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The new book, The Man Without a Face, by Masha Gessen is at least partially intended to humanize Russian leader Vladimir Putin in hopes that it will eliminate the power he appreciates by maintaining a fearful reputation (as is discussed in her interview on The Daily Show here).
Has a book ever been so incendiary, so revelatory that it resulted in the leader it criticized being removed from power?
I acknowledge that there are likely many factors contributing to the downfall of an oppressive leader-- what I am after here is an instance where a book can be cited among the causes of a leader being removed.
I would relate your question to that of asking whether a hammer builds a house. The shortest most accurate answer is "no". A more nuanced answer requires some explanation however. A hammer doesn't build a house, just as a book has never produced societal change, because both lack two vital qualities: agency and uniqueness. The fact that both lack agency is obvious. Outside of say "Beauty and the Beast", hammers and books generally don't act without human intervention. Like previous posters have noted a book can be used as a tool to spread ideas as a hammer can be used to drive in nails and thus bring pieces of wood together.
The other point has not been noted, which is that a book is not necessary to produce societal change and a hammer is not necessary to build a house. In both cases the tools can make their respective jobs much easier, for example think of constructing a house by hammering nails with a shoe, yikes! On the other tack (PUN!), largely illiterate societies have produced movements without any assistance from no fancy book learnings, yet most of these movements only produce results (such as overthrowing dictators) by the direction of a literate minority. Such an observation would lead to Vladimir Lenin's theory of vanguardism.
Thus, no a book has never produced the impetus to overthrow a ruler, but like a hammer to building a house it would be very difficult to incite a popular overthrow of a dictator without using the guidance of ideas produced by books and pamphlets.
In Russia, I think Das Kapital probably has a reasonable claim
In most of Europe the publication of things in support of the Protestant Reformation would have removed the power of the pope from a country.
"Slavery" wasn't exactly a dictator. But Harriet Beecher Stowe's book "Uncle Tom's Cabin" is widely credited with helping to bring about the Civil War that ended slavery in the South. Even President Abraham Lincoln asked her "Are you the little lady that wrote the book that started this great war?"
From Dictatorship to Democracy by Gene Sharp. It is available (PDF and audio book) free of charge from the Einstein Institute. A short description of the history of this book, From Dictatorship to Democracy, may be downloaded here. The books was written as a general non-violent manual to topple dictators.
The methods describe within the book have been used in "Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania, Poland, East Germany, Czechoslovakia and Slovenia, Madagascar, Mali, Bolivia, and the Philippines. Nonviolent resistance has furthered the movement toward democratization in Nepal, Zambia, South Korea, Chile, Argentina, Haiti, Brazil, Uruguay, Malawi, Thailand, Bulgaria, Hungary, Zaire, Nigeria, and various parts of the former Soviet Union (playing a significant role in the defeat of the August 1991 attempted hard-line coup d'etat)". It was used in many of the Arab Spring uprisings/revolutions as Arabic copies were circulated as described in those articles: Gene Sharp: Author of the nonviolent revolution rulebook and Gene Sharp: How to Start a Revolution are two articles that indicate that his work was used in Egypt during the Arab Spring. There is even a Al Jazeera talks with the quiet but influential scholar of non-violent struggle.
There's a fair debate that the release of some dispatches by Wikileaks was responsible for the ouster of Ben Ali in Tunisia.
I have to say "partially responsible" though. Obviously the Tunisian people did most of the heavy lifting. But it is said that one of the things that enabled them to even think about it was the revelation that the US, far from supporting the guy, actually looked upon him as somewhat of a corrupt buffoon.
Stalin killed millions. A Stanford historian answers the question, was it genocide?
When it comes to use of the word "genocide," public opinion has been kinder to Stalin than Hitler. But one historian looks at Stalin's mass killings and urges that the definition of genocide be widened.
Go to the web site to view the video.
In his new book, historian Norman Naimark argues that the definition of genocide should include nations killing social classes and political groups.
Mass killing is still the way a lot of governments do business.
The past few decades have seen terrifying examples in Rwanda, Cambodia, Darfur, Bosnia.
Murder on a national scale, yes – but is it genocide? “The word carries a powerful punch,” said Stanford history Professor Norman Naimark. “In international courts, it’s considered the crime of crimes.”
Nations have tugs of war over the official definition of the word “genocide” itself – which mentions only national, ethnic, racial and religious groups. The definition can determine, after all, international relations, foreign aid and national morale. Look at the annual international tussle over whether the 1915 Turkish massacre and deportation of the Armenians “counts” as genocide.
Naimark, author of the controversial new book Stalin’s Genocides, argues that we need a much broader definition of genocide, one that includes nations killing social classes and political groups. His case in point: Stalin.
The book’s title is plural for a reason: He argues that the Soviet elimination of a social class, the kulaks (who were higher-income farmers), and the subsequent killer famine among all Ukrainian peasants – as well as the notorious 1937 order No. 00447 that called for the mass execution and exile of “socially harmful elements” as “enemies of the people” – were, in fact, genocide.
A dispossessed kulak and his family in front of their home in Udachne village in Donets’ka oblast’, 1930s. (Image credit: Central State Archives of Photo, Audio, and Video Documents of Ukraine named after G. S. Pshenychnyi)
“I make the argument that these matters shouldn’t be seen as discrete episodes, but seen together,” said Naimark, the Robert and Florence McDonnell Professor of Eastern European Studies and a respected authority on the Soviet regime. “It’s a horrific case of genocide – the purposeful elimination of all or part of a social group, a political group.”
Stalin had nearly a million of his own citizens executed, beginning in the 1930s. Millions more fell victim to forced labor, deportation, famine, massacres, and detention and interrogation by Stalin’s henchmen.
“In some cases, a quota was established for the number to be executed, the number to be arrested,” said Naimark. “Some officials overfulfilled as a way of showing their exuberance.”
The term “genocide” was defined by the 1948 United Nations Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide. The convention’s work was shaped by the Holocaust – “that was considered the genocide,” said Naimark.
“A catastrophe had just happened, and everyone was still thinking about the war that had just ended. This always occurs with international law – they outlaw what happened in the immediate past, not what’s going to happen in the future.”
In his book, he concludes that there was more similarity between Hitler and Stalin than usually acknowledged: “Both chewed up the lives of human beings in the name of a transformative vision of Utopia. Both destroyed their countries and societies, as well as vast numbers of people inside and outside their own states. Both, in the end, were genocidaires.”
Shipment of grain from the Chervonyi Step collective farm to a procurement center, Kyivs’ka oblast’, 1932. The sign reads ‘Socialists’ bread instead of kulak’s bread.’ (Image credit: Central State Archives of Photo, Audio, and Video Documents of Ukraine named after G. S. Pshenychnyi)
All early drafts of the U.N. genocide convention included social and political groups in its definition. But one hand that wasn’t in the room guided the pen. The Soviet delegation vetoed any definition of genocide that might include the actions of its leader, Joseph Stalin. The Allies, exhausted by war, were loyal to their Soviet allies – to the detriment of subsequent generations.
Naimark argues that that the narrow definition of genocide is the dictator’s unacknowledged legacy to us today.
Accounts “gloss over the genocidal character of the Soviet regime in the 1930s, which killed systematically rather than episodically,” said Naimark. In the process of collectivization, for example, 30,000 kulaks were killed directly, mostly shot on the spot. About 2 million were forcibly deported to the Far North and Siberia.
They were called “enemies of the people,” as well as swine, dogs, cockroaches, scum, vermin, filth, garbage, half animals, apes. Activists promoted murderous slogans: “We will exile the kulak by the thousand when necessary – shoot the kulak breed.” “We will make soap of kulaks.” “Our class enemies must be wiped off the face of the earth.”
One Soviet report noted that gangs “drove the dekulakized naked in the streets, beat them, organized drinking bouts in their houses, shot over their heads, forced them to dig their own graves, undressed women and searched them, stole valuables, money, etc.”
Historian Norman Naimark (Image credit: L.A. Cicero)
The destruction of the kulak class triggered the Ukrainian famine, during which 3 million to 5 million peasants died of starvation.
“There is a great deal of evidence of government connivance in the circumstances that brought on the shortage of grain and bad harvests in the first place and made it impossible for Ukrainians to find food for their survival,” Naimark writes.
We will never know how many millions Stalin killed. “And yet somehow Stalin gets a pass,” Ian Frazier wrote in a recent New Yorker article about the gulags. “People know he was horrible, but he has not yet been declared horrible officially.”
Time magazine put Stalin on its cover 11 times. Russian public opinion polls still rank him near the top of the greatest leaders of Russian history, as if he were just another one of the powerful but bloodthirsty czars.
There’s a reason for Russian obliviousness. Every family had not only victims but perpetrators. “A vast network of state organizations had to be mobilized to seize and kill that many people,” Naimark wrote, estimating that tens of thousands were accomplices.
“How much can you move on? Can you put it in your past? How is a national identity formed when a central part of it is a crime?” Naimark asked. “The Germans have gone about it the right way,” he said, pointing out that the Germany has pioneered research about the Holocaust and the crimes of the Nazi regime. “Through denial and obfuscation, the Turks have gone about it the wrong way.”
Without a full examination of the past, Naimark observed, it’s too easy for it to happen again.
Toward the end of his life, Stalin may have had another genocide in his crosshairs. We’ll never know whether the concocted conspiracy of Jewish Kremlin doctors in 1952 would have resulted in the internal exile of the entire Jewish population. Whatever plans existed ended abruptly with Stalin’s death in March 1953, as rumors of Jewish deportations were swirling.
One of Stalin’s colleagues recalled the dictator reviewing an arrest list (really, a death list) and muttering to himself: “Who’s going to remember all this riff-raff in ten or twenty years’ time? No one. … Who remembers the names now of the boyars Ivan the Terrible got rid of? No one. … The people had to know he was getting rid of all his enemies. In the end, they all got what they deserved.”
The ousting of Porfirio Díaz
The events leading up to the Mexican dictator’s fall from power on 25 May 1911.
José de la Cruz Porfirio Díaz was president of Mexico and its dictator for more than 30 years. A mestizo of humble origins, he trained for the priesthood in his youth but chose to join the army. Exceptional ability and ambition saw him rise to become a general and he took a leading part in the overthrow in 1867 of the Archduke Maximilian of Austria, installed as Emperor of Mexico by the French. Díaz was not happy with Maximilian’s successors and in 1876 he led a military coup.
In power Díaz kept order in the country and modernised it. He developed industry by attracting foreign capital and know-how. Annual oil production of 10,000 barrels in 1901 rose to 13 million by 1911 and mining of the country’s ample resources of gold, silver, copper and other metals was transformed. He also built an efficient transport system. The rich prospered while the urban poor toiled for low wages and peasants were reduced almost to slavery in the cause of modernising agriculture. Díaz maintained power by a mixture of bribery and rigged elections. Opposition was held in check by the police and the army the regime controlled the courts and censored the press.
One of the regime’s opponents was a rich cotton planter, philanthropist and vegetarian called Francisco Madero, a more formidable figure than his diminutive stature, mild manner and squeaky voice suggested. From a wealthy family, he had been educated in France and the US. He became convinced that he was guided by the spirit of Benito Juarez, the national hero against Maximilian. From about 1905 he organised democratic clubs opposed to Díaz’s re-election and published his own political newspaper.
With the next presidential election due in 1910, Díaz gave an interview in 1908 to an American journalist from Pearson’s Magazine in which he incautiously pronounced that Mexico was now ready for democracy. It was intended for foreign consumption only, but it was leaked into a Mexico City newspaper and aroused expectations. Madero published a book (partly dictated by Benito Juarez from the next world) demanding an honest poll and the defeat of Díaz. He toured the country on Díaz’s new railroads, speaking at meetings to cheering thousands, and in April 1910 he was selected as candidate for president by the Anti-reelectionist Party. Díaz had him and many of his allies put in prison on charges of incitement to riot.
Díaz duly won the presidential election and Madero was released, though with restrictions on his movements. In October he escaped into Texas and from there called for an armed uprising. In November he returned to Mexico to lead the revolt but the support his allies had promised him failed to materialise and he had to retreat back to the US.
Madero appeared to have failed, but in reality he had sparked off a revolution. Peasants in the north of the country rose up under Pancho Villa and Pascual Orozco. Others in the southern state of Morelos, led by Emiliano Zapata, took up arms. The troubles spread and in February 1911 Madero felt strong enough to return to Mexico and proclaim himself head of the Mexican revolution.
