Login/Sign up

World Association of International Studies

PAX, LUX ET VERITAS SINCE 1965
Post In Protest of Portraying Iran as "Barbaric"
Created by John Eipper on 03/02/15 4:53 AM

Previous posts in this discussion:

Post

In Protest of Portraying Iran as "Barbaric" (Massoud Malek, USA, 03/02/15 4:53 am)

Herodotus is regarded as the father of history. His histories on the Greco-Persian wars were the first to report on those historical events. He states he was reporting only what was told to him. However to Persians and a great number of historians, most of his stories were fanciful and inaccurate. His tales have been proven to have been completely fabricated, exaggerated and with no factual bases.

There is no Greek equivalent of Herodotus for the history of Alexander's conquests; however, four centuries later Arrian, an admirer of Alexander of Macedonia, made him Alexander the Great by omitting all the atrocities committed by him in Persia and India.

When I visited Athens in 1972, I saw the Acropolis Light Show; there I heard for the first time that Persians were barbarians who were uncivilized savages. Since then nobody told me that Persians were barbarians until 22 February of this year, when Luciano Dondero passionately expressed his Islamophobia by flooding the WAISdom repeatedly with accounts of female genital mutilation practiced by Muslims. Luciano added that "Iran is a country which is no less murderous and barbaric than Daesh itself!"

Should we blame Herodotus and Arrian for brainwashing the civilized western population with their lies? While Persians are called barbarians, a butcher from Macedonia is considered one of the greatest men to ever walk the Earth.

I believe that WAISdom should adopt the teachings of Zarathustra, who said: "To speak the truth; to be pure in thought, word, and deed; to wish others good; and to respect others." Therefore, I respectfully ask our esteemed editor to delete all the racist passages before posting them.

JE comments: I take accusations of racism on the Forum very seriously, and "barbaric," together with its opposite number, "civilized," are historically very loaded terms.  I'll agree with Massoud Malek that it's best not to use them in an uncritical sense.

At the same time, my reading of Luciano's post was that he was calling the Iranian regime murderous and barbaric, certainly not the Iranian people.  In particular, Luciano was questioning the wisdom of military cooperation with Iran to combat IS/Daesh.

Here's the original post, so colleagues can judge for themselves:

http://waisworld.org/go.jsp?id=02a&objectType=post&o=91622&objectTypeId=77031&topicId=165


SHARE:
Rate this post
Informational value 
Insight 
Fairness 
Reader Ratings (0)
0%
Informational value0%
Insight0%
Fairness0%

Visits: 188

Comments/Replies

Please login/register to reply or comment: Login/Sign up

  • Iran and Barbarism (Luciano Dondero, Italy 03/03/15 3:37 AM)
    Massoud Malek wrote on 2 March:

    "Since [1972] nobody told me that Persians were barbarians until 22 February of this year, when Luciano Dondero passionately expressed his Islamophobia by flooding the WAISdom repeatedly with accounts of female genital mutilation practiced by Muslims. Luciano added that 'Iran is a country which is no less murderous and barbaric than Daesh itself!'


    "Should we blame Herodotus and Arrian for brainwashing the civilized western population with their lies? While Persians are called barbarians, a butcher from Macedonia is considered one of the greatest men to ever walk the Earth.


    "I believe that WAISdom should adopt the teachings of Zarathustra, who said: 'To speak the truth; to be pure in thought, word, and deed; to wish others good; and to respect others.' Therefore, I respectfully ask our esteemed editor to delete all the racist passages before posting them."


    Charges of racism and "Islamophobia" are the cheap staple with which to defend the indefensible and to cover up what cannot be covered up. The self-styled "Islamic Republic of Iran" is indeed a pariah among nations, or at least it used to be, until somebody in the White House figured out that it could be enlisted in the "struggle against ISIS."


    Why is it accurate to call the current Islamist regime in Iran "barbaric"?



    • Stoning people to death for the "crime" of sleeping with someone who is not his/her spouse?




    • Public hangings for thieves?




    • Creating a special kind of police to make sure women don't show an inch of their calves? (And arrest those who do)?




    • Supporting terrorist organisations in Lebanon, Gaza strip, Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan, Yemen, and elsewhere?




    • Asserting that "the Holocaust never happened," and is indeed "a Zionist fabrication"?




    • Threatening the destruction of the state of Israel?




    • Building nuclear weapons to assert Persian power in the Middle East?




    • And more...



    One can contrast Iraq and Iran. The overthrow of Saddam Hussein in Iraq was an ill-conceived plan, because those who did it had no idea of what was to come after it--and now the country is in a mess, and on the road to dismemberment.


    In Iran, precisely because it has a civilian society, albeit underground, sufficiently articulated and aspiring to turn their country into a civilized and democratic beacon of hope in the area, one can imagine that overthrowing the muddleheads in charge in Tehran would produce a better end-result.


    But for the time being the big issue is whether or not to allow this barbaric regime to get its bloody hands on nuclear weapons. Stating that Iran is not barbaric is just a little step in the wrong direction.


    And, by the way, there is no such thing as "Islamophobia." I know what a "phobia" is as I suffer from a peculiar one (fear of wine): it is an uncontrollable urge to avoid any contact with what irks you.


    My opposition to Islam is as strong as my opposition to Christianity, Judaism and any other religion, as I am what can be termed an "anti-theist"--ie. I don't single out Islam per se. A different matter arises when we are talking about Islamists, i.e., those who intend to make the teachings of Islam ("submission") into the law of the land, either in their own country, or in Europe and elsewhere. Then my rejection of any step in that direction is complete and relentless, because I'm fed up with young women being murdered because they don't want to marry the men that their Muslim fathers have chosen for them, and the like.


    And that's no "Islamophobia," it's just plain human decency.


    The word itself was invented by an American cover for the terrorist Muslim Brotherhood in the 1980s, as a way of enlisting liberal support for various reactionary causes, generally involving granting special privileges to those who are trying to import the sharia into the Western world. I have to admit that the invention of "Islamophobia" has been a successful plot, most people recoil from any mention of racism, at least in the US, Britain and other advanced countries--Italy is not so lucky, as we get racist public figures (like the Lega Nord current leader Renzo Salvini) while we also get the anti-"Islamophobia" crowd.


    As for the call to censor my remarks by labeling them "racist", I get enough censorship already from our distinguished editor, but not necessarily in the direction that Massoud Malek is asking for. The last time this happened was when John Eipper censored my post about "International Holocaust Remembrance Day."


    This is what was published in WAIS:


    "Today, January 27th, is 'International Holocaust Remembrance Day,' an international memorial day commemorating the victims of the Holocaust (or Shoah). It is a reminder to the world of the genocide that resulted in the death of an estimated 6 million Jews, 1 million Gypsies, 250,000 mentally and physically disabled people, and 9,000 homosexual men by the Nazi regime and its collaborators.


    "The Nazis also slaughtered several other million of who they called 'Untermenschen' (yes, these 'sub-human' category includes Slavs and Italians), without forgetting their political opponents, Communists, Social Democrats and Christian Democrats alike."


    But what I had actually written was this:


    "The Nazis also slaughtered several other millions (...) Communists, Social Democrats and Christian Democrats alike, in what is probably the latest and biggest atrocity by a Christian nation" (emphasis added to the excised sentence).


    Now, Christians have all the reason to get upset over this, not, however, because I say it, but rather because it is true ("Gott mit uns" claimed the Nazis, whose troops were "spiritually and emotionally supported" by Catholic and Protestant army chaplains).


    Similarly with the barbarians ruling Iran today: don't blame those who say "The emperor is naked!"


    JE comments:  One might argue that I made the edit to "protect" Christianity, but this is not the case.  I just thought it would be misguided to turn International Holocaust Remembrance Day into a discussion on the comparative evils of religion(s).  I make editorial decisions on WAIS every day in the interest of readability and to eliminate distractions.  Sometimes I wish for a do-over. This is one of those times.


    The "barbaric" tenets of Iran's Sharia law are magnified several times over by the Islamic State/Daesh, which has also declared total war on the Shiite nation of Iran.   Yesterday I read Graeme Wood's excellent article in the Atlantic, "What ISIS Really Wants."  I urge all WAISers to do the same, and thank Ed Jajko and Hank Levin for bringing it to our attention:


    http://www.theatlantic.com/features/archive/2015/02/what-isis-really-wants/384980/


    One of my conclusions from Wood's insight:  IS/Daesh is far more murderous than Iran, and the West would be foolish not to cooperate with the IRI in the struggle against this existential threat.


    A historical postscript:  "Gott mit uns" was an old Prussian expression, with origins in the Teutonic Order.  In WWI, the British Tommies made fun of it:  "We got mittens too!"

    Please login/register to reply or comment:

    • Iran and Barbarism; on "Islamophobia" (Eugenio Battaglia, Italy 03/03/15 1:39 PM)
      I am very happy that Luciano Dondero has responded to Massoud Malek with his post of 3 March.

      For sure, I have never known Luciano as a racist or Islamophobe. He is a rational atheist, and as such he may criticize any religion or more precisely, the (bad) way in which a religion is practiced. One may agree or not with his views but there is nothing wrong with them.


      On the other hand, I cannot understand why Massoud is surprised by the different views on historical facts. In the West the ancient Persians invading Greece were considered barbaric while in Persia the invading Alexander the Great is considered a butcher. This is nothing new or strange. For instance see how I consider the Repubblica Sociale Italiana, as the highest point of Italy, and how Massoud considers it quite differently.


      Such differences of judgement, "evil" versus "good," have been going on for millennia and will continue to do so for millennia.


      There is only one point where I do not agree with my dear friend Luciano: the building of nuclear weapons by Iran. First of all it seems that Mossad has prevented this from happening. Then if the US, Russia, China, UK, France, Israel, India and Pakistan all have nukes, forgetting the promise to disarm, why not also Iran or San Marino?


      By the way, how is the feeling among the Americans when their apparent governor Netanyahu is addressing Congress while the apparent vice governor Obama is not present? Is there something wrong?


      JE comments: Obama, Biden, and over 50 Democratic members of Congress stayed away from the Netanyahu speech on Iran's nuclear program.  The speech changed no one's opinion, but probably served to harden existing views.


      This was Netanyahu's third speech to the US Congress.  The only other foreign leader to do a threepeat?  Winston Churchill.


      Please login/register to reply or comment:


    • Islamophobia (Vincent Littrell, USA 03/03/15 5:14 PM)
      Luciano Dondero (3 March) wrote that "there is no such thing as 'Islamophobia.'"

      Islamophobia most certainly exists. Anti-Muslim prejudice because of Muslim adherence to the laws of Islam and belief in the prophethood of Muhammad absolutely exists. In the United States, I've spoken to Muslims who faced dirty looks and hostile attitudes while exiting their mosques here in Northern Virginia. Where Islamophobia crosses over to ethnic prejudice because many Muslims in the US dress in their traditional cultural styles and wear beards in traditional cuts is probably difficult to assess, though I suspect a little of both goes on.


      When Muslims prayed recently in the National Cathedral in Washington DC, they faced Islamophobic responses from Christians offended at the Muslim prayer in that edifice. Those who judge Muslims as intolerant people through the monolithic labeling of their supposed intolerance and barbarity based on the behavior of the real barbarians who commit evil acts in the name of Islam are in my view being Islamophobic, whether intentionally or through ignorance. Those who attack Islam aiming to antagonize and put down instead of trying to understand "the other" are in my view being Islamophobic. For certain, there are Muslims who view any sort of reasonable criticism of Muslim behavior, as well as criticism of ignorant or even cruel application of flawed interpretations of Islamic Law as Islamophobic, too. This is also a fierce problem in many crucially important contexts. However, lopsided descriptions of Islam that focus on harsh laws, brutal behaviors of Muslims in the name of Islam, without paying recognition to the tremendously high altruism of many facets of Islamic spirituality also strike me as Islamophobic.


      This ties into the issues of non-religionists and exoteric religionists ignoring the high ethics and spiritual precepts of divinely revealed religions, attacking those who blend spiritual principle and associated wisdom with divine law to come to equitable conclusions or solutions to complex life, social or juristic problems. (In the Islamic context a study of Michael Cook's exhaustive Commanding the Right and Forbidding the Wrong in Islamic Thought provides a powerful example of high scholarly backdrop to what I am talking about here.).


      By exoteric religionists, I mean those who focus only on the outward forms of the religion while ignoring or being ignorant (as is the case of many Muslims in the developing world) of the underlying spiritual precepts of their religions. This can happen through selective reading without holistic contextual understanding, listening to ignorant clergy devoid of real knowledge of their faiths, or through fanatical deviations not based in spiritual truth, all of which is utterly opposed to the intent of the prophetic founders of those faiths.


      Islamophobia exists most certainly. It is an ignorance, existing not only in gullible populations swayed by partisan, emotional media sources, but also in high places of government and academia, which provide obstacles to peace-building interfaith dialogues and working towards cross-religious and cross-cultural bridge-building for the betterment of humanity. Islamophobia is, as I see it, antagonism of and/or hostility towards Muslims that can include polemical or even physical attack on Islam, Muslims or symbols of Islamic institutions, whether those Muslims and their institutions under attack adhere to and/or practice the wrong and even savage behaviors that are rightfully under attack or not.


      Islam is not a monolith, yet those hostile to Islam who treat the religion as something to be hostile to and attack it whether in writing, speech or physically without discriminating between the multitudes of approaches to Islamic practice, Muslim scriptural, tradition (Hadith) and juristic exegesis, and Muslim belief--all of them are being Islamophobic.


      JE comments:  Graeme Wood's study of IS/Daesh describes a movement that philosophically rejects any sort of "understanding" with the infidel, even (or especially) Muslims who have committed apostasy by reaching an accommodation with secularism.  This includes all Shiites.  So with Daesh, there doesn't seem to be any room for interfaith dialogue.  One's only option when dealing with them is severe:  absolute intransigence must be met with absolute intransigence.


      Please login/register to reply or comment:

      • Islamophobia and Christianophobia (Anthony J Candil, USA 03/04/15 3:59 AM)
        Certainly "Islamophobia" exists, as well as many other phobias. But there is also "Christianophobia," particularly in Muslim countries.

        Vincent Littrell speaks of "dirty" looks to Muslims when exiting their mosques in Virginia. Let me ask you a question: Have you noticed the looks at you while in Muslim countries? And not because you're a Christian, because they don't know, but because you're a Westerner and not a Muslim.


        In Virginia, in Michigan, in every state across the Union there are mosques, but how many Christian churches are open and functioning in the so-called Arab world?


        If they don't like our way of life, fine, but why then do they come to live here? They dress and behave here as Muslims, and we don't bother, ah! but go to Saudi Arabia and tell your wife and daughters not to cover their hair or even tell them to drive a car. It will be an interesting experience.


        My sister who lives in New York City, was married once to a diplomat who was appointed to our embassy in Riyadh. However the whole family didn't move to the Kingdom. They used to spend weeks together and even dared to travel (through the desert, of course). On one occasion, my father, whom JE knows, got a visa to visit them, and they ventured together to go to a mall. Once there, my sister and her daughter committed the terrible sin of taking off their scarfs just to allow my father to take some pictures. Well, that was it.


        The so-called religious police appeared and tried to take away my father accusing him of "allowing his women (his daughter and granddaughter) of having an indecent attitude" or something like that. Apparently it was a very scary situation.


        My father hasn't visited a Muslim country since. And just to add something else, let me tell you that my sister traveled with a little cat, and he didn't like it either. They bought in SA some kind of clock whose sound is that one of the muezzin calling to prayer, and whenever the cat hears that sound he jumps and gets underneath a table or whatever he finds, like diving for cover.


        What is "Islamophobia" then?


        JE comments: I'm sure Anthony Candil's father, the legendary don Ramón, didn't take any guff from the Religion Police!


        As for Christian churches in Muslim nations, consider Malaysia, Indonesia, and despite the deplorable violence of late, Egypt.  I won't even bring up Iraq during the ancien régime (although I just did).  One might counter the Saudi example with the Vatican, which I doubt has any mosques.  Still, there's no question that traditionally Christian nations are more tolerant of Muslim worshipers than vice versa.  But is this because they are Christian or because they've seen the triumph of secular modernity?


        I found this item on Christianophobia in the US.  It reports that hostility towards conservative Christianity is most pronounced among the highly educated:


        http://www.theblaze.com/stories/2015/01/29/they-should-be-eradicated-sociologists-reveal-shocking-results-of-christianophobia-research-and-a-cautionary-warning-for-conservative-bible-believers/


        Please login/register to reply or comment:

        • Islamophobia or Islamistophobia? (John Heelan, UK 03/04/15 7:08 AM)
          Perhaps "Islamophobia" is misnamed and should be "Islamistophobia"? (See Anthony Candil, 4 March.)

          WAISers might be interested in an article pointing out the difference--published in the Washington Times (May 13, 2013)--by Daniel Pipes. A welcome article that is somewhat surprising coming from the pen of a well-known, strong supporter of Israel and Zionism.


          http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2013/may/13/islam-and-its-infidels/


          JE comments:  This is an atypically nuanced analysis from Pipes.  As for the Islamophobia-Islamistophobia distinction, the whole "point" of phobias is that they don't have to concern themselves with subtle distinctions. 

          Please login/register to reply or comment:


        • Why no Mosque in the Vatican? (Eugenio Battaglia, Italy 03/04/15 7:50 AM)
          Referring to JE's response to Anthony Candil (4 March) about no mosque in the Vatican and no churches in Saudi Arabia, frankly I believe that it would not be so easy to squeeze a mosque inside the 0.44 square kilometers of the Vatican, maybe behind the Church of St Peter, but I assume that among the 572 Vatican citizens there is not great demand for a mosque.

          By the way, in St Peter's Square they have installed rest rooms and showers for the homeless of Rome with a barber service on Mondays. For sure the latter would not be appreciated by the Islamists.


          JE comments: One thread of Graeme Wood's "What ISIS Really Wants" concerns the movement's promises of social services, to include housing and medical care for Caliphate "citizens." This, Wood suggests, might be Daesh's undoing: if it fails to deliver these theologically grounded benefits, popular support will evaporate. Contrast this with Al-Qaeda, which has no obligation to keep the lights on and the garbage collected.


          Wikipedia says the Moschea di Roma, not far from the Vatican, is the largest in Europe, with a capacity of 12,000.  This is surprising:  I would have guessed London or Paris for the largest.


          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mosque_of_Rome


          Please login/register to reply or comment:

          • Christian Democracy; Why no Mosque in the Vatican (Roy Domenico, USA 03/04/15 1:05 PM)
            As the Holy See, there is no impulse to put a mosque in the Vatican, just as there is no impulse to put a Protestant Church or a Synagogue there. It would have to be in St Peter's Square itself, because everything behind the basilica is restricted. You will find St. Anne's the parish church for Vatican employees back there, and I think there's some kind of Ethiopian chapel. Of course Rome and the rest of Italy have plenty of non-Catholic structures. Mussolini considered erecting a mosque in Rome in the late 1930s, but the 1929 Lateran Accords were still very much in effect (one clause of this being the preservation of Rome's Catholic character), so the pontiff would have none of it.

            On the Christian Democracy, I feel I must pitch in for its defense. I'll admit that, as a student of 20th century Italy, and as a die-hard centrist, I sympathize with the "DC." For all their lethargy--which can be charming at times--I find their moderate sensibilities refreshing. Think of the disastrous regime that preceded them. I wasn't surprised to read Eugenio Battaglia's thoughts on Pella. He was the principal capitalist in DC ranks and his achievement regarding Trieste was very much to his credit (although I would include Mario Scelba on that). There is also something admirable in the DC's defense of Western Civilization and culture. One of my favorites was (the blessed) Giorgio La Pira, mayor of Florence, who handed out candies during the Consituente debates in the 1940s. He was instrumental in the incorporation of the Lateran Accords into the new constitution, although he didn't get his wish to, in the preamble, dedicate Italy to the Virgin Mary. Good old Pietro Nenni, the Socialist leader who had been Mussolini's buddy before Fascism, thought the La Pira amendment was a bit too over the top. I was talking once to an archivist at the Rome diocesan papers about La Pira and he broke down in tears of happiness. If I ever do a biography, La Pira is on the top of my list.


            JE comments: Lethargy and moderate sensibilities lead to stability and provide the context for prosperity. Drama and hot-headedness are more interesting for historians, but...see above.

            Please login/register to reply or comment:


          • Rome's Mosque (Randy Black, USA 03/05/15 4:31 AM)
            While there is no mosque in Vatican City, there is a mosque in Rome that is the largest in Europe.



            It was funded in part by the City of Rome; the land was dedicated in the 1970s and the mosque opened in the early 1990s. It is 3.5 miles northeast of the Vatican.



            Saudi Arabia funded part of the costs of the 320,000 square foot mosque that accommodates 12,000 of the estimated 1.5 million mostly undocumented followers of the faith in Italy at one time.



            The Italian government funded about half of the cost in the 1970s, $40 million. Milan also has a mosque.



            Pope Benedict XVI visited the Rome mosque during 2013.



            http://www.nytimes.com/1989/07/31/world/rome-journal-a-mosque-is-built-finally-in-the-city-of-st-peter.html




            https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YRFjz4c4oO4


            JE comments: I cribbed this photo from the 'Net. The obviously photoshopped clouds remind one of El Greco.  (The second image is of Toledo.  I'll conclude this free-association exercise with a pic of the Islamic Center of Greater Toledo, Ohio, which is plainly visible from I-75.)





            Rome's Mosque






            El Greco, Toledo







            Islamic Center of Greater Toledo, Perrysburg, Ohio


            Please login/register to reply or comment:


          • Mosques in Spain (John Heelan, UK 03/05/15 5:04 AM)

            In response to Eugenio Battaglia (4 March) it is worth remembering that in Spain, there is a cathedral within a mosque (Córdoba's La Mezquita). Seville's cathedral is built on a mosque with the tower of La Giralda enclosing the original minaret tower. The tower of the Church of Santa Maria within the Alhambra complex (Granada) also looks suspiciously like a minaret. A sacred building with an even more complex history is Toledo's Santa Maria la Blanca, today a Christian church but formerly a synagogue built by Mudéjar (i.e. Moorish) craftsmen.


            JE comments:  Then there is St Sophia in Constantinople/Istanbul, which became a mosque after the Ottoman conquest.  Now it's a secular museum.  There must be many other examples of this type of "re-purposing" in the former Byzantium.

            Please login/register to reply or comment:

            • Secular Re-Purposing of Religious Buildings (Enrique Torner, USA 03/06/15 4:10 AM)
              There has been a worldwide secularization of religious buildings, especially in Europe: churches, mosques, and other religious buildings have been transformed into beautiful homes, restaurants, libraries, bookstores, schools, hotels, etc. Mosques and synagogues transformed into Christian churches are common in Spain. Likewise, Christian churches transformed into mosques, fortresses, or other things (or just destroyed) are now common in the Middle East, especially in Iraq and Syria. It's a real shame. Check out the following websites:

              http://io9.com/beautiful-churches-that-have-been-converted-into-secula-583156045


              http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Category:Mosques_converted_from_churches_by_the_Ottoman_Empire


              http://shoebat.com/2014/10/01/turkey-already-converting-major-christian-churches-mosques/


              http://wikiislam.net/wiki/Worship_Places_Converted_or_Destroyed_by_Muslims


              So, as you can see, major archeological sites are or have been destroyed forever, either by plain, brutal destruction (like the recent destruction of the Mosul museum), or through conversion. It's making me literally sick and depressed to see all these historical sites destroyed, even the ones that depict the beginning of civilization (Mesopotamia and beyond). It's even to the point of making me feel guilty about feeling (almost) worse for this loss than for the human loss.


              Has anybody dealt with this kind of inner struggle?


              JE comments: I have. It's easy to become dismissive that "those people will inevitably kill each other," but when a museum or archeological site is destroyed, the human loss turns into a loss for humanity.


              What is it about murderous regimes that requires the elimination of cultural patrimony?  Besides IS/Daesh, there was the Taliban, Pol Pot, and Nazi Germany's destruction of "decadent" art.  Orwell depicted this process masterfully in 1984.  Those who control the past control the future, and those who control the present control the past.

              Please login/register to reply or comment:

              • Organized Religion: Work of the Devil? (Tor Guimaraes, USA 03/06/15 4:22 PM)
                This raging discussion is about the conflict between major religions groups vying for control over the masses, therefore over each other. To me the absurdity of this "intellectual" conflict is very disappointing, amazing, and frustrating; it is surpassed only by the actions of the various religious groups who do not seem to have learned a thing over the centuries. Under the guise of imaginary righteousness granted by their false gods, Christian armies still invade Islamic countries for a variety of reasons, Islamic countries want to destroy the Jewish state, Islamic extremists destroy precious historical monuments and artifacts, Jewish extremists murder innocent Palestinian and other people like Rachel Corrie. If any organized religion had anything to do with God, it should by now have been used to mostly guide wise, ethical, peaceful, productive behavior. Instead it is leading mankind to self-destruction, thus one can correctly conclude that organized religion is the work of the devil.

                On the other hand, the Universe, the only God that makes any sense, through evolution has given mankind the gift of reasoning. We have learned how to learn about God through the scientific method. We have developed an impressive body of knowledge which has produced very impressive benefits to mankind. Unfortunately, despite the many organized religions, some people have misused this knowledge for evil deeds because, even though knowledge has expanded, our spirituality has not improved over the centuries.


                How much longer before we see the light?


                JE comments: Tor Guimaraes is not mincing words. So what do you think: is organized religion leading humanity to self-destruction? The last generation or so has given ample fuel for those who want to make this argument.


                Please login/register to reply or comment:

                • Organized Religion; from Ric Mauricio (John Eipper, USA 03/07/15 7:04 AM)
                  Ric Mauricio sends this response to Tor Guimaraes (6 March):

                  Yes, I agree with Tor. And it reminds me of the lyrics of John Lennon:


                  Imagine there's no countries

                  It isn't hard to do

                  Nothing to kill or die for

                  And no religion too

                  Imagine all the people

                  Living life in peace...


                  You may say I'm a dreamer

                  But I'm not the only one

                  I hope someday you'll join us

                  And the world will be as one


                  Boy, did people get pissed off at Lennon for these lyrics. But I believe that John Lennon was an enlightened one. Enlightenment cannot be learned. It is seeing things clearly. The word "sin" means without. In this case, I believe that it is referring to "without enlightenment." Thank you, Tor, for sharing your enlightenment.


                  And my thanks too to Anthony Cardil for sharing your revelation on the cultural biases you experienced. I grew up fighting these cultural biases and I applaud your candor. Now, imagine Jeb Bush's quandary when he brought his future wife back to the ranch in Texas. It illustrates Jeb Bush's character for overcoming whatever biases may have existed.


                  Heterophobia is spot-on. It is the discomfort of experiencing differences. It could be religious, cultural, or ethnic. It is the root of prejudices. With investing, it is found that most investors will invest in stocks from their own country, whether it be the US, UK, European, Asian, or Latin American, people will invest in what is most comfortable. This is heterophobia in the investing world. Even though the late Sir John Templeton enlightened us with his wisdom on investing beyond national boundaries, investors continue to invest heterophobiatically (ah, a new word, ha ha).


                  JE comments:  Shouldn't it be heterophobically?  I would never question Ric Mauricio's wisdom on investing, but I have the impression that investors don't fear the "other"; they fear instability (uncertainty).  Take Japan and China, which are culturally very different from the Anglo West, but are seen as risk-free places to put your money.  For an example of the opposite situation, I give you Argentina.


                  Please login/register to reply or comment:


                • Organized Religion vs Secular Excesses (Timothy Brown, USA 03/08/15 4:55 AM)

                  In decrying organized religion as the "work of the Devil," Tor Guimaraes (6 March) gives a "chicken or egg?" argument that, based on recent history, I do not find persuasive.


                  I don't have to go back to the Crusades or the Muslim conquest of North Africa and the Iberian peninsula or invoke the Nazi's anti-Semitic holocaust,
                  to find examples of mass violence against entire populations, of which none of them were religious conflicts. Just within the last few decades, several regimes based
                  their actions on what they claimed were ideologies that were the products of human reasoning and "scientifically proven certainties" that slaughtered human beings by the tens of millions while pronouncing that no God exists and labeling Christianity and other organized religions the opiate of the masses. The "scientifically proven" Marxist Soviet, Communist Chinese, North Korean and Cambodian regimes, just to name four, slaughtered tens of millions upon millions of fellow humans in the name of an atheist ideology.


                  I don't see any evidence whatsoever that atheism or agnosticism are, or ever have been, in any way superior to religions that believe in God. Just the opposite. There are far stronger arguments based only on recent and extremely well-documented historical events that support a conclusion that non-religious ideologies are far more likely to kill off humans by the millions than are religions.


                  JE comments:  And Christians have done a pretty thorough job of killing each other over the centuries, with WWI being an all-Christian bloodbath with the exception of the Ottomans.  (WWII involved the officially atheist Soviets, as well as the non-Christian Japanese and Nazi Germany, with its bizarre hybrid of "scientific" racism and Paganism.)  Still, in the larger historical panorama, killing in the name of anti-religion was an aberration lasting only from 1917 until the end of the Cold War.


                  Might we conclude that humans will find any excuse to carry out their depravity--be it ideology or identity?


                  Please login/register to reply or comment:

                  • Sacred Texts of Atheism (John Heelan, UK 03/09/15 2:09 AM)
                    In response to Tim Brown (8 March), does not atheism itself have many characteristics also common in religions, for example reliance on books regarded as sacred (in a secular sense), such as writings by Marx, Lenin and Trotsky, Chairman Mao, Hitler's Mein Kampf? How about the modern evangelists of the creed like the "Four Horsemen" (Dawins, Hitchens, Harris, Dennett) plus scientists like Hawkings, Pinker, etc?

                    The saving grace (an inappropriate metaphor in the circumstances) is that the populist attraction of current atheism is limited to the intellect and does not result in pogroms against believers in religion.


                    JE comments:  Historically this was likely the case, but I would venture that the dominant thread of atheism today is of the "secular" variety. No reading required...

                    Please login/register to reply or comment:

                    • Atheism (Luciano Dondero, Italy 03/10/15 4:18 AM)
                      I would like to thank John Heelan (JH) for his post of 9 March, because he succeeded in condensing in a few short sentences some of the ways in which non-atheists see atheism.

                      JH wrote: "Does not atheism itself have many characteristics also common in religions, for example reliance on books regarded as sacred (in a secular sense), such as writings by Marx, Lenin and Trotsky, Chairman Mao, Hitler's Mein Kampf? How about the modern evangelists of the creed like the "Four Horsemen" (Dawins, Hitchens, Harris, Dennett) plus scientists like Hawkings, Pinker, etc?"


                      Well, not quite.


                      As we all know the A in Atheist is a privative A. Now, if you stop to think about it, most religious people share with atheists one thing: they generally are non-believers (a-theists) when it comes to other religions' gods: Jews and Muslims don't believe in Jesus Christ, Christians don't believe in Allah or Yahweh (they think it had to undergo some refitting in the New Testament before becoming palatable), and so on and so forth. The atheists simply go one god further, and don't believe in that particular one you cherish either!


                      Now because atheists have no gods to worship, whatever they think about the world may come from anywhere, or even from nowhere, and thus there is no Atheism (TM).

                      And by the way, that's indeed how we are all born: no child is born religious, i.e., believing in this or that deity: usually each one of us end up accepting the religion of our parents (or of the alternative family we are raised in).


                      Thus, atheists can't really have any sacred text, especially none that all (or most) atheists would recognise as such. The smorgasbord described by JH is clearly ridiculous: do you know anybody who uses at the same time Marx's and Hitler's writings? Or even Trotsky's and Mao's?


                      In the real world, actually, most of the people who stick to Marx or Mao or Hitler are primarily involved with their own particular ideology, and then they may (or may not) be also atheists in public. However, in actual fact, most Hitler-worshipers were/are Christians, and no amount of denying this will wash. Where do you think Hitler got his anti-Semitism from? From paganism? Or from the Catholic Church in his native Austria? Hatred for the Jews used to come from Christianity and Christianity alone; Islam subjugated everybody, but "the people of book" (Jews and Christians alike) were normally tolerated--until 1948 that is.


                      With respect to "the modern evangelists of the creed" referred to by JH, I wonder if we are not witnessing here a repeat of what Robert Whealey aptly described in a different context as "American Foreign policy took a turn for the worse in 1945 by preaching anti-Communism without ever reading a word of Karl Marx, Vladimir Lenin or Joseph Stalin." Except now it's anti-atheism that is preached without probably not reading much written by Dawkins, Hitchens, Harris, Dennett, Hawking, Pinker, etc. If one did, one would know not only that a great deal of the writings by Dawkins (a scientist), Dennett (a philosopher of science) has no direct connection with atheism. The point is that they, like Galileo, Newton, Darwin, Einstein and many other scientists, deal with science, and it is science which has been eroding the stranglehold that religion has on human beings over the centuries--regardless of whether each individual scientist actually regarded him/herself as a deist, a theist, an agnostic or an atheist.


                      One thing that JH got almost right is that "the populist attraction of current atheism is limited to the intellect and does not result in pogroms against believers in religion."


                      Of course, JH meant to distinguish the current situation from, say, the horrors of Stalin's Russia and other Communist-ruled countries. But "pogroms against believers in religion"? Whenever people were forcibly forbidden from worshiping their chosen deity, this was generally done in violation of the formal laws of the country in question. And the Communists didn't go about burning people at the stake, or within churches. In those instances where repression went a lot further that mere closing down of places of worship, it was in the context of a similar repression being meted our to other parts of the population, and in particular to the very Communists!


                      Soviet Russia under Stalin is a case in point, where thousands upon thousands of Trotsky's Communists and other assorted leftists were summarily executed in the Gulags, and where a larger number of normal citizens were also imprisoned under various accusations (from being kulaks/rich peasants to harboring cosmopolitism [an early codeword for "Jews"] to Zionism [a later, more explicit codeword for "Jews"]. Indeed the Jews were repressed not because of their religion as such, but because Stalin and the Soviet bureaucrats after him regarded them as "disloyal citizens."


                      Thus it is vastly incorrect to assume that atheists inflicted more suffering on society than religious people. Just take a look at the Old Testament, which is sacred to all monotheistic religions. The god which many people love and admire is, in His (actually, their) own words, a genocidal criminal!


                      Little surprise that they went on slaughtering and raping in his holy name, or that they still do, in the Islamist variant.


                      Nobody kills (or even threatens to) you if you mock Hitchens or Darwin. That's the hallmark of atheism: live and let live! A militant atheist is best described as someone who lets you enjoy your beer, doesn't care about your sexual mores and whether you're married or not, and only fights back (with words) whenever you try to impose on society what some backward Middle-Age people wrote in a book centuries ago (ie. your religion).


                      Come to think of it, some of these notions are enshrined in the American Constitution!


                      Bless the Founding Fathers!


                      JE comments:  Luciano Dondero's eloquent post can also be read as a response to Tim Brown (8 March).  I'd like to organize a "Religion and Atheism" roundtable discussion at WAIS '15.  For now, my Dream Team would involve Tim, Luciano, Vincent Littrell, and John Heelan.


                      Please login/register to reply or comment:



                  • Organized Religion vs. Secular Excesses (Tor Guimaraes, USA 03/09/15 2:52 PM)
                    Timothy Brown's post of 8 March requires some clarification. Timothy incorrectly implied that I believe "atheism or agnosticism are, or ever have been, in any way superior to religions that believe in God." Quite to the contrary, I believe that God, the Universe, based on the scientific method, is far superior in terms of results for the benefit of mankind than any other religion, including atheism.

                    Further, while I agree with John Eipper's comments, Timothy incorrectly assigned the "chicken or egg?" analogy to my observation that organized religion, based on the fact that it seems to produce more hurt than good, is obviously the Devil's work in comparison with science, which obviously has produced so much benefits for mankind. Timothy's observations, based on a comparison of organized religions with a collection of murderous atheists, concluded that while much evil has been produced by organized religions, they are not nearly as bad as these well-known nasty atheists. I should hope so.


                    JE comments:  Tor Guimaraes has shared his theology with us on several occasions, but I have a curiosity:  is his God the Universe a sentient being?  If not, then can it be a God?

                    Please login/register to reply or comment:

                    • Is God the Universe a Sentient Being? (Tor Guimaraes, USA 03/11/15 12:20 PM)
                      In response to my post of 9 March, John Eipper asked, "Is Tor Guimaraes's God, the Universe, a sentient being?"

                      This is an interesting and difficult question because of the many very different meanings of "sentient being."



                      Per Wikipedia, "Sentience is the ability to feel, perceive, or experience subjectively. Eighteenth-century philosophers used the concept to distinguish the ability to think (reason) from the ability to feel (sentience). In modern Western philosophy, sentience is the ability to experience sensations. In Eastern philosophy, sentience is a metaphysical quality of all things that requires respect and care." To make things little more confusing, Wikipedia also states that "Water, for example, is a sentient being of the first order, as it is considered to possess only one sense, that of touch."



                      The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language equates sentience with consciousness, and feelings as distinguished from perceptions or thoughts.


                      The legal definition of a "Sentient Being" only addresses creatures that can suffer and feel pain; mostly animals and humans.



                      My own answer is somewhat tentative, basically still a work in progress, because I have been forced to do a great deal of homework about this God-related thing that for many thousands of years people have been calling "souls," only to discover that apparently there are as many definitions/understandings of it as there are or have been people on this world. I find this incredible diversity amazing, given the importance of a soul to the concept of afterlife preached by most religions. Further, even though I see no evidence for any afterlife, my intuition tells me that whatever souls happen to be, they are the connection of each living thing and God, the Universe.



                      To me God the Universe is made up of different forms of energy, including some that manifest themselves as sub-atomic particles with or without mass, forming the atomic elements, molecules, and whole organisms. Also, today's scientific knowledge has been sufficient to show evidence that there are some forms of energy yet to be better defined and understood. My understanding of the soul is as a form of energy connecting each living thing with God, the Universe, even though the organism itself (including humans) may not be aware of this connection. That is what I mean by the expression "getting in touch with the Universe," which has transformed my life.



                      Following the rationale above, God the Universe is the ultimate "sentient being." The connection with all living things is based on feelings, not thinking. God does not think, because It already knows everything. Further, God has no ethics, because It is always right.


                      JE comments: Perhaps God the Universe is all-powerful? I'm not going to give It the benefit of always being right, as this would not explain cancer, earthquakes, meteors, and lightning killing my sixth-grade classmate while he was playing baseball.

                      Please login/register to reply or comment:

                      • God the Universe: Meteors, Lightning, etc. (Tor Guimaraes, USA 03/16/15 1:46 AM)
                        Commenting on my post of March 11th, John Eipper (happy birthday to you...) expressed his belief that God the Universe is wrong for allowing "cancer, earthquakes, meteors, and lightning killing [his] sixth-grade classmate while he was playing baseball."

                        That seems like an extremely narrow-minded and unfair view. It basically assumes God is available as a referee between the comfort of mankind and the forces that drive the Universe from its inception to the creation of mankind. It also assumes God should intervene in the continuous struggle for life between the living organisms. God will not change the Universal rules for anyone. We humans must take responsibility for using our God-given reasoning abilities and the scientific method to learn about the Universe, to make sound decisions, and protect ourselves.


