Category Archives: the military

September 25, 2013, 10:06 am

Why, I Was A Sandinista Too: Bill de Blasio’s, and My Own, Recent History

reagan

Credit: Tony Auth

I was both alarmed and relieved when this article by Javier C. Hernandez, which recalled Bill de Blasio’s work on behalf of the Nicaraguan Sandanistas, came out in The New York Times. De Blasio, those of you living outside of the New York metropolitan area may need to be reminded, is slated to be the next mayor of New York. He is running on the Democratic party line — not the Marxist party line, as Republican candidate Joseph Lhota predictably asserted after this story was published.

I was alarmed by this. Once again, and this time in a civilized place like New York, the Republican strategy is to not talk about things that matter (health care, housing, feeding the poor, education) but to rile people up about things that don’t matter (for example, the relevance of nineteenth century radical …

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May 21, 2013, 1:52 pm

Annals of Recent History: The Book of Rumsfeld

Don’t you think Donald Rumsfeld should be tried as a war criminal? I do. Or maybe he could be imprisoned for a decade or more, with no access to constitutional rights, while we sort the evidence against him and decide whether to bring him to trial.

But no. That’s not how we do things in the Land of the Free.

Like Henry Kissinger, Robert MacNamara and other architects of mass destruction, Rumsfeld has settled into the golden years of milking profits from his crimes. Instead of being interrogated with a wet washcloth over his face, he has authored a book that blends his life experiences into a few simple truths that we can all live by as we wait for the next lethal incident of blowback somewhere in America. (more…)

July 3, 2010, 1:59 pm

Asian American Civil War History: Chinese Soldier Dies At Gettysburg

Reported in the New York Times, July 12, 1863:

Among the killed at Gettysburgh was a young Chinaman, known as JOHN TOMMY. He was attached to the First regiment Excelsior brigade, Capt. PRICK’s company. JOHN TOMMY was the only representative of the Central Flowery Kingdom in the Army of the Potomac, and was widely known both from that circumstances and certain peculiarities of this own. JOHN TOMMY came to this country immediately after the breaking out of the war, and was induced to enlist in Gen. SICKLES’ brigade, at that time being raised in [New York.] He was then a mere lad, entirely ignorant of our language. Being bright, smart and honest, he soon become a favorite at Red Hook, States Island, and was at once the butt and the wit of the whole regiment.

Before he became located on the Maryland shore of the Potomac opposite Aquia Creek, in one of the reconnaissances on the south side of…

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June 7, 2010, 1:21 pm

Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, Don’t Disobey The President: Transforming The Military In Historical Perspective

We move forward into a summer of political negotiating that might end “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” the Clinton-era policy that lifted the ban on gays in the military, provided said gays pretend to be straight (and, as an ironic touch, created a phrase popular among the sexually dishonest who claim to be in sophisticated open relationships when actually they are just cheating like everyone else.) Policy makers and GLBT lobbyists wishing to lift the ban might usefully consult Beth Bailey’s America’s Army: Making the All-Volunteer Force (Harvard, 2009) as they consider how to present what is perceived by many to be an unprecedented alteration in the United States Armed Forces. As Bailey observes, the transition from the draft to an all-volunteer Army was a political decision made by the Nixon administration in 1970 that military brass resisted vigorously despite what they perceived as the…

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May 18, 2010, 1:10 pm

Another One Bites The Dust: On The Richard Blumenthal News And The Politics Of Mendacity

What is it with lawyers this week? It wasn’t bad enough for your favorite Radical to be read out of the community of queer scholars yesterday for reductive identity politics by a hotshot New York law professor who does not hide her sexual orientation (which could be described as….?) There is worse news, at least for the people of Shoreline.

This morning, I scooped up the paper of record from my front porch to discover that Richard Blumenthal has lied by omission and commission about his military service during the Vietnam war. Is this a crime? No. But whether by commission, omission, or inference, coyness around stigmatizing issues — such as evading military service to promote one’s career — is, as Tennessee Williams’ Big Daddy would say, “mendacity!”

As we historians are aware, it is also sleazy. As in the even more puzzling case of Pulitzer Prize-winning Joseph Ellis, I don’t…

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October 26, 2008, 3:23 pm

Letter to Barack: Five Things You Could Do To Create Change — And Change History

Dear Barack,

You’ve sent me so many emails for the past year that I feel like I know you. Things are looking good, aren’t they? So let’s take a few minutes and plan for the first Hundred Days. As a scholar of the New Deal, I think I am the perfect person to help you establish an agenda. But first some background from a more recent history.

Back in 1981 when Ronald Reagan was inaugurated, what we now call the conservative “base” hoped that Reagan would act by presidential decree to address pressing issues that conservatives, many of whom were activist Christian evangelicals, called a “family values” agenda. This included critical constitutional issues like banning abortion, making school prayer legal, ending desegregation (otherwise known by segregationists as “forced busing”), and making flag desecration a criminal offense. It’s probably worth noting that, since we can all probably a…

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March 9, 2008, 8:25 pm

The Pain of Privilege; Or, You Thought College Admissions Couldn’t Get Any Sillier, Didn’t You?

Having created a ridiculous problem, which is that high school students have to build a resume and a transcript worthy of a Rhodes scholar to get into a selective four-year college, you will be glad to know that these coveted institutions and gatekeepers to success have found a solution to the stress this causes to young people. The answer is to throw money at it, imply that the students and their helicopter parents are pathological, and urge the admitted students not to matriculate until they have rested and feel less emotional and cynical about the whole thing.

That’s right. Do not re-evaluate what you are doing that is causing kids to show up at college as nervous wrecks, and sometimes even leave after a month or two because they are so burned out and care so little about real learning anymore. Do not admit that, because of you, young people are running themselves ragged with…

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