Old and ill, Díaz failed to stem a rising tide of opposition. In April he announced that he had heard the voice of the Mexican people and replaced his entire cabinet. The revolutionary leaders, unimpressed, mounted an armed attack on Ciudad Juarez, on the Rio Grande, led by Madero, Villa and Orozco. Díaz offered negotiations and Madero hesitated, but Villa and Orozco lost patience and pressed on. The garrison surrendered on 10 May and on 21 May Madero and a representative of Diaz signed the Treaty of Ciudad Juarez, which required Diaz to stand down. The architect of modern Mexico duly took ship from Veracruz to New York four days later and went into exile in France.
Before he left Díaz said: ‘Madero has unleashed a tiger, now let us see if he can control it.’ He could not. Compared by one contemporary to a dove fluttering about in a sky full of hawks, Madero took office as president in November, but the vicious civil war that ensued lasted for almost ten years and caused a million deaths. He himself was a casualty, executed in 1913. Díaz died peacefully in Paris in 1915 at the age of 84.
The legacy of these dictators is one of infamy. The people in these countries were not freed from the cruel terror of these men until their deaths. Their names will forever by associated with destruction.
Mao Zedong died in 1976 after a long battle with declining health and Parkinson’s Disease. Some researchers do credit him with having improved literacy and education throughout China and improving gender equality by banning foot binding and allowing women to file for divorce.
Adolf Hitler committed suicide to avoid capture after Berlin was invaded by Soviet forces. His death passed without much public attention as the country was in the middle of losing the war. He left behind a completely decimated region after causing great human suffering and loss.
Joseph Stalin had deteriorating health after World War II and survived both a stroke and heart attack. In 1953, he went to bed and did not emerge from his room the next day. He was discovered late that night and doctors diagnosed him with a major stroke. He died four days later. His funeral was attended by more than one million people, and China called for a period of silence in his honor.
Has a book ever caused the ousting of a dictator? - History
I've been collecting poems (current and historical) about political mistakes, dictators and the experience of dictatorships including fascism. No reason.
by Anne Sexton
We are America.
We are the coffin fillers.
We are the grocers of death.
We pack them in crates like cauliflowers.
The bomb opens like a shoebox.
And the child?
The child is certainly not yawning.
And the woman?
The woman is bathing her heart.
It has been torn out of her
and as a last act
she is rinsing it off in the river.
This is the death market.
where are your credentials?
Instead of a Foreword
by Anna Akhmatova
During the terrible years of Yezhovshchina I spent seventeen months in the prison queues in Leningrad. One day someone recognized me. Then a woman with lips blue with cold who was standing behind me, and of course had never heard of my name, came out of the numbness which affected us all and whispered in my ear–(we all spoke in whispers there):
"Can you describe this?"
I said, "I can!"
Then something resembling a smile slopped over what had once been her face.
1 April 1957
by Anna Akhmatova
What's worse that this past century?
Dazed with sadness, anxiety,
it touches the darkest sore
and cannot heal.
Winter's sun still shines in the West,
the city roofs bright in its rays.
Here a white house aims upward its crosses,
ravens crying out, ravens flying in.
by May Sarton
True gardeners cannot bear a glove
Between the sure touch and the tender root,
Must let their hands grow knotted as they move
With a rough sensitivity about
Under the earth, between the rock and shoot,
Never to bruise or wound the hidden fruit.
And so I watched my mother's hands grow scarred,
She who could heal the wounded plant or friend
With the same vulnerable yet rigorous love
I minded once to see her beauty gnarled,
But now her truth is given me to live,
As I learn for myself we must be hard
To move among the tender with an open hand,
And to stay sensitive up to the end
Pay with some toughness for a gentle world.
from In Distrust of Merits
by Marianne Moore
Instructions on Not Giving Up
by Ada Limón (1976)
More than the fuchsia funnels breaking out
of the crabapple tree, more than the neighbor’s
almost obscene display of cherry limbs shoving
their cotton candy-colored blossoms to the slate
sky of Spring rains, it’s the greening of the trees
that really gets to me. When all the shock of white
and taffy, the world’s baubles and trinkets, leave
the pavement strewn with the confetti of aftermath,
the leaves come. Patient, plodding, a green skin
growing over whatever winter did to us, a return
to the strange idea of continuous living despite
the mess of us, the hurt, the empty. Fine then,
I’ll take it, the tree seems to say, a new slick leaf
unfurling like a fist to an open palm, I’ll take it all.
Litany for Dictatorships
by Stephen Vincent Benet (1936)
We thought we were done with these things but we were wrong.
We thought, because we had power, we had wisdom.
We thought the long train would run to the end of Time.
We thought the light would increase.
Now the long train stands derailed and the bandits loot it.
Now the boar and the asp have power in our time.
Now the night rolls back on the West and the night is solid.
Our fathers and ourselves sowed dragon’s teeth.
Our children know and suffer the armed men.
(For every U.S. mass shooting funeral)
by Stephen Vincent Benet (1936)
Bring no flowers here,
Neither of mountain nor valley,
Nor even the common flowers of the waste field
That still are free to the poor
No wreaths upon these graves, these houseless graves
But bring alone the powder-blackened brass
Of the shell-case, the slag of bullets, the ripped steel
And the bone-spattering lead,
Infertile, smelling acridly of death,
And heap them here, till the rustling of guns, for remembrance.
Nightmare at Noon
by Stephen Vincent Benet (1940)
The dopes who write "Jimmy's a dope" on the tunnel walls. These are all quite safe and nothing will happen to them. Nothing will happen, of course. Go tell Frank the Yanks aren't coming, in Union Square.
Go tell the new brokers' story about the President. Whatever it is. That's going to help a lot. There's time to drink your highball—plenty of time. Go tell fire it only burns in another country, Go tell the bombers this is the wrong address, The hurricane to pass on the othe r side. Go tell the earthquake it must not shake the ground.
The bell has rung in the night and the air quakes with it.
I shall not sleep tonight when I hear the plane.
Except from Listen to the People
by Stephen Vincent Benet (1941)
A VOICE: You can't do this to me. We got laws. We got courts. We got unions.
A VOICE: You can't do this to me. Why, I believe in Karl Marx!
A VOICE: You can't do this to me. The Constitution forbids it.
A VOICE: I was always glad to cooperate.
A VOICE: It looked to me like good business.
A VOICE: It looked to me like the class struggle,
A VOICE: It looked to me like peace in our time.
Thank you, ladies and gentlemen. Democracy is finished. You are finished. We are the present!
You mistake me.
Others have often made the same mistake
Often and often and in many countries.
I never play upon a people's strength.
I play upon their weaknesses and Fears.
I make their doubts my allies and my spies.
I have a most convincing mask of peace
Painted by experts, for one kind of sucker,
And for another I'm a business man,
Straight from the shoulder, talking trade and markets
And much misunderstood.
I touch this man upon his pocketbook,
That man upon his hatred for his boss,
That man upon his fear.
I offer everything, for offering's cheap.
I make no claims until I make the claims.
I'm always satisfied until I'm not
Which happens rather rapidly to those
Who think I could be satisfied with less
Than a dismembered and digested world.
My secret weapon is no secret weapon.
It is to turn all men against all men
For my own purposes. It is to use
Good men to do my work without their knowledge,
Not only the secret traitor and the spy.
It is to raise a question and a doubt
Where there was faith. It is to subjugate
Men's minds before their bodies feel the steel.
It is to use
All envy, all despair, all prejudice
For my own work.
If you ve an envy or a prejudice
A nicely grown, well-rounded piece of hate,
I'll play on it and use it to your ruin.
My generals are General Distrust,
General Fear, General Half-A-Heart,
General Greed and Major-General Hate,
And they go walking in civilian clothes
In your own streets and whisper in your ears.
I won't be beaten just by sitting tight.
They tried that out in France. I won't be beaten
By hiding in the dark and making faces,
And certainly I never will be beaten
By those who rather like my kind of world,
Or, if not like it, think that it must come,
Those who have wings and burrow in the ground.
For I'm not betting only on the tanks,
The guns, the planes, the bombers,
But on your own division and disunion.
On your own minds and hearts to let me in,
For, if that happens, all I wish for happens.
So what have you to say?
What have you got to bet against my bet?
Where's your one voice?
Let Us Hold Hands
by Pat Mora
Let us now hold hands
with the Iroquois woman who slipped berries into children’s lips
while her sisters planted stars with a wooden hoe,
with the woman who rubbed warm oil into her neighbor’s feet
when Plymouth’s winter prowled and howled outside their doors,
with the woman who sewed faith into each stitch, cloth comforters
pieced to the rhythm of español for babies born al silencio, del desierto,
with the woman who seasoned soups with pepper and hope
as her days took her further from the signs of trees she loved,
with the woman who parted her parched lips and sang
for her mother when they staggered onto these shores in chains,
with the woman who trained her stubborn tongue to wrap
around that spiny language, English, to place her child in school.
Let us now hold hands with the woman
who croons to the newborn left amid orange rinds and newspaper,
who teaches grandmothers to link letters into a word,
who whispers to the woman dying with one breast,
who holds a wife whose face is more broken than any bone,
who bathes the woman found sleeping in black snow.
Let us hold hands
with the woman who holds her sister in Bosnia, Detroit, Somalia,
Jacksonville, Guatemala, Burma, Juarez, and Cincinnati,
with the woman who confronts the glare of eyes and gunbarrels,
yet rises to protest in Yoruba, English, Polish, Spanish, Chinese, Urdu.
Let us hold hands with the woman who cooks, with the woman who builds,
with the woman who cries, with the woman who laughs,
with the woman who heals, with the woman who prays,
with the woman who plants, with the woman who harvests,
with the woman who sings, with the woman whose spirits rise.
In this time that fears faith, let us hold hands.
In this time that fears the unwashed, let us hold hands.
In this time that fears age, let us hold hands.
In this time that fears touch, let us hold hands,
brown hands, trembling hands, callused hands, frail
hands, white hands, tired hands, angry hands, new
hands, cold hands, black hands, bold hands.
In town and cities and villages, mano a mano, hand in hand,
in mountains and valleys and plains,
a ring of women circling the world,
the ring strong in our joining,
around our petaled home, this earth, let us join hands.
On the Slain Collegians
by Herman Melville
Youth is the time when hearts are large,
And stirring wars
Appeal to the spirit which appeals in turn
To the blade it draws.
If woman incite, and duty show
(Though made the mask of Cain),
Or whether it be Truth's sacred cause,
Who can aloof remain
That shares youth's ardor, uncooled by the
Of wisdom or sordid gain?
The liberal arts and nurture sweet
Which give his gentleness to man—
Train him to honor, lend him grace
Through bright examples meet—
That culture which makes never wan
With underminings deep, but holds
The surface still, its fitting place,
And so gives sunniness to the face
And bravery to the heart what troops
Of generous boys in happiness thus bred—
Saturnians through life's Tempe led,
Went from the North and came from the
With golden mottoes in the mouth,
To lie down midway on a bloody bed.
Woe for the homes of the North,
And woe for the seats of the South:
All who felt life's spring in prime,
And were swept by the wind of their place and
All lavish hearts, on whichever side,
Of birth urbane or courage high,
Armed them for the stirring wars—
Armed them—some to die.
Apollo-like in pride.
Each would slay his Python—caught
The maxims in his temple taught—
Aflame with sympathies whose blaze
Perforce enwrapped him—social laws,
Friendship and kin, and by-gone days—
Vows, kisses—every heart unmoors,
And launches into the seas of wars.
What could they else—North or South?
Each went forth with blessings given
By priests and mothers in the name of Heaven
And honor in both was chief.
Warred one for Right, and one for Wrong?
So be it but they both were young—
Each grape to his cluster clung,
All their elegies are sung.
The anguish of maternal hearts
Must search for balm divine
But well the striplings bore their fated parts
(The heavens all parts assign)—
Never felt life's care or cloy.
Each bloomed and died an unabated Boy
Nor dreamed what death was—thought it mere
Sliding into some vernal sphere.
They knew the joy, but leaped the grief,
Like plants that flower ere comes the leaf—
Which storms lay low in kindly doom,
And kill them in their flush of bloom.
The Conflict of Convictions
by Herman Melville
On starry heights
A bugle wails the long recall
Derision stirs the deep abyss,
Heaven's ominous silence over all.
Return, return, O eager Hope,
And face man's latter fall.
Events, they make the dreamers quail
Satan's old age is strong and hale,
A disciplined captain, gray in skill,
And Raphael a white enthusiast still
Dashed aims, at which Christ's martyrs pale,
Shall Mammon's slaves fulfill?
(Dismantle the fort,
Cut down the fleet--
Battle no more shall be!
While the fields for fight in æons to come
Congeal beneath the sea.)
The terrors of truth and dart of death
To faith alike are vain
Though comets, gone a thousand years,
Patient she stands--she can no more--
And waits, nor heeds she waxes hoar.
(At a stony gate,
A statue of stone,
Long 'twill wait!)
