President Trump’s remarks on Afghanistan at his Cabinet meeting Wednesday were a notable event. They will be criticized heavily, and deservedly so. The full text is available on the White House website.
Mr. Trump ridiculed other nations’ commitment of troops to fight alongside America’s in Afghanistan. He said, “They tell me a hundred times, ‘Oh, we sent you soldiers. We sent you soldiers.’”
This mockery is a slander against every ally that has supported the U.S. effort in Afghanistan with troops who fought and often died. The United Kingdom has had more than 450 killed fighting in Afghanistan.
As reprehensible was Mr. Trump’s utterly false narrative of the Soviet Union’s involvement there in the 1980s. He said: “The reason Russia was in Afghanistan was because terrorists were going into Russia. They were right to be there.”
Right to be there? We cannot recall a more absurd misstatement of history by an American President. The Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan with three divisions in December 1979 to prop up a fellow communist government.
The invasion was condemned throughout the non-communist world. The Soviets justified the invasion as an extension of the Brezhnev Doctrine, asserting their right to prevent countries from leaving the communist sphere. They stayed until 1989.
The Soviet invasion of Afghanistan was a defining event in the Cold War, making clear to all serious people the reality of the communist Kremlin’s threat. Mr. Trump’s cracked history can’t alter that reality.
Toxic Myths of the Confederacy (UnCivil Podcast)
A listener voicemail sends us deep down the rabbit hole into one of the most toxic myths of the Confederacy.
John Sims: Hi, my name is John Sims. um – I – I have a really conflicted past with this thing. When I was a teenager I was a part of an organization called the Sons of Confederate Veterans. And you know and over the course of like 2 to 3 years as I was a teenager I slowly came to realize how terrible the Civil War really was and how messed up the Confederacy was … And, so I, I don’t know, this subject is really like close to my heart and uh if you want to talk to me some more give me a call. My number is beep. Thank you.
.. From an early age he read a lot of history… and he remembers the first moment he fell in love with the Confederacy…[MUSIC OUT]
JS: So when I was probably uh, eight or nine my uncle gave us our first computer, right. It was an old Dell Computer, right. And there was a game that was loaded onto it that was a Civil War themed game. You could move the little soldiers around on a map, plan the strategies out for how they were going to attack each other and things like that. The thing that appealed to me about the video game was that it painted this picture of the South fighting a-against a vastly superior army. They were outmanned, they were outgunned. They were the underdogs. And that really appealed to me. And you know as an 8 or 9 year old, I walked into the kitchen where my mom was and I went, “Mom! I, I think the wrong side won.” CK: As time went on, John became sure the wrong side won… Before he knew it he was deep inside the world of Confederate revisionism…And he connected to other people who felt the same way. And it was there, that he got caught up in spreading of the one of the most toxic modern Civil War myths… Black… Confederate… Soldiers…
.. CK: Groups like the Sons of Confederate Veterans talk about black Confederate soldiers a lot… and here’s what they’re saying… free black men enlisted in the Confederate army alongside the very men who were fighting… to keep them enslaved…. Let that sink in…JS: I thought, “well hey, this, this explains it. This shows that the institution of slavery was not as atrocious as, as many historians portray it. “It shows that it must not have been you know as terrible as many people see it today if people were willing to go out and fight and die for it who were on the slave side of that institution.”
[MUSIC OUT]CK: Aiight… let’s just stop right there… This idea that there whole regiments of free black men that were fighting for the Confederacy. That’s that bullshit.
Enslaved people were on the front lines with their masters, but they were enslaved... None of them were enlisted as soldiers…KEVIN LEVIN: in all of the years that I have been, you know, researching Black Confederate Soldiers, I have yet to find, uh, a single wartime account of a Confederate soldier, or a politician, uh, or even, you know a civilian on the homefront who claimed, that these men were serving in the army as soldiers.
CK: That’s Kevin Levin… he’s a historian who has researched this myth for almost a decade
KL: You don’t find that at all and I think that tells us something really important about this, about this myth.
