27 September 2003

A misunderstood allusion?

This was from my address last evening:

Most of the power we encounter on a day-to-day basis is scarcely identifiable as such – at least at first glance. A favourite teacher or pastor may have a certain influence over us. A friend persuades us to accompany her to a baseball game or a concert. Or, in a more sinister manifestation, a president selectively submits, or even fabricates, information to the Congress so that it will vote in favour of an unwise military action.

My students thought that last sentence was referring to George W. Bush's efforts to persuade Congress of the propriety of attacking Iraq half a year ago. In fact, this passage comes straight from my book and was meant originally to refer to President Lyndon Johnson's use of the Gulf of Tonkin incident in 1964 to escalate the American military presence in Vietnam. But it could have more than one application.

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