                        Here is a framework which might help you see through this issue. Only God the Universe exists, then there is nothing (everything that has never happened). The Universe has gone from a point of unimaginable unstructured density to an expanding infinity in one Big Bang. Out of this Big Bang some energy coalesced into basic matter (Hydrogen atoms) which gravity forced into forming stars converting H into the next element (Helium), creating a huge H-bomb contained by gravity in a continuous struggle between these opposing forces. Eventually gravity will win, and depending on the size of the collapsing star, a mini big bang will occur, creating atomic number elements up to iron from smaller stars, and higher than iron from the larger stars.


                        With all these atomic elements floating around in space, gravity did its thing again and started to clump them into things like asteroids/meteors, planets, moons, etc. Would John want God to interfere with its own rules by saying no asteroids/meteors are allowed, because someday some might hit the Earth and wipe out 90 percent of God's living species?


                        After a large number of such collisions, the solar system was formed. Without the last major collision with Earth, which was so violent that it squirted out our moon into space, life on Earth would not have been possible. Now John would have to say Earth's collision with a huge (about a third of the Earth's mass?) asteroid is great in this case. Remember: Be careful what you pray for because you might get it; but God is always right.


                        After life proliferated on this paradise Earth, through the law of evolution which now seems so obvious, the dinosaurs ruled the Earth and man's ancestors could only survive underground as low-level mammals. Then another major meteor, over John's objection, crashed into the Earth, set it on fire and wiped out the major dinosaurs species. This enabled the mammals to come out of the ground and eventually become the primates and homo erectus.


                        Regarding disease, mankind has used their reasoning and the scientific method to identify and cure numerous diseases. There has been great progress, but not enough resources and energy has been invested in this effort. Imagine if instead of trying to manipulate and invade other nations, we used the resources for scientific development, new technologies, and innovation to improve human quality of life? What a hopeful dream! How much better would our world be today instead of widespread ignorance, increasing poverty, and lingering costly civil wars all over the world.


                        Regarding any disasters hitting small children. That is a heartbreaker, me being a grandpa. So should we pray to God: please no more lightening strikes? Here is a way to think about this: Just by going from nothing to being born we have won a lottery against incredible odds. Life is precious and we want to prolong it as long as possible. Then we need to learn more about lightening strikes, to avoid them, to survive them, to benefit more from them. Meanwhile we mourn our painful temporary losses and accept that we are part of God just as lightening is.


                        JE comments:  Thanks for the birthday wishes, Tor.  It was a restful weekend.  Just what the Doctor ordered.


                        I'm also grateful to Tor for fleshing out his theology.  One point I'm unclear about:  does one pray to God the Universe?  To do so might be a comforting exercise, but clearly It would never change Its mind.


                        Please login/register to reply or comment:

                        • God the Universe(s) (John Heelan, UK 03/17/15 4:40 AM)
                          Tor Guimaraes wrote on 16 March: "Only God the Universe exists; [outside of that] there is nothing (everything that has never happened). The Universe has gone from a point of unimaginable unstructured density to an expanding infinity in one Big Bang."

                          This assumes that there is only one universe and there has never been a series of past universes or the chance of future universes. As such, is there any difference between this view of theology and those of competing monotheistic theologies? Further if there is the possibility of past, parallel and future universes, are they the same "god" or multiple "gods," as in Hinduism and animistic beliefs?


                          JE comments: Deep questions, which remind me of Jorge Luis Borges.  (We do know where JLB is buried--in the very Argentine city of Geneva.)


                          Tor Guimaraes has sent a further post on his worldview. WAIS traffic is massive today, but I'll get to Tor's post by tonight.

                          Please login/register to reply or comment:

                          • God the Universe or Universes (Tor Guimaraes, USA 03/20/15 12:29 PM)
                            My thanks to John Heelan (17 March) for his interesting questions about my statement: "Only God the Universe exists; [outside of that] there is nothing (everything that has never happened). The Universe has gone from a point of unimaginable unstructured density to an expanding infinity in one Big Bang."

                            John interprets my statement to mean that "there is only one universe and there has never been a series of past universes or the chance of future universes." That is not my assumption. I only make one assumption: The Universe exists, and it is God itself. Whether it is organized as only one or an infinite number of sub-universes is irrelevant. Similarly, whether the Universe cycles in an infinite sequence of contractions and Big Bangs, or only one Big Bang and an infinite expansion, is also irrelevant.


                            In any case, I have great admiration for the scientific method (theoretical mathematical modeling and practical experimentation for validation) astronomers and astrophysicists have used to make amazing progress in understanding how the Universe works and its nature. Nevertheless, the theory that there are parallel or sequential universes is still mostly what I call in a weak theory phase: theoretically possible but there is little evidence to back it up.


                            John asked, "is there any difference between this view of theology and those of competing monotheistic theologies?" To me the difference is along two dimensions. First, in terms of results, the difference is striking between: 1) The great benefits science and the scientific method used to discover universal truths have produced for mankind over time; versus 2) The results from man-made gods, which have produced relatively little benefits and considerable conflict and increasing violence, mostly by people disrespecting their own theologies and organized religions. For this big difference in results, guess whose side God is on. The second dimension concerns the sources of the religions: 1) Most organized religions seem to have few things in common: they are made by people claiming to be speaking for their god with little evidence to substantiate their assertions. As with most man-made things, there is confusion, hypocrisy, conflict, and the need for correction of past mistakes.


                            2) In God is the Universe, there are no prophets. Science and the scientific method decides over time, as we learn about the Universe, what is true and what is false. That is another huge difference; no one gets burned at the stake, debate over the truth is part of the process, a more robust truth regarding universal laws and phenomena is an integral part of this theology/religion.


                            Finally, John asked, "if there is the possibility of past, parallel and future universes, are they the same 'god' or multiple 'gods,' as in Hinduism and animistic beliefs?" One God, one Universe to infinity, regardless if it is organized as one or sub-universes, and regardless if it is one or infinite Big Bangs. Here is a kink for you to ponder. If there are parallel sub-universes, the energy from one may likely pass to another, so maybe one sub-universe may end and another may get started. There is evidence that our Universe is expanding at an increasing speed perhaps into emptiness--or "nothing?" Then what? Don't worry; I am sure God has that one under control.


                            How long before the mathematical modeling and experimentation can shed light into these difficult questions seems too long indeed. Today we still have failed to mathematically link the well-known atomic physics with astrophysics (no "theory of everything" yet). Thus, we badly need more scientists and fewer religious extremists.


                            JE comments: Scientists do seem to do a better job with quality-of-life issues than religious extremists.  But I would add that as recently as 3-4 centuries ago, theology was considered the "mother" of all sciences (knowledge).


                            In Tor's Church of God the Universe, I vote we give prophethood to Copernicus, Newton, Darwin, Pasteur, and Einstein--for starters.  Any other nominations?


                            Please login/register to reply or comment:

                            • Thoughts on God the Universe: What will JS (Joe Sixpack) Say? (Richard Hancock, USA 03/21/15 3:12 PM)

                              I wish to comment on Tor Guimaraes's concept of the God of the Universe. This is an interesting concept, but one useful only for the mental elite. This is not a religion that will be persuasive to "Joe Sixpack" in America and his cohorts in all other nations. I am an agnostic on the legend of Adam and Eve. I feel that in the early beginnings of mankind, questions arose among the members of the different tribes about creation. I think that it is likely that this story was invented by the prophets to provide the common man an easy understanding of the dawn of humanity. I feel like the later stories of the Bible on Abraham, Jacob, Isaac, Moses, John the Baptist and, finally, Jesus and his disciples were all historical. These records can certainly be easily understood by the common man throughout the world. That is why churches have missionaries and and we have an organization like Wycliffe Bible translators, who devote themselves to translating the Bible into hundreds of different languages.



                              As I have mentioned previously, I have a set of the Great Books of the Western World, which includes the Bible, although it is not reprinted as a part of the set. Over the years, I have read quite a few of these volumes and have found that reading this whole set could scarcely be accomplished in a single lifetime if all leisure time were to be devoted to these books. Last year I noticed a slim introductory volume called The Great Conversation which had a suggested 10 years of selected readings. I decided that I would do this partly because I will have to live to the age of 99 to successfully complete this program. I am now in the second year of these readings and have found Plato, Aristophanes, Aristotle, Plutarch, etc. to be heavy going. These people are all of the pre-Christian era and their mention of a God or Gods is perplexing, to say the least. It was a great relief to read the New Testament as a part of the list--The Gospel according to Saint Mathew was a beautiful experience when compared to the pre-Christian readings.



                              In closing, I will quote from an article in the Chronicles of Oklahoma (Winter 2014-15), published by the Oklahoma Historical Society, which has an article entitled "Prophecies from the Oklahoma Century Chest," a cache of letters of prophecy written in 1913 by important people in religion, journalism, medicine, law, education and banking. These were placed in a Century Chest in a Lutheran church with instructions that they be opened in 2013. These are all very interesting. The concluding words from the quote on religion from the Right Rev. Francis Key Brooke, Bishop of the Episcopal Church of Oklahoma (1852-1918), is particularly pertinent to this post:



                              "I cannot foresee nor foretell that all will have just the same things and enjoy them in the same way. There

                              will still be differences of endowment in taste, capacity, desires, and the things to gratify them.

                              But none calling themselves Christian will be discontented, envious, or covetous because each will be

                              striving not chiefly to get what he himself wants, but to give his neighbor what that neighbor needs.

                              And this I foresee, and as I foresee it, wish and pray for it."



                              These inspiring Christian words are meaningful to people in all walks of life, from the most prosperous elite to the most humble manual laborers.


                              JE comments:  Yes, charity.  I am reminded that I haven't passed the WAIS hat in a couple of months--so get ready.  (I must stress that Richard and Nancy Hancock have been generous Patrons of WAIS since time immemorial.  Thank you, Richard, and best of luck with your reading program.  I'm doing much the same thing, but in audio format during my long commute.  In my business, it's a treat to be read to.)


                              So what do WAISers think:  When it comes to religion, do the world's Joe Sixpacks crave the easy answers?


                              Please login/register to reply or comment:

                              • It's Good to Be Read to: The Great Courses (Enrique Torner, USA 03/23/15 1:32 AM)
                                John Eipper (see Richard Hancock, 21 March) wrote of listening to audio books during his commute. I am glad to see that I am not the only person in this world who likes to be read to, when unable to read by myself.

                                For about 4-5 years, I had to commute one hour and 15 minutes to work, and then back home. I discovered "The Great Courses," a company that is devoted to find the best college professors in the US and beyond, and have them record courses of all kinds in a bunch of different disciplines. I became addicted to them! I went from hating to loving my commute!


                                I must have taken 15-20 courses, at least, in history, literature, philosophy, religion, western civilization, and other subjects! So much to learn! What a joy! Then we ended up moving to Mankato, Minnesota, to be closer to work, and now I only have a 10-15 minute commute, which is nice, but I don't have much time to cover courses any more. The courses may be purchased on CD, DVD, or you may stream them onto your computer. They regularly put some of them on sale (up to 75% off), so you can get them really cheap. Check out their website:


                                http://www.thegreatcourses.com/


                                JE comments: A great (courses) tip from Enrique Torner.  I've been relying on the ol' Public Library for my audio books.  They are surprisingly expensive to purchase, and when you're done with them, they don't look classy on a shelf like a real book.  It's best just to throw them in the return bin. 


                                In a year or two I'll probably be streaming books directly into my car from the Cloud (whatever that is), so I won't have to deal with physical media at all. 


                                Now all I need is a self-driving car...

                                Please login/register to reply or comment:

                                • It's Good to Be Read to (John Heelan, UK 03/23/15 6:51 AM)
                                  As I get older and my eyes tire very quickly, I often rely on audio books for entertainment and instruction. Luckily we get them downloaded for free from our local public library via the OneClickDigital service (http://iow.oneclickdigital.eu/Home/Featured.aspx ) so I can listen to them on my iPod at home and when I go to the gym with other coffin-dodgers.

                                  My most recent "listen" was Orwell's Homage to Catalonia which, although I have it read several times, I found I understood the internecine politics far better having had it read to me by a professional actor.


                                  My other "listens" have ranged from the classics (e.g. War and Peace--some 60 hours worth!), plays (e.g. Ibsen's Hedda Gabler), and various of my favourite crime writers.


                                  JE comments: I'm going to tackle W & P one of these days.  Must get my ears prepared. Sixty hours of listening, at a steady 60 MPH, translates to 3600 miles of Tolstoy.  That's farther than Paris to Moscow--and back.


                                  Alas and alack, the Royal Oak Public Library doesn't have Homage to Catalonia. I did, however, finish the 13 CDs of 1984 just last month. I had forgotten how brilliant a writer Orwell was.

                                  Please login/register to reply or comment:

                                  • Orwell (Paul Preston, UK 03/24/15 4:12 AM)
                                    In response to John Heelan and John Eipper (23 March), it's a pity that Orwell didn't understand the internecine politics inside Spain during the time that he was there as an uninformed observer.

                                    JE comments: I might have been more cautious when I said Orwell was "brilliant." Several WAISers (including Robert Gibbs) have mentioned the tendentious and unreadable Road to Wigan Pier.  I've never read it, but the entire text is available on-line:


                                    http://www.limpidsoft.com/a5/wiganpier.pdf


                                    When it comes to the political treatise, I'm still very impressed by Emmanuel Goldstein's Theory and Practice of Oligarchical Collectivism, two chapters of which are embedded in Nineteen Eighty-Four.


                                    Please login/register to reply or comment:

                                    • Orwell (John Heelan, UK 03/24/15 10:33 AM)
                                      Paul Preston (24 March) is of course perfectly correct when he comments, "It's a pity that Orwell didn't understand the internecine politics inside Spain during the time that he was there as an uninformed observer."

                                      One can trace the subsequent changes in his naive and perhaps romantic political thinking on arrival in Spain, in the months following his return from Spain, moving from his initial admiration of the Communist policy to an apparent bitter dislike.


                                      JE comments: I'd like to add a naive question: at what point did Orwell become disillusioned with Stalinism? Was it in the wake of his service in Spain?

                                      Please login/register to reply or comment:

                                      • When Did Orwell Become Disillusioned with Stalinism? (Paul Preston, UK 03/25/15 1:29 AM)
                                        To answer JE's question of 24 March, I'm not sure that Orwell was ever "illusioned" with Stalinism. He was certainly hostile by the time that he left Spain.

                                        However, for what it is worth, my view of the problem concerning Orwell's Homage to Catalonia and, by extension, its cinematic version, Ken Loach's film Land and Freedom, lies not so much in what they say but in their audiences and how they are perceived. Orwell's book is an interesting eye-witness account by a partial witness of a tiny fragment of the Spanish Civil War. If I were assembling a list of one hundred or so important books on the war, I would certainly include it. However, I would not do so as a reliable overview of the war nor even of the central debate over whether the Spanish Republic should have made its priority revolution and not a conventional war effort against Franco and his Axis allies. I would include it, just as I would include Spike Milligan's Hitler My Part in his Downfall in a long list of books on the Second World War, as a worm's eye view by a foot soldier.



                                        Herbert Matthews, the great New York Times correspondent wrote years after the publication of Homage to Catalonia, "The book did more to blacken the Loyalist cause than any work written by enemies of the Second Republic--a result that Orwell did not intend, as some things he wrote later proved. In Homage, Orwell was writing in white heat about a confused, unimportant, and obscure incident in a war he did not understand. All he saw from December 1936 to May 1937, was a little stretch of the 'phony front' at Huesca, and a bloody clash between Communists and Anarchists in Barcelona. He had volunteered in London through the leftist Independent Labour Party, which had links with the Spanish POUM (Partido Obrero de Unificación Marxista). This was a dissident, very Marxist, not treacherous, but somewhat subversive revolutionary group that was proving dangerous to the Republican government."



                                        The perceived honesty of Orwell's book has been one of the pillars of its success along, of course, with its anti-Communist stance. However, not long after the publication of the book, he himself was questioning some of the things that he had written. On 20 December 1938, in a letter to Frank Jellinek, he wrote about Homage to Catalonia. "I have no doubt I have made a lot of mistakes and misleading statements, but I have tried to indicate all through that the subject is very complicated and that I am extremely fallible as well as biased." He also confessed to Jellinek, "Actually I've given a more sympathetic account of the POUM "line" than I actually felt, because I always told them they were wrong and refused to join the party." Far from believing that the Spanish Republic was turning into a Stalinist dictatorship, he wrote in late 1938 or very early 1939, a hymn of praise for the fact that democratic norms had been maintained: "The war has now lasted two-and-a-half years and caused perhaps a million deaths, besides unheard-of-misery. How much damage has it done to the cause of democracy? One has only to consider the possibilities of modern war, the kind of things that governments will have to do to hold their peoples together, to feel very doubtful whether there will be much democracy left anywhere after several years of ‘all-in' warfare between great nations. Yet it is a fact that the Spanish war, in nearly every way so terrible, has been a hopeful portent in this respect. In Government Spain both the forms and the spirit of democracy have survived to an extent that no one would have foreseen; it would even be true to say that during the first year of the war they were developing."


                                        Unfortunately, for thousands of people, Homage to Catalonia is the only book on the Spanish Civil War that they will ever read--its year-on-year sales show that it outsells any other single book on the war. So, it is not a question of denigrating Orwell but rather of raising awareness that his perceptions are often wrong precisely because they are so narrow and so localised. Orwell's book in isolation gives the impression that the key events of the Spanish Civil War took place on the Aragón front and in Barcelona during the May Days of 1937 and, most misleading of all, promotes the idea that the Spanish Republic was defeated because of Communist policy.


                                        Orwell's book makes it too easy to forget that the Spanish Republic was defeated by Franco, Hitler, Mussolini, and the pusillanimity and narrow-mindedness of the British, American and French governments. Stalin has a lot to answer for, but not for Franco's victory.


                                        JE comments:  Thank you, Paul, for patiently explaining this.  Herbert Matthews and Ronald Hilton were central figures in the "breaking" of the Bay of Pigs story, and I found several correspondences between the two in the RH archives.  Here's a 2006 post on "The Man who Invented Fidel" (that was Matthews, according to biographer Antony DePalma, who would later write Prof. H's obituary in the NYT).


                                        http://waisworld.org/go.jsp?id=02a&objectType=post&o=9761&objectTypeId=4011&topicId=1


                                        Please login/register to reply or comment:


                                      • Orwell and Stalinism (John Heelan, UK 03/25/15 1:52 AM)
                                        JE asked on 24 March: "At what point did Orwell become disillusioned with Stalinism? Was it in the wake of his service in Spain?"

                                        Based on my reading of Homage to Catalonia, I suspect that it started with the communists depicting the Trotskyist POUM as a fascist fifth column and then purging it violently. There was a propaganda poster published at the time depicting the Trotskyist POUM pulling off a communist mask to reveal a swastika mask beneath it. (I have tried unsuccessfully to find a copy of the poster on the Internet.)


                                        Further, Orwell disliked what he thought was communist influence stopping what he considered the real truth of happening in Barcelona being published in the media. Perhaps this was a source for his creation of the Ministry of Truth in his novel 1984? The book Orwell in Spain, a collection of his articles, book reviews and sundry writings post-Spain, gives a useful insight to the way his view changed.


                                        JE comments:  Trotsky was the not-so-veiled inspiration for Orwell's Emmanuel Goldstein, the arch-enemy former member of Big Brother's inner circle in 1984.  Throughout the novel, one suspects that Goldstein had merely been invented by the Oceania regime to give everyone something to hate.

                                        Please login/register to reply or comment:

                                        • Orwell and Barcelona's "May Days" (Paul Preston, UK 03/26/15 4:26 AM)
                                          John Heelan (25 March) is probably right about the factors that inspired Orwell's anti-Communism. However, I do not think that Orwell understood what John calls "the real truth of [what was] happening in Barcelona."



                                          The "May Days" had their origin in a major food crisis. By December 1936, the population of Catalonia had been swelled by the arrival of 300,000 refugees. This constituted ten per cent of the population of the entire region and probably nearer 40% of the population of Barcelona itself. After the fall of Málaga in February 1937, the numbers soared even more. The strain of housing and feeding the new arrivals, with the attendant problems of shortages and inflation, had embittered existing conflicts.

                                          Until December 1936, during which time the anarcho-syndicalist CNT had controlled the supply ministry, their solution had been to requisition food at artificially low prices. This provoked shortages as farmers resisted by hoarding stocks. After the mid-December cabinet crisis, the Catalan Communist (PSUC) leader Joan Comorera had taken over the supply portfolio and introduced a more market-based approach. This infuriated the anarchists but did not solve the problem. Moreover, Catalonia also needed imported food but lacked the foreign exchange to buy it. The consequent shortages and food price inflation led to bread riots in Barcelona, as well armed clashes for control of food stores between the CNT-FAI and the PSUC. There were also clashed as the Republican authorities tried to curb the activities of uncontrolled militia groups which had carried out atrocities against right-wingers. In addition, there is an argument that the anti-Stalinist POUM, by attacking and insulting the Republic's only powerful ally, was effectively guilty of treachery. One can only imagine how Churchill's government would have reacted against a group attacking Britain's American ally in the same way.



                                          Orwell accepted the POUM view that the "fets de maig" (May events) were the result of a carefully laid Stalinist plot. However, the conflict between the advocates of revolution and those who believed that priority should be given to the war effort was, in the context of the food crisis, much more complicated than that.


                                          JE comments:  Interesting.  Political intrigue is a much more attractive explanation for a novelist than food shortages caused by basic supply and demand.

                                          Please login/register to reply or comment:

                                          • Orwell and Barcelona's "May Days" (Nigel Jones, UK 03/26/15 8:32 AM)
                                            Whatever the inaccuracies and partialities of Orwell's account of his eyewitness part in the Spanish Civil War in Homage to Catalonia, he has two inestimable advantages over the historians who have subsequently sought to criticise his book (cf. Paul Preston, 26 March):

                                            1) He was the greatest political writer in English in the 20th century, whose fundamental characteristic is honesty.


                                            2) He was there and they were not.


                                            Orwell may well, as Paul says, have missed the subtle underlying causes of the May days in Barcelona, but the essential message he drew from his experiences remains valid and helps to explain the massive sales not only of Homage to Catalonia, but also of Animal Farm and 1984--that Communism is a malign and mistaken doctrine that did fatal damage to the Spanish Republic when Stalinist Russia became the Republic's chief backer.


                                            After his recent superb biography of the Spanish Communist leader Santiago Carrillo (which took no prisoners in denouncing this loathsome and treacherous mass murderer for what he was), I would have thought that Paul would have come round to sharing Orwell's view.


                                            JE comments:  Eyewitness accounts and academic history are totally different animals.  We can prefer one over the other, but does it make sense to talk about "advantages"?


                                            Let me try to be conciliatory, and praise two recent additions to the WAIS library:  Paul Preston's The Last Stalinist (about Carrillo), and Nigel Jones's Peace and War:  Britain in 1914.  I'm about halfway through both.  Four thumbs up (two apiece).  I'll have more to say by May or so.


                                            Here are the latest WAISer titles, and a new use for our piano:





                                            Hall Gardner, The Failure to Prevent WWI; Tim Brown, Diplomarine; Noël Valis, The Labor of Longing; Paul Preston, The Last Stalinist; Nigel Jones, Peace and War.



                                             

                                            Please login/register to reply or comment:

                                            • Orwell, History, and Memory (Eugenio Battaglia, Italy 03/28/15 8:46 AM)
                                              Following the latest debate on the Spanish Civil War which followed the electoral victory of the Left (48% Left - 46% Right), it seems that some writers fall in love with a special "memory" of the Spanish Republic (and of course of other events).

                                              But the Stalinists were a bunch of bloodthirsty malefactors. In Italy we had the chance to see these criminals at work during and after our own Civil War.


                                              If the great Alain de Benoist will allow me, I wish to quote him:


                                              "It is the work of 'memory,' which today is made a substitute for morality. At the same time it is a kind of religion which is the exact opposite of the work of a historian."


                                              JE comments: Memory is not the same thing as what happened, but in a sense it's more meaningful. It (memory) is the significance an event has for us today.  Lessons to be learned and such.


                                              Franco's side had no shortage of bloodthirsty malefactors, either.

                                              Please login/register to reply or comment:

                                              • Orwell, History, Memory: Who Started the War? (Carmen Negrin, France 03/28/15 1:57 PM)
                                                In response to Eugenio Battaglia, first of all the Spanish Republicans were not bloodthirsty, and second, they mainly were not Stalinists. As my grandfather would say, "who started the war?"

                                                One thing is history, facts, figures, documents. The rest is propaganda. Facts exists now, so no need to keep the propaganda going on forever.


                                                JE comments:  Yes, who started it.  With most wars of modern times, the party that started it tends to lose.  The Spanish Civil War was an exception.  And likewise with most wars, the majority of historians side with the victors.  Once again, Spain is an exception.

                                                Please login/register to reply or comment:

                                                • Were the Spanish Republicans "Bloodthirsty"? (Nigel Jones, UK 03/29/15 4:13 AM)
                                                  Carmen Negrin's statement (28 March 2015) that "Spanish Republicans were not bloodthirsty" is demonstrable nonsense.

                                                  Even historians sympathetic to the Republic such as WAIS's own Paul Preston (In his book The Spanish Holocaust) accept that 50,000 civilians were murdered by Republicans during the Civil War. Others put the figure considerably higher still.


                                                  These include nearly 7,000 members of the Spanish clergy, (headed by 13 Bishops), nearly 500 of whom were beatified by the Catholic Church as martyrs as recently as 2007.


                                                  In the Paracuellos massacres carried out near Madrid in November-December 1936, between 1000-4000 people were slaughtered in a systematic massacre partly organised by the disgusting murderer Santiago Carrillo, later leader of the Stalinist Spanish Communist party.


                                                  In the small Andalusian town of Ronda (population 15,000 in 1936), 500 were killed before the town was liberated by the Nationalists in September 1936.


                                                  These are just a couple of examples of the Red Terror that swept Republican Spain in the early months of the Civil War. Later the killings became more targeted, and later still as the "revolution devoured its children" and the Stalinists seized full control (contra Carmen), the victims were the Stalinists' fellow leftists, such as the leader of Orwell's POUM, Nin, who was tortured to death.


                                                  Not bloodthirsty? Tell that to the birds


                                                  JE comments: Civil wars are always nasty affairs, but I believe Carmen was making the argument that Franco's side had the Republicans beat in the bloodthirstiness department.  (Bloodthirstier?) In any case, her main point was that Franco started the war.  To this I would add, which side murdered García Lorca?  Just think of the plays and poetry we would have if Lorca had lived another 40 or 50 years.


                                                  Please login/register to reply or comment:

                                                  • Were the Spanish Republicans "Bloodthirsty"? (Carmen Negrin, France 03/29/15 7:17 AM)
                                                    In response to Nigel Jones (29 March), one thing is government-sanctioned violence, and another the uncontrolled people avenging years of submission and abuse by the church and others.

                                                    Moreover, these people were controlled as soon and as much as possible given the circumstances. And remember that the circumstances were created by those Nigel describes as "liberators."  Liberators from what? From democracy!


                                                    If Franco was the suave peace-loving liberator that Nigel seems to think, why were there more people killed after the war was over than during the war itself? Was there a need to preserve his concept of peace? The peace of the cemeteries, no doubt!


                                                    JE comments:  The Spanish Civil War flares up about twice a year on WAIS.  I hope our less-interested colleagues will be indulgent this time, as starting tomorrow I will be teaching the SCW at the College.  My central message, even more than the causes and developments of the actual war, will be simple:  the war divides Spain to this day.


                                                    Please login/register to reply or comment:

                                                    • on "Bloodthirstiness" (Nigel Jones, UK 03/30/15 1:57 AM)
                                                      So Carmen Negrín (29 March) believes that "government-sanctioned" killings are terrible, but killings by "uncontrolled people" are not so bad?

                                                      I'll leave it to logicians to sort that one out.


                                                      She also believes that Ronda, in the months when it was ruled by brutal anarchist gangs who killed 500 people out of the town's 15,000 population, was a "democracy"? Well, if it was, give me dictatorship any day.


                                                      I am old enough to have experienced life in Spain under the Franco dictatorship, and life in Soviet Russia and other socialist paradises in eastern Europe that socialists hanker after so nostalgically. Franco's Spain was freer, more prosperous, and happier than any of them.


                                                      I note that Carmen lives today in France, a country where President Hollande's Socialist party has made the usual almighty socialist mess of everything, and which is being punished by France's sorely tried voters in Sunday's local elections as a result.


                                                      Communism and Socialism was and is a disastrous failure wherever it has been attempted. It cost an estimated 100 million lives in the 20th century. If you don't believe me, take a look at Venezuela, Cuba, North Korea or any other country which still calls itself "socialist."


                                                      JE comments: I'd like to piggyback on Nigel Jones's post to raise a question: is there any substantive difference between mob violence and systematic violence from a government? If you're on the receiving end, there is not.


                                                      Still, "history," "public opinion" or what have you, judges far more harshly the calculated violence that comes from a repressive regime. Couldn't we draw an analogy between reckless manslaughter and first-degree murder?

                                                      Please login/register to reply or comment:

                                                      • on "Bloodthirstiness" in Spanish Civil War (Paul Preston, UK 03/31/15 3:31 AM)
                                                        In response to Carmen Negrín, Nigel Jones (30 March) wrote, "So Carmen Negrín believes that 'government-sanctioned' killings are terrible, but killings by 'uncontrolled people' are not so bad?"



                                                        I do not think that this is what Carmen said at all. Moreover, to take the activities of anarchists and common criminals as representative of "Republicans" is unjustified. This is an immensely complex subject. While it is true that the anarchist movement was hostile to the Franco military coup, it is also true that large parts of the movement were hostile to the democratic Republic. Moreover, during the war, the movement's lax (not to say virtually non-existent) membership regulations made it easy for fifth columnist agents provocateurs to take refuge therein.



                                                        Furthermore, it should be remembered, in distinguishing between the two sides in the Spanish Civil War, that the use of terror was enshrined in the instructions issued to rebel officers before the coup. The coup led to a collapse of civilian authority, prisons were opened by the anarchists and reports of the atrocities being committed by the military rebels provoked a desire for revenge. By the end of 1936, the Republican authorities had managed to re-establish order and put a stop to the worst of the atrocities. On the other side, the killing went on well into the 1940s.



                                                        I would like to respond to another comment by Nigel Jones. A couple of days ago, he said, in praise of Orwell, "Whatever the inaccuracies and partialities of Orwell's account of his eyewitness part in the Spanish Civil War in Homage to Catalonia, he has two inestimable advantages over the historians who have subsequently sought to criticise his book (cf. Paul Preston, 26 March): 1) He was the greatest political writer in English in the 20th century, whose fundamental characteristic is honesty. 2) He was there and they were not."



                                                        Nigel's high opinion of Orwell is perfectly justified, but I am astounded by the view that the coincidence of being in a place during a historically important event trumps years of research. I was in Spain during several important historical moments and that gave me a "feel" for the atmosphere of the time, but lengthy subsequent research permitted me to write far more sensibly about those events.

                                                        A case in point is my biography of Santiago Carrillo. I knew him quite well as an affable and apparently open individual always ready to share his memories. It was only research in the archives that revealed the scale of his crimes against both rightists and his own comrades.


                                                        JE comments:  Yes.  I have a close friend (from Asturias, like Carrillo) who to this day admires Carrillo, although I sense she's primarily enamored of his avuncular, senior statesman side.  Her birthday is in a few months:  a copy of Paul Preston's El zorro rojo is in order...

                                                        Please login/register to reply or comment:

                                                        • More on SCW (Nigel Jones, UK 03/31/15 3:40 PM)
                                                          Since they both criticise me, I would like to take issue with Paul Preston and Ángel Viñas on several points in their respective posts on the Spanish Civil War (31 March).

                                                          Paul disputes that Carmen Negrín had drawn a distinction between mass murders carried out by "governments" and those carried out by "uncontrolled people."


                                                          So let's see what Carmen wrote: "One thing is government-sanctioned violence, and another is uncontrolled people avenging years of submission and abuse" (sic).


                                                          If this isn't drawing a logic-defying distinction between two sorts of mass murder, I don't know what it is.


                                                          It is unworthy for Republican apologists to try and justify or excuse mass murder by "their" side while condemning it when committed by the side they dislike. Murder is murder, no matter who commits it and in whatever circumstances.


                                                          Secondly, Paul, like many academic historians, puts, in my view, an inflated value on written documents preserved in archives and correspondingly disparages such sources as oral and eye-witness testimony.


                                                          Many--if not most--significant historical events were never written down.


                                                          But just because they were not recorded does not mean that they did not happen. (To take a huge example, Hitler's authorisation for the Holocaust.) I maintain that Orwell's testimony on the immediate cause of the May Days--the seizure of the Barcelona Telephone Exchange--is as valid, if not more valid, than Paul's more leisurely analysis based on documents of what he thinks were the more significant long-term causes (food shortages and a rise in refugees).


                                                          I repeat: Orwell was there.


                                                          I welcome Paul's discovery of Santiago Carrillo's true murderous nature in his documentary research. This is all the more honourable of him considering his own left-wing sympathies. It is hard, I suppose, for anyone to abandon positions first held in youth with all the invested emotional capital (and socialism was all the rage when Paul was young). So all the more honour to him for revealing what a monster Carrillo was.


                                                          Rather patronisingly, Ángel assumes my relative ignorance of Spanish affairs, although I have been visiting the country since my childhood, and it holds my mother's bones. (Like Lorca, she died in Granada.)


                                                          I have no doubt that Franco was a terrible man, and corruptly enriched himself. Sadly that is a characteristic of dictators, though I would be surprised if his wealth and personal luxuries exceeded that of such heroes of the Left as Allende, the Castro brothers, Tito, Zhivkov, and the Kim dynasty in North Korea.


                                                          The main point, though, is that for all his crimes and corruption Franco saved Spain from the murderous anarchy that menaced it under the Republic in 1936 (and we must remember that political opinion in the February 1936 elections was almost equally divided between Left and Right); he saved it from the Stalinists like Carrillo who had taken control of the Republic by 1939; he kept it out of the Second World War--despite pressure from Hitler himself to join at the hour of Nazi victory; and he gave his war-torn, fractured country more than three decades of ever-increasing prosperity and freedom. For all his flaws, this was no mean achievement.


                                                          Franco or Azaña: it really is a no-brainer!


                                                          JE comments: I would have taken Azaña, but Nigel knows we'll agree to disagree here. We're still friends. Two little quibbles: the Kim boys are heroes of the Left? And Franco gave Spain three decades of...freedom? Gradually increasingly prosperity, yes, but consider the starvation of the 1940s. The only way to go was up.

                                                          Please login/register to reply or comment:

                                                          • More on SCW (Carmen Negrin, France 04/01/15 2:08 AM)
                                                            Nigel Jones (31 March) perfectly understands what I perhaps didn't express clearly enough. The difference concerning the murders, mass murders, conducted between 1936 and '39 in Spain under the officially, legally and democratically elected government and the coup-born dictatorship of Franco, is very simple: at no point did the government encourage mass murder. On the contrary, those who were responsible for them were prosecuted, when possible, given the circumstances; whilst on the Franco side it was part of the officially established strategy.  This is in written and oral witnessed history.

                                                            If Nigel prefers non-democratic systems, which supposedly boost the economy, that is his problem and conscious. But facts are facts. He reminds me of the lesson I learned while working for Palestinians. You can know things, objectively, know you know and yet reject them because of faith motives. ¡No hay peor sordo que el que no quiere oir! And this is, of course, a real problem. How can one go forward when there is no will? How are we ever going to write a history of Europe for instance?


                                                            JE comments: "The deafest person of all is the one who doesn't want to hear."


                                                            Remember, dear friends, that today we celebrate the WAIS Dove of Peace, brought to you courtesy of Tetiana, our multi-talented web artist in Ukraine.  I love this image, so I'll run it again.  Thanks, Tetiana!





                                                            Please login/register to reply or comment:

                                                            • More on SCW; Response to Carmen Negrin (Nigel Jones, UK 04/01/15 4:42 PM)
                                                              I am sorry, but despite John Eipper's pleas for peace on WAIS I cannot let Carmen Negrín get away with misrepresentations of what I say and think--and of history itself (1 April 2015).

                                                              Carmen falsely claims that the Republican Government opposed illegal murders and prosecuted those responsible. Once again, this is demonstrably untrue: why else were the notorious Paracuellos massacres carried out under the auspices of the Republican authorities in Madrid, and how is it that one of their chief organisers, Santiago Carrillo, continued to hold high office during the SCW and in exile?


                                                              Carmen also accuses me of opposing democracy. Again, this is untrue. I support the rising of the Spanish Army in 1936 because the Republican Government had lost control, the country was in murderous anarchy, and the Republic was even encouraging the murder of its leading Parliamentary opponents (cf. Calvo Sotelo). The choice was between order or chaos followed by Communist rule.



                                                              Anthony Candil's post of today incidentally was one of the most sensible and thoughtful readings of the Spanish Civil War I have read on WAIS. I completely agree with him that too many posts here from Republican sympathisers simply assume that their position is the only one possible to take.


                                                              This is arrogant nonsense, and I beg to differ.


                                                              JE comments: This flareup of the Spanish Civil War has been particularly acrimonious. The WAIS dove of peace has already returned to the roost. I'll see if I can coax him (or her?) back.  At the very least, the dove will anchor our homepage for another day (waisworld.org).


                                                              Anthony Candil has written to remind us that today, April 1st, was the day in 1939 that armed hostilities in Spain actually stopped. I hope to get to Anthony's post before midnight.


                                                              The pigeons are itching to fly...

                                                              Please login/register to reply or comment:

                                                              • Paracuellos, Calvo Sotelo: Response to Nigel Jones (Carmen Negrin, France 04/03/15 4:17 AM)
                                                                In reply to Nigel Jones (1 April), the interpretations vary but the facts don't. A lot has been written about Paracuellos and the death figures (lower than those mentioned by Nigel) have also been given by ... the Red Cross. Paracuellos was a horrible event certainly, but not the only one.

                                                                At least they have graves! As for Calvo Sotelo, he had a trial and was plotting against the legal government before and while being in prison, part of the disorder (?) that Nigel criticises.  He was not killed by government orders.


                                                                The question I ask Nigel is simple: freedom and temporary disorder or order and no freedom? Follow the voice of the disordered majority or the order of the imposed minority?


                                                                By the way, about communist countries and their success, what does Nigel have to say about China or even Vietnam, officially two very communist countries?


                                                                JE comments: Nigel has criticized China several times in his writings over the years, but I don't recall him ever touching on Vietnam.  Communist China in any case is probably the most "capitalist" of the world's nations. Paradoxes are what make life interesting. I am reminded of Mark Twain, who said the coldest winter he ever experienced was summer in San Francisco.


                                                                I invite WAISers to send their responses to Carmen Negrín's question:  freedom and disorder, or order without freedom?  Latin American history has been defined by this choice--for example the "Ordem e Progresso" on Brazil's flag.