But God his former mind retains,
Confirms his old decree
The generations are inured to pains,
And strong Necessity
Surges, and heaps Time's strand with wrecks.
The People spread like a weedy grass,
The thing they will they bring to pass,
And prosper to the apoplex.
The rout it herds around the heart,
The ghost is yielded in the gloom
Kings wag their heads--Now save thyself
Who wouldst rebuild the world in bloom.
And top of the ages' strike,
Verge where they called the world to come,
The last advance of life--
Ha ha, the rust on the Iron Dome!)
Nay, but revere the hid event
In the cloud a sword is girded on,
I mark a twinkling in the tent
Of Michael the warrior one.
Senior wisdom suits not now,
The light is on the youthful brow.
(Ay, in caves the miner see:
His forehead bears a blinking light
Darkness so he feebly braves--
A meagre wight!)
But He who rules is old--is old
Ah! faith is warm, but heaven with age is cold.
(Ho ho, ho ho,
The cloistered doubt
Of olden times
Is blurted out!)
The Ancient of Days forever is young,
Forever the scheme of Nature thrives
I know a wind in purpose strong--
It spins against the way it drives.
What if the gulfs their slimed foundations bare?
So deep must the stones be hurled
Whereon the throes of ages rear
The final empire and the happier world.
(The poor old Past,
The Future's slave,
She drudged through pain and crime
To bring about the blissful Prime,
Then--perished. There's a grave!)
Power unanointed may come--
Dominion (unsought by the free)
And the Iron Dome,
Stronger for stress and strain,
Fling her huge shadow athwart the main
But the Founders' dream shall flee.
Agee after age shall be
As age after age has been,
(From man's changeless heart their way they win)
And death be busy with all who strive--
Death, with silent negative.
YEA, AND NAY--
EACH HATH HIS SAY
BUT GOD HE KEEPS THE MIDDLE WAY.
NONE WAS BY
WHEN HE SPREAD THE SKY
WISDOM IS VAIN, AND PROPHESY.
by Sherman Alexie
New! Read it here.
Thousands of images have suddenly brightened in the
the hope of freedom has been given over to cultivation
dreams have been carried off,
the serenity of the night is shattered.
Not even a mountain will be moved any more,
only the train, like a nerve, electric with anxiety,
moves forward blindly
towards the deeply buried city of memory.
Things past have constantly slipped into silence
while those dreams set out in books
and the principles of the sun's impartial ray's survive.
Before, they appeared subjective, and were lost
in the immortal graveyard of time.
Still, today, we have only the many worlds
as always, serenely, secretly
spinning, behind the high wall,
the web of their hidden agenda.
Translated by Gregory Lee and John Cayley
Civilian and Soldier
by Wole Soyinka
My apparition rose from the fall of lead,
Declared, 'I am a civilian.' It only served
To aggravate your fright. For how could I
Have risen, a being of this world, in that hour
Of impartial death! And I thought also: nor is
Your quarrel of this world.
You stood still
For both eternities, and oh I heard the lesson
Of your training sessions, cautioning -
Scorch earth behind you, do not leave
A dubious neutral to the rear. Reiteration
Of my civilian quandary, burrowing earth
From the lead festival of your more eager friends
Worked the worse on your confusion, and when
You brought the gun to bear on me, and death
Twitched me gently in the eye, your plight
And all of you came clear to me.
I hope some day
Intent upon my trade of living, to be checked
In stride by your apparition in a trench,
Signalling, I am a soldier. No hesitation then
But I shall shoot you clean and fair
With meat and bread, a gourd of wine
A bunch of breasts from either arm, and that
Lone question - do you friend, even now, know
What it is all about?
from "Revelation in the Mother Lode"
by George Evans (Vietnam veteran)
from "Revelation in the Mother Lode"
by George Evans (Vietnam veteran)
How did it come to be that my generation would be stiff
under hoarfrost, and that I should come across them
twenty years after watching them die to remember and feel
I've truly wasted my time, have left no mark upon the earth
in their name, have left only the small craters of a boot
sucking vineyard mud.
And is this guilt, or the product of being swept up
in a time on human earth when few do more than raise
the cause of their own names--and am I one, or is all this
death just sloth which one pretends
to work against the belly of
but which in fact controls?
How tired I am of hearing about that war,
which one should struggle
to keep the nightmare of, suffer from rather than forget.
I don't want to heal, and am sick of those who do.
Such things end in license.
Back here it turns out newspapers
and monuments are taxidermy
there is little retribution, little learning what is lost
is forgotten sometimes it gets so bad I'm not sure
I'm the one who lived. then come upon you in a field
--a one-time soldier with a trick knee, flagging humor,
monsoon debt--and find you enfolded by fog as if by spirits,
and become the visage of all that's been
thrown from the world.
from "Eye Blade"
by George Evans
The Wall, the black wall rising. Dead list
in the capital, black list, stone mirror
faces float across searching its columns,
names to touch, lean upon and fall through
into space. Rolling stone which will not roll.
Wound which doesn't close except in sleep.
Numbers small for war, somehow unforgivable
for something perceived as error, though all
battle is an error. And when its shine dulls,
its sting fades, and those who weep go dry,
what good will be a wall?
by Jimmy Santiago Baca
Is a question of strength,
of unshed tears,
of being trampled under,
and always, always,
remembering you are human.
Look deep to find the grains
of hope and strength,
and sing, my brothers and sisters,
and sing. The sun will share
your birthdays with you behind bars,
the new spring grass
like fiery spears will count your years,
as you start into the next year
endure my brothers, endure my sisters.
from Let America Be America Again
by Langston Hughes
I am the poor white, fooled and pushed apart,
I am the Negro bearing slavery’s scars.
I am the red man driven from the land,
I am the immigrant clutching the hope I seek—
And finding only the same old stupid plan
Of dog eat dog, of mighty crush the weak.
I am the young man, full of strength and hope,
Tangled in that ancient endless chain
Of profit, power, gain, of grab the land!
Of grab the gold! Of grab the ways of satisfying need!
Of work the men! Of take the pay!
Of owning everything for one’s own greed!
I am the farmer, bondsman to the soil.
I am the worker sold to the machine.
I am the Negro, servant to you all.
I am the people, humble, hungry, mean—
Hungry yet today despite the dream.
Beaten yet today—O, Pioneers!
I am the man who never got ahead,
The poorest worker bartered through the years.
And yet I swear this oath—
America will be!
Out of the rack and ruin of our gangster death,
The rape and rot of graft, and stealth, and lies,
We, the people, must redeem
The land, the mines, the plants, the rivers.
The mountains and the endless plain—
All, all the stretch of these great green states—
And make America again!
The Flag of Chile
by Teresa de Jesus
Chile's flag has three colors.
Everyone knows it
and so do I.
It has three colors and a star.
Everyone knows it
and so do I.
The white certainly expresses
hunger with mask, and without,
and in civvies.
Everyone knows it
and so do I.
The blue represents neurosis
assembled minute by minute
and at the end of each month, confirmed
by an assassin over the blue.
Everyone knows it
and so do I.
The red wears away in waves
of blood, of torture and pain,
the red flames in poppies
opened by gunshots,
the red rises from tombs.
Everyone knows it
and so do I.
Translated by Maria Proser, Arlene Scully and James Scully
Before the Scales, Tomorrow
by Otto Castillo
And when the enthusiastic
story of our time
who are yet to be born
but announce themselves
with more generous face,
we will come out ahead
--those who have suffered most from it.
being ahead of your time
means much suffering from it.
But it's beautiful to love the world
that have not yet
to know yourself victorious
when all around you
it's all still so cold,
Translated by Barbara Paschke and David Volpendestaa
by Otto Rene Castillo
of my country
will be interrogated
by the simplest
of our people.
They will be asked
what they did
when their nation died out
like a sweet fire
small and alone.
No one will ask them
about their dress,
their long siestas
no one will want to know
about their sterile combats
with "the idea
of the nothing"
no one will care about
their higher financial learning.
They won't be questioned
on Greek mythology,
or regarding their self-disgust
when someone within them
begins to die
the coward's death.
They'll be asked nothing
about their absurd
born in the shadow
of the total lie.
On that day
the simple men will come.
Those who had no place
in the books and poems
of the apolitical intellectuals,
but daily delivered
their bread and milk,
their tortillas and eggs,
those who drove their cars,
who cared for their dogs and gardens
and worked for them,
and they'll ask:
"What did you do when the poor
suffered, when tenderness
burned out of them?"
of my sweet country,
you will not be able to answer.
A vulture of silence
will eat your gut.
Your own misery
will pick at your soul.
And you will be mute in your shame.
Translated by Margaret Randall
by Otto Rene Castillo
Under the bitter December air
a friend says
“I’m disillusioned. Everything goes
so slowly. The dictatorship is strong.
I’m desperate and pained
by the calvary of my people.”
And I, sensing his anguish, the gray
and noble sadness of my friend,
knowing his fight
to keep on fighting,
do not say: coward or go to the mountains
or lazy or pessimist,
rigid, poor devil.
I only put my arm around his shoulder,
so the tearing cruelty of his cold
Someone hums the national Anthem.
in the street. I get up
and look from the window
of the house where I live now.
He who sings is barefoot.
Surely also without breakfast.
He is a hawker of lies
Fifteen years at best.
Fifteen years of misery, I bet on that.
And from his hoarse throat,
like a Greek god well fed,
emerges the National Anthem of Guatemala.
If I hadn’t seen it, surely
I’d have said: “A soldier singing.”
Translated by Margaret Randall
from Love Poem
. those who got drunk and wept for the national anthem
under a Pacific cyclone or up north in the snow,
the spongers, beggars, pot-heads,
the stupid sons of whores,
those who were barely able to get back,
those who had a little more luck,
the forever undocumented,
those who do anything, sell anything, eat anything,
the first ones to pull a knife,
the wretched the most wretched of the earth,
Translated by Richard Schaaf
from In Trying Times
by Heberto Padilla
They asked him for his breast, heart, his shoulders.
They told him
that that was absolutely necessary.
they explained to him later
that all this gift would be useless
unless he turned his tongue over to them,
because in trying times
nothing is so useful in checking hatred or lies.
and finally they begged him,
please, to go take a walk.
Because in trying times
that is, without a doubt, the decisive test.
Translated by Alastair Reid
Sometimes I Plunge Into the Ocean
by Heberto Padilla
Sometimes I plunge into the ocean, for a long time,
and emerge suddenly grasping, breathing
and swim as far as I can from the coast
and see the distant blurred line of the shore
and the sun making the oily water boil.
The shoreline drowns in the vapor
and I close my eyes blinded by the the light.
Then, a handsbreadth from those waves, the country appears
that for so long we thought
we were carrying on our shoulders: white, like a warship,
shining against the sun and against poets.
Translated by Alastair Reid
from The Dictators
Hatred has grown scale on scale,
blow on blow, in the ghastly water of the swamp,
with a snout full of ooze and silence
from The Tyrant
by Faiz Ahmad Faiz
Mine is the new religion, the new morality.
Mine are the new laws, and a new dogma.
From now on the priests in God's temple
will touch their lips to the hands of idols.
Proud men, tall as Cypress trees, will bend
to lick the dwarves' feet and taste the clay.
On this day all over earth the door
of beneficent deeds is bolted.
Every gate of prayer throughout heaven
is slammed shut today.
Translated by Naomi Lazard
Once Again the Mind
Faiz Ahmad Faiz
Today, as usual, the mind goes hunting for a word,
one filled with venom, a word
sultry with honey, heavy with love,
smashing with fury.
The word of love must be brilliant as a glance
which greets the eye like a kiss on the lips,
bright as a summer river, its surface streaming gold,
joyous as the moment when the beloved enters
for the appointed meeting.
The word of rage must be a ferocious blade
that brings down for all time the oppressor's citadel.
The word must be dark as the night of a crematorium
if I bring it to my lips
it will blacken them forever.
Today every instrument is forsaken by its melody,
and the singer's voice goes searching for its singer.
Today the chords of every harp are shredded
like a madman's shirt. Today
the people beg each gust of wind
to bring any sound at all, even a lamentation,
even a scream of anguish,
or the last trump crying the hour of doom.
Translated by Naomi Lazard
from Last Stop
by George Seferis
And if I talk to you in fables and parables
it's because it's more gentle for you that way, and horror
really can't be talked about because it's alive,
because it's mute and goes on growing
To speak of heroes to speak of heroes: Michael
who left the hospital with his wounds still open,
perhaps he was speaking of heroes--that night
he dragged his foot through the darkened city--
when he howled, groping over our pain: "We advance in the dark,
we move forward in the dark. "
Heroes move forward in the dark.
by Nina Cassian
A clean vowel
is my morning,
in the murmur of confused time.
With rational syllables
I'm trying to clear the occult mind
and promiscuous violence.
