Monday, May 19, 2008

History of Tibet before the Chinese Invasion of 1949

Tibethas a history dating back over 2,000 years. A good starting point in analyzing the country’s status is the period referred to as Tibet’s “imperial age”, when the entire country was first united under one ruler. There is no serious dispute over the existence of Tibet as an independent state during this period. Even China’s own historical records and the treaties Tibet and China concluded during that period refer to Tibet as a strong state with whom China was forced to deal on a footing of equality.

At what point in history, then, did Tibet cease to exist as a state to become an integral part of China? Tibet’s history is not unlike that of other states. At times, Tibet extended its influence over neighboring countries and peoples and, in other periods, came itself under the influence of powerful foreign rulers - the Mongol Khans, the Gorkhas of Nepal, the Manchu emperors and the British rulers of India.

It should be noted, before examining the relevant history, that international law is a system of law created by states primarily for their own protection. As a result, international law protects the independence of states from attempts to destroy it and, therefore, the presumption is in favor of the continuation of statehood. This means that, whereas an independent state that has existed for centuries, such as Tibet, does not need to prove its continued independence when challenged, a foreign state claiming sovereign rights over it needs to prove those rights by showing at what precise moment and by what legal means they were acquired.

China’s present claim to Tibet is based entirely on the influence that Mongol and Manchuk emperors exercised over Tibet in the thirteenth and eighteenth centuries, respectively.

As Genghis Khan’s Mongol Empire expanded toward Europe in the west and China in the east in the thirteenth century, the Tibetan leaders of the Sakya school of Tibetan Buddhism concluded an agreement with the Mongol rulers in order to avoid the otherwise inevitable conquest of Tibet. They promised political allegiance and religious blessings and teachings in exchange for patronage and protection. The religious relationship became so important that when Kublai Khan conquered China and established the Yuan dynasty, he invited the Sakya Lama to become the Imperial Preceptor and supreme pontiff of his empire.

The relationship that developed and still exists today between the Mongols and Tibetans is a reflection of the close racial, cultural and especially religious affinity between the two Central Asian peoples. To claim that Tibet became a part of China because both countries were independently subjected to varying degrees of Mongol control, as the PRC does, is absurd. The Mongol Empire was a world empire; no evidence exists to indicate that the Mongols integrated the administration of China and Tibet or appended Tibet to China in any manner. It is like claiming that France should belong to England because both came under Roman domination, or that Burma became a part of India when the British Empire extended its authority over both territories.

This relatively brief period of foreign domination over Tibet occurred 700 years ago. Tibet broke away from the Yuan emperor before China regained its independence from the Mongols with the establishment of the native Ming dynasty. Not until the eighteenth century did Tibet once again come under a degree of foreign influence.

The Ming dynasty, which ruled China from I368 to I644, had few ties to and no authority over Tibet. On the other hand, the Manchus, who conquered China and established the Qing dynasty in the seventeenth century, embraced Tibetan Buddhism as the Mongols had and developed close ties with the Tibetans. The Dalai Lama, who had by then become the spiritual and temporal ruler of Tibet, agreed to become the spiritual guide of the Manchu emperor. He accepted patronage and protection in exchange. This “priest-patron” relationship, which the Dalai Lama also maintained with numerous Mongol Khans and Tibetan nobles, was the only formal tie that existed between the Tibetans and Manchus during the Qing dynasty. It did not, in itself, affect Tibet`s independence.

On the political level, some powerful Manchu emperors succeeded in exerting a degree of influence over Tibet. Thus, between I720 and I792 the Manchu emperors Kangxi, Yong Zhen and Qianlong sent imperial troops into Tibet four times to protect the Dalai Lama and the Tibetan people from foreign invasion or internal unrest. It was these expeditions that provided them with influence in Tibet. The emperor sent representatives to the Tibetan capital, Lhasa, some of whom successfully exercised their influence, in his name, over the Tibetan government, particularly with respect to the conduct of foreign relations. At the height of Manchu power, which lasted a few decades, the situation was not unlike that which can exist between a superpower and a neighboring satellite or protectorate. The subjection of a state to foreign influence and even intervention in foreign or domestic affairs, however significant this may be politically, does not in itself entail the legal extinction of that state. Consequently, although some Manchu emperors exerted considerable influence over Tibet, they did not thereby incorporate Tibet into their empire, much less China.

Manchu influence did not last for very long. It was entirely ineffective by the time the British briefly invaded Tibet in I904, and ceased entirely with the overthrow of the Qing dynasty in I9II, and its replacement in China by a native republican government. Whatever ties existed between the Dalai Lama and the Qing emperor were extinguished with the dissolution of the Manchu Empire.

1911 - 1950

From I911 to I950, Tibet successfully avoided undue foreign influence and behaved, in every respect, as a fully independent state. The I3th Dalai Lama emphasized his country’s independent status externally, in formal communications to foreign rulers, and internally, by issuing a proclamation reaffirming Tibet’s independence and by strengthening the country’s defenses. Tibet remained neutral during the Second World War, despite strong pressure from China and its allies, Britain and the U.S.A. The Tibetan government maintained independent international relations with all neighboring countries, most of whom had diplomatic representatives in Lhasa.

