been (a U.S. installed government by coup.) Buchanan and other righties like to caricature him, and Brazil's Lula de Silva, Bolivia's Evo Morales and especially the Venezuelan boogeyman, Hugo Chavez, as "left wing dictators," ignoring the fact that all were democratically elected. Does Chavez want to be president for life? Signs point to yes. But his elections have yet to be questioned as false, and the plain fact is that the spread of socialist government across Latin America is in many ways a reaction to generations of U.S. policy in the hemisphere, where we have participated in coup after bloody coup, and supported dictator upon dictator, from Cuba's noxious Batista regime (which turned that country into America's Caribbean gambling whore house) to Somoza, to the ruthless, U.S. installed dictator Agusto Pinochet of Chile. Between that and the failed attempts, including the Bay of Pigs and what sure looked like a Bush Team action against Chavez in 2002, it's not all that hard to understand why so many Latin American leaders aren't fond of the U.S. As the BBC's LatAm correspondent put it back in 2006:

In pursuit of American interests, the US has overthrown or undermined around 40 Latin American governments in the 20th Century.
The reporter goes on to describe, via a case study of Nicaragua, how to lose a hemisphere:

As a young reporter I travelled across Nicaragua witnessing the fall of the left-wing Sandinista government led by the revolutionary Daniel Ortega.

For years Mr Ortega was Washington's Enemy Number One, the ultimate bogeyman.

President Bush's father, George Bush senior, was a key player in undermining Mr Ortega and the Sandinistas.

Mr Bush senior had been Director of Central Intelligence and Ronald Reagan's vice-president before he became president of the United States in January 1989.

During the Reagan administration money was channelled - illegally Democrats said - to the Nicaraguan "Contra" guerrillas, a motley crew of CIA trained anti-communists, paramilitaries and thugs.

The resulting scandal - known as "Iran-Contra" - almost brought down the Reagan administration. George Bush senior survived the scandal, and as president managed to see his policies finally work when Nicaragua's own people threw out the Sandinistas in a democratic election in 1990.

After the polls closed in the capital, Managua, I stood in a counting station next to a young Sandinista woman in green military fatigues. Shaking with emotion she brushed away a tear as the voting papers piled up for the Washington-supported opposition candidate, Violeta Chamorro.

"Adios, muchachos," the Sandinista girl called out to her defeated comrades, "companeros de mi vida!!!" (Goodbye boys, comrades of my life.)

Money issue

That was then. This is now. The young Sandinista revolutionary, Daniel Ortega, is back. He may well be re-elected president of Nicaragua.

Can you imagine it? The man who survived CIA plots and Contra death squads, who relinquished power peacefully to Washington's candidate, Violeta Chamorro, sweeping back into the Nicaraguan presidency?

It will be a huge embarrassment for George Bush junior, a symbol of everything that has gone wrong with American foreign policy in the hemisphere. And guess who predicted it would go wrong? Violeta Chamorro herself.

The night before her election victory over Mr Ortega I was invited to dinner at the walled compound of Mrs Chamorro's house in Managua. She told me that Washington politicians could always find money for wars in Latin America - but rarely for peace in Latin America.

She said even a slice of the money used to back the anti-communist Contra guerrillas could build a new Nicaragua - but she predicted that if she won the election Washington would declare victory - and then cut off the money supply. She was right.
And there you go.

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posted by JReid @ 9:15 AM  
Wednesday, February 11, 2009
Happy birthday Phil, and what a history it's been
Had my mother, born Philomena Augustina Carryl, lived until today, her birthday, she would be 80 years old. (She always told us she was ten years younger than she was, because she looked young enough to get away with it...) [Photo at left: my mother graduating from NYU, sometime in the 1950s. Photo courtesy my godmother]

And what a different world she would have lived to see.

Calvin Coolidge was the U.S. president when my mother was born in Georgetown, British Guyana; and his successor, Herbert Hoover, was sworn in about a month after her birth, on March 4th ... Iran was still called Persia ... the U.S. Immigration law of 1924 (also known as the Asian Exclusion Act) was still restricting the number of Asians and Eastern Europeans who could come into the country ... Lou Gehrig was playing for the Yankees ... there had been 55 Kentucky Derbies, 33 Boston marathons and 64 British Golf Opens ... Palestinians and Jews were fighting in Jerusalem ... the Afghan government was being overthrown ... the Indian National Congress was spoiling for India's independence from Great Britain ... Bessie Smith recorded "Nobody Knows You When You're Down and Out" ... the Harlem Renaissance was still going strong ... and a loaf of bread cost just 9 cents. The Great Depression began, and my mother's generation would live through that, and war, and Cold War, and the birth of the television age, and the assassination of one president and the resignation of another.