                                                                Please login/register to reply or comment:

                                                                • Paracuellos, Calvo Sotelo (Nigel Jones, UK 04/03/15 10:15 AM)
                                                                  Yet again, Carmen Negrin (3 April) seeks to excuse or play down the massacres and murders carried out in Republican Spain, though she at least at last admits that the Paracuellos massacre took place.

                                                                  Carmen puzzlingly claims that Jose Calvo Sotelo "had a trial." Not so, he was dragged out of his home in front of his wife and children in the early hours of 13 July 1936 by a squad of the Republic's thuggish Assault Guards. The gunman who then shot him in the back of the neck, one Luis Cuenca (not to be confused of the actor of the same name) was the bodyguard of the Socialist leader Indalecio Prieto, giving the lie to Carmen's claim that the murder of the Opposition leader did not originate from the very top. The murderers were never brought to official justice but were killed in the Civil War.


                                                                  As I have said before on WAIS: the murder of the Opposition Leader after he was abducted from his home by the state's police proves that the Republic had lost control and in itself fully justifies the army's rising.


                                                                  Carmen asks me whether I prefer freedom and temporary disorder or order and no freedom. If she is asking about Spain in 1936 and thereafter, it is a false choice. There was no freedom in Republican Spain in the Civil War, but murderous anarchy morphing into repressive Stalinism. And although the Franco regime was certainly brutal and oppressive in its early days, it gradually liberalised and by the 1960s was a lot freer than the Communist countries Carmen so much admires.


                                                                  That admiration is clear in her praise of China and Vietnam. But the recent economic progress in those countries has come about only because these two "socialist" countries have enthusiastically embraced capitalism! If and when the stultifying grip of their geriatric Communist parties was loosened, they would be freer, happier and more prosperous still.


                                                                  Socialism and Communism go against the grain of human nature. They have always failed, and will always fail.


                                                                  JE comments: I did not detect any admiration for China and Vietnam in Carmen Negrín's comment.  Her intention was to ask why Nigel did not include these countries in his list of "impoverished" communist regimes.


                                                                  I'll keep posting 'em as they come in, but I hope we can call a ceasefire soon on the SCW.

                                                                  Please login/register to reply or comment:

                                                                  • When Did the Spanish Civil War Begin? (John Heelan, UK 04/04/15 3:44 AM)
                                                                    JE asked a little time ago the difficult question, "When did the Spanish Civil War start?"

                                                                    The Calvo Sotelo murder discussion is a good example of the way a nation salami-slices its way to civil war with tit-for-tat street fighting and assassinations. Prior events saw Guardia Civil lieutenant Anastasio de los Reyes gunned down on 14 April 1936. His funeral was interrupted by shots fired by gunmen believed to be from the Falange. José Castillo was the Assault Guard officer that violently put down the riots generated by the funeral. This marked him down for death in turn and he was killed by Falangist gunmen three months later (the second one within five weeks). Apparently his enraged colleagues decided to kill Gil Robles but, unable to find him, they "arrested" and assassinated Calvo Sotelo instead. (Like Lorca, he was unlucky enough to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.)


                                                                    So how far back should one go to find the "start of SCW"? Anthony J. Candil put this point eloquently in his post dated 1 April, in which he went back to Castilblanco (1931), Casa Viejas (1933) and the Asturian Revolution (1934).


                                                                    JE comments: Perhaps we should go back much further, to the Napoleonic invasion and Spain's division into traditionalists and reformists. Carlism, from at least the 1830s, was another factor.  Or how about anti-clericalism, already visible in literary works from the 16th century?

                                                                    Please login/register to reply or comment:

                                                                    • When Did the Spanish Civil War Begin? (Angel Vinas, Belgium 04/04/15 9:50 AM)
                                                                      In response to John Heelan (4 April), the SCW as a civil war began in September/October 1936, not in July.

                                                                      What happened in July was a military uprising which did not meet with the expectations of the rebels. A momentary stalemate was shattered by two lines of evolution: the beginning of a massive assistance to Franco by the Fascist powers and the non-intervention policy by the democratic ones. The combination of both factors condemned the Republic. Manuel Azaña saw this clearly in September. He passed his views to a number of politicians (among whom Álvarez del Vayo, Giral and Besteiro). All agreed with him, but what could the government do?


                                                                      Under normal circumstances the war could have ended a few months later. It did not because of the massive Soviet assistance which began arriving in mid-October.


                                                                      Note that the military and civil conspirators had envisaged the possibility of a short civil war. That´s why they had ensured proportionate Italian assistance prior to the uprising. It hasn´t been demonstrated that Hitler had entered into any kind of commitment with the conspirators. Nor had they achieved anything in France. However it´s abundantly clear that they had been trying to secure the non-intervention of the UK Government. In this they were eminently successful. WAISers are again referred to chapter II of my book Conspiración del General Franco.


                                                                      Please note that all of my assertions are based on primary evidence, not on colportages.


                                                                      As a brief response to Eugenio Battaglia (3 April), I´m in the UK presently and don't have any reference book at hand.  However, I have written a long essay on the comparative support given to the Republic and Franco by the foreign powers in the SCW.  I can categorically state that Eugenio´s statistics on Soviet personnel sent to the Spanish Republic are absolutely wrong.


                                                                      JE comments:  Ángel Viñas has already been very generous with his explanations, but I'm confident WAISers would be interested in a short overview of Franco's lobbying to ensure UK non-intervention.


                                                                      Regarding the number of Soviet personnel in Spain, I presume they are much higher than the 557 cited by Eugenio?


                                                                      Please login/register to reply or comment:

                                                                      • When Did the Spanish Civil War Begin? What is Meant by "Massive Aid"? (Anthony J Candil, USA 04/06/15 2:53 PM)
                                                                        No offense intended, but I find it strange that Ángel Viñas (4 April) considers that the Spanish Civil War started in September/October 1936 and not earlier.

                                                                        Do we have to assume therefore that the crossing of the Straits of Gibraltar by the Army of Africa was not an act of war? That the first airlift of troops in history was not an act of war?


                                                                        Do we have to assume the same about the capture of Badajoz on August 14, 1936?


                                                                        That the captures of Irún and San Sebastián were not acts of war?


                                                                        That the attacks on the Republican Navy by Italian and German aircraft were not acts of war?


                                                                        To deny or to support matters in a categorical way is something I cannot do, but when talking of "massive military aid" received by the Nationalists as Ángel Viñas suggests, I have my doubts, as it is a fact that by the end of August 1936 the Nationalists had received only the following:



                                                                        • 20 Junkers Ju-52 transport planes and 6 Heinkel He-51 fighters, from Germany





                                                                        • 9 Savoia SM-81 bomber aircraft from Italy





                                                                        • 5 Fiat L3 CV/33 light tankettes



                                                                        It is true that it was probably more than whatever aid the Republicans had received so far from France (Soviet aid didn't arrive until mid-October), but I don't consider this amount to be "massive."  It depends certainly on what one can consider "massive."


                                                                        At the end of August/early September another shipment from Italy arrived in Spain, this time with 10 more Fiat tanks L3, artillery guns and ammunition. This shipment was led by the Italian Captain Oreste Fortuna, who became later a general in the Regio Esercito. (I met his son in Italy at the Italian War School, at Civitavecchia in the mid-1980s, so I speak based on primary evidence.)


                                                                        As a whole we can consider the aid received by Franco to be "massive," but not in the early days. Aid received by the Republicans can also be considered "massive" as a whole by the end of the war.


                                                                        JE comments:  Where one marks the "beginning" of the war is in essence a political statement.  I believe Ángel Viñas was denying war status to what started out as a rebellion by a faction (however large) of the armed forces.


                                                                        A Fiat "tankette":  this doesn't inspire confidence if you're assigned to one in battle.


                                                                        Please login/register to reply or comment:

                                                                        • When Did the Spanish Civil War Begin? What is Meant by "Massive Aid"? (Angel Vinas, Belgium 04/07/15 8:30 AM)
                                                                          I thank Anthony Candil for his commentary of 7 April. In my earlier post I suggested that by September 1936 the Republic had lost the war. I should have added a caeteris paribus--i. e. if the context hadn't changed.

                                                                          The context was defined internationally by the non-intervention policy (one of my students, Miguel Iñiguez, after a couple of months in French archives and two years in Spanish archives, is reconstructing the difficulties sustained by the Republic to obtain arms from abroad) and the support given to Franco by the Axis powers. Internally, it was defined by the rapid advance of the rebel forces both in the North (conquest of San Sebastián and the closing of the frontier to the Basque Government and assorted Republican forces) and in the South in front of futile resistance by workers, farmers, and dispirited troops.


                                                                          Anthony is a bit behind with his data about Axis support. At the end of August 1936 the Third Reich had provided 26 Junkers, 15 Heinkel, 20 big guns, 50 machine guns, 8000 rifles, bombs and munitions galore plus 5000 gas masks. Italy had sent 12 bombers, 27 fighters, 12 anti-aircraft guns, 40 machine guns, five tanks, masses of munitions and bombs, and 11 tons of oil. All the aircraft were fully operational and were flown by their own crews (data from DDI, IV, doc. 819). In September Mussolini played with the idea of sending a fully provisioned brigade. Lt Col Warlimont suggested that Franco accept modern tanks. Immediately, preparations for the setting up of an interarms group, the Condor Legion, started in Berlin.


                                                                          The conspirators had provided for the possibility of having to wage a short war (it depends, of course, on what one understands under "war") and were on the verge of winning it. The pre-coup Republican Government had never contemplated such a possibility.


                                                                          Soviet assistance provided the muscle that the democratic powers had denied to the Republic. The short war turned out to be an illusion. Real war started.


                                                                          JE comments:  It would be intriguing to assemble a survey of all the "short wars" that were anything but.  We'd have to include just about every war throughout history, except maybe Franco-Prussia (1870-'71) and the Six-Day Arab-Israeli War of 1967.

                                                                          Please login/register to reply or comment:


                                                                        • The Fiat "Tankette" (Eugenio Battaglia, Italy 04/08/15 1:14 AM)
                                                                          The Fiat tankette L3/33 (see Anthony Candil, 7 April) according to Wikipedia, was generally called "scatola di sardine."

                                                                          JE comments: I see a resemblance.  Note that the Fiat baby tank has no turret.  It may have been effective against street rioters, but not in warfare.





                                                                           





                                                                          Please login/register to reply or comment:





                                                                  • Death of Calvo Sotelo (Angel Vinas, Belgium 04/06/15 2:16 PM)
                                                                    Were I to resort to the kind of comments that Nigel Jones often makes when referring to the Spanish Civil War, I´d take the violent death of Calvo Sotelo as a prop.

                                                                    Under the Criminal Code then in force in Spain, a distinction was made between homicidio and asesinato. I think in the US the distinction is made between murder in the second and in the first degree. Forgive me if I´m wrong. I´m in deepest Somerset and have no reference books here.


                                                                    Anyway homicidio is a kind of impromptu killing. Asesinato a killing which has been carefully planned. The legal phraseology in Spanish is with premeditación y alevosía. Asesinato was usually punished with the death penalty.


                                                                    The Code of Military Justice provided for speedy court procedures. Thus General Goded among others was brought to a court martial and quickly sentenced to be executed.


                                                                    Calvo Sotelo´s death was a second choice. The murderers wanted to kill Gil Robles in retaliation for the killing of Lt. Castillo by a right-wing gunman a few days before. Gil Robles had left Madrid and wasn´t available. Calvo Sotelo was about to leave Madrid, but the killers didn´t know this. They went to his place, took him out and killed him in cold blood in a van.


                                                                    I don´t condone this killing, technically a homicidio.


                                                                    Let´s now go and have a peep behind the facts. Calvo Sotelo was helping the military to prepare their coup. Twelve days before his killing his number three in Renovacion Española, Pedro Sainz Rodríguez, has signed in Rome several contracts for the provision of five and half scores of war planes (fighters, bombers, and hydroplanes) for the future military rebellion. He paid cash with Juan March´s money. The first shipment was to be sent to Spain most urgently that same July. It was duly prepared and a score of fighters was moved from the Northern airports to the South.


                                                                    Sainz Rodríguez was amongst those who left Madrid after Calvo Sotelo´s killing.


                                                                    Question: what would Calvo Sotelo´s fate have been if the Government had known above his involvement in the coup?


                                                                    Let´s us look now at Franco´s actions. On 16 July General Balmes, military commander of the Las Palmas garrison, met with "an accident." He shot himself on the range while trying to fix his own pistol. He was such a good shot that he pressed his pistol against his stomach to get a better grip and, oh! miracle, he inadvertently fired his own weapon.


                                                                    I have written a long essay showing that this event didn´t happen as portrayed in the media, that Franco was behind this "accident," that one of his men shot Balmes, that he was amply rewarded by Franco afterwards and that Franco was waiting for Balmes´ assassination to set his own uprising in motion counting on the arrival of the Dragon Rapide plane from London.


                                                                    Thus while the non-premeditated killing of Calvo Sotelo is allegedly the spur to the uprising for many, the premeditated killing of Balmes was the sign that Franco had crossed his particular Rubicon to rise against the Government. On the one hand homicidio, on the other asesinato.


                                                                    WAISers could read more about both cases in my contribution to Francisco Pérez Sánchez´s Los mitos del 18 de julio and in my La conspiración del General Franco, both in Crítica, Barcelona. Balmes´ killer is known. I didn´t give his name upon my lawyers´ instruction. Any historian can, however, identify him rather easily.


                                                                    I´ve tried, and go on trying, to demonstrate that Franco´s mythology about the Civil War is based on the working of a mechanism well-known to analysts, that of projection. The attribution to the adversary of one´s behavior. Believe me it fits the facts. Necessary for the identification of the episodes concerned is of course to dedicate some time to the study and analysis of primary evidence, not to the ragoûts de commère usually portrayed in neo-Francoist mythology.


                                                                    JE comments:  We can be quite certain that a military officer would never shoot himself while unjamming a pistol.


                                                                    Would revealing the name of Balmes's killer still provoke a lawsuit?  We're already two generations removed from the responsible party.  This is another example of how the Spanish Civil War has never really ended.



                                                                    My apologies to Ángel Viñas for the delay in posting this response to Nigel Jones (3 April).  I unilaterally declared an Easter truce to the SCW.  It seemed to be in spirit with the season.

                                                                    Please login/register to reply or comment:

                                                                    • Death of General Balmes; Debates on the SCW (Anthony J Candil, USA 04/08/15 12:42 AM)
                                                                      John E is right about the Spanish Civil War and the occasional "hot temperatures" it still creates, but I think it is clear who is boiling the water here no matter what. And Robert Gibbs (7 April) is right also. Civil conflicts never really go away. Maybe the English civil war is already long forgotten, but probably it is the only one.

                                                                      Nevertheless I found it curious that Ángel Viñas has mentioned the "accident" that killed General Balmes when precisely in Spain, in recent days the conservative newspaper ABC has reopened the issue after a historian or someone researching the matter stated "categorically" that it certainly was an accident and Franco, for once, had nothing to do with it. I'm not sure what to believe.


                                                                      But let me point out something to WAISers who have an interest in handguns.


                                                                      Perhaps the perfect "smoking gun" in this issue is the gun itself. The Astra 400 (or M1921 in the Spanish Army) in 9mm Largo (Bergman-Bayard--9 x 23), was the standard sidearm of the Spanish Army from 1921 to WWII and even beyond.


                                                                      I used to have one and it's a single action. The hammer is inside the slide so you can't tell that it's cocked. It has a manual safety on the frame and a grip safety on the back like the US M1911. The pistol won't fire unless it's gripped and the magazine is inserted. As it's single action, it only takes like 5 pounds or less of pressure on the trigger to fire it. He was probably "coon fingering" the pistol, as my instructor used to call it. It was easy to have an "accident" with that gun. I never liked that weapon; it was bulky and heavy.



                                                                      Balmes according to the latest research, shot himself in the gut at "quema ropa" range, so he probably shot himself in the liver or intestine. He lived for 15-20 minutes and apparently was even talking to several people before dying and never mentioned any attacker or killer, according to what ABC is now saying.


                                                                      Balmes was small fish however. To me what really smells are the deaths of General Sanjurjo, the same day the military uprising started, in an aviation accident and later on, in 1937, of General Emilio Mola, the real brains of the uprising, in another aviation accident. There were no black boxes then, but I can hardly believe that these were just accidents.


                                                                      Has Ángel Viñas done any research on these events? It will be interesting to hear his views.


                                                                      In the above I forgot to mention that the Astra 400 pistol was the same model of weapon that was used to assassinate Jose Calvo Sotelo or to kill him, whichever way Ángel Viñas prefers.


                                                                      The actual pistol is at the Army Museum in Toledo, I think, but it was previously in Madrid. I have no idea how the gun was found.


                                                                      It is interesting to see, anyway, that Ángel considers the death of General Balmes a planned and premeditated assassination, and the death of Calvo Sotelo a non-premeditated killing.


                                                                      How can an event that required going by car, for no fewer than 16 people, all led by a Guardia Civil captain, stopping in the middle of the night, and knocking at the door of a private home, be non-premeditated? Did they arrive at Calvo Sotelo's home just by chance?


                                                                      Sorry but this sounds unbelievable.


                                                                      JE comments:  Mob violence? 


                                                                      To "coonfinger" is to touch something, turning it over and over, as raccoons typically do.  It's not an expression you'd want to use in polite company:


                                                                      http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=Coonfinger


                                                                      Regarding the Balmes death, who were the eyewitnesses who spoke with him in his final minutes?  If it was only 1-2 people, they conceivably could have concocted a cover story.  Or not.


                                                                      Finally, Ángel Viñas last year sent this informative post on Sanjurjo and Mola, but it does not address their deaths:


                                                                      https://waisworld.org/go.jsp?id=02a&objectType=post&o=82685&objectTypeId=71460&topicId=39


                                                                      See also this 2012 comment from Ángel:


                                                                      https://waisworld.org/go.jsp?id=02a&objectType=post&o=73680&objectTypeId=65684&topicId=106


                                                                      Please login/register to reply or comment:

                                                                      • Theories About the Death of General Balmes (Angel Vinas, Belgium 04/08/15 12:11 PM)
                                                                        In response to Anthony Candil (8 April), I must say that I´ll be curious about that new evidence regarding Balmes's death.

                                                                        My thesis is based among other things on the extraordinary favors Franco granted to whom I believe was the killer. If I didn´t provide his name and personal record, this was on the advice of several lawyers. I have no compunction in saying that his heirs run a law firm in Spain. I also was surprised that the Dragon Rapide was ordered around July 11 to divert to Las Palmas when it could have easily picked up Franco at Los Rodeos. There´s a lot of nonsense about the impossibility of landing there but one of my first cousins, a former pilot, was flying all kinds of old planes to Los Rodeos without any problem. I also talked to Balmes's family and explored local records.


                                                                        The post mortem might give some additional clues except for the possibility that it was done as a convenient coverup. The historian referred to in ABC belongs to the Catholic extreme right. Paul Preston has been kind enough to send me four of this author's articles, two of which were published in a highly suspected blog called Sancta Missa or something like that.


                                                                        Balmes was no small fry. He commanded the most powerful garrison in the Canaries, and I didn´t find a single clue showing that he was ready to rise against the Government. Franco and Balmes had a secret meeting at the beginning of July and it seems that they didn´t agree. It´s also very strange that Franco was against giving his widow a full pension as befitted a fellow conspirator and no memorial or acknowledgement of any sort was ever set up in his honor. I recommend that Anthony read my work for which I drew on a considerable number of locals and experts. He might be interested in knowing that the colonel who investigated the Dragon Rapide´s flight ran into a lot of problems because he gave the exact date of the landing at Las Palmas. It was an article of faith in the Francoist Air Force that the landing took place the following day, so as to avoid any connection with Balmes's killing. If WAISers are interested I´ll check my book for further details.


                                                                        There is nothing suspicious about Sanjurjo´s death. It was an accident caused by his pilot, a staunch Monarchist as well.


                                                                        As far as Mola´s death is concerned, I´m aware that a lot of rumors abound. No proof for a murder has ever produced. My cousin tells me that Mola´s pilot wasn´t veryy good and that he was prone to making mistakes.


                                                                        JE comments:  The pension matter is another smoking gun.  Yet if there really were a coverup, wouldn't Franco be especially sure to give Balmes's widow the pension?


                                                                        Please login/register to reply or comment:

                                                                        • Franco was a Cold and Mean Fish (Angel Vinas, Belgium 04/09/15 2:49 AM)
                                                                          I gladly reply to John´s question about Franco and the pension in the Balmes case (8 April).

                                                                          Franco was a very cold and mean fish. This is no disrespect, simply a statement of fact. One of Franco´s fellow conspirators but also rival who preceded Franco in seniority was General Goded. Goded was in the Balearic Islands as military commander and took over the task to making the Barcelona garrison rebel. The rebellion was a failure. Goded was court-martialed and executed in August 1936.


                                                                          After the Civil War the question arose about what to do with his corpse, which had been interred in no exalted place. Franco was against spending any money on the exhumation and new burial. Fair enough. General Varela, a close friend to Franco and Goded, paid for it with funds of his Ministry of the Army. Franco dared not interfere. He took another kind of retaliation.


                                                                          When Goded´s widow asked for employment as administrator of a lottery and tobacco shop (this kind of thing was subject to official approval and a very sure way of making some money), Franco put his foot down. Nothing for any Goded.


                                                                          This is a typical venganza del pollo case (the revenge of the chicken). Who said that Franco was forgiving and generous?


                                                                          Returning to Balmes. It took three years for several friends of his to convince Franco to give Balmes's wife a full pension. Source: Balmes´s daughter, who still remembers a completely abandoned family.


                                                                          JE comments:  The tobacco monopoly in Spain goes back some 400 years, and estancos (tobacco/lottery shops) were awarded as de facto pensions to widows, disabled veterans, and the blind.  Is this still the case today?


                                                                          http://es.wikipedia.org/wiki/Estanco


                                                                          Please login/register to reply or comment:




                                                                    • Material Aid to Nationalists in SCW; a Correction (Angel Vinas, Belgium 04/09/15 9:27 AM)
                                                                      With apologies to WAISers I should like to rectify some incorrect information I transmitted on 6 April, regarding the contracts signed by Señor Pedro Sainz Rodríguez in Rome on July 1, 1936. I wrote from memory while I was in Somerset; now I am back home in Brussels. The more exact information is as follows:

                                                                      War material to be delivered to the Nationalists in July 1936: 12 Savoia 81; 10,600 bombs of different weights from 2 to 250 kilos; 30,200 metric tons of high-octane gasoline, sundry other supplies. In total 1,846,750.55 lire.



                                                                      Another three contracts followed for material to be delivered in August. Each had several annexes where the material was detailed to the last ounce. Contract no. 2 involved, for example, 31 Fiat CR 32 and 33 supplementary engines and a lot of sundry elements for a total price of 15,167,225.85 lire. Contract no. 3 covered 3 CR 32 and 3 M 41, 8 additional engines for an amount of 2,257,210 lire. Finally, contract no 4 involved a hydro, 4 engines and lots and lots of ammunition and parts for 2,015,689,97. The total amount of 39.3 million lire (some 616,000 Pounds Sterling at the time) is equivalent to 339 million euros today. The lists of ammunition and other elements are enormous and prove that all the planes were meant to become fully operational from the first moments and operated by Italian crews.



                                                                      None would need all that stuff to wage a coup d´etat.



                                                                      Sorry for my previous mistakes.


                                                                      JE comments:  No apologies needed, Ángel!  The €339 million puts things in perspective.  How much of this did Mussolini extend on credit?

                                                                      Please login/register to reply or comment:

                                                                      • Juan March and Italian Arms for Spanish Nationalists (Angel Vinas, Belgium 04/11/15 8:45 AM)
                                                                        In response to John´s question (9 April), my understanding is that the Italian armaments for the Spanish Nationalists were paid for immediately.

                                                                        Juan March was quick about transferring currency and gold to Italy. There are documents covering some of his actions in this regard. All of this means that there were continuous contacts between the conspirators, military and civilian, and between the Monarchists and March. Unfortunately I haven´t been able to find out more documentation in these areas.



                                                                        If Pedro Sainz Rodríguez hadn´t left a copy of the contracts in his files, not even these previous contacts with the Italians would have become known. In his memoirs, published after Franco's death, he studiously omitted any reference to the contracts. Progress in history is contingent upon new discoveries. A truism but with operational effects.


                                                                        JE comments:  In two weeks' time, our dear colleague Ángel Viñas will be giving a lecture at U Buffalo.  More details to follow, but I plan to make the trip to meet him.


                                                                        Please login/register to reply or comment:

                                                                        • Juan March and Italian Arms for Spanish Nationalists (Anthony J Candil, USA 04/12/15 3:23 AM)
                                                                          I agree entirely with Ángel Viñas's post of 11 April.

                                                                          As I have understood, the initial shipment of 12 bombers and five light tanks was paid up front in Italy by Juan March, probably one of the most conspicuous and immoral merchants on this globe, but later shipments and supplies were paid on "generous" credits given by the Italian government which have lasted until the mid 1960s if I have learned correctly. No matter that it was no longer a Fascist government in Italy.


                                                                          I wish Angel a good trip to the US. Buffalo in springtime is a very nice place. Have fun!


                                                                          JE comments:  Juan March made his wealth through tobacco smuggling and other shady practices.  Wikipedia tells us that he was once the sixth-wealthiest person in the world.  Here's a historical item I don't think we've ever pointed out on WAIS:  in 1941 the British government paid March $10,000,000 in order to bribe/influence top Spanish generals.  It was wartime, and any port in a storm.

                                                                          Please login/register to reply or comment:

                                                                          • Juan March (Sasha Pack, USA 04/12/15 10:52 AM)
                                                                            It seems to me that some WAISer (was it Anthony Candil?), once mentioned Juan March's role in managing the accounts used to bribe members of Franco's staff to promote pro-British positions. I have come to believe that, whatever his dealings with the Italians in 1936, March always represented an Anglophile element of the Francoist constituency.

                                                                            March was a classic frontier robber-baron (as the historian Mercedes Cabrera aptly describes him), and there are those who will insist his only loyalty was to his business. But his smuggling empire was based on a model that assumed weak and uncoordinated law enforcement, and it had him dealing with sovereign powers routinely. He had his own intelligence networks, his own "protégés," "treaties" with states, and occasionally conflicts with states. Like other quasi-independent potentates of the Western Mediterranean, he consistently worked best with the British.


                                                                            In World War I, his network dealt commercially with both Entente and Central Powers: he sold fuel to German U-Boats, and probably helped the Germans send arms to Moroccan warlords to tie down French forces there. But I believe March provided his most valuable good, naval intelligence, only to Britain; and only Britain could provide him with the cover of the Union Jack, which flew over many of his vessels.


                                                                            Fast forward two decades: March detested the Spanish Republic, which attempted to prosecute him for accumulated collusion and corruption, and which represented all the Spanish day laborers who worked in Gibraltar and smuggled home a little tobacco on their way home each evening--cutting into March's profits. He turned to the age-old Mediterranean practice of financing an insurgent political movement in the hopes of a payoff--only on a far larger scale. But it's difficult for me to believe that March desired to see an Axis revolution in the Western Mediterranean in the way Franco did (though March surely could have accommodated himself to such a world).


                                                                            Franco calculated (correctly) that only with the prestige of a German alliance could he win over the Moroccan populace; and he calculated (incorrectly) that Spanish territorial ambitions in Gibraltar and Morocco somehow aligned with some broad Axis vision. March wanted the environment that provided the most flexibility to his shady businesses and his international financial operations, and British Gibraltar had always given him that.


                                                                            I am looking forward to seeing Ángel Viñas here in Buffalo in a few weeks. Officially speaking, he will come wearing his "Brussels insider" hat, but I hope he also packs his Spanish Civil War historian hat.


                                                                            JE comments: And beside Ángel, I'll have the chance to meet Sasha Pack.  I'm looking forward immensely to the 24th's WAIS mini-summit.


                                                                            And thank you, Sasha, for this insight on what made Juan March tick.  Answer:  the interests of Juan March.


                                                                            Please login/register to reply or comment:


                                                                          • Juan March and Arms for the Nationalists (Angel Vinas, Belgium 04/13/15 1:57 AM)
                                                                            Just a little precision to Anthony Candil's statement on Juan March (12 April).



                                                                            In my book Las armas y el oro I argued that, according to new documents seen by Prof. José Ángel Sánchez Asiain and Prof. Mercedes Cabrera, it is very likely that March paid up front for the weapons bought by the Monarchists in July ´36. On that basis I also argued that the money and gold mobilized by March at the beginning of the rebellion would have been more or less equivalent to the amount of gold sent by the Republican government to France till February/March 1937.

                                                                            To put it in another context: March may have put at Franco's disposal the equivalent of a quarter of the Bank of Spain´s gold reserves. If this is correct, March ranks with Mussolini and Hitler amongst the greatest of Franco´s benefactors. It´s unknown how he was paid back his credits except for those channeled though the London Kleinwort Bank and the Geneva Swiss Bank Corporation.


                                                                            Italy and Germany negotiated completely separated with Franco. Those negotiations have been reconstructed by Sánchez Asiain and Yours Truly.


                                                                            JE comments:  A Super PAC avant la lettre? 


                                                                            Juan March was one of History's foremost éminences grises.  It might not be an exaggeration to say that his money played a crucial role in sustaining the early uprising.

                                                                            Please login/register to reply or comment:







                                                                • Communism and Capitalism: Plus ca Change (Timothy Brown, USA 04/04/15 4:08 AM)
                                                                  How roles change!

                                                                  Yesterday's Marxists described the ideal world as one in which the proletarian masses, having vanquished their bourgeoisie exploiters, live in dictatorships of the proletariat. But in today's Marxist countries--China, Vietnam, Cuba, Nicaragua--the Marxist nomenclatura have merely become the new bourgeoisie, albeit dressed rhetorically in proletarian costumes, while the "victorious" masses continue to toil.


                                                                  As always, rhetoric continues to trump reality.


                                                                  Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose!


                                                                  JE comments: Remember the old Soviet anekdot? Capitalism is a system in which man exploits man. Communism is the other way around.

                                                                  Please login/register to reply or comment:





                                                          • In Praise of Paul Preston (Boris Volodarsky, Austria 04/01/15 12:48 PM)
                                                            To reply to Nigel Jones's post of 31 March:

                                                            I want to defend Paul Preston, who is an academic historian of the first, but better to say of the very upper league. And, as I explained in my recent lecture at the Saffron Walden Festival (https://www.facebook.com/WordsinWalden ), both archival documents and eyewitness accounts often turn out to be absolutely unreliable, so we should better rely on Paul Preston's well-informed analysis than on Orwell. I shall also like to remind Nigel of an excellent quotation cited by my late friend Pete Bagley in his foreword to my latest book. As Winston Churchill said, "the actual facts in many cases were in every respect equal to the most fantastic inventions of romance and melodrama. Tangle within tangle, plot and counterplot, ruse and treachery, cross and double-cross, true agent, false agent, double agent, gold and steel, the bomb, the dagger and the firing party were interwoven in many a texture so intricate as to be incredible and yet true."


                                                            JE comments: WAISers will never agree on politics, but we are all in awe of Paul Preston as a historian. Nigel Jones even went out of his way to praise Paul's Carrillo biography, The Last Stalinist.


                                                            Next up:  a further comment from Nigel.


                                                            Please login/register to reply or comment:




                                                      • Violence in the Spanish Civil War; on Franco's Wealth (Angel Vinas, Belgium 03/31/15 3:52 AM)
                                                        I beg to disagree with Nigel Jones (30 March). Please do not mix chestnuts and ducks. They don´t belong necessarily together. I was taught when I was a freshman that historical analogies must be treated with care.

                                                        Violence in the Spanish Civil War is one of the most vibrant chapters in Spanish historiography. Paul Preston has made it known to a wider public in his magisterial book [The Spanish Holocaust--JE].


                                                        I presume that Nigel is not familiar with Spanish authors as well, because I don´t understand his propos if this were the case. If WAISers so wish I can easily draw up a list of available titles on the subject.


                                                        Nigel's opinions remind me, with all due respect, of those prevailing in the upper echelons of Whitehall during the Civil War itself and the yearning for a strongman, though obviously not for the UK. They are well documented and a number of Spanish and British historians have highlighted them.


                                                        I am also old enough to have experienced and compared life under Franco and in the Eastern bloc countries since 1963 when I started, as a student in Berlin, traveling through the area extensively. I agree with Nigel that at that time life in Spain was less harsh. However I wonder whether this would have been the case in the 1940s.


                                                        Just to spoil any WAISer´s digestion I would recommend an even cursory reading of Francisco Gómez Moreno´s book La venganza sangrienta. It was published last year and I posted some of his findings in my blog.


                                                        A couple of days ago, John E asked me for an overview on Franco's finances. The conventional wisdom about Franco´s financial probity is just that, "conventional," even though it has been categorically defended in a Franco biography recently published in English. I won´t get tired of saying that both the SCW and Franco´s dictatorship must be studied with same scientific methods that are used with the Nazi or Soviet regimes. Although there´s still a long way to go until all the Spanish archives are opened, we´ve reached a point when generalities, prejudices and Cold War-inspired theories can be verified with reference to primary documentation or not.


                                                        Returning to Franco. He had become a multimillionaire by the summer of 1940--i.e. in the years enshrined in blood, repression and hunger. I've reconstructed some of the methods how he did it. You wouldn´t believe it.


                                                        JE comments: I presume some of these methods involved confiscating the property of murdered political enemies?


                                                        Ángel Viñas also forwarded to me a lengthy article on Stalin's decision to enter the SCW on the Republican side. I'll post it to the Forum in the coming days.


                                                        Please login/register to reply or comment:

                                                        • Violence in the Spanish Civil War (Anthony J Candil, USA 04/01/15 1:32 AM)
                                                          It's always difficult to engage the issue of the Spanish Civil War without hurting someone, no matter how much care one takes. But it is even more difficult when some WAISers take what I call "dogmatic" positions claiming they, and only they, know the truth. I don't believe in dogma, and I don't believe in those claiming to have found the truth. History is about facts, and contemporary facts are not so difficult to find, and they cannot be hidden for long.

                                                          The Spanish Civil War was a tragedy and in tragedy people die. All civil wars are full of heinous crimes and all sides commit them.


                                                          But before examining who killed more and why, maybe it's worthy to start examining who started the killing and when. Spain's civil war didn't start in reality in 1936. In my view started much earlier, maybe on the Tragic Week of Barcelona, in 1909, a real confrontation between the Spanish military and the working classes, or in 1923 with the Dictatorship of General Primo de Rivera, or even on the very first day the inept King Alfonso XIII left the country by his own decision.


                                                          Again, before we see the actual killing in the Civil War, we should stop at seeing what happened at the Massacres of Castilblanco in 1931, and Casas Viejas in 1933, already under the "democratic Republic," without entering into the Asturias Revolution, in 1934, and without even taking into account the so many indiscriminate killings of conservative people, priests or nuns, and the burning and looting of so many churches and monasteries.


                                                          Maybe the military uprising wasn't justified but it is a blatant truth that injustice and social disorder call for radical attitudes. It happened in Russia in 1917, in France in 1789, and it will happen again and again. At first the military was not against the Republic, especially generals such as Mola, Cabanellas and Queipo de Llano; their flag was the Republican and even Colonel Yagüe, the "butcher of Badajoz," in his speech at Badajoz cried "long live to the Republic." What happened after October 1, 1936 with Franco taking over is another history.


                                                          The blatant truth is that the Republic failed to deliver, failed to be truly democratic and failed to provide justice and order. In my view, it was highly responsible for what happened.


                                                          I don't like to disagree with my friend Carmen Negrín (I consider her my friend), but not all killings on the Republican side were conducted by uncontrollable masses or disobedient people. The massacres at Paracuellos de Jarama, in November, 1936, were conducted on order of the Republican authorities. (I'm not going to argue if Carrillo was responsible or not.) As I said war calls for atrocities and injustice, and all sides commit them.


                                                          Certainly what happened after the war is execrable and maybe history would have spoken different of Franco if he had established some kind of general amnesty and allowed everybody to work together rebuilding the country, even stepping down and re-establishing the Republic, but I'm trying to understand that times were difficult and with Germany at the Pyrenees it wasn't so easy. Nevertheless to me the worst sin Franco ever committed was not to step down and not to restore the Republic, and to name as his successor a corrupt and Machiavellian person such as Juan Carlos has proven to be, helping the infamous Bourbon kings to return.


                                                          That a person who is not a king, neither a nobleman by birth, and whose only merit is just to have conducted a rebellion and won a war against a legal government, appoints as his successor, with the title of King, a third person, is just something never seen before in constitutional law anywhere in the civilized world.


                                                          As a final remark, yes, after the war the killing went on and on, even I will say until mid-fifties but is there anyone who can tell me what would have happened if the Republic had won the war instead?


                                                          Is there anyone who dares to say that no killings at all would have taken place?


                                                          Taking into account the high proportion of Soviet and Communist influence at all levels of the Republic by the end of the war, it is likely that massacres and "political cleansing" would have taken place on a scale never seen before.


                                                          The sad thing is that, as John Eipper says, the Civil War is still pretty much alive in the mind of many Spaniards. That goes without saying.


                                                          Antonio Machado's poem is always valid:


                                                          "Españolito que vienes

                                                          al mundo te guarde Dios.

                                                          una de las dos Españas

                                                          ha de helarte el corazon."


                                                          JE comments: Yes, the two Spains.  April Fools' or not, we dutifully re-mobilize two or three times a year to re-fight the Civil War.


                                                          Anthony Candil stresses the universal truth that war is Hell.  Anyone care to take a stab on the alternate outcome--a Republican victory?  To my mind, this never could have happened, for this simple reason that Italy and Germany were willing to do whatever it took to win, the Soviets already received Spain's gold, and the Western allies had no stomach for war.

                                                          Please login/register to reply or comment:

                                                          • Abraham Lincoln Brigade (Anthony J Candil, USA 04/02/15 3:22 AM)
                                                            On April 1st, 1939, the Spanish Civil War officially ended as the armed struggle came stopped. What started then led Spain to what it is today.

                                                            No matter what, I want to pay a homage to the young Americans who went to Spain to fight for their beliefs and in defense of freedom and democracy.


                                                            Neither side was democratic nor free, unfortunately.


                                                            The Lincoln battalion, also known as Abraham Lincoln Brigade, was formed by a group of volunteers from the United States, who served in the Civil War as soldiers, technicians, medical personnel and aviators fighting for the Republican forces.


                                                            Of the approximately 2,800 American volunteers, between 750 and 800 were killed in action or died.


                                                            Americans volunteered and arrived in Spain in 1937. The Lincoln Battalion was organized in January 1937 and initially fielded three infantry companies, two rifle companies and one machine gun company.


                                                            On February 27, 1937, at the Battle of Jarama, near Madrid, the unit lost two-thirds of its strength, including their commander, Robert H. Merriman (who was badly wounded), in a futile assault on Nationalist positions. The battalion remained in combat and was slowly rebuilt while maintaining its front-line positions.


                                                            On April 2, 1938, at the Aragón front, Merriman and his executive officer, Edgar James Cody, were either killed in action or captured and executed some hours later by Nationalist troops.