My linguistic protest
has no power.
The enemy is illiterate.
Translated by Brenda Walker and Andrea Deletant
from What I Saw
by Zbigniew Herbert
I saw prophets tearing at their pasted-on beards
I saw imposters joining sects of flagellants
butchers disguised in sheepskin
who fled the anger of the people
playing on a block-flute
Children of the Epoch
We are children of the epoch.
The epoch is political.
All my daily and nightly affairs,
all your daily and nightly affairs,
are political affairs.
Whether you want it or not,
your genes have a political past,
you skin has a political tone,
your eyes a political color,
What you say resounds,
what you don't say is also
Even coming through the rye,
you walk with political steps
on political ground.
Apolitical poems are also political,
and in the sky there's a moon
that's no longer moonlike.
To be or not to be, that is a question.
Oh darling, what a question, give a suggestion.
A political question.
You don't have to be human
to acquire a political meaning.
It's enough to be petroleum,
cattle fodder, raw material.
Or just a conference table whose shape
was disputed for months.
In the meantime, people were killed.
fields grew wild,
as in distant
and less political epochs.
Translated by Grazyna Drabik and Austin Flint
Tomorrow the Past Comes
No longer for me is there anything late. All is late.
The blood runs like a subway through capitals.
And the past is everywhere like the blood.
In the sunrise of the rivers red
with lightning and croups of centaurs
there was a kind of light—I don't know what kind of light that was.
In the fog much becomes clear.
Translated by Dorian and Elliott R. Urdang
by Czeslaw Milosz
What is poetry which does not save
Nations or people?
A connivance with official lies,
A song of drunkards whose throats will be cut in a moment,
Readings for sophomore girls.
That I wanted good poetry without knowing it,
That I discovered, late, its salutary aim,
In this and only this I find salvation.
They used to pour millet on graves or poppy seeds
To feed the dead who would come disguised as birds.
I put this book here for you, who once lived
So that you should visit us no more.
from Child of Europe
by Czeslaw Milosz
Grow your tree of falsehood from a single grain of truth.
Do not follow those who lie in contempt of reality.
Let your lie be even more logical than the truth itself
So the weary travelers may find repose in the lie.
Fashion your weapon from ambiguous words.
Consign clear words to lexical limbo.
Judge no words before the clerks have checked
In their card index by whom they were spoken.
The laughter born of the love of truth
Is now the laughter of the enemies of the people.
Gone is the age of satire. We no longer need mock.
The sensible monarch with false courtly phrases.
Stern as befits the servants of a cause
Translated by Jan Darowski
by Tadeusz Różewicz
When all the women in the transport
had their heads shaved
four workmen with brooms made of birch twigs
and gathered up the hair
Behind clean glass
the stiff hair lies
of those suffocated in gas chambers
there are pins and side combs
in this hair
The hair is not shot through with light
is not parted by the breeze
is not touched by any hand
or rain or lips
In huge chests
clouds of dry hair
of those suffocated
and a faded plait
a pigtail with a ribbon
pulled at school
by naughty boys.
Translated by Adam Czerniawski
by Tadeusz Różewicz
It has happened
and it goes on happening
and will happen again
if nothing happens to stop it
The innocent know nothing
because they are too innocent
and the guilty know nothing
because they are too guilty
The poor do not notice
because they are too poor
and the rich do not notice
because they are too rich
The stupid shrug their shoulders
because they are too stupid
and the clever shrug their shoulders
because they are too clever
The young do not care
because they are too young
and the old do not care
because they are too old
That is why nothing happens
to stop it
and that is why it has happened
and goes on happening and will happen again.
Translated by Robert A. Maguire and Magnus Jan Krynski
Questions About Poetry Since Auschwitz
by Tadeusz Różewicz
Whether it rose up as a small brown bird
out of the smoke of cremation ovens
and then rested in one of the birches
whether it flew closer
drawn by the screams of the girls
and saw them raped
and then sang
to the dust of the ruined cities
its song of quiet love
and to the starving
the lay of the ripening corn
whether it grew up in the shadow of money
and lent it its voice
for money had grown too big
to be able to jingle
whether it flew through the world
and learned its sense of beauty
from the vivid colours
of bodies torn to pieces
from the bright flames of village huts
or from the glint
of the changing daylight
in glazed eyes
whether at last in a tree
stripped by defoliants
it built its nest of hair
of paper shreds of rags and bloody feathers
and now waits for mating
for the time to sit on its eggs
and for the hatching of
its eternally innocent young
that only lyric poets know
who steadfastly call
for wild bird protection
in a world soon to be whole again
Translated by Robert A. Mcguire and Mangus Jan Krynski
One Kind of Freedom Speaks
by Erich Fried
Those who loved freedom
got me with their sweat
in the sleepless nights
of their dungeons and dingy rooms
Those who loved freedom
fed me with their blood
taught me to stand and walk
on their bones
Those who loved freedom
called me to the capital
bore me into the palace
placed me on the throne
Now I am free
to rule in their spirit
I stick very closely
to what they taught me
I still tread their bones
I still drink the blood
of those who loved freedom.
Ultima Ratio Reagan
by Howard Nemerov
The reason we do not learn from history is
Because we are not the people who learned last time.
Because we are not the same people as them
That fed our sons and honor to Vietnam
And dropped the burning money on their trees,
We know that we know better than they knew,
And history will not blame us if once again
The light at the end of the tunnel is the train.
Saul Bellow from Literary Notes on Khrushchev
"Instead of having been punished for his crimes, he has become a great leader, which persuades him that life is inherently dramatic. And in his joy at having reversed the moral-accounting system of bourgeois civilization, he plays his role with ever greater spirit."
by Jericho Brown
We do not recognize the body
Of Emmett Till. We do not know
The boy’s name nor the sound
Of his mother wailing. We have
Never heard a mother wailing.
We do not know the history
Of ourselves in this nation. We
Do not know the history of our
Selves on this planet because
We do not have to know
What we believe we own. We believe
We own your bodies but have no
Use for your tears. We destroy
The body that refuses use. We use
Maps we did not draw. We see
A sea so cross it. We see a moon
So land there. We love land so
Long as we can take it. Shhh. We
Can’t take that sound. What is
A mother wailing? We do not
Recognize music until we can
Sell it. We sell what cannot be
Bought. We buy silence. Let us
Help you. How much does it cost
To hold your breath underwater?
Wait. Wait. What are we? What?
What? What on Earth are we?
Part V of The Trolls
(Written after an air-raid, April 1941)
This then is our answer under
The crawl of lava, a last
Shake of the fist at the vanishing sky, at the hulking
Halfwit demons who rape and slobber, who assume
That when we are killed no more will be heard of us-
Silence of men and trolls' triumph.
A wrong— in the end— assumption.
Barging and lunging out of the clouds, a daft
Descent of no-good gods, they think to
Be rid for ever of the voice of men but they happen
To be trying what even trolls
Can never accomplish, they happen
To be — for all their kudos-
Wrong, wrong in the end.
The World’s One Hope
by Bertolt Brecht
Is oppression as old as the moss around ponds?
The moss around ponds is not avoidable.
Perhaps everything I see is natural, and I am sick and want to remove what cannot be removed?
I have read songs of the Egyptians, of their men who built the pyramids. They complained of their loads and asked when oppression would cease. That’s four thousand years ago.
Oppression, it would seem, is like the moss and unavoidable.
When a child is about to be run down by a car one pulls it on to the pavement.
Not the kindly man does that, to whom they put up monuments.
Anyone pulls the child away from the car. But here many have been run down, and many pass by and do nothing of the sort.
Is that because it’s so many who are suffering? Should one not help them all the more because they are many? One helps them less. Even the kindly walk past and after that are as kindly as ever they were before walking past.
The more there are suffering, then, the more natural their sufferings appear. Who wants to prevent the fishes in the sea from getting wet?
And the suffering themselves share this callousness towards themselves and are lacking in kindness towards themselves.
It is terrible that human beings so easily put up with existing conditions, not only with the sufferings of strangers but also with their own.
All those who have thought about the bad state of things refuse to appeal to the compassion of one group of people for another. But the compassion of the oppressed for the oppressed is indispensable.
It is the world’s one hope.
When Evil-Doing Comes Like Falling Rain
by Bertolt Brecht
Like one who brings an important letter to the counter after office hours: the counter is already closed.
Like one who seeks to warn the city of an impending flood, but speaks another language. They do not understand him.
Like a beggar who knocks for the fifth time at a door where he has four times been given something: the fifth time he is hungry.
Like one whose blood flows from a wound and who awaits the doctor: his blood goes on flowing.
So do we come forward and report that evil has been done us.
The first time it was reported that our friends were butchered there was a cry of horror. Then a hundred were butchered. But when a thousand were butchered and there was no end to the butchery, a blanket of silence spread.
When evil-doing comes like falling rain, nobody calls out “stop!”
When crimes begin to pile up they become invisible. When sufferings become endurable the cries are no longer heard. The cries, too, fall like rain in summer.
The God of War
by Bertolt Brecht
I saw the old god of war stand in a bog between chasm and rockface.
He smelled of free beer and carbolic and showed his testicles to adolescents, for he had been rejuvenated by several professors. In a hoarse, wolfish voice he declared his love for everything young. Nearby stood a pregnant woman, trembling.
And without shame he talked on and presented himself as a great one for order. And he described how everywhere he put barns in order, by emptying them.
And as one throws crumbs to sparrows, he fed poor people with crusts of bread which he had taken away from poor people.
His voice was now loud, now soft, but always hoarse.
In a loud voice he spoke of great times to come, and in a soft voice he taught the women how to cook crows and seagulls. Meanwhile, his back was unquiet, and he kept looking round, as though afraid of being stabbed.
And every five minutes he assured his public that he would take up very little of their time.
Epitaph on a Tyrant
by W.H.Auden (1939)
Perfection, of a kind, was what he was after,
And the poetry he invented was easy to understand
He knew human folly like the back of his hand,
And was greatly interested in armies and fleets
When he laughed, respectable senators burst with laughter,
And when he cried the little children died in the streets.
by Maggie Smith
Life is short, though I keep this from my children.
Life is short, and I’ve shortened mine
in a thousand delicious, ill-advised ways,
a thousand deliciously ill-advised ways
I’ll keep from my children. The world is at least
fifty percent terrible, and that’s a conservative
estimate, though I keep this from my children.
For every bird there is a stone thrown at a bird.
For every loved child, a child broken, bagged,
sunk in a lake. Life is short and the world
is at least half terrible, and for every kind
stranger, there is one who would break you,
though I keep this from my children. I am trying
to sell them the world. Any decent realtor,
walking you through a real shithole, chirps on
about good bones: This place could be beautiful,
right? You could make this place beautiful.
The Death of Captain America
by James Arthur
Cap will be buried in his costume, in his half-mask,
with his bulletproof shield of blue, red, and white,
and the Invincible Iron Man is inconsolable,
now that Captain America is dead.
If the man inside the coffin was a symbol, what ideals
did he represent? Did he believe in the right to bear arms,
or in big government? Was he disfigured from battle?
Did he have a schoolboy's face?
For some, he was an authoritarian endowed with physical grace,
but this morning even the paparazzi
seem moved by the manly grief of the mighty Thor.
What will become of the Pax Americana
now that Captain America is dead?
If he stormed the beach at Normandy
was he in the shadows at the hanging of Saddam Hussein?
Cap's enemy the kingpin is here,
leaning on a diamond-encrusted cane.
Cap never drank, never smoked, was straight
as a bug-collector's pin,
but many a crooked man will walk a crooked mile
now that Captain America is dead.
The escalator's been broken since August.
The drinking fountain is full of cement.
Will the train stations descend into ruin
now that Captain America is dead?
Some people want a moral. Some, only a refrain.
Some want to go on injuring themselves
in the way they have
time and again,
but who will speak for the man inside the coffin--
his love of slapstick, his wide-open grin?
Will anyone speak of the man himself,
remembering what was best and worst in him?
Into the ground, the indestructible shield,
the myth, the one-man legion. Into the ground,
the man, the boy, and every toy or comic book
that ever pleased him. Into the ground.
Into the ground. Into the ground.
Captain America is dead.
from I Was Washing Outside in the Darkness
by Osip Mandelstam
The gate's locked,
the land's grim as its conscience.
I don't think they'll find the new weaving,
finer than truth, anywhere.
Star-salt is melting in the barrel,
icy water is turning blacker,
death's growing purer, misfortune saltier,
the earth's moving nearer to truth and to dread.
The Stalin Epigram
by Osip Mandelstam
Our lives no longer feel ground under them.
At ten paces you can’t hear our words.