My mother died in 1986, so she missed out on Monicagate, Disastrous Dubya, and of course, Barack Obama. But she was born in an era of tremendous change.

More 1929 trivia, from
  • The U.S. and Canada agreed to preserve Niagara Falls (January 2nd)
  • William Paley became president of CBS at 27 years old (January 3rd)
  • Buck Rogers, the first sci-fi comic strip, and "Tarzan," one of the 1st adventure comic strips, both debut (January 7th)
  • Gun slinger Wyatt Earp died (January 13)
  • Popeye debuts in the comic strip "Thimble Theater" (January 17.)
  • "NY Daily Mirror" columnist Walter Winchell made his radio debut (January 18)
  • Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin proposed that Leo Trotsky be banned from the Politburo (January 18 ... Trotsky was expelled from the entire country, to Turkey, on January 31st)
  • On my mother's birthday, February 11, Eugene O'Neill's play, "Dynamo," made its debut in New York City, and Vatican City, the world's smallest country, was made an official enclave of Rome. Vatican City became a sovereign state June 7th.
  • Three days later, on February 14, the St. Valentine's Day Massacre took place in Chicago, leaving 7 mobsters dead.
  • American Samoa became a territory (February 20)
  • General Motors bought German auto manufacturer Adam Opel in March, which is interesting to me only because I briefly owned a Buick Opel in the early 1990s. Worst car I've ever had. It was a lemon from day one.
  • The 1st telephone was installed in the White House (March 23)
  • Louie Marx introduces Yo-Yo on April 1
  • New York Yankees become 1st team to wear uniform numbers (April 16)
  • The first regularly scheduled TV broadcasts begin 3 nights per week, for the few who can afford the sets (May 11)
  • The first Academy Awards take place, with "Wings," Emil Jennings and Janet Gaynor winning statuettes (May 16)
  • General Feng Yu-Xiang of China declared war on Chiang Kai-Shek government (May 19)
  • The New York Stock Exchange became the country's largest financial exchange, surpassing the New York Exchange in June, shortly after they installed an electronic stock quotation board (May 21)
  • The first all color talking picture, "On With the Show," was exhibited in New York City (May 28);
  • George Eastman demonstrated the first technicolor movie in Rochester New York (June 4)
  • The first color television set was demonstrated in New York City (June 27)
  • U.S. cartoonist Elzie Segar created "Popeye" (July 1)
  • U.S. currency shrunk to its current, smaller size (July 10)
  • Jones Beach in New York opens (August 4)
  • German airship Graf Zeppelin begins a round-the-world flight (August 8)
  • Babe Ruth becomes the first baseball player to hit 500 home runs. He hit number 500 off pitcher Willis Hudlin of Cleveland (August 11)
  • The Dow Jones peaked at a record 381.17 (September 3)
  • The Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes changed its name to Yugoslavia (October 3)
  • The stock market crash begins with "Black Thursday," as the Dow Jones plummets 12.8% (October 24)
  • Former Interior Sec Albert Fall convicted of accepting $100,000 bribe (October 25)
  • Wall Street suffers a second shock on Black Tuesday, as a 13% (38.33 point) drop in the Stock Market at the previous closing bell triggers the Great Depression (October 29)
  • In perhaps the worst case of bad timing ever, the Museum of Modern Art opens in New York City on November 7...
  • Salvador Dali has his first one-man show November 20)
  • Lt Cmdr Richard E Byrd sends "My calculations indicate that we have reached vicinity of South Pole" on November 29. (He was wrong)
  • The game BINGO was invented by Edwin S Lowe (December 1)
  • The first skull of a "Peking man" was found, 50 km outside Peking, China at Tsjoe Koe Tien (December 2)
  • The first known U.S. nudist organization, the American League for Physical Culture, was founded in New York City (December 5)
  • Turkish women got the right to vote (December 6)
... and the notion of a black president of the United States was, in 1929, totally unthinkable, to the point of being ridiculous.

