Monday 26 October 2009

Black 47 October Newsletter

October Sets The Gypsy Blood Astir

In This Issue
20th Anniversary Connolly's Gigs/IBAM Chicago
Confirmed Gigs/New Facebook Page
IRAQ CD Reviews
Joe Burcaw: Bass Player Sept. 2009
B47 @ Connolly's DVD / Green Suede Shoes
New Dates Added / New Black 47 Blog

Oct 31 IBAM Irish Heritage Center, Chicago IL

Nov 21/28 - Dec 5/12 Connolly's, NYC

Dec 11 Keltic House, Fishkill, NY

*Dec 31 New Year's Eve in Connolly's *

Black 47 will do FOUR Saturdays in Connolly's this fall to commemorate our 20th Year on Nov 21/28 and Dec 5/12. Not to forget our annual Connolly's New Year's Eve Celebration in Times Square. Tickets are now available online for the four Saturdays and New Year's Eve at

And we'll play Halloween Night at IBAM (Irish Books and Music) in a a benefit for the Irish Heritage Center in Chicago on Oct. 31st.
Come along and support the IHC over a great weekend. I'll be reading along with authors such as Malachy & Alphie McCourt, Michael Patrick McDonald, Mary Pat Kelly on Sunday afternoon.
In November 1989, George Bush the Elder was President and the country was in the midst of a recession when Chris Byrne and I played the first Black 47 date in the Bronx. I can't remember the name of the pub except that I heard it was later dynamited. Such were the times. The occasion was a benefit,Bernadette Devlin McAliskey was the featured speaker. We were playing the song Desperate when someone yelled out, "play something Irish." To which I replied in some angst and much befuddlement, "I'm Irish. I wrote it. That makes it Irish." We'll play Desperate and many more Black 47 favorites along with songs from the new album due for release in Feb. I hope you'll join us to celebrate 20 years of blood, sweat, joy, booze, tears and exhilaration at Connolly's in Nov/Dec."


Larry Kirwan will escort a group of people on an historical/literary/political/musical trip in 2010 from July 7th to 12th. Call John Hammond at 866-486-8772 for details. Ideal for high school/college graduation gifts, it will be suitable for all ages, and those making their first visit or traveling alone.

Inquiries to Hammond Tours:


Black 47 New Blog:
"War is just too important to be left to politicians and generals. And yet here we are again, facing escalation of an eight-year battle in Afghanistan while still mired in a six-year Iraqi morass. "
To read more go to The new blog site is interactive - add your comments and stay abreast of Irish issues both in the US and in Ireland.

Black 47 has assumed responsibility for our page at Join us for updates on gigs, rare videos, etc. and news of the new CD.

Larry Kirwan
will give a talk/performance on
The Radical Heart of Irish-American Music
Irish College 2009

Saturday November 7 10 am - 3 pm

The commons
Sacred Heart University
5151 Park Avenue, Fairfield, CT
For Info: The Wild Geese, tel. 203-325-1750 or

Friday, December 4, 2009, 4:30pm
Larry Kirwan

Rock and Read

Fund for Irish Studies Series
James M. Stewart '32 Theater
Princeton, NJ 08542
For info:

Open to public, admission free

Recently Added & Upcoming Gigs

Oct 31 IBAM, Irish Heritage Center, Chicago, IL
Nov 21 Connolly's, Manhattan, NY
Nov 28 Connolly's, Manhattan, NY
Dec 5 Connolly's, Manhattan, NY
Dec 11 Keltic House, Fishkill, NY
Dec 12 Connolly's, Manhattan, NY
Dec 31 Connolly's, Manhattan, NY
Mar 12 College of Staten Island, NY
Mar 13 Shamrock Festival, Washington DC
Mar 14 World Cafe Live, Philadelphia, PA
Mar 17 BB King's, NY, NY