                                                            Merriman made his way through the University of Nevada and joined ROTC. He was reportedly a friend of Robert Oppenheimer. He was professor of economics at the University of California, at Berkeley.


                                                            Most American volunteers returned to the US between December 1938 and January 1939. American POWs, not many, were released after the fall of the Republican government, although the last POWs did not arrive in the United States until September 1939.


                                                            Currently, there are four memorials dedicated to the veterans of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade, as far as I know:


                                                            The first is located on the campus of the University of Washington in Seattle.


                                                            The second is located in James Madison Park in Madison, Wisconsin.


                                                            A third memorial to the veterans of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade was dedicated on the Embarcadero in San Francisco, California.


                                                            The fourth memorial commemorates the students and faculty of The City College of New York (CCNY) who fought in the Spanish Civil War, including the thirteen alumni who died in that war. The memorial is located in the North Academic Center of CCNY.


                                                            All my respects to them.


                                                            JE comments: Detroit with its tradition of labor activism was home to several brigadistas. As late as the 1990s the survivors appeared at commemorative events.  According to Wikipedia, only one member of the brigade is left, 99 year-old Delmer Berg of California:


                                                            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_surviving_veterans_of_the_Spanish_Civil_War


                                                            Please login/register to reply or comment:

                                                            • Abraham Lincoln Brigade Veterans: David McKelvy White (Robert Whealey, USA 04/03/15 8:46 AM)
                                                              To follow up on Anthony Candil (2 April), I have met four or five veterans of the Lincoln Brigade. I published a short biography of their first Commander, David McKelvy White of Marietta Ohio. I never met David, but I met his pallbearer, who came to Marietta from Brooklyn to bury White.

                                                              James Norman (pen name) published his autobiography as a novel The Fell of Dark. His real name was James Norman Schmitt (born in Chicago). The plot of the novel was about the departure of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade after the Casado coup of March 1939. James Norman taught English at Ohio University in 1960s up to early 1970. I first heard of the term "premature anti-fascists" from him. He served in World War II in the Aleutian Islands, far removed from Europe. This stamp PAF on one's personnel folder was up to each Company Commander or Battalion Commander to promote or transfer the each GI at his discretion.


                                                              J. Edgar Hoover, State Department Passport Division and HUAC regarded the ALB as "subversives" from 1936 until Hoover's death in 1972.


                                                              JE comments: "Premature anti-fascist" is one of history's silliest political categories, but those who came up with it during WWII saw no irony.


                                                              I found this image of David M. White's grave in Marietta, Ohio.  Ironically, Marietta is one of the most conservative towns in the state.  According to the ALBA archives, White committed suicide in 1945 because the Communist Party threatened to expel him for his openly gay lifestyle.


                                                              http://www.albavolunteer.org/2010/06/david-mckelvy-white-1901-1945/






                                                              Please login/register to reply or comment:



                                                          • Some Additional Points on the SCW (Carmen Negrin, France 04/02/15 3:48 AM)
                                                            Thank you Anthony Candil (1 April); you give me hope for some possible entente!

                                                            Just a few points.  The Republican government's instructions for the Paracuellos prisonners was to take them to a prison in Valencia.


                                                            The programme for the end of the war on the Republican side was summarized in the so-called thirteen points, which were later reduced to three, basically foreigners out, amnesty, and free elections.


                                                            And last but not least, for John E, the gold went to USSR but came back to Spain in the form of arms, food, etc.


                                                            As far as the Soviet influence goes, we have already discussed this many times. All I can say is that I have personally meet few communists from that period. They were rare in the circles of exiles that my grandfather continued seeing. The few exiles we knew who went to Cuba, for instance, ended up in Mexico when Fidel got into the picture. Not only that but the few who were, became socialists with time (including Carrillo, who left the PCE).


                                                            So much for the Stalinist influence among at least one of the leaders!


                                                            JE comments:  That was always my understanding about the Spanish gold.  The fundamental difference between Stalin's support of the Republic and Mussolini and Hitler's support of the Nationalists is that the latter extended credit:  to get repaid they had to win the war.


                                                            Please login/register to reply or comment:

                                                            • Spanish Civil War Today (Enrique Torner, USA 04/03/15 6:38 AM)
                                                              I have been exercising a lot of self-restraint during the latest, and very intense, discussion on the Spanish Civil War, because I am really behind on my grading. However, it has been hard!

                                                              I'd like to limit myself to praise Nigel Jones for not letting himself be intimidated by the rest of WAISers, who have been defending the Republican side. I get very emotional when discussing the Spanish Civil War, as do most Spaniards, so I will limit myself to a conclusion that I share with Stanley Payne: that the Nationals killed more people than the Republicans, but the Republicans tortured more, despite what the movies portray. I wish Stanley Payne would join this discussion and balance the scales. Does he participate in WAIS discussions any more?


                                                              Finally, a few comment/questions: Don't you see a parallel between the Spanish Civil War, the war against Islamist terrorism, and the internal, strong division, between Republicans and Democrats in the US? Could the US end up in a Civil War too? Isn't this nation equally divided?


                                                              JE comments:  Stanley Payne is a steadfast patron of WAIS, including this year (thanks, Stanley!), but it's been a couple of years since his last post. 


                                                              We'd love to hear from you, Stanley!


                                                              I don't see any parallels between the SCW and the present Clash of Civilizations, as the former was a contest of ideologies (not of identities--although if we think about it, identity is ideological).  The US already had its civil war, as did Spain.  I'm pretty sure both nations learned their lesson and won't try another.

                                                              Please login/register to reply or comment:

                                                              • Spanish Civil War; Thoughts on Civil War in General (Robert Gibbs, USA 04/07/15 5:56 AM)

                                                                I do not have a dog in this fight, but I'd like to add an observation regarding the Spanish Civil War, and by extension the US Civil War, as John mentioned in Enrique Torner's posting of 3 April.



                                                                I confess the only real knowledge I have on this subject comes from WAIS, although I taught ordinance and bomb tech courses to Spanish National Police/soldiers in the 1970s. And perhaps the only foreign film I was forced to watch in college that was not total trash was To Die In Madrid (Mourir à Madrid).



                                                                This film started by showing a farmer going to his field in the fog, and after showing the SCW and atrocities on both sides, who joined and who slaughtered whom and the carnage, it concluded while rolling the credits with the same farmer going to his fields in the fog. His life and that of most Spaniards did not change one bit. Only who governed.



                                                                I am never sure that any nation has learned any lesson from a Civil War--I remember being stationed at Ft Sill and spending more that a few Friday and Saturday nights partaking in and separating men in cowboy bars re-fighting the US Civil War. Usually it was over the causes of the war. And as I mentioned in a previous WAIS post, I have even seen fights break out outside Oxford over the cause and who was worse in the English Civil War--who committed the most atrocities, Royalist or Roundheads.



                                                                What I suggest is Civil Wars are never resolved (and, as with most wars in general and civil wars, especially civil wars, the truth is murdered first). After the 50th anniversary they should be confined to history books and discussions such as this to once a year for two week max. No one will change their minds, and only animosity results.



                                                                PS: I trust WAISers had the very best of Easter and all that it represents.


                                                                JE comments:  I've sensed SCW fatigue from a number of WAISers, but the 1936-'39 period is probably the single strongest area of our historical expertise.  I agree 100% with Robert Gibbs that no one changes her/his mind, but this lack of resolution is precisely the reason the topic remains so vital today.  If there were consensus, then the war wouldn't flare up every few months.  And I never fail to learn something during our skirmishes.


                                                                Bob Gibbs and I had a nice phone conversation yesterday.  Bob will be traveling soon to London, Prague, and Budapest.  I'll definitely be pestering him for comments and photos!


                                                                Please login/register to reply or comment:



                                                            • Italy in SCW (Eugenio Battaglia, Italy 04/03/15 7:04 AM)
                                                              Considering that the Spanish Civil War is once again on the WAIS agenda, let me present some information on the Italian participation in this cruel war.

                                                              Initially Italy supplied only armaments to the Nationalists. The first dozen S.81 airplanes arrived on 25 July 1936, then 12 GR.32 fighter planes arrived in August, along with five tanks. But after November 1936, the flow of Italian volunteers began, from the CTV (Corpo Truppe Volontarie).


                                                              The Italian Air Force deployed 6000 men (including some civilian employees), the total planes used were 760, the destroyed enemy planes 700, and there were 175 casualties.


                                                              The Italian Navy deployed 16 submarines (4 used by the Spaniards), 2 cruisers Eugenio di Savoia and Emanuele Filiberto, plus the cruiser Barletta that bombed the port at Palma de Mallorca. The Navy suffered 6 casualties, as its involvement was minor.


                                                              With the Italian Army (CTV) a total of 75,000 served in Spain, with 3320 casualties. They dead remain in the military cemetery of Zaragoza.


                                                              Being an army of "volunteers," some were unsatisfactory, and 591 were repatriated for disciplinary action and 3128 were repatriated because they were not physically fit.


                                                              The CTV took about 20,000 prisoners, and this caused some controversy with the Nationalists.


                                                              In fact, in order to protect the lives of the prisoners, the Italians refused to hand them over to the Nationalists except for some accused of war crimes. The same protection later in WWII was granted to the Jews. Anyway, this does not show the good side of the Franco forces.


                                                              Some 3350 volunteers from Italy fought on the Republican side (600 became casualties). These included some future big shots in Italian politics, socialists such as Nenni (former close friend of Mussolini) and Bogoni, republicans such as Pacciard and Angeloni, and the anarchist Bernìeri. But most were communists such as Togliatti, Longo, Vidali, Di Vittorio, etc.


                                                              By August 1936 two fighting groups were already in the lines. By the way, only 557 Soviet citizens (mostly political commissars) were in Spain.


                                                              Some of these volunteers for the Republicans were common criminals escaping from the Italian jails.


                                                              A friend of mine who wrote a book about the volunteers from Savona got in trouble because he refused to overlook the past criminal record of some of these "heroes."


                                                              The captured communist volunteers were deported to Italy and put in the "confino" on some small Italian islands. On 8 September 1943 they were freed and could start their bloodthirsty terrorism within the partisan forces, which after all were mostly dominated by them.


                                                              In the SCW Italy threw away 12 billion lire and many lives, just to hand Spain over to a small man like Franco.


                                                              JE comments:  Very informative. I wonder if Eugenio could give us an idea of the number of "volunteers" who were actually conscripts?


                                                              Does anyone know about the present state of the Italian cemetery in Zaragoza?  At least through 1975, they probably received the best care of any of Mussolini's war dead.

                                                              Please login/register to reply or comment:

                                                              • Italy in Spanish Civil War (Anthony J Candil, USA 04/04/15 4:18 AM)
                                                                I'm not going to pretend to know more than our friend Eugenio Battaglia (3 April) on the Italian intervention in Spain, but I can recommend a book from John F Coverdale: Italian Intervention in the Spanish Civil War (Princeton Legacy Library) and certainly from our fellow WAISer Paul Preston in his book The Spanish Civil War: Reaction, Revolution, and Revenge. Ángel Viñas has written extensively on the issue as well.

                                                                My own interpretation: Mussolini's response to appeals for armed assistance from the Spanish insurgents following their failed military coup of July 17-18, 1936, which precipitated the civil war in Spain, was initially cautious. Only when he had assured himself, on the basis of reports from Italian diplomats, that neither France nor Britain nor Soviet Russia intended to intervene, did the Italian dictator give the green light, on July 27, for the dispatch of aircraft to assist in the airlift of pro-rebel Spanish Moroccan forces to the Spanish mainland, and arms and munitions to those fighting in Spain. His decision to intervene was made in the expectation that a small amount of Italian war material would be decisive for the rebellion. It was based, partly at least, on Franco's personal assurances to the Italian authorities, that victory for the rebels would be certain and quick, provided some outside assistance was forthcoming, and that with victory he intended to establish "a republican government in the Fascist style adopted for the Spanish people."


                                                                Nevertheless the request for aid that finally provoked Italy's intervention in Spain came from the mastermind of the military uprising, General Emilio Mola. His envoys met with Count Ciano in Rome on July 24, 1936 and asked for urgent assistance, advising the Italians about the danger of French support to the Republic. On the other hand Mussolini assured former Spanish King Alfonso XIII that "Italy would not permit the establishment of a Soviet regime in Spain."


                                                                With the recent election victory in Spain of the French Popular Front movement--in February, 1936--in mind, Mussolini was certainly worried that a victory for the left in Spain might encourage revolutionaries in France and Western Europe, including Italy. As he told his wife, Rachele: "Bolshevism in Spain would mean Bolshevism in France, Bolshevism at Italy's back and the danger of [the] Bolshevisation of Europe."  The Duce and Ciano continued throughout the civil war to regard their intervention in Spain as safeguarding Fascism in Italy, and as Count Ciano reflected later, in October, 1937: "At Málaga, at Guadalajara, at Santander, we were fighting in defense of our civilization and revolution."


                                                                All along, Mussolini recognized and understood that Italy was providing more aid to Franco than was Germany. In supporting Franco by the commitment of military personnel, Italy far outdid their German collaborators. While sharing common ideological concerns over the Spanish conflict with Italy, the Germans during its course invested less in terms of military support for Franco both in terms of the number of personnel involved in Spain and in armaments supplied. In this connection, it has been variously estimated that the total cost of Italian war material amounted to between 6 billion and 8.5 billion lire ($120-$180 million) while for Germany the cost is variously estimated at between 412 million and 540 million Reichmarks ($70 million and $90 million).


                                                                Throughout the duration of the civil war more than 16,000 Germans helped the Nationalist forces, although the maximum in Spain at any one time was 10,000. These forces included the "Condor Legion" dispatched in December 1936, which consisted of 5,000 tank and air personnel. At their maximum, Italian forces in Spain numbered between 40,000 and 70,000 troops, including air personnel, though more than 80,000 actually went to Spain. German casualties were very slight, amounting to no more than 300 dead. Italian losses were far heavier with around 4,000 dead and 11,000-12000 wounded.


                                                                All during the Civil War Italy sent more than 70,000 men, as I said, of whom almost 6,000 belonged to the Italian Air Force, 45,000 to the army and 29,000 to the Fascist militia. Italy also supplied 1,800 cannons, 1,400 mortars, 3,400 machine guns, 6,800 motor vehicles, 155 light tanks, 213 bombers, 44 assault planes and 414 fighter planes. Mussolini became fully committed to the Spanish conflict, primarily for geostrategic reasons. The spectacle of a leftist revolutionary Spanish Republic, oriented towards France and the Soviet Union, would constitute an intolerable challenge to the Fascist concept of "Mare Nostrum."


                                                                With regard to the conduct and progress of the war, both the Italians and the Germans experienced increasing exasperation with the attritional strategy of Franco and his military command. After the debacle of Guadalajara in March, 1937 contemptuously referred to as a "Spanish Caporetto" by critics of the Fascist regime, Mussolini, in particular, was highly critical of Franco's failure, as he saw it, to bring the Red forces in Spain to a decisive confrontation. Yet, in October he complained to the German Ambassador, Von Faupel, that while the Spaniards were very good soldiers they had no idea of modern warfare and were making "exceedingly slow progress" on the Asturian Front. Ciano was equally critical of Franco's military leadership, accusing him in December, 1937, in light of the Republican offensive to capture the city of Teruel, of missing "the most opportune moments and of giving the Reds the opportunity to rally again."


                                                                From the outset both Hitler and Mussolini concentrated their support through Franco rather than any of the other Spanish generals. In intervening in the civil war in Spain both the Italians and Germans were highly motivated by ideological, strategic and economic considerations, but it was the first of these that initially drove their intervention and sustained it thereafter. The common struggle against Bolshevism, above all preventing a victorious communist republic emerging from the Spanish conflict, with its consequent encouragement for international communism and its negative ramifications for the advance of Fascism in Europe, produced in the words of Ulrich von Hassell, German Ambassador to Italy, "a sudden increase in the warmth of German-Italian cooperation."


                                                                Franco's failure to break the stubborn resistance of the Republicans on the Ebro, during the summer of 1938, was a source of increasing concern to the Axis powers, particularly Italy. According to Ciano, Mussolini used violent language about Franco for "his flabby conduct of the war" and letting victory slip when he already had it in his grasp. He accused the Spanish leader of "serene optimism" in the way he conducted the war and advised that serene optimists "find themselves under a tram as soon as they leave home."  At one point Mussolini was inclined to withdraw all his ground forces but with Franco's agreement arrangements were begun to withdraw 10,000 Italian soldiers from Spain, a decision made easier by the withdrawal of the International Brigades on the Republican side during September, 1938.


                                                                However the substantial arms deliveries provided by Germany in late 1938, along with further Italian reinforcements during the winter of 1938-1939 contributed to Franco's victory in Catalonia, and the capture of Barcelona in January, 1939 and eventually the fall of Madrid at the end of March, 1939.


                                                                The intervention of Germany and Italy certainly prevented Franco's defeat, even if Soviet military aid gave initially to the Republic the means to beat back the initial advance by Franco's forces.


                                                                The Spanish Civil War was important not only to Spain but also to the whole of Europe. Germany's involvement in that war was crucial to helping Franco's Nationalists claim control of Spain. Despite some historians' views as to a functional foreign policy, the evidence suggests that involvement in Spain was perfectly consistent with Hitler's foreign policy goal of distracting Britain and France and driving a rift between them, Italy, and the Soviet Union, all while Hitler was making plans for eastern expansion.


                                                                The result of Germany's involvement in the Spanish Civil War was just that--Britain and France, although drawing closer together, moved further away from Italy and alienated the Soviet Union.


                                                                Both Italy and to a lesser extent the USSR were subsequently drawn toward Germany. Furthermore, the Spanish Civil War and Britain and France's Non-Intervention policy led Hitler to begin to believe that he could manipulate the weak democracies to achieve his foreign policy ends. This led to an acceleration of his plans for eastern expansion, which in turn helped accelerate Europe's movement toward World War II.


                                                                JE comments:  A good synthesis of events.  Franco seems to have frustrated his friends as much as he angered his enemies.  Although he would get the last laugh, outliving his "more competent" European sponsors by three decades.  When discussing Franco, I always return to the term "wily survivor."

                                                                Please login/register to reply or comment:


                                                              • Italian Volunteers and Conscripts in SCW (Eugenio Battaglia, Italy 04/04/15 6:44 AM)
                                                                In John E's comments to my post of 3 April, he asked if I have an idea of how many conscripts were among the Italian volunteers in Spain.  I have no idea.

                                                                The Italians at that time were full of patriotism and enthusiasm. The war in Spain was perceived as a "crusade" against the "Reds" who were assassinating political adversaries, bishops, priests and nuns, destroying churches and so on. Furthermore the barbarism of the communists in Italy during the "biennio rosso" 1919-1921 was well remembered.


                                                                My father applied to volunteer. He had already applied to go to East Africa the year before, but was refused because he had just married with a baby on the way. For this same reason was again refused for Spain.


                                                                I assume that there were more volunteers than were requested, so it was not necessary to send conscripts, but I really do not know for certain. Probably the higher-ranking officers were obliged to go, but they were happy to do this, expecting glory and promotions.


                                                                Things were very different at that time.


                                                                JE comments: I wonder who the baby on the way was? (Ha ha.) Eugenio saved his father from fighting in Spain. For that, I'd be eternally grateful!

                                                                Please login/register to reply or comment:

                                                                • Letters of Italian Combatants in SCW; John Brademas (David Pike, France 04/05/15 10:31 AM)
                                                                  I owe it to John Brademas, whom I first met at Stanford in 1964, and who had interviewed Spanish anarchists in Toulouse before me, for the contact to Federica Montseny that led me to Aurelio Chessa, custodian of the archives of the Federazione Anarchica Italiana held in Genoa. Chessa allowed me to rummage through the suitcases that were left behind by Giovanna Berneri, widow of the Italian philosopher whose murder could never be pinned, either on Mussolini or on Stalin, who had an equal desire to see him dead.

                                                                  In the suitcases I found letters written by Italian soldiers who had been sent to Spain by Mussolini and who had deserted in the field. One of these, written by a soldier to his fiancée, read:


                                                                  "You were right when you told me not to leave home. I thought we were going to work in Africa, as the draft card said. And so I joined up as a volunteer, not to fight but to work and earn 40 lire a day, as everybody in Italy said. Instead of that, it's all been a lot of hogwash."


                                                                  Camillo Berneri said of Guadalajara in 1937, in which Italian fascists were fighting Italian antifascists, that the Italian defeat was a victory of Italian antifascism. The Spanish ambassador to Paris, Luis Araquistain, had this to say about the battle:


                                                                  "The conduct of the Italian army in Spain, far from bringing discredit upon it, does it honor. Mussolini's troops are men first, and soldiers second. Why should they fight? Fighting would be the real crime. Italy can feel proud and not humiliated by such an army. The Latin race cannot produce robot-soldiers, and that is its virtue."


                                                                  JE comments: Presumably the robot-soldier reference was to the Germans.


                                                                  Once a WAISer always a WAISer, and former US Representative (and NYU President) John Brademas is a WAISer. To the best of my knowledge he is still on our mailing list, although I haven't heard from him since 2006.  I would be overjoyed to re-establish contact.


                                                                  Here's a bio from Prof. H, published in 1999:




                                                                  http://waisworld.org/go.jsp?id=02a&objectType=post&o=66204&objectTypeId=60454&topicId=185


                                                                  Please login/register to reply or comment:



                                                              • Italian Troops and the Taking of Malaga (John Heelan, UK 04/08/15 7:42 AM)
                                                                It would be interesting to hear the view from Italy of the massacres apparently perpetrated by Italian troops in their taking of Málaga during the Spanish Civil War.


                                                                JE comments: By "the view from Italy" I presume John Heelan means Eugenio Battaglia.  I'd also like to hear his comment.

                                                                Please login/register to reply or comment:

                                                                • Italian Troops and the Taking of Malaga (Paul Preston, UK 04/08/15 9:10 AM)
                                                                  In response to John Heelan (8 April), Málaga fell to rebel forces in February 1937 in large part thanks to the Italian forces under the command of Mario Roatta. A somewhat piecemeal campaign was turned into a spectacular success by Roatta's use of guerra celere (Blitzkrieg) tactics against the poorly defended city.

                                                                  The massacres that followed were not the work of the Italians but of the Spaniards under the command of General Gonzalo Queipo de Llano. An excellent account of the campaign from the Italian point of view can be found in the book by Roatta's second-in-command Emilio Faldella, Venti mesi di guerra in Spagna (Florence: Le Monnier, 1939). Its publication infuriated Queipo de Llano, who wrote a bitter letter of complaint to Faldella.


                                                                  JE comments:  I've just learned that don Ramón Candil, whom I met last November in Austin, took part in the Málaga campaign.  Son Anthony's account is next.


                                                                  Please login/register to reply or comment:


                                                                • My Father at the Taking of Malaga (Anthony J Candil, USA 04/08/15 9:17 AM)
                                                                  My father took part in the capture of Malaga in February, 1937. He hasn't told me about anything perpetrated by the Italians. On the contrary it seems that they behaved always in a very courteously and polite way, certainly not like the Nationalist Army.

                                                                  Most of the massacres everywhere were perpetrated by the Falange and the Guardia Civil anyway.


                                                                  JE comments: And thanks to the remarkable don Ramón Candil, I am but one degree removed from these events:


                                                                  https://waisworld.org/go.jsp?id=02a&objectType=post&o=89530&objectTypeId=75882&topicId=188


                                                                  Please login/register to reply or comment:


                                                                • Italian Troops and the Taking of Malaga (Eugenio Battaglia, Italy 04/08/15 10:30 AM)
                                                                  It is my pleasure to provide John Heelan (8 April) with a view from Italy about the massacres following the conquest of Málaga, 8 February 1937, by 15,000 Nationalists and 5000 Italians against 40,000 Republicans, mostly anarchists.

                                                                  According to "Il sito Comunista" (http://www.sitocomunista.it/movimentooperaio/spagna/guerradispagna.htm ), a very detailed history of the SCW with many interesting photos, mostly of the International Brigades, all seen from a communist point of view, we read the following:


                                                                  "Alongside the Spaniards, nine motorized battalions of Italian Black Shirts went into action. Thus started a most ferocious manhunt in the half-destroyed town, the worst slaughter Spain had ever seen since the conquest of Badajoz. 4000 men were shot. Thousands of fugitives escaping toward Almeria were attacked by Italian planes.


                                                                  "Ciano, Mussolini's Foreign Minister, worried because his representative in Málaga had telegraphed that the repression by the Spanish Nationalists was of such a massive scale, that the population was angry and the heavy blame could fall on the (Italian) volunteers. Ciano ordered Ambassador Cantalupo to carry out an inquiry, but Franco opposed it. Franco himself was acting very cautiously, the locals (Spaniards) were furiously venting their rage. It was best not to irritate them."


                                                                  If a communist wrote this, I need not add anything else to excuse the Italians from any responsibility in the Málaga massacre. Maybe I can say that the planes attacking the retreating Republicans combatants (not civilians) were Spanish (not Italian). Beside that, I already mentioned in a previous post that the Italians had problems with the Nationalists when they did not hand prisoners over to them, because the Italians were worried about their safety.


                                                                  May I comment that the history of the Spanish Civil War, in primis the battle of Guadalajara, is the history most used (and changed) for propaganda?


                                                                  JE comments:  At least when it comes to Málaga, we have a consensus: Paul Preston, Anthony Candil, and Eugenio Battaglia all agree that the Italians weren't involved.

                                                                  Please login/register to reply or comment:

                                                                  • Malaga in SCW (John Heelan, UK 04/09/15 4:15 AM)
                                                                    My thanks to Paul Preston, Anthony Candil, and Eugenio Battaglia for clarifying the non-role of Italian forces in the massacres following the taking of Málaga by the Nationalists.

                                                                    My further reading confirms Paul's point that the carnage was caused by Falangist and Guardia Civil squads (encouraged by Queipo de Llano) and as a result of German warships shelling the fleeing citizens.


                                                                    It seems that Málaga was a microcosm of the conflict with assassinations by the left wing prior to the the taking by Nationalist forces followed by countless executions with a minimum of justicial process afterwards. I also read (in agreement with Eugenio) that Italian diplomats were sickened by the massacres and asked Queipo de Llano locally and Franco centrally to stop the bloodshed. They were ignored by both.


                                                                    JE comments:  With slaughter coming from land, sea, and air, the Málaga exodus must have been beyond hellish.

                                                                    Please login/register to reply or comment:

                                                                    • Norman Bethune and the Malaga Exodus (Paul Preston, UK 04/10/15 2:02 AM)
                                                                      The Málaga exodus was recorded for posterity by the Canadian surgeon Norman Bethune, who was one of the pioneers of battlefield blood transfusion during the Spanish Civil War.

                                                                      He took an ambulance to the road between Málaga and Almería and shuttled back and forth trying to save as many women and children as he could. The horrors that he and his crew witnessed are recorded in an outstanding memoir by his English driver T. C. Worsley, Behind the Battle (London: Robert Hale, 1939). Bethune's photographs were published shortly after in a pamphlet under the title The Crime on the Road:  Málaga-Almería. Anyone who wants to see the photographs of the refugees can download it in various digital formats at:


                                                                      https://archive.org/details/TheCrimeOnTheRoadMalaga-almeriaNarrativeWithGraphicDocuments


                                                                      JE comments:  Another excellent resource.  Want more images?  I hope Paul Preston will send us a link or two to the best general website for SCW photos.

                                                                      Please login/register to reply or comment:













                                              • More on History and Memory (Eugenio Battaglia, Italy 03/30/15 2:16 AM)
                                                I do hope that John E will forgive me for the following.

                                                So far I have always found John's comments excellent and reasonable, but when he wrote the following about the Spanish Civil War (28 March):


                                                "Memory is not the same thing as what happened, but in a sense it's more meaningful. It (memory) is the significance an event has for us today. Lessons to be learned and such"


                                                ...these words seem to be not those of a historian of a preacher (maybe of a lay religion) which confirms the ideas of Alain de Benoist.


                                                I have something also for John's comments on the post of Carmen Negrín, "and likewise with most wars, the majority of historians side with the victors [true--EB]. Once again, Spain is an exception" [not true, as the SCW is considered part of the struggle that ended in 1945--EB].


                                                Just to lighten the tone, let me tell you a story about war not always being about horrors.  It can be amusing too.


                                                When Naples was occupied by the Allies, a terrible cholera epidemic began. The port was full of American Navy and merchant ships, including many Liberty ships (I sailed on one of them in 1963). One day a bus with supposed MPs arrived alongside one Liberty ship and ordered the Captain to take the entire crew with him to go for vaccinations. The bus took a long drive, when in the middle of nowhere the driver stopped and disappeared. At the same time another ghost crew boarded the ship and took her off. She was never found.


                                                Curzio Malaparte in his book La Pelle (a must-read for any American) told the story of a Black GI who presented a Sherman tank to his "girlfriend," and within a couple of hours the only thing left of the tank was an oil spot on the floor.


                                                Just to confirm how smart the Neapolitans are, many years ago off the coast of Naples during a storm, a ship fully loaded with typewriters sunk. By the time that the owner found a Dutch (it may have been German, as I do not remember exactly) firm able to recover the cargo, the holds of the ships were empty--and Naples was full of new typewriters.


                                                [The Rev.] JE comments:  No need to beg forgiveness, Eugenio!  A thick skin comes with the job.


                                                With my earlier reflections on memory, I was trying to say that except for the specialists in a given field, history is "interesting" only insofar as it holds lessons for today.  Thus the perennial debates surrounding the Spanish Civil War.  In a similar fashion, the present Clash of Civilizations between Islam and Christianity has renewed interest in Muslim Spain.


                                                How is it that the Republic "won" the Spanish Civil War?  Perhaps in a metaphorical sense, given that Republican values are more dominant in today's Spain than Francoism.  But at least through 1975, the Republic by any measure had lost.

                                                Please login/register to reply or comment:



                                            • David Pike's "Españoles en el Holocausto" (David Pike, France 04/29/15 2:36 PM)
                                              Looking at the five front covers of WAISer books paraded on John E's piano (http://waisworld.org/go.jsp?id=02a&objectType=post&o=92512&objectTypeId=77469&topicId=138 ), I thought colleagues would like to see the cover of my own new edition that came out this month.

                                              JE comments: Absolutely, and congratulations, David!  Now that our semester is almost over at the College, it is finally time to tackle my pile of reading.






                                               

                                              Please login/register to reply or comment:




                                        • Was POUM Trotskyist? Semi-Trotskyist? (David Pike, France 03/26/15 1:57 PM)
                                          John Heelan (25 March) described the POUM as Trotskyist. So do others. And some historians write of the "semi-Trotskyist POUM." But if Trotsky said, "The POUM has nothing to do with me," and the POUM said, "We have nothing to do with Trotsky," I (and Pierre Broué, at U Montpelier) are prepared to believe that they don't belong together.

                                          JE comments: I'm especially intrigued by the term "semi-Trotskyist."  That's historical "nuanced discourse" at its finest!


                                          I've heard historians argue that Jefferson was not really "Jeffersonian."


                                          Luciano Dondero is WAISdom's resident expert on all things Trotsky. I hope he'll comment.

                                          Please login/register to reply or comment:

                                          • Was POUM Trotskyist? Semi-Trotskyist? (Luciano Dondero, Italy 03/27/15 2:14 PM)
                                            To respond to JE's question (see David Pike, 26 March), at the time of the Spanish Civil War, the term "Trotskyist" was abusive.  At least that's how it was used by Stalinists and their fellow travelers--i.e., the Spanish Republican government in this case.

                                            The Moscow Trials took place in 1936, 1937 and 1938. Here below you can see a Soviet poster which captures pretty well the Stalinist approach at the time:


                                            The main slogan is "Destroy the vermin."  A working-class type crushes Trotsky, described below as "An enemy of the people" that should be "Made to disappear from the face of the Earth together with his bloody fascist clique!" The French Communist Party used the expression "Hitlero-trotskysme" in the course of the armed Resistance against Nazi occupants and the Vichy government to refer to anybody who disagreed with them from the left. Various leftists were murdered both in France and Italy (as well as in Yugoslavia and Greece) because they did not toe Stalin's line.


                                            The POUM (Partido Obrero de Unificacion Marxista--Workers' Party of Marxist Unification) had been born in 1935 when the Bukharinist Bloque Obrero y Campesino (Workers and Peasants' Bloc, BOC) led by Joaquín Maurín and the Trotskyist Izquierda Comunista de España (the Communist Left of Spain, ICE) led by Andreu Nin, joined together.


                                            Both Maurín and Nin had been leaders of the Spanish Communist Party. Nin spent many years in Moscow as a leading member of the Profintern (the International association of Trade unions linked to CPs affiliated with the Communist International). He was a supporter of Leon Trotsky, and when he returned to Spain he built the Izquierda Comunista as the local Trotskyist chapter. He and Trotsky had disagreements on various issues, in particular Trotsky argued that the IC should enter the Socialist party and push it to the left. Failure to do so meant that the CP Youth led by Santiago Carrillo fused with the SP youth and basically gobbled it up. In Catalonia the adult parties fused as well, forming the PSUC, which remained well after the return to democracy in Spain the official Catalonian CP.


                                            Then the issue of the POUM came up. Trotsky opposed it because the BOC had split from the Spanish CP from the right--that is, they had been against the "Third period" line and were open-minded regarding the possibility of an alliance with the Spanish bourgeoisie--i.e., the Popular Front (or People's Front) against fascism.


                                            On this issue basically the POUM and Trotsky's organization, the "Movement for the Fourth International" parted ways. But Maurín found himself behind enemy lines in 1936 (in Galicia), and essentially out of any active role in the POUM. People in fact thought he had died, and the party was to all effects led by Nin. This even though the ICE had numbered 500 at the time of the fusion, while the BOC had some 5,000 members.


                                            In the 1936 elections the POUM supported the PF, but did not in fact join the various PF Governments in Republican Spain. It also built its own militia battalions, and opposed most of the Soviet Union's positions both in Spain and internationally.


                                            Was the POUM "Trotskyist"? Officially it wasn't. However, within the Communist movement at the time, you either supported Stalin's USSR or you didn't.


                                            "La Batalla," POUM's official organ, strongly criticized the Moscow Trials, and was clearly and openly sympathetic toward Leon Trotsky and agreed with many of his criticisms of the Soviet Union, for instance talking about the "bureaucratic and totalitarian degeneration of the USSR."


                                            In conclusion, I think that to call the POUM "semi-Trotskyist" is probably the most accurate statement: the reciprocal proclamations of "having nothing to do with the other" were simply false, incorrect and inaccurate polemical remarks. Pierre Broué, although he was a capable historian, was for most of his life a leading member of the French Trotskyist OCI/PCI (led by Pierre Lambert), and his views in the 1970s/1990s were colored by the dogmatic approach of his ideology.


                                            Trotsky himself did not really give up on the POUM while Nin was alive--he was murdered by the Stalinists in 1937 after a fake trial--but his criticism of the POUM is occasionally hard to follow. If you want to give it a try, read "The Class, the Party and the Leadership" (see https://www.marxists.org/archive/trotsky/1940/xx/party.htm ), where Trotsky polemicized against the pro-POUM critique of a pamphlet by "Casanova" (Mieczyslaw Bortenstein), a leading member of the Trotskyists in Spain. The three texts (Casanova's, the French Que Faire (What is To be Done)'s and Trotsky's own) are intertwined. It took me several readings in many languages, and my own work at translating it into Italian (and a few years) to really get to grips with it.


                                            JE comments:  Many thanks to Luciano Dondero for walking us through these complexities.  Here's the poster.  You can see where Orwell got his inspiration for "Hate Week."





                                            Please login/register to reply or comment:


                                          • POUM and Trotsky; Stalin's Intervention in Spain (Anthony D`Agostino, USA 03/28/15 3:57 AM)
                                            David Pike has a usually reliable compass in Pierre Broue on things Trotsky. Many other historians don't know what to make of Trotsky's relations with the POUM, and they often say "semi-Trotskyist." But Trotsky broke emphatically with Andres Nin. Strictly speaking, Nin and Maurin originally opposed Stalinism from the standpoint of Bukharinism, rather than "Trotskyism," that is, they opposed primarily the Soviet collectivization of agriculture, at a time when Trotsky, from Prinkipo Island, was supporting it.

                                            Isaac Deutscher and several others who became sympathetic to Trotsky after his exile also started out as defenders of the Bukharin line. On Spain, Trotsky refused to see any virtue in the Popular Front and saw it as the enemy of the Spanish revolution. To the end he held that world revolution, and not anti-fascism, was the only answer to the fascist threat.


                                            I wonder if Paul Preston would object to the following:


                                            Stalin only came around to intervening in Spain when the Politburo refused (temporarily) to let him investigate and try (and shoot) Bukharin in the fall of 1936. Anti-fascism was at that time the perspective of Bukharin and Radek. Molotov opposed this and wanted to avoid war with Nazi Germany. Bukharin thought that the war in Spain would rally Britain and France to anti-fascist action. When this expectation failed, Stalin could see the disadvantage of presenting the two western powers with a red republic in Spain. Hence his subsequent action in extending the purge in Russia to Spain, to the POUM, the Trotskyists, and the anarchists.


                                            I know this is a different question than asking whether the purge in Spain was the cause of the defeat of the republic.


                                            JE comments: It's always a pleasure to hear from veteran WAISer Anthony D'Agostino.  If I understand his description correctly, Anthony suggests that Stalin's purges of POUM et al. were actually an attempt to make the Spanish Republic less unpalatable to Britain and France by eliminating the "reddest" elements.


                                            This is a very timely discussion for me:  starting Monday, we'll be covering the Spanish Civil War in my Spanish culture and literature class.  I wish I could bring a few WAISers to campus for a roundtable.


                                            Please login/register to reply or comment:

                                            • POUM, Andreu Nin, Trotsky (Paul Preston, UK 03/29/15 3:44 AM)
                                              I think that the minutiae of the question of "how Trotskyist was Andreu Nin?" is one for specialists in Marxist variants. Nin was certainly an anti-Stalinist communist and, in that sense, broadly sympathetic to the Fourth International line. I tend to use the broad brush label "semi- or quasi-Trotskyist" because, outside of a detailed discussion, one rarely has time or space to go into the theoretical specifics of the case.



                                              As for Anthony D'Agostino's summary of the reasons behind Stalin's intervention in Spain (28 March), I agree with the latter part of his statement but not with the first part. Whatever Stalin's murderous intentions towards his perceived enemies, Trotsky, Bukharin, Zhdanov, Radek et al., they were not the motivation for his involvement in Spain and taking the risk of a European war.



                                              The great expert on this is Ángel Viñas and I hope that, if he is reading this, he might be tempted to comment. Until then, I would just say that the initial response of the Soviet Union to the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War was to keep clear. The main priority of Soviet policy in Western Europe was to maintain the alliance with France and not to provoke the anti-Communism of the British. However, things changed when it became apparent that Germany and Italy were getting heavily involved. The Kremlin feared that a third fascist state on French borders would encourage the right in France and undermine the alliance. So, aid was given reluctantly.