The attitude of most foreign governments with whom Tibet maintained relations implied their recognition of Tibet’s independent status. The British government bound itself not to recognize Chinese suzerainty or any other rights over Tibet unless China signed the draft Simla Convention of I9I4 with Britain and Tibet, which China never did. Nepal’s recognition was confirmed by the Nepalese government in I949, in documents presented to the United Nations in support of that governments application for membership.

The turning point in Tibet’s history came in I949, when the People’s Liberation Army of the PRC first crossed into Tibet. After defeating the small Tibetan army, the Chinese government imposed the so-called “I7-Point Agreement for the Peaceful Liberation of Tibet” on the Tibetan government in May I951. Because it was signed under duress, the agreement was void under international law. The presence of 40,000 troops in Tibet, the threat of an immediate occupation of Lhasa and the prospect of the total obliteration of the Tibetan state left Tibetans little choice.

It should be noted that numerous countries made statements in the course of UN General Assembly debates following the invasion of Tibet that reflected their recognition of Tibet’s independent status. Thus, for example, the delegate from the Philippines declared: “It is clear that on the eve of the invasion I950, Tibet was not under the rule of any foreign country.” The delegate from Thailand reminded the assembly that the majority of states “refute the contention that Tibet is part of China.” The US joined most other UN members in condemning the Chinese “aggression” and “invasion” of Tibet.

In the course of Tibet’s 2,000-year history, the country came under a degree of foreign influence only for short periods of time in the thirteenth and eighteenth centuries. Few independent countries today can claim as impressive a record. As the ambassador for Ireland at the UN remarked during the General Assembly debates on the question of Tibet,”[f]or thousands of years, or for a couple of thousand years at any rate, [Tibet] was as free and as fully in control of its own affairs as any nation in this Assembly, and a thousand times more free to look after its own affairs than many of the nations here.”

From a legal standpoint, Tibet has to this day not lost its statehood. It is an independent state under illegal occupation. Neither China’s military invasion nor the continuing occupation has transferred the sovereignty of Tibet to China. As pointed out earlier, the Chinese government has never claimed to have acquired sovereignty over Tibet by conquest. Indeed, China recognizes that the use or threat of force (outside the exceptional circumstances provided for in the UN Charter), the imposition of an unequal treaty or the continued illegal occupation of a country can never grant an invader legal title to territory. Its claims are based solely on the alleged subjection of Tibet to a few of China’s strongest foreign rulers in the thirteenth and eighteenth centuries. If other countries were to make such tenuous claims based on their imperial past, how seriously would they be taken? Are we not, in even considering the merits of China’s arguments, accepting the right of powerful modern rulers to invade foreign countries in order to recreate lost empires of their ancestors?

Michael C. van Walt is an international legal scholar and a board member of the International Campaign for Tibet. Reprinted from the Cultural Survival Quarterly. Vol.12 1988 Number 1

John III Sobieskie

John III Sobieski, engraving by Carel Allardt.[Credits : Courtesy of the trustees of the British Museum; photograph, J.R. Freeman & Co. Ltd.] [John III Sobieski, engraving by Carel Allardt.[Credits : Courtesy of the trustees of the British Museum; photograph, J.R. Freeman & Co. Ltd.]]

John III Sobieskiking of Poland Polish Jan Sobieski

born August 17, 1629, Olesko, Poland died June 17, 1696, Wilanów

John III Sobieski, engraving by Carel Allardt.[Credits : Courtesy of the trustees of the British Museum; photograph, J.R. Freeman & Co. Ltd.]elective king of Poland (1674–96), a soldier who drove back the Ottoman Turks and briefly restored the kingdom of Poland-Lithuania to greatness for the last time.
Early life and career

Sobieski’s ancestors were of the lesser nobility, but one of his great-grandfathers was the famous grand-hetman (military commander) St. Żółkiewski, and, when John was born, his father, James (Jakób) (1588–1646), had already taken a step to the higher ranks, sharing an office on the royal court. At the end of his life, the father even became castellan of Kraków, an office that secured him the highest rank among the members of the Polish Senate, or first chamber of the parliament.

John was well educated and toured western Europe in his youth, as was usual for a Polish noble of his class. When the Swedes invaded Poland in 1655, he joined them in opposition to the Polish king John Casimir. The following year he changed sides again and became one of the leaders in the fight to expel the Swedes. In 1665, through the influence of his patroness, Queen Maria Louisa (Ludwika), he was appointed to the prestigious office of grand marshal. In 1666 he became field commander of the Polish army. In October 1667 he defeated the Tatars and the Cossacks near Podhajce (now Podgaytsy, in Ukraine), and in the spring of 1668, when he triumphantly returned to Warsaw, he was named commander in chief. In 1665 he had married an ambitious young French widow, Marie-Casimire de la Grange d’Arquien (Marysieńka). Marysieńka planned to have John elected king after King John Casimir’s resignation in 1668. When this plan failed—the nobility elected Michael Wiśniowiecki in 1669—she began working to obtain support from Louis XIV of France for her husband’s advancement. Since they were often separated—the husband on the front, his wife on journeys to France—Sobieski wrote long letters to Marysieńka, which are now a highly interesting and important historical source. Her letters have not been preserved.