Other people born in 1929:

Fats Domino, Anne Frank, Arnold Palmer, G. Gordon "Felon" Liddy, Burt Bacharach, Bob Newhart, Imelda Marcos, Martin Luther King Jr., William Safire, Christopher Plummer, Yasser Arafat.

BTW February 11 is also the 19th anniversary of the day Nelson Mandela was released by South African authorities after spending 27 years in prison (1990). Happy anniversary, Mr. Mandela, and happy birthday, mom.

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posted by JReid @ 10:28 AM  
Friday, November 30, 2007
The Four Bobs
Teh HuffPo uncovers a previously unheard story of how the late Henry Hyde tried to put the kaibosh on the Bill Clinton impeachment.

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posted by JReid @ 10:26 PM  
Sunday, October 28, 2007
A brilliant take: les terroristes
Canadian prof Francois Furstenberg writes a brilliant op-ed on the origins of terrorism, and the Jacobins of the French Revolution -- the progenitors of today's modern-day Jacobins, the neoconservatives. A few highlights:

The Jacobins shared a defining ideological feature. They divided the world between pro- and anti-Revolutionaries — the defenders of liberty versus its enemies. The French Revolution, as they understood it, was the great event that would determine whether liberty was to prevail on the planet or whether the world would fall back into tyranny and despotism.

The stakes could not be higher, and on these matters there could be no nuance or hesitation. One was either for the Revolution or for tyranny. ...

... Confronted by a monarchical Europe united in opposition to revolutionary France — old Europe, they might have called it — the Jacobins rooted out domestic political dissent. It was the beginning of the period that would become infamous as the Terror. ...

...Among the Jacobins’ greatest triumphs was their ability to appropriate the rhetoric of patriotism — Le Patriote Français was the title of Brissot’s newspaper — and to promote their political program through a tightly coordinated network of newspapers, political hacks, pamphleteers and political clubs. ...

... Insisting that their partisan views were identical to the national will, believing that only they could save France from apocalyptic destruction, Jacobins could not conceive of legitimate dissent. Political opponents were treasonous, stabbing France and the Revolution in the back.

To defend the nation from its enemies, Jacobins expanded the government’s police powers at the expense of civil liberties, endowing the state with the power to detain, interrogate and imprison suspects without due process. Policies like the mass warrantless searches undertaken in 1792 — “domicilary visits,” they were called — were justified, according to Georges Danton, the Jacobin leader, “when the homeland is in danger.”
... If the French Terror had a slogan, it was that attributed to the great orator Louis de Saint-Just: “No liberty for the enemies of liberty.” Saint-Just’s pithy phrase (like President Bush’s variant, “We must not let foreign enemies use the forums of liberty to destroy liberty itself”) could serve as the very antithesis of the Western liberal tradition.

On this principle, the Terror demonized its political opponents, imprisoned suspected enemies without trial and eventually sent thousands to the guillotine. All of these actions emerged from the Jacobin worldview that the enemies of liberty deserved no rights.

Though it has been a topic of much attention in recent years, the origin of the term “terrorist” has gone largely unnoticed by politicians and pundits alike. The word was an invention of the French Revolution, and it referred not to those who hate freedom, nor to non-state actors, nor of course to “Islamofascism.”

A terroriste was, in its original meaning, a Jacobin leader who ruled France during la Terreur.

Brilliantly done. One could draw many of the same parallels between todays angry wngers and the authoritarian Bolsheviks who founded the Soviet Union. ... Anyway, read the entire article here.

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posted by JReid @ 1:01 PM  
Tuesday, August 14, 2007
The history nut: the making of modern India and Pakistan
The Guardian has a great encapsulation of the partition of India following World War II, on the occasion of Pakistan's 60th birthday.

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posted by JReid @ 8:38 AM  
Saturday, December 30, 2006
The U.S. and Saddam, a tortured history
With Saddam executed following a U.S. invasion, it's easy to look rather simplistically at Iraq and the U.S. as enemies. That, of course, is far too simplistic. From the Research Unit for Political Economy:

In 1979, Saddam, already effectively the leader of Iraq, became president and chairman of the Revolutionary Command Council. The entire region stood at a critical juncture.

