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Smart Letters/Mad George's Revisionism | The Nation

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Katrina vanden Heuvel

Katrina vanden Heuvel

Politics, current affairs and riffs and reflections on the news.

Smart Letters/Mad George's Revisionism

Have you noticed that many days, in newspapers nationwide, the letters to the editor are more enlightening and provocative than the op-eds or editorials they're sandwiched between? Take Saturday's Washington Post, for example. The smartest item on the editorial page was a letter, titled "The President's 'Revisionism," from two historians, Linda Gordon and Linda Kerber.

"Last week," they wrote, "when his administration was criticized for justifying the Iraq invasion with forged evidence, President Bush accused his critics of trying to 'rewrite history'. In addition, his then-press secretary, Ari Fleischer, sneered at 'revisionist historians.'

As historians, we are troubled by these remarks. It is central to the work of historians to search for accuracy and to revise conclusions that prove to be unsupported by evidence. Revision, based on fresh evidence, is a good thing. The argument about the use of misleading claims in the State of Union address is not about revising history; it is about whether public statements were founded on honestly presented evidence."

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Not-So-Curious George's Revisionism

It's Bush who should be exposed for "rewriting history" based on unsupported evidence--and there's videotape to prove it. At a meeting in the Oval Office with UN Secretary General Kofi Annan on July 14th, Bush defended the decision to go to war with the astonishing explanation that "we gave [Hussein] a chance to allow the inspectors in, and he wouldn't let them in. And therefore, after a reasonable request, we decided to remove him from power..."

Some might call Bush's account revisionist, or even perhaps delusional, history. We know he's not a curious George, and that he has a tenuous relationship to the truth, but didn't someone on his staff brief him about the more than 400 inspections conducted by the UN inspectors, covering more than 300 sites. Doesn't he remember Hans Blix--the guy his Administration tried to discredit with personal dirt? (They couldn't find anything on squeaky clean Blix.) What about the president's 48-hour ultimatum to Iraq, issued on March 17th, when he specifically demanded that the inspectors leave that country? Even Condy Rice would have a hard time explaining how Bush's statement about the inspectors is "technically accurate."

This kind of revisionism from the country's Chief Executive should raise the gravest of doubts. "It is impossible to believe that Bush has forgotten the inspectors so quickly, or that he mis-spoke on an issue of such historic importance," says Bob Fertik, co-founder of Democrats.com. "The only conclusion we can draw is that Bush has lost touch with reality--in other words, he has gone mad." (Democrats.com has launched a campaign, with a website (MadGeorge.us), to have the president declared insane and expelled from office under the 25th amendment.)

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Noir Wisdom

A British arms expert, at the center of the dispute on the use (or misuse) of Iraq data on WMDs, is mysteriously found dead near his home in Oxfordshire, England. These are dog days made for John Le Carre, Tom Clancy or film noir.

For solace, I reach for my copy of "The Little Black and White Book of Film Noir". Published by Arsenal Pulp Press, this palm-sized paperback is a quick and dirty guide to life, love and politics.

Here are a few--of the many--lines that seem made-to-order for these "noir" days:

"My, my. Such a lot of guns around town and so few brains."Humphrey Bogart, The Big Sleep.

"We ain't safe with no crackpot giving orders."Steve Cochran, White Heat.

"You don't seem very sorry." "I am sorry. Sorry that I was caught."Judith Anderson and Barbara Stanwyck. The Strange Love of Martha Ivers.

"The world, my friends, as it is now constituted, stinks!"Jack Carson, Blues in the Night.

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