During the short reign of King Michael (1669–73), Sobieski distinguished himself by further victories over the Cossacks, and simultaneously he tried to undermine Michael, whose policies favoured the Habsburgs against France. Michael died in November 1673, and almost on the same day Sobieski won a splendid victory over the Turks under Hussein Paşa near Chocim (Hoţin). Although this victory did not alter the disastrous conditions of the Peace of Buczacz concluded in 1672 (Poland had to cede territory to the Turks and to pay a considerable indemnity), Sobieski’s reputation was so great that in May 1674 he was elected king in preference to the candidate backed by the Habsburgs.

At first Sobieski followed a pro-French policy. He tried to end the Turkish war by French mediation and concluded the secret Treaty of Jaworów with France (June 1675), in which he promised to fight the Holy Roman (Habsburg) emperor after the conclusion of peace with the Turks. In fact, only an armistice with them was concluded at Żórawno (October 1676), and the conditions were only slightly more favourable than those of Buczacz.

Sobieski’s hopes of compensating for losses to the Turks in the southeast by using French and Swedish support to make territorial gains from Prussia in the northwest were also disappointed. Furthermore, Louis XIV was neither ready to recognize Marysieńka’s French relatives as members of a royal family nor willing to support the succession of Sobieski’s son James (Jakób) to the Polish throne. The great nobles, especially those from Lithuania, were opposed to the French alliance because they feared that Sobieski was striving to attain absolute power with the help of France. It was becoming clear, moreover, that it was impossible to reconcile the interests of Poland and those of Louis, whose aim was to use Sobieski as an obedient vassal against the Habsburgs. Poland, for its part, had no differences with the Habsburgs and, after a series of Turkish attacks, came to regard the Ottomans, the allies of France, as its deadliest enemies.
The siege of Vienna

Sobieski, therefore, though always an admirer of France, shifted away from the French alliance and concluded a treaty with the Holy Roman emperor Leopold I against the Turks (April 1, 1683). By the terms of the treaty, each ally had to support the other with all his might if the other’s capital were to be besieged. Thus, when a great Turkish army approached Vienna late in the summer of 1683, Sobieski himself rushed there with about 25,000 men. Because he had the highest rank of all military leaders gathered to relieve Vienna, he took command of the entire relief force (about 75,000 men) and achieved a brilliant victory over the Turks at the Kahlenberg (September 12, 1683), in one of the decisive battles of European history.

In the campaign that followed in Hungary (in the autumn of 1683), however, Sobieski was less successful, and his relations with the emperor Leopold deteriorated because of differences in temperament and conflicting political plans. Sobieski’s idea was to liberate Moldavia and Walachia (present-day Romania) from Ottoman rule and to expand Poland’s influence to the shores of the Black Sea. But his advances into Moldavia, undertaken between 1684 and 1691, were mostly failures, and during the last one he was even in danger of being captured. Despite his previous victories, he was thus not able to achieve his objective. Only in 1699, three years after his death, were the territories that had been lost in 1672 recovered.

In the last years of his life, from 1691 until his death in 1696, Sobieski was often seriously ill and had to face quarrels with the nobles and within his own family. His eldest son, James, was bitterly opposed to the queen and the younger princes. All of Sobieski’s sons were interested in succeeding to the throne and tried to obtain help, either from the emperor or from France. The marriage of Sobieski’s daughter Kunegunda to Maximilian II Emanuel, elector of Bavaria (1694), was the only bright spot in these rather gloomy years.

Although the second half of the reign was much less brilliant than the first, the personal wealth of the royal couple continued to grow because they knew how to obtain money in exchange for offices and favour. Thus, the king left a considerable fortune when he died.

Sobieski also spent large sums on his residences in Żółkiew and Jaworów and especially on the palace of Wilanów near Warsaw, a fine example of Baroque architecture. He was also a patron of poets and painters. Of all the Polish rulers of the 17th century, he was the best educated and took the greatest interest in literature and cultural life.

The struggle against Ottoman power in Europe was the keystone of Sobieski’s foreign policy, with which all other foreign relations were closely connected. When the Russians, traditionally Poland’s enemies, showed willingness to join the league against the Turks, Sobieski concluded with them the “Eternal” Peace of 1686 (the Grzymułtowski Peace). In this treaty, Kiev, which had been under temporary Russian rule since 1667, was permanently ceded by Poland. But despite all the failures and disappointments he experienced after 1683, Sobieski was able to deliver southeastern Poland from the threat of Ottoman and Tatar attack.

In domestic policy Sobieski was least successful. All his endeavours to strengthen the position of the crown and stabilize the army failed completely, and his own sons opposed him. The nobles showed little interest in defending the country after the great victory of 1683 had been won, and the Lithuanian magnates fought each other rather than the Turks. Thus, John Sobieski, although a brilliant general and organizer, was unable to prevent rebellion in his family and the dissension among his subjects that finally led to Poland’s downfall in the 18th century. This tends to make him, in the final reckoning, a somewhat tragic figure.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

From skyscrapers to Saarinen: A history of St. Louis architecture

By David Bonetti
online interactive tour

A boomtown through most of its history until at least World War I, St. Louis has inherited a fine legacy of late 19th- and early to mid-20th-century buildings. For the most part, the history of architecture and development in St. Louis parallels that history in the rest of the United States, particularly the Northeast.