For one, the pillar of the US in West Asia, viz, the Pahlavi monarchy in Iran, was overthrown by a massive popular upsurge which the US was powerless to suppress. This made the US and its client states deeply anxious at the prospect of similar developments taking place throughout the region.

For another, in Iraq Saddam had drawn on the country’s oil wealth to carry out a major military build-up, with military expenditures swallowing 8.4 per cent of GNP in 1979. Starting in 1958 Iraq had become an increasingly important market for sophisticated Soviet weapons, and was considered a member of the Soviet camp. In 1972 Iraq signed a 15-year friendship, cooperation and military agreement with the USSR. The Iraqi regime was striving to develop or acquire nuclear weapons. Apart from Israel, the only army in the region to rival Iraq’s was Iran’s. But after 1979, when the Shah of Iran was overthrown, much of the Iranian army’s American equipment became inoperable.

The Iraqi invasion of Iran in 1980 (on the pretext of resolving border disputes) thus solved two major problems for the US. Over the course of the following decade two of the region’s leading military powers, neither of them hitherto friendly to the US, were tied up in an exhausting conflict with each other. Such conflicts among third world countries create a host of opportunities for imperialist powers to seek new footholds, as happened also in this instance.

... Despite its strong ties to the USSR, Iraq turned to the west for support in the war with Iran. This it received massively. As Saddam Hussein later revealed, the US and Iraq decided to re-establish diplomatic relations—broken off after the 1967 war with Israel—just before Iraq’s invasion of Iran in 1980 (the actual implementation was delayed for a few more years in order not to make the linkage too explicit). Diplomatic relations between the US and Iraq were formally restored in 1984—well after the US knew, and a UN team confirmed, that Iraq was using chemical weapons against the Iranian troops. (The emissary sent by US president Reagan to negotiate the arrangements was none other than the present US defence secretary, Donald Rumsfeld.) In 1982, the US State Department removed Iraq from its list of “state sponsors of terrorism”, and fought off efforts by the US Congress to put it back on the list in 1985. Most crucially, the US blocked condemnation of Iraq’s chemical attacks in the UN Security Council. The US was the sole country to vote against a 1986 Security Council statement condemning Iraq’s use of mustard gas against Iranian troops — an atrocity in which it now emerges the US was directly implicated (as we shall see below).

Brisk trade was done in supplying Iraq. Britain joined France as a major source of weapons for it. Iraq imported uranium from Portugal, France and Italy, and began constructing centrifuge enrichment facilities with German assistance. The US arranged massive loans for Iraq’s burgeoning war expenditure from American client states such as Kuwait and Saudi Arabia. The US administration provided “crop-spraying” helicopters (to be used for chemical attacks in 1988), let Dow Chemicals ship it chemicals for use on humans, seconded its air force officers to work with their Iraqi counterparts (from 1986), approved technological exports to Iraq’s missile procurement agency to extend the missiles’ range (1988). In October 1987 and April 1988 US forces themselves attacked Iranian ships and oil platforms.

Militarily, the US not only provided to Iraq satellite data and information about Iranian military movements, but, as former US Defence Intelligence Agency (DIA) officers have recently revealed to the New York Times (18/8/02), prepared detailed battle planning for Iraqi forces in this period—even as Iraq drew worldwide public condemnation for its repeated use of chemical weapons against Iran. According to a senior DIA official, “if Iraq had gone down it would have had a catastrophic effect on Kuwait and Saudi Arabia, and the whole region might have gone down [ie, slipped from US control—Aspects] —that was the backdrop of the policy.” ...
And from Matt Frei at the BBC:
A bitter family saga is at an end

When Saddam Hussein looked in disbelief at the over-sized noose that was fitted by masked volunteers around his neck, the man who helped to put it there by invading Iraq and toppling the dictator was soundly asleep at his ranch in Texas.

It was only nine o'clock in the evening in Crawford but George Bush was already embedded in the land of nod, with orders not to be woken until the morning.

The blithe indifference of deep slumber was the final snub to the dead man who once described himself as "Salahadin II", "the Redeemer of all the Arabs" and "the Lion of Baghdad".

Some might think that George Bush can't afford to sleep soundly these days with his approval ratings in the cellar and his policy towards Iraq in inertia.

