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March 21, 2006

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Thanks for the insightful discussion emptywheel. I'm going to go see V tomorrow, can't wait. Incidentally, if you have any essays or thoughts on the Matrix trilogy, I'd love to see those as well.

O/T, but MoJo has a new piece on fabrication of pre-war intel, this time dealing with a so-called Iraqi defector who gave the NYT and PBS info on a purported Iraqi terrorist-training camp at Salmon Pak. While the story is not new, what is new is that sources for the story admit that the defector was not who he claimed to be(a Lt. General) , but rather a sargeant in the Iraqi army who was given a cover story by the INC, memorized it, and put on a good display for the western media.

Not terribly surprising, but good to see that there are sources now willing to speak up about the Rendon/INC propaganda machine. What gets me is that this was pretty much wholly funded by American tax dollars after susceptible congressmen were lured in by Chalabi's tales. Which is to say, they pretty much had this Iraq war thing planned for a LONG time.

Another interesting tidbit in the article was Bob Baer's assertion that INC sources were fooling no one at CIA. An excerpt:

This legal end run caused some unease at Langley—“What did they expect?” says the INC’s Musawi. “We were committed to overthrowing Saddam Hussein, not holding a tea party. We had to take some risks to achieve that.”—but it was the shoddy intelligence provided by the INC defectors (as well as an unauthorized and disastrous coup attempt) that caused the CIA to withdraw funding in 1996. “The quality was very bad,” said Robert Baer, the former CIA base chief in northern Iraq. (Baer’s memoir, See No Evil, inspired the George Clooney character in Syriana.) “There was a feeling that Chalabi was prepping defectors. We had no systematic way to vet the information, but it was obvious most of it was cooked.”

I find this fascinating because in Baer's tell-all, See No Evil, his chapters on Iraq describe how he fawned over all Chalabi did and said, and how Chalabi was the savior of Iraq. The not-too-subtle implication was that Clinton and his NSC were the villians for pulling the plug on the attempted military coup back in 1996. Now Baer admits that the CIA "knew" all along that the INC were a bunch of fabricators? Who is he kidding? Was he lying then or is he lying now?

Of course the other possibility is that he's since seen the light (the fact that he had a good working relationship with the producers of Syriana sort of speaks to this), and realized that he was being played by the CIA all the while. I can't discount that. But I haven't seen him out there trashing the admin over the Plamegate scandal either, unlike Larry Johnson has. Be curious to hear your thoughts on Baer.

OFF TOPIC: emptywheel, in case you hadn't heard, Jane Hamsher just posted this at FDL.
"Just got back from the hospital, my mom had congestive heart failure this morning and will be there 'til Friday so I'm going to be caring for my sister's two kids for the rest of the week. It's been a rather perfect storm on the blog this week but thanks for everyone's patience and mucho appreciation to Pach, Christy and Jamie for handling things so well."

I hope I don't regret this as I have tried to keep my fingers out of the weblogs since the holiday fiasco around the chocolate pear cake over at FDL but its not as if V's debt to the Count of Monte Cristo goes unacknowledged in this highly entertaining peice of work which resonates deeply with meaning.

Very entertaining, EW. Not really sure what it all means, but the 1840s phenomena is very interesting.

Read an interesting but tedious 2 volume history of the Rothschilde clan a few years ago (forget the author at the moment, but an established guy) based upon family archives. Hard to follow, but much detail.

Anyway, one part of the story that stuck out was the tale of the brother assigned to Paris, including the period 1830 to 1850. The guy was nervous as a cat. Main business for him was trading French Govt bonds, and he was constantly consumed by court rumors. Crowds were always in the streets, apparently, or feared to be, and I was never sure why.

I'll have to check for the author's name.

Anyway, I thought of it when you mentioned the financial press do a serial on the Count of Monte Cristo.

Also, not sure I ever read the book, but wann't there a banker involved?

One last point. I think some of the big intrigues of the day had to do with what banking groups would get control of some railroads being built. (Hope I am not mixing up the decade.) Probably no more potent symbol of coming industrialization in that day than the railroads.

One final thought. Something about the narrative reminds me of Thunder at Twilight, a wonderful book about the last days of the Hapsburg dynasty, Vienna 1914. I recommend that book to you, if you haven't already read it. I am sure you will enjoy it.

looked up the author on Amazon.com

here is the review they placed

Founded in the late 18th century by expatriate German Jews, the London-based House of Rothschild was within decades the largest banking enterprise in the world. Its principals controlled a vast portion of the industrial world's wealth--more so, Oxford historian Niall Ferguson writes, than any family has since--and as a result enjoyed tremendous political influence in the major capitals of Europe, counting as allies such important figures as Metternich and Wellington. That influence would provoke countless anti-Semitic tracts fulminating against Jewish usury and against the power of "Eastern potentates" in the empires of England and France. Although the Rothschilds were well aware of their power and not reluctant to use it, they operated fairly, Ferguson notes. For example, whereas lending rates in the textile industry, in which the Rothschilds got their start, were often 20 percent, the fledgling house charged 5 to 9 percent. Through shrewd, complex negotiations they helped promote peace and the beginnings of economic union throughout Europe.
Ferguson's sprawling history covers much ground and involves a cast of hundreds of players. At the outset he notes that his book was commissioned by the modern descendants of the House of Rothschild; even so, he approaches his task with careful balance and a critical eye, pointing out the Rothschilds' failings as well as successes. The result is a fine, solid contribution to economic history, one that, unlike so many books in the field, is eminently readable. --Gregory McNamee