There is nothing left of the French colonial village established by fur-trader Pierre Laclede in 1764. A fire that spread through crowded, docked ships devastated the area in 1849, and whatever survived was demolished 100 years later for the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial. The only building from the site of the original St. Louis that remains is the Old Cathedral, an urbane stone structure with a Doric portico built in 1834.

Remnants of other early French settlements in Ste. Genevieve and Southern Illinois preserve examples of French colonial architecture — stone warehouses and wooden dwellings made of logs laid vertically — that give some idea of what 18th-century St. Louis looked like.

St. Louis was established because of its location near the confluence of the two great rivers of North America, the Mississippi and the Missouri, and the town soon began to flourish. From 1840 to 1860, the population increased tenfold; from 1860 to 1870, it nearly doubled. In that year, the city had more than 310,000 people, making it the nation's fourth-largest city, a ranking it held through World War I.


All those people meant that a lot of building was going on. Warehouses and commercial offices crowded the levee and overflowed into the streets to the west, the first sign of the continual westward movement that has dominated St. Louis history.

Important institutions were founded and ambitious buildings were constructed to house them. The Greek Revival Old Courthouse (1839-1864) could boast of the tallest dome in North America for a couple of years before the U.S. Capitol dome surpassed it.

The Missouri Botanical Garden, founded in 1859, was the first botanical garden in the United States. The Mercantile Library, founded in 1846, is the oldest circulating library west of the Mississippi. Washington University was founded in 1853 in an upscale residential neighborhood. The St. Louis Art Museum, founded in 1879, was the first art museum west of the Mississippi. It was originally built near the university, its parent institution.

Like the colonial village built just above the levee, many of those institutions' original structures no longer survive. Washington University and the art museum both rebuilt farther to the west. In 1997, the Mercantile Library abandoned its downtown home for the University of Missouri-St. Louis.


Downtown increasingly became focused on commerce. Residential enclaves were repeatedly forced out by the spread of buying and selling and manufacturing. For a couple of generations, impressive commercial palaces that looked to the Italian and French Renaissance for stylistic models were built on downtown streets.

One of the most impressive buildings to survive downtown from the late 19th century is the Old Post Office (1873-74). Designed by U.S. government architect Alfred B. Mullett, it is in the monumental Second French Empire style, which was favored for government buildings in the United States in the years after the Civil War. Most of those structures, which had few 20th-century fans, have been demolished.

St. Louis is lucky to have retained the Old Post Office but it was a tough, costly and decades-long battle to keep it standing. Boomtowns tend not to look back; tearing down the old for the new is how they remain boomtowns. Although the city can no longer claim to be a boomtown, the unfortunate habit of demolition continues today. Think of the replacement of Edward Durell Stone's Busch Stadium with a retrograde pastiche.


St. Louis was nothing if not ambitious in the second half of the 19th century. It built the Eads Bridge (1874), an engineering marvel, the wide supporting arches of which allowed river crossing while not interfering with river traffic.

Less than 20 years later, Louis Sullivan's Wainwright Building (1890-92), arguably the first skyscraper, was constructed, leading to a taller skyline.

At the same time (1894), Union Station, one of the busiest passenger rail stations in the world, was being built, as were the Cupples Station warehouses, the complex where trade had moved when rail trumped river transport.

But an unfortunate pattern that consigned the city to decline also emerged at this time: aversion to risk. The Eads Bridge was a phenomenal achievement, but it came too late. Steamboat and ferry owners conspired to keep the bridge from being built earlier, giving Chicago the opportunity to consolidate rail power. From that time forward, St. Louis would always be second to Chicago in the Midwest.

Henceforth, St. Louis' visionary moments would be undercut by lack of foresight. At the same time that Forest Park was established in 1876, for instance, the city drew its western border excluding the areas where future growth would occur.


The residential history of St. Louis is marked by the creation of attractive upscale neighborhoods fated to be abandoned after only a generation or two because of the encroachment of business and manufacturing or of people judged undesirable by the bourgeoisie. The influx of African-Americans during the Great Migration of the mid-20th century added "white flight" to an already established pattern of the middle classes moving west.

St. Louis didn't invent the private street, but private or quasi-private streets have dominated residential construction here for more than 150 years.

The first private street was Lucas Place, which was laid out downtown in 1851. Only the Campbell House remains from that development. More intact is Benton Place in the Lafayette Square neighborhood, which was opened in 1867.

The most famous private streets are in the Central West End. These housing estates, most of them built at the time of the 1904 World's Fair, are still very impressive.

St. Louis has always been famous for the high quality work of its building trades, and the spacious houses that line these closed-off streets, often guarded by an ornate gatehouse, are testimony to their skills.

Masonry construction is the norm, with high quality brickwork highlighted by carved stone, wood-paneled rooms and stained-glass windows creating fine domestic ensembles.

The houses that line the private streets represent an encyclopedia of historical styles. Gothic abuts Federal; Tudor makes itself a neighbor of Italian or French Renaissance; Richardsonian Romanesque tips its hat to Vienna Secessionist.