But whenever there’s a snatch of talk
it turns to the Kremlin mountaineer,
the ten thick worms his fingers,
his words like measures of weight,
the huge laughing cockroaches on his top lip,
the glitter of his boot-rims.
Ringed with a scum of chicken-necked bosses
he toys with the tributes of half-men.
One whistles, another meows, a third snivels.
He pokes out his finger and he alone goes boom.
He forges decrees in a line like horseshoes,
One for the groin, one the forehead, temple, eye.
He rolls the executions on his tongue like berries.
He wishes he could hug them like big friends from home.
by Mary Oliver
You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting -
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.
Part 1 from Differences of Opinion
by Wendy Cope
He tells her that the earth is flat--
He knows the facts, and that is that.
In altercations fierce and long
She tries her best to prove him wrong.
But he has learned to argue well.
He calls her arguments unsound
And often asks her not to yell.
She cannot win. He stands his ground.
The planet goes on being round.
To a Friend Whose Work Has Come to Nothing
by W.B. Yeats (1913)
Now all the truth is out,
Be secret and take defeat
From any brazen throat,
For how can you compete,
Being honor bred, with one
Who were it proved he lies
Were neither shamed in his own
Nor in his neighbor's eyes. . . .
Villanelle for America
by Katie Bickham (2016)
The American machine is far from broken,
but grinding bones the way it was designed.
No quiet now will hush the thing we’ve woken.
We try to pray, to pledge, to scream, but choke in
terror of the ledge we teeter on. Resigned,
we whisper low, America the Broken
come crown thy good with thorns, an oaken
anthem like a cage. We have been blind
and deaf to this red thing we’ve woken.
Wake up. While you were sleeping, hate has spoken
its own name and named us too, in kind.
The American machine is well-oiled, broken
in by centuries of bigots armed and cloaked in
stars and stripes. The flag sags in the wind,
rung out and hung to dry by what we’ve woken.
I voted today, protected what I could. The token
clanged in the machine. The man standing behind
me would undo it. Send your tired, your broken
somewhere else. Tell them to run from what we’ve woken.
Do not Go Gentle into That Good Night
by Dylan Thomas
Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
Because their words had forked no lightning they
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright
Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,
And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way,
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight
Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
And you, my father, there on the sad height,
Curse, bless, me now with your fierce tears, I pray.
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
Hope is the thing with feathers
by Emily Dickinson
“Hope” is the thing with feathers -
That perches in the soul -
And sings the tune without the words -
And never stops - at all -
And sweetest - in the Gale - is heard -
And sore must be the storm -
That could abash the little Bird
That kept so many warm -
I’ve heard it in the chillest land -
And on the strangest Sea -
Yet - never - in Extremity,
It asked a crumb - of me.
Wont You Celebrate With Me
by Lucille Clifton
won't you celebrate with me
what I have shaped into
a kind of life? i had no model.
born in babylon
both nonwhite and woman
what did i see to be except myself?
i made it up
here on this bridge between
starshine and clay,
my one hand holding tight
my other hand come celebrate
with me that everyday
something has tried to kill me
by Mary Ruefle
Oh, I said, this is going to be.
And it was.
Oh, I said, this will never happen.
But it did.
And a purple fog descended upon the land.
The roots of trees curled up.
The world was divided into two countries.
Every photograph taken in the first was of people.
Every photograph taken in the second showed none.
All of the girl children were named And.
All of the boy children named Then.
from The Second Coming
by W.B. Yeats
Things fall apart the centre cannot hold
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.
7 Faisal WangitaSon Of Idi Amin
Faisal Wangita, one of 40 confirmed children of the tyrannical Ugandan dictator Idi Amin, was fathered by a man who quickly rose to military prominence and eventually the post of president by way of a coup in 1971. Soon after, Amin&rsquos reign of terror began. He dissolved the Ugandan parliament, canceled general elections, exploited the country&rsquos resources, and created a team of secret police that abused power and authority (often killing at will). Amin ultimately left a legacy of genocide in Uganda, where it is estimated that at least 300,000 people were murdered.
The saying &ldquothe apple does not fall far from the tree&rdquo could not be any more true than in the case of Faisal Wangita. After racking up a handful of criminal offenses (including fraud, possession of a dangerous weapon, theft, and threatening behavior), Faisal found himself in the center of the mob-style killing of a young man in which hammers, knives, and bats were used during a clash between rival gangs. Wangita, after being charged with the crime, was jailed for five years and ultimately deported back to his native Uganda.
How Not to Fight a Dictator
Adolf Hitler taught the world a terrible lesson, but when he was at last put away, in 1945, it was widely believed that the lesson had been learned. Chapter VII of the United Nations Charter, the most innovative part of that document, sets forth a formula for dealing with aggression and with aggressive, ruthless dictators. Briefly, the Security Council determines the existence of an act of aggression. It then prescribes nonforceful measures&mdashcutting off economic relations and means of communication, the severance of diplomatic relations, and other measures that constitute sanctions. If sanctions fail, the Council orders enforcement action with air, sea, and land forces provided by the member states, under a command designated by the Council.
Iraq&rsquos invasion of Kuwait in August 1990 provided a textbook opportunity for trying out this plan of action. With the end of the cold war, the Security Council was united as never before. Saddam Hussein&rsquos acts, as outrageous as they were brutal, threatened the security of a strategically sensitive region and the source of much of the world&rsquos oil. The Council&rsquos actions, in strong contrast to its failure to act ten years earlier when Saddam had invaded Iran, were exemplary and prompt. It unanimously denounced the aggression it imposed sanctions and it gave clear indications that nothing short of withdrawal from Kuwait would do. Since four of the Council&rsquos five permanent members&mdashBritain, France, Russia, and the United States&mdashhad continued to support Iraq throughout the 1980s in spite of its aggression against Iran, the appalling internal atrocities of Saddam&rsquos regime, and his widespread use of chemical weapons both externally and internally, this action was a striking volte-face.
Saddam Hussein refused to withdraw, and early in 1991 Operation Desert Storm, a powerful air assault followed by an equally ambitious ground operation, achieved the liberation of Kuwait and the humiliating defeat of Iraq&rsquos army, although not the destruction of its best units, the Republican Guards. The Desert Storm forces did not pursue the enemy to Baghdad or try to oust the dictator.
Instead, the Security Council propounded, in its Resolution 687, the &ldquomother of all resolutions,&rdquo the conditions for a cease-fire, imposing harsh terms on Iraq as a condition for lifting the sanctions. These included the payment of debts and compensation, the return of prisoners, and, most important, the elimination, under international inspection, of Saddam Hussein&rsquos weapons of mass destruction&mdashnuclear, chemical, and biological&mdashas well as the missiles that could carry such weapons. The Council set up a special commission (UNSCOM) to carry out the inspections that would show that Iraq neither harbored such weapons nor was building them. Both the members of the Security Council and Saddam Hussein apparently believed that this process would take just a few months&mdashthe Security Council members because they had no idea of how important such weapons were to Saddam Hussein, and Saddam because he was confident that he could hoodwink the UN inspectors. Both proved to be wrong.
Confidence in the UN&rsquos newfound ability to act effectively against aggression was greatly boosted by this sequence of events, and, up to the passage of Resolution 687 on April 4, 1991, all went reasonably well. Thereafter, a series of unanticipated problems began to emerge. Defeating a dictator in the field is one thing ousting him and installing a new regime is quite another. Like Hitler, Saddam Hussein had created a system of all-pervasive surveillance and terror which made him virtually impervious to public opinion, international pressure, or internal conspiracies.
The effectiveness, and the effects, of sanctions also turned out to be discouraging. In a tyranny sanctions can actually make the tyrant and his henchmen more powerful and richer through the profits they make from smuggling scarce commodities and manipulating their supply. That has been the case in Iraq. Meanwhile the suffering people are doubly victimized, by the dictator and by the sanctions, which in turn provide Saddam Hussein with a powerful psychological weapon in his dealings with his subjects and with the outside world. (By February 1998, the Iraqi government had allowed eight hundred foreign reporters into Baghdad, encouraging them to film hospital wards full of dying children, so that viewers around the world could witness the ghastly effects of sanctions.)
As is often said, the United Nations can only be as strong as the consensus of its members. Coalitions on particular issues tend to be eroded by politi-cal and economic differences, and even by fatigue. In the case of Iraq three of the five permanent members of the Security Council&mdashChina, France, and Russia&mdashnot to mention the Arab countries, have become increasingly unhappy with continuing sanctions, with UNSCOM, which they had originally supported, and with the United States&rsquo periodic use of cruise missiles and bombing to punish Saddam&rsquos regime for refusing to cooperate with UNSCOM. More recently there have been almost daily US actions against Iraq for its violations of the &ldquono-fly&rdquo zones. Thus the United States and Britain have become more and more isolated when they apply a forceful approach to the Iraq problem.
Meanwhile, the world&rsquos attention has been turned to another ruthless dictator, Slobodan Milosevic, and to the frustration both of diplomacy and of military action in trying to deal with him. Milosevic has refused to accept the peace agreement worked out at Rambouillet, which calls for Kosovo&rsquos autonomy, and he has continued to kill and violently persecute the Kosovars. Because of NATO&rsquos reluctance to invade a sovereign nation and the understandable unwillingness of governments to put their soldiers in harm&rsquos way for a humanitarian cause, there has so far been no prospect of NATO&rsquos taking forceful action on the ground in Kosovo. Instead, the last resort, as in Iraq, has once again been a campaign of heavy missile and air strikes, with little prospect that they can produce a satisfactory solution.
At the same time the United Nations is further than ever from having a respected, effective, and genuinely international force that could eventually take the necessary risks on behalf of the international community. The concept of such a force, incidentally, was supported only seven years ago by both former President Ronald Reagan and President Bill Clinton. Just allowing a UN force to be organized would not, of course, of itself provide political solutions but if it were backed by the US and some of the other major powers, it could eventually make effective international action a reality and set the international community on a unifying course rather than a divisive one. 1
There seem to be many, especially in Washington, who want to have it both ways&mdashno American soldiers to be put at risk, and no effective UN force. The result is that in a time when we pride ourselves on a new degree of humanitarian concern, the most tragic cases of ethnic cleansing and other abuses engender only frustration and inaction. The fact that any UN force would be under the control of the Security Council, thus giving the United States a veto over its use, apparently does not carry weight with US legislators. In fact right-wing Republicans such as Senator Helms insist that the US will pay its arrears in UN dues only on the condition that there be no UN military force. As we agonize over the desperate plight of the Kosovars and other oppressed groups, we continue to resist ideas for doing anything practical to help them in the future.
Andrew and Patrick Cockburn&rsquos Out of the Ashes: The Resurrection of Saddam Hussein and Scott Ritter&rsquos Endgame: Solving the Iraq Problem&mdashOnce and for All provide much fascinating commentary on the question of dealing with Saddam Hussein and the ups and downs of the various efforts to do so. The Cockburns&rsquo book, as is to be expected from two first-rate investigative journalists, is an enthralling account of the background and recent history of Iraq, its internal struggles, and its relations with the outside world. Ritter&rsquos story of his experiences as an inspector with UNSCOM is inevitably narrower in scope but it is highly illuminating on the nature and difficulties of this pioneering effort. Ritter, a strong-minded intelligence officer, is not shy of controversy or of making strong judgments. This adds considerably to the interest of his book, and also to the disagreements that it is certain to provoke.
Both books concentrate on the repellent nature of the Iraqi regime and of the dictator himself, but they also make clear how skillful Saddam has been in maintaining his regime&rsquos power, which has been firmly based on his tribe, from northern Iraq near Tikrit, and his family, whose members have been given huge powers and financial opportunities. For all their palace intrigues, Saddam&rsquos people often appear to be running rings around bumbling political opponents and international organizations trying to keep them under control.
Both the Cockburns and Ritter recount the violent history of Iraq since its founding by the British in 1921, and in particular the tumultuous years since Saddam Hussein took power in 1979. Made up of three groups&mdashSunni, Shi&rsquoites, and Kurds&mdashwho were, on the whole, hostile to one another, Iraq was never a happy or homogeneous state. Saddam Hussein was not the first Iraqi ruler to use aerial bombing for internal purposes. After the Arab rebellion of 1920, the British, preferring not to commit British forces on the ground, used air power against insurgent groups opposing King Faisal, whom they had installed as the reluctant sovereign of the new state. Saddam Hussein, however, set a new and horrifying standard of terror, ruthlessness, wanton cruelty, and gross veniality. Those who survive within his regime do not seem to be embarrassed by this&mdashindeed they tend to boast about it.
As crisis has succeeded crisis and as treachery has followed treachery, Saddam&rsquos control over his tribe and family has become tighter and tighter. In view of the constant purges and executions, and the prevailing terror and paranoia, it is amazing that his regime has lasted as long as it has, but in its own ghastly way it evidently works, and has been remarkably resilient. This unpleasant fact, combined with the rampant megalomania and brutish skill of the dictator himself, has so far proved baffling to all of his opponents.
