". . . But the past does not exist independently from the present. Indeed, the past is only past because there is a present, just as I can point to something over there only because I am here. But nothing is inherently over there or here. In that sense, the past has no content. The past -- or more accurately, pastness -- is a position. Thus, in no way can we identify the past as past." p. 15

". . . But we may want to keep in mind that deeds and words are not as distinguishable as often we presume. History does not belong only to its narrators, professional or amateur. While some of us debate what history is or was, others take it into their own hands." p. 153

Silencing the Past: Power and the Production of History (1995) by Michel-Rolph Trouillot

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Katharine Graham: Personal History (1997) / Torture Report - Bush Era Crimes

This weekend I read fairly non-stop Katharine Graham: Personal History (1997) the memoir of the publisher, president and chairman, eventually, of The Washington Post. The book reads very fast, and never flags in interest.  Reading through hers and the Post's experiences during the

years of Johnson and Nixon - Vietnam era -- the Pentagon Papers and Watergate, and impeachment -- was fascinating.  Reading Graham's memoirs intensified my viewing involvement with China Beach.

Graham was born (1917) very wealthy, and raised in an emotionally dysfunctional family with materially austere upbringing in terms of regimens, possessions and clothes, though there were lessons, art, literature and a great deal of other intellectual enrichment, that included the high achieving friends of her parents (among her mother's life-long closest friends were the Steichens). Dysfunctional as it all was, Graham herself managed to have very close relationships with both her parents and all her siblings.

Surrounded all her life by servants, even after marrying a (relatively) poor fellow, she barely learned to cook, never ironed a piece of clothing, or even knew how to shop for clothes. She lived through all of the changes the 20th century was fated to experience -- including a very slow coming to consciousness of women's systemic subordination as unfair. She overcame a great deal, and in her memoir at least, comes through as person who doesn't aggrandize herself at all -- in extreme contrast with her narcissist mother.  However, she may not have realized just how much she still was viewing the world from the perspective of the truly powerful and privileged.  She was a centerist in everything, which her position provided the privilege to be.

It was her plutocrat father (who, among other accomplishments organized setting up the World Bank) who initially bought the small circulation, struggling

Washington Post at an auction (1933).  By then both Isaac Eugene Meyer and his wife, the poor German Lutheran Agnes Ernst, daughter of a bankrupt alcoholic feckless fellow, both preferred the political life in more tolerant D.C. to living in New York, where antisemitism was intense.

Eventually Graham's husband, Philip Graham, who was one of her father's best friends, was not only publisher, but given the controlling shares of the family owned Washington Post.  When Philip, after severe mental illness, committed suicide (1963), Katharine Graham took on the paper that both her beloved father and husband had given so much of their lives.

I finished the book (625 pp.) last night.  Woke this morning to the even more hair raising sense of déjàvu.

OMG! Bush46's debacle of Iraq, Blackwater, CIA, torture and lies, committed under cover of the waving bloody shirt of 9/11. What was going on during the Iraq invasion - rendition era -- lying about it, keeping it secret -- is part what Nixon and Co.'s men believed they had the right to do.  Breaking laws was their right, and they despised the laws and the people who believed in them.

If this Senate Intelligence Investigative report of CIA torture came out next year, when the new r-Senate conveys, one doubts strongly this would have gone public.  It took an independent publication -- The  New York Times, for the Pentagon Papers*,

and the Washington Post for all the president's men, the Watergate and Ellesberg break-ins, funded by private campaign contributions, lied about by Nixon and his cronies from first to last -- to inform the public.

With the publication of the Pentagon Papers in the media, Nixon's lawsuits to stop, halt and desist repeated all the same tired lines we've been hearing for decades whenever the gummit, the intelligence community (and the civil police forces), Homeland Security, etc. etc. -- that none of this can be made public because of national security.  And this applies to content about matters and actions taken place long before the present administrations, content already published, etc.

The Washington Post is now owned by the eviLe fellow who owns amazilla. This is the ultimate consequence, which surely she had never suspected, of taking that privately held family media company public.

I admit to have been thinking about this even before reading Graham's Personal History.

UPDATE:  The Supreme Court ruling on amazilla employees overtime standing in lines to be searched for theft -- it did not escape this reader's notice that Katharine Graham had no sympathy at all for labor unions -- except way back in the day when she was f*cking a labor guy in SF when she was just a kid, with her first journalism job gotten for her by her daddy.

PLUS: The surveillance choppers are flying again, now that the rain from whatever storm has slackened, because the Eric Gavin protests have not quit.  On the subway to and from medical appointment, many a group of young were observed chattering with exhileration, carrying fresh packages of baby wipes -- presumably as remedy from tear gas?  Moreover, which hasn't been mentioned as far as I know in the media, here at least, many of these groups of the young are not English speakers, but clearly here from Europe in solidarity ....


*   The official title is United States – Vietnam Relations, 1945–1967: A Study Prepared by the Department of Defense, is a United States Department of Defense history of the United States' political-military involvement in Vietnam from 1945 to 1967.

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