The Louisiana Purchase Exposition marked St. Louis' economic and cultural peak. Although it was the largest World's Fair ever organized, it was another example of the city playing catch-up with Chicago, which held its epochal fair in 1893. The fair's buildings were temporary, with the exception of the Palace of Fine Arts, which became the new home for the city's art museum, an imposing Beaux-Arts structure that stands on the top of Art Hill.

At the same time, Washington University's new campus opened west of Forest Park. Built in collegiate Gothic style, the new campus is perhaps more significant for the fact that it was located in St. Louis County, increasingly the site of building activity in the area.

There were two last flurries of urban development in St. Louis. In the first decades of the 20th century, the luxurious residential neighborhoods surrounding Grand and Lindell boulevards gave way to an entertainment center tagged Midtown. The art deco Continental Building (1928) scraped the sky, and the Fox Theatre (1929) brought an eclectic, over-the-top flamboyance to the theater scene. Downtown, a City Beautiful-inspired mall lined by bland government buildings took form along Market Street.

During the Depression and World War II, there was little building activity here or anywhere else in the war-torn world.


After the war, building resumed, primarily in St. Louis County. Clayton grew a downtown dominated by stubby towers, and corporations built campuses along the interstates.

The area was fortunate that a group of sensitive modernists dominated the local architectural profession. Homes influenced by Frank Lloyd Wright emerged from the landscape of Ladue and Creve Coeur by such architects as William Bernoudy and Harris Armstrong.

A young Minoru Yamasaki captured the spirit of flight at Lambert International Airport, and Gyo Obata gave distinction to a handful of high-rises downtown.

New museums by "starchitects" such as Tadao Ando and Fumihiko Maki put St. Louis on the global art map.

Of course, the symbol of the city and its unquenchable aspiration to be better than it is was also constructed then. Eero Saarinen's Gateway Arch (1965) remains a rebuke to our doubt. A symbol of unity, it suggests that we can achieve what we desire if we work together.

The Adventures of Lewis & Clark

On May 14, 1804—204 years ago today—Lewis & Clark began their excellent adventure. The great Michael Stusser is with us to recap America’s most celebrated road trip.Imagine taking a road trip with some friends, but this time, you’re not in a Winnebago during Spring Break or runnin’ a quickie to Tijuana and back. There are no cell phones, no GPS systems and no 24-hour convenience stores. Nope, this little jaunt is about 8,000 miles round-trip, and you’ll be lucky to travel 12 clicks on a good day. There’s no reliable map to guide your path. You’ll have to chow stewed dog meat to stave off starvation. Oh, and you’ll encounter hail the size of grapefruit, rattlesnakes galore and potentially hostile tribes who very well may want to kill you.

The good news? You can’t get lost because you have no idea where you’re going.

We’re talking, of course, about the great journey of Lewis and Clark, the original cross-country Hikapalooza over 200 years ago when the first U.S. citizens reached the Pacific by land. Together, the members of the expedition braved that big mass of unknown territory known as “the geography of hope,” an uncharted land full of rumors, from Bigfoot to savage cannibals. Not to mention gold under the rainbow.

A Three Hour Tour…
President Thomas Jefferson was the one who came up with this crazy idea, but he made it sound pretty simple: Explore a water route up the Missouri River and then along the Northwest Passage to the Pacific Coast. Yeah, right.

While the idea of finding a path connecting the two shores was a good call, it was pretty much impossible because of those pesky Rocky Mountains (who knew?). So what was supposed to be a quick trip to the Pacific ended up lasting 28 months.

To organize the expedition, Jefferson called on Meriwether Lewis, a 29-year-old fellow Virginian and his personal secretary. Lewis accepted the challenge and got his old Army buddy, William Clark, to ride shotgun. Of course, for Clark, partnering with Lewis meant demoting himself from Lewis’s previous superior officer to the equal-ranking position of captain. It was an important political move, and one that he wouldn’t forget (stay tuned).

lewis-clark-compass.jpgWhile Clark recruited and trained the team, Lewis took a series of crash courses in kayaking, medicine and scientific observation (image of their compass courtesy of Smithsonian Legacies). The crew consisted of a black slave (Clark’s) named York, a dog (a Newfoundland named Seaman) and a support staff of four dozen (mostly soldiers and gung-ho frontiersmen). For provisions, the group took along some party mix, mainly in the form of “ardent spirits” — a.k.a., 120 gallons of Kentucky Whiskey, about 30 gallons of brandy and a spot of rum (to ward off the chill, of course). The caravan also toted a traveling library, cooking kettles, canvas tenting, trade goods, axes, and personal possessions such as Lewis’ writing desk and his favorite blankie. They called their new troop the Corps of Volunteers for North Western Discovery. Although, had the crew known what they were in for, they might have called it, Do It Yourself; We’re Not Crazy.

I’ll Trade You a Piece of Gum for That Tomahawk
The trip began on May 14, 1804. At least for a little while, the journey was the kind of cake walk President Jefferson had predicted. Missouri, Kansas, Iowa and Nebraska were in full summer swing, flowers were blooming, and gentle hills greeted the group at every turn.

