That's the accusation being made by some unhappy with Powell's endorsement of Obama.
Look, I have been critical of General Powell. I think he was overrated as a general. No one could be as good as people held him out to be. He bears part (but not most) of the responsibility for the botched ending of the 1991 Gulf War. We didn't need to go to Baghdad, but we certainly should not have given Saddam Hussein the victory he thought he won by taking on the Americans and their allies and surviving. Also, I think Powell was a disaster as a secretary of State, because he paved the way for the invasion of Iraq with a speech at the U.N. that we know to be almost entirely wrong in its assertions. He will spend the rest of his life apologizing for that.
But it is a calumny to call him an affirmative action general. I have looked closely at Powell's career, and I think he was a very clever, energetic, ambitious man, much like Eisenhower. But I don't think presidents choose their national security advisors or Joint Chiefs chairmen as affirmative action moves.
What is most striking to me is the similarity between Colin Powell and Norman Schwarzkopf. Both were from the New York area, both were commissioned in the late 1950s, and both served two tours in Vietnam, one as an advisor, and then one with the Americal (cq) Division. The difference between the two is not their skin color, but that Powell understood better how Washington works.
So, a Washington general? Certainly. But an affirmative action general? Unfair and inaccurate.
There's a terrifying look in the new issue of the Washington Monthly, one of America's great magazines, at the world of counter-terrorism instructors and the nonsense they peddle to beat cops sent to classes on terrorism. It sounds like Glenn Beck-ism run amok, which I know is a redundant phrase.
"When I look at the life of Muhammad, I get a very nasty image," they quote one instructor, Sam Kharoba, as saying to a class of Florida police officers. "I am talking about a pedophile, a serial killer, a rapist."
He also advises that, "The best way to handle these people is what I call legal harassment." The article reports later that Kharoba told the class that there are two types of Muslims in America: "honest ones who Americanize their names, and those who use long Arabic names as a smokescreen. 'If I pull someone over at a traffic stop,' said Kharoba, 'I'll ask for a couple of IDs. And if I see different spellings of a name, my Christmas tree is lit up. That's probable cause to take them in.'"
One TSA employee loved all this: "Olga Gonzalez, who is a TSA officer in Miami, told us she had taken several of Kharoba's courses. 'This guy is brilliant,' she said. 'I can't believe it: just like gang affiliations, you can distinguish between secular and jihadist Muslims.'"
There's also a lot of flat-out fear-mongering. Here's another instructor: "They want to make this world Islamic. The Islamic flag will fly over the White House -- not on my watch!" He explains, "My job is to wake up the public, and first, the first responders."
The article strongly insinuates that a lot of these guys are Gordon Liddy-wannabes who may not be entirely on the up and up in stories about their backgrounds:
John Giduck was a practicing lawyer in the 1980s. Then, he says, during the late Gorbachev era, the American Bar Foundation dispatched him to Leningrad (now St. Petersburg), where he met the head of the KGB for Leningrad. ("Putin's boss," he says.) They became fast friends, and Giduck began traveling frequently to Russia. He claims to have trained with multiple Russian special forces units, and to be certified by the "Vityaz Special Forces Anti-Terror School." In 2004, Giduck traveled to Russia immediately after the Beslan school massacre and wrote a book called Terror at Beslan. It was published in 2005, and it raised Giduck's profile, earning him a guest appearance on the Glenn Beck show in the fall of 2007. Among the book's most sensational allegations is that the terrorists at Beslan systematically raped their hostages, a claim that no other primary source account has made. In the meantime, Giduck has also become an in-demand counterterrorism trainer.
The instructors they profile have taught tens of thousands of police officers in recent years, they say. I wonder how many millions of our tax dollars have been wasted in paying these counterterror instructors to spew nonsense.
The Washington Monthly article is hereby awarded the Best Defense distinguished journalism prize, "The Silver Bullet," for revealing a really bad situation that needs to be cleaned up.
Remember last year when a Vietnamese-American officer commanded a Navy ship that visited Vietnam? Now, in an interesting follow-up, a Cambodian-American skipper is taking a destroyer to Cambodia. Cmdr. Michael V.K. Misiewicz was adopted by a woman at the U.S. embassy there, the article reports. Seventeen years later, some four years after he enlisted in the Navy, he learned that some members of his birth family also had escaped to the United States and was reunited with them, according to the ship's website. His command master chief is a woman who was born in Japan. Interesting crew.
Today's proposed bumper sticker:
Immigrants: Keeping America great for 400 years.
(HT to SS)
One of the ironclad rules of Middle Eastern politics is that the Kurds seem to lose in the end. This article, announcing a forthcoming Iranian campaign against the Kurds, suggests that we might be entering that phase of the Iraqi drama.
Kurdistan KURD كوردستان كردستان ا /flickr
Here's a thoughtful summary of our Civil War discussion, from Jprewel. I am not quite sure why, but I think it is significant that he has skin in the game right now. I suspect it gives a certain seriousness to his thinking.
From what I can tell we all agree on the foolishness, indeed, selfishness of the idea of secession in 1860-61. It was a fantastic miscalculation on the part of a class of plutocrats in southern society that represented ‘entrenched greed' and lacked moral hygiene. While slavery in ancient times was unexceptional it did not contain the extreme ‘racial' element that became dominant in its American version. Additionally, by the mid-nineteenth century slavery was considered in western civilization a moral turpitude and was exceptionally obsolete. The rabid defense of slavery in the south was clearly out of step with the mainstream of western society.
However, we must remember that not all southerners were moral reprobates; indeed, many despised the 'peculiar institution' (Lee) but did not know how to disassemble it without vast and unpredictable repercussions in society. Equally, we must remember that not all northerners were models of morale rectitude regarding slavery (Sherman) and demonstrated contempt for people of color that would often later on be directed towards Native Americans.
Unfortunately, most people rather easily judge history by their own contemporary standards (presentism) rather than being sensitive to the context of the period. With a smug superiority we rail against southerners for their stalwart defense of slavery in 1861-1865 and yet choose not to condemn with equal vigor the founders who found it politically expedient to incorporate human bondage into our founding document. This is the great hypocrisy of American history.
The U.S. National Archives/flickr
The governor of Virginia has declared that next April will be "Civil War in Virginia" month. I am glad he didn't go for "Celebration of Slavery Month."
The U.S. National Archives/flickr
I recently read the memoirs of Maj. Gen. William Dean, the highest-ranking American officer captured during the Korean War. One thing that surprised him during his three years of captivity was the number of Koreans who told him they had sided with the Communists because of American racial prejudice. If it were up to him, he wrote, "use of the term ‘gook,' or its many equivalents, by Americans would be an offense for military punishment."
Anthony Shadid, the best Western reporter in Iraq, fires a warning flare today about the Kurds facing off with the Baghdad government. Lots of worry that this thing could get ugly in the coming months.
Small complaint: If the Washington Post is going to front page an article about a standoff in a town between Kurdish and Iraqi armed units, wouldn't it be a good idea to put that town in the accompanying map?
Thomas E. Ricks covered the U.S. military for the Washington Post from 2000 through 2008.