SIGN IN to access Harper’s Magazine
1. Sign in to Customer Care using your account number or postal address.
2. Select Email/Password Information.
3. Enter your new information and click on Save My Changes.
Subscribers can find additional help here. Not a subscriber? Subscribe today!
Former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld is in Paris today and he’s as upbeat as ever about the forward march of democracy in Iraq and Afghanistan. Rummy spoke this morning at the Cercle Interallié on Faubourg Saint Honoré, an exclusive club and conference center. The French edition of Foreign Policy magazine sponsored his talk.
The deteriorating security situation in Afghanistan and the resurgence of the Taliban alarms most independent analysts. Indeed, the Karzai government exercises little real control of the country outside of Kabul. But a source that attended the event tells me that Rummy thinks things are going well in Afghanistan, and painted a picture of a land returning to prosperity with millions of refugees pouring back home.
As to Iraq, Rummy compared the U.S. role there to teaching a kid to ride a bike. Paraphrased by my source, this is what he said:
You have to hold up the youngster with four fingers when he’s learning to peddle. Then you use three fingers as he gets steadier, and so on and so forth. Today the U.S. is holding up the Iraqi bicyclist with two fingers but is afraid to fully let go for fear the bike might tip over.
Of course, most kids don’t have to learn to ride a bike in the midst of a civil war but Iraq no doubt will soon be riding all by itself and America’s burden of finger-holding will be lifted. No word on if the audience was able to stop gagging. In any case, Rummy might not want to spend too much time in Paris. Reuters reports today that human rights groups in France have filed a lawsuit “alleging that [he] allowed torture at U.S.-run detention centers in Iraq and Guantanamo Bay in Cuba,” and have asked that he be detained.
More from Ken Silverstein:
Perspective — October 23, 2013, 8:00 am
How pro-oil Louisiana politicians have shaped American environmental policy
Postcard — October 16, 2013, 8:00 am
A trip to one of the properties at issue in Louisiana’s oil-pollution lawsuits
On a Friday evening in January, a thousand people at the annual California Native Plant Society conference in San Jose settled down to a banquet and a keynote speech delivered by an environmental historian named Jared Farmer. His chosen topic was the eucalyptus tree and its role in California’s ecology and history. The address did not go well. Eucalyptus is not a native plant but a Victorian import from Australia. In the eyes of those gathered at the San Jose DoubleTree, it qualified as “invasive,” “exotic,” “alien” — all dirty words to this crowd, who were therefore convinced that the tree was dangerously combustible, unfriendly to birds, and excessively greedy in competing for water with honest native species.
In his speech, Farmer dutifully highlighted these ugly attributes, but also quoted a few more positive remarks made by others over the years. This was a reckless move. A reference to the tree as “indigenously Californian” elicited an abusive roar, as did an observation that without the aromatic import, the state would be like a “home without its mother.” Thereafter, the mild-mannered speaker was continually interrupted by boos, groans, and exasperated gasps. Only when he mentioned the longhorn beetle, a species imported (illegally) from Australia during the 1990s with the specific aim of killing the eucalyptus, did he earn a resounding cheer.
Percentage of Britons who cannot name the city that provides the setting for the musical Chicago:
An Australian entrepreneur was selling oysters raised in tanks laced with Viagra.
A tourism company in Australia announced a service that will allow users to take the “world’s biggest selfies,” and a Texas man accidentally killed himself while trying to pose for a selfie with a handgun.
Subscribe to the Weekly Review newsletter. Don’t worry, we won’t sell your email address!
“Shelby is waiting for something. He himself does not know what it is. When it comes he will either go back into the world from which he came, or sink out of sight in the morass of alcoholism or despair that has engulfed other vagrants.”