All Tour Dates & Full Details go to Tour at


The Iraq War has inspired quit a few songs, but you'd be hard-pressed to hear a musical portrait of it as vivid and detailed as Black47's "Iraq." From "Sadr City" to "Battle of Fallujah" the inveterate troupe approaches the defining struggle of our age from all sides. What's surprising is that it took a band of Irish expats to do it.
Doug Wallen, The Hartford Courant

Black 47's new CD, IRAQ, on United for Opportunity Music is available in stores and online at itunes and other outlets including SHOP at or Lyrics can also be accessed at

"Black 47 has long been known as New York City's top Celtic band, but today they very well may have established themselves as the finest NYC-based rock band ever with this stunning and righteous release. Tuneful and enjoyable, with albums as fine as Iraq, this band will tour for decades to come." Good Times

Check out the video for Sunrise on Brooklyn.

Joe Burcaw Featured in September 2009 Issue of Bass Player Magazine!

In-case you missed it, Black 47's very own groove-meister. Joe Burcaw was featured in a full-page article in September 2009's issue of Bass Player Magazine (including a pin-up photo sure to be gracing the bedroom walls of swooning young aspiring bassists world-wide ;-) ).

Read the article in the Bass Player archives here:


in The REEL BOOK Archives here:

Black 47 at Connolly's/New Year's DVD

Times Square is the crossroads of the world, and on New Year's Eve it becomes the eye of the hurricane. Since 1989 Black 47 has played within shouting distance of the dropping ball. We wanted to catch the excitement and the thrill of the various New Years' we've spent in Connolly's of 45th Street. Watch Black 47 rehearse and unveil a new song, New Year's Eve in Olde Tymes Square, and ring in 2007 with classics like Funky Ceili, Green Suede Shoes and Forty Shades of Blue, and the stories and background to many songs.

Green Suede Shoes/An Irish-American Odyssey Memoir

This rock 'n' roll Angela's Ashes begins in County Wexford, Ireland, in the late 1950s, a now unrecognizable, priest-fearing backwater suffocating in superstition and strangled by sexual fevers. After an escape to New York City, Larry finds himself, like a musical Zelig, side by side with the Ramones and Blondie at CBGBs; the brothers McCourt, Lester Bangs, and Nick Tosches at The Bells of Hell; the Guinness soaked regulars of Paddy Reilly's; Cyndi Lauper, Joe Strummer, Rick Ocasek, Neil Young, and Shane McGowan. The shootings at the Academy and the tragic death of soundman Johnny Byrne punctuate the revels and excesses and presage the gloom cast by 9/11 and the loss of Father Mychal Judge and other friends. Green Suede Shoes remembers three decades of a lost New York, and celebrates the music and song in which it now lives.

Get your autographed copy today at our SHOP at for $15.


Autumn Special:
All 11 Black 47/Larry Kirwan CDs PLUS Black 47's 2 DVDs for $150 or all CDs for $130. Euros, Sterling & other foreign currency orders accepted & shipped promptly. Go to the SHOP at

Also at the Shop a full selection of T-shirts, hoodies, caps. The new Black 47 Road Sign T will be available at the end of October.

Now Available at the SHOP: DIGITAL DOWNLOADS of most of the in-print catalogue of Black 47 / Larry Kirwan Albums.

Want to keep up-to-date on Black 47 Gigs? Go to: and find out what we're playing plus reviews of performances. Bob Silkowitz has gathered set lists from as far back as 1992 (including names of songs we've performed but never recorded, and much other information).

Check out the chords and lyrics of all Black 47 songs, and covers performed over the years (often with annotated comments from the rehearsal sessions) at REEL BOOK. Fred Parcells has collated charts of songs that the rest of us can't even remember playing. Go Freddie with the mean memory!!! Windows 95 forever!!! See the chord charts & lyrics of songs we just recorded for the new CD including Long Lost Tapes of Hendrix, Izzy's Irish Rose, Celtic Rocker, Rosemary (Nelson), That Summer Dress, Long Hot Summer, American Tragedy etc.