But the Corps knew that as they ventured further west they would enter what were contractually Spanish and French territories. Of course, the land really belonged to the many bands of Native Americans living in the west who had called the area home for over 15,000 years. Lewis and Clark were a little nervous that the natives wouldn’t be too happy to see a bunch of pasty white strangers tramping on their land, but rather than be selfish or aggressive to the new explorers, the hundreds of Indian tribes inhabiting the region acted more like AAA, aiding the expedition time and time again with food and shelter.

The first indigenous peoples the Corps came upon were part of a small group of Oto and Missouri Indians. Knowing there might be some tension for crashing the party, Lewis and Clark had prepared gift baskets for the people they encountered, offering the natives specially minted bronze Presidential Peace Medals. Then they set up a virtual Swap Meet where they traded materials such as canteens, looking-glasses, fish hooks (popular), uniform coats (very popular) and guns (more popular). That was the usual routine: Dole out a few gifts (tobacco, beads, chewing gum) and march a little in formation, after which Lewis would calmly inform the tribes that they were now a part of the United States. Strangely, this didn’t anger the Native Americans, but only because, after multiple translations, they probably had no idea what old pale-face was saying.

Their hospitality plans certainly worked, and throughout the Corps’ journey, the men continued to receive crucial supplies, advice and guidance from the 50-some odd Native American tribes they encountered. At one critical juncture, the Nez Percé tribe gave them meals when they had little to eat themselves. Other tribes provided canoes, improved footwear and important information about the terrain ahead.

tribe even provided them with “extended stay” shelter from the snow. The Corps spent the entire winter of 1804-05 in what is now North Dakota with the Mandan and Hidatsa Indians, who lived in an earth-lodge community that housed over 4,500 people (more than St. Louis or Washington D.C. had at the time). It’s here that Lewis and Clark met the now-famous Sacagawea. Her husband, a French-Canadian fur trapper named Toussaint Charbonneau, had been hired as an interpreter and guide for the explorers, and it was agreed that he and his wife would accompany the Corps on their journey. But Sacagawea proved a better translator than her hubby, as well as a better tour guide. More importantly, Sacagawea put a pretty face on the group. Her presence allowed them to be seen by strange tribes not as a war company, but as a research party. Her infant son and his incessant screaming were less helpful, but there are pros and cons to everything.

Are We There Yet? Are We There Yet? Are We There Yet?
When the Corps left “Fort Mandan” (North Dakota) in April of 1805, they began the big push west. Leaving two riff-raff soldiers behind at winter camp, they headed out with 32 men, Sacagawea and her son.

It was at this point that they faced their biggest physical obstacle: the Rocky Mountains. Without horses, there was no way the group would be able to carry their gear across, a problem soon solved when the Corps encountered a band of Shoshone Indians. In one of those “you’ve gotta be kidding me” coincidences, Sacagawea’s brother turned out to be the chief of the tribe, so they got a pretty sweet barter deal on a bunch of stallions. It still took the Corps two solid months to cross the Rockies. On the up side, they got great views of the Gates of the Mountains, Three Forks and the Bitterroot Range (so called because when they saw those suckers and realized the ocean was nowhere in sight, ‘twas a bitter pill).

Even after they made it over the Rockies, they kept running into problems: broken boats, grueling climbs, swarms of mosquitoes, even grizzlies. They trudged through snow in the Bitterroot Range, battled the Missouri River’s fierce currents for its entire 2,400-mile length and dealt with nasty rains that literally rotted the clothes off their backs.

When the crew reached present-day Oregon, they knew they were getting close. Although it was new to them, the area was a huge marketplace for Natives all over the west, bustling with hundreds of traders and merchants. Soon thereafter, on November 18, 1805, the crew finally strolled up onto the sands of the Pacific. Though it took the Corps a year and a half to reach what was known as Cape Disappointment, their attitude was quite the opposite.

“Ocian [sic] in view! O! the joy,” exclaimed the spelling-impaired Clark in his journal. History was made. Like teenagers at Lover’s Lane, they carved their initials and the date on a tree to commemorate the journey from sea to shining sea.

Home Sweet Home
The voyage was successful, but it wasn’t all Slurpees and Motel 6’s. As happens on many road trips, not everyone got along. Clark became fed up with Lewis, whose authoritative ways and constant slights didn’t exactly facilitate a “we’re in this together” attitude. In fact, Lewis was hit with the moniker “Frown” for his general demeanor and management style. Sentries caught sleeping on night watch received 100 lashes, and members of the Corps who wanted to go AWOL and join Native American tribes along the way had to run for their lives, lest Lewis shoot them dead.

On March 23, 1806, the Corps left newly-built Fort Clatsop, and headed home. The two leaders took separate routes homeward (not because they couldn’t get along, but to map more turf), and found more people heading west just as they returned. Commerce flourished up the Missouri, and in the Rockies, the fur trade was in full swing. The frontier floodgates had officially opened.

In the last week of September 1806, two years and four months after departing, the Corps of Discovery arrived back in St. Louis. Congress gave each member of the expedition double-pay and a chunk of land. Lewis became governor of the Louisiana Territory and Clark took over command of the Louisiana military.