From Publishers Weekly
Anyone interested in finance, European history or the rise of one spectacularly successful Jewish family will find the first volume of this history of the Rothschilds spellbinding. Equipped with unprecedented access to pre-1915 Rothschild archives, Oxford historian Ferguson begins the family history with Frankfurt merchant Mayer Amschel, but the real story starts with the arrival of the most capable of his sons, Nathan Mayer, in England 200 years ago. Each of Mayer's five sons was located in different cities?Paris, London, Vienna, Naples and Frankfurt. Combined with a mandated unity that kept the brothers remarkably close while excluding daughters, in-laws and strangers, this geographic dispersal gave the family's financial firm an unbeatable edge, despite Mayer's sons being of unequal competence. N.M. Rothschild is the one Ferguson chooses as his protagonist (his great-great-grandson suggested the project to the author). It was largely because of this Finanzbonaparte that from 1815 on, the Rothschilds were everywhere part of Europe?they dominated the international bond market; bought and sold commodities such as cotton, tobacco, sugar, copper and mercury; and influenced Metternich, Wellington, Queen Victoria, Bismarck, Gladstone and Disraeli. Using his access to the 13,000 entries in the Rothschild files, Ferguson debunks myths and carefully reconstructs the truth. Not only has he done a brilliant job of depicting this far-flung family but he also manages to offer an amazing insider's look at the financial, political and military aspects of early 19th-century European life. His exhaustive study surpasses anything about the Rothschilds to date.

Thunder at Twilight was written by Frederic Morton, who also wrote a book about the Rothschildes (that I have not read)

Haven't seen the movie, but read all the way up to the spoiler alert!

It's a bit OT, but in your study of the feuilletons, did you run across any characters based on Talleyrand? Do the Napoleon characters of the 1840s have any "shit in a silk stocking" advisors, gourmand diplomats, or conniving courtiers in their midst?

Interesting. I'm not sure how I feel about your extrapolations of political content in Monte Cristo from the personal values of Dumas. First off, it is important to bear in mind that it was Dumas' collaborator Auguste Maquet who outlined the plot of Monte Cristo, and that no firm record exists of exactly whom is responsible for some of the major plot points. Also significant is the fact that many of Dumas' novels used major political figures as backdrop, often altering their roles or later revising them as suited his dramatic purpose (see the revisionism of Cardinal Richelieu in the beginning of Twenty Years After). Dumas was actually far more highly favored under the regime of King Louis-Phillipe than under Louis-Napoleon. He was a partisan fighter in 1830 in the campaign that brought Louis-Phillipe to power, and fled France (mostly from his creditors) in 1851 and did not return until 1864.

Jay,

Yes, I know this is one of the book Maquet was heavily involved in. While it is clear Dumas visited L-N just before he started the book, I'm not making a theory of authorship per se. In many ways, it's more important that CMC was kind of a response to MdP from a then-rival losing ground in popularity.

Dumas was big in 1830. But remember that in 1830, Orleans was effectively a convenient placeholder. Had there been a Bonaparte available, he would have been picked over Orleans. The relationship to L-N was not unlike what many people now have with Bush--he seemed like a good idea before they got him, but then they regretted him later.

And the way in which Bonaparte was used at this time (and remember, he was used everywhere, in the constitutionalist newspapers as well as this one; the Napoleon figures did not depend on ideology) was again an empty placeholder. What would it take to have justice?

QS

Not really, but then MC was not Bonaparte, he was a person like Bonaparte. But I've done more work on the roman a clef aspects of Mysteries of Paris than on Monte Cristo.

Thomasan

No regrets at all. My point here is not that it's not utterly apparent that V owes to MC. It's just that very few appropriations use MC in the way it first worked. Usually, it's appropriated as a simple tale of revenge, with only half-developed play on identity and even less on the role of the individual.

viget

I don't know that Baer was ever a big Chalabi fan. He describes him in See No Evil as able to get things done, but an unlikely opposition figure (for all the reasons he still is). And he basically inserted himself into Baer's existing coup plans, making them more risky. And finally, remember that Chalabi forged an NSC letter to strongarm the Iranians, hoping to force the Americans' hands, and Baer got accused of murder for hire because of Chalabi's little stunt. He almost went to jail as a result of Chalabi's actions; he can't have much love for the guy.

BTW, no longer the Wachowkski "Brothers" as one has had gender reassignment surgery (what use to be called a "sex change").

So now I think they have to be called the Wachowski Siblings, no?

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