***ANYONE who would like to be part of The BLACK 47 Street Team: to put up posters, fliers and get the word out - in return for free admission to gigs and meeting the band, drop a line to:

***Black 47 is looking for some good people to sell our merch during gigs on the road.

Check out Larry Kirwan's controversial weekly column on politics, music, literature and life page 5, Irish Echo

CELTIC CRUSH: Sirius XM Satellite Radio

Tuesday 11pm ET show added

Celtic Crush, hosted by Larry Kirwan, can be heard on Saturdays from 9am-noon ET at The Spectrum, Ch. 18 on Sirius, Ch. 45 on XM and Ch. 832 DIRECTV and can now be also heard on Tuesdays at 11pm ET

Celtic Crush is the only Celtic show available throughout all of the US and Canada. It features music from the 8 Celtic nations and their related cultures.
Hear Larry interview Swell Season, Dolores Riordan, Hothouse Flowers, Ray Davies, Sinead O'Connor, Steve Earle, Dropkick Murphys Moya Brennan, Flogging Molly, Richard Thompson, LĂșnasa, Bell X1, Damien Dempsey, etc.

Swell Season Interview this Saturday 24th Oct.
and Lisa Hannigan soon.

Check out facebook page at

Black 47 | 47 Forty Deuce | New York | NY | 10036

Thursday 22 October 2009

Afghanistan - Should I Stay Or Should I Go

War is just too important to be left to politicians and generals. And yet here we are again, facing escalation of an eight-year battle in Afghanistan while still mired in a six-year Iraqi morass.
Why do we so casually abrogate our rights to those who fly in the face of the Founding Fathers, most of whom would have been horrified by our attempts at nation building on the far side of the world. It seems odd, particularly when the American people – apart from settling matters with Osama Bin Laden – have rarely been partial to foreign military escapades.
Still the old demons have legs and are regularly trotted out – the Domino Theory for Vietnam, supposed Weapons of Mass Destruction in Iraq, the sheltering of Al Qaeda in Afghanistan.
Then when the dust clears, we find that the Viet Cong were capitalists in waiting who just wanted to run their own turf; Saddam Hussein was far too busy writing romance novels to be devoting time to WMDs. While if we’re so fearful of Qaeda setting up shop again in Kabul then why aren’t we invading Somalia and Yemen where they strut the streets like two-bit coke dealers.
Probably because we’re easily conned, as befits a populace that’s over-entertained and under-informed. But who wants to know what’s actually going on in the world when we can watch Tom Delay dancing, marvel at various Democrats shimmying in the pockets of the Health Insurance industry, or when we can just fuggedaboutit all in the cozy familiarity of Facebook?
The one man who could have stopped the Iraq War, Secretary of State, Colin Powell, put it best, “you break it, you own it.” That’s why we’ll be spending billions on Crazy Glue in Baghdad at least until the Mets win the World Series.
That’s where we’re heading in Afghanistan too, binding together a state that ranked 4th in the world’s most corrupt180. President Karzai’s government is so on-the-make that elements of his own ethnic group, the Pashtuns, were seriously considering voting for his opponent Dr. Abdullah Abdullah, whose mother was a member of the hated Tajiks. We’ll never know if they did since Karzai’s opium-running brother stuffed so many ballots some of the boxes burst open.
It is conservatively estimated that only 20% of foreign aid – including thirteen billion over the last 8 years from the US - actually gets past the hands of warlords, bureaucrats, and the ruling elite. This is the foundation upon which we hope to construct some facsimile of a Jeffersonian democracy.
Is there a political solution? It’s doubtful. Should Abdullah Abdullah win in a proposed run-off, it would probably lead to civil war as the Pashtun majority is unlikely to tolerate even a half-Tajik as president.
It’s no secret that the only person capable of uniting the country, Ahmad Shah Massoud, was unfortunately assassinated the day before 9/11 by either Taliban CEO, one-eyed Mullah Omar, Osama Bin Laden himself, or the Pakistani Secret Service (ISI), take your pick.
Still history, as ever, provides some guidance. Afghanis of all ethnic backgrounds and levels of Muslim fundamentalism abhor foreign dominance and unite at the drop of a hat to battle invading infidels be they Brit, Soviet or American. However, as soon as the enemy departs they revert to their old divisive ways.
The Taliban, as we somewhat erroneously label the current coalition of fundamentalists, drug dealers, nationalists, and cut-out-of-the-action hustlers battling Karzai and NATO forces, boasts among its leaders, Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, ruthless heroin dealer and our old Mujahadeen ally in the war against the Soviets. This rather savage gentleman has long been associated with the ISI, despite the fact that we’ve blithely tossed Pakistan 11 billion dollars since 9/11. I kid you not.
Where will it all end? Well, more than likely, when the Karzai government implodes from greed and lack of popular support, and we get tired of pouring lives and money into a sinkhole. Then Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, after a consultation with his ISI handlers, will no doubt text Mullah Omar.
“Yoh One Eye, what up babe? Listen, later for the crazy Bin Laden dude, yah hear me. Yankee bombs bad for dope business! C U in Kabul. Peace Gul.”
Maybe it’s time we switched off Dancing With The Stars and got our noses out of Facebook; a lot of young American lives are on the line – not to mention trillions more in deficits. This looming disaster is too important to be left to politicians and generals.