The Cockburns excel in describing the grotesque side of the family business. In 1988, Saddam&rsquos eldest son, Uday, killed his father&rsquos favorite assistant, Kamel Jajo, and in 1995 shot his father&rsquos half-brother, Watban he also became one of the most corrupt figures in a deeply corrupt regime. Finally he was himself nearly killed by assassins. Summing up the events of 1996, the Cockburns write,
In the space of just over a year, Saddam had seen two of his sons-in-law killed, his half-brother shot in the leg, and his eldest son riddled with bullets. Even if he was scoring significant successes against the Americans at Arbil [the capital of Iraqi Kurdistan] and elsewhere, this was clearly not a happy family.
Saddam Hussein&rsquos reaction to this running family crisis was to summon the surviving members around Uday&rsquos hospital bed for a meeting at which he systematically blamed his relatives for many acts of violence and corruption that knowledgeable Iraqis had previously attributed to Saddam himself&mdashto whom, Saddam said, they owed everything. The tape of this meeting somehow found its way to London where it was made public. The Cockburns believe this was precisely Saddam&rsquos intention.
Why, after all these years, does this grand-guignol regime, battered by unprecedented international action as well as by self-inflicted wounds, continue to present an apparently insuperable problem to the rest of the world? Both of the books under review point out that the United States (and the United Nations) have never had a coherent strategy, an &ldquoendgame&rdquo as Ritter calls it, for dealing conclusively with Saddam Hussein&rsquos Iraq. And both books show the false assumptions, inconsistencies, misconceptions, obsessions, prejudices, and sheer willful ignorance and inattention that have so often marked Western, and especially United States, policies and actions concerning Iraq. The Cockburns give a dismaying account of these failings.
On February 15, 1991, for example, President Bush appealed to the Iraqi military and people &ldquoto take matters into their own hands and to force Saddam Hussein, the dictator, to step aside.&rdquo Not surprisingly Iraqis, especially in the predominantly Shi&rsquoite south contiguous to the Desert Storm forces&rsquo front line, thought they were being asked to join in the fight. But the US forces then in southern Iraq refused to support the uprising that resulted, apparently because they believed, wrongly, that Iran was behind it. (This episode recalls the rhetoric of Radio Free Europe urging satellite countries to rise up against Soviet occupation in the early 1950s, the ensuing 1956 Hungarian revolt, and the stony silence that greeted the insurgents&rsquo desperate pleas for Western help.)
Until the recent change, in tone at least, of the positions of some of the Iranian leaders, the US policy of &ldquodual containment&rdquo has viewed Iran and Iraq as equal pariah states, a considerable obstacle, one might think, to mustering all possible support for dealing with Saddam Hussein. There was also the fear of creating chaos in Iraq, expressed in the words of National Security Council official Richard Haass apropos of the Kurdish uprising in the north: &ldquoOur policy is to get rid of Saddam, not his regime.&rdquo In any case, by the end of March 1991, and with great brutality, Saddam Hussein had put down the southern revolt under the noses of Desert Storm forces. This was a turning point for the humiliated and defeated dictator. When we consider the subsequent fumbling attempts to foster an &ldquointernal opposition&rdquo in Iraq, the United States reaction to the 1991 Shi&rsquoite revolt seems both a cynical betrayal of people who had believed they were allies and also a tragically missed opportunity.
Ignorance about Saddam&rsquos regime and power seems to have led to a widely held view in Washington that sanctions would eventually bring it down. If anything they have reinforced it, while starving the Iraqi people. There was also an extraordinary ignorance about the extent of Saddam&rsquos programs to produce weapons of mass destruction. Neither the nuclear weapons plant at al-Atheer&mdashthe Los Alamos of Iraq&mdashnor the biological weapons facility at al-Hakam was touched by the Desert Storm bombing campaign, because nobody knew they were there. Early and unrealistic appraisals of UNSCOM&rsquos task were doubtless based on such ignorance, and also on a misreading of Saddam Hussein&rsquos obsession with weapons of mass destruction, which, quite apart from their possibilities as first-strike weapons, he almost certainly regards as the ultimate deterrent against his external enemies, and perhaps some internal ones as well. As William R. Polk put it in these pages, &ldquoSaddam knows that Israel has nuclear weapons, and that Iran is on the way to acquiring them&hellip. He believes, I am sure, that he will never be secure until he has them too.&rdquo 2
The CIA has, of course, had a part in the long-drawn-out drama, and much of the time the agency&rsquos performance has alternated between farce and tragedy. A particular problem has been the CIA&rsquos concept of the &ldquoIraqi opposition,&rdquo which consists in part of groups of expatriates, sometimes of doubtful antecedents, competing for limited support and often engaging in internecine quarrels in the process. In northern Iraq the two main Kurdish factions actually went to war with each other in August 1996, with catastrophic consequences. One, under Jalal Talabani, sought, and got, Iranian support and the other, under Massoud Barzani, appealed to Saddam Hussein. Moving north, the Iraqi forces rounded up the Iraqi opposition groups who were concentrated in Iraqi Kurdistan, put the CIA team with them to ignominious flight, and occupied the Kurdish capital, Arbil. Saddam Hussein then withdrew his army units, leaving behind a large network of security agents&mdashall in all a big success for the Iraqi dictator. Some 6,500 Iraqis and Kurds who escaped were flown by Washington to Guam, and eventually to the United States. (Six of them are still detained by the Immigration and Naturalization Service in a prison in the Mojave Desert, on poorly substantiated suspicions of being Iraqi agents.)
An attempted coup against Saddam, organized in 1996 from Amman in cooperation with one of the two principal Iraqi opposition groups, Iyad Alawi&rsquos Iraqi National Accord (INA), provides a compendium of virtually everything that can possibly go wrong in such an enterprise. As the Cockburns describe it, far too many people and groups were involved from the outset, and with US elections approaching some believed they were under pressure from the Clinton administration for an early &ldquomove&rdquo against Saddam Hussein. Alawi, obsessed with publicity, held a press conference to announce the opening of his headquarters in Amman his highly suggestive rhetoric can only have alerted Iraqi intelligence, and he continued to court public attention.
The INA believed that, with the help of a retired Iraqi general living in Amman, it would be able to get cooperation in a coup from Iraqi officers actually serving in the Republican Guard and the Iraqi security establishment. The general&rsquos three sons, active officers in the Republican Guard, were to provide the core of the revolt. This gave the operation special promise. Messages to Baghdad from Amman had to be entrusted to one of the professional drivers approved by Iraqi intelligence, so the CIA provided the INA with an advanced satellite system for communication with the plotters in Baghdad. Incredibly, one of the approved drivers was entrusted with carrying the equipment to Baghdad he was intercepted and arrested by the Iraqis. In contrast to the garrulous plotters in Amman, Iraqi intelligence kept quiet about their capture of the satellite equipment. Instead, putting it to good use, they watched, waited, and listened.
When Ahmad Chalabi of the rival Iraqi National Congress (INC) learned from a source inside Iraq of the capture and use of the satellite equipment, he went to Washington to warn the CIA. The agency, however, believing that he was motivated by jealousy of the rival opposition group, rejected his warnings. The doomed operation went on. In June 1996, in The Washington Post, Alawi actually spoke of a forthcoming &ldquosecret&rdquo operation. In late June in Baghdad the arrests began&mdash120 officers of the Republican Guard and General Security Service in the first sweep. The Cockburns estimate that in all some eight hundred people were purged, including many senior officers. Then, for the first time, Iraqi intelligence broke its silence. According to the Cockburns, a final message came through the Amman satellite terminal from the Iraqi intelligence agency, the Mukhabarat, to the CIA. &ldquoWe have arrested all your people,&rdquo it reportedly said. &ldquoYou might as well pack up and go home.&rdquo
The Cockburns describe a little-known group&mdashal-Naddah, &ldquothe Awakening&rdquo&mdashwhose operating procedures differed in every way from those of the CIA and the Iraqi opposition. This was&mdashperhaps still is&mdasha group of dedicated young idealists and professionals strongly opposed to Saddam&rsquos dictatorship and the damage it was doing to Iraq. They formed an underground organization of hermetically sealed cells designed to limit the damage that could result from arrests and torture of its members. Their major achievement was the nearly successful assassination, in December 1996, of Saddam&rsquos son Uday, an effort which destroyed the aura of invincibility surrounding Saddam&rsquos immediate family and probably did more harm to the regime than the INC and the INA combined.
&ldquoThe Special Commission is a temporary measure,&rdquo Saddam Hussein told his closest colleagues in 1991. &ldquoWe will fool them and we will bribe them and the matter will be over in a few months.&rdquo The Cockburns heard about this statement from a high-level defector. In making so grave a miscalculation, the dictator was reckoning without at least two important factors&mdashRolf Ekeus, the first executive chairman of UNSCOM, and two or three top-level Iraqi defectors.
In 1991 Rolf Ekeus was the Swedish representative at the United Nations Conference on Disarmament in Geneva, a group devoted, among other things, to negotiating a worldwide ban on chemical weapons. He was a skilled Swedish diplomat whose restraint and quiet manner concealed a highly principled approach and a tough and determined character. When Iraqi warplanes dropped nerve gas and mustard gas on the Kurdish inhabitants of Halabja in northern Iraq in 1988, all governments, including Sweden, had remained shamefully silent. Ekeus informed his superiors in Stockholm that, whatever Swedish policy might be, he was going to denounce this outrage in an impending disarmament conference. According to the Cockburns, he was the only official representative of any government in the world except Iran to denounce the use of chemical weapons at Halabja. Neither Saddam Hussein nor the United States apparently realized that, in Ekeus, UNSCOM had an extraordinarily determined, independent, and skillful leader.
From the beginning Ekeus&rsquos task was to plod forward through a repetitive sequence of Iraqi denials, concealments, partial disclosures, and further discoveries by UNSCOM, sometimes of physical evidence of weapons programs and sometimes of telltale documentation, leading to further partial Iraqi admissions of missile research, or biological or chemical warfare programs. Later on, this pattern would be punctuated by Iraqi threats of non-cooperation, countered by threats, and sometimes the reality, of United States air strikes. Occasionally the inspectors would make an unexpected breakthrough, as with the discovery, through satellite photographs, of calutrons, the huge electromagnetic isotope separators being used in Iraq&rsquos nuclear weapons program. When the Iraqis tried to remove the vehicles carrying the calutrons, UNSCOM inspectors filmed the unmistakable shapes as they were being driven away.
Iraqi defectors made a decisive contribution to UNSCOM&rsquos work. Wafiq al-Samarrai, the former chief of military intelligence, revealed the use of VX gas in warheads, and much about the production of anthrax and other biological warfare agents. Hussein Kamal, Saddam&rsquos son-in-law, who briefly defected to Amman, then returned and was executed, had actually been in charge both of the weapons of mass destruction program and of the concealment system. The Iraqi authorities, whose excuses were often fanciful and sometimes fantastic, blamed tactics used to deceive UNSCOM squarely on the defector Hussein Kamal. In making his way through this hall of mirrors, Ekeus kept his temper and his sense of direction. He rightly commanded the respect of his inspectors and of almost everyone else as well. Among the people described in the two books under review, Ekeus comes closest to being a hero.