KL: It tells us that whatever slaves were doing, in camp, on the march, on the battlefield even, that Confederates themselves did not consider what slaves were doing as constituting the work, uh, or the responsibility of soldiers.
CK: Towards the end of the war when the Confederacy got really desperate… they told slave owners that they could enlist their slaves as soldiers.…But this happened just two weeks before the end of the war… so it’s unlikely that even these forcibly enlisted black men ever saw battle.JH: But the story of black Confederates willingly going into battle throughout the war to defend slavery… it’s all over the internet…. On message boards and in blogs and in articles … including one written by John Sims…
JS: I wrote an article for the Sons of Confederate Veterans. Put it in their newsletter, and it was on Black Confederate Soldiers.
JH: The idea of black Confederates proved to John that the war wasn’t about slavery. Slavery was just a pretense the North used to violate the rights of Southern states.
After John put that article about black Confederates in the newsletter… he expected praise and admiration from his new friends. He thought they would love it.
JS: The response I actually got was either crickets, just nothing, no response at all, or, or grumbling. Like a, a response of almost like, “why would you lump them in with our people.” Like, “why would you lump in these- these, um, African-Americans with the- the valiant soldiers of the South?”
The thing is it solidified to me was there were segments of this organization that certainly were, you know, racist.
CK: John started feeling like the Sons of Confederate Veterans weren’t interested in history… they were interested in what they thought the past should have been…But John’s view of the Confederate history really started to fall apart after he dug a little more deeply into his own family’s past.John Sims: The moment where things really started to break up for me was- I was under this notion that none of my family had owned slaves, right? And this is an argument the Sons of Confederate Veterans makes, is that most of the people who were in the South, the white Southerners, did not own slaves. So I was under this impression that, “Maybe, um, my ancestors didn’t participate in that dark, but small, part of the South,” And I couldn’t find any documentation that said that they were slaveholders, or that they were racist, and so I just, you know, I brushed it off, right?
CK: But all that changed when he found an old article about his ancestor Charles Burkham... CK: I mean this myth is such blatant bullshit that it made us wonder… how did it ever take off? And when we dug into black Confederate myth… what we found… is that this revision history is actually pretty recent.According to historian Kevin Levin, we can trace it back to its beginnings about 40 years ago….
KEVIN LEVIN: The first accounts of, of black Confederate soldiers really doesn’t appear until the end of the 1970s… And in large part in response to the success of the television series Roots.
[ROOTS TV SHOW AUDIO CLIP]
AMES: Get up Toby. Dammit, boy! If you don’t understand my meaning, I got a dictionary in the butt end of this whip that’ll make my meaning clear!”
FIDDLER: You do what Mr. Ames says now, Toby!
CK: For eight consecutive nights in the fall of 1977… families gathered in their living rooms to watch the story of nine generations of an African-American family. The story starts in Africa but spends most of its time exploring their lives under the brutality of American slavery…Since the end of the Civil War, kids like John had grown up on the Confederate narrative …. that slavery was a benevolent system with kind masters. That slaves were happy…
Now, American families were watching stories that changed all that. Roots showed in graphic detail, African-Americans being forced to change their names… being beaten and killed… but also that they had resisted slavery all along.
JH: Confederates, who had tried to control the narrative for so long… felt it slipping awayKL: You begin to pick up chatter among Sons of Confederate Veterans who are very worried that this very popular account of slavery, painted the Confederacy in a negative light. They’re worried, uh, that their own preferred narrative is, is jeopardized.
JH: Confederate enthusiasts had to respond… so they poured over Civil War accounts…looking for any black men near the front lines that they could portray as soldiers…. And they found them… enslaved men in the camps…KL: One way they can do that is by, starting to talk about camp slaves as soldiers, right? As full soldiers in the Confederate army that served in integrated units from the very beginning of the war.
JH: So they rewrote these men’s stories to fit their narrative… and they circulated these revised histories among themselves… in Sons of Confederate Veterans meetings and other rallies… and eventually they got the story out of their private clubs… and into the media….