Thursday 15 October 2009

Back in the studio

How the music world has changed since Pierce Turner and I first stepped in the doors of Dublin’s Trend Studios back in the early 70’s!
We had sent “We Have No More Babies Left” – a lament for a disaster in Bangladesh - to Polydor Records; to our amazement Head of A&R, Jackie Hayden, offered to “sign us up.”
We were granted four hours to record this “maudlin masterpiece,” as some critic later labeled it, and only at the last moment remembered that we needed a B-side. With a Big Tom wannabe impatiently tapping his snakeskin boots in the reception area, we raced through a number appropriately entitled “Neck & Neck,” possibly the most out-of-tune track ever committed to disc.
Recording, in many ways, is an analogy for life. You can have all the money and facilities but they won’t amount to a hill of beans unless you’ve got something to say; indeed, if the song is strong, you can hum it into your Auntie Nelly’s cassette recorder and you’re in with a shot.
Of course, if no one but your Auntie Nelly hears this work of art you won’t be doing many interviews with Eileen Murphy, or have Steve Duggan buying you pints of porter while waving a pen and contract under your nose.
How do you know if a song is any good? Try performing it for a roomful of roaring drunks – if you emerge with all your teeth and a dollop of dignity, you’re on the fast track.
Still, as any student of Shakespeare knows, you can’t totally trust the instincts of the seething mob. “Maria’s Wedding” occasioned nothing but yawns for six months in Paddy Reilly’s, but one night it clicked and a year later Black 47 was performing it on Letterman.
I’ve worked in studios with the good, the bad and the extremely ugly. One engineer was actually in the midst of a mental breakdown and, in my innocence, I just assumed he was having a bad hair day. He was probably of the Lennon school, for it was Johnnie’s considered opinion that the best producers pretend they know what they’re doing and shout louder than anyone else.
Ric Ocasek of the Cars fit neither of those descriptions and yet he was the best I worked with. Mind you, he was confident enough, as befits someone who has sold over 40 million albums. But he generally spoke in whispers and was unfailingly courteous.
After the band had finished the basic tracks of our CD, Fire of Freedom, I added the final touches in his studio. A wonderful illustrator, Ric would sit there sketching, only looking up when he sensed a problem. With a well-placed word of advice or encouragement, he would instantly get the work back on track.
The only time I ever saw him get peeved was when he had given the engineer and me the task of mixing a song. When he returned some hours later, we had made little progress. With flashing eyes, he banished us to the back of the room, twisted a couple of knobs, shifted some faders, and Bob’s your uncle, the track was finished.
It probably didn’t hurt that his wife, the model Paulina Porizkova, in jeans and sans makeup, was wont to float in and out, adding ineffably to the mix.
EMI once spent over a quarter of a million on one of our CDs; eighteen months later we made another one ourselves for less than ten grand. To this day I’m not sure if I prefer Home of the Brave or Green Suede Shoes. I do know that my favorite Black 47 recording, Bobby Sands MP, came from the budget disc. And so it goes, money helps but songs rule.
I’m back in the studio now producing a new Black 47 CD. What a long strange trip it’s been since the day I strolled into Trend Studios. Back then I was blown away by all the knobs, faders and blinking lights.
It took me many years to realize that, as with life, the only magic is that which you carry inside yourself. If you learn how to knock sparks out of that essence, the technology will take care of itself. Failing that, there’s always your Aunt Nelly’s cassette recorder.