Scott Ritter, a former officer in the US Marines, spent seven years with UNSCOM, the last two as head of the Concealment Investigations Unit. He gives an original and vivid account of the work of the inspectors in all its drama and frustration. Ritter is the kind of single-minded and conscientious intelligence official who is not always appreciated by, or appreciative of, the higher command, with its wide and diverse problems. Indeed he is scornful of the crosscurrents, the compromises, and the pressures that often go into making high policy. He is impatient with the very idea that there are often hard truths which those higher up do not wish to hear. (I sympathize, having tried, unsuccessfully, in 1944, as an airborne forces intelligence officer, to alert the Allied command to the appalling risks of the forthcoming Market Garden operation in Holland.) During the Gulf War, while still working for US military intelligence, Ritter reported that the Desert Storm coalition&rsquos air and ground effort had not destroyed a single Scud missile launcher. This news, while accurate, was not welcomed by the US military commanders. As the Cockburns comment, &ldquoSuch independent thinking was not likely to enhance his career prospects.&rdquo
One subject about which Ritter&rsquos book is uncharacteristically restrained is the perennial Iraqi accusation that UNSCOM was just a tool of United States intelligence, and the truth about the CIA&rsquos relationship to the commission. Although there have been press reports about the CIA&rsquos using UNSCOM for getting information about the Iraqi regime&mdashinformation that went far beyond the concerns of arms control&mdashthere is very little in Ritter&rsquos book about this crucial subject. He does refer to a CIA team, under a man he calls &ldquoMoe Dobbs,&rdquo which had been made available by the US to UNSCOM to act as inspectors. Dobbs and his people unaccountably left Iraq for good after a prolonged &ldquostandoff,&rdquo or blocking, by the Iraqis of UNSCOM&rsquos attempt, in June 1996, to inspect Special Republican Guard facilities believed to conceal material and documents related to weapons of mass destruction. Chairman Ekeus was concerned that if this resistance to UNSCOM inspection were to be interpreted as a &ldquomaterial breach&rdquo of the Security Council&rsquos resolutions, the result would be immediate United States air strikes. Therefore, to save the inspection process, he negotiated a compromise on the inspection of sensitive sites with the Iraqi foreign minister, Tariq Aziz, on June 21. This action was extremely unpopular with the United States, which seemed, at least, to prefer confrontation. &ldquoBut there would be no war,&rdquo Ritter writes, &ldquoand the inspections would continue.&rdquo
Two weeks later an Iraqi official assigned to accompany Ritter asked him &ldquowhy you are allowing yourself to be used by the CIA and Mossad for their purposes.&rdquo He told Ritter of the thwarted coup in June. The attempted UNSCOM inspection that resulted in a standoff had been timed, he said, to create a crisis that would justify the United States in launching cruise missiles in support of the coup attempt. Ritter thought about &ldquoMoe Dobbs,&rdquo and comments ruefully, &ldquo&hellipI began to understand the Iraqi point of view.&rdquo
There seems to be more to the story than that, and most of it to Ritter&rsquos credit. In a recent article in The New Yorker, 3 Seymour M. Hersh gives a detailed account of both the CIA&rsquos efforts to use UNSCOM and its antagonism to Ritter. In the spring of 1998 UNSCOM&rsquos interception system began to tap into Saddam Hussein&rsquos most closely protected communications and to expose Iraq&rsquos weapon concealment program. The CIA, however, had a different agenda and evidently felt that UNSCOM, although it had initiated the intercepts, was in the way. The agency wanted to take over the processing of UNSCOM&rsquos intercept intelligence. According to Hersh, the CIA persuaded Richard Butler, Ekeus&rsquos successor, to cooperate and took over control of the intercepts in April 1998. (Butler disputes this account.)
Ritter and his colleagues felt threatened and betrayed by this move. (In his book, Ritter only says that the &ldquoenhanced intelligence system so painstakingly put together began to be dismantled piece by piece at the behest of my own country.&rdquo) Apart from the abuse of a bona fide international arrangement, the CIA&rsquos intrusion made UNSCOM inspectors vulnerable to prosecution by Iraq on espionage charges. Far from being used for arms control, the intercepts were now being used by the US to concentrate on Saddam Hussein personally and on ways to get at him&mdashnot his missiles and warheads. Ritter apparently urged Butler to close the entire intercept operation down, but to no avail.
This was only the latest incident in a long history of CIA resentment of what the agency regarded as UNSCOM&rsquos intrusion on its rightful turf. Ritter had tangled with the CIA on several occasions in the past. Hersh describes, for example, how Ritter had heard through UNSCOM&rsquos sources in Israel that two shipments of Russian gyroscopes had reached Iraq through Jordan. Ritter wanted to arrange with the Jordanians to put beacons on some of the gyroscopes still in Amman so that they could be traced once they were in Iraq. The CIA then claimed that the gyroscopes should be under the control of the US and told the Jordanians that Ritter was unreliable.
The CIA even sent CIA teams into Iraq disguised as UNSCOM inspectors, who used UNSCOM equipment and office space. When Ritter learned of this scheme he formally notified Ekeus&rsquos American deputy, Charles Duelfer, but not Ekeus himself. Hersh quotes Ritter as saying &ldquoI was walking the line between being a good American, which I place above all else, and doing my UNSCOM duties with full integrity.&rdquo Ritter acknowledges that this was not his finest moment. He realized that the CIA&rsquos use of UNSCOM, if revealed, would discredit not only the commission itself, but also the entire process of international arms inspection and control.
The CIA has certainly contributed much to the demise of UNSCOM, to the discrediting of the United Nations, and to the current impasse in Iraq, which, Hersh concludes, &ldquowith no inspectors on the scene and American bombs falling daily in the no-fly zones, is a devastating setback for arms control&hellip.&rdquo It is hard to see how such grave damage can easily be undone. Perhaps one of the public apologies that are now in fashion, along with a clear declaration of a change in United States policy, might be a start. The strong possibility that all sorts of warlike material is now flowing into Iraq from Russia only adds to the ominous picture.
Ritter&rsquos position first became publicly controversial during the chairmanship of Ekeus&rsquos successor, Richard Butler, who took over in July 1997. After six years, there were growing doubts about UNSCOM&rsquos mission. It had been widely assumed by UN members that when UNSCOM had satisfactorily completed its task, this would be the signal for lifting sanctions but support for sanctions was eroding fast. Even the Pope was denouncing them. Ritter specialized in surprise inspections of particularly sensitive targets such as presidential buildings and ministries he would then check the results against what was known of the Iraqi concealment program. UNSCOM had had some successes with this technique in previous years, but by 1997 the overall political situation surrounding UNSCOM was changing.
In March 1997, after Clinton&rsquos second inauguration, Secretary of State Madeleine Albright said that the United States did not agree that sanctions would be lifted even if Iraq fulfilled its obligations concerning the disposal of weapons of mass destruction. For Saddam Hussein this meant that there was little to gain from cooperating in completing the work of UNSCOM. (In much the same way, the demand for &ldquounconditional surrender&rdquo in 1943 deprived the Nazis of any motivation for not fighting on to the end.) The only means of punishing Iraq&rsquos refusals to allow UNSCOM inspections was through US and British air strikes, which had less and less support in the Security Council and throughout the world. For Saddam Hussein therefore, a promising new long-term strategy could be to provoke a crisis with UNSCOM from time to time, risking periodic air strikes. He would thus promote the increasing isolation of the United States on the Iraqi question, as well as the demise of UNSCOM and the growing anti-sanction mood in many nations. If this strategy succeeded, Saddam Hussein would be able to keep whatever remained of his weapons of mass destruction program, and perhaps see the end of sanctions as well.
This was the background to Ritter&rsquos efforts as director of concealment investigations and his eventual resignation in August 1998, which he describes in detail in the prologue to his book. By 1998 there were basically two people who could provoke a confrontation. One was Saddam Hussein with his on-again off-again cooperation with UNSCOM. The other was Ritter with his policy of surprise inspections of &ldquosensitive&rdquo sites.
Ritter denounces the US administration, and especially Madeleine Albright, for undercutting his aggressive inspection policy and putting pressure on Richard Butler&mdashwho strongly denies his charges&mdashto rein him in. His only hero in the US administration is UN ambassador Bill Richardson, who apparently supported Ritter&rsquos damn-the-torpedoes approach. In his resignation statement Ritter said, &ldquoThe illusion of arms control is more dangerous than no arms control at all,&rdquo and he would not be a party to such an illusion. For an arms control inspector this may well be a sound and courageous position, but it does not take into account the complexities of the relationship between the US and Saddam in 1998.
Other considerations certainly influenced the apparently inconsistent US policy of sometimes restraining UNSCOM and sometimes launching air strikes. The last of these, Desert Fox in December 1998, was justified by the US as a response to Iraq&rsquos refusal of access by UNSCOM to eight &ldquopresidential sites.&rdquo It seems finally to have put an end to the practical working of UNSCOM, with both sides declaring victory.
If Saddam Hussein&rsquos repeated provocations of a crisis were part of a new long-term policy of eroding international support of the United States, it was in the US interest not to fall in with it. (The Cockburns report that on August 5, 1998, when Saddam Hussein announced once again that Iraq was ending all cooperation with UNSCOM, Tariq Aziz was heard on an intercept angrily complaining to Russian Foreign Minister Primakov that &ldquothe Americans are not reacting&rdquo to the Iraqi move.) Thus, the perspective of a courageous international inspector and the policy of the government of a world power with multiple concerns and responsibilities inevitably came into conflict.
Both the Cockburns and Ritter are dismissive of the efforts of Kofi Annan, the secretary-general of the United Nations, and particularly of his visit to Baghdad in February 1998 to arrange for the resumption of UNSCOM inspections and avoid an American air strike. (I must here declare an interest, having worked closely with five of Annan&rsquos predecessors, all of whom at one time or another became scapegoats when their efforts to achieve peaceful solutions proved to be only temporarily effective.) Ritter even goes so far as to compare Annan with Neville Chamberlain and calls his chapter on the subject &ldquoBlack Umbrella Days.&rdquo The banality and cheapness of this comparison do no credit either to Ritter&rsquos knowledge of history or his appreciation of the enormous complexity of the Iraqi problem. It contrasts oddly with Ritter&rsquos comment, quoted above, on a similar negotiation by Ekeus in 1996.
Ritter&rsquos judgmental style is very much in evidence in his chapter on Kofi Annan, and it needs challenging. He says, for example, that he had a copy of &ldquoa confidential letter from Tariq Aziz to Kofi Annan, dated the same day as the Memorandum of Understanding, that constituted a secret protocol&rdquo to the effect that &ldquothe inspections of presidential sites would be a one-time event, after which the secretary general would seek to get the economic sanctions lifted.&rdquo This sounds like a dramatic disclosure but it is not. The truth is that after signing the memorandum, Tariq Aziz wrote a letter asking for further concessions. Annan gave copies of this letter to UNSCOM Chairman Butler and a few key governments. He then sent an answer rejecting Tariq Aziz&rsquos requests. Not exactly a &ldquosecret protocol.&rdquo This kind of distortion undermines an author&rsquos credibility.
Annan was trying to find a way to preserve UNSCOM and also to avoid a large-scale air strike which might well put an end to it altogether. In doing this he was very well aware that he would be a useful scapegoat when things went wrong again and when no one, in the United States or elsewhere, could come up with an effective way of dealing with Saddam Hussein. Incidentally Annan&rsquos modest suggestion in 1998 that perhaps it was time to reevaluate the approaches to the Iraqi problem that had been taken so far&mdashmuch criticized at the time&mdashis exactly what Ritter suggests in his final chapter.
Indeed, what is to be done about Saddam Hussein? Ritter ends on a surprisingly doveish note. UNSCOM is dead. There is no sustainable basis for another war against Iraq, so, in his view, &ldquodiplomatic engagement&rdquo seems the best option. He advocates the appointment of a special United States envoy who would engage in direct diplomacy with Saddam Hussein&rsquos Iraq. After all the huffing and puffing about Kofi Annan&rsquos having given new legitimacy to Saddam Hussein by his visit to Baghdad in 1998, this is a little surprising. Ritter suggests that Bill Richardson, Richard Holbrooke, or George Mitchell take on this Herculean task. (They will all, I am sure, be duly grateful.)
The Cockburns insist that &ldquothe biggest mistake of all was to make the Iraqi people pay the price of besieging Saddam.&rdquo They propose no plausible new plan, but urge the importance of finding ways of limiting Saddam Hussein&rsquos ability to do harm, as UNSCOM did in its heyday. They believe that Saddam&rsquos downfall will eventually come at the hands of his own people, without outside intervention. What, if anything, the so-called international community should do in the meantime, especially with regard to the very real problem of weapons of mass destruction, they do not say.
Certainly there is no easy or obvious answer to the Iraqi problem, but it would also be a grave mistake to ignore a regime that is still so potentially dangerous. After reading the revealing and sometimes disturbing books by the Cockburns and Ritter, I found myself turning once again to the quiet voice of William R. Polk in his essay in these pages two months ago. After outlining various heroic, and impractical or unwise, options, Polk proposed a pragmatic course based on influencing Saddam Hussein&rsquos conduct in ways that we can sustain, and on finding ways to make the motives that drive Saddam work to our advantage. These goals entail diplomatic efforts to stabilize the situation in the Gulf, especially with regard to Iran, Saddam&rsquos most dreaded enemy to limit arms shipments and especially the proliferation of nuclear weapons and to embark on a long-term initiative to create a Middle Eastern zone free of weapons of mass destruction.
Another long-term aim should be to do what we can to encourage a democratic, open society in Iraq and, as Polk puts it, to try to &ldquoameliorate the condition of the Iraqi people and to get them back on the road to economic development.&rdquo These are immensely difficult objectives that will require hard work, tact, skill, patience, and a willingness to compromise on all sides for many years to come. There is no certainty of success.
Not a very impressive or eye-catching policy, perhaps. But with the international heroic age and the New World Order of the early 1990s now only a distant, and rather hollow, memory, what better course is there?