                                              As Boris Volodarsky has demonstrated in his magisterial work on Soviet security services in Spain (and I hope that Boris too might be tempted to intervene in this debate), the main targets of NKVD activity in Spain were foreign collaborators of Trotsky, such as Mark Rein, the son of the Russian Menshevik leader Rafail Abramovich, Erwin Wolf, who had become Trotsky's secretary in Norway, the Austrian Kurt Landau, and Nin. The broader assault on anarchists and the POUM was carried out by Spanish Communists, with the support of liberal Republicans and Socialists because of the perception that their revolutionary ambitions stood in the way of an effective war effort.

                                              JE comments: Ángel Viñas has already heeded Paul Preston's call! Stay tuned.

                                              Please login/register to reply or comment:

                                              • Why Did the Soviets Enter the Spanish Civil War? (Angel Vinas, Belgium 03/30/15 1:07 AM)
                                                I cannot remain in silence and must heed Paul Preston's kind invitation (29 March) to join the debate.

                                                Up to 15 years ago the motives for Soviet intervention in the Spanish Civil War were shrouded in secrecy and myth. This was because the relevant documentary evidence was lacking. The situation started changing with the publication of a book about the Comintern and Spain by Antonio Elorza and Marta Bizcarrondo based on the Comintern archives then recently opened in Moscow. It was followed by the PhD theses of Frank Schauff and Daniel Kowalsky based on Soviet primary documents as well.


                                                I had started dabbling with some aspects of the Soviet intervention in 1976 with a first book on the shipment of Spanish gold reserves to both France and the Soviet Union. In 2006 I began what turned out to become a four-volume work about the Republic and the SCW within the European context. I crossed documentation from British, German, Italian, French, Spanish and Soviet archives plus Francoist, Republican and private archives as well. A brief summary of my findings about the reasons for Soviet intervention was published in both Spanish and English. I can upload the Spanish version if WAISers so wish. The English version appeared in London in a book under copyright edited by Jim Jump a few years ago.


                                                Obviously, more books have since been published. I´d like to mention the works by Yuri Rybalkin (in Russian and Spanish), Josep Puigsech Farras, Rafael Cruz, Ricardo Miralles. and obviously Boris Volodarsky.


                                                I´m sorry to say that the interpretation given by Prof. Ronald Radosh to a minuscule collection of Soviet documents (Spain Betrayed) is simply trash. Another book by Stanley G. Payne, who did not do research in Soviet archives, has been superseded. To assert that the Spanish Republic was a Soviet pawn is to overlook, willingly or unwillingly, a lot of effort deployed by a substantial number of historians of four or five nationalities who have shed light on a very controversial but also Cold War-clouded subject. Some WAISers will note that I haven´t mentioned Pierre Broué nor many others.


                                                JE comments:  This literature survey reads like Who's Whos of WAISdom!  Besides the more familiar names mentioned above, Daniel Kowalsky in Belfast is also a WAISer, although he hasn't posted in several years. 


                                                http://waisworld.org/go.jsp?id=02a&objectType=post&o=58325&objectTypeId=52575&topicId=44



                                                There certainly is interest in Ángel's findings on the Soviet intervention.  We can upload the text to our "publications" section, which I hope to expand significantly in the coming months.

                                                Please login/register to reply or comment:


                                              • Why Did the Soviets Enter the Spanish Civil War? Molotov and Bukharin (Anthony D`Agostino, USA 03/30/15 1:29 AM)
                                                WAIS has been from the first a Forum for discussion of the Spanish Civil War, an intellectual minefield but a most fascinating one. It is good to hear from the experts and to note JE's comments and extensions of thoughts.

                                                I wonder if the question of the origins of the Soviet intervention in Spain can be answered without considering the struggle that went on in the Politburo leadership, a kind of struggle for Stalin's soul, between the supporters of the pro-French Bukharin and the anti-war Molotov.


                                                When the war in Spain broke out, Stalin was still clinging to the alliance with France, but it was only ratified by the French Assembly in March 1936, when Hitler responded by invading the Rhineland. France could do nothing. The alliance seemed a dead letter. What was Stalin to think?


                                                Molotov's views gained in force and those of Bukharin weakened. When Zinoviev and the Leningraders were tried in August, they were accused of pro-fascist connections and, surprisingly, Bukharin, the spokesman for anti-fascism, was also implicated. But the Politburo rose up and came to Bukharin's defense, as it had in the Riutin case in 1932. Just a few weeks later, in fall 1936, Soviet weapons arrived in Spain. Bukharin was "saved" for the moment and the pro-French line still seemed viable.


                                                Over the winter Stalin and Molotov dug in. They replaced the NKVD leadership. The intervention in Spain was wound down. By March 1938 they had shot Bukharin. By 1939, they "achieved" their attempt to avoid war, with the Hitler-Stalin pact. This is not even a Kremlinological interpretation, nor does it require guesswork. Bukharin, Radek, Molotov, and others made their views well known in Izvestiia and Pravda.


                                                JE comments:  I'm no expert on Molotov, but it's surprising, given his legendary cocktail, to learn that he was anti-war.  Molotov also embodied the concept of the wily survivor, as he was one of the very few Old Bolsheviks to evade Stalin's firing squad.  He died in 1986 at the age of 96.


                                                Prof. Hilton met Molotov at the UN founding conference in San Francisco, 1945.  Neither he nor Gromyko, in Our Founder's inimitable words, were "much fun":


                                                http://waisworld.org/go.jsp?id=02a&objectType=post&o=65930&objectTypeId=60180&topicId=175


                                                Please login/register to reply or comment:


                                              • Spanish Civil War, Stalin, Bukharin, and Molotov (Anthony D`Agostino, USA 05/04/15 3:49 AM)
                                                It has been a fascinating exchange on the Spanish Civil War. I hope WAISers will tolerate a little addendum from me at this late date. I was guilty of waiting for something more on the Soviet intervention, and then I got waylaid by my teaching duties.

                                                In response to my paragraph on the relation of the purges in the USSR to the Soviet intervention, Paul Preston (29 March 2015) wrote that he agreed with the "latter part of the statement but not the first part." The latter part was my view that Soviet action was primarily meant to prompt a rally of Britain and France to the anti-fascist cause. As to the first part, Paul wrote that Stalin's "murderous intentions" toward his opponents in Russia "were not the motivation for his involvement in Spain." I am not sure how he got the idea that I had said this, but I certainly never suggested that Stalin launched the intervention in order to settle scores in the Soviet Union. No doubt this is what prompted Boris Volodarsky to call my view "absolutely incorrect."


                                                My view is that the foreign policy struggle between the anti-fascist position of Bukharin and the war avoidance position of Molotov is the heart of the matter. The purge trial of summer 1936 featured accusations that Zinoviev was plotting with Germany and Japan to partition the USSR. Surprisingly, It was said that Bukharin participated. The purge was shifting fire from the left to the right. But a little later the charges against Bukharin were dropped for lack of evidence. Bukharin was saved for the moment. This was when the decision was made to intervene in Spain, in pursuit of the Bukharinist vision of a global struggle against the "bestial idea" of fascism.


                                                Stalin and Molotov fought back. Eventually they got their way. The intervention in Spain was wound down. In March 1938 Bukharin was shot. In his trial there were accusations that he was hampering the effort to improve relations between Germany and the Soviets. Quite different from the charges in the Zinoviev trial. The Molotov position of war avoidance, that is, agreement with Germany, had won out. The intervention in Spain had been the result of a momentary tilt toward the Bukharinist anti-fascist position, one which was soon corrected.


                                                Boris Volodarsky will surely agree that this view is not something that Pierre Broue would ever endorse. Boris pointedly asserted that he did not think that Broue was "a reliable compass" on things Trotsky (actually I had only said "a usually reliable compass"). I don't think it so odd that one who has written so many volumes on Trotsky should have some idea about him. Of course, my own views on Trotsky are to be found in my own books. So far, I have not found a single Trotskyist who agrees with them. In any case, the hero in this part of world history is not Trotsky but Franklin Roosevelt.


                                                JE comments:  Bukharin experienced the "damned if you do; damned if you don't" phenomenon.  But logic or consistency was never a principle of Soviet justice.


                                                I've always been fascinated by Kremlinology.  I hope Anthony D'Agostino's comment will inspire further discussion.


                                                Please login/register to reply or comment:

                                                • Spanish Civil War, Stalin, Bukharin, and Molotov (Paul Preston, UK 05/04/15 7:51 AM)
                                                  I apologize to Anthony D'Agostino (4 May) if I misunderstood his words. I merely wished to suggest that whatever Stalin's motivation--and it doubtless had many elements--Realpolitik probably played a larger part than internal issues within the Kremlin.

                                                  The initial response of Stalin to the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War was to steer clear. He changed his mind only when German and Italian aid was tipping the scales to the point that it was likely to secure an early victory for Franco and thus put a third fascist (or pro-fascist) state on France's borders, to the detriment of Russian defence interests.

                                                  Please login/register to reply or comment:

                                                  • Why Did Stalin Intervene in Spanish Civil War? (Anthony J Candil, USA 05/06/15 2:47 AM)
                                                    While risking a scolding from our masters on Spanish Civil War history, here is my view:

                                                    The intervention of Germany and Italy certainly prevented Franco's defeat, even if Soviet military aid initially gave the Republic the means to beat back the initial advance by Franco's forces.


                                                    On the Soviet Union side, Stalin didn't decide to aid Spain until late in September, 1936. The blueprint for the support operation to the Republic was presented to him by the NKVD on September 14, and approved by the Politburo on September 29, culminating in a detailed plan for military intervention. The Soviet Union then sent more than 3,000 personnel, mainly tank crewmen and pilots, who actively participated in combat on the Republican side. The first ship carrying Soviet arms, the Komsomol, arrived in Cartagena on October 12, 1936. By November 5, NKVD had already overseen a massive mobilization of Soviet weaponry for sale to the Republic. This materiel initially included 187 aircraft, 147 tanks and armored vehicles, 114 artillery guns, 3,703 machine-guns, 60,183 rifles, 95,528,860 rounds of ammunition, and 150 tons of gunpowder, most of which was either en route or already in action near Madrid by the time. Sizable amounts of Soviet equipment, including the latest-model tanks, accompanied by numerous Soviet advisers and specialized personnel, helped to turn the tide in the Civil War by November, 1936.


                                                    Another different problem was that the Soviet Union exacted a harsh price from the Spanish Republic for the delivery of that military aid. The British historian Gerald Howson has furnished overwhelming evidence showing the extent to which Stalin shortchanged and double-crossed the Spanish Republic. The Soviet Union, which was soon to supply arms and "advisers" to the Republic, pursued a dual goal. Any intervention was to take place within the framework of the overall Soviet policy of seeking alliances with France and Britain. Hence, Stalin would provide enough military aid to allow the Republic to defend itself, but not enough to frighten or outrage the West. It is unclear exactly why the Soviets determined to help the Spanish, and the available documents are not helpful on this point. A desire to aid ideological comrades, fears about encouraging aggression if the Nationalists were not stopped, and a willingness to support France's strategic position, all may have played their part in the decision. But it was not Western inaction that forced the Spanish government into the Soviet sphere; the Republicans had already decided to request Soviet aid, not realizing how dependent they would become on the Russian Bear. As for the Soviet response to this request, the general consensus among scholars has been that Stalin determined to intervene only in late September.


                                                    In addition, military dispatches from the front lines suggested that the Republicans would collapse if they did not receive immediate and massive aid. Then there were the reports from the first Soviet advisers on the scene, which emphasized the lack of modern technology in Spain and the dangers that this represented. All these considerations, added to the blatant disregard that Hitler and Mussolini showed for the agreement, may have convinced Stalin to push beyond small arms and begin sending tanks, airplanes, and greater numbers of men in early October.


                                                    As fellow WAISer Stanley Payne clearly explains, at least through the summer of 1937 the Soviet intention was to enable the Republic to win a military victory, even though major intervention was delayed so long that the initial concern was simply to avoid defeat. Stalin however, made "haste slowly, as he always did."  In the end Stalin wanted to be sure first that there would be no quick and easy Franco victory.


                                                    There is some indication that in the initial concept of the operation, General Voroshilov proposed to Stalin to send regular combat units of the Soviet Army, but top military commanders, including Marshall Tukhachevsky, argued successfully that this would be too difficult and too risky. The Soviet Union however, responded to the Spanish request for aid with more than just weaponry. In August and September, the first men arrived in Spain to help organize the war against the Nationalists. By late November, 1936, there were more than seven hundred Soviet military advisers (most of which doubled as GRU workers), NKVD agents, diplomatic representatives, and economic experts in Spain.


                                                    The military advisers were under the leadership of Yan Berzin (real name, Pavel Ivanovich Kiuzis Peteris), who was the head of the Soviet Military Intelligence GRU until he left for Spain. He was aided by others and among them by Semyon Krivoshein, the commander of the tank units. They complained about the incompetence of the Spanish, expected them to follow Soviet advice entirely, and would force out of power those who stood in the way.


                                                    JE comments:  We have scrutinized every conceivable aspect of the SCW, but I don't think this hypothetical has ever been raised:  what would the probably outcome have been if neither side had received foreign aid?


                                                    Please login/register to reply or comment:

                                                    • Spanish Civil War was Internationalized from the Start (Angel Vinas, Belgium 05/06/15 8:51 AM)
                                                      I´ve read with interest Anthony Candil´s cogitations on the USSR and the Spanish Civil War. Also some of the exchanges about the motives for Soviet intervention. At the moment I don´t have time to launch into a long answer. I´ve written seven books (one of them with a colleague) where the USSR-Spanish relationship figures prominently. I also have spent some time in Soviet archives and made good use of Soviet and Republican evidence, including Negrín´s, Prieto´s and Largo Caballero´s papers. Additionally I´ve consulted German, Italian, and Francoist documents. I am not aware of many historians who have gone to such lengths. I certainly don´t agree with Stanley G. Payne in most aspects. Even more, I don´t consider him to be a great authority on the matter, stressing that I mean on purely technical--never personal--terms.

                                                      Some of Anthony´s statements require qualification. Others are plain wrong. Among the latter I strongly object to Anthony´s misrepresentation that the Republic had unilaterally decided to request aid from the Soviet Union. It did so within a comprehensive effort to get military supplies from France, the UK, the US, the Third Reich, Belgium and Switzerland. The only major country not addressed was Italy.


                                                      My late friend Gerald Howson was wrong in his assessment of Soviet price policies. I told him so many times, sent him papers and eventually I brought him around to a different view. Unfortunately he died before updating his seminal book. One of my students, Miguel Iñiguez, is writing a PhD dissertation on Republican efforts to get war matériel by circumventing the non-intervention policy, a purely political act without basis in international law at that time. Anthony is referred to my books El escudo de la República and the first and last chapters of Las armas y el oro for a thorough discussion of those aspects. Suffice it to say that Gerald overlooked two fundamental tenets of Soviet economic policy: it was not a market-based one and a system of multiple exchange rates was applied.


                                                      Stalin followed a consistent policy throughout the SCW. Furthermore he kept the Republicans informed about his wishes, possibilities and limitations. More about it in El escudo and El honor de la República.


                                                      The major reason (although not the only one) why Stalin´s aid slackened in 1937 was his personal assessment that the USSR could not sustain its involvement in Spain while at the same time supporting Chang Kai Shek in his struggle against the Japanese and keeping up the desired level of deterrence against the Third Reich. Against his assessment, the ones made by Vorochilov, Maisky, and some of his envoys in Spain could not prevail. Massive Soviet support resumed after Munich but it arrived too late.


                                                      The assistance with personnel has been studied by Yuri Rybalkin. It was minute in comparison to the Italian CTV, the Nazi Legion Condor and the Moroccan contingents. The International Brigades reached a peak of 35,000 men. At the end of 1937 General Rojo was pondering whether it would better to give them up. Not for military but for political reasons. Franco´s structural dependence on the Nazi-Fascist coalition only deepened.


                                                      Francoist and right-wing historians had been very shy about analysing the comments made by Italians and Germans about the military competence of their protegees.


                                                      For the reasons about Soviet intervention in the Summer 1936 I refer to my book La soledad de la República.


                                                      In response to John´s question, I might add the following. The SCW became an international war before it broke out. It was the Monarchists who got Mussolini involved in the rebellion by previously ensuring the provision of modern aircraft. This has been demonstrated beyond any doubt. Therefore, Mussolini at least would have entered the war.


                                                      The Republic did what it could do: request limited military aid from France. It turned out that this was in agreement with a secret pact of December 1935 (under a right-wing Government) by which the French committed themselves to provide war matériel. It was the fascist and Nazi commitment to assist the rebels which internationalized the war. On the other hand, nothing in international law prohibited any internationally recognized government from requesting war material from other governments.


                                                      JE comments:  Could we go one step further, and say that had Mussolini not promised aid to the Monarchists, there would have been no rebellion?


                                                      Please login/register to reply or comment:

                                                      • What if Mussolini Had Not Offered Help to the Spanish Rebellion? (Angel Vinas, Belgium 05/07/15 11:57 AM)
                                                        My goodness, John E is insatiable. When commenting on my post of May 6th, he asked whether the Spanish rebellion would have taken place if Mussolini hadn't promised aid. I believe it would not have.  [JE:  I made an editing mistake here; see correction below.] The Monarchists were looking for weapons but the Carlists as well. Some of the CEDA people were making remonstrances to the new British Ambassador already in 1935 about impending dangers. The civilian side of the conspiracy tried to prevent the UK from helping the Government.

                                                        Madariaga, when he was Ambassador in Paris during the first biennium, already reported to Madrid about some of the external ramifications of the conspiracy. The coup could have only been prevented if the Government had taken a far more forceful stance. But they were too legalistic, too timid and too afraid of the Anarchists. The Army was the last redoubt of the Republic, and they didn´t want to antagonize it too much. They consistently underestimated the nature of the conspiracy and believed it would be a repetition of the 1932 coup. In my book La conspiración del General Franco, I've brought to light some of the warnings given to Azaña which were ignored. They also believed in the military honor of the generals and colonels contacted. In general, this is a well known subject. A sad history.


                                                        JE comments:  Insatiable curiosity is a virtue!  As with World War I, there are probably a dozen ways the Spanish Civil War could have been avoided.  These hypotheticals make for interesting discussion, but ultimately we have to accept that what happened, happened.


                                                        Either way, gracias, Ángel.


                                                        Please login/register to reply or comment:

                                                        • Salvador de Madariaga, Lorca, and WAIS (John Heelan, UK 05/08/15 4:23 AM)
                                                          Angel Viñas (7 May) mentions Salvador de Madariaga. In 1929 Lorca and Fernando de Ríos stayed with Madariaga in Oxford on their way to New York when Federico was escaping claustrophobic Spanish society in Granada and Madrid on his way to emerging from his sexual closet.

                                                          After Lorca's death, Madariaga wrote the elegy that can be found at http://www.portaldepoesia.com/Madariaga.htm . Having powerful friends like Madariaga, de los Ríos and Azaña was one of the reasons Lorca was assassinated.


                                                          JE comments:  And importantly for us, Madariaga was the maestro at Oxford who inspired Ronald Hilton to shift from French to Spanish.  This unleashed the chain of events that led to Stanford, Bolívar House, and in 1965, CIIS/WAIS.  In this classic Hilton comment from 1997, Our Founder compares Madariaga to Herbert Hoover:  two idealists who did not get a fair shake from History.  Nonetheless, RH speculates that the gregarious Madariaga did not care for the somber Hoover.  This post is not to be missed:


                                                          http://waisworld.org/go.jsp?id=02a&objectType=post&o=64815&objectTypeId=59065&topicId=135


                                                          Now to shift gears.  The big news from the UK is David Cameron's outright victory in the national elections, which will allow the Tories to govern without a coalition (if I understand correctly).  Ed Milliband (Labour), Nick Clegg (Liberal Democrats), and Nigel Farage (UKIP) have all resigned as leaders of their respective parties.  With the Conservative victory, there will be a referendum on Britain's future in the EU.  I expect the financial markets to be jittery today.


                                                          Please login/register to reply or comment:

                                                          • Salvador de Madariaga and Lorca (Paul Preston, UK 05/09/15 8:24 AM)
                                                            I enjoy John Heelan's posts enormously and usually learn an awful lot from them. I acknowledge his expertise regarding the life of Federico García Lorca. However, I disagree with his take (8 May) on the influence of Salvador de Madariaga. I wrote a short biography of Madariaga, whom I knew in Oxford. It was the centre-piece of my book ¡Comrades! Portraits from the Spanish Civil War, which attempted to illustrate the war via nine lives from extreme left to extreme right with Madariaga in the centre.

                                                            I do not think that Madariaga was a figure of any great political influence either inside or outside Spain. In this case, my understanding is that it was Fernando de los Ríos, a professor in the University of Granada, a Socialist and one-time Minister of Justice, who was a friend of Madariaga. There is no reason to think that Lorca was. De los Ríos and Lorca visited Madariaga's house in Oxford unannounced and he was out. His wife Constance gave them tea and Madariaga arrived later and then escorted them to the train station. I don't think that they stayed overnight.


                                                            The reasons for Lorca's assassination are many, ranging from his sympathy for the poor and his homosexuality to land disputes concerning his father. Friendship with Fernando de los Ríos certainly confirmed that he was a man of the left. I doubt that his assassins had any notion of his being associated with Madariaga, a right-of-centre liberal. Even if they did, they would have been far more aware of the many Socialists who were his friends.


                                                            JE comments: But we still can celebrate Madariaga's impact on Ronald Hilton! "It was Madariaga who influenced me [at Oxford] to move over to Spanish, and I recall him with admiration and affection," he writes in his Memoirs. A lengthy section of Chapter Two is devoted to "Don Salvador."  Here's the full text:


                                                            http://waisworld.org//modules/cms/files/wais/10_spr_RH_memoirs.pdf

                                                            Please login/register to reply or comment:

                                                            • In Praise of Paul Preston (Henry Levin, USA 05/09/15 10:24 AM)
                                                              I like the insights from important scholars who had direct contact with the principal actors. I hope that Paul Preston (9 May) keeps these insights, glimpses, and interpretations coming.

                                                              JE comments: WAIS doesn't publish "attaboys," except for the (occasional) occasion when it does. I'm 100% in agreement with Henry Levin, and will only add that it's even more significant when one important scholar (Levin) praises another (Preston).

                                                              Please login/register to reply or comment:


                                                            • Madariaga and Lorca (John Heelan, UK 05/10/15 6:42 AM)
                                                              Of course Paul Preston is correct (9 May) to question that Madariaga was a friend of Lorca. Fernando de los Ríos was hated by the right wing in Granada, especially by Ruiz Alonso, the leader of the squad that arrested Lorca. One of the accusations against Federico is that he was Don Fernando's secretary.

                                                              Regarding Madariaga, In a letter to his family from New York (dated 6 July 1929), Lorca mentions that in England he had met Helen Grant again. Don Fernando had hosted her when she was studying in Granada.  A note to that letter by editors Andrew Anderson and Christopher Maurer comments, using Gibson as a source, "Arriving in Oxford in the summer of 1929, Fernando los Ríos wanted to greet (Helen Grant) again and for that reason he was invited to dine with Don Salvador."


                                                              JE comments:  Andrew Anderson, now at U Virginia, was at Michigan during my grad school days.  I somehow never had the chance to take a course with him.

                                                              Please login/register to reply or comment:




                                                        • Correction to Angel Vinas's post of 7 May (John Eipper, USA 05/08/15 5:09 AM)

                                                          I incorrectly edited Ángel Viñas's post of 7 May.  Ángel wrote to say that he believes the Spanish insurrection would have taken place even if Mussolini had not offered material aid to the rebels.  I got my wires crossed, and published the exact opposite conclusion.


                                                          I've made the correction to the original post.  My apologies to Ángel.


                                                          Please login/register to reply or comment:




                                                    • What if Neither Side in Spanish Civil War Had Received Foreign Aid? (Anthony J Candil, USA 05/08/15 5:54 AM)
                                                      To respond to John E's hypothetical on foreign aid and the Spanish Civil War (see my post of 6 May), my view on this is that if no aid of any sort had been provided to the warring parties, then in principle the Republic should have won.

                                                      The Republic had the biggest portion of territory, manpower, industrial assets and financial resources in July, 1936.


                                                      There was no way Franco could have ferried the Army of Africa to the Spanish mainland without outside aid. And the rest of the Spanish military where the uprising was successful could not have sustained its struggle for very long.


                                                      However in my view the Republic didn't lose just because and only Franco got German and Italian aid. Soviet aid to the Republic was more than substantial and in some fields, such as tanks and armor, was far better than anything provided by the Italians and the Germans.


                                                      The Republic lost because of its lousy organization, almost no discipline whatsoever, internal rivalries, lack of a unified military command in spite of Soviet efforts to improve leadership, and an awfully bad logistical system.


                                                      In the end the Republican Popular Army lost because it was a militias army, without good training, with bad leadership and bad management, against a solid professional and disciplined army.


                                                      On the other hand, we can say that the Nationalist Army sometimes was no better. I believe it was a Nationalist Army general, who at the peak of the Battle of the Ebro, sometime in September-October, 1938 dared to say: "Fortunately the Reds are far worse than we are," or something like that. Surely Paul Preston knows which general that was.


                                                      Maybe in the end the Nationalists would have won too or Spain would have split in several tiny republics, like the former Yugoslavia did after Tito.


                                                      The answer is in the wind.


                                                      JE comments: You are correct, my friend, as it is with all hypotheticals. These questions offer irresistible topics for conversation, though.

                                                      Please login/register to reply or comment:

                                                      • What if Neither Side in Spanish Civil War Had Received Foreign Aid? (Carmen Negrin, France 05/08/15 2:36 PM)
                                                        It is obviously difficult to say what would have happened without foreign intervention in the Spanish Civil War, in particular Italian, German and in a minor way Portuguese.

                                                        But in response to Anthony Candil (8 May), the Republicans leaders must not have been so bad if, in spite of the lack of a professional army--at least at the beginning--in spite of their internal disagreements and fights, in spite of the non intervention, they managed to resist for almost three years against the Italian and the Germans armies, while the professional and trained French Army resisted only one of these enemies for barely 10 months.


                                                        As for the soldiers or "untrained militia" as Anthony calls them, Leclerc was quite happy to have them with him, as were the Americans and the British as one can judge by the names of those in the military cemeteries in France and elsewhere.


                                                        JE comments:  Excellent points.


                                                        Please login/register to reply or comment:


                                                      • What if Neither Side in Spanish Civil War Had Received Foreign Aid? (Paul Preston, UK 05/10/15 7:24 AM)

                                                        The historian's equivalent of the Hippocratic oath is an undertaking not to get involved in counter-factual speculation.



                                                        I am not getting involved now in this particular one, but I would say simply that one of the reasons for the Spanish Republic's defeat was the non-intervention policy of Britain and France, which severely undermined the Republic's ability to defend itself.


                                                        JE comments:  I understand that counterfactuals are no-nos, but they're so irresistible!  A question for Professor Preston:  I've found counterfactual exercises to be useful in the classroom, as they teach critical thinking and argumentation skills.  Does Paul agree?

                                                        Please login/register to reply or comment:

                                                        • Historians and Counterfactual Speculation (Robert Whealey, USA 05/11/15 4:56 AM)
                                                          For purposes of publication, Paul Preston is 100% correct with his disdain for counterfactual speculation. Historians explain what happened--who, when, where, how and last of all why. On the question of why, the historian is very discreet and writes a very cautious conclusion, putting a specific event into a wider historical framework.

                                                          Two questions about the Spanish Civil War: did the unresolved problems from the First World War lead to the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War? And did the British-French non-interventionist policy lead to the Second World War? A more pointed conclusion might be, was the Spanish Civil War the first or second round of World War II?


                                                          Counterfactual speculations are fun to raise when teaching, but the historians should spend no more than 3-5 minutes on these questions. He or she should it leave to the students to do more research.


                                                          JE comments: I don't see how WWI led to Civil War for neutral Spain, but Robert Whealey's second question is rich ground for speculation: had France and Britain stood up to Hitler/Mussolini in Spain, would Hitler have been less impetuous in 1939?


                                                          It's been a couple of years since my feldgrau Doppelgänger last appeared in WAIS.  Here I am (at left) in 1914, contemplating Spanish neutrality:




                                                          Please login/register to reply or comment:


                                                        • Counterfactual Scenarios as Teaching Tools (Paul Preston, UK 05/13/15 4:19 AM)
                                                          To answer John E's question of 10 May, I occasionally throw in quite outrageous counterfactual questions in the hope of forcing students to put their brains into gear.

                                                          JE comments: For literary exams, I like to mash up two characters from different works and eras to have them discuss social issues.  And someday I'll find the occasion for this one: What if Montezuma had the Bomb?

                                                          Please login/register to reply or comment:








                                            • Stalin's Intervention in Spain (Angel Vinas, Belgium 03/29/15 3:52 AM)
                                              I apologize for not having participated in the Forum for several months. I have been busy carrying out several projects on the Spanish Civil War and the Franco dictatorship.

                                              If John Eipper starts a class on this topic he might be interested in knowing that I've coordinated 36 Spanish and non-Spanish historians for a collection of essays about the recent historiography on the SCW both in Spain and abroad. I don´t know how I could upload the result into the WAIS network. It´s a heavy volume of over 500 pages in pdf. Obviously I can send it to any interested WAISer.


                                              Much of the discussion in this forum on this topic has proved to me that interested opinion abroad is utterly in the dark about the new publications in Spain which appear almost every week.


                                              For those interested in the subject I´ve started a blog on SCW topics mainly. It´s available in my Facebook page. The next posts will be on Guernica, whose destruction happened on 26 April, 1937.


                                              I´m putting the finishing touches on a book about five Franco myths. It´ll come out at the end of September. I´ve made a point of honor to demonstrate to most of my colleagues (Paul Preston excepted) and a general audience that the current Franco image in foreign historiography is wide of the mark particularly in relation to the nature of the dictatorship, Franco´s orientation in foreign policy and Franco´s finances.


                                              Finally, because a recent Franco biography is historiographically speaking a real shame, I´ve put together a group of historians so as to denounce the scientific turpitude of its authors. We´re dealing in particular with Franco´s repressive activities in the postwar period. The results will hopefully become available on the 40th anniversary of Franco´s death next November.


                                              Please forgive me for not participating in this Forum for the time being but I have really no time.


                                              JE comments: I'm overjoyed to have you back, Ángel! As a small apéretif on Franco, could you send us a paragraph or two on his finances? The conventional wisdom (at least as far as this not-really-a-specialist understands it) was that Franco did not overly enrich himself at government expense.  I presume I'm wrong about that.

                                              Please login/register to reply or comment:


                                            • Stalin's Intervention in Spain (Boris Volodarsky, Austria 03/30/15 6:14 AM)

                                              Responding to Anthony D'Agostino's post of 28 March, Pierre Broue is not a "reliable compass on things Trotsky," I am afraid. I am sure Paul Preston will make his own best qualified comment here. I shall simply say that to my mind Anthony's interpretation of Stalin's intervention in Spain is absolutely incorrect.


                                              Stalin's plans were rather different in August of 1936, and that had little to do with Spain or fascism. And--we must make this very clear--there was no Stalinist purge in Spain, and there was no action against the anarchists. On the contrary, there was an attempt to collaborate with them. At the time Trotsky was officially announced as the number one enemy of the Russian state, so since 1938 there were plans to murder him, but the POUM was well known not to be the Trotskyite party. However, they extended an invitation to Trotsky to come to Barcelona from Norway (he actually landed in Mexico) and that was what led to the destruction of the party and the death of Andreu Nin.


                                              All this is described in detail in Paul Preston's, Ángel Viñas's, Helen Graham's and my own books.


                                              With all respect to Nigel Jones, who is my co-author in Salisbury Review and whose publications I always read with great interest--does he have any documentary proof that Andreu Nin was "tortured to death"?


                                              JE comments:  As a further question re:  Nin's death, what is the probability that he was taken to the Soviet Union for execution?


                                              Please login/register to reply or comment:

                                              • Execution of Andreu Nin (Boris Volodarsky, Austria 03/31/15 7:50 AM)

                                                John E asked about the possibility that Andreu Nin was taken to Moscow for execution. Well, it is never possible to state anything for sure in such matters, but to the best of my knowledge, and I describe it in great detail in my recent Orlov book, Nin was killed in Spain near Madrid by Orlov and his team that included Luis Lacasa, Erich Tacke, Iosif Grigulevich and two Spaniards whose names we cannot identify with 100% probability.


                                                JE comments:  Time and again, we're reminded that Franco didn't win the SCW.  It was the fractious Republic that lost.


                                                Please login/register to reply or comment:


                                              • Stalin's Intervention in Spain; Response to Boris Volodarsky (Anthony D`Agostino, USA 04/01/15 6:48 AM)
                                                I was surprised that Boris Volodarsky (30 March) writes that my lines about the internal struggle over the Bukharin case and its relation to the Soviet decision to intervene in Spain are "absolutely incorrect."

                                                That was very quick. I can't help but wonder why they are so absolutely incorrect? Would Boris instruct me a little bit? Where did I go wrong about Bukharin and Molotov?


                                                Not trying to challenge anyone's credentials here, but just trying to have a little discussion.


                                                JE comments: My apologies to Anthony D'Agostino for the delay in posting. P-mail has some teething problems...

                                                Please login/register to reply or comment:




                                          • Poem: "Trotsky Explains Lenin to Frida Kahlo" (Luciano Dondero, Italy 03/29/15 4:26 AM)
                                            In a website devote to Mennonite poetry, I found this gem by Leonard Neufeldt, which I believe deserves to be reproduced in WAIS:

                                            Trotsky Explains Lenin To Frida Kahlo


                                            He wore deep learning as disguise,

                                            believable, perfect cover

                                            for that love of self that burns with a low blue

                                            fire you can hold in an open hand,

                                            but dare not, the miracle

                                            deferred for the flame's fuel,

                                            and the mystery of how

                                            it sets itself ablaze, burns steadfast

                                            as sulfur in a swamp or a people's

                                            revolution, the memory

                                            its small shapes spark

                                            long afterward in those

                                            who like to bring past and future round

                                            to anthems of praise, every word

                                            sweeping its heat skyward,

                                            burning the night air black

                                            to its very edge, words

                                            I passed my hands through,

                                            hurting them


                                            because Stalin

                                            had invented fire so cold

                                            it can reach all the way back

                                            to Nothing, beyond the last

                                            frozen sleeve of stars


                                            © Leonard Neufeldt. Queen's Quarterly, Vol. 118 (2011).


                                            (from http://www.mennonitepoetry.com/leonardneufeldt/indexframes.html )


                                            A few words are needed to understand the context. Trotsky and Frida Kahlo were briefly lovers in 1937, when Trotsky was in exile in Mexico, living in the house of Frida and her husband Diego Rivera.


                                            Her side of their love affair can be seen in her painting reproduced below. His side has been so far only expressed in his subsequent, groveling words of regret to his wife Natalia Sedova.


                                            But I think that this English poet has managed to capture not only the contents of Trotsky's approach, and his deep admiration for Lenin, but also the form in which to express his own love of self, and love for Frida; and possibly, also capture the way in which he conducted his seduction. Marvelous!






                                            The letter in Frida's hands in her self-portrait says: "To Leon Trotsky with affection I dedicate this painting, the 7th of November 1937. Frida Kahlo. In San Angel, Mexico" (The day was the 20th anniversary of the Russian Revolution).


                                            JE comments:  Frida-Diego mania is gripping the Motor City at present, as a historic exhibit has opened at the Detroit Institute of Arts.  Adrian College's Spanish program will visit this coming Thursday (April 2nd):


                                            http://www.dia.org/calendar/exhibition.aspx?id=4608


                                            Today's WAIS features at least two poems about authoritarian world leaders.  Gary Moore sent some original verses on Singapore's Lee Kuan Yew, which I'll publish this afternoon.


                                            Please login/register to reply or comment:







                                • Self-Driving Cars (Enrique Torner, USA 03/25/15 2:12 AM)
                                  John E's dream of having a self-driving car (23 March) is coming in about 15 years! Mercedes has been working on a "robo-car" for a few years already. This topic was news just yesterday. This is from yesterday's web article:

                                  "Two years ago, its [Mercedes] Intelligent Drive research vehicle drove 60 miles from Mannheim to Pforzheim, Germany, negotiating urban and highway traffic all by itself. The latest E- and S-Class models already handle themselves in traffic jams using something Mercedes calls Stop&Go pilot. That ability should include autonomous highway driving with a few years."


                                  http://www.wired.com/2015/03/mercedes-benz-f-015-autonomous-car/


                                  There was even a poll to find out if Americans would trust these self-driving cars, and the result was split: 52% thought they would be dangerous; 48%, reliable. Here is the link to the web article, posted 6 hours ago!:


                                  http://www.nbcnews.com/tech/innovation/americans-cant-agree-self-driving-cars-harris-poll-n329481


                                  Google has also advertised that there will be autonomous cars in 3-5 years.


                                  I can't wait! No more worrying about falling asleep at the wheel. Then we'll be able to read or write while on the road. We could even drink and eat at the same time. Watch television, a DVD, or work on the computer. We'll be able to get more work accomplished. The future is here.


                                  JE comments: WAIS IT guru Roman Zhovtulya and I have spoken several times about self-driving cars. I'm not very optimistic.  Although the technology for autonomous vehicles is already quite mature, the obstacles include litigation, snow and ice, and one reality of the IT industry: a computer crash is something we accept and even expect. This is not the case when your life and safety are at stake.


                                  Who will be found responsible for the first dozen or so self-driving fatalities?  In the meantime, for my commute, give me a helicopter with a pilot.

                                  Please login/register to reply or comment:

                                  • Self-Driving Cars (Roman Zhovtulya, USA 03/27/15 3:45 AM)
                                    Just a quick note to put some of John E's concerns to rest about self-driving cars. (See Enrique Torner, 25 March.)

                                    1) Litigation


                                    It's less of a problem than we might think. There will be a large enough insurance ($10-$100 million) for the first cars (probably commercial fleets), and once the public sees that it's really difficult to get killed around them, the public acceptance will grow exponentially.


                                    I think the big positive boost to the popularity of self-driving vehicles will come when (not if) somebody tries to pull insurance scam/tricks (by backing up or throwing themselves under the moving vehicle). Because every millisecond of what's going on around the car is recorded and reported back to HQ, it will be pretty easy to see the truth.


                                    When Jeremy Clarkson of Fifth Gear tried to pull a similar trick with a Tesla Roadster, they got publicly humiliated worldwide:


                                    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1371334/Top-Gear-sued-Tesla-Motors-rigged-electric-car-test.html


                                    Imagine the public outcry when somebody tried to harm one of these cuties:


                                    http://time.com/3758446/googles-self-driving-car-may-come-with-airbags-on-the-outside/


                                    2) Snow and Ice


                                    I believe will should be able to deal with it much better than the average driver (orders of magnitude faster reaction time, 360-degree field of view at all times, driving experience exceeding that of thousands of professional drivers, etc.).


                                    3) JE wrote about "one reality of the IT industry: a computer crash is something we accept and even expect. This is not the case when your life and safety are at stake."


                                    Self-driving cars will not be running on consumer-grade hardware or software. The requirements will probably be akin to those in airline or medical industries.