In the 1990s… there were two Washington Times features that suggested… there wereBlack Confederate Soldiers…
CK: And the story started to gain traction in other places… with even bigger audiences….
After the break, the story of Black Confederate Soldiers finds its way onto popular television….
.. In a 2009 episode of the show… the black Confederate myth took center stage.. a man brought in an old photograph of a white Confederate soldier seated next to a black man in a Confederate uniform….
.. JH: The appraiser tried to give context here… mentioning that it wasn’t unusual for a Confederate officer to go to the frontlines attended by what he called a “manservant.”
And while the descendant on the air makes it clear that his ancestor owned Silas…he also describes the two men in weirdly modern terms… like they were friends.
ANTIQUES ROADSHOW: They’re about the same age, joined the Confederate Army when Andrew was 16, Silas was 17 and they fought in four battles together
The men grew up together, they worked the fields together, and continued to live closely throughout the rest of their lives.
CK: But there was one family watching the segment who knew that Silas didn’t enlist willingly… and wasn’t Andrew’s friend…
MYRA CHANDLER SAMPSON: I was on the phone talking with my sister and her daughter was flipping through the channels and she started screaming, “The slave, the slave, our great grandfather.” And my sister said, “Oh, turn on Antique Roadshow. they’re talking about Silas.”
CK: That’s Myra Chandler Sampson… the great-grand-daughter of Silas Chandler, the enslaved man in the photo…MCS: Oh, I was furious. I thought, “How could he? This is is ridiculous.”
CK: Myra had seen this photo growing up…. Many times. …but where Andrew’s descendant saw two Confederate army buddies… Myra saw something else …MCS: Ok when I see this picture I see Andrew sitting straight, and tall, and proud. And he’s thin. And he’s- He just looks like an ordinary Mississippi white man.
I see Silas scrunched down. Almost scooted forward. To make him look shorter. And I don’t know if he’d been told to- that’s the way he had to appear when he’s with Andrew.
JH: And, and when I look at that picture… to me, you can’t help but look at Silas and think, “the man is just miserable…”
CK: Yeah, I mean to me, it looks like he’s just looking at the camera going, “Do y’all see this bullshit?”
CK: But Myra says no matter what you see when you look at this photo… there are basic facts about Silas and his life that make his relationship to Andrew and to the Confederate war effort… abundantly clear.
For one — the pension application that Silas filed…..describes Silas as a servant of a Confederate soldier…Myra also found a letter from the Chandler family that lays out Silas’s real day-to-day responsibilities… and they didn’t include battle…
MCS: Transporting packages, transporting messages from the plantation to the battlefield. That’s what his, his job was
CK: Eventually by researching Silas’ life, Myra was able to put together the story of Silas the person and what she found was a very different Silas than the manservant she saw presented on Antiques Roadshow…
Myra told us Silas’ family was likely taken from Ghana… he was born in Virginia and taken to Mississippi, when he was 2 years old.
JH: Before the war, Myra says, Silas was already a carpenter…. He helped in the construction of many buildings on the plantation…. And he was loaned out to help build the courthouse in West Point, Mississippi.MCS: When he went away to the war he had just married and his wife was pregnant. and so his son, his first son, was born while he was away with Andrew. And I’m sure that if Silas didn’t have a family, if he didn’t have a wife back home, and he had a chance to escape, I’m sure he would have. He obeyed his oppressor, and followed directions because he wanted to survive, and he wanted his wife and his unborn son to survive.
JH: When Silas died, his family had a mason symbol engraved on his headstone — to acknowledge his work as a carpenter.But almost a century later, the Confederate supporters came up with a different idea about how to memorialize Silas Chandler
MCS: I believe it was 2003 the Daughters of the Confederacy and the Sons of the Confederate Veteran uh, they, they put an Iron Cross on his grave and a Confederate flag. And they declared Silas a Confederate hero.
It was on all the TV stations and throughout the state of Mississippi. I, I was invited to the ceremony but I told them there was no way in hell that I would attend a ceremony like that.
