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Thursday, January 29, 2009

Iran and USA difficult pasts 

For Iran and the USA the difficult times of talking get under way. The leak of the US President’s (alleged) draft letter to the Iranian President matches to the public demand from Iran for apologies for past US actions against Iraq.

It might be easier for Obama if the key past events were all the relics of Republican administrations. However Iran is likely to be aware of this action under the Presidency of Democratic President Jimmy Carter, as reported by Robert Fisk, interviewing a notable German arms dealer in 1987:

So it was true, I asked him, that he had given the CIA’s intelligence on the Iranian army to the Iraqi government?

“Mr Fisk… at the very beginning of the war in September 1980 I was invited to go to the Pentagon. And there I was handed the very latest US satellite photographs of the Iranian front lines. You could see everything on the pictures … the Iranian gun emplacements … the lines of trenches on the eastern side of the Karun river, the tank emplacements … all the way up the Iranian side of the border towards Kurdistan .. and I travelled with these maps (via Germany) to Baghdad. The Iraqis were grateful.

Robert Fisk in his book “The Great War for Civilisation” page 940 in my paperback edition

Which in turn no doubt helped that arms trader to do business in Iraq. Iraq attacked Iran on 21 September 1980.

The 1981 onwards Reagan administration of course became extremely explicit in its support of Iraq.

Much dirty linen of all kinds lurks in the shadows of hidden washbaskets.

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Monday, January 19, 2009

Hail to the oddities of history 

When the assembled bands play ‘Hail To The Chief’ for President Obama on Tuesday, there will be a small cultural irony linking this to the Ku Klux Klan.

The music was originally a setting for part of Sir Walter Scott’s romantic poem ‘The Lady Of The Lakes’. Scott’s “Highland Revival” romanticism is responsible for inspiring a number of parallel nationalist inventions. *

The ‘Boat Song’ from Cantata Two was set to music by nationalist plagiarists in the USA in 1812. It was first used as a Presidential salute in 1828.

When the Ku Klux Klan fabricated its Scottish White Purist myths in the decades after the US Civil War they drew on another episode in of Sir Walter’s work – the display of the ‘Crann Tara’ or Fiery Cross. Originally a sign of inter-clan declaration of war, this is described in Cantata Three. The transfer to Klan symbolism seems to have been via the novels of Thomas Dixon (The Clansman) which in turn inspired the film ‘Birth Of A Nation’ in which cross-burnings appeared as dramatic symbols.

In the early 20th century the Fiery Cross became a signal for a lynching.

I suspect that the complex strands of history will throw up even more odd purls and knots in the coming years.

Original Sir Walter words for ‘Hail To The Chief’:

Hail to the chief, who in triumph advances,
Honored and bless'd be the evergreen pine!
Long may the tree in his banner that glances,
Flourish, the shelter and grace of our line.
Heav'n send it happy dew,
Earth lend it sap anew,
Gaily to bourgeon and broadly to grow;
While ev'ry highland glen,
Sends our shout back again,
"Roderigh Vich Alpine dhu, ho! i-e-roe!"

The Gaelic title ‘dhu’ appended to the name means ‘The Black’ by the way.

* Other unexpected results of Scott’s popularity amongst activists of semi-defined emerging nineteenth-century nationalisms include the large number of east European men who thanks to their nineteenth century ancestors embrace of romantic fashion now carry variations on the names ‘Edgar’ ‘Edmund’ or ‘Edward’. Includes me. Thanks a bundle, Walt.

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