This month's issue is devoted to Bad History in other countries -- Britain and China -- as well as the ongoing distortions by the Bush Administration. In some ways, the Bushites seem to be somewhat clumsy and inexperienced at this sort of thing, but then, they have a few more years to hone their skills.
Here in the USA:
Condi Rice continues to mangle or suppress accounts of the Bush Administration's handling of the Al Qaeda threat. Scott Shane's piece in the February 12 New York Times emphasized Rice's contention that a new "Al Qaeda plan" was never submitted to the new administration. In hindsight, we can see that Richard Clarke's sketchy ideas for countering Al Qaeda -- support for the Northern Alliance, destruction of terrorist training camps, covert operations, and scouting by Predator drones -- hardly compares with the masterful strategy that was actually employed after 9/11 -- support for the Northern Alliance, destruction of terrorist training camps, covert operations, and scouting by Predator drones.
Subscribers can get (buy) the whole article at www.nyt.com , and the text also appeared in Truthout.org, www.truthout.org/docs_2005/021205A.shtml .
The United Kingdom:
In Britain, that other Eden, historians have both the advantage and the disadvantage of living right next to a complex, culturally vibrant Continent. How much must one know about doings in France, say, if one specializes in 17th-century social history? A whole lot? Enough to get by? Or what? Our honored guest, Sharon Howard, takes another Briton to task for minimal Continental awareness on the Early Modern Web at http://www.earlymodernweb.org.uk/emn/index.php/archives/2005/03/huh-2/ .
And remember, politically-motivated cross-dressing is NOT just something that Englishmen do. American rebels, true to form, changed the pattern when they rose up against their British cousins. Instead of donning skirts and bonnets, they wore feathers and war-paint. It was probably an effective form of disguise, even if the real Native Americans found it offensive.
Welcome to the Major Leagues! Here in the People's Republic, truth serves the State, or is quietly eliminated. Once again, the NYT is my source (yeah, I know, a typical latte-sucking East Coast liberal). It seems that the border war between China and Vietnam, which dragged on from 1979 to the late 1980's, is not a pleasant topic to remember. So the memories are neglected. Library materials that covered it have been mysteriously removed. No monuments been raised for the veterans, except for tombstones.
Some theorize that the war was begun to punish Vietnam for overthrowing Pol Pot, whose Khmer Rouge movement was allied with China. At any rate, the Vietnamese gave a good account of themselves (again), and the Chinese offensive soon bogged down.
Howard French's article can be found (as of March 13, 2005) at the International Herald Tribune site, http://www.iht.com/articles/2005/03/01/news/vietnam.html .
My esteemed colleague, John McKay, brought up a great Bad History topic in a recent Archy posting. What are we to make of the "ancient animosities" argument? In the former Yugoslavia, the local-apparatchik line that Serbs have always oppressed Croats, and vice versa, became a self-fulfilling prophecy. What about American news coverage, or even historical accounts, of the Middle East? They say that Jews and Arabs have hated each other for centuries -- except that they haven't. Islam was far more hospitable to the Jews than was Christian Europe. Hostilities over Jewish resettlement in Palestine go back to the mid-20th century, but this hardly adds up to the "centuries of hatred" that we often hear about. Anyone out there for pointing out other Bad History of this type? If allowed to flourish unchecked, it fosters either racism (these people are irrational, and will never stop fighting among themselves), or hopeless determinism (humans are irrational, and will never stop fighting among themselves). I oppose racism, and try to avoid hopeless determinism.
But sometimes I wonder.