CK: But of course, that didn’t stop them… and it went far beyond just the ceremony… pro-Confederate groups turned Silas into an icon….There are posters… even t-shirts with his likeness… One t-shirt features Andrew Chandler wounded in battle…MCS: And Silas is down on his knees, uh wrapping Andrew’s leg. And Silas has on a Confederate uniform with a Confederate cap at that time. And believe it or not I ordered that T-shirt ‘cause, ‘cause I wanted to see it.
JH: These groups… had taken Myra’s ancestor away from her…… They had redefined who Silas was.
MCS: It brought out a temper in me that I didn’t know I had.
If I lived in Mississippi believe you me, I would have taken that Iron Cross off. I would have taken it off and burned it, and made a video, and put it on, on YouTube so they could see it.They re-enslaved him when they put the Iron Cross and Confederate flags on his grave. And made these t-shirts, and these posters that they sold. Making profit off of a dead slave – they have no soul. They have no soul – just like their ancestors had no soul in order to keep someone a slave and to profit off of their labor.
JH: In the years of Myra’s research and fighting to get the confederate flags and the Iron Cross off Silas’s grave… that picture from the Antiques Roadshow went up for sale. It was sold to a private collector who immediately donated it to the Library of Congress.
JH: when people come into the Library of Congress, and, and go to look at that picture, what, what would you want them to see?
MCS: They should see what a slave was forced to do in order to save his life and the life of his family. If Silas had not done what he did, I would not be here, and my family would not be here. So, they should see a love story.
Billboards. TV campaigns. Radio programs. The anti-immigrant government of Prime Minister Viktor Orban uses different levers to influence public opinion, particularly on the subject of the European refugee crisis.
Even school textbooks.
On page 155 of the latest 8th-grade history textbook, students are told that Mr. Orban thinks refugees are a threat to Hungary — and then encouraged to believe he is right. “It can be problematic,” the book concludes, “for different cultures to coexist.”
.. the far-right leader’s message is now woven into the school curriculum.
.. His party’s appointees or supporters dominate many artistic institutionsand universities. A growing number of plays and exhibitions have had nationalist or anti-Western undertones. Religious groups and nongovernment organizations critical of Fidesz have seen funding dry up.
.. For many far-right populists on both sides of the Atlantic, the Hungarian leader is revered.
“He’s a hero,” Stephen K. Bannon, President Trump’s former strategist, said this month, while touring Europe. He described Mr. Orban as “the most significant guy on the scene right now.”
.. he met with Philip Zimbardo, the psychologist who created the Stanford Prison Experiment, the controversial 1971 study of authoritarianism, which explored how ordinary people would respond when placed in positions of power.
.. how Mr. Orban has attempted to influence the civil arena through like-minded culture warriors.
.. biggest beneficiaries tended to be groups with religious and nationalist
.. since an elected government represents the will of the people — and since civil society should strive to fulfill the people’s will — then civil society exists to carry out a ruling party’s manifesto, rather than to challenge it.
.. the government sent an opinion survey to every Hungarian household that claimed Mr. Soros was leading a project — named the Soros Plan — to force Hungary to admit thousands of migrants, dismantle its border fences, and in the process “diminish the importance of the language and culture of European countries.” It was demonstrably false.
.. During the 1980s, Mr. Orban was a young liberal activist who studied civil society at Oxford University
.. “I would like,” Mr. Illes recalled Mr. Orban telling him, “to destroy all NGOs in this country.”
.. “Most theaters,” she said, “have a socially unengaged message,”
.. “It’s important for us to emphasize our identity because we could lose it in a few moments,” Mr. Dorner said in an interview, citing anxiety about immigration by “the Africans, the Middle Easterners.”
.. the academy ignored and even condemned critics of Mr. Orban such as Gyorgy Konrad, a renowned author. Instead, it awarded monthly stipends in perpetuity to artists like Gyozo Somogyi, best known for depicting Hungarian military heroes
.. When the University of Debrecen awarded an honorary doctorate last August to Vladimir V. Putin, the Russian president and an ally of Mr. Orban, four academic departments protested the decision.