Friday 9 October 2009

A Special Person

My sister passed away recently. I wouldn’t normally write about such things but Ann was a special person. She had Down’s Syndrome.
Hers was the first generation of Irish people with that condition to be fully accepted into the community. Up until then families tended to shelter them for fear of ridicule or out of guilt and shame.
Two people changed all that in Wexford - President John Kennedy who had his photo taken shaking hands with a Downs Syndrome boy. My mother treasured that picture. If the most powerful man in the world could socialize with someone like Ann, then why not everyone else?
Father Tony Scallan had an even greater impact. He was only recently home from the missions in Brazil when he took up the cause of the mentally handicapped, as we then termed people of special needs.
He combed County Wexford in an effort to identify all such people and informed parents of their rights. Then he badgered local and national authorities to establish homes where people like Ann could live full lives, and workshops where they might develop useful skills.
There is a sadness when a close family relative has special needs. One is always faced with the great “what if?” But that is often balanced by the particular love that such people engender.
My mother’s love was fierce. Her main goal in life was that Ann always be provided for and never be a burden on anyone outside the family.
Ann’s birth changed her. Before that she had explored other religions and beliefs but soon thereafter found solace in Catholicism. Though still liberal in attitude, she needed the stability of strict beliefs to deal with the doubts and uncertainties that became her everyday lot.
There is a humbling element that comes with having a family member of special needs - a sense that something has been visited on you that is very much beyond your expectations and, sometimes, your capabilities.
But though there is inevitable regret there is also growth; for you have to deal with a situation that is beyond yourself, and you must of necessity become a bigger person than you thought possible.
You also gain a community. At Christmas parties in “Ann’s house” we gathered with the parents and siblings of the other occupants – people that in the normal scope of things you might have little in common with.
But within our particular cocoon we could relax, for we were dealing with the same intractable problem and cherishing the same small victories. A part of you had opened that you never knew you possessed – it’s quite similar to the feeling you experience when you have your first child - just a tad more complicated.
And that part of you generally helps to soothe the anger and hurt when you hear some unaware person make an unthinking and inhumane remark in relation to special needs people, as so often happens in daily life.
As ever in families, it’s the women who take responsibility and deal with the emergencies and routines that are part and parcel of having a relative of special needs. After my mother passed on, my sister, Mary and cousin Aileen stepped into the breach.
And then there was Josie, a young woman who became Ann’s companion. Josie casually, but firmly, integrated Ann into the everyday life of Wexford town. I would occasionally accompany them downtown to “do the messages.”
How many people smiled and bade Ann a good day or stopped to engage them in conversation; for people with special needs often bring forth a special kind of love and compassion.
Ann loved wine. As my father used to say, “the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.” Nothing pleased her more than to drink a glass or two and sing along to a Joe Dolan cassette. She loved Joe’s big-hearted songs.
She liked Black 47 too but the music tended to “make her rowdy.” And so it was saved for special occasions, with no alcohol - probably, a first in the annals of this band.
Her other love was Turkish Delight. And during her funeral mass, a small bottle of red wine and a bar of Fry’s were on hand for the Offertory. All that was missing was a Joe Dolan heart-stopper.
Everyone has a part to play in life. If Ann’s was to bring out love in those around her, then this special person succeeded in a way that the rest of us can only aspire to.