All seemed right with the world. Clark basked in his newfound fame, married a nice gal and (leaving future road trips to others) settled in St. Louis as a socialite. But Lewis met a more surprising fate. Only three years after his return, during a trip to Washington, D.C., he killed himself in an apparent bout of depression.

Lewis and Clark were two very different men, but they nevertheless managed to lead the Corps of Discovery to resounding success. They saw the amazing variance of the country: the great salmon runs of the Columbia River, the giant Evergreens and the sheer vastness of the land. And, most importantly, the duo made it back to tell the tale. They also set the trend for doing exactly what thousands still do today to get to know our great land: Hit the road, Jack. Tread lightly.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Triple Cross: How Britain Created the Arab-Israel Conflict

Triple Cross: How Britain Created the Arab-Israel Conflict
By Rachel Neuwirth
I hope that no one will mistake me for an enemy of the British people. I lived in London for six months, and I have been a frequent visitor to England. I can testify to the warmth, hospitality, courtesy, and friendliness of her people. A foreigner staying as the guest of an English friend is cosseted as if he or she were a long-lost niece or nephew. It is easy to strike up a conversation with a total stranger in a public place who quickly becomes a friend. When one is boarding a train with a heavy bag, there is always someone willing to help you get your bag in it before the train leaves (this too rarely happens Stateside). When one gives an Englishman or Englishwoman a tip for services, he or she usually says thank you and smiles -- a man will even doff his cap to you when tipped. Even taxi-drivers are friendly and helpful. They go so far as to entertain their fares with jokes and puns. Try to find a taxi-driver like that in New York!

Nevertheless, some members of Britain's still extant class structure reveal a darker side to the British national character. Her "chattering classes," as the British call them -- journalists, academics, writers, "talking heads" and "intellectuals" -- include in their ranks all too many people who are moralistic, self-righteous and judgmental without being genuinely ethical. Many (of course, by no means all) of the people in these classes are quick to express indignation at the alleged misdeeds of others, while ignoring the principles expressed in Lincoln's formula, "with malice toward none and charity toward all," or the New Testament saying, "judge not that you be not judged," and in the Talmudic saying, "judge no man until you have stood in his shoes." Rather, these classes are subject to what Lord Byron called "fits of morality" that are arbitrary, capricious, extremely selective, and vindictive.

If the British chattering classes have their shortcomings, they are still not as severe as that of Britain's politicians and "civil servants" (read "bureaucrats") who specialize in foreign and colonial policy. All too many British officials in these branches of the government (again, not by any means all) speak the language of morality (phrases like "a sacred trust" come easily to their lips) while pursuing what they regard as the interests of the British Empire (now disguised as the British Commonwealth) by any and all means, including lies, deceit, trickery and broken promises. It is these officials who, through the centuries, have won for Britain the venerable ignominious epithet "perfidious Albion."

Outside of the Muslim countries, no press in the world is as biased, as unfair, and as dishonest and vindictive towards Israel as the British press. The BBC and the newspapers The Guardian and The Independent take the lead in relentlessly vilifying the Jewish state, but Sky News, Reuters, The Economist and numerous other major media outlets do not lag far behind them in their race to see which can defame and malign Israel the most. Israel is incessantly castigated as an imperialist and colonialist power whose people stole their country from its "indigenous" and rightful owners, the "Palestinians."

That the press of a country that at one time or another conquered a substantial chunk of the entire world by the most ruthless and deceitful means imaginable (consider, for example, Sir Walter Raleigh's frank account of the murderous treachery that he employed to seize Trinidad from the Spanish, or Sir Francis Drake's ruthless plundering of the Spanish colonies) should castigate as colonialist, imperialist and racist a country that, even including the "occupied" territories, is only the size of Wales -- which, by the way, is yet another country that England conquered in a series of brutal wars -- is hard to fathom. So is the British press's outrage at Israel's "undemocratic" rule over perhaps a million and a half Arabs, when Britain ruled for centuries in the most autocratic manner hundreds of millions of subjects, many more people than lived in Britain itself, to whom it gave no democratic rights whatsoever. Britain only surrendered this Empire when it was bankrupt after two world wars, and no longer had the means to hold onto it. Even then, she surrendered it only under intense prodding from the United States, whose help she absolutely needed to rebuild her shattered economy and defend herself.

Yet the press and government of this nation that ruled vast territories thousands of miles from its own shores, countries that posed no threat whatsoever to Britain, have the gall to condemn Israel for maintaining a few checkpoints in the "Palestinian" territories, located only a few miles or in some cases only a few yards from her major population centers, in order to prevent terrorists from bringing bombs into these population centers and using them to murder thousands of Israelis. And they have the gall to call these checkpoints an "occupation," even after Israel unilaterally handed over most populated areas of the "occupied" territories (whose total size, in any case, is only equal to that of the English suburban county of Sussex) to her enemies, in a vain attempt to make peace with them.

The British press creates the impression that Britain has no connection to "Palestine" except as a sympathetic observer of the suffering of its Arab inhabitants at the hands of "Zionism." One would never guess from reading it that it was not so long ago that Britain ruled Palestine, or that she set in motion the Arab-Israel conflict in the first place, or that the conflict would not even exist without decades of British broken promises and odious divide-and rule maneuvers in the Middle East.

