14, 2004 (Wednesday)
BENTE phoned from London with good news: Our publishers in Greece have sold six thousand copies of Hitler's War already. That's amazing for such a small country.
A female phones my tollfree number in fake Spanish while I am on the other phone to Canon, and I say to call back. "Don't you know who I am," she asks in English. I didn't, and she doesn't call back. The 718 number I called back was "not in service." Spooky.
During the day I catch snatches of George Tenet's testimony before the Sept 11 commission. He is the director of the CIA, and not an impressive figure -- he has the physique, the fleshy, thick-lipped features, the gestures, and the narrow vocabulary of a provincial domestic plumber. What was he before? Not a lawyer, like William Casey, that I'll wager. A British trade union shop steward has a deeper intellect than Tenet displays. The default position for his mouth is open. It lolls slightly ajar when at rest. He even occasionally speaks out of the side of it, like a Hollywood gangster.
Fifty percent of his statements today, if not more, are clichés including "don't throw the baby out with the bath water," all accompanied by the same ingratiating, almost helpless, smile. How depressing for educated Americans to realize that their global security is in his pudgy hands. What a difference Ambassador J Cofer Black [State Department Coordinator for Counterterrorism, left] makes: shrewd, intellectual, articulate and believable, his every word inspires confidence and respect.
There is no doubt whatever: The events of the last eighteen months have shown that once again that the loss of air superiority is any nation's downfall in a war and subsequent occupation. The American Apache helicopters and AC130 gun-ships now roam at will over Iraq, at low level, pumping 30mm bullets into homes and buildings at the rate of 4,000 rounds a minute, on the orders of some controller viewing things through long focus lenses and night sights. The casualties are horrific.
It is potentially My Lai many times over, as one correspondent wrote to me yesterday, but My Lai on direct orders from the Pentagon. The photographs shown on Arab televisions channels of hospitals, morgues, and corridors stacked with bodies seem to bear this out. The death toll in Fallujah of 600 killed in reprisal for the ugly deaths of four armed American "civilian contractors" whose mission was certainly unspecified, and was probably other than just "protecting a food convoy" as claimed by the authorities, begins to ring little bells of memory in the mind of any World War II historian: bells engraved with the names of other reprisal operations -- war crimes like Lidice and Oradour sur Glâne.
It is unlikely that we shall ever see any courts martial like the one which, years later, followed My Lai. What was then an outrage, a horror, has now become the commonplace, the dollar-currency of war. Harmless American tourists for generations will not have to look far for the reasons why they are despised around the world's other hemisphere. The legacy of Jimmy Carter has been squandered.
I work outside on "Churchills War", vol. iii: "The Sundered Dream", until ten p.m., when it becomes very chilly; then come in and write letters until eleven-thirty p.m.