Saturday 3 October 2009

William Kennedy and Albany

For my money he’s the finest living writer in America and while there might be some who would dispute that, there are few who would argue that William Kennedy is the dean of Irish-American fiction.
Some of you may be scratching your head but you probably caught the movie version of Kennedy’s book, Ironweed, in which Meryl Streep and Jack Nicholson gave their usual impassioned interpretations.
Still a movie rarely capture the complexity and soul of a book, even if the man from Albany himself wrote the screenplay.
Albany, you say, isn’t that the place where those eejits elected to the State Senate do their business? Well, Albany is a lot more than that. It’s a state of mind too, one that’s been plumbed to the depths by Mister Kennedy.
One of the perks of my gig with Black 47 is getting to visit, observe and gradually know many cities throughout the country. Yet, had I just read William Kennedy’s books I could just as well have stayed at home instead of trucking up the thruway to Albany, Troy, Schenectady, Saratoga and all the other towns and villages that make up the Capital Region.
Kennedy’s Albany cycle that also includes Legs (Diamond), Billy Phelan’s Greatest Game, Very Old Bones, and Roscoe has often been mentioned in the same breath as James Joyce’s Ulysses, no small potatoes for any writer.
Yet, in an odd way, Kennedy goes one better, for if Joyce tosses us heart and soul into a claustrophobic Dublin of 1904, the Albany man introduces us to an Irish society ever metamorphosing, because of the pressures exerted on it by a powerful and long established Dutch and WASP political and social culture.
Although I’ve never met him, one gets the distinct feeling that Kennedy has been touched by a certain amount of failure and personal trial; either that or he’s someone who has an inherent understanding of flawed humanity in all its teeming splendor. For his characters are so very believable - not the least when they are pinned to a wall with doubt, heart-scald or an existential lack of trust in themselves.
And yet, they are never depressing; rarely give up hope and are always on the lookout for redemption.
I was once late at night in a bums’ bar on the Bowery, back when such places flourished. I was standing next to a wreck of a man who looked in his 70’s, though he was probably less than 60.
Like me, he was listening to the mumbled conversations of the wretches around him. Suddenly, he slammed down his glass.
“Look at them!” He motioned dismissively. “At least, I was in the arena. I was once someone.”
His tattered sense of superiority was all he had left and we both knew it.
I thought of that man when reading about Francis Phelan in Ironweed. I thought of Eugene O’Neill too. The great playwright felt that he could thoroughly explore the vast landscape of the human condition through a series of plays about his family.
Kennedy achieves some of that in his study of the extended Phelan clan. But he also manages to introduce a very Irish fascination with the supernatural and a sense of certainty that the dead continue to exert a tactile control over the living.
William Kennedy will be linked with the playwright in a more formal way on Oct. 16th when he receives the first Eugene O’Neill Lifetime Achievement award given by the Irish-American Writers and Artists at Rosie O’Grady’s Manhattan Club in New York City. For more information go to
Actors Matt Dillon, and Michael O’Keefe who played Billy Phelan in Ironweed, director John Patrick Shanley, and writer Malachy McCourt will be on hand when New York Times journalist, Dan Barry, presents Kennedy with his much deserved honor.
Barring an ambush by Congressman Joe Wilson or a win at Powerball, I’ll be there. Maybe I’ll see you. But if not, Kennedy’s rich universe is available for the price of a paperback or a trip to your local library.
Like Ulysses, you don’t have to start at the beginning; take whichever of the seven books that comes to hand. You’ll touch and be touched by an essential part of the Irish-American experience courtesy of a master craftsman in his compelling Albany Cycle.

