Thursday, January 04, 2007
History is Bunk: Oliver Kamm on (Gerald) Ford ... and Pretty Much Everything Else
Contemplating the late Gerald Ford's numerous foreign policy disasters, the sinister (even more sinister than William Shawcross!) Oliver Kamm opines that Ford projected 'an image of weakness to America's adversaries and - more worrying - her friends. In May 1975, Cambodia seized an American trawler, the USS Mayaguez, that had inadvertently entered her waters. Ford ordered a rescue, which initial reports suggested had been successful. In fact there were heavy casualties - 38 marines died and more than 50 were wounded; in a terrible augury of the botched rescue mission of the hostages in Iran, 23 died in a helicopter crash in Thailand before the mission began. As one conservative writer, David Frum, later put it in his excellent thematic history How We Got Here: The 70s, 2000, p. 89: "If the US military could suffer such losses in an attack on Cambodians, it made you wonder how the country would fare in a fight against the Russians. And if it had not learned from Vietnam the imperative of confessing to bad news, when would it learn?"
Meanwhile, the once great Christopher Hitchens has one or two decent bones left in his body. His take on the Mayaguez is radically different (that is to say, true): 'Finally to the Mayaguez. Ford did not dispatch forces to "rescue" the vessel, as so many of his obituarists have claimed. He ordered an attack on the Cambodian island of Koh Tang, several hours after the crew of the ship had actually been released. A subsequent congressional inquiry discovered that he, and Henry Kissinger, could have discovered as much by monitoring Cambodian radio and contacting foreign diplomats. Eighteen Marines and 23 USAF men were killed in this pointless exercise in bravado, as were many Cambodians. The American names appear on the Vietnam memorial in Washington, even though their lives were lost long after the undeclared war was officially "over." ' The names of the Cambodians are another matter.
Indeed. Kamm's absurd story ends with the familiar imperial line: "Holy Empire! If little yellow Cambodians can defend themselves from US state terrorism..." Kamm does not expand on why it is Americans were taken hostage in Tehran. (Answer: the US had just granted the Shah "political asylum". Kamm, of course, knows this.) But then Kamm does have that extraordinary ability to twist history to suit his bizarre views. Historical facts are generally superfluous and a nuisance. For instance, even after Emma Brockes apologised for making up an interview with Chomsky, Kamm was "delighted to report," specifically noting the concocted Chomsky intervew, "that Emma Brockes has been shortlisted for Interviewer of the Year in the British Press Awards". Daniel Finkelstein (the brains behind William Hague's hilarious "Common Sense Revolution") saw a kindred spirit and hired the mendacious windbag as a columnist at the Times. The only reason I have not yet read Kamm's book, "Anti -Totalitarianism: The Left-wing Case for a Neoconservative Foreign Policy", is because I have been unable to get past the title itself: the title is so funny that floods of tears stream down my face, thereby obscuring the fantastic text within. Incidentally, the publishers of Kamm's "book" should offer David Irving first shot at a book entitled: "Gas Chambers: The Nazi Case For Their Impossibilty".