                                    Frankly, I feel like it's the same old story again. We've already gone through this with paper (Cicero fearing we would lose our memory if we wrote everything down), steam engines (people losing jobs), internal combustion (horse-drawn carriages are safer), etc.


                                    To put things into perspective, here are the issues/concerns when humanity moved from using scrolls to books for information storage:


                                    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pQHX-SjgQvQ

                                    (original with English subtitles)


                                    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yUQRbqc2qtY

                                    (English remake)


                                    JE comments: I remember that Roman Zhovtulya and I had much the same conversation two years ago, as we rode in a (drive-it-yourself) van from the Detroit airport to Adrian.  Roman's technological exuberance is always a healthy counterpoint to my inner Luddite.


                                    Time will tell.  The problem with the airline analogy is that you would have millions of computers communicating with each other on a given morning's commute.  One failure could result in many deaths.  And in America at least, litigation is never less of a problem than you might think.


                                    Please login/register to reply or comment:







                        • God the Universe and Prayer (Tor Guimaraes, USA 03/17/15 2:01 PM)
                          My thanks to John Eipper (16 March) for his interest in my theology. But my theology is much more than just words. I use it in my everyday life to guide my behavior towards God the Universe in all its physical and spiritual manifestations. I am one of these people who tries to do as much as possible what I say, as well as say what I mean.

                          Commenting on my post John wrote: "One point I'm unclear about: does one pray to God the Universe? To do so might be a comforting exercise, but clearly It would never change Its mind."


                          Yes, I pray to God very often. The prayer is almost standard and very simple. It asks for forgiveness for my relative ignorance and stupidity. It thanks God the Universe for all the wonderful things already received, and asks for more of the same (health, success in my efforts, and happiness). It is indeed a very comforting exercise and one of my greatest fears is that I my lose it for whatever reason.


                          John's assumption that besides being comforting, there is no other benefit from my prayers because "clearly [God} would never change Its mind" is very wrong. The true God will not change Universal rules for anyone, but clearly there seems to be a lot of room to work within the rules and to harness the various forms of energy at work. I have experienced a few major miracles ranging from still unexplainable happenings to success against impossible odds in specific cases. In a few cases my prayers saved my life or brought me great personal benefits; and John knows that I am a skeptic by nature.


                          For the most part the benefits from my prayers are a reflection of my strong care about the truth and doing things right, and assuming that God demands not doing to others what you don't want others doing to you. Science and the scientific method are critical to learn about God the Universe, but also critical because life is all about being prepared to Identify the real problems and opportunities and making changes for implementing the best solutions. This does not mean you are not going to make mistakes, but reducing the intensity and number of mistakes is critical.


                          This is a very serious problem for society in general, because increasingly our leaders are being selected for their good looks or ability to finance extensive propaganda campaigns. How can these people make the complex decisions required of them? Thus, for example, we have the sad situation Eugenio Battaglia discussed today: "As recently as 5 March, US Secretary of State John Kerry was still saying that military pressure may be needed to oust the Syrian president. But now he has finally been struck on the road to Damascus and has agreed that it is necessary to negotiate with Assad. Four years too late, not too bad for a Secretary of State."


                          Perhaps our leaders need to care enough to learn more and pray for wisdom.


                          JE comments:  I'm ready to steer this conversation back to politics.  What are Tor Guimaraes's thoughts about negotiating with Assad?  Is he saying that Secretary Kerry finally saw the light, or the other way around?


                          Please login/register to reply or comment:


                        • Thoughts on God the Universe; from William Kyburz (John Eipper, USA 03/17/15 4:00 PM)
                          Our friend in Rochester, NY, William Kyburz, sends this response to Tor Guimaraes (16 March):

                          I am glad Tor Guimaraes responded about that young friend of John E's being struck by lightning, which led John to believe that God was not always right.



                          I originally did not want to respond to it, as touching on others' feelings and beliefs is not generally a good idea.



                          But I did want John to consider the following.



                          The human frailty part of the equation. Who would allow a young boy to play baseball out on a field with a chance of thunderstorms?



                          I remember a few years ago a huge storm came through Honduras. It killed many. The ones it killed had built shoddy housing next to a river. I remember an individual who lost his entire family now deciding he did not believe in God.



                          Really?



                          God gave us moral responsibility which reduces to a form of free will.



                          When we misuse it, we should not hold it against God. Usually when we point the finger at God, three fingers are pointing back at us.



                          My understanding of God is pretty close to Tor Guimares's view. Why? Because it makes sense. Comparing the God that I grew up with, my father being Catholic and my mother a Protestant, to an intelligent being is just a myth.



                          I remember asking as a young boy, "Who created the Creator?" and the answer was, "He created himself." Really? Why not simplify it and make the claim that the Creator and the Creation are the same thing? And if you do, you get Tor Guimaraes's concept of God.



                          Well enough out of me. Happy belated birthday.


                          JE comments: Many thanks, Bill. It won't be long now 'till the next one (birthday).


                          "Man proposes, God disposes."  With these words Ulysses S. Grant began his Personal Memoirs.  But (no cheating/Googling, please), who knows the origin of this expression?  Hint:  it is not the Bible.

                          Please login/register to reply or comment:





                  • Organized Religion vs Secular Excesses; from Noah Rich (John Eipper, USA 03/10/15 7:43 AM)
                    Noah Rich, a student of linguistics and International Studies at Ohio University, introduced himself to WAISworld in February (http://waisworld.org/go.jsp?id=02a&objectType=post&o=91305&objectTypeId=76878&topicId=182 ). He sends this response to Timothy Brown's post of 8 March, on "organized religion vs secular excesses."

                    I would like to take a look at a comment Tim made:


                    "I don't see any evidence whatsoever that atheism or agnosticism are, or ever have been, in any way superior to religions that believe in God. Just the opposite. There are far stronger arguments based only on recent and extremely well-documented historical events that support a conclusion that non-religious ideologies are far more likely to kill off humans by the millions than are religions."


                    To begin, I would like for Tim to please highlight which "extremely well-documented historical events" he is referring to. I have a few in mind, but I'd like to see what he is focusing on to better understand his perspective. Especially to see if the events involved both agnostics and atheists, or only atheists, and Tim is simply lumping agnostics in with them.


                    Continuing, I do find that agnosticism is superior to extremist views on religion. Two very good, and opposite spectrum, examples are Catholicism and atheism. Why do I believe agnosticism is superior to the extremist views? I myself grew up Catholic, attended Catholic elementary school and high school, and have received the sacraments up through confirmation. I've had plenty of time to learn the Catholic church's teachings, and the large variety of views that today's Catholics have. From the old-school conservative Catholics, to the modern-day progressive "Catholics." I mention this because as I'm sure we're all aware of the large number of people who consider themselves Catholic who do not actually follow or believe Catholic teachings, as there are in any major world religion.


                    The Catholic church teaches that through two things, and two things alone, one may determine that the existence and continuing presence of God in our lives is irrefutably set in place by sacred scripture and sacred tradition. So in other words, a main separation between most other Christian denominations (and I use "most" because I don't know the exact beliefs/teachings of all of them) is that Catholics claim they know God exists, whereas many Christian denominations claim they believe God exists. It's the same with the separation between agnosticism and atheism. (This is why I very much dislike when people group them together.) Atheists deny the existence of God. Agnostics do not make any claim other than the real truth cannot be known. God may exist, God may not exist.


                    By this, I would say that simply from an ideological perspective, agnostics are superior than both groups because both are claiming to know something which isn't known. It's far more open-minded about the subject than either group has been through history, and continues to be in our modern day.


                    JE comments:  A thought exercise:  is it even possible to commit excesses in the name of agnosticism?  I'm not comfortable with the word "superior" in the context of culture or religion, but agnosticism finds its appeal (and strength) in its lack of conviction.  This is an ideal environment for the "live and let live" attitude outlined earlier today by Luciano Dondero (although Luciano was speaking of atheism).


                    Thank you, Noah, for your comment.


                    Please login/register to reply or comment:




              • IS Bulldozes Nimrud Artifacts (Bienvenido Macario, USA 03/07/15 7:46 AM)
                ISIS has stopped beheading prisoners for now, but the Iraqi government's campaign to recapture Tikrit, Saddam Hussein's hometown, was met with fierce resistance.

                This is what happens when the US confronts or even leads a coalition against ISIS without considering how stop them other than to bomb them to oblivion. Bombing ISIS without an end game was such a bad idea.


                If I may ask: What does the coalition led by the US expect from the Sunnis of Iraq? Does it expect them to behave like Native Filipinos who are living under the tyranny of the oligarchs since 1946? Do they expect the Sunnis to accept all the abuse the Shi'ite government have been giving them since Saddam was ousted?


                If the non-native oligarchs of the Philippines are allowed to have their own government, abuse the Filipinos and exploit our ancestral land with funding by the US, why can't the Sunnis be allowed to have their own country and government separate and distinct from Baghdad? My guess as to why IS prefers a Caliphate is because in a democracy, the majority rules. This means the Shi'ite will always rule.


                This is why I want to have a government-in-exile for the Philippines based in London, UK.


                In Nimrud, the IS is using bulldozers to destroy artifacts considered graven images or idols, strictly forbidden in Islam.


                http://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-31760656



                JE comments:  We're all sickened.  Nimrud is the patrimony of humanity, and the IS actions don't even make economic sense.  If I truly believed the ancient artifacts were sinful, I'd squirrel them away for later sale to a museum or collector.  But IS/Daesh is playing an end-of-times game.  Bourgeois sensibilities do not apply.


                Please login/register to reply or comment:





        • Islamophobia and Other Phobias (Enrique Torner, USA 03/04/15 2:56 PM)
          I agree with Anthony Candil's answer (4 March) to Massoud Malek. However, I would add that many people all over the world have "heterophobia," or an aversion/dislike of whatever is different.

          One aspect I would like to comment on are the differences in the way people dress, especially if people wear head covering, Muslim or not. In Spain, for example, Spaniards tend to sneer at the bright, colorful clothes Americans wear. On the other hand, I have heard Americans say that Spaniards all dress alike: grey, pastel colors, nothing bright. My wife has a rare skin cancer and an allergy to UV rays, so she has to wear a special hat and face mask when she goes out. She's had to do this for about 20 years. Even though her covering does not remotely look Muslim (it's blue or green, and it's a brim hat), she has received all kinds of mean looks and comments all over the world. So, she doesn't like to go out during the day, the consequence being that she hardly ever goes out during that time. In the end, she tends to stay home; if she goes out, it's mostly after dark. So maybe it's the covering that bothers people, whether it's Muslim or not.


          JE comments:  Heterophobia sounds like the opposite of homophobia--a fear of straight people?  At literature conferences you'll hear about the tyranny of heteronormativity.  Xenophobia might be the more useful term, although as Enrique Torner points out, "different" doesn't necessarily mean "foreign."


          Please login/register to reply or comment:


        • More on Islamophobia (Vincent Littrell, USA 03/06/15 3:25 AM)
          Anthony Candil (4 March) wrote the following:

          "Vincent Littrell speaks of 'dirty' looks to Muslims when exiting their mosques in Virginia. Let me ask you a question: Have you noticed the looks at you while in Muslim countries? And not because you're a Christian, because they don't know, but because you're a Westerner and not a Muslim. In Virginia, in Michigan, in every state across the Union there are mosques, but how many Christian churches are open and functioning in the so-called Arab world?"


          I'm not sure what Muslim inappropriateness towards "the other" in religion has to do with the fact of the existence of harmful Islamophobia. Prejudice which I have linked to the term "Islamophobia" (rightly or wrongly) against Muslims and Islam in the United States is a reality not in concert with American values associated with principles of freedom of religion. It might be argued that hostility and prejudice against Muslims also erodes the foundations of human rights principles. And, if Christians are engaging in such prejudice, it can certainly be argued that such behavior stands in contravention to the teachings of Jesus Christ Himself. Is Anthony implying with his question that because Muslims oppress religious "others" in the Muslim World, that it is therefore OK for non-Muslims to be hostile to Muslims in the West?


          I have spent a fair amount of time in Muslim countries. I have withstood the glares of pure and seething hatred from Muslims because I'm a westerner. I have withstood condescension from Muslims who because they view the Prophet Muhammad as the last revealer of the Word of God, the last prophet until the apocalyptic "end of times," and the most "superior" of the prophets of God, they view their religion as superior to any other and act towards those who are the "religious other" in a noticeably almost arrogant manner. I used to have to work with my American partners in these environs, and urged them not to take the clear condescension too seriously and work through it to get our jobs done properly. Most Muslims we worked with of course did not behave towards us this way, but enough did that it was an issue that had to be worked through and acknowledged. I never took offense at such behavior, and this personal policy of mine held me in good stead in numerous situations. It allowed me to break through cultural and social barriers that would have been hindered by taking offense to religion-based condescension.


          My co-religionists in the Baha'i Faith are viciously persecuted in Iran and other Muslim countries. In some Muslim settings Baha'is are viewed as "unclean" and treated as such, to where even children in school are ostracized and mistreated by not only their fellow students but the teachers as well. I have read at depth the histories describing the terrible sufferings of the Baha'is of Iran, and I continue to follow the ongoing persecution that takes on new tactics and methods in light of international pressure on the Iranian government to stop the persecutions.


          My point here is that despite the horrible suffering of my own co-religionists at the hands of Muslims, and my own experiences dealing with hatred and/or condescension directed at me from Muslims, this reality has nothing to do with the fact of Islamophobia in the West, which is utterly inappropriate by any credible moral or ethical standard.


          JE comments: I'd like to highlight this question from Vincent Littrell: "If Muslims oppress religious 'others' in the Muslim World, [is it] therefore OK for non-Muslims to be hostile to Muslims in the West?"  This boils down to the gulf between cultures in which religious diversity is considered a progressive virtue, and those in which it's an annoyance at best and a sin at worst. 


          I'll close with a point from Graeme Wood's Atlantic essay on IS/Daesh:  they are officially tolerant of Christians in their "caliphate," as long as the Christians "submit" and pay a tribute.  Of course this does not line up with the recent slaughter of the Coptic prisoners in Libya.

          Please login/register to reply or comment:

          • IS/Daesh and Tribute on Non-Muslims (John Heelan, UK 03/06/15 11:39 AM)
            When commenting on Vincent Littrell's post of 6 March, JE wrote: "[According to Graeme Wood, IS/Daesh is] officially tolerant of Christians in their 'caliphate,' as long as the Christians 'submit' and pay a tribute. Of course this does not line up with the recent slaughter of the Coptic prisoners in Libya."

            I suggest that this has more to do with fundamentalism than Islam. For al-Andalus's first 300 years under the Ummayad caliphate, there was relative tolerance between Islam, Judaism and Christianity providing the last two monotheist religions appeared to recognise the predominance of Islam and pay the tax stipulated in the Qur'an, other than a brief period when some Christian fundamentalists sought martyrdom by attempting to convert Muslims.


            The tolerance disappeared with the subsequent arrival of the more strict Muslim Almoravides--who described the ruling dynasty as "soft" and persecuted the Jews, followed by the even more fundamentalist Almohades who persecuted both Jews and Christians. (Of coures the fundamentalist Christian Kings persecuted both Jews and Muslims, eventually expelling them both from the kingdom even though their families had lived in Spain for centuries.)


            ISIS appears to be the latest in the series of caliphates launched by fundamentalist Muslims. The others appeared to last a couple of centuries whereas the more moderate Ottoman caliphate lasted some 400 years or so. Hopefully moderate Muslims will recognise the short-term nature of fundamentalist caliphates and destroy them.


            JE comments: The jizya, or tax on non-Muslims, is reportedly being levied in the IS/Daesh regions.  Of course I immediately thought of Muslim Spain.  Returning to Iraq/Syria, I wonder how many Christians are presently affected by this tribute?

            Please login/register to reply or comment:


          • More on Islamophobia; an Encounter on a Parking Lot (Anthony J Candil, USA 03/06/15 1:53 PM)
            First of all, thanks to Vincent Littrell (6 March) for such a magnificent presentation of facts. And it goes without saying that I agree entirely with his ideas. But these are precisely the real facts.

            Vince asked: "If Muslims oppress religious 'others' in the Muslim World, [is it] therefore OK for non-Muslims to be hostile to Muslims in the West?"


            No, it's not OK. However it helps to understand the attitude. We, in the West, are much more tolerant than they are. Recently, at the U Texas-Austin, I encountered a Muslim student (he wasn't American) praying on the ground looking East at one of the parking lots. He wasn't bothering anyone and nobody really bothered even looking at him but he was very close to my car, so when he finished his prayers I simply questioned him: Do you know why you can do that here? He didn't answer and was giving me some kind of weird looks. Then I said to him: You can do that because you're in a free society and in a democratic country where we respect others. If I have done in your country a similar thing to what you have done here I would have been put probably in jail. That's something you must keep in mind.


            I was probably patronizing him, and I'm sorry for that. But that's the big difference between them and us.


            I don't have the experience that Vincent has after been living in Muslim countries, but I don't think Muslims in America can complain about the way they are treated or looked at. We are pretty much tolerant than they are.


            This is what I tried to say.


            JE comments:  I hope Anthony Candil won't mind my observing that there is something very "Spanish" in what he said to the Muslim student.  The "American" thing would be to pretend not to see him.


            What do other WAISers think?


            Please login/register to reply or comment:

            • Are Spaniards More Outspoken? (Anthony J Candil, USA 03/07/15 1:07 PM)
              Re: my encounter with a praying Muslim at a U Texas parking lot (6 March). It never came to my mind to realize that I was acting in a very "Spanish" way, as John E said. Why does he think this?

              To pretend not to see the worshiper was perhaps not only an "American" response but also the normal way to behave. This was what I was about to do, but he was just next to my car. The parking lot was in the open, not any kind of garage or inside parking. So everyone could see him and maybe that's why he was praying so publicly, to get attention and he got mine, certainly.


              Sincerely, I am intrigued, why would John think "Spaniards" or "Americans" would behave differently? This observation just made me think. I don't deny it; it is probably as John says, but why?


              It could be an interesting topic to discuss. Latin or Mediterranean attitudes versus Anglo-Saxon behavior. What do you think?


              JE comments: Spaniards are more outspoken than Americans, and have a keen sense of detecting injustices and protesting them. I came to this realization at a number of faculty meetings over the years. (!)  The problem is that different Spaniards detect and protest different injustices.  Hence the Civil War...


              Americans, on the other hand, tend not to stress physical or cultural differences, for fear of being labeled racist or "-phobic."  The irony in my comment yesterday is that it's not very "American" to claim that someone else is behaving in a "Spanish" way.

              Please login/register to reply or comment:

              • Are Spaniards More Outspoken? (Enrique Torner, USA 03/08/15 7:25 AM)
                To answer John E's question, definitely. In general, Spaniards tend to be much more outspoken than Americans. They are not afraid to speak up and say what's on their mind.

                A big factor is that they don't have the "political correctness" mentality that we have in the US, where people are afraid to be labeled prejudiced in any way, and even lose their jobs, or be taken to court, to say the least. Lawsuits for these kinds of reasons are very rare in Spain, more common in the US.


                JE comments: I enjoy being agreed with, but Francisco Wong-Díaz has a dissenting opinion. Stay tuned.

                Please login/register to reply or comment:

                • Pundonor (John Heelan, UK 03/08/15 9:10 AM)
                  The discussion on "outspokenness" reminds me of the time I was seeking to understand Spanish culture and was introduced to the concept of "pundonor" exhibited by many Spanish people at that time (generally male).

                  It was explained to me as being "prickly pride" or "having a chip on the shoulder." Over many decades, I met it only very few times and usually as a response by my careless remark. (Once I struggled to understand the reaction of a Spanish friend who appeared to me to overreact when I casually remarked I had "seen his mother in town today." Perhaps family pride was at stake and I should not have mentioned his mother?)


                  Perhaps many (but not all) Brits and Americans have a more relaxed attitude and do not perceive an implicit insult needing a strong response?


                  JE comments: "Madre" is usually best avoided, especially in Mexico, but Mamá?

                  Please login/register to reply or comment:


                • Are Spaniards More Outspoken? (José Ignacio Soler, Venezuela 03/13/15 5:41 AM)
                  Answering John E's question about differences in attitude between Spaniards (Mediterranean people) and Americans (generally, Anglo-Saxon cultures), when it comes to expressing their thoughts and opinions, I suppose I must agree with him and Enrique Torner's perceptions.

                  However, sometimes their outgoingness and extroversion might be perceived as impertinent, indiscreet or politically incorrect, but certainly in most cases I would personally prefer to be the attention of somebody rather than being object of indifference. So when I visit a foreign country I do not mind being asked where I am from, the reasons of my visit and so on, even some personal stuff.


                  What are the reasons for that? I do not know; perhaps Spaniards are more socially inclined than Americans? Or else we tend to be less concerned about personal things and feelings being exposed? Maybe Americans are just more respectful of individuality, more discreet, distrustful and sensitive about expressing their emotions, thoughts and opinions.


                  JE comments: I searched the WAIS archives for the word "outspokenness," and lo and behold: the New York Times used the adjective to describe our own Professor Hilton.  And they were right.  (!)  Here's the obituary from 2007:


                  https://waisworld.org/go.jsp?id=02a&objectType=post&o=13507&objectTypeId=7757&topicId=231


                  When it comes to comparative cultures, I can never resist a generalization.  Here's another:  Spaniards tend to have little interest in talking to foreign visitors, whereas Latin Americans are exactly the opposite.  This is why I advise my students to study in Latin America, not Spain:  they'll get more language practice.

                  Please login/register to reply or comment:

                  • Cross-Cultural Communications: A 1974 Script (Richard Hancock, USA 03/15/15 4:15 AM)
                    José Ignacio Soler's post of 13 March reminds me that I developed a cross-cultural communications script in 1974 and, in fact, the US Office of Education granted me funds to produce six 45-minute tapes on cross-cultural communication between Anglos and Latin Americans. (I use Anglos because there is no other single word that is adequate for people from the US.) These tapes were all broadcast on Oklahoma Educational TV. I still have the tapes but have stored them in my garage where I have neither heating or air-conditioning, which may have caused them to deteriorate.



                    I have copies of this 13-page script that consists of parallel statements about the US and Latin America. I also sent a copy of this script to the US State Department's Foreign Language Training Department in Washington, DC. This caused me to receive an invitation to apply for the job of Dean of Latin American Studies there. I chose not to apply because Nancy and I felt doubtful about raising our children in Washington.



                    At the time, I had an administrative backup contract for Peace Corps training at Camp Crozier, Puerto Rico. All of the Spanish teachers there were from South America. Our representative there said that my script caused great consternation among the Spanish teachers there. I admit that I have a positive attitude about my country and probably was excessive in expressing this attitude. I wish that I could have had the opportunity of discussing this script with those teachers.



                    This script came into being because we trained a group of PCTs in the OU Hacienda in Mexico. We proposed that our Dept. of Communications conduct this program and the Peace Corps was intrigued with this idea, so we got the contract. Their program consisted of films on communication, which were interesting but were totally about US culture. What were needed were films depicting a cross-cultural setting. As far as I know this need still exists.



                    The following is a sample of the script on "Historical, Cultural, and Philosophical Background":



                    I made two columns, one stating US cultural characteristics and the second describing Latin American Culture (LA). The first statement, thanks to OU philosophy professor Patrick Romanell, described US culture as being "Epic-Positive" and that of Latin America as being "Tragic-Existential," followed by US "History of success" opposed to by LA "History of early success followed by a history of failure." Then came for the US "Belief in a dynamic changing society," as opposed to "Nostalgia for glories of past, suspicious of new innovations," for LA. There is a second section entitled "Present-Day Attitudes," a third section,"Attitudes Toward Family Life," a fourth, "Profile of Personal Conduct," and finally, "Problems of US-Latin American relations." These juxtaposed statements for the US and LA are then continued for a total of thirteen pages.



                    This script is now forty years old. As I look at it today, I find that some of the good qualities that I cited for US culture have deteriorated, especially in regard to "Attitudes Toward Family Life." If I were to rewrite this script today, I would be less optimistic about US culture, but probably would not change the statements much on Latin America.

                    JE comments: If Richard Hancock sends the script, I'd like to post it on WAIS. One other distinction I'd add to the US-LA cultural divide: Anglo-Americans generally trust police and the justice system, despite the crisis going on in Ferguson et al. This has never been the case in LA:  consider last September's horrific massacre in Iguala (Guerrero, Mexico).

                    Please login/register to reply or comment:




              • Spaniards, Americans, and Outspokenness (Francisco Wong-Diaz, USA 03/08/15 7:30 AM)
                John E wrote that Americans tend not to talk about physical or cultural differences. This is a bunch of baloney. Non-WASP people are reminded of cultural differences daily. Americans are openly intrusive and knee-jerk, asking one where you are from originally or "are you from around here" questions. It is disrespectful and annoying.

                An addendum on Spaniards: for John to generalize from such a small and unrepresentative sample (faculty meetings) is very unscientific, to say the least.


                JE comments: Aldona gets a lot of "I detect an accent" comments. About half the time she enjoys them, but other times she's annoyed.


                A question we've never posed to the vast diversity of WAISers: for foreigners in any land, is the "Where are you from originally?" question disrespectful, or simply a polite attempt to engage someone?

                Please login/register to reply or comment:

                • "Where Are You From?" (Eugenio Battaglia, Italy 03/08/15 3:22 PM)
                  About "where are you from?" (see Francisco Wong-Díaz, 8 March): It is the first correct phrase in English that I learned, from a very famous Western movie, although I do not remember the title. Probably it was with Randolph Scott.

                  The movie starts with a kid that just asks "Where are you from" to an arriving lone rider.


                  I use this phrase with almost anybody, and I do not think there is anything offensive.


                  However when I was in Chicago I was instructed that in case of hiring, never ask anyone where he was from, what religion or what nationality. Considering the implications of the Affirmative Action laws or whatever they are called, I can understand it, but in normal life let me ask "Where are you from?" in a kind way.


                  Regarding the outspokenness topic, John's definitions of the Spaniards seem accurate. (They could also go for the Italians.)


                  JE comments:  The US etiquette of hiring is incomprehensible to outsiders:  don't ask about marital status, age, children, religion, sexual preference, etc.  Another twist is the expectation that a European résumé will include a photo.  This is a no-no on this side of the Pond.

                  Please login/register to reply or comment:



              • Spaniards, Americans, and Candils... (Anthony J Candil, USA 03/08/15 10:59 AM)
                I understand you well, John, and you're right about the outspokenness of Spaniards, but look what another friend of mine says. Ramón Mancilla is Spanish but also an American citizen:

                En realidad, no entiendo en este caso lo de "very Spanish," si acaso, yo diría que es algo "very Anthony".... ¿Me explico?


                JE comments: "Actually, I don't understand what is meant by 'very Spanish,' perhaps it would be better to say 'very Anthony'... does this make sense?"


                JE again: Yes it does. I'll still stand by my opinion that Spaniards are outspoken, but at the same time I've also come to know Anthony Candil as "genre-defying"!  For starters, I know of no other Spaniard who has become such a dyed-in-the-wool Texan.

                Please login/register to reply or comment:



            • Why Muslims Pray on Parking Lots (Massoud Malek, USA 03/08/15 12:20 PM)
              In case this post will see the light of day in WAISdom, I expect to be crucified by some who try to convince us that there is no difference between saying Iran is a barbaric country and the barbaric acts committed by the government of Iran.

              By the way, Iran doesn't help terrorist groups in Afghanistan.


              No one blames Christianity for the barbaric acts of Hitler and his officers. The Italian Mafia terrorizes the world with its barbaric acts, but nobody says that Italy is a barbaric country. The atrocities committed by Italian Fascism and Mussolini (admired by Eugenio Battaglia) are well-known. As I wrote before, Mussolini's invading soldiers murdered thousands of civilians, bombed the Red Cross, dropped poison gas, starved infants in concentration camps and tried to annihilate cultures deemed inferior.


              Trust me, the discussion about Islam in this high-minded Forum has a racist tone. In the last few days, I read that Islamic countries do not treat Christians and Jews very well or Muslims are free to pray in a parking lot in the US, but Christians would go to prison if they pray in a Muslim country! Also, there was a claim that Muslims students pray in parking lots because they want to show off.


              I have two Muslim students who pray in the hall before the start of class, because they must pray before sunset. Muslims may even pray while riding a horse, but they are not allowed to wash their feet in toilet bowls before praying.


              Does Luciano Dondero know that Trotsky, who barely finished high school and became Lenin's Guru, enslaved the entire populations of Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Armenia, Georgia, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, Ukraine, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan with his distorted Marxism? Is there any difference between Daesh and the Soviet Union created by Trotsky?


              Have you ever been to the Islamic countries of Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan (70% Muslims), Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Turkey, Morocco, Tunisia, Algeria, Egypt, Jordan, Iraq, Syria (before our involvement), Indonesia, and Iran? Do Christians who visit the Pyramids end up in prison?


              I would like to invite WAISers to visit the Muslim country of Iran and see for themselves that Iranians don't hate or mistreat Christians, Jews, Hindus, or Buddhists; on the contrary, they often invite tourists on the street to their home. A small number of Baha'is may be persecuted by the government of Iran, but not by the Iranian people. I assure Vincent Littrell that he will be treated quite well by Iranians.


              Iranians do not hate Americans or Israelis. Chanting death to America or death to Israel has no meaning to more than 95% of Iranians. They don't even hate Iraqis who fought against them for eight years. While America has no intention to sacrifice its soldiers on the ground in Iraq, Iranians are fighting the barbaric state of Daesh to liberate Iraqi cities like Tikrit and hopefully save some archeological sites.


              JE comments: Some years ago I wrote on WAIS that I would like to visit Iran. I even "promised" to do so in 2010--but that summer worked out differently. I still plan to visit Iran someday; it's the WAISly thing to do.

              Please login/register to reply or comment:

              • Islam and Racism (Anthony J Candil, USA 03/11/15 9:13 AM)
                I deeply disagree with Massoud Malek's comments (most recently, 8 March) about the WAIS discussion on Islamism having a racist tone.



                No one as far as I can recall has mentioned the word "race," and it is pretty disturbing that Massoud sees it that way.



                The problem with Islam is that in the bottom of their hearts Islamists divide the world in two: Muslims and the rest. Islam as I see it is more than a religion. It is a culture, a philosophy, a way of living.  It's politics, it's even a way of warfare, it's a legal system and it's a financial system too. And that's the problem.



                Because Islam, no matter what Massoud says about the wonderful society in Iran, does not accept others. They tolerate others as long as they have to, but when the moment should arrive they will annihilate those others. It is written so; is it not? Is there anything more racist than this?



                And that's why Islam destroys monuments and reminders of ancient cultures: to obliterate any trace of a different past. It is my belief that this is the "true" Islam.



                Regimes such as the present one in Iran, or others in Egypt, Libya, Tunisia, Morocco and so forth are not truly Islamic and even if different among them, they are just trying to cope. They are what we call "Islamic moderates," but the blatant truth is that there is no such thing. There is one Islam only and that's why ISIS has arisen. To set up a new course.



                Why does Iran want the bomb? (Well, I should say the Iranian regime.) Maybe to set up new course too, hence the threats against Israel.



                Without entering into the debate of Mr Netanyahu and the US Congress, the truth is that Israel is like an island in the middle of a sea surrounded by enemies. And it is the sole representative of western civilization in the Middle East. That's why its enemies want to destroy it. Israel is a continuous reminder to Islam of the Jewish and Christian religions, a reminder of a God who is not theirs, no matter what we discussed recently.



                That's why the Arab-Israeli conflict is a never-ending story. It transcends the Palestinian issue and goes much further. I saw recently a TV program with Anthony Bourdain about Israel, and it is very clear when an elder Arab says, "one day, my son, my grandson, my granddaughter, someone will kill them all." It is Islam against the West.



                Can anyone imagine the Middle East without Israel? Would it be peaceful then? On the contrary, whenever Islam was reigning they ventured into war against the West. Think of the Turks. When they were truly Islamic, they went into the Mediterranean, the Balkans, Greece and even to present-day Austria.



                Islam is to me the only "religion" that makes me uneasy. Because it's more than a religion and it threatens my way of life.



                I never felt a similar situation with Hinduism, Buddhism or any other religion. And it is true what Vincent Littrell says, they prosecute not only Christians but every faith on earth that is not theirs.



                It is very difficult to remain passive on this. Our founding fathers when the US Constitution was written never thought for a second about Islam as a religion to be taken into account. The United States is a Christian country, no doubt about it, and it was established as such. Our traditions are all Christian, no matter what, and it is a pity that just for some stupid misconceptions we now prefer to say "Seasons Greetings" than "Merry Christmas" not to offend others, mainly the ones who say they are Muslim.



                I think there are now about 8 million Muslim people in the United States and maybe this is going to be a problem for all. Not because of "race"; no.  It's just because they embrace a different culture, a different way of life, a different justice, and so on.



                It is truly the clash of civilizations that Samuel Huntington was speaking about.

                One quick postscript to Massoud: when he said that "Iran does not help terrorist groups in Afghanistan," this is not true. Iran clearly helps and provides support to Taliban terrorist groups in Afghanistan. It has been found that many IEDs placed against US and Allied forces in Afghanistan were either produced in Iran or had components supplied by Iran.


                The US Army has plenty of evidence of what I'm saying. I believe this evidence was even presented to the House of Representatives sometime in the past.


                JE comments:  I'm going to distance myself from this post, as Anthony Candil presents a way too monolithic view of a complex and diverse religion/culture.  However, I will second Anthony's insistence that Islam not be considered a "race" issue.  The last time I checked, there are Muslims (like Christians) of every conceivable color and ethnicity.


                Regarding "Season's Greetings" (in lieu of "Merry Christmas"), I always thought it came about not to offend Jewish people.


                Please login/register to reply or comment:

                • Season's Greetings (Anthony J Candil, USA 03/13/15 3:01 AM)
                  A quick remark on JE's comment on my post of 11 March.

                  The trend towards replacing "Merry Christmas" with "Season's Greetings" is relatively modern. I will say even that it is post 9/11.


                  I don't think it is addressed to the Jewish community. Maybe it has a more global meaning addressed to all faiths. But certainly if there is one single community used to living for ages with Christmas celebrations, it is the Jewish community.


                  Jews and Christians are not so far apart as it may appear. In the end we have to take into account that "half of the Bible" is common to both. Well, I mean that the Old Testament is part of both confessions.


                  I won't make more comments on other confessions to avoid accusations of being "monolithic" (it's Ok), but what is obvious is obvious.


                  Ramadan is respected; however it is not much celebrated by non-Muslims, at least here in the US.  But does anyone know a single Muslim country where Christmas celebrations are respected? No, if anything they must take place indoors and quietly and in almost complete secrecy. And for Vincent Littrell, no, we don't have to behave in the same way because they don't, but at least we Christians deserve respect and recognition.


                  In the end maybe Lenin was right:  "religion is the opium of people."  How much killing should take place in the name of God, no matter which God?


                  JE comments:  How much killing should take place in the name of God?  My naive response is "none."


                  I spent a few minutes on Wikipedia on Season's Greetings and the related (and even more generic) expression, Happy Holidays.  It turns out that both expressions long predate 9/11, and go back further than I originally thought.  President Eisenhower sent "Season's Greetings" cards in 1955, and Happy Holidays was common already by the 1942 Irving Berlin song, "Happy Holiday."


                  And I know Muslims who respect Christmas.  Aldona and I had Christmas dinner several years ago with WAISer Muqtedar Khan, a Muslim, and I remember that the only "congratulatory" text message I received that day was from a Jordanian Muslim friend.


                  Muqtedar has been silent on WAIS for way too long.  (I just checked:  a year and seven days.)  I'm going to send him a pestering e-mail and ask for an update.

                  Please login/register to reply or comment:

                  • "Religion is the Opium of the People" (Timothy Brown, USA 03/16/15 2:09 AM)
                    Regarding Marx's famous dictum (see Anthony Candil, 13 March), I once heard a faculty colleague say, sotto voce, in a riposte to another colleague's use of this quote, "and Marxism is the cocaine of the intelligentsia."

                    JE comments: I am reminded of a men's room graffiti from my Dartmouth days.  Forgive me if I posted it before:


                    "God is dead." --Nietzsche

                    "Nietzsche is dead." --God

                    "Nietzsche is God." --The Dead (as in the Grateful Dead)


                    Tuition dollars at work.


                     

                    Please login/register to reply or comment:



                • Islam and Prejudice (Massoud Malek, USA 03/14/15 3:40 PM)
                  Happy Birthday to John E! [Thank you, Massoud, and thanks to the dozen or so other WAISers who have written today--JE]

                  When I joined WAIS, I never expected that my faith, my culture, and my way of life would be considered the most disgusting faith, culture, and way of life on the planet. Now I realize that as a wild-eyed enraged bull, I could open the road to Armageddon. I am told that I was born for only one purpose. To annihilate over six billion people.


                  On 11 March, Anthony J Candil, who is uneasy about Islam because it threatens his way of life, wrote:


                  "Because Islam, no matter what Massoud says about the wonderful society in Iran, does not accept others. They tolerate others as long as they have to, but when the moment should arrive they will annihilate those others. It is written so; is it not? Is there anything more racist than this?"


                  Isn't the above statement extremely prejudicial toward Muslims? Anthony calls the entire Muslim population in the world racist and intolerant! He tells us that it is a fact that Muslims want to annihilate others!


                  [AC]: "Why does the Iranian regime want the bomb? Maybe to set up new course too, hence the threats against Israel."


                  Soon after its founding in 1948, Israel with French support secretly began building a nuclear reactor and reprocessing plant in the late 1950s in Dimona. Israel is alleged to have built its first nuclear weapon in December 1966. In 1986, Mordechai Vanunu, a former Israeli nuclear technician, provided explicit details and photographs to the Sunday Times of a nuclear weapons program in which he had been employed for nine years, "including equipment for extracting radioactive material for arms production and laboratory models of thermonuclear devices." It should be noted that the Israelis are developing the kind of codes which will enable them to make hydrogen bombs." Estimates as to the size of the Israeli nuclear arsenal vary between 75 and 400 nuclear warheads.


                  The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute estimates that Israel has approximately 80 intact nuclear weapons, of which 50 are for delivery by Jericho II medium-range ballistic missiles and 30 are gravity bombs for delivery by aircraft.


                  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nuclear_weapons_and_Israel


                  Does Anthony really believe that Iran is working on a nuclear bomb to annihilate Israel? I guess Israel obtained its nuclear weapons just to spread peace on Earth.


                  [AC]: "Israel is the sole representative of Western civilization in the Middle East. That's why its enemies want to destroy it."


                  Israel is not the sole representative of Western civilization in the Middle East. It is actually violating all the principles of Western civilization. What Israelis are doing to Palestinians is far from the teachings of Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle.


                  Since the inception of Israel, Palestinian people became their slaves. Contrary to the Jews of Egypt, Palestinians could not cross the Red Sea to free themselves from the Israeli chains. Palestine is their homeland. They are not occupying their own land.


                  [AC]: "It is true what Vincent Littrell says, they [Muslims] prosecute not only Christians but every faith on earth that is not theirs."


