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Context of 'September 22, 2009: Amid Failing Domestic Support and Possible Afghan Election Irregularities, President Obama Reassesses Escalation of Afghanistan War'

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President Bush, speaking to the Israeli Knesset in Jerusalem on the 60th anniversary of Israel’s founding, accuses Senator Barack Obama (D-IL), the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, and other Democrats of favoring “appeasement” of terrorists in the same way some Western leaders “appeased” Nazi Germany’s Adolf Hitler in the days before World War II. Bush does not name Obama or any other official specifically, but White House aides soon acknowledge Bush intended the remarks to apply to Obama. Bush tells the Knesset: “Some seem to believe we should negotiate with terrorists and radicals, as if some ingenious argument will persuade them they have been wrong all along. We have heard this foolish delusion before. As Nazi tanks crossed into Poland in 1939, an American senator declared, ‘Lord, if only I could have talked to Hitler, all of this might have been avoided.’ We have an obligation to call this what it is—the false comfort of appeasement, which has been repeatedly discredited by history.… There are good and decent people who cannot fathom the darkness in these men and try to explain their words away. This is natural. But it is deadly wrong. As witnesses to evil in the past, we carry a solemn responsibility to take these words seriously. Jews and Americans have seen the consequences of disregarding the words of leaders who espouse hatred. And that is a mistake the world must not repeat in the 21st century.” CNN calls the remarks “a not-so-subtle attempt to continue to raise doubts about Obama with Jewish Americans,” and a follow-up to similar remarks made by Senator John McCain, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, who has charged that Obama enjoys the support of Islamic fundamentalist group Hamas. Obama called McCain’s Hamas allegation a “smear” and says of Bush’s remarks: “It is sad that President Bush would use a speech to the Knesset on the 60th anniversary of Israel’s independence to launch a false political attack. It is time to turn the page on eight years of policies that have strengthened Iran and failed to secure America or our ally Israel.… George Bush knows that I have never supported engagement with terrorists, and the president’s extraordinary politicization of foreign policy and the politics of fear do nothing to secure the American people or our stalwart ally Israel.” Obama’s campaign says Obama favors “tough, direct presidential diplomacy with Iran without preconditions, and is willing to meet with the leaders of all nations, friend and foe.” Obama has never said he favors talks with any radical group such as Hamas, which both he and the US State Department have labeled a terrorist organization. [CNN, 5/15/2008]
Angry Responses from Democratic Lawmakers - The response from Democratic lawmakers, Bush administration critics, and Democratic supporters is quick and angered. One of the harshest responses is from Senator Joe Biden (D-DE), the head of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and a former presidential contender himself. Biden minces few words by saying: “This is bullsh_t, this is malarkey. This is outrageous, for the president of the United States to go to a foreign country, to sit in the Knesset… and make this kind of ridiculous statement.” Of Bush, Biden says: “He is the guy who has weakened us. He has increased the number of terrorists in the world. It is his policies that have produced this vulnerability that the US has. It’s his [own] intelligence community [that] has pointed this out, not me.” He also notes that Bush’s Defense Secretary, Robert Gates, and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice have both suggested opening dialogues with their enemies. “If he thinks this is appeasement, is he going to come back and fire his own cabinet?” Biden asks. “Is he going to fire Condi Rice?” Biden later says he regrets the use of the profanity, but then says that Bush is engaging in “long-distance swiftboating” of Obama, referring to Bush’s 2004 campaign strategy of telling false stories about his Democratic challenger Senator John Kerry (D-MA) and Kerry’s Vietnam service. Kerry says that Bush “is still playing the disgusting and dangerous political game Karl Rove perfected, which is insulting to every American and disrespectful to our ally Israel. George Bush should be making Israel secure, not slandering Barack Obama from the Knesset.” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) says: “Not surprisingly, the engineer of the worst foreign policy in our nation’s history has fired yet another reckless and reprehensible round. For the president to make this statement before the government of our closest ally as it celebrates a remarkable milestone demeans this historic moment with partisan politics.” For a brief time, the White House attempts to deny that Bush was referring to Obama, a denial that Senator Richard Durbin (D-IL) does not believe. “There is no escaping what the president is doing,” he says. “It is an attack on Senator Obama’s position that we should not be avoiding even those we disagree with when it comes to negotiations and diplomacy.” Senator Hillary Clinton (D-NY), also a Democratic presidential contender, says: “President Bush’s comparison of any Democrat to Nazi appeasers is both offensive and outrageous on the face of it, especially in light of his failures in foreign policy. This is the kind of statement that has no place in any presidential address and certainly to use an important moment like the 60th anniversary celebration of Israel to make a political point seems terribly misplaced. Unfortunately, this is what we’ve come to expect from President Bush. There is a very clear difference between Democrats and Republicans on foreign policy and that difference will be evident once we take back the White House.” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) says that Bush’s remarks are “beneath the dignity of the office of the president and unworthy of our representation” at the celebration of Israel’s 60th anniversary. Referring to McCain, Pelosi says, “I would hope that any serious person that aspires to lead the country, would disassociate themselves from those comments.” House Democratic Caucus Chairman Rahm Emanuel (D-IL) says: “The tradition has always been that when a US president is overseas, partisan politics stops at the water’s edge. President Bush has now taken that principle and turned it on its head: for this White House, partisan politics now begins at the water’s edge, no matter the seriousness and gravity of the occasion. Does the president have no shame?” [Politico, 5/15/2008; Politico, 5/15/2008; Politico, 5/15/2008]
Other Responses - Democratic columnist and political strategist Paul Begala writes: “George W. Bush is unworthy of the presidency. He is a disgrace to himself, our nation, and the high office he holds.” Bush “dishonor[ed] himself”, Begala continues, “by using one of the world’s most important pulpits to launch a false and vicious political attack against Barack Obama.” Begala notes that he is a staunch supporter of Israel, and writes: “It is especially appalling to supporters of Israel that Mr. Bush would stand on a hilltop in Jerusalem to invoke the Holocaust in order to make a cheap and deeply dishonest political point. I am a person of faith, so it is especially galling that a man who calls himself a brother in faith would stand in the Holy Land and violate one of the Commandments God gave to Moses: ‘Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor.‘… As an American I am ashamed that such a man represents me.” [Huffington Post, 5/15/2008] The Boston Globe publishes an editorial accusing Bush of breaking “an unwritten rule against partisan politicking on foreign shores. He also displayed confusion about his own policies—and about the cause of his calamitous foreign policy failures.” Like others, the Globe notes that Bush officials have engaged in talks with Iran, and says that by overthrowing Iraq’s Saddam Hussein, the Bush administration has done a great deal “to enable Iran.” The Globe compares Obama’s foreign policy to the “tough and prudent statecraft in the mold of Bush’s father and his secretary of state, James Baker.” The Globe concludes: “Maybe the worst thing about Bush’s Knesset attack on Obama is that it shows how oblivious Bush still is to his own failings. His unilateral military ventures, his disdain for international treaties and organizations, his refusal to negotiate with Iran when the regime in Tehran was eager to cut a deal with the United States—these mistakes produced the disasters that Obama or another successor will have to overcome.” [Boston Globe, 5/16/2008] Columnist Will Bunch of the Philadelphia Inquirer writes: “President Bush went on foreign soil today, and committed what I consider an act of political treason: Comparing the candidate of the US opposition party to appeasers of Nazi Germany—in the very nation that was carved out from the horrific calamity of the Holocaust. Bush’s bizarre and beyond-appropriate detour into American presidential politics took place in the middle of what should have been an occasion for joy.” As others observe, Bunch writes that Bush crossed a line that previous presidents have tried to avoid: criticizing members of the opposing party on foreign soil. He writes: “As a believer in free speech, I think Bush has a right to say what he wants, but as a president of the United States who swore to uphold the Constitution, his freedom also carries an awesome and solemn responsibility, and what this president said today is a serious breach of that high moral standard.… [W]hat Bush did in Israel this morning goes well beyond the accepted confines of American political debate. When the president speaks to a foreign parliament on behalf of our country, his message needs to be clear and unambiguous. Our democracy may look messy to outsiders, and we may have our disagreements with some sharp elbows thrown around, but at the end of the day we are not Republicans or Democrats or liberals or conservatives. We are Americans.” [Philadelphia Inquirer, 5/15/2008]
Republican Responses - Few Republicans speak publicly regarding Bush’s comments. One who is willing to do so is Ed Gillespie, an advisor to the White House. He attempts to deny that Bush meant the remarks to apply to Obama—a denial soon contradicted by other White House officials—then claims that Bush and the White House want to stay out of the presidential campaign. Instead, Gillespie says: “The president is stating American policy and his policy toward Iran and toward Hezbollah and toward al-Qaeda.… We are happy to allow for Senator Obama and others to express their own points of view on these things.” McCain refuses to distance himself from the remarks, and instead attacks Obama for expressing a willingness to open talks with Iran. McCain does not note that Bush administration diplomats have held three rounds of discussions with Iranian officials in the last year. [CNN, 5/16/2008]