From Dictatorship to Democracy
From Dictatorship to Democracy: A Conceptual Framework for Liberation by Gene Sharp is a fascinating working document on methods of non-violent disruption of dictatorial regimes. I read this in one day, and thoroughly enjoyed it. Sharp first analyzes some of the fallacies of both violent confrontation of a regime, and of negotiating with it. Violence is often damaging to a democratic movement because it often disrupts the lives of civilians and potentially alienates support for democratic forces From Dictatorship to Democracy: A Conceptual Framework for Liberation by Gene Sharp is a fascinating working document on methods of non-violent disruption of dictatorial regimes. I read this in one day, and thoroughly enjoyed it. Sharp first analyzes some of the fallacies of both violent confrontation of a regime, and of negotiating with it. Violence is often damaging to a democratic movement because it often disrupts the lives of civilians and potentially alienates support for democratic forces. Violence is also often monopolized by the ruling regime, and therefore it is difficult and unlikely that rebel forces can amass enough material, experience and tactical advantage to take on the regime in anything but a limited geographic region. Negotiations are often an issue as well it is common for tyrants to continue holding power by using negotiations as a tactic to stall, convince and maintain some of there executive power. Negotiations also weaken the democratic movement significantly by watering down the overall objective of removing the old dictatorial regime and instituting democratic reform.
Sharp advocates for non-violent disruption as the key way to take down a dictatorship. He offers practical advice on this method. First, he implores democratic forces to adopt a grand strategy in order to focus the movement and develop relevant strategies, tactics and methods for ousting a dictatorial regime. This grand strategy should be large in scope, but focused enough to achieve the groups main political aims. It should also be inclusive enough to include larger proportions of society, to encourage greater acts of civil disobedience among the public, to delegitimize the dictatorial regimes authority, and to encourage defections to the democratic cause. He outlines key concepts to take hold of when planning said strategy both by analyzing ones own plans and resources, and identifying weaknesses and advantages both within the democratic movement and the dictatorial regime.
Sharp lists a number of weaknesses dictatorships possess. Although they may seem invincible due to their monopolization of violence, dictatorships are actually surprisingly reliant on support or at least inactivity from the general public. A dictator can only take power if their cause and authority seems legitimate. They require the cooperation of large segments of society - whether it be a functioning bureaucracy or a loyal police and military force. This support can be eroded by delegitimizing the dictators aura of power, and by encouraging those too afraid or apathetic to speak out into action. This is the strength of a properly run democratic movement it seeks to include a wider segment of society in direct political participation, and thus needs to mobilize this population in order to undermine an autocratic authority.
Sharp also warns against the dangers a fledgling democracy will face sliding back into tyranny is common. The danger of a coup is particularly prevalent in a new democracy that has not yet gained the support of the civil bureaucracy, and the armed forces. New democracies also suffer from an inability to enact reform. Sometimes reforms are too expensive or politically disruptive to implement right away, but this apathy may also damage the legitimacy of the democratic system as a whole and encourage a backslide by the public. These dangers can be overcome through the proper implementation of the groups grand strategy, support and legitimization from foreign actors (ie. the UN etc.) and inclusiveness in the political process.
The end of the book consists of an index of methods that can be used as forms of non-violent struggle. Everything from the traditional forms of striking, to boycotting, rent refusal, economic actions and more clandestine noncooperation methods are listed.
All in all, this was a very interesting read, and one that I thoroughly enjoyed. Sharp has written a concise and useful book on methods and best practice for running a democratic revolution through non-violent means. It is certainly an innovative book, and brings to mind Machiavelli's The Prince in its practicality and usefulness as a manual. Although the ideas in this book are certainly idealistic - after all, most revolutions will not run smoothly even with the complete implementation of the practices in this book. Even so, this book offers interesting discourse on regime change and a practical way to struggle against autocratic forces of government. This was a very interesting read, and certainly one I could recommend to those interested in political movements and political theory. . more
Remembering the biggest mass murder in the history of the world
Chinese peasants suffering from the effects of the Great Leap Forward.
Who was the biggest mass murderer in the history of the world? Most people probably assume that the answer is Adolf Hitler, architect of the Holocaust. Others might guess Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin, who may indeed have managed to kill even more innocent people than Hitler did, many of them as part of a terror famine that likely took more lives than the Holocaust. But both Hitler and Stalin were outdone by Mao Zedong. From 1958 to 1962, his Great Leap Forward policy led to the deaths of up to 45 million people – easily making it the biggest episode of mass murder ever recorded.
Historian Frank Dikötter, author of the important book Mao’s Great Famine recently published an article in History Today, summarizing what happened:
The basic facts of the Great Leap Forward have long been known to scholars. Dikötter’s work is noteworthy for demonstrating that the number of victims may have been even greater than previously thought, and that the mass murder was more clearly intentional on Mao’s part, and included large numbers of victims who were executed or tortured, as opposed to “merely” starved to death. Even the previously standard estimates of 30 million or more, would still make this the greatest mass murder in history.
While the horrors of the Great Leap Forward are well known to experts on communism and Chinese history, they are rarely remembered by ordinary people outside China, and have had only a modest cultural impact. When Westerners think of the great evils of world history, they rarely think of this one. In contrast to the numerous books, movies, museums, and and remembrance days dedicated to the Holocaust, we make little effort to recall the Great Leap Forward, or to make sure that society has learned its lessons. When we vow “never again,” we don’t often recall that it should apply to this type of atrocity, as well as those motivated by racism or anti-semitism.
The fact that Mao’s atrocities resulted in many more deaths than those of Hitler does not necessarily mean he was the more evil of the two. The greater death toll is partly the result of the fact that Mao ruled over a much larger population for a much longer time. I lost several relatives in the Holocaust myself, and have no wish to diminish its significance. But the vast scale of Chinese communist atrocities puts them in the same general ballpark. At the very least, they deserve far more recognition than they currently receive.
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I. Why We so Rarely Look Back on the Great Leap Forward
What accounts for this neglect? One possible answer is that most of the victims were Chinese peasants – people who are culturally and socially distant from the Western intellectuals and media figures who have the greatest influence over our historical consciousness and popular culture. As a general rule, it is easier to empathize with victims who seem similar to ourselves.
But an even bigger factor in our relative neglect of the Great Leap Forward is that it is part of the general tendency to downplay crimes committed by communist regimes, as opposed to right-wing authoritarians. Unlike in the days of Mao, today very few western intellectuals actually sympathize with communism. But many are reluctant to fully accept what a great evil it was, fearful – perhaps – that other left-wing causes might be tainted by association.
In China, the regime has in recent years admitted that Mao made “mistakes” and allowed some degree of open discussion about this history. But the government is unwilling to admit that the mass murder was intentional and continues to occasionally suppress and persecute dissidents who point out the truth.
This reluctance is an obvious result of the fact that the Communist Party still rules China. Although they have repudiated many of Mao’s specific policies, the regime still derives much of its legitimacy from his legacy. I experienced China’s official ambivalence on this subject first-hand, when I gave a talk about the issue while teaching a course as a visiting professor at a Chinese university in 2014.
II. Why it Matters.
For both Chinese and westerners, failure to acknowledge the true nature of the Great Leap Forward carries serious costs. Some survivors of the Great Leap Forward are still alive today. They deserve far greater recognition of the horrible injustice they suffered. They also deserve compensation for their losses, and the infliction of appropriate punishment on the remaining perpetrators.
In addition, our continuing historical blind spot about the crimes of Mao and other communist rulers, leads us to underestimate the horrors of such policies, and makes it more likely that they might be revived in the future. The horrendous history of China, the USSR, and their imitators, should have permanently discredited socialism as completely as fascism was discredited by the Nazis. But it has not – so far – fully done so.
Just recently, the socialist government of Venezuela imposed forced labor on much of its population. Yet most of the media coverage of this injustice fails to note the connection to socialism, or that the policy has parallels in the history of the Soviet Union, China, Cuba, and other similar regimes. One analysis even claims that the real problem is not so much “socialism qua socialism,” but rather Venezuela’s “particular brand of socialism, which fuses bad economic ideas with a distinctive brand of strongman bullying,” and is prone to authoritarianism and “mismanagement.” The author simply ignores the fact that “strongman bullying” and “mismanagement” are typical of socialist states around the world. The Scandinavian nations – sometimes cited as examples of successful socialism- are not actually socialist at all, because they do not feature government ownership of the means of production, and in many ways have freer markets than most other western nations.
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Venezuela’s tragic situation would not surprise anyone familiar with the history of the Great Leap Forward. We would do well to finally give history’s largest episode of mass murder the attention it deserves.
Historically, does America have a better ally than Israel?
Prodded by Iran, Hamas has attacked Israel, and we’re told to blame both sides: Those setting the fires and the fire brigades putting them out. Then we’re lectured that America has no business backing Jerusalem at all, as if the U.S. has only ever allied with saintly realms like Narnia.
This is what passes for informed thought on cable news and Twitter. My colleague at “The Rush Limbaugh Show,” Brett Winterble of WBT-AM&FM/Charlotte, put it this way: “In an era that preaches, ‘Tolerance, acceptance, everything is good,’ you can say anything you want about Israel, and you will be lauded.”
But ignorant, hateful statements should never be lauded. Israel is as moral as any ally we’ve ever had. If they disappeared from their ancestral homeland tomorrow morning, Hamas would be looking for a way to drop its missiles on your neighborhood by nightfall.
Anti-Semites, of course, hide inside that old rhetorical burqa, “I’m against Israel not the Jewish people,” so just how does Israel stack up to those the United States has made common cause with against other mortal threats like Iran?
France was our nation’s first ally, with George Washington welcoming King Louis XVI’s help overthrowing the British, despite his nasty habit of taking off people’s heads and refusing to give them back.
In World War I, President Woodrow Wilson made common cause with the Russian empire against Germany, and then begged the blood-soaked Bolsheviks to stay on our side after they murdered the czar, his family and countless others.
FDR cuddled up to Joseph Stalin (who had only recently been Hitler’s BFF), rebranding him “Uncle Joe.” After the war, Harry Truman embraced Adolf’s Axis allies in Japan, using them as an Asian bulwark to the USSR, and imagining he’d get a leg up on bioweapons from Tojo’s infamous Unit 731.
To this day, Tokyo remains a key ally. And to this day, they refuse to admit the industrialized rape of the so-called comfort women. Likewise, the Turks, a NATO ally, deny the genocide that slaughtered a million Greeks, orphaning my grandparents. Only recently did Joe Biden call Ankara out on their Armenian genocide, the first president to mention it since Ronald Reagan.
JFK jumped in bed with the Republic of Vietnam. Author Marcelino Truong, whose father worked for the South as a diplomat, admitted to me that the regime tilted towards fascism. “But war makes one fascist. Their eyes, however, looked West, towards building a democracy.”
Former President Jimmy Carter had a bromance with the shah of Iran. When a new dictator replaced the monarch in Tehran, Mr. Carter armed Saddam Hussein to get even, launching the eight-year Iran-Iraq War.
The U.S. long held its nose on South African apartheid, until the communist bloc disintegrated. Reagan agonized over choices like keeping the junta in Buenos Aires on our side against communism, while supporting Margaret Thatcher’s attempts to liberate the Falkland Islands, as covered in Ricky D. Phillips’ book, “The First Casualty: The Untold Story of the Falklands War.”
America armed the mujahadeen in Afghanistan, many of whom later joined up with Osama bin Laden. Which brings us to the Saudis, who — for the price of steep donations to presidential libraries — buy a pass on all manner of evil, while their military stocks up from the Arsenal of Democracy.
Even now, Riyadh’s allies in Congress are fighting to keep sealed documents on their suspected links to the 9/11 attacks. They want the Kingdom as a check on against Iran, whose supreme dictator has been leading chants of, “Death to America!” for 50 years.
Israel stands tall when compared to this partial list of unsavory U.S. allies, with a commitment to liberty matched only by the United Kingdom. Like Ross, Rachel and the gang on “Friends,” we have had disagreements, even fights. Jonathan Pollard spied on our nuclear program. The IDF napalmed the USS Liberty during the Six Day War in 1967, killing nine Navy sailors.
But the Jewish state hasn’t built their entire foreign policy around slaughtering innocents. Iran, on the other hand, is one of the greatest threats we face. Who would you rather hang out with at Central Perk, Bibi Netanyahu or the Ayatollah Khamenei?
Anti-Semites cheer every time someone professes neutrality between Hamas and Israel, but the only option for America is to stand with Jerusalem, not the arsonists who want to watch the Middle East burn, making life miserable for Arab, Persian and Jew alike.
As Winston Churchill said in 1926, the choice between terrorist and target is simple: “I decline utterly to be impartial between the fire brigade and the fire.”
• Dean Karayanis is content producer for “The Rush Limbaugh Show” and host of “History Author Show” on iHeartRadio.