                  The Baha'i faith is rooted in Persian Shi'ism and philosophy. Many of the institutions of Shi'ism were carried forward into the Baha'i faith.


                  On 12 March, Luciano Dondero brought to WAISers' attention an article by Daniel Pipes, someone who feels the same way about Muslims as Anthony does.


                  Pipes made it his life's work to convince the Western world that there can be no bargaining with Muslims. As a major proponent of the Iraq invasion, he said:


                  "I think contrary to the deposing of the Taliban regime with few implications, the deposition of Saddam Hussein will have vast implications on every sort of level. On militant Islam, the energy market, the Israeli conflict, the general problem of the Arab states modernizing, you name it, it'll be a large event."


                  http://www.danielpipes.org/454/an-interview-with-daniel-pipes


                  According to the Council on American-Islamic Relations, Pipes "has exhibited a troubling bigotry toward Muslims and Islam" and possesses a "history of hostility toward Muslims in general and to the American Muslim community in particular." In response, Pipes told Salon: "David Duke looks nice, presents himself well, but as soon as he opens his mouth, you see he's a wild-eyed maniac. Well, so are these people."


                  http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/explainer/2001/11/yes_related_no_3_the_pipes_the_pipes_are_calling.html


                  See also: http://www.danielpipes.org/971/special-report-talks-to-the-experts


                  [AC]: "It is truly the clash of civilizations that Samuel Huntington was speaking about."


                  Daniel Pipes: "The idea of the Muslims as the outstanding threat to Western civilization is not entirely new. As early as 1984, Leon Uris explained that his purpose in writing The Haj, a novel, 'was to warn the West and Western democracies that you can't keep your head in the sand about this situation any longer, that we have an enraged bull of a billion people on our planet, and tilted the wrong way they could open the second road to Armageddon.'"


                  http://www.danielpipes.org/198/the-muslims-are-coming-the-muslims-are-coming


                  [AC]: "I think there are now about 8 million Muslim people in the United States and maybe this is going to be a problem for all. Not because of 'race;' no. It's just because they embrace a different culture, a different way of life, a different justice, and so on."


                  Muslims place a high value on education; many are highly educated with Master's degrees and PhDs; and many Muslims speak multiple languages. Forty percent of American Muslims hold a college degree; they're the second most educated group after Jews.


                  In 1990, Pipes wrote in the National Review that given European attitudes they "are unprepared for the massive immigration of brown-skinned peoples cooking strange foods and maintaining different standards of hygiene ... Should Muslims fail to modernize, their stubborn record of illiteracy, poverty, intolerance, and autocracy will continue, and perhaps worsen."


                  http://www.danielpipes.org/198/the-muslims-are-coming-the-muslims-are-coming


                  Muslims must wash their face, head, arms, and feet, five times a day. Soon after a sexual act, Muslims must wash their entire body. Fourteen centuries ago, Muhammad told his followers to brush their teeth daily.


                  JE comments:  Re:  Pipes's prediction about the 2003 invasion of Iraq:  "It'll be a large event."  He got that right.


                  Please login/register to reply or comment:


                • Islam and Racism; on the "Sword Verses" (Vincent Littrell, USA 03/16/15 6:30 AM)
                  On March 11 Anthony Candil stated that "Islam does not accept others.  [Muslims] tolerate others as long as they have to, but when the moment should arrive they will annihilate those others. It is written so; is it not? Is there anything more racist than this?"

                  My response:  Islam is a universal religion that recognizes the beauty and spiritual nature of all human beings, no matter their religion. In Islam all human beings must be seen through the lens of God's all-encompassing reality and thus as being from God. Being creations of God, no matter their choice of belief, the station of the human being is one of tremendous importance in Islamic theology. For this reason, tolerance and non-compulsion in belief are strongly set forth in the Qur'an and traditions of Islam.  (This doesn't mean political equality necessarily, though "the pact of Medina" in early Islamic history might point to that as well.)


                  Very many Muslims view the revelation of the Prophet Muhammad as the final revelation until the day of resurrection, and consider that the Qur'an supersedes past "books of God." However, Muslims are enjoined to not compel other peoples of other religions to become Muslim and are to live in harmony with them until "the end of times" when, in the belief of many Muslims, the truth will become apparent to all.


                  Here are some Qur'anic quotes that point to an acceptance of diversity of religion:


                  "And if God had pleased He had surely made you all one people; but He would test you by what He hath given to each. Be emulous, then, in good deeds. To God shall ye all return, and He will tell you concerning the subjects of your disputes." (The Qur'an (Rodwell tr), Sura 5 - The Table)


                  "But if thy Lord had pleased, verily all who are in the earth would have believed together. What! Wilt thou compel men to become believers? No soul can believe but by the permission of God: and he shall lay his wrath on those who will not understand." (The Qur'an (Rodwell tr), Sura 10:99-100 - Jonah)


                  "We know best what the infidels say: and thou art not to compel them." (The Qur'an (Rodwell tr), Sura 50:45 - Kaf)


                  "Let there be no compulsion in Religion." (The Qur'an (Rodwell tr), Sura 2:256 - The Cow)


                  Back in 2006 I wrote the following on this subject:


                  [VL-2006]: Muslim scholars utilize the Qur'an to show that Islam is not adverse to interfaith dialogue [or "religious others" VL-2015]. Despite the verses of the Qur'an that enjoin Muslims to fight others, including peoples of the book (but such verses have to be read with historical context in mind and even esoterically), there are a large number of Qur'anic verses that enjoin tolerance, spirituality, and even interfaith dialogue according to many interpretations.* I did state in a past posting that the entirety of the Qur'an, according to one eminent Muslim scholar whose lecture I attended, cannot be understood without understanding the first line of 113 of the 114 Surahs which states, "In the Name of God, The Compassionate, The Merciful."


                  *[VL-2015]: These are the "sword verses," which of course many Islamophobic writers and anti-Islamic polemicists seem to put great focus on without an attempt at holistic understanding or historical contextualization of the entirety of the Qur'an. Such critics seem to accept the extremist viewpoints on the concept of "abrogation of verses," which some extremist Muslims believe put the "sword verses" in a hugely inappropriate if not utterly divisive exaggerated place of importance. Moreover, they are in turn used by the anti-Islamic polemicists to further their own attacks on all of Islam.


                  [VL-2006] Muslim scholar Dr. Reza Shah-Kazemi is one of many who presents Qur'anic verses that support the notion of interfaith dialogue and Islam's tolerance towards other religions. In his article "The Metaphysics of Interfaith Dialogue: A Qur'anic Perspective" (See: http://www.iis.ac.uk/view_article.asp?ContentID=101259 ; I also highly recommend a perusal of Dr. Shah-Kazemi's other research and writing on tolerance and pluralism in Islam.)


                  Dr. Shah-Kazemi quotes the following Surah as representative of Islam's inherent tolerance:


                  "O mankind! We created you from a single (pair) of a male and a female, and made you into nations and tribes, that ye may know each other (not that ye may despise each other). Verily the most honored of you in the sight of Allah is (he who is) the most righteous of you. And God has full knowledge and is well acquainted (with all things)." (Surah 49:13)


                  Dr. Shah-Kazemi presents the above Surah as proof of Islam's tolerance, divine ordainment of human diversity, necessity for dialogue, and the principle of peaceful co-existence.


                  See also:



                  "To God belongs the East and the West; whithersoever ye turn, there is the presence of God. For God is All-Pervading, All-Knowing." (Surah 2:115)


                  "He is with you wherever ye be." (Surah 57:4) "Is He not encompassing all things?" (Surah 41:54)


                  "He is the first and the last, the outward and the inward." (Surah 57:2)


                  Dr. Shah-Kazemi points out that the above Surahs have deeply spiritual connotations that at one level may be interpreted as emphasizing the absolute unity of God. Thus a metaphysical unity that transcends any notion of religious pluralism exists. God is in all things and beings. Thus the principle of God's unity alone requires man to look beyond the surface and to recognize the divine in all. Muslims are therefore to have a profound respect for the other, as the divine is present in that other. Dr. Shah-Kazemi says that it is in the above verses that the spiritual foundations of courtesy are to be found, that "tolerance is organically related to the divine presence in all things, an apprehension of the inner holiness of all that exists."


                  See my original 2006 post at: http://www.waisworld.org/go.jsp?id=02a&objectType=post&o=10173&objectTypeId=4423&topicId=1



                  An 2015 postscript:  Here is a quote from Letter 53 of the Nahj al-Balaagha, thought by many to have been written by Ali, Muhammad's son-in-law, who is the first Imam and spiritual successor to Muhammad in the Shi'a belief and the fourth "rightly guided" Caliph of Sunni Islam. This excerpt is thought to be from a letter from the Caliph Ali to his governor of Egypt on the ethics of governing:


                  "Maalik! You must create in your mind kindness, compassion and love for your subjects. Do not behave towards them as if you are a voracious and ravenous beast and as if your success lies in devouring them. Remember, Maalik, that amongst your subjects there are two kinds of people: those who have the same religion as you have; they are brothers to you, and those who have religions other than that of yours, they are human beings like you. Men of either category suffer from the same weaknesses and disabilities that human beings are inclined to, they commit sins, indulge in vices either intentionally or foolishly and unintentionally without realizing the enormity of their deeds. Let your mercy and compassion come to their rescue and help in the same way and to the same extent that you expect Allah to show mercy and forgiveness to you."


                  JE comments:  Might the Quranic "sword verses" be comparable to the "smite and smote" passages of the Old Testament?  My question for Vincent Littrell:  how do we determine when a specific scriptural passage is being given "exaggerated" importance?  More precisely:  who gets to make this judgment?

                  Please login/register to reply or comment:



              • An Iranian Song; from Gary Moore (John Eipper, USA 03/18/15 1:57 PM)

                JE: Our reader Gary Moore (Memphis, Tennessee) sends this question for Massoud Malek:


                I'd like to respond to the admirable challenge posed by Massoud
                Malek on 8 March, when he urged that discourse look at the real Iran, and not
                just its government.


                I'd like to try opening such discussion through a song--a vibrant fragment of the
                secular Iran that refuses to die.


                Written in the early 1950s, the song has become a standard, called by some the most
                beautiful song ever written in Persian. Moreover, it's surrounded by an interesting nebula
                of underground belief. The song is "Mara Beboos" ("Kiss Me"). As preamble, before I get
                to the underground belief, I have a theory based on the striking similarity of theme and
                phonetics in this song to another which was, shortly beforehand during World War II, called
                the most popular song in the world. That one, from quite a different culture, was "Bésame
                Mucho," the lovers' farewell song in a time of departing troops--written by a female composer,
                pianist Consuelo Velazquez of Guadalajara and Mexico City. This forms only a background
                echo as we move to the beliefs surrounding "Mara Beboos," half a world away, and written
                in a melody distinctly Persian, which, at least on the surface, was not at all like the melody
                of "Bésame Mucho."


                The beliefs can be tested in conversation with many Iranians, who can explain that,
                secretly, this sad Persian song of lovers' farewell was written by an Iranian general
                in the early-1950s political tragedies, at a shocking moment. The general was said
                to be in prison and about to be executed for complicity in a Communist coup. Supposedly
                he wrote the song not to a lover but to his small daughter.


                Music experts tend to say there is no evidence for this, and that the song, as always officially
                reported, was simply the product of two talented commercial collaborators, Majid Vafadar and Heidar Raghabi (as originally performed by Hasan Golnaraghi). Yet the belief is so strong that it seems to successfully carry a message of some sort, a cross-cultural beacon, in the way that Freud said dreams were disguised messages. Could Massoud help me out here, and enlighten my abysmal ignorance of the specifics?


                Is the message simply that the experts are wrong, and that the song really was connected to political troubles? Or is there something deeper that insists on the song as a nostalgic reminder of roads not taken, of the secular (or even anti-religious) Iran that might have been? Is the appeal of the myth--or of the buried truth--simply that of melodrama and intrigue? Or does it encode a mist-enshrouded bridge between theocracy and elemental secular romance?


                Okay, too many abstracts. Simply put: What are the real origins of this great Iranian song?
                And if they are unspectacular, then why do so many people firmly believe otherwise, reciting
                the story about the doomed military man as unquestionable fact? I hope Massoud can help me out in this adventure, the crossing between worlds.


                JE comments: And I'll add a question: is "Mara Beboos" still as popular under the Islamic Republic? I'll confess to not knowing the song, but here's Hasan Golnaraghi's rendition on YouTube.
                It's a gripping, mournful melody.  "Bésame mucho," I believe, is my Polish father-in-law's favorite song.


                https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o650DK1-YoU


                Please login/register to reply or comment:

                • Golnaraghi's "Mara Beboos" (Massoud Malek, USA 03/19/15 2:50 AM)
                  In response to Gary Moore (18 March), Hassan Golnaraghi had an antique shop in the Bazaar of Tehran and never sang in public.  He became an overnight success by singing his first and only song, called "Mara Beboos." He sang the song right after the CIA coup that removed Prime Minister Mossadegh from power and brought back the Shah.

                  It was rumored that Mohammad Ali Mobasheri, a lieutenant colonel of the artillery and a leader of the Tudeh (Communist) Party, wrote the song in his last meeting with his daughter, the night before his execution in October 1954.


                  Several years later, in an interview, Golnaraghi said that the song was written by a professor of Persian literature by the name of Heydar Reghabi who admired Mossadegh. But most people didn't believe him, including my parents.



                  Mara Beboos was popular in the '50s and '60s. Golnaraghi died in 1993. He was 68.


                  Here are some of the lyrics:


                  Kiss me, kiss me

                  For one last time

                  Our spring has passed

                  The bygones are bygones

                  I am in search of destiny


                  In the midst of storm, among boatmen

                  One must move forward, at the risk of life

                  In the dark of the night I meet with my beloved

                  To light up the mountains with fire


                  Pretty girl

                  I am your guest tonight

                  I will stay with you

                  To press your lips against mine


                  Kiss me, Kiss me, my pretty flower

                  For one last time

                  May God be with you

                  For I go toward my destiny


                  JE comments: Beautiful lyrics; beautiful song. Here, once again, is the link to Golnaraghi's performance. Massoud: given its supposed communist (and very un-Islamic) origins, is "Mara Beboos" tolerated in Iran today?


                  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o650DK1-YoU


                  How many of you would be inspired to compose music on the eve of your execution?


                  Please login/register to reply or comment:

                  • Music Across Cultures: "Mara Beboos"; from Gary Moore (John Eipper, USA 03/20/15 11:09 AM)

                    JE:  Gary Moore responds to Massoud Malek (19 March):



                    My thanks to Massoud for his considerate reply to my question on the Iranian song "Mara Beboos." Moreover, John Eipper's postscript helped to pinpoint the underlying questions: Is this very secular song still popular in Iran today?


                    I've never met an Iranian expat who didn't know it (and some know both stanzas by heart, and sang it with me), but this doesn't define its standing within Iran, which could help show the size of the breathing space allowed to secular culture--perhaps larger than the stereotypes suppose.


                    Very helpful in Massoud's reply were the specifics on the song's origins, and how it came to be surrounded by a story that seems diametrically opposed to theocracy--that is, that the song was secretly written by a Tudeh (communist party) martyr, and hence its beloved sentiments came from the most secular of sources. In other explanations I had heard less specifically about the prior obscurity of the 1950s singer, Hassan Golnaraghi, in comments like: "He had a bakery or something. He had never been a singer before. He came out of nowhere with this song."


                    I hadn't realized that a key link was in the author credit at the beginning. When the song was originally presented, and became a smash hit, was its authorship left vague, or presumed to be by Golnaraghi himself? I had assumed that the lyricist's name on the record had always said Heidar Reghabi (plus the musical composer), but if there was a hiatus of a few years before Golnaraghi added this information, it would help explain an aura of mystery that the story about secret authorship would address.  I wonder if Massoud can direct me toward sources where I might try to explore those early days, and perhaps the song's recording history.


                    The English renderings in the song are various, but if I'm not mistaken, the phrase "dokhtare ziva" can be rendered not as "pretty flower" but as "pretty daughter"--adding credence to the stories about secret authorship, claiming that there was a hidden layer of meaning--in a song not really to a lover but to a beloved little daughter on a condemned man's last night. Also the line about boatmen in a storm, in some renderings, more strongly suggests the communist ideal of New Men pulling together through stormy sacrifice.


                    Maybe it would be instructive to hear more about how Massoud's parents viewed the song, and on what context they formulated their conviction, as he pointed out, that the story of secret authorship was true.


                    It's frustrating that these questions require so much context and sound so abstruse. They aim at something very simple.


                    JE comments:  Although our discussions are not as frequent as before, I've learned an enormous amount about Iran during my eight years at WAIS.  Many of our Iranian correspondents have stressed that there is significantly more cultural wiggle room than Westerners commonly believe.  Incidentally, WAIS receives a number of "hits" from within the IRI.  (If any of you are reading this post, please drop me a line.  I'd love to hear from you.)


                    Gary Moore's question begs a more politicized one:  what is the current regime's take on the Mossadegh years?  I would assume there's ambivalence.  Mossadegh was a secular communist (bad), but also staunchly against Western imperialism.


                    Please login/register to reply or comment:

                    • Music Across Cultures: "Mara Beboos" and Mossadegh (Massoud Malek, USA 03/22/15 6:39 AM)
                      In response to Gary Moore (20 March), I don't think there is much to add about "Mara Beboos." The song was popular in the 1950s and '60s, and now is almost forgotten. Young Iranians don't even know about the song, so the Mullahs have nothing to do with it. There are infinitely many Iranian songs with more beautiful lyrics. Some are from the poems of Hafez, Rumi, and other great poets.

                      Khomeini wrote some beautiful poems about love and wine. Here are two poems:


                      I will be a moth, burning,

                      burning all my life in her candle.

                      I will be drunk with wine,

                      marveling at her beautiful face.


                      For love's sake the veil

                      of chastity I'll tear.

                      Infamy, should the friend's path

                      entail is the loveliest thing to bear.


                      By the way, Mossadegh was not a communist.  He actually had problems with them. Mossadegh is known in the West for nationalizing Iranian oil, but he did more for Iran than any other man. He was one the greatest reformers; his goal was to make Iran both economically and politically independent from the West and the Soviet Union. He gave more power to the ordinary people by curtailing the power of landlords, the military, and the Shah.


                      When he resigned in 1952, the whole Iran became paralyzed with strikes and street demonstrations. Five days later, the Shah was forced to reappoint him as the Prime Minister.


                      JE comments:  How do we explain Khomeini's erotic poetry?  His collection (in English) is called The Wine of Love.  We don't associate erotic love, and much less wine, with the Ayatollahs.

                      Please login/register to reply or comment:







          • Islamophobia? Sorry, No (Luciano Dondero, Italy 03/06/15 2:06 PM)
            I carefully read Vincent Littrell's post of 4 March looking for something that I could disagree with, and I haven't found much. Most of what Vince wrote is unobjectionable. But it does not add up to the thing called "Islamophobia."

            I also agree with Vince's second post (6 March) regarding the need to behave correctly toward Muslims in the West, even though Islamic countries do not treat Christians (not to mention Jews) very well themselves.


            Now, this is not just a matter of terminology, though.


            Whenever an Arab-looking person is mistreated in the West, this usually does not have much to do with his/her religion. Usually it's a case of plain and simple racism. In summertime I can get pretty dark, and when I used to live in England occasionally I got my share of dirty looks. Was that an instance of "Atheistophobia" or even of "Trotskyistophobia"? Um, I doubt it.


            On the other hand, so-called "racial profiling," i.e., checking up on people of a certain age and demeanor in airports, instead of blanket checks, including on grandmas and babies, as it's done today, is probably quite sensible.  And I agree with Sam Harris. It is not racist per se.


            According to Wikipedia, "Anti-Islamic sentiment or Islamophobia is a term for prejudice against, hatred towards, or fear of the religion of Islam, Muslims, or of ethnic groups perceived to be Muslim."


            However, the main victims of "Islamophobia," like of so many other horrible things that take place whenever Islamic religious laws hold sway over civilian society, have been Muslims.


            This thing was concocted precisely to stop any attempt by moderate (or lapsed) Muslims to find a way out of the clutches of Islam (which means "submission," let's never forget it).


            As Pascal Bruckner has pointed out (see the English translation here, http://www.signandsight.com/features/2123.html ; French original here, http://www.liberation.fr/societe/2010/11/23/l-invention-de-l-islamophobie_695512 ):

            "The term 'Islamophobia' serves a number of functions: it denies the reality of an Islamic offensive in Europe all the better to justify it; it attacks secularism by equating it with fundamentalism. Above all, however, it wants to silence all those Muslims who question the Koran, who demand equality of the sexes, who claim the right to renounce religion, and who want to practice their faith freely and without submitting to the dictates of the bearded and doctrinaire. It follows that young girls are stigmatised for not wearing the veil, as are French, German or English citizens of Maghribi, Turkish, African or Algerian origin who demand the right to religious indifference, the right not to believe in God, the right not to fast during Ramadan. Fingers are pointed at these renegades, they are delivered up to the wrath of their religious communities in order to quash all hope of change among the followers of the Prophet."


            In other words, it is a tool to stop precisely all those moderate Muslims, who are supposed to be "our allies" in the struggle against Islamist fundamentalism.


            Actually, as Abdur-Rahman Muhammad stated: "This loathsome term is nothing more than a thought-terminating cliche conceived in the bowels of Muslim think tanks for the purpose of beating down critics."


            http://www.investigativeproject.org/2164/whether-or-not-ground-zero-mosque-is-built-us


            Well, he should know because as reported here (http://www.investigativeproject.org/2217/moderate-muslim-speak-out-on-capitol-hill ): "he was present when his then-allies, meeting at the offices of the International Institute for Islamic Thought (IIIT) in Northern Virginia years ago, coined the term 'Islamophobia.'" Muhammad, who is African-American, said the Islamists decided to emulate the homosexual activists who used the term "homophobia" to silence critics. He said the group meeting at IIIT saw "Islamophobia" as a way to "beat up their critics."


            The IIIT was a front for the terrorist Muslim Brotherhood.


            I would also suggest that WAISers read Claire Berlinski's "Moderate Muslim Watch: How the Term 'Islamophobia' Got Shoved Down Your Throat" (https://ricochet.com/archives/moderate-muslim-watch-how-the-term-islamophobia-got-shoved-down-your-throat/ ).


            Finally, let me end with a quote from Ricky Gervais, which aptly sums up my own position regarding Islam and other religions: "Suggesting I hate people with religion because I hate religion is like suggesting I hate people with cancer because I hate cancer."


            JE comments:  I will have to think about this.  I see how the category of "Islamophobia" can be overused in a culture that equates victimhood with moral superiority, but it's not as clear to me how crying "Islamophobia" can silence voices seeking to moderate or secularize the religion--especially when these voices are Muslim.  Is Luciano Dondero drawing an implicit comparison with zealous defenders of Israel who counter any criticism of Israeli policy with shouts of anti-Semitism?


            Racism and anti-Islamic sentiment are not the same thing.  I have already cited the example of the large community of Iraqi Christians (Chaldeans) in Southeast Michigan.  They often wear visible crosses around their necks--precisely because they hope to get a "pass" from the general public.

            Please login/register to reply or comment:

            • Islamophobia, Religious Intolerance, etc. (José Ignacio Soler, Venezuela 03/08/15 4:36 AM)
              The recent WAIS posts about Islam, Islamophobia, tolerance, and Christian vs Islam comparisons, made me think over the subject. I have never been interested in debates about religion, because I always thought it is a very personal thing, not related to reasoning or facts but beliefs and faith. These are abstract intangible spiritual issues. To debate them is a never-ending process. Do I believe in God? That is not the question. Maybe I believe or I am agnostic, but surely I do not trust institutional churches.

              The Catholic Church for instance was intolerant and cruel for too long; Christian factions, Catholics and Protestants fought some pretty torrid wars to hang onto what was their only truth.  Thank goodness this is already surpassed. In a sense the Western religions evolved to become more tolerant and "civilized."


              Islam being a more recent monotheist religion, perhaps is still evolving. It is very much influenced by fundamentalism trends, sectarianism, intolerance and fanaticism, pretty much the same as the Catholic Church in its early stages and, as it was with Catholicism, "confusing" or messing up the spiritual world with political power. That is what I understand are the aspirations of Islamism, which on behalf of orthodoxy tries to extend the Koranic law to every stage of society; being the jihadist its violent and fanatic expression.


              I am not Islamophobic, but surely I would be against Islamism as much as any other fanatic ideology, religious or political. I believe they represent a threat to Western civilization and their intolerance and violence are very much represented by recent Islamic demonstrators in London, after the recent attacks in Paris. I just wonder if they would be able to hold such outrageous manifestations in any Islamic country.


              JE comments:  José Ignacio Soler forwarded several photos of the demonstration.  The following is representative of their tone and tenor.  Threatening stuff.  Aren't there laws against inciting violence?





              Please login/register to reply or comment:


            • More on Islamophobia; Anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism (Luciano Dondero, Italy 03/08/15 4:15 AM)
              Our editor responded to my post of March 6th: "It's not... clear to me how crying 'Islamophobia' can silence voices seeking to moderate or secularize the religion--especially when these voices are Muslim. Is Luciano Dondero drawing an implicit comparison with zealous defenders of Israel who counter any criticism of Israeli policy with shouts of anti-Semitism?"

              These are two separate points.


              Crying "Islamophobia" is an easy way, especially in Western countries that are sensitive to charges of racism and the like, to say that critics of Islam/Islamism are violating some basic right of Muslim people. Never mind that those who do cry are usually some of the worst perpetrators of such violations, or their apologists.


              In a different forum from WAIS, which is clearly not swayed easily by ad hominem attacks and sly accusations of racism, the normal thing is that most people would simply take a step back, and abandon any discussion where these things go on. This is particularly damaging precisely for those moderate (and former) Muslims who are typically trying to find their place in Western society as normal citizens. All of a sudden they are being equated with something that in most people's minds brings in images of lynchings, the KKK, apartheid and so on. Hardly the way to conduct a proper discussion about what's wrong with Islam, or even simply to try and go about their own business without being noticed. Salman Rushdie and Ayaan Harsh Ali have been probably the two best-known victims of this kind of situation.


              In order to not be affected by any potential accusation of "Islamophobia," you need to be in a very strong position, like Egyptian president Al Sisi, who is a former general and has wide support among the Egyptian population, because he's seen as their last best hope against the Muslim Brotherhood gangsters. Or else, you spent several decades in the Byzantine cellars of the Trotskyist movement, and right now have no position whatsoever to defend, like yours very truly.


              Regarding the "zealous defenders of Israel who counter any criticism of Israeli policy with shouts of anti-Semitism," I used to think so. Now, I am not so sure. See, I have not lost any relative or friend to a systematic attempt to destroy "us"--whatever that "us" may be, tribe, nation, political current. I became a Trotskyist long after the horrible Stalinist purges of the 1930s; my father was deported to Nazi Germany, but he came back relatively unscathed. I can't even begin to imagine how does one feel when your entire family (or group) has been destroyed as part of the attempted genocide of your entire people. My recent and current studies are telling me that it's quite easy from the outside to regard with disdain those Israelis who can't stand any criticism of their country--except most such "criticisms" imply in one way or another that it would be somewhat OK to generate a situation where Israel could be destroyed.


              In my opinion, it does not really matter whether some of the critics are Jewish, Israelis or even former heads of Mossad. In their quest for peace in the Middle East, in their legitimate aspirations to see their children and grandchildren finally able to live in peace with their neighbors, many are prepared to make concessions of great import, because they assume that their opponents are in good faith and share the same desires and aspirations. Unfortunately, from the very beginning of Israel in 1947-48, the approach of most Arabs (and Muslim) states toward the Jewish state has been thoroughly anti-Semitic and indeed genocidal--and these positions have remained very popular among the masses of the populations of those countries.


              Take the issue of the so-called "1967 borders," actually the "green line" of the 1949 armistice, which nobody ever recognised as international borders. To say that Israel should go back to those "borders," which UN resolution 242 does not state (but this is the topic of hot discussions, see Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_Nations_Security_Council_Resolution_242 ) is meaningless, unless all of Israel's neighbors and enemies are also prepared to recognise Israel and sign a peace treaty with "the Zionist entity." Which is obviously something that many of them (from Iran and the various terrorist groups it finances and/or controls to many "moderate" Arab states) are not prepared to do, no matter where the new borders would be drawn: apparently only "driving the Jews into the sea" would do!


              To argue, then, that the Jewish/Israeli settlements in Samaria and Galilea (the "West Bank") are the only thing preventing a lasting peace, and that "it's all Likud's fault," is a bit simplistic, to say the least. In essence, any criticism of Israel with that kind of focus is on a slippery slope toward "anti-Semitism," if we understand by that, the denial of the right of the Jews to have their own state. Some of the Israeli people who are pro-peace/pro-Palestinian, these days are arguing explicitly that Israel should cease to exist. A politically legitimate position, which does not immediately land them in jail in Israel nor under trial, but is indeed ultimately an anti-Semitic position, even if disguised as mere "anti-Zionism."


              JE comments: Luciano Dondero makes a sophisticated argument that anti-Zionism cannot really exist without sliding into anti-Semitism. Moreover, that Israel would have nothing to gain, say, by ceasing its settlements in the West Bank. I'm of the view that withdrawing to the "1967 borders," however problematic they are, would take away the biggest grievance of Israel's enemies, especially among "moderate" Muslims. Above all, Israel could then reclaim the moral high ground and the unqualified support of its Western backers.


              Should we re-direct this discussion to anti-Zionism vs anti-Semitism? Is there such a thing as the former without the latter?

              Please login/register to reply or comment:

              • Anti-Zionism, Anti-Semitism, Anti-... (Robert Whealey, USA 03/09/15 2:16 AM)
                To answer JE's question of 8 March (see Luciano Dondero), I seldom charge people with being anti-Semitic or anti-Zionist.

                In discussing this problem, I avoid the use of all anti-X isms. Anti-Semitism, anti-Zionism, anti-Islam, anti-Arabism, and anti-Israel. I am critical of the State of Israel's policies toward its Arab and its Muslim neighbors. My favorite American politicians on the Middle East were Sen. William Fulbright, Sen. George McGovern, and the still living Jimmy Carter. The State Department, the President, and the Congress of the US should be informing their constituents to work toward restoring peace in the Middle East.


                The first theologian to use the word "Anti-Christ" was John Patmos, who wrote the Apocalypse or Revelation about AD 90.


                Later the Holy Catholic and the Orthodox Church condemned Manichaeism as a heresy. The Ayatollah Khomeini in 1979 condemned the US as the "Great Satan" was a Shiite with a Manichean attitude. The Zoroastrian theologian Mani (200s) invented this sect. I heard an ordained Universalist Minister before the Universalists united with the Unitarians give a sermon on the Book of Revelation. According to the Rev. Justin Le Point, John was a spiritual Manichaean. The church fathers who put together the Canon should never have included Revelation in the New Testament collection.


                A spiritual Manichean hates sin and the devil more than he loves God or Jesus. There are many Protestants who have never read much literature of the Roman Catholics. Many Protestants are more anti-Catholic than they are pro-Protestant, pro-Presbyterian or pro-Methodist. Many Catholics are more anti-Protestant than advocating a pro-Catholic position. My definition of Christian comes from Jesus Christ, "Love thy neighbor as thy self."


                American Foreign policy took a turn for the worse in 1945 by preaching anti-Communism without ever reading a word of Karl Marx, Vladimir Lenin or Joseph Stalin. Most Democrats probably dislike Republicans more than they admire fellow Democrats. Most Republicans dislike Democrats more than they like fellow Republicans. I hope Benjamin Netanyahu is defeated in his re-election. He has taken on too many enemies and he talks like a spiritual Manichaean. I scarcely believe a word he says about Israel or the Middle East.


                JE comments: So the "anti-" camp is flourishing everywhere you look.  This is clearly the case in US politics: we all know where we don't want government money to be spent.  And we all know which loudmouth politicians we dislike.


                Can our Israel-watchers give us some insight on the March 17th elections?  Doesn't Likud have a comfortable lead in the polls?

                Please login/register to reply or comment:



            • More Thoughts on Islamophobia; Response to Luciano Dondero (Vincent Littrell, USA 03/09/15 1:30 AM)
              I found Luciano Dondero's 6 March post defending the notion of the improper usage of Islamophobia thought-provoking. I thank him for the links he presented, especially the one to Claire Berlinski. The Berlinski and the Bruckner pieces both describe the origins of the term "Islamophobia" differently. Quite honestly, I originally questioned the term some years ago, but now I have "gone with the flow." "Islamophobia" is now the normative vernacular in academic, inter-faith, and other circles. It means anti-Muslim/Islamic prejudice, and is certainly a good descriptive of anti-Islamic polemic.

              I'll continue to use the term, though its origins may be ethically questionable and originally intended to support a puritanical Islamist strategy against Muslim critics. (I am not convinced this is indeed the case, but I'll allow the point for now until there is better consensus on the origins of the term. There is also the angle to be taken in examining the concept of phobia's "Freudian" origins, as another WAISer pointed out to me in a private e-mail.) I've long presented in this Forum that there has been fierce multiple struggles within Islam in a wide-ranging variety of contexts. From the Baha'i perspective, we see the continuing and snowballing collapse of a great religion of vast scope and variety with origins in divine revelation. This ties into why I've long advocated in this Forum for close study of and broad dialogue about the succession to the prophet Muhammad and that event's being in concert with Qur'anic standards, as well as how that event is directly connected to what we see in Islam's vast convulsions today.


              Berlinski's comments about hating the term "Islamophobia" because of its use by Islamists to stifle criticism is a factor I acknowledged in my first post in this thread, when I mentioned that Muslims in various contexts use the term to attack reasonable criticism of Muslim behaviors. As a Baha'i, I very well understand this point, because some Muslims believe that the foundation of my religion is in itself a form of attack on Islam. I will concede that if Berlinski is broadly representative of "moderate" Muslims who hate the term "Islamophobia," she makes a compelling argument against the term--but in an overly narrow context. A thought exercise here: Does the fact that Muslims find the term "Islamophobia" used against them by other Muslims and hate the term mean that the term is invalid? This question is especially relevant in the broader context of usage by non-Muslims who defend broader Islam in apologetic terms against a non-Muslim prejudice that tends to treat Islam monolithically and ignore its stupendous diversity.


              Luciano Dondero (LD) wrote: "Whenever an Arab-looking person is mistreated in the West, this usually does not have much to do with his/her religion."


              Vincent Littrell (VL): This is a digression from the subject of "Islamophobia," but without systematic analysis of sources of prejudice in the US or the West, I would think this is difficult to discern. (I imagine some form of analysis of this sort might be out there, but I'm not familiar with it.) I would agree that racism is a significant problem in the United States; however I think US anti-Muslim prejudice may very well be based on religion in large measure. In the case I mentioned in my earlier post, in northern Virginia Muslims were getting hostile looks as they were exiting their mosque. I saw recent newscasts of Muslims at the Texas state capitol being protested by Christians for their religious beliefs.


              I read Bruckner's comment in a very different way from Luciano: "The term 'Islamophobia' serves a number of functions: it denies the reality of an Islamic offensive in Europe all the better to justify it; it attacks secularism by equating it with fundamentalism."


              Islam isn't conducting an "offensive" in Europe. The notion is ridiculous. I've studied Islam or been exposed to Islamic history pretty much my entire life, and I have never been exposed to credible thought about broad monolithic "offensives." I suppose the Ottoman Empire's defeat at the gates of Vienna in the 1600s might come close to qualifying, and even then Islam was diverse and not entirely under the suzerainty of the Ottoman Sultan. However, nowadays some extremist and/or very conservative strands within Islam might indeed think in terms of an "offensive" against Europe. It stands to reason the concept of "societal parallelism," or lack of social integration allowing for Muslim enclaves in Western Europe, has exacerbated tensions from socially isolated 2nd- and 3rd-generation European Muslims struggling with a sense of identity. But some sort of broad Islamic offensive? Ridiculous! Attacking the term "Islamophobia" on this basis is equally ridiculous.


              LD wrote: "In other words, it [Islamophobia--VL] is a tool to stop precisely all those moderate Muslims, who are supposed to be "our allies" in the struggle against Islamist fundamentalism."


              VL: I agree that some puritanical Islamists and conservative traditionalists would use the term that way, but this doesn't mean Islamophobia can't still represent the anti-Muslim/Islamic prejudice that very much exists. I would add that the origins of the term might lead to analysis that may result in a change in usage. The problem is, when a word becomes normative vernacular, even if its origins have a different meaning than what it is now being used for, it becomes extremely difficult to change usage of the term. For example, I used to take offense at the word "Taliban" to represent that evil organization in Afghanistan and Pakistan. The word "taliban" originally simply meant "religious students" (or something akin to that), and was a rather innocuous term. Now, it has a whole new meaning in the public consciousness.


              LD: "Actually, as Abdur-Rahman Muhammad stated: 'This loathsome term is nothing more than a thought-terminating cliche conceived in the bowels of Muslim think tanks for the purpose of beating down critics.'"


              VL: But it is so much more than that now.


              JE comments: My understanding of IS/Daesh is that it is a "broad offensive," not only in Europe, but against the entire world.  Granted, the movement is only a splinter group within Islam.


              I am convinced by Vincent Littrell's observation on etymology.  While it can be instructive to explore the origins of a term (liberal, Latin America, even the "n-word"), one cannot undo what it means now.

              Please login/register to reply or comment:






    • Understanding IS/Daesh: Graeme Wood vs. H. A. Hellyer (Leo Goldberger, USA 03/04/15 5:36 AM)
      I'd add to John E's recommendation that WAISers read Graeme Wood's Atlantic Monthly article that they also read the lesser-known recent essay by H.A. Hellyer in Salon for an alternative view. It goes without saying that an informed judgment on Islam--or indeed any religion--obviously requires extensive hermeneutic scholarship.

      http://www.salon.com/2015/02/20/this_stupidity_needs_to_end_why_the_atlantic_ny_post_are_clueless_about_islam/


      JE comments: Hellyer rejects Wood's interpretation that IS/Daesh is an example of Islamic fundamentalism taken to its extreme. Precisely because Islam has no hierarchical structure (unlike Catholicism), it is always open to multiple interpretations. Ultimately it boils down to popularity--and Muslim enemies of IS/Daesh infinitely outnumber its supporters.


      Hellyer gives some hope that IS/Daesh can be neutralized without resorting to total war.

      Please login/register to reply or comment:



  • Alexander the Great's Treatment of Defeated Enemies (Enrique Torner, USA 08/22/15 5:55 AM)
    When I read Massoud Malek's post of March 2, 2015, I found some of his assertions on the Peloponnesian War, Alexander, and Herodotus astounding and incorrect.

    However, that post touched a nerve on me, because I have been interested in Alexander the Great for some time, have read several books on him, and listened to two courses about him by "The Great Courses." At that time during the academic semester I was too busy to respond to Massoud's post the way it deserved, so I wrote that topic on my agenda to write about this summer when I had time.


