Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Is Kingsolver Right For Duke (Post 2)

Yesterday I posted Is Kingsolver Right For Duke (Post 1)

Many at Duke believe President Richard Brodhead’s stumbled yet again.

This time it’s his selection of prize-winning novelist, Bush-basher and ardent leftist Barbara Kingsolver as Duke’s 2008 commencement speaker.
I linked to pieces pro and con Kingsolver’s selection. I also followed Brodhead’s advice to his selection critics: read more.
That led me to a Washington Post op-ed Kingsolver wrote a few months after 9/11.

Quoting extensively from President Franklin Roosevelt’s January 6, 1941 State of the Union address, Kingsolver compared what she said FDR was advocating in his address with how she viewed what President Bush was doing at the time.

Of course, Bush fared badly.

But FDR fared even worse as Kingsolver completely misunderstood what he was saying. ***

Example: Kingsolver said FDR:

"instead of invoking fear of outsiders he embraced their needs as our own and called for defending, not just at home but on all the earth, what he called the four freedoms: freedom of speech and expression, freedom of religion, freedom from fear, freedom from want."
Near the end of his speech FDR did invoke the four freedoms but the main thrusts of his speech were to warn in graphic detail of the threat posed by “outsiders” (the Axis nations) and to insist America immediately alter its economy from a peacetime to a wartime footing.

In today’s post I want to return to another part of Kingsolver’s WaPo op-ed and again ask you whether she’s “right for Duke?”

Kingsolver’s op-ed appeared Nov, 23, 2001 just as our troops were displacing the brutal Taliban regime. That led her to declare:
”Freedom from fear, freedom from want -- these clearly aren't meant just now for the millions of Afghan civilians placed at risk of starvation because of the war.”
But it wasn’t the war that was placing millions of Afghan’s at risk of starvation, something Kingsolver surely knew.

For months before 9/11 reports of an impending famine in Afghanistan had been widely reported in the Western press.

From a July 2001 UN World Food Program (WFP) report:
A third successive year of drought has left Afghanistan teetering on the brink of widespread famine and placed the lives of millions of people at risk.

A joint FAO/WFP Crop and Food Supply Assessment mission sent to Afghanistan in May has returned from the field warning that the almost total failure of the 2001 harvest means some five million people will require humanitarian food aid to survive.

With worsening economic conditions undermining Afghanistan's own capacity to fill the hunger gap with imports, WFP estimates a cereal deficit of one million tonnes.

"Given the scale and magnitude of the food crisis facing Afghanistan, the mission urges the most urgent international response to avert an imminent catastrophe," warned the report. […]
By the time Kingsolver wrote her op-ed she also knew of the extensive and heroic efforts of America’s military to avert the famine.

Excerpts from the Oct. 20, 2001 NY Times:
The C-17 cargo plane was 10 minutes from its drop zone when the rear door opened onto the night sky high above Afghanistan. Frigid air burst into the cabin, washing over food boxes that stood like soldiers at attention before an American flag.

Crouching before the door, his oxygen mask pressing hard against his face, a staff sergeant named Paul signaled that the plane was one minute from its target.

Suddenly, with a rush like a powerful freight train gathering speed, 42 boxes flew out the door, opening in midair and raining their contents -- bright yellow packets of food -- on the countryside below.

Within seconds, the C-17 and two sister planes had spilled 51,000 plastic packages, each containing two ready-to-eat meals, over a remote valley in northern Afghanistan. Each wrapper bore a message, ''Food gift from the people of the United States of America,'' in English.

Thus went the 10th mission of the Pentagon's war on hunger in Afghanistan, where cargo planes scatter boxes of lentil stew and rice-and-beans near famine-stricken villages even as jets shower bombs on Taliban positions. . . .

Western relief organizations have also criticized the Pentagon food program as inadequate for a nation where as many as 7.5 million people could be at risk of starving by the end of the year.

The relief organizations assert that the food drops are blurring the line between relief efforts and the military campaign and thereby jeopardizing the safety of truck drivers and others who are hauling the vast bulk of food overland from Pakistan. . . .

The crews working on these missions say their drops have been right on target, though they acknowledge it is hard to know whether many people are finding, much less eating, the food. For that reason, a photograph of gaunt Afghans collecting the yellow packets this week was a soul-lifting sight for them.

''It helped my daughter understand why I'm over here and can't come home,'' said Bill, 31, a captain and C-17 pilot with the 437th Air Lift Wing from Charleston, S.C. . . ..

For all the apparent simplicity of tossing food from a plane, the air drops are complex missions. To begin with, the State Department needs permission to fly over half a dozen countries, including the former Soviet republics of Georgia, Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan.

Each flight requires a large supporting cast, including KC-135 tankers, Awacs command and control planes and fighter jets to protect the C-17's over hostile territory. . . .

The planes fly at unusually high altitudes -- typically over 25,000 feet -- to avoid Taliban antiaircraft fire. But at those heights crews run the risk of decompression sickness, caused by the bubbling of nitrogen out of the blood, when the cabin is depressurized so the cargo door can be safely opened.

In extreme cases, those bubbles can clog veins, causing severe pain and even death. Flight surgeons or physiologists have been assigned to the crews to watch for early symptoms of the illness.
By Jan. 4, 2002 the State Department was able to report:
U.S. and U.N. efforts in Afghanistan appear to have averted starvation in the country, U.S. State Department officials said Jan. 3.

Aid organizations have moved more than 200,000 tons of food into Afghanistan since Oct. 1, according to U.S. Agency for International Development Administrator Andrew Natsios and Alan Kreczko, the acting assistant secretary of state for the Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration.

"Of that 200,000 tons, 64 percent of it came from the United States," Natsios said. "So almost two-thirds of the food that went in came from America."

Natsios forecast earlier that more than 1.5 million Afghans faced starvation unless help could flow into the war-torn country.

DoD played a major role in averting a humanitarian disaster even as the attack against Taliban and Al Qaeda targets in Afghanistan was fully engaged.

DoD dropped 2.2 million humanitarian daily rations from Oct. 7 to Dec. 13, said Mike McNerney, a foreign affairs specialist with DoD's Humanitarian Affairs office.
Those dates covered the startup of operations against the terrorists and when DoD ended the "flutter drop" of the rations.

Also, DoD contributed greatly to solving the humanitarian crisis simply by driving off the Taliban government. In December, as Taliban control was ending, aid organizations were able to ship in 116,000 tons of food, double what they were able to deliver in November. Before that, Taliban officials had confiscated aid organizations warehouses, vehicles and supplies. They also limited distribution of food to certain areas of the country.

DoD helped in other ways. For example, military transport aircraft bulk-dropped wheat, blankets and foodstuffs during the fighting.

And DoD has coordinated the logistics behind the aid. The department "'deconflicted' the airspace so humanitarian operations wouldn't conflict with combat operations," McNerney said.

U.S. Central Command also coordinated what coalition partners could help airlift supplies to the region. Officials said Germany, Belgium, Spain and Italy were among the countries helping get supplies to the area.

Finally, DoD helped clear and operate airfields. "What really helped there was getting personnel in place to distribute food," McNerney said. While trucks have delivered most , getting U.N. and non-governmental organization personnel in place made the distribution go that much quicker.

Natsios said the world should congratulate the international organizations that did the primary distribution into the country and the NGOs that did the distribution from Afghan warehouses to the remote villages and to the cities. […]
Is Kingsolver right for Duke?

Here’s another look at what she said in Nov. 2001 concerning the military effort to displace the Taliban and starvation in Afshanistan:
”Freedom from fear, freedom from want -- these clearly aren't meant just now for the millions of Afghan civilians placed at risk of starvation because of the war.”


Anonymous said...


"Is Kingsolver right for Duke?"

Let's see....she appears to be unable read and understand English, doesn't follow the news, is plainly illogical and seems impervious to comments of her glaring errors.

Yes, she's exactly the right person for Duke.


JWM said...

Dear Ken,

I'm with you.

I always appreciate your comments.

If you see this one please let me know you have.



Anonymous said...


"If you see this one please let me know you have."

At your service.


Anonymous said...

Brodhead does NOT care if Kingsolver is right for Duke. He only cares if He gets to make His choice, His way.

It is NOT about Duke. When will folks get that point?

As far as Brodhead is concerned, it is ALL ABOUT BRODHEAD.