The Great Communicator and the Texas Librarian

Who would have dreamed that we’d still be receiving a history lesson courtesy of President Ronald Reagan?
How so? Well, if the Great Communicator hadn’t been so insistent on tweaking the Soviet Bear’s nose by arming all manner of its fundamentalist enemies, then we probably wouldn’t be still mired in Afghanistan.
Seems like ancient history now, but that little tweak - way back in the days when Cyndi Lauper just wanted to have fun - has come back to haunt us big time.
Of course, President Reagan - sound man that he was – merely wished to vanquish the evil Soviet empire, and he certainly played his part. The Kremlin, already in serious economic trouble, poured troops and resources into Afghanistan in an effort to defeat our sainted allies, the Mujahadeen.
Worn down by endless guerilla warfare, many in the Soviet Army turned to the local Afghani diversion – opium; and when they returned to their cities and villages, they imported a full-blown junkie epidemic.
Now, no one is saying that the Soviets were benevolent liberators but they certainly caused consternation amongst our fundamentalist homeys by introducing the notion of women’s rights and education.
One of our buddies back then was Osama Bin Laden. Of course, President Reagan couldn’t see the trouble that gentleman would cause, but when you paint the world in broad strokes, trickles of paint tend to escape your notice and go on to cause all kinds of damage.
Eventually, the Soviets declared victory and, as gracefully as possible, exited Afghanistan. Our victorious warlords promptly rescinded women’s rights and proceeded to massacre each other and the civilian population, until the Taliban took over and allowed Bin Laden’s Al Qaeda safe haven. The rest, as they say is history.
The question is, how are we to extricate ourselves? Perhaps, we should keep an eye on how the Brits handle the matter. They can be tardy enough in leaving trouble spots - the North of Ireland, for example. But look at Iraq, there’s neither hide nor hair of them to be found except for the occasional rusty tank littering Basra.
And you can already tell that they’re seeing the light in Kabul. They’re barely invited to diplomatic how-do-you-dos by President Karzai for they’ve sussed out that this well-tailored gentleman is a horse-trading, ballot-box-stuffer with no natural constituency.
Well versed in statecraft, the Brits have no trouble in changing horses in mid-stream and, given time, they too will declare victory and elegantly withdraw.
We do things differently, if only because we have a taste for continuity and our presidents don’t tend to bad mouth their predecessors.
Thus, President Obama has never been overheard howling at the moon, “Dubya, why in the name of the seven snotty sisters didn’t you nail Osama when you had him on the ropes on Tora Bora? And what the bloody hell were you thinkin’ of - going into Baghdad in the first place?”
And so we continue to keep 150,000 troops nailed down in Iraq to prevent the Shia from finally settling scores with the Sunni and Kurds, while President Bush blithely plans his library down in Texas.
A pity no one ever loaned him a book describing how the Brits cobbled that unfortunate country together and then bumped town when it wasn’t worth the trouble.
To add insult to injury we’re sinking deeper into the quagmire of Afghanistan – a land that Alexander the Great vowed never to revisit.
Meanwhile there is every likelihood that if the Taliban do take over they will be leery of allowing any foreigners back in – including Al Qaeda – since they well remember the shellacking they received from the US Air Force back in 2001 over their choice of house guests.
Odd as it may seem, the Taliban share a trait with Ronald Reagan – they learn from their mistakes. While he may be the originator of our current problems in Afghanistan, the 40th President did not fall for Hezbollah’s bait and up the ante in Lebanon when the US Embassy was destroyed in 1983.
Beirut is hardly paradise nowadays but it does appear to be plugging along nicely without the benefit of our extended presence.
We would do well to pay attention to the Great Communicator’s willingness to learn from history, while continuing to actively disentangle ourselves from the legacy of the Texas Librarian.