.. Yet in response, the university leadership launched an investigation into their dissent.
.. Officially, the loss of each department’s financial autonomy has been presented as a cost-saving measure.
.. the real aim was to curb the academic autonomy of each department.
.. money was nevertheless found to sustain two entirely new academic institutions.
.. The first — Professor Patyi’s National University for Public Service — was set up to train civil servants, policemen and soldiers
.. The second, a think tank called Veritas, has a more demonstrably political aim. Its main mission is to provide revisionist interpretations of 20th-century Hungarian history — including the reign of Miklos Horthy, the autocrat who led Hungary before and during the Second World War.
.. He described the deportation of Jews under Horthy in 1941 as a mere “police action against aliens.”
.. the new preamble to the Hungarian Constitution — a controversial text which implies that Hungarian nationality is exclusively Christian, even though Hungary has a substantial Jewish minority.
Don’t let one speech fool you into revisionist history.
But a more careful look at Trump and Bush’s records shouldn’t elevate Bush; it should remind us that the two presidents have more in common than they care publicly to admit.
For starters, just think about tax cuts for the extremely wealthy, suppressing the black vote and Bush’s penchant for denigrating facts and expertise. Our country’s historical amnesia be damned; the roots of Trump’s reactionary agenda were planted in W.’s West Wing.
.. “Because of my position and my affection for the president and my belief and trust in he and his advisers, I gave them the benefit of the doubt,” McClellan said. “And looking back on it and reflecting on it now, I don’t think I should have.” McClellan faulted the Bush administration for never having shifted from campaign mode to governing mode, a failure that “almost guaranteed that the use of force would become the only feasible option [in Iraq].
In the permanent campaign era, it was all about manipulating sources of public opinion to the president’s advantage.”
.. In his recent speech, Bush claimed that bigotry “is blasphemy against the American creed,” referring to Trump’s politics. But Bush’s own Svengali, Rove, was simply more sophisticated and soft-spoken in his bigotry than Trump’s past and present cabal, Stephen K. Bannon, Stephen Miller and Sebastian Gorka.
.. he and Rove were the crown princes of wedge issues. Having championed a historically unprecedented move to change the Constitution to bar same-sex couples from marrying, Bush and Rove then helped get 11 initiatives to ban same-sex marriage on state ballots in November 2004, the better to draw conservatives to the polls to support his reelection
.. Bush, Rove and Gillespie worked diligently with Republican state legislators to put voter-restriction laws on the books, the better to keep blacks and college students away. Despite no worthy evidence of voting fraud in 2000 or 2002, John Ashcroft, Bush’s attorney general, put the issue at the top of the Justice Department’s agenda.
.. Bush had his attorney general fire seven U.S. attorneys. Ultimately, the Department of Justice’s own inspector general concluded that some of the dismissals were motivated by the fired prosecutors’ refusal to go after trumped-up voter fraud cases.
.. Mother Jones suggests that Wisconsin’s black voter suppression helped tip the state to Trump.
.. Bush’s tax cuts in 2001 and 2003 delivered the top 1 percent of earners an average tax break of more than $570,000 between 2004 and 2012. Bush boosted that top 1 percent’s already high after-tax income by more than 5 percent each year.
.. It was Bush and Rove who demonized climate scientists, reproductive health specialists, stem-cell researchers and Middle East experts. Referring to the war in Iraq, a top Bush aide once mocked “the reality-based community,” a code for those who dare criticized Bush’s policies — gasp! — based on facts. Bush dishonestly teed up the anti-intellectual, anti-elitist rage that became the emotional touchstone of Trumpism.
.. There’s very little lifestyle or ideological difference between the Bush clan and core members of the Trump administration: Jared Kushner, Steven Mnuchin, Gary Cohn, Rex Tillerson or Betsy DeVos (whose brother, Erik Prince, founded Blackwate