Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Poor town is always "simply not the same"

Mark Danner - whom we all like -
York Review, of how Washington
came to be, once again, simply
not the same, thanks to Richard
Cheney, of the bionic pacemaker.
He adopts the hideous catchphrase
for watersheds such as this, the
new normal, and I keep meaning to
upbraid him for it here, but I've
been more interested in his facts.
Trouble is, there is no normal to
be found in Washington, ever; and
since the swamp was severed from
the Fairfax estate, nothing new.

You well remember, I know, what
palms there used to be on embassy
row, until Donald Maclean, Guy
Burgess, and Kim Philby material-
ised to shake our first security
establishment to its roots, such
as they were. There was the ner-
vous, bibulous Maclean, disturbed
by his own shadow; the flagrantly
louche (a redundancy?) Burgess
for distraction; and ever the es-
timably natty Kim of determined
calm, as noted above. Yet unto
every generation, their story is
retold; and it seems to be the
fate of our experience, to bridge 
the gap between the shocked and 
the unshockable, between the wit
of Acheson and the bile of Rich-
ard Cheney. Possibly we will be
the last to know the fault line.

The present embodiment of this re-
telling just arrived from London yes-
terday, where it has been somewhat
"history" which appears to take the
position, that class consciousness
led to class cohesion in Britain's
espionage sieve, and explains most
of this whole sensational tale. How
very inadequate this perspective is,
will be known to every girl and boy
who ever attended a dance open to 
the public. But here it is again.

I welcome this new volume because it does enrich the context of details in a story worth understanding, even though that under-standing has already been persuasively conveyed to our hands. The greater part of our debt is owed to a deceased historian this book undertakes gratuitously to defame. Here a journalist portrays what truly was the destruction of the British security apparatus, to the gigantic cost and uncured confusion of the one we run, here, as a narrative of betrayal. We know it was a great deal more than that, and this is the common reader's excuse for revisiting the spectacle. It was a collusion in the fallacies of true belief. That restaurant is still open, feeding every horseman.

Mark Danner
The Massacre at
  El Mozote
  A Parable of the
  Cold War
Vintage Books, 1993©

Torture and Truth
  America, Abu Ghraib and
  the War on Terror
New York Review Books, 2004©

Ben Macintyre
A Spy among Friends
  Kim Philby and the
  Great Betrayal
Bloomsbury, 2014©

Hugh Trevor-Roper
The Philby Affair
  Espionage, Treason, 
  and Secret Services
Encounter, 1968©

The Ideal Husband
May 9, 1968
The New York Review
  of Books©

Acts of the Apostles
March 31, 1983
The New York Review
  of Books©

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