Saturday, June 6, 2009

Normandy civilians suffered on D-Day

Writing from Paris, Hugh Schofield says that
A revisionist theme seems to have settled on this year's 65th anniversary commemoration of the Normandy landings.

The tone was set in Antony's Beevor's new book, D-Day, which tries to debunk certain received ideas about the Allied campaign.

Far from being an unmitigated success, Mr Beevor found, the landings came very close to going horribly wrong.

And far from being universally welcomed as liberators, many troops had a distinctly surly reception from the people of Normandy.

The reason for this was simple. Many Normandy towns and villages had been literally obliterated by Allied bombing.

The bombardment of Caen, Mr Beevor said, could almost be considered a war-crime (though he later retracted the comment).

Many historians will retort that there is nothing new in Mr Beevor's account.

Harrowing experience

After all, the scale of destruction is already well-established.

Some 20,000 French civilians were killed in the two-and-a-half months from D-Day, 3,000 of them during the actual landings.

Wrong impression

The haunting picture of a man confronting a line of tanks in Tiananmen Square may not, in fact, be a libertarian image.

Justin Raimondo's article of 17 June 1999, "China and the New Cold War," re-published today on, has given me reasons to reconsider that episode.

Raimondo writes:
The Tiananmen Square "massacre" is an incident so wrapped up in mythology, most of it generated by Western journalists and their professional dissident friends, that it is nearly impossible for any "revisionist" analysis to be given a hearing. The world saw the Goddess of Democracy, the bright banners and youthful idealism of the protesters, a giant rock-concert held under the gaze of the seemingly incongruous Chairman Mao, whose gargantuan portrait dominates the Square. . . .

According to Lee Feigon's pro-student protester account of The Meaning of Tiananmen, the leaders of a prominent student group, who in alliance with city workers organized the Beijing Workers' Autonomous Trade Union, "hung big pictures of Mao in the tents they pitched on the square. They talked openly and boldly about the good old days of the Cultural Revolution. Mao, they felt, had the right ideas, although he sometimes used wrong tactics. Now they were determined to use what they considered the right ones." [p. 211] . . .

Even as more reasonable student leaders, like Wu'er Kaxi, argued that the students, having made their point, should withdraw from the square and live to fight another day, Chai Lin, the "Supreme Commander," commanded her followers to stay and wait for martyrdom. Already embarked on a hunger strike that had weakened and even completely debilitated many students, they passively obeyed their fanatical "Commander." In style and spirit, the massacre at Tiananmen Square is closer to Jonestown than to a crusade for freedom.

Like the American New Left of the sixties, the Chinese New Left movement that reached its flaming apogee in Tiananmen Square employed radically self-dramatizing means to achieve egalitarian and "revolutionary" ends. They, too, held high the banner of Chairman Mao; like the Weathermen faction of SDS, Chai Lin and her hardcore supporters not only expected repression but openly hoped that their actions would provoke it.

As Eric Margolis, foreign affairs editor of the Toronto Sun, so trenchantly put it, the Tiananmen Square "massacre has become a 'cause celebre' among fashionable leftists and literati, who have never forgiven China's rulers for abandoning socialism."

Thursday, June 4, 2009

What's in a pretty face?

The young lady depicted below is actress Lillian Gish. According to one of the grunts in the story Company K, which details the nightmare of being an American soldier in World War I, this picture or one like it kept him from taking his own life when he could find nothing left to live for.

Grandson's first T-ball practice

Preston turned four in March.

When photography rivals art