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Friday, December 23, 2011

Hitchens on Kissinger

Not only is this post dedicated to Christopher Hitchens, it is dedicated to Deb, a good friend whose shared respect and admiration for his writings prompted me to endeavor to read his long essays, arguably some of his most important works.  It would be impossible to thank him enough for these invaluable works; the best we can do is honor him by reading them.  They will at once open your eyes, make you question why what he reveals is not much more well known and piss you off to no end.  He would appreciate the latter very much.
Before we get to that though, I would like to share the BBC tribute to Hitch that aired shortly after his passing.

I'm not sure whether I'm going to do one of these each time I read one of his long exposes -- that is my intent -- but I'll share a link to a collection of the best of them (courtesy of The Daily Beast) so that you'll have them in case I fail to follow through.
This first installment is regarding the essay(s) Hitch wrote indicting Henry Kissinger as a war criminal for his hand in sabotaging the 1968 Paris Treaty talks and, therefore, extending the Viet Nam War, leading to the unnecessary deaths of thousands of U.S. troops and hundreds of thousands of human beings in total.  (Side note:  As a result of the 1973 Paris Peace Accords, Kissinger and Le Durc Tho were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, which Tho refused.  Know this before you read Hitch's essay and make sure you have a pail handy to puke in)
The very short version is that Kissinger as a liaison for Richard Nixon, the Republican Nominee for President, secretly had meetings with the South Vietnamese government in the late summer and early fall of 1968, telling them that they could get a better deal in peace talks with them once Nixon was elected than they were currently getting with the Johnson administration or with a potential Humphrey administration -- private citizens undermining the peace negotiations between the U.S. Government and a foreign government.  Now, there's no guarantee the 1968 peace talks would have succeeded in ending the Vietnam War or that, if it had, the war wouldn't have restarted; but the terms of the 1973 Accords are practically identical to what was on the table in 1968.  So I and Hitchens would make the argument that if it succeeded in '73, it would have succeeded in '68.
So what did Nixon and Kissinger have to gain by doing this?  Obviously making the Johnson Administration and its heir apparent Humphrey Administration look inept and, therefore, giving the election to Nixon, only at a cost of thousands and thousands of lives, a small price to pay when you're right.  Right?

It will take you an hour or so to get through that first long essay but I couldn't encourage you more strongly to take the time to do so.  Have a glass of scotch in honor of Hitch while you do so, the time will pass quickly and you'll be ever so glad you did.
I'll leave you with the last two paragraphs of his essay regarding Kissinger and Viet Nam:

When the unpreventable collapse occurred in Cambodia and Vietnam, in April and May 1975, the cost was infinitely higher than it would have been seven years previously. These locust years ended as they had begun--with a display of bravado and deceit. On May 12, 1975, in the immediate aftermath of the Khmer Rouge seizure of power, Cambodian gunboats detained an American merchant vessel named the Mayaguez. The ship was stopped in international waters claimed by Cambodia and then taken to the Cambodian island of Koh Tang. In spite of reports that the crew had been released, Kissinger pressed for an immediate face-saving and "credibility"-enhancing strike. He persuaded President Gerald Ford, the untried and undistinguished successor to his deposed former boss, to send in the Marines and the Air Force. Out of a Marine force of 110, 18 were killed and 50 were wounded. Twenty-three Air Force men died in a crash. The United States used a 15,000-ton bomb on the island, the most powerful nonnuclear device that it possessed. Nobody has the figures for Cambodian deaths. The casualties were pointless, because the ship's company of the Mayaguez were nowhere on Koh Tang, having been released some hours earlier. A subsequent congressional inquiry found that Kissinger could have known of this by listening to Cambodian broadcasting or by paying attention to a third-party government that had been negotiating a deal for the restitution of the crew and the ship. It was not as if any Cambodians doubted, by that month of 1975, the willingness of the U.S. government to employ deadly force.
In Washington, D.C., there is a famous and hallowed memorial to the American dead of the Vietnam War. Known as the "Vietnam Veterans Memorial," it bears a name that is slightly misleading. I was present for the extremely affecting moment of its dedication in 1982 and noticed that the list of nearly 60,000 names is incised in the wall not by alphabet but by date. The first few names appear in 1959 and the last few in 1975. The more historically minded visitors can sometimes be heard to say that they didn't know the United States was engaged in Vietnam as early or as late as that. Nor was the public supposed to know. The first names are of the covert operatives, sent in by Colonel Edward Lansdale without congressional approval to support French colonialism. The last names are of those thrown away in the Mayaguez fiasco. It took Henry Kissinger to ensure that a war of atrocity, which he had helped to prolong, should end as furtively and ignominiously as it had begun.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Oh yes, they did