    These last few days WAIS has been discussing how victors have been treating their victims, and somebody wondered if there was ever any victor who treated his victims in a decent way. Then I thought of Alexander the Great, who sacrificed his own reputation among his Macedonian people trying to win over the souls of the countries he conquered. I wonder if our WAIS historians have delved much into him; I have the impression that most of them deal with more modern periods, if we except WAISer A.J. Cave, who, I just discovered, wrote a novel about Roxane, one of Alexander's wives! Wow! I can't wait to get and read it! Anyway, this post will try to address Massoud's March post and the latest WAIS discussion.


    I will start by addressing Massoud's assertions in order. His first one was about Herodotus. Massoud stated that Herodotus wrote what was told to him. This is true: Herodotus was one of the most traveled man of his time, and traveled to almost all the countries around and beyond the Mediterranean world, visiting Palestine, Syria, Babylon, Macedonia, and all the islands of the Greek Archipelago. "He sailed through the Hellespont to the Black Sea and kept going until he hit the Danube River." While he traveled, Herodotus collected what he called "autopsies," or "personal inquiries": He listened to myths and legends, recorded oral histories and traditions, and made notes of the places and things that he saw." (History.com article).


    Regarding the oral legends (or traditions) that he recorded, he even acknowledges in a famous passage that, just because he is recording them, that doesn't mean he is bound to believe them. Herodotus did this task as methodically and comprehensively as he could, including people of all classes of society and stating his sources. This mixture of history and myth is why Persians thought that "they were fanciful and inaccurate" (I'm quoting Massoud here). However, it is not true that everything he wrote about has "been proven to have been completely fabricated, exaggerated and with no factual bases." The origin of this false impression resides in the criticism that he received from some Greek and Roman authors.


    Various Greek writers accused him of dishonesty and lack of patriotism: the first accusation assumed that Herodotus could not possibly have gathered all the information he reported; the second reproach took issue with Herodotus' presentation of the Persians (this attack came from some historians that came one to two generations after Herodotus, especially Thucydides, Cicero, and Plutarch). Thucydides was Herodotus' immediate successor. Plutarch went so far as to call Herodotus the "Father of Lies." However, these authors also admitted that Herodotus was "The Father of History," because he was the first person to have "used all of his 'autopsies' to build a complete story that explained the why and the how of the Persian Wars." (History.com). In contrast, earlier writers had produced what Herodotus called "logographies": "These were what we might call travelogues, disconnected tales about places and people that did not cohere into a narrative whole" (History.com) and which did not bother to try to explain the reasons behind historical events.


    However, most modern historians (Tom Holland [his latest translator], Peter Cartledge, Robert Berge, Brad Penney, Tom Mackenzie, to quote a few) have come to accept that most of his works are actually accurately historical, basing their claims on archeological findings of the last couple of centuries.


    At the end of his post, Massoud complained that "while Persians are called barbarians, a butcher from Macedonia (referring to Alexander the Great) is considered one of the greatest men to ever walk the earth." This statement really shocked me, and for three reasons: 1) the Greek term for barbarian, as the English word itself, as well as its translation into other Romance languages, did not mean anything but that the people referred to did not speak Greek (or spoke a different language, if we are referring to other countries' languages); 2) Herodotus, when he was relating his history of the Greek and Persian wars, could not possibly have been speaking of Alexander the Great, because the latter lived between July 356 to June 323 BCE, while Herodotus had already died (c. 484-425 BCE), so he was speaking of Alexander I; 3) Neither I nor most modern historians consider Alexander the Great either a "butcher," nor "one of the greatest men to ever walk the earth." I consider him one of the greatest military geniuses in history, as Napoleon did.


    However, I am also aware that, despite his best intentions, he killed many innocent people in his pursuit of conquests of other lands. However, we need to recognize that, without his panhellenization of the Mediterranean world, which made Greek the "koine" language of the area for centuries, allowing people from several countries to communicate among themselves, Christianity could have become only a local religion, instead of spreading all over the Mediterranean world.


    Alexander the Great provides an example of a conqueror that treated the vanquished in a respectful manner, unlike other, more modern tyrants/dictators. If the enemy surrendered easily, he even allowed their governors (be them satraps, kings, or whatever) to continue ruling their territories. He also incorporated many Persian soldiers to his own troops, training them in the art of Macedonian war. After he defeated Porus (one of the first leaders he fought against in India) at the Battle of the Hydaspes, Alexander restored him to his throne, and the two of them joined their forces to fight Porus' enemies further east.


    Alexander also tried his best to keep the culture of the conquered lands, even to his own detriment. For example, while in Persia, he adopted the Persian way of dressing as well as some of their customs and traditions, like "proskynesis," which consisted on bowing before the king as if he were a god, which raised the wrath of many Macedonians. As a result of that, many of his own men turned against him. He also adopted the habit of marrying a woman related to the royalty of the conquered land, and he encouraged his own men to marry women from there too. An example of this was the mass wedding he held at Susa in 324 BCE, in which he married two Achaemenid princesses: Darius's daughter Stateira, and Parysatis, daughter of Artaxerxes III. At the same time, his friend Hephaestion married Drypetis, Stateira's sister, and eighty of his companions married daughters of the Iranian nobility, each of the couples receiving a lavish dowry from Alexander. This pompous occasion extended and trumped Alexander's previous marriage with the Sogdian princess Roxane in 327, and the weddings at Susa reinforced the king's policy of governing together with his former enemies. The marriages constituted a veritable pact for governing and made possible a harmonious transition between Persian and Macedonian rule.


    Despite all of Alexander's best intentions to treat his enemies magnanimously, he did not always act like that. Whenever his enemies opposed him fiercely, caused his troops a great deal of grievances, and did not surrender, he would turn mad, and could retaliate in a cruel manner. For example, the siege he mounted against the Sogdian towns at Gaza, where "on Alexander's orders, the Macedonians put all the men to the sword; and carried off the women, and children, and all kinds of plunder." (Arrian IV.2.4.)


    Alexander could not stand insubordination or betrayal, and, when that happened, he dealt ruthlessly with their perpetrators, whether they were from foreign countries or from his own Macedonia. For example, he had his friend Philotas tortured to force him to confess to fomenting a plot to kill him, and, after an assembly convicted him, they stoned him to death. One final instance, the worst of them all, happened at the end of the long and hard siege of the island of Tyre. After more than seven months laboring to take the stubborn town and seeing many of their friends crushed by stones hurled from the walls or burned to death by fire bombs, the Macedonians finally reached the town, killing every man, woman, and child they could lay their hands on. Of those surviving the attack, two thousand men of fighting age captured in the attack were taken to a mainland beach across from the city and crucified--the most agonizing form of death known in the ancient world.


    So, in view of these terrible episodes, why would anybody call Alexander "the Great," as Massoud asks. Well, in spite of all these instances of cruelty (and there are more), Alexander still achieved several amazing deeds. Ian Worthington summarizes the reasons in these words: "in little more than a decade, he journeyed further than any single person before him, he defeated opposing forces on a vast scale, he established a huge empire which stretched from Greece... to India, he spread Greek culture and education in that empire, he stimulated trade and the economy, and he died young." He was even considered as a god by many of his contemporaries.


    In my opinion, what amazes me the most in Alexander are his skills as a general and as a strategist; Napoleon called him the best general in history, and it was not for no reason. I might describe in detail his war strategies and his fighting techniques in another post, if time permits.


    JE comments:  An outstanding ancient history lesson from Enrique Torner; thanks, Enrique!  I especially hope our colleague A. J. Cave will send a comment.

    Please login/register to reply or comment:

    • Alexander: Persian and Arabic Interpretations (A. J. Cave, USA 08/23/15 7:46 AM)
      I wrote a few pages a few years ago, titled: "From Alexander Romance to Eskandar Nameh," tracing the evolution of the image of the conquering Macedonian King Alexander [III] in various sources.

      Since the Alexander Romance part is better known, I thought about sending only the Eskandar Nameh part (meaning: Book of Alexander) for those who might be interested. But it seemed incomplete. So, here is most of it in 2 parts:


      ===========

      Part 1: Alexander Romance:


      The historical romance of Alexander-a blending of fact and fiction as history-was started by Alexander himself, who wanted immortal fame and Homeric glory.


      The Hellenic historians who followed his campaign through Asia selectively recorded and glorified the account of his conquests with a flattering and forgiving pen that only wrote what had been approved by Alexander. He was unforgiving of those who did not flatter him.


      Over time all sorts of factual and fictional deeds were attributed to Alexander.


      None of the primary sources that were written during his lifetime have survived in whole. The earliest secondary sources by the classical writers who used the primary sources to write their own versions of historical accounts date to over 300 years after the events-mainly by Diodorus Siculus (wrote between 60-30 BCE) and Arrian of Nicomedia (lived 86-160 CE).


      Ptolemy (Greek: Ptolemaios, 305-283 BCE), another of Alexander's surviving generals and successors who had carved up Egypt for himself, was eager to tie himself closely to the family of Alexander. He wrote an idolized account of Alexander, casting himself as one of the key Makedonian officers who had served under the famed conqueror of the Persian Empire. He even stole Alexander's mummified body on its way back to Makedonia for burial and put it on display in the newly minted port city of Alexandria.


      As early as the third century BCE in Ptolemy's royal court in Alexandria the fanciful fables about Alexander were blended into a story initially titled The Life of Alexander that later became known as Alexander Romance.


      The highly popular story was most likely written by an unknown Egyptian scribe in the famed Library of Alexandria in Egypt and was translated into various languages and versions over the centuries.


      It was a historical fiction indifferent to historical facts and timelines, primarily written to glorify Alexander who was worshiped as a god in Ptolemaic Alexandria, and to lessen the harsh realities of Egyptian repression under the Makedonian rule.


      Alexander even made a fictional visit to Jerusalem and was mentioned in the Hebrew Bible (1 Maccabees 1-8) as the king who conquered the world.


      According to the Jewish historian Josephus (Latin: Titus Flavius Josephus, Hebrew: Yosef ben Matityahu, ~ 37-100 CE), Alexander had first planned to destroy Jerusalem and murder the Judaeans, but changed his mind, recognized the Judaean High Priest and became the rightful ruler of the Jews.


      In the fourth century CE, the Greek version of the romance was translated into Latin by Julius Valerius as Res gestae Alexandri Magni, Deeds of Alexander the Great. From Latin it spread to all the major medieval European languages of the Middle Ages.


      The Greek version was also translated into the Syriac language, and from Syriac it spread to eastern cultures and languages.


      The Syriac language was actually the Aramaic language of Edessa (modern Urfa), a Christian city on the major trade road from the Persian Hagmatana (Greek: Ecbatana, modern: Hamadan) to the Roman Antioch on the Mediterranean. Syriac was in use until the thirteenth century.


      In the last decades of the Persian Sasanid Empire in the seventh century CE, when the rival Roman Byzantines and Persian Sasanians were locked in never-ending wars, a version of Alexander Romance was prepared in Middle Persian-Pahlavi-by a Syriac writer, which described Alexander as a pious Christian conqueror, casting him as a Holy Roman Emperor.


      While this version has not survived, a later Syriac version of it has, claiming that the father of Alexander was the exiled Egyptian Pharaoh of 30th Dynasty, Nectanebo II (Egyptian: Nakhthoreb, 360-343 BCE), and Roxana, Alexander's wife, was the royal daughter of the Persian Great King Darius III.


      The surviving Syriac version attributed to the theologian Jacob of Serugh (451-521 CE) consisted of five distinct manuscripts, including a Syriac Christian religious legend of Alexander and a sermon about him.


      The religious legend was about Alexander's journey to the end of the world, where he built the "Gates of Alexander"-better known as "Alexander's Wall"-to enclose the biblical evil tribes of Gog and Magog, while the sermon recounted his voyage to the mythical Land of Darkness in quest of the Water of Life (Fountain of Youth).


      In reality the original defensive border fortification along the Caucasus was actually built by the Persian Sasanid Great Kings to keep out the marauding northern nomads.


      One of the surviving Syriac manuscripts, dated to around 629 or 636 CE, was composed as propaganda in support of the Byzantine Emperor Heraclius (610-641 CE) shortly after he defeated the Persians in the last great war of antiquity and the end of another era-the Roman-Sasanian Wars of 602-628 CE.


      Since there is no mention of the Muslim Arab conquest of Jerusalem in 636 by the second caliph, ‘Umar (‘Umar ibn ‘Abd al-Khattab, 634-644 CE) in this Syriac version, it was probably written before that historic watershed.


      The Christian Alexander of Alexander Romance in the Syriac version who had defeated the Persians with the help of the Lord resonated with the early Muslim Arab invaders of Persia (modern Iran) and became the source of an Arabic version called the Qisas Zu al-Qarnayn (Tales of the Two-horned One) after the image of Alexander wearing the two-horned Egyptian crown of Ammon.


      Alexander became sanctified in the noble Qur'an (Sura: the Cave, 18:83-98) with the epithet of Zu al-Qarnayn, (or Dhu al-Qarnain, meaning: two-horned one) although he was not mentioned by name, leaving the door open to theological debate and dissent.


      In 692 CE another popular Syriac Christian adaptation of the Alexander Romance called the Apocalypse of Pseudo-Methodius equated the evil Gog and Magog with the Arab invaders of Jerusalem which shaped the eschatological imagination of Christendom for centuries. Alexander Romances of the Middle Ages were typically recasts of the heroic adventures of western Christian Crusaders in the East.


      In yet another Syriac version that later became known to the medieval Persian Poet Ferdowsi, Alexander was recast as a dragon-slayer-a popular motif in Medieval Europe.


      The Syriac version might have been inspired by the biblical story of Bel and the Dragon.


      The biblical Book of Daniel in the Roman Catholic and Greek Orthodox Bibles has three additions not found in the Hebrew or Protestant Bibles, among them the story of Bel and the Dragon. The story was probably rooted in the ancient Babylonian epic of creation, called enuma elish, meaning when above, with Above being Heaven.


      In enuma elish, Marduk, the great god of the city of Babylon, had been elevated to supremacy over all other Babylonian gods after he killed the mother-goddess in the form of a formidable salt-water (ocean) dragon.


      The popular Babylonian story of dragon-slaying had traveled to other religions.


      In an eighth century Arabic Alexander Romance, Alexander set out to spread Islam throughout the world, circling the lands of the setting and rising sun. Along the way he built a wall against the armies of Gog and Magog (called ya'juj wa ma'juj in Arabic) and lightened the darkness with the stone of prophecy he had inherited from the Qur'anic Adam.


      Al-Tabari, one of the earliest Muslim Persian historians (838-923 CE), writing entirely in Arabic, recounted four versions of Alexander's conquest of Persia in his Tarikh al-Tabari (History of Tabari) that covered the span of history from Islamic creation to the year 915 CE.


      In one version, to reconcile the Islamic view of Alexander with the historical figure, Alexander and Darius started as relatives. Later Alexander became the elder half-brother of a mythical Persian Kiyanian (or Kayanian) King, Alexander into a legitimate Persian king and not a foreign invader. With his dying breath, Darius asked Alexander to marry his daughter, Roxana, thus giving him the keys to the Persian kingdom.


      The story pre-dated Islam when next-of-kin unions were favored in the Zoroastrian religion. Playing a perfect Persian Prince and a legitimate heir to the Persian throne, Alexander avenged the murder of Darius and married his daughter, Roxana.


      But in another version, Alexander destroyed cities and temples, killing Zoroastrian priests and stealing, desecrating and burning their sacred books. Al-Tabari's source might have been an enduring Zoroastrian oral tradition which continued to remember Alexander as the greatest enemy of Persia.


      Alexander Romance even made its way to China and Japan on the merchant ships of Muslim sailors and traders.


      He was called by his noble Qur'an epithet, "the two-horned one," in a Chinese text dating to the year 1226, written by an "Inspector of Foreign Trade" who wrote about the port city of Alexandria in the land of the setting sun all the way on the other side of the world and its famous lighthouse crowned with a magical mirror.


      Historical Alexander first became the fictional son of the last Pharaoh of Egypt, then a pious Christian conqueror during the crusading Middle Ages, then the sanctified Zu al-Qarnayn-"The Two-Horned"-in the noble Qur'an, later the perfect western imperialist and world unifier of colonizing Europe of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, the modern hero of homosexuality in the twentieth century, and back to being a soldier in modern historical novels.


      Since the twentieth century some Muslim Iranian scholars have ingeniously attempted to reconcile the unnamed Zu al-Qarnayn of Qur'an with the historical and biblical King Cyrus the Great (Persian: Kurush, 559-530 BCE). 


      ==========


      Part 2: Eskandar Nameh


      Alexander was initially considered the slayer of Darius III and the destroyer of the Persian Empire, later becoming the destroyer of the Avesta and executioner of the Zoroastrian Magi. He was cursed and called gujasta.


      This view of Alexander was recorded in the Middle Persian language in the Book of Arda Viraf, a Zoroastrian religious manuscript dating to the Persian Sasanid Empire (224-651 CE).


      After the spread of Islam in Iran, no evil act could be attributed to Alexander and so a new "historical" king was fabricated by the Muslim Persian scholars. The Al in Alexander's name, equated with the Arabic definite article of al-, was dropped and his name became Exander or Eskandar (Iskandar or Sikandar).


      The Persianization of Alexander became complete when his father became the Elder Dara, a fictional Persian king who had married Nahid (the New Persian form of the Mazdaean goddess Anahita) the daughter of Philip of Rum [Rome], but sent the bride back to her father for her bad breath, not knowing she was pregnant. After Alexander was born, Philip concealed the identity of the newborn and declared him his own son.


      When Alexander and Dara, the younger son of the Elder Dara-presumably the historical Persian Great King Darius III-succeeded their fathers to kingship, it was just a matter of time before Eskandar headed to Eran-Shahr (medieval Iran) to claim his royal inheritance.


      The younger Dara was defeated in battle with Eskandar. But when he was murdered by two of his own courtiers, Eskandar avenged the death of his royal brother and became the legitimate king in Persia. Then he went to the House of God in Mecca to worship.


      The story of Eskandar as the eldest son of Dara the Elder was traced to Ibn al-Muqaffa,‘ a mid-eighth century CE Manichaean scholar who had converted to Islam.


      Shah Nameh (Book of Kings) by Ferdowsi (or Firdausi, 940-1020 CE) started with the mythical age and the mythical King Kaiumers (or Kayumars), continued through the heroic age of Persia and ended with the conquest of Eskandar (Alexander). While the powerful Persian Achaemenids were all but forgotten by then, Makedonian Alexander had become part and parcel of ancient Persian history as the eldest son of a fictional Kiyanian king and the daughter of a fictional Ruman king.


      Nezami (1141-1209 CE), celebrated as one of the greatest romantic medieval Persian poets, composed Eskandar Nameh (Book of Alexander), in verse with 10,500 couplets sometime between 1194 and 1202.


      The poetic account narrated the life of Alexander in three stages:


      -a world conqueror

      -a knowledge seeker

      -a philosopher-king traveling around the world to proclaim his faith


      The story, based on Alexander Romance and the Islamic myths about Alexander, turned Alexander into a perfect medieval Persian knight.


      By the end of these stories, the historical humiliation of the destruction of a great empire by enemies was erased by the fictional pens of the great poets of a proud people. 


      JE comments: Another excellent lesson in ancient history. A. J. Cave has traced all the conceivable interpretations of Alexander, beginning with the caveat that none of the sources from his time survive. As such, Alexander has become a perfect "open signifier"--capable of meaning (nearly) all things to all people. It's especially fascinating how the Persians were able to re-define Alexander as one of their own.  The "bad breath hypothesis" in particular was a masterpiece of creative history.

      Please login/register to reply or comment:


    • Alexander and Eskandar (Massoud Malek, USA 08/24/15 8:33 AM)
      I really enjoyed Enrique Torner's post of 22 August on Alexander of Macedonia.

      There are countless books written about Alexander in Iran. Iranians read many of these books from a tender age. Some books even praise Alexander for his bravery. One of my cousins is named "Eskandar" (Alexander in Persian). We have a saying in Persian that says, "the pen is in the hand of the enemy." What Enrique read about Alexander were all written by the Western writers who were admirers of the Greek culture and repeated what the greatest liar in the history of the mankind, Herodotus, wrote about his enemies, the Persians.


      Enrique wrote:


      "Alexander the Great provides an example of a conqueror that treated the vanquished in a respectful manner, unlike others. He incorporated many Persian soldiers to his own troops, training them in the art of Macedonian war. while in Persia, he adopted the Persian way of dressing as well as some of their customs and traditions."


      When Alexander conquered Persia, he wrote to his teacher Aristotle:


      "I have found in the land of Persia men possessing sound judgement and powerful understanding, who are ambitious of bearing rule. Hence I have decided to put them all to death. What is your opinion in this matter?"


      Aristotle responded:


      "It is no use putting to death the men you have conquered; for their land will, by the laws of nature, breed another generation which will be similar. The character of these men is determined by the nature of the air of their country and the waters they habitually drink. The best course for you is to accept them as they are, and to seek to accommodate them to your concepts by winning them over through kindness."


      The Arab invasion of Persia burned every single library in the land, so little is known about the ancient Persian philosophy. But in 2005, the Oxford Dictionary of Philosophy ranked Zarathustra number two in the chronology of philosophical events. It is known that the Persian culture had influence on the creation of Stoic school of thought in Greece.  We also know that great philosophers like Socrates have taken trips around Persia.


      The great German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche was a brilliant student of classical philology. His studies of classical philology and his deep immersion in Greek and Latin literature also introduced him to the ancient history of Persia.


      Nietzsche expressed more than once his admiration for Persian philosophy and his radical opposition to Greek metaphysical thought, as developed by Socrates and Plato, and its later prevalence in Western world through the supremacy of Greek culture within the Roman Empire. In a posthumously published note, he wrote: "It would have been much more fortunate had the Persians become masters of the Greeks, rather than have the Romans of all people assume that role."


      Nietzsche praised Persians for their mastery of archery and horsemanship, their war-like imperiousness, and their emphasis on the virtue of truthfulness. So it was Alexander who benefited from the mastery of Persian soldiers and their culture.


      After my post about Alexander, I responded to Eugenio Battaglia why I consider Alexander a butcher, but our esteemed editor felt that my writing was not appropriate for the WAIS audience. I suggest that anyone who feels that Alexander was a great man should read about the atrocities committed by Alexander in "The Battle of the Persian Gate" in Susa and several battles in India such as "Siege of Aornos" and the "Conquest of Malli."


      Sources:


      http://www.iranicaonline.org/articles/nietzsche-and-persia


      http://purplemotes.net/2013/10/13/aristotle-advice-alexander-persia/


      JE comments:  I don't recall censoring any post about Alexander--but I apologize for offending Massoud Malek.  Massoud raises a crucial hypothetical:  suppose the Greeks had been defeated by the Persians?  If so, what would the the "West" look like now?


      And what exactly did Zarathustra say...?  (That was my attempt at a joke.)

      Please login/register to reply or comment:

      • Alexander and Eskandar (Eugenio Battaglia, Italy 08/25/15 3:31 AM)
        I extremely enjoyed Massoud Malek's 24 August post on Alexander the Great (the Criminal?); however I do not recall having been involved in any discussion on the Macedonian Conqueror.

        Massoud's post is the best example of what history really is: a long series of words related to how the facts happened, not according to the truth, but rather according to what the victors wanted. On top of that there are the different visions of different peoples and of their cultures. The funniest thing is to compare the history books of schools in the various countries.


        Just one poignant example: Churchill and FDR in the Western World are morality and the rightness personified (see Robert Whealey, 24 August), but for some they were just lying criminals. The former was even a racist and poison gas lover.


        I have a question for Massoud Malek: has it not been a huge misfortune for the millennial Persian culture to be partially absorbed/obscured by the Muslim culture?


        JE comments: Massoud Malek has already answered this last question in the affirmative.  One thing I've learned during nine years as WAIS editor:  Iranians have never made peace with foreign aspect of their culture's Islamization.


        Long before Eugenio Battaglia became a WAISer, Prof. Hilton proposed the Comparative History Textbook project.  It's been on hold for several years, but maybe it's due for revival?


        Please login/register to reply or comment:


      • Alexander's "Greatness" (Enrique Torner, USA 08/25/15 7:29 AM)
        Did you know that on yesterday's date (August 24) in 1814, the British captured and burned the White House in Washington? It is the only time in American history until September 11, 2001, that the national capital was under attack from a foreign enemy. President Madison was not in Washington at the time, but his wife Dolley was. She had to escape from the British soldiers, and the one thing she took with her was a portrait of George Washington. She still is considered one of our country's most interesting First Ladies!

        You can read more about this historic day in the following link:


        http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/british-troops-set-fire-to-the-white-house


        By the way, I'm glad Massoud Malek enjoyed my post on Alexander! I really appreciate his saying that. The problem we have is the meaning of the word "great." These are Merriam-Webster's definitions:


        great


        adjective ˈgrāt, Southern also ˈgre(ə)t


        Definition of GREAT


        1a: notably large in size: huge


        b: of a kind characterized by relative largeness--used in plant and animal namesc: elaborate, ample


        2a: large in number or measure: numerous b: predominant


        3: remarkable in magnitude, degree, or effectiveness


        4: full of emotion


        5a: eminent, distinguished b: chief or preeminent over others--often used in titles c: aristocratic, grand


        6: long continued


        7: principal, main


        8: more remote in a family relationship by a single generation than a specified relative


        9: markedly superior in character or quality; especially: noble


        10a: remarkably skilled b: marked by enthusiasm : keen


        11: used as a generalized term of approval


        In my opinion, Alexander was "great" with the meaning of "remarkably skilled" in the art of war. That doesn't mean he was a "good" person, as he also committed some horrible deeds, as I mentioned in my previous post. For example, if somebody said that Dr. Peres is a great teacher, and then somebody else said "But he is a criminal!" that would not imply that he is a bad teacher!


        I will address other assertions by Massoud in future comment, because they have way too much fodder to discuss. To leave you in suspense, I will say that the letters he quotes between Alexander and Aristotle are spurious. More on this in a later post.


        JE comments: It's great to be Great.  Strong cases could be made for taking away the Greatness of Alexander, as well as Peter, Catherine and Frederick.  This is all beside the point:  these historical figures are all known by their sobriquets.  Ditto for Philip the Fair, Ivan the Terrible, and Juana la Loca (I prefer her English variant:  Joan the Mad).

        Please login/register to reply or comment:

        • Another Royal Sobriquet (David Duggan, USA 08/25/15 4:19 PM)
          To add to John E's list of royal Greats, there's Charles the Bald (king of France in the 9th Century).

          JE comments: The Fair, The Terrible, The Bald: we should assemble a full list.


          How about this one for Prince William's little brother: Harry the Hirsute?

          Please login/register to reply or comment:

          • Ready (or Unready) for Another Royal Sobriquet? (Robert Gibbs, USA 08/26/15 8:29 AM)
            I cannot remember the spelling exactly, but how about Ethelred the Unready?

            JE comments: Yes, it's Ethelred (Æthelred). A brush with Wikipedia and we learn that the 10th-century English king wasn't so much unready as "ill-advised" (unræd in Old English).


            The next epithet comes from Sasha Pack.  Good times.

            Please login/register to reply or comment:


          • Another Royal Sobriquet, in Brief (Sasha Pack, USA 08/26/15 9:12 AM)
            Not to pile on, but my favorite royal sobriquet is Pépin le Bref (sometimes infelicitously translated as Pippin the Short), an ancestor of Charles the Bald, son of Charles Martel and father of Charlemagne.

            According to Wikipedia, Charles the Bald was in fact quite hairy, so we know the Carolingians understood irony.


            Evidently, many of these nicknames, including Pépin's, were only added by subsequent historians of the XI and XII centuries. It seems that Pippin's nickname may have referred to rumors about his size, but it is difficult to disentangle this explanation from the motive of contrasting him from his father, the Hammer, and his son, the Great. There are various theories along these lines, and interested WAISers who read French might enjoy this:


            http://www.persee.fr/web/revues/home/prescript/article/rbph_0035-0818_2001_num_79_4_4564


            JE comments:  It's tough on the self-esteem to come between The Hammer and The Great.  But as Sasha Pack points out, many of these sobriquets were coined by later historians.  Æthelred wasn't "Unready" until a century or two after his death.

            Please login/register to reply or comment:




      • Alexander and Eskandar, "Secreta Secretorum" (Enrique Torner, USA 01/02/16 7:00 AM)
        Now that the fall semester and Christmas are over, I am going to finish a post that I had started a couple of months ago to address Massoud Malek's post of August 24 on Alexander.

        In that post, he quoted written correspondence between Aristotle and Alexander the Great. The link he included where those letters are states that this is a "purported exchange of letters between Aristotle and Alexander" that was included in a book entitled "Secret of Secrets." This is the only book where you can find these letters: these letters were not written by Aristotle and Alexander the Great. This book is an English translation of the Latin version "Secretum" or "Secreta Secretorum," which is a Latin translation of the Arabic Kitab sirr al-asrar, fully the Book of the Science of Government, on the Good Ordering of Statecraft. The Arabic version was composed in the 9th century a.D. by a well-known translator of that time, Yahyá ibn Bitriq. This treatise claims to be a translation of the Syriac translation of the original Greek text. However, no Greek original exists, nor any notice of its existence. The Latin translation was made in the 12th century by Johannes Hispalensis, of which about 150 copies have been preserved. It was extremely popular and influential in Europe during the Middle Ages, probably because of the subject matters: alchemy, medicine, statecraft, ethics, astrology, etc. It was translated into many European languages. It was especially popularized by Arabic countries in the Middle Ages and beyond in order to promote a negative view of Alexander the Great, and, in view of Massoud's comments, it seems that this view has become even stronger through the ages up until today. You can buy this treatise on Amazon, where the author is stated as "pseudo Aristotle." However, you can read it for free online. Here are the links to both:


        http://www.amazon.com/Secretum-Secretorum-Pseudo-Aristotle/dp/1770830596/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1442193850&sr=8-1&keywords=secretum+secretorum


        http://www.colourcountry.net/secretum/


        If you are interested in the history of this interesting but fraudulent book, here is another website that explains it, even including pictures of pages of the original Arabic treatise:


        http://www.thelivingmoon.com/44cosmic_wisdom/02files/Secretum_Secretorum.html


        No matter where you look this book up, all authors agree with the fact that neither Aristotle nor Alexander the Great wrote those letters. A final anecdote about the book: I asked a colleague in philosophy about this book, and he had never heard of it! He found its content (from what I was telling him and checking out the book on Amazon) extremely interesting and amusing.


        Regarding the greatness of Alexander, I earlier mentioned that I am particularly impressed at Alexander's abilities as commander of his army. To begin with, unlike military leaders from other countries, he was always extremely involved in the fighting, leading from the front, to the point that his own soldiers rebuked him for placing his own life in extreme danger. No wonder he was wounded on several occasions! Alexander, though he was the king, considered himself equal to his soldiers, training along with them, and encouraging them with his courage. He sacrificed himself for his own soldiers to the point of, once, while crossing a desert, while everybody was dying of thirst, his soldiers found a little water, and brought it to him in a helmet as a special privilege, before letting anybody else drink. To everybody's astonishment, Alexander took the helmet, and dumped the water on the ground, refusing to drink and thus receive a special privilege. This courageous action inspired his troops to cheer up and keep fighting forward!


        Regarding fighting techniques, Alexander inherited his father's troops, which had been trained to be the among the finest in the world. Philip is credited with the invention of the "sarissa," a very long lance whose length went from 13 to 23 feet. Alexander took advantage of that and taught his troops many new war techniques, including the method of encirclement, with which the soldiers surrounded the enemy using a circle, preventing them all from escaping, and allowing them to kill or capture all the enemy troops. Another amazing skill Alexander had was that of being able to move his troops at incredible speed. The way he managed it was by avoiding the use of chariots or wagons to transport all their provisions, tools, armor, or whatever they were carrying. Instead, he had his men carry everything on their own horses. Whenever more speed was needed, he would have some of his men give their load to others so they could ride faster. This was seen in Alexander's furious pursuit of Darius after the taking of Persepolis. Darius was then in Ecbatana, and he was thinking of fleeing into the Caspian Gates and onto Bactria. Alexander pushed his men over 20 miles a day past hills and scattered oases in an attempt to catch up before Darius could flee. He did this for two weeks. Then, when he was almost in Ecbatana, he received news that Darius had already left for the Caspian Gates with a huge treasure of gold to be able to bribe anybody. Alexander became so enraged that he set out from Ecbatana after Darius with a strong but fast-moving force of cavalry and infantry. Many of his men fell behind as he rushed through through the highlands. The horses were pushed so hard that they began to die. Then, he found out that Bessus, the satrap of Bactria and kinsmen of Darius, had arrested Darius with the support of another satrap and were fleeing with him. Alexander's response was to strip down his troops even more and pursue Bessus with a smaller, faster force of horsemen and picked infantry. He traveled all night and stopped only at noon, when his men and horses were exhausted. He had reached the camp where Darius had been arrested. Bessus wanted a pact with Alexander: he would surrender king Darius in exchange for favorable terms. Otherwise, they would face them in Bactria. Alexander asked the locals if there was any shortcut through the desert by which he could overtake Bessus. They told him that there was a waterless route traveled only rarely by camel caravans. Alexander got rid of 500 exhausted cavalry, and put his most fit infantry on their horses, setting off at full speed. With this small force he covered almost 50 miles in the darkness of the night, and, at last, he saw the Persians in the distance at dawn. Most of the Persians fled in panic when they saw the Macedonians closing in, though they far outnumbered Alexander's men. With Alexander almost on top of him, Bessus stabbed Darius with a spear, leaving him for dead. Alexander reached Darius just before his death. He was, after all, late to prevent Bessus's treason. But, what about that speed?


        Another important factor for his great victories was an incredible group of engineers. These men were among the best engineers in the Mediterranean world, and were able to build bridges, siege towers, sophisticated battering rams, catapults, and many other edifices and weapons with amazing perfection and speed, while putting themselves in danger. The epitome of their abilities was seen in their construction of a causeway to allow the Greek soldiers to reach and capture the island of Tyre. The siege of Tyre lasted seven months. During the siege, the Tyrians destroyed the causeway with fireballs and other weapons, injuring and killing some of the Greek soldiers. However, Alexander didn't give up and had his engineers rebuild another one, this time with a huge siege tower which had catapults in it, as well as archers on top of the tower. At the same time, he bought ships from nearby ports, and had them attack the island from different angles.


        However, Alexander's best quality, in my opinion, was that of being the best strategist, leader, and soldier ever. He was the three at the same time, which is rare for a king. Most kings in history have not been at the forefront of the battles, but rather distant from the action. Alexander's main objective was rare and very difficult to achieve: to appropriate Darius's empire and win the acceptance of the Persian population. In order to achieve this, his goals were: 1) to conquer and destroy the enemy's armed forces; 2) to get possession of the material elements of aggression, and of the other sources of existence of the hostile army; and 3) to win over public opinion. In order to achieve these objectives, he established five strategical principles: 1) to employ all the forces available with the utmost energy; 2) to concentrate his forces at the point where the decisive blows had to be struck; 3) do everything as speedily as possible to gain public opinion; 4) surprise, the most powerful element of victory; and 5) to follow up the success gained with the utmost energy. The pursuit of the enemy when defeated is the only means of gathering up the fruits of victory.


        Finally, a tool that helped him achieve his victories was his intelligence service, which was one of the best in Antiquity. He would direct them ahead of the forces and to different parts of the surrounding area to get a good understanding of the position of the enemy, their resources, and all kinds of pieces of information that he could use in their attack.


        I could spend a much longer time explaining the amazing ways in which Alexander was able to win the different Persian wars, but I'd better stop for now.


        I wish all WAISers a Happy New Year! May it bring you good health, joy, and prosperity, to you and your family!


        JE comments:  We can certainly understand why Alexander is "Great" from the Greco-Roman point of view, but not from the Persian.  My thanks to Enrique Torner for this excellent history lesson.  I'm especially intrigued by the "Secreta Secretorum," about which I knew nothing.  What are some of the other great literary hoaxes?  Remember the bogus Hitler diaries from the early 1980s?


        http://hoaxes.org/archive/permalink/the_hitler_diaries


        Please login/register to reply or comment:




Trending Now



All Forums with Published Content (41653 posts)

- Unassigned

Culture & Language

American Indians Art Awards Bestiary of Insults Books Conspiracy Theories Culture Ethics Film Food Futurology Gender Issues Humor Intellectuals Jews Language Literature Media Coverage Movies Music Newspapers Numismatics Philosophy Plagiarism Prisons Racial Issues Sports Tattoos Western Civilization World Communications

Economics

Capitalism Economics International Finance World Bank World Economy

Education

Education Hoover Institution Journal Publications Libraries Universities World Bibliography Series

History

Biographies Conspiracies Crime Decline of West German Holocaust Historical Figures History Holocausts Individuals Japanese Holocaust Leaders Learning Biographies Learning History Russian Holocaust Turkish Holocaust

Nations

Afghanistan Africa Albania Algeria Argentina Asia Australia Austria Bangladesh Belgium Belize Bolivia Brazil Canada Central America Chechnya Chile China Colombia Costa Rica Croatia Cuba Cyprus Czech Republic Denmark East Europe East Timor Ecuador Egypt El Salvador England Estonia Ethiopia Europe European Union Finland France French Guiana Germany Greece Guatemala Haiti Hungary Iceland India Indonesia Iran (Persia) Iraq Ireland Israel/Palestine Italy Japan Jordan Kenya Korea Kosovo Kuwait Kyrgyzstan Latin America Liberia Libya Mali Mexico Middle East Mongolia Morocco Namibia Nations Compared Netherlands New Zealand Nicaragua Niger Nigeria North America Norway Pacific Islands Pakistan Palestine Paraguay Peru Philippines Poland Polombia Portugal Romania Saudi Arabia Scandinavia Scotland Serbia Singapore Slovakia South Africa South America Southeast Asia Spain Sudan Sweden Switzerland Syria Thailand The Pacific Tunisia Turkey Turkmenistan UK (United Kingdom) Ukraine USA (America) USSR/Russia Uzbekistan Venezuela Vietnam West Europe Yemen Yugoslavia Zaire

Politics

Balkanization Communism Constitutions Democracy Dictators Diplomacy Floism Global Issues Hegemony Homeland Security Human Rights Immigration International Events Law Nationalism NATO Organizations Peace Politics Terrorism United Nations US Elections 2008 US Elections 2012 US Elections 2016 Violence War War Crimes Within the US

Religion

Christianity Hinduism Islam Judaism Liberation Theology Religion

Science & Technology

Alcohol Anthropology Automotives Biological Weapons Design and Architecture Drugs Energy Environment Internet Landmines Mathematics Medicine Natural Disasters Psychology Recycling Research Science and Humanities Sexuality Space Technology World Wide Web (Internet)

Travel

Geography Maps Tourism Transportation

WAIS

1-TRIBUTES TO PROFESSOR HILTON 2001 Conference on Globalizations Academic WAR Forums Ask WAIS Experts Benefactors Chairman General News Member Information Member Nomination PAIS Research News Ronald Hilton Quotes Seasonal Messages Tributes to Prof. Hilton Varia Various Topics WAIS WAIS 2006 Conference WAIS Board Members WAIS History WAIS Interviews WAIS NEWS waisworld.org launch WAR Forums on Media & Research Who's Who