HARVARD SQUARE COMMENTARY

January 14, 2008
From the Editor

John Turner


I don't know if this is a good way to think about things, but I continue to be more strongly influenced by people who are passionately opposed to a candidate than I am by those who are for him -- or her. I must admit that a major element of my growing respect for Hillary Clinton is bolstered by those who hate her.

I hope most of you got a chance to read Roger Cohen's "Lost Children, Lost Truths" in the New York Times on January 13th. It tells the story of twin brothers in Argentina who were taken from their mother shortly after they were born, so that the military junta could murder her. That was a common practice in Argentina between 1976 and 1983 when pregnant women were arrested.  They were kept alive until their babies were delivered, then, often, taken in helicopters, had their stomachs slit open so their bodies would sink quickly, and tossed out still alive into the ocean. When Cohen learned of this practice, he was enraged, and took it as a duty to trace what had happened to the children. That was commendable, but I'm not sure how much of a duty he felt to report on how his own country supported these practices.  On October 7, 1976, Henry Kissinger met with the Argentine foreign minister Cesar Augusto Guzzetti.  Kissinger urged the Argentinean to push ahead as quickly as possible to secure international loans, which the United States was backing, before, as the great diplomatist put it, the "human rights problem" tied the hands of the U.S. administration. Kissinger well knew what much of this money would be used for -- weapons and equipment to further oppress the people of Argentina and deposits in foreign banks to ease the way for members of the military junta when they were finally thrown out. The denizens of the U.S. political class have little memory of such incidents, but you can be pretty sure that people in South America do.

I've seen several interviews with Dana Milbank of NBC about his new book, Homo Politicus. One of Milbank's interesting points is that Potomac Man has great contempt for the average American individual as being extremely stupid. But put the individuals all together and the little stupidities collectively become great wisdom which Potomac Man then begins to worship. This is a radical version of the whole being greater than the sum of the parts.

Thomas Ricks, author of Fiasco: The American Military Adventure in Iraq, is making the TV rounds pointing out that the success of the surge in reducing the rate of killing in Iraq is based, primarily on the U.S. having surrendered most of its stated goals. It's not real hard to diminish violence when you tell your former enemies that you're now on their side and begin to supply them with weapons. What those weapons will be used for in the future is something neither Bush nor Petraeus wants to talk about.

I watched a lot of pro-football over the weekend and was, for perhaps the first time in my entire life, pleased by all the results. I don't suppose many of you much care about my football preferences, but I mention them just to make the point that sometimes, a series of complex events all come out fortuitously. It doesn't happen often but, still, that it can happen is encouraging. It helps to confirm Thomas Hardy's point that the universe is not really against us. It's just that it doesn't care. I am therefore mindful that things might not be as good next week.

Even so, I can hope and one of my hopes is that you find yourself in that state too.


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