By Kyle | December 26, 2014
Jesus wasn’t born Dec. 25…but Karl Rove was! More fun facts.
By Kyle | January 20, 2013
Suspending habeas corpus. Trampling on the First Amendment. Torture. All of these things went on in the Lincoln administration, and Spielberg’s “Lincoln,” unlike “Zero Dark Thirty,” is a whitewash of history. More in my Sunday column.
By Kyle | April 29, 2012
“Star Trek” actor and frequent Howard Stern foil George Takei had an op-ed in the Guardian yesterday headlined “We Japanese Americans must not forget our wartime internment.” Well, not just Japanese Americans, no? We should all be outraged.
I object to the euphemism “internment” (sounds like something to do with getting coffee for Brian Williams or Tina Brown) when the plain fact is 120,000 people including Takei and his family were arrested and put in prison camps for no reason other than their ancestry. This came under express direction of FDR via executive order.
Takei’s article is well done but as Glenn Reynolds would say, “Name that party!” Name that president, too. Takei seems to think this horrorshow just sort of happened on its own. He doesn’t mention the person responsible. That naivety would be disturbing enough were it not for the fact that, towards the end of the piece, the only politicians Takei names is….Ronald Reagan!
The forced mass imprisonment without charge, says Takei,
broke apart families and whole communities, and left scars that today remain unhealed, even after the government later apologised and issued reparations. It was almost a half-century too late. President Ronald Reagan only reluctantly signed the Civil Liberties Act of 1988. It expressed regret for the injustice and paid a token redress of $20,000 to those survivors still alive. My father had already passed away in 1979, never to know of the apology or receive the redress money.
Only reluctantly! So Reagan’s alleged state of mind is more worthy of note than the name of the man who put Takei and his family in prison. The one political figure Takei singles out for his wrath, the man we should despise for all this is the one president who apologized and made partial amends for the outrage.
As the FDR library puts it, trying to spread the blame around in a masterpiece of buck-passing,
President Roosevelt received contradictory advice… FDR’s military advisers recommended the exclusion of persons of foreign descent, including American citizens, from sensitive areas of the country as a safeguard against espionage and sabotage. The Justice Department initially resisted any relocation order, questioning both its military necessity and its constitutionality.
But the shock of Pearl Harbor and of Japanese atrocities in the Philippines fueled already tense race relations on America’s West Coast. In the face of political, military, and public pressure, Roosevelt accepted the relocation proposal. The Attorney General acquiesced after the War Department relieved the Justice Department of any responsibility for implementation.
On February 19, 1942, President Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066 granting the War Department broad powers to create military exclusion areas. Although the order did not identify any particular group, in practice it was used almost exclusively to intern Americans of Japanese descent. By 1943, more than 110,000 Japanese Americans had been forced fro their homes and moved to camps in remove [sic] inland areas of the United States.
The FDR library concludes, “Today, the decision to intern Japanese Americans is widely viewed by historians and legal scholars as a blemish on Roosevelt’s wartime record.” A blemish! But who can disagree? That’s exactly how historians and legal scholars treat it.
By Kyle | March 11, 2012
Bonus Sunday essay! In 1895, Teddy Roosevelt returned to his hometown vowing to clean up Sin City as president of the Police Board. He succeeded in reducing corruption and patronage, but with nutty crusades like his campaign to close bars on Sundays (and even crack down on Sabbath sales of flowers and soda) he quickly wore out his welcome. He lasted less than two years before he returned to DC to be assistant secretary of the Navy. The vivid new book “Island of Vice: Teddy Roosevelt’s Doomed Quest to Clean Up Sin-Loving New York City” by Richard Zacks tells the story in detail, as my Sunday column shows.
By Kyle | July 22, 2011
I totally disagree with my senior colleague Lou that there’s something vaguely suspicious about “Captain America: The First Avenger” and its relationship with Hitler. As far as I could tell, the writers had this thought: Hitler was way too serious to turn into a comic-book villain. So we need to put the focus of the evil in the movie on a different character, one with supernatural backing, so we can all relax and forget about the grim history of what really happened. It’s much easier to hiss Red Skull than it is to hiss Hitler, because after all Hitler succeeded in murdering millions of people. Let’s not trivialize that by turning Hitler, or even Nazism in general, into the heavy of a comic-book movie. I think it was a wise choice. (As commenters point out, Red Skull has anyway always been Captain America’s opponent.)
Moreover, as someone who lived in Germany for nearly two years while serving in the Third Infantry division (and at one time spoke pretty fair German, though leider ich habe gleich alles vergessen), I find it slightly hilarious that Lou thinks contemporary Germany has mixed feelings about Hitler or gets offended by references to Hitler or something. Germans in general are super-liberal. Except for a few teen jerks and cuckoos, the rightmost boundary of respectable opinion is a bit to the left of Bill Clinton. Some Germans, particularly older ones, may be slightly touchy about how much responsibility the average man in the street bore for the atrocities of the war but they are utterly united in their loathing for Hitler and have no problem at all with Hitler being portrayed as the ultimate villain.