Entity Tags: Barack Obama, Boston Globe, Hamas, Harry Reid, Condoleezza Rice, Ed Gillespie, CNN, Will Bunch, Hillary Clinton, Richard (“Dick”) Durbin, Joseph Biden, John McCain, John Kerry, Robert M. Gates, Nancy Pelosi, George W. Bush, Paul Begala, Rahm Emanuel

Timeline Tags: 2008 Elections

Former Vice President Dick Cheney praises President Obama’s choice of Stanley McChrystal to replace General David McKiernan as the top commander in Afghanistan. In an interview with Fox News’s Neil Cavuto, Cheney says that the Obama administration’s decision to assign Lieutenant General Stanley McChrystal the top job in Afghanistan is a good one. “I think the choice is excellent.… Stan is an absolutely outstanding officer,” Cheney tells Cavuto. “I think you would be hard put to find anybody better than Stan McChrystal to take on that assignment.” [Your World with Neil Cavuto, Fox News, 5/13/2009] In a 2006 profile of McChrystal, Newsweek noted that the secretive Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC), which McChrystal then headed, was likely part of what Cheney was referring to when he said America would have to “work the dark side” after 9/11 (see September 16, 2001). [Newsweek, 6/26/2006]

Entity Tags: Richard (“Dick”) Cheney, Stanley A. McChrystal, Obama administration

Timeline Tags: War in Afghanistan

Following a reassessment by top US Army Allied Commander General Stanley A. McChrystal, and on the advice of Vice President Joe Biden and White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel, President Obama reconsiders the military endeavor that might modify US strategy in Afghanistan. The result is a scaling back of political and economic development reforms in the strife-torn zone. During recent television news program appearances, Obama seemed to question the primary assertion that the current US approach is the proper means for achieving the US goal of hunting down al-Qaeda and its close allies.
Scaling Back Military Operations - In what White House officials call a “strategic assessment,” Obama seems to be favoring scaled-down attacks utilizing small Special Operations teams and armed Predator drones, thus averting the need for additional troops, according to US officials and experts. The renewed debate is said to have shocked some, while leaving military officials scrambling to estimate how drastic the changes could be. The shift in the White House position is said to have also come about after Obama ordered 21,000 additional US troops to help with last month’s Afghan national election, a ballot broadly seen as counterfeit. However, Obama has also questioned McChrystal’s counterinsurgency strategy, asking whether it is worth committing extra troops. Reports indicate that the administration might opt for a narrower objective that primarily focuses on disrupting al-Qaeda, the Taliban, and other extremist groups, a strategy that would require fewer than the 68,000 troops presently approved for the war. During a recent appearance on CNN, Obama asked, “Are we pursuing the right strategy?” while on NBC’s Meet the Press, he stated he would only expand the counterinsurgency endeavor if it aided the goal of defeating al-Qaeda. “I’m not interested in just being in Afghanistan for the sake of being in Afghanistan… or sending a message that America is here for the duration,” Obama said. It is unclear how many additional troops McChrystal’s counterinsurgency strategy would require, and the dissenting view advocating a more limited Afghanistan mission not only has been strengthened by Afghan election irregularities but also growing doubts about the war among Congressional Democrats as well as the US citizenry.
'Buyer's Remorse' - During a recent meeting with the Canadian prime minister, Obama signaled that a deeper administration review was in progress. “It’s important that we also do an assessment on the civilian side, the diplomatic side, the development side, that we analyze the results of the election and then make further decisions moving forward,” he said. A defense analyst and regular military adviser speaking on condition of anonymity says the Obama administration is suffering from “buyer’s remorse for this war.” [Los Angeles Times, 9/22/2009]

Entity Tags: Joseph Biden, Al-Qaeda, NBC News, Rahm Emanuel, Stanley A. McChrystