Saturday, April 14, 2007

Bush's favorite historian

The New Republic has an interesting article about an English historian that Bush is a great fan off. It's written by Johann Hari, who is a columnist for The Independent.

Bush's imperial historian.

Last month, a little-known British historian named Andrew Roberts was swept into the White House for a three-hour-long hug. He lunched with George W. Bush and Dick Cheney, huddled alone with the president in the Oval Office, and was rapturously lauded by him as "great." Roberts was so fawned over that his wife, Susan Gilchrist, told the London Observer, "I thought I had a crush on him, David Cowlesbut it's nothing like the crush President Bush has on him."


It might not sound too bad that Bush and Cheney are interested in history. Who knows they might learn something from it - they certainly haven't learned anything from the now. However, Roberts' brand of history is not likely to make many of us feel better.

At first glance, this isn't surprising. Roberts's latest work--A History of the English-Speaking Peoples Since 1900--sounds like a standard-issue neocon narrative. As a sequel to Winston Churchill's famous series, it purports to tell the story of how the "Anglosphere" (Great Britain, the United States, Australia, and friends) saved the world from a slew of totalitarian menaces, from the kaiser to the caliphate. It presents Bush as the logical successor to Churchill--only Bush is, of course, even better.


It's something that people are probably not aware of, but I actually have a great interest in Churchill, and have read a great number of both books by him and about him. Bush is no Churchill. Not even at his worst, would Churchill show such a complete disregard to the opinion of others, and while his disregard of human life could match anything shown by the Bush administration, he was actually able to understand the consequences of things. It wasn't by chance that it was he who first warned against Hitler (among the British politicans), or that he could see the dangers of the post-WWII Soviet Union before many others.
Oh, and while Churchill wasn't in any way a nice man, he took the consequences of his failures.

Even when ignoring the idea of Bush being the new Churchill, the imperialistic overtones of the work (as it's described) sounds pretty bad, but it gets worse.

Yet, beyond this surface sycophancy, there is something darker and more fetid. Bush, Cheney, and--in a recent, glowing cover story--National Review, have, in fact, embraced a man with links to white supremacism, whose book is not a history but an ahistorical catalogue of apologies and justifications for mass murder that even blames the victims of concentration camps for their own deaths. The decision to laud Roberts provides a bleak insight into the thinking of the Bush White House as his presidential clock nears midnight.


The article explains which kind of ideas that Roberts embrace, and mentions that his political hero (apart from Bush I presume) is "Lord Salisbury, the British prime minister who, during the Boer War, constructed concentration camps in South Africa that, a generation later, inspired Hermann Goering". And his defense of the camps should sound familiar to people in regards to the internment camps for the Japanese

In his most radical piece of revisionism, Roberts argues that, far from being a "war crime," the concentration camps "were set up for the Boers' protection." Mike Davis of the University of California, Irvine, author of Late Victorian Holocausts, says bluntly: "This is tantamount to Holocaust-denial. His arguments about the Boer concentration camps are similar to the arguments of the Nazi apologists about those camps."


Not good.
Go read the whole article.

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