By Kyle | July 20, 2011
I’ve been enthralled by Adam Hochschild’s devastating “To End All Wars,” a slightly different approach to WW I that, from a British point of view, focuses its attention roughly equally on the battlefields and the homefront. It keeps tabs not only on the butchers of the Western front but on such notable dissenters as Sylvia Pankhurst, Charlotte Despard — sister to John French, the chief commander of all British forces until he was replaced by the equally oblivious Douglas Haig — and Bertrand Russell. The folly of this war was immense but particularly so from the point of view of the British, who did not need to get involved and should not have. The result would have been a fairly quick crushing of the French by Germany, which was only modestly more obnoxious and saber-rattling than its historic enemy, which wanted the war (and foolishly signed a treaty with Russia) in order to regain Alsace and Lorraine and dreamt of stealing some of Germany’s colonies to boot. These tiny prizes were not nearly worth the cost, but both sides believed the war would be brief and that they would be the victors.
Hochschild carefully sublimates his outrage with the devastating accretion of facts, but the story is still amazing. How could the generals have seriously believed that cavalry charges could carry the day when there had already been evidence of what machine guns could do? How could Haig assume that dropping millions of pounds of artillery shells at the Battle of the Somme would somehow solve the problem of barbed wire? Hochschild drily notes that the shelling created some of the loudest noises ever produced by man. And that’s about all it did, as the Germans simply waited out the rearrangement of the mud up top from 40 feet underground. When the shelling stopped, they figured the attack was coming. It was. So they jogged up to their machine guns and resumed mowing down Tommies.
Much of this territory has been well covered in other books, notably Barbara Tuchmann’s superb “The Guns of August,” but Hochschild’s heroes are the lefties, mainly socialists, who spoke up again and again back home and in many cases went to prison on trumped-up charges. Russell himself did a brief stint in jail, while Sylvia Pankhurst was forced to bitterly part ways with her sister and mother — the suffragettes Christabel and Emmeline — because both of them (this is a particularly stunning moment as rendered by Hochschild’s novelistic prose) switched sides and joined the government in demands to keep the war going and going as Britain’s finest young men simply fell under the scythe. By the million. The Pankhursts had previously been so anti-government in their campaign for women’s votes that they had tried to blow up the house of David Lloyd George, who by the end of the war would be prime minister.
And this was a war in which the rich disproportionately joined up, and in which upper-class company-grade officers were especially likely to lead doomed charges. Of Oxford’s class of 1913, 31 percent were killed or wounded. Of every 20 men from 18 to 32, 3 would die and six more would be wounded. Among them were John Kipling, whose jingoist father Rudyard pulled strings to get the boy into the service and who would later become obsessed by the idea that his fallen son might conceivably have survived to be taken prisoner. It would be the old imperialist himself who would supply one of the most memorable couplets of this monstrous mistake: “If any question why we died/Tell them, because our fathers lied.” Britain fell prey to patriotism run amok — unquestioning deference to authority, no matter how ludicrous and self-serving those authorities’ beliefs — and fell for a poisonous propaganda machine that told the public at every turn that things were going much better than they were, that the Germans were much more despicable that they were, and that the nation’s finest were falling for a noble purpose. In fact they died for virtually nothing except national bragging rights and the politicians desecrated their memory by ending the war under conditions that virtually guaranteed WW II.
By Kyle | March 31, 2011
The great soul gets ripped apart in a bouncy bit of attack journalism from historian Andrew Roberts, who continues to grow more delightful. Roberts, in last weekend’s Wall Street Journal, points out Gandhi had a gay lover (and also made his nubile teen great-niece sleep naked beside him).
Gandhi was a racist and a fool (he advised the Jews to take a nonviolent stance toward Hitler, whom he addressed in a letter as “my friend”). That Gandhi set back India rather than advancing its interests by starting up half a century of autarky that ensured vast poverty is obvious; moreover, he opposed absolutely all birth control except abstinence. Before his switcheroo on the Untouchables, he treated members of the caste as subhuman and compared them to cows, even going so far as to stage a hunger strike (his first) to oppose Untouchables gaining seats in Parliament, justifying this on “religious, not political” grounds. He supported Muslim caliphate 2.0, though merely for cynical political reasons. He was also a religious freak who reasoned, not illogically, that if a blissful afterlife exists, people must be better off dead, so it was desirable that people be slaughtered in service of a greater cause. What a horrible man.
By Kyle | November 30, 2010
…to the great man. Greatest man who ever lived? Well, maybe until Jay-Z came along.
By Kyle | May 9, 2010
Martin Amis’s novel about the sexual revolution and its unintended consequences “The Pregnant Widow” has far too many ideas to be dealt with in 450 words but here is my review in today’s Post.
By Kyle | May 2, 2010
On Page Six today, I give a little taste of what’s in Hitchens’ new memoir “Hitch-22,” coming next month.