Britain conquered Palestine from the Turks in 1917-18. First Her Majesty's Government promised Palestine to the Jews in the Balfour Declaration in 1917, and then again in the League of Nations Mandate for Palestine of 1922, in which it solemnly accepted as "a sacred trust of civilization" to "be responsible for placing the country under such political, administrative and economic conditions as will secure the establishment of the Jewish national home." Then it repudiated that promise in a "White Paper" of 1939, which announced her intention to allow only 75,000 Jewish immigrants into Palestine over the next five years (this as World War II and the Holocaust was just beginning) and after that to allow no further Jewish immigration without Arab consent. The White Paper also placed severe restrictions on the purchase of land by Jews. And it promised the Palestinian Arabs that Palestine would become an independent Arab state within ten years. All this was in flagrant violations of the League of Nations Mandate for Palestine; the League of Nations Mandates Commission noted this, and refused to ratify the White Paper. Britain implemented it anyway -- to the extent of refusing to admit to Palestine 750 Jews who had managed to escape Nazi Europe in a leaky boat while the Holocaust was in full swing. The Jews were forced to turn back into the human-shark-infested waters of the Black Sea, where their leaky crate was torpedoed, and all but one of them killed.

Other Jews who managed to reach the shores of Palestine were deported by the British Navy to the remote island of Mauritius and kept in a detention camp, where many of them died of disease before finally being released after the end of the war. This British measure was strangely reminiscent of an earlier Nazi plan to deport the Jews of Europe to Madagascar, a larger island in the Indian Ocean not far from Mauritius. Still the British detained other Jews who managed to board ships bound for Palestine for years in camps on Cyprus. This was the way His Majesty's Government kept its promises to the Jews.

Having already promised Palestine to both the Jews and the Palestinian Arabs, Britain after World War II promised it again, this time to Syria! Secret British correspondence, recently discovered by an Israeli scholar, not in the archives of Britain but in those of France, which intercepted British and Syrian communications through espionage, reveals that the British promised to hand over Palestine to Syria in return for making Britain Syria's "protector" to replace France. The British even assisted the Syrians to carry out a massacre of French civilians and soldiers in order to force France out of Syria.

Britain encouraged the Arab states to form an "Arab League" as World War II came to an end. A British representative sat in on the League's meetings and raised no objections as the Arab states planned to invade Palestine -- even though Palestine was still under British control!

In 1947, Britain referred Palestine to the United Nations and asked it to find a solution to the conflict between Jews and Arabs in Palestine that Britain had done so much to foster through its contradictory promises to both sides. When the United Nations General Assembly adopted a resolution recommending that Palestine be partitioned into separate and independent Jewish and Arab states, His Majesty's Government, through its representative in the United Nations, solemnly promised to help implement the resolution, even though it had not voted for it.

Instead, the British sabotaged the resolution in every way possible. It refused even to allow the commission that had been appointed by the United Nations General Assembly to oversee implementation of the partition resolution into the country. On the other hand, it permitted the Arab states to send troops into Palestine under the guise of "volunteers," even before the British administration had completed its withdrawal from the country. It stood aside and did nothing to preserve order as war raged throughout the country and thousands of both Jews and Arabs were killed, even though it nominally retained responsibility for the administration of Palestine until May 15, 1948. Worst of all, it withdrew its administration without appointing or recognizing any government, Jewish or Arab, to take its place, or organizing any kind of successor administration. In an unprecedented act in the history of colonialism, the British simply withdrew, leaving the country that they had misgoverned for thirty years in total chaos. One British author has called this bizarre act an "experiment in anarchy." Another has characterized British policy in Palestine as "divide and lose."

Britain's two-faced machinations did not prevent Israel from winning the independence that the Jews had been promised, but only at the cost of thousands of lives, and with no help whatsoever from the promise-bearing great power. However, Israel has had to live in a constant state of siege from neighbors who remain at war with her, and who still refuse to allow her the "secure and recognized borders" enjoyed by all other sovereign states in the world.

The Palestinian Arabs never got the state that Britain promised them. Syria never "received" Palestine in accordance with Britain's secret promise, either. First incited to go to war for Palestine, and then left to shift for themselves by their forked-tongued British ‘friends," the Palestinian and Syrian Arabs are still fighting Israel for the land that Britain once promised each of them.

Britain, for her part, has done absolutely nothing to encourage the Arab states to make peace with Israel. Instead, its inflammatory press incessantly incites the Arabs to continue their war of terror against the Jews. The British Foreign Office has done nothing to discourage the British gutter press from indulging in this incendiary propaganda and misinformation campaign. And the BBC, a government owned and controlled station with close ties to the Foreign Office, has actively participated in the hostile propaganda and incitement against Israel, in both its Arabic and English-language services.

It ought not to be forgotten that the British flag consists of a triple cross -- the cross of St. George for England, that of St. Andrew for Scotland, and that of St. Patrick for Ireland (Wales, it would seem, does not even merit a cross!). What a fitting symbol this "Union Jack" is for the nation that triple-crossed the Jewish people, the Arabs of Palestine, and Syria into believing that she would give each of them Palestine, while breaking its promises to all three. It is a trail of broken promises that has led to six decades of seemingly endless war.