But while the world stirred to comment, cyberspace buzzed with applause or condemnation and Cable television hyperventilated, George Bush soldiered on in sleep. He arose only at 4.40am, we are told, which is his usual time of rising.

One hour later he had a 10-minute conversation with his National Security adviser Stephen Hadley about the events in Baghdad. ...

...On one level, the hanging of Saddam Hussein is the end of a dramatic family saga that has pitted the Bushes of Texas against the Husseins of Tikrit.

It is a saga that started with a tacit alliance.

When George HW Bush was vice president, Saddam Hussein was still seen as a potential partner thanks to his status as the enemy of America's enemy, Iran.

It was in 1983 that Donald Rumsfeld was dispatched to Baghdad as a friend of the Reagan administration to shake the hand of Saddam Hussein and offer America's help against the ayatollahs during the Iran Iraq War.

Alliance finally turned into animosity when Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait and President Bush cobbled together an international alliance of Western and Arab states to remove him from Kuwait but not from power.

"The butcher of Baghdad" began to call President Bush "the viper" and George junior, "the son of the viper".

It was at that time that the famous Al Rashid hotel in Baghdad received an elaborate mosaic of President Bush "the criminal", which patrons were forced to stomp across on entering the lobby.

Two years later Saddam Hussein tried to get President Bush assassinated.

The White House has always maintained that personal grudges had nothing to do with the invasion of Iraq.

And yet in September 2002, as preparations for war were well under way, George Bush the younger told a Houston fundraiser: "This is after all the man who tried to kill my dad." ...

...The personal side of this bitter family saga is over.

But even from his unmarked grave, Saddam Hussein will continue to haunt the Bush administration and define the legacy of the 43rd president of the United States.

Saddam had always promised to lure, fight and defeat the Americans in the cities of Iraq.

No-one thought at the time that this would happen after he had already been deposed.

But his prophetic threat is becoming reality, triggering a multi-headed insurgence that no longer fights on his behalf, and a vortex of sectarian violence that makes a conventional civil war look organised and coherent.

And so it goes.

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posted by JReid @ 2:03 PM  
Wednesday, December 27, 2006
Death of the 'accidental' president

Gerald Ford has died at 93 years of age. He was the longest living ex-president, and the only president to serve, never having been elected (Bush's 2000 "election" notwithstanding...) Whatever the hallmarks of his tenure (those images of the last choppers rising away from a desperate Saigon as Ford brought an end to the tragic Vietnam war, the Helsinki accords, surviving not one, but two assassination attempts -- ironic as he was a member of the Warren Commission -- being the first "Saturday Night Live" president, and making Chevy Chase a star, and his being among the last of a dying breed of relatively moderate Republicans. ... oh an add one more: Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens ... may he live to torment the wackadoo right for many years to come... and yeah, gifting the world with the public careers George H.W. Bush, his CIA director, Don Rumsfeld, his SecDef, and ... yeesh ... then Chief of Staff Dick Cheney...) he will forever be known for his most controversial decision: the "full, free and absolute pardon" of Richard M. Nixon on September 8, 1974, avoiding what could have been a savage and ugly court battle. (read the full text of the pardon without commentary here.)

Ford defended the pardon to the end, and many historians agree with him, that like Lincoln after the Civil War, Ford chose the path of national healing. After Watergate, Vietnam, Roe v. Wade, the civil rights struggles and more, America was an exhausted, beaten down, angry nation, desperately in need of healing. And Gerald Ford was the healer in chief. Maybe the historians have a point, though the questions, about whether there were back-room deals with Alexander Haig, or with party leaders, or with Nixon himself, will always linger over the pardon, along with the unrequited yearning for Nixon's confession of guilt (he claimed until the end, to have been impeached because he "lost political support...")

Although, there is something to the argument that Nixon should have been made to answer for his crimes, and give the country their catharsis that way. But given how bitterly divided we were then, and the 30 year outgrowth of partisan hatred and retribution that followed the pardon (including the "revenge impeachment" of Bill Clinton by hysterical, ultra-partisan Republicans in Congress), imagine the civil war that would have erupted between Democrats and Republicans had Nixon been clapped in irons. (More on Ford's "fast, clean start" here)

I guess it's a question for history. Ford, for his part, is now at rest. (Image credit:

Links: What Bush can learn from Ford

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posted by JReid @ 6:23 PM  
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