Saturday, July 12, 2008

Is the West versus Islam like Montezuma versus Cortez?

In "Conquistador", Buddy Levy offers a fascinating account of the impetuous Spanish adventurer Cortez and Montezuma, the ill-starred emperor of the Aztecs -- clearly the wrong emperor at the wrong place at the wrong time. Mr. Levy has an eye for vivid detail and manages to build a compelling narrative out of this almost unbelievable story of missionary zeal, greed, cruelty and courage. By avoiding the kind of ideological posturing that usually distorts re-tellings of the conquest of the New World, Mr. Levy rightly focuses his reader's attention on the story's antagonists.

Others had tried what Cortez wanted to do, and failed. They died in shipwrecks or were captured and sold into slavery by the Indians. Cortez, though, had the advantage of iron resolve, a good mind and an instinct for seizing the initiative in a crisis. With his handful of men, three cannon and 15 horses, he overawed the first tribes he encountered. Realizing that the gold trinkets they offered him were only a hint of the wealth lying further west, he began his drive into the interior of Mexico, fighting and marching through scorching deserts and over ice-bound mountain passes. He did not stop until he reached the capital of the most feared people of the central Mexican valley, the Aztecs.

Cortez was a man of deep contradictions. A devout Catholic, he was horrified by the sights and sounds of Aztec worship: its human sacrifices and cannibalism, its skull racks, its idols draped with human body parts, its priests with their blood-clotted hair. But he was not above massacring his enemies or burning them at the stake. He was genuinely dazzled by his first sight of the Aztec capital, Tenochtitlan, with its tidy fields and gleaming stone causeways, a city of nearly a quarter-million people that was, he wrote in a letter to the Spanish king, more beautiful than any in Europe. Even so, he was ready to destroy it all to feed his desire for gold and to bend the Aztecs to his will.

If Cortez was a man of contradictions, Montezuma was not. Studious and conscientious, he had been trained for Aztec priesthood before becoming emperor in 1503 -- the same year that Cortes set out from Spain for America. Montezuma believed in the rightness of his own convictions but also, it appears, in the importance of an open mind. As Mr. Levy shows, he always looked for ways to dispel a crisis by placating the feelings of all concerned. He would have made a fine college president. From his first meeting with Cortez in November 1519, though, he was desperately overmatched.

Montezuma hoped that, by giving Cortez magnificent gifts of gold and silver, he could make him go away. He made him want to stay instead. The Aztec ruler never quite shook off the suspicion that Cortez might be the Aztec god Quetzelcoatl returning home according to ancient prophesy -- a suspicion that led Montezuma to want to treat the intrusive Spaniards as guests rather than a threat.

Cortez exploited Montezuma's weakness without scruple, squeezing one concession after another out of him until, though outnumbered by more than 1,000-to-1, Cortez made him a hostage. When Montezuma had lost all credibility with his people and was no longer useful, Cortez cast him aside. Montezuma died a broken man -- although probably not, Mr. Levy argues, at Cortes's order. It is more likely that Montezuma died from wounds inflicted by his own subjects. When they saw him appear in chains and appeal for calm, they had bombarded him with stones and arrows. His weakness, they understood, had betrayed them to the Spanish.

Cortez wound up besieging Tenochtitlan, in alliance with Indian tribes who had cursed their lot under Aztec rule. By Aug. 31, 1521, the city was a smoldering ruin. Nearly 100,000 people died in the siege; another 100,000 died of smallpox -- the disease that eventually tipped the demographic balance in favor of the Spaniards in the New World...

"It was Cortez, the consummate gambler," Mr. Levy writes, "who staked high wagers and won." Montezuma was the more lovable man. But his world has vanished into dust. The world Cortez made is still around us.

More here



The French distribute "doctored" images again: "Iran apparently doctored photographs of missile test-firings and exaggerated the capabilities of the weapons after one failed to fire, fooling the world's media and intelligence for at least a day. Iran on Wednesday test-fired nine missiles - including a Shahab-3 it said was capable of reaching Israel - angering the US amid fears that the standoff over the Islamic republic's contested nuclear drive could lead to war. Four missiles appear to take off from a desert launch pad in one image of the test published on the Iranian Revolutionary Guards website. But a similar image has emerged that shows one missile still in its launcher after apparently failing to fire. Analysts said that in the image apparently showing four missiles taking off, one of the projectiles was added using elements from the smoke trail and dust clouds from two of the other successfully launched missiles. The image said to have been digitally altered was distributed by the Agence France-Presse news agency and used on the front pages of The Los Angeles Times, The Financial Times, The Chicago Tribune and several other newspapers as well as on BBC News, MSNBC, Yahoo! News, and many other major news websites"

Democrat illogic on oil: ""Using the logic of the Democrats in opposing drilling because it would take 10 years to produce anything, we would have no pecans, walnuts, oranges, apples, lumber, or interstate highways. Short-sighted thinking by the people we have entrusted to guide this country has gotten us in this mess."

Unionist lies: "The AFL-CIO is attacking McCain with a TV spot saying he voted "against increasing health care benefits for veterans." Actually, he voted for increases in those benefits. The labor federation points to McCain's votes against Democratic proposals to increase funding. Those were defeated along party lines, and then quickly followed by alternative measures to increase benefits by smaller amounts, all of which passed unanimously or with near-unanimous majorities. McCain supported all of them. The AFL-CIO also points to a McCain vote against a war spending supplemental appropriations measure from 2007 that included additional funding for veterans' health care, along with much else. The measure passed the Senate along partisan lines but was vetoed by President Bush. But McCain voted for a later version of the supplemental that ultimately passed into law and actually included slightly more funding for veterans' benefits."

Washington Post moving to the centre? "Signaling a generational change at one of the nation's most influential newspapers, the new publisher of the Washington Post this week selected an outsider as the paper's top editor. Marcus W. Brauchli, the former top editor of the Wall Street Journal, will become the executive editor of The Post on Sept. 8, at a time of great upheaval in the industry. At age 47, he is young enough to remain in place for many years"

More MSM shrinkage: "The Chicago Tribune began informing staff this week it will eliminate around 80 of its current 578 newsroom positions by the end of August and reduce the number of pages it publishes by 13 percent to 14 percent each week. There also will be a reduction of jobs in other Tribune departments, but that number was not immediately available, the Tribune reports. Because some newsroom jobs have been left unfilled in recent months, the actual number of staffers to exit the paper is expected to be between 55 and 58. "Like many newspapers, we're feeling financial pressures," Hanke Gratteau, the Tribune's managing editor for news, said"


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The Big Lie of the late 20th century was that Nazism was Rightist. It was in fact typical of the Leftism of its day. It was only to the Right of Stalin's Communism. The very word "Nazi" is a German abbreviation for "National Socialist" (Nationalsozialist) and the full name of Hitler's political party (translated) was "The National Socialist German Workers' Party" (In German: Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei)


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