How can someone as successful and, therefore, intelligent as Donald Trump be so delusional.  And with Trump it isn't your entry-level delusion like he could win the Republican nomination (which he did say actually) or that he could win the Presidential election as an independent but it's how he says he'd doing well with "the blacks and unions and Latinos."    See for yourself below, starting at the 3 minute mark.  Please run for President, Donald, please! That I would love to see.

Next we have Millard Romney talking about, of all things, the entitlement society. In his case I think he's so out of touch he truly doesn't know that these "entitlement programs" couldn't be further from entitlements. We pay into Social Security, unemployment, etc, so that they'll be there when we need them; something that someone who's inherited his worth and, therefore, has enormous wealth would never understand the need for.
No video this time, just a reason to get you to read yet another spot-on article by Robert Creamer, from which I'll share a few quotes to lure you in.
It really takes chutzpa for a guy who was born with a silver spoon in his mouth to rail against an "entitlement society." Here is a guy who got his start in life the old-fashioned way -- he inherited it.
No, Romney is much more interested in privatizing Social Security and Medicare so his Wall Street buddies can get their hands on the Social Security and Medicare Trust Funds -- even though that would eliminate the guaranteed benefits that are so critical to the health and welfare of America's seniors.
In fact, he seems to agree with the Republican leaders of the House who say that unemployment benefits discourage people from looking for work. Guess Mitt has never been one of the five people competing for every available job. Oh, I forgot, Mitt says he is "unemployed" too. Talk about out of touch.

And then thanks to my friend, Lady A, for pointing out the clip below. You can read her at Thoughts From 16th Avenue. It's always nice to see the Faux News vetting system fall short.

RJ, you'll be glad to know I decided not to steal your "They Said It" idea. :)

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Creating false enemies

Sparked by another seemingly innocent graphic going around Facebook, I feel the need to point out the blind, ignorant, one-way thinking of the further-to-the-right-everyday crowd, the war-against-Christmas crowd, the war-against-the-poor crowd.  The graphic at issue simply has an arrow pointing to the poster with a holiday theme and the words "This person DOES NOT say Happy Holidays; this person says Merry Christmas...get over it!"  This is a perfect example of creating an enemy, creating something bad that doesn't really exist as a way to be divisive and as a way to rally one side (the goodie goodies of the right) against the evil liberal elitist, god-hating heathens of the left.  It's the same ploy they use to try to make you think there are people who are against the troops when they say things like "Support the troops...there are far too many people who don't," when in fact neither they nor you know a single soul who doesn't believe in supporting the troops.  As it relates to the Christmas versus Holiday War, the same rebuttal applies -- you don't know a solitary soul who has a problem with someone saying Merry Christmas but the Merry Christmas crowd surely has a problem with you NOT saying Merry Christmas.  "You MUST say Merry Christmas or else we're falling into a godless society or worse."  Whatever happened to free speech and freedom of religion?  Being told you must believe and observe the way they do is quite the opposite, yet they like to use your lack of agreement with them as a sign that you're oppressing them, when in fact it is they who are trying to oppress you.  You have to admit it's brilliant and it works, unfortunately, over and over and over.

There are correlations with the above to an outstanding editorial comment by Rachel Maddow last night.  I don't want to be too wordy.  I'll just invite you to watch this 12 minute clip and pay attention to things like voter fraud, farm dust, In God We Trust and drug testing people who are on unemployment or welfare and look for the ulterior motive. I couldn't more strongly urge you to watch this clip. It is one of the best essays I've seen in some time. Thank you, Rachel. It's important we all realize what the true motives and ideologies are of these people.

Which is a nice segue into a very brief discussion regarding Ayn Rand.  What these people really want is a society like the one envisioned by Rand in books like The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged, one that goes against the progressive value of togetherness and replaced by a simpler dog-eat-dog model.  I would encourage you to read The Real Attack on the Spirit of Christmas Comes From the Right Wing, the latest article by one of my favorite writers, Robert Creamer, where he outlines very well the endgame of this ideology and how it contrasts not only with our progressive ideology but quite often with the same people who support it, another example of the hypocrisy of the love thy neighbor religious right.  Below is my favorite quote:
Progressive values: that we're all in this together, not all in this alone; unity not division; hope not fear; equality not subjugation; the premise that if each of us is better educated all of us will be wiser; that it is not true that for me to be richer you have to be poorer -- but rather that if each of us is more prosperous, all of us will have more opportunity; that our success comes from cooperation and mutual respect. These progressive values are the most precious assets that will give human beings the ability to make it through that gauntlet -- and to create a truly democratic society.
I would also encourage you to read my friend RJ's review of The Fountainhead, "Another Selfish Manifesto Ending, at Heels N Martinis.

If we don't talk again beforehand, Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays, my friends.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Christopher Hitchens

From those of us who are boring and irrelevant, a toast of scotch to you, Christopher Hitchens.  It'll have to be Johnny Walker Green, since I have no Black and don't really care for it; but we can still use your term, Mr. Walker's Amber Restorative.
He was an atheist (or more accurately by his definition an antitheist) and an asshole (two of my favorite traits), an enigma, a provocateur, a satirist, an intellectual elitist, a bon viveur; he was someone I disagreed with nearly as often as I agreed but he was always eloquent and interesting and relevant. As he said, he was friends with Salman Rushdie, was nearly scratched by Mother Theresa and nearly spanked by Margaret Thatcher.
 My own opinion is enough for me, and I claim the right to have it defended against any consensus, any majority, anywhere, any place, any time. And anyone who disagrees with this can pick a number, get in line and kiss my ass.
To those of us who wish we could be writers, he is both a goal and the reason we don't even try.  Why bother if your best isn't even half as good as he was at his worst?
True, he was an egomaniac -- how could anyone who condemned Bll Clinton, Henry Kissinger and Ghandi, amongst many others, not be?  But he was conversely very modest.  You couldn't help but be fascinated listening to him argue a point as eloquently as anyone ever, much like his idols Paine and Jefferson and Orwell, even a point or issue that you vehemently disagreed with.
Hitchens is very, very high on my list of people who are the answer to the question, "If you could 'come back' as anyone who ever lived, who would it be?  That is due in large part to his success as a philosopher and provocateur obviously but in equal measure due to the way he lived life and approached his intellectual discoveries and defense thereof...he didn't give a shit whether you agreed or not.  Where we almost always agreed is the subject of anti-totalitarianism, which includes religion.
From The Wiki:
Identified as a champion of the "New Atheism" movement, Hitchens described himself as an antitheist and a believer in the philosophical values of the Enlightenment. Hitchens said that a person "could be an atheist and wish that belief in god were correct," but that "an antitheist, a term I'm trying to get into circulation, is someone who is relieved that there's no evidence for such an assertion."[17] He argued that the concept of god or a supreme being is a totalitarian belief that destroys individual freedom, and that free expression and scientific discovery should replace religion as a means of teaching ethics and defining human civilization. He wrote at length on atheism and the nature of religion in his 2007 book God Is Not Great.
 Anti-war British politician George Galloway, on his way to testify in front of a United States Senate sub-committee investigating the scandals in the U.N. Oil for Food program, called Hitchens a "drink-sodden ex-Trotskyist popinjay",[155] to which Hitchens quickly replied, "only some of which is true".[156] Later, in a column for Slate promoting his debate with Galloway which was to take place on 14 September 2005, he elaborated on his prior response: "He says that I am an ex-Trotskyist (true), a 'popinjay' (true enough, since the word's original Webster's definition is a target for arrows and shots), and that I cannot hold a drink (here I must protest)."[157]

There are many video interviews of Hitchens on shows like "The Daily Show," where you can get glimpses of the large intellect, ego and humor of the man; but where you really get insight into who he was and what he believed was in the many interviews he did with Charlie Rose.  Unfortunately, the Charlie Rose website does not offer embeds.  So I'll invite you to this link, which is the last of the 13 appearances by Christopher Hitchens with Charlie Rose, a whole hour from 2010.