From the 9/11 Report’s missing pages to Cold War Czech spies in the land of Oz, here are this week’s top picks in imperial and global history.
Since the early days after the Sept. 11 attacks, when news emerged that most of the airline hijackers came from Saudi Arabia, dark allegations have lingered about official Saudi ties to the terrorists. Fueling the suspicions: 28 still-classified pages in a congressional inquiry on 9/11 that raise questions about Saudi financial support to the hijackers in the United States prior to the attacks.
Both the administrations of George W. Bush and Barack Obama have refused to declassify the pages on grounds of national security. But critics, including members of Congress who have read the pages in the tightly guarded, underground room in the Capitol where they are held, say national security has nothing to do with it. U.S. officials, they charge, are trying to hide the double game that Saudi Arabia has long played with Washington, as both a close ally and petri dish for the world’s most toxic brand of Islamic extremism. [continue reading]
Just before the outbreak of the Second World War, E.H. Carr finished his draft of Twenty Years’ Crisis. In it he observed:
[W]ithin twenty years of the armistice [of the First World War]… many governments were conducting propaganda with an intensity unsurpassed in the war period; and new official and non-official agencies for the influence of opinion at home and abroad were springing up in every country.
In these twenty years, foreign policy makers had to figure out how to utilize globalized telecommunication (cable and wireless) networks. Overseas events were reported almost immediately to the public, many of whom were also demanding greater political, economic and social rights. Carr argued that the propaganda institutions developed in many countries in 1919–39 because of ‘the popularization of international politics’ and more effective ‘propaganda methods’. Meanwhile, the League of Nations elevated the idea of ‘international public opinion’ into a norm in international politics. Although Carr remained sceptical about the effectiveness of international public opinion as a moral force in international politics, he never lost sight of its potential impact.
In his view, all modern states had to respond to these new trends. Propaganda was, therefore, not a tool specific to certain political regimes, but a modern state’s inevitable and rational response to them. The difference between the propaganda of a totalitarian regime and that of a democracy was, Carr argued, ‘less clear-cut’ in practice than is often assumed. He predicted: ‘[e]ven in peace, propaganda seems likely for the future to be recognized as a regular instrument of foreign policy’. Soon after he made this observation, war broke out in Europe. What then happened to these ‘peacetime’ propaganda institutions during the war? [continue reading]
In the entire history of the United States Senate, a mere 44 women have served. Ever. Those few who have were elected to a club they were never meant to join, and their history in the chamber is marked by sexism both spectacular and small. For decades in the 20th century after women first joined, many male senators were hardly more than corrupt frat boys with floor privileges, reeking of alcohol and making little secret of their sexual dalliances with constituents, employees and any other hapless subordinate female they could grab. But perhaps more striking is what I found after interviewing dozens of women senators, former senators and their aides over the past several months: Even today, the women of the Senate are confronted with a kind of floating, often subtle, but corrosive sexism, a sense of not belonging that is both pervasive and so counter to the narrative of real, if stubbornly slow, progress that many are reluctant to acknowledge this persistent secret. [continue reading]
Philippines native Art Caleda still carries shrapnel in the left side of his chin that he ruefully calls a “souvenir” from assisting the American military 70 years ago as a guerrilla intelligence officer during World War II. For their service, Caleda and about 26,000 other Filipino nationals were granted U.S. citizenship under a 1990 immigration law signed by President George H.W. Bush, and many of them received a one-time cash payment of $15,000 in 2009. But they are still waiting for a final piece of compensation: green cards for their grown children to join them here from the Philippines.
Caleda, 90, said he and his wife, Luz, who settled in Waipahu, west of Honolulu, petitioned the federal government in 1996 on behalf of their three sons, who live in Manila. They waited as U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services slowly processed a global backlog of more than 4 million family-based green-card applications. [continue reading]
Newly released documents from Australia’s top spy agency have revealed details of Czechoslovakian espionage down under, during the early years of the Cold War. The previously top-secret records outline how Czechoslovakians spied on behalf of the Soviets, and how they managed to recruit an Australian diplomat who eventually fled to Prague. Andrew Greene reports from Australia’s capital, Canberra. When the Second World War ended, Australia – like the rest of the Western World was gripped by a fear of Communism. The Cold War paranoia dominated Australia’s political and military discourse.
In 1954 the threat of Communism was brought starkly into focus when Australia was thrust into the middle of an international spy sensation… The “Petrov Affair” would have consequences around the globe, not least in Czechoslovakia. (Newsreel) “A statement made in the House of Representatives in Canberra by Prime Minister Robert Menzies gave first details of a Soviet Spy Ring in Australia. Vladimir Petrov – an official of the Russian embassy whose home is in Canberra had told the full story.” [continue reading]