Twenty Years Later

by Akim Reinhardt

Jan. 18, 1991 - Operation Desert Storm - Skies over Baghdad (AP)
Operation Desert Storm bombing of Baghdad, 1991 (AP)

Last week marked the 20th anniversary to the start of America’s recently concluded second Gulf War. It’s also been nearly 33 years since the much shorter first Gulf War, a.k.a. Desert Storm (1990–91). Unlike the “great” wars, these haven’t merited Roman numerals.

My own Roman numerals now begin with an L. I am oldish. One of the advantages is that I can conjure fairly clear, adult memories of things that happened quite a while ago. Not just the fragmented, highly impressionistic snapshots leftover from childhood, but recollections of complex interactions and evolving ideas. As a professional historian, I know that some healthy skepticism is called for; such memories are not always reliable and cry out for corroboration. However, as we look back on the Gulf Wars, I’m not interested in reciting history so much as thinking about what they have meant to me. Me: a lifelong American who has never been in the military, but has friends who served in both Gulf Wars, some of whom still struggle with it; me as someone who felt mildly conflicted about the first Gulf War and opposed it meekly, but who spoke out more stridently against the second one.

I was 22 years old when George Bush the elder cast his thousand points of light over Baghdad. I used that war as an excuse not to dodge the draft (there was none), but to dodge work. When the bombs began falling, I called the hospital where I clerked the midnight shift hanging x-rays on alternators, and told them I was taking a personal day, or rather a night, to stay home and watch the news; I had family in Israel, against whom Saddam Hussein was launching batteries of SCUD missiles. It was barely the truth. I do have some very distant family in Israel, but they migrated there from Poland a century ago, I’ve never communicated with any of them, and know nothing of them other than the surname they share with my mother’s family. I used them as an excuse to stay home and watch television, like most Americans. Read more »

American Regicide

by Akim Reinhardt

Heneage Finch, Earl of Nottingham, An Exact and Most Impartial Account of the Indictment. of 29 Regicides.  (London: Andrew Crook, 1660)Donald Trump is going down. His house of cards will collapse at some point. The leaks will keep flowing and eventually his position will become untenable. Conflicts of interest. Connections to Russia. All of it will become too great a weight to carry, especially since The Donald has very few genuine allies in Washington.

The Democrats want him gone. So too do most of the Republicans. Hell, they never wanted him to begin with. The GOP did everything it could to derail his candidacy, and only climbed aboard after Trump's runaway train was the last red line careening towards the White House. So for now they're playing nice with the former Democrat who eschews Conservative dogma in a variety of ways and is loyal to absolutely no one save himself. But when the moment comes, they'll gladly trade Trump in for Mike Pence, a Conservative's wet dream.

For all these reasons, Trump may not make it to the finish line. But there's one more factor to consider: the precedent of regicide. And to understand that, we should begin by briefly recounting of the demise of the Ottoman sultan Osman II.

Young Osman II ascended the Ottoman throne in 1618 at the tender age of 14. Wishing to assert himself, in 1621 he personally led an invasion of Poland, which ended with a failed siege of Chota (aka Khotyn, now in western Ukraine). In a rather unwise move, Osman blamed the defeat on his elite fighting force, the Janissaries. Afterwards, he ordered the shuttering of Janissary coffee shops, which he saw as a hotbed of conspiracies against him. The Janissaries responded with a palace uprising. In 1622 they imprisoned the 17 year old monarch and soon after killed him. Because it was strictly forbidden to spill royal blood, they strangled him to death.

I first learned about the rise and fall of Osman II in 1992 while taking a graduate course on Ottoman history. "Something happens," our professor warned us in a foreboding tone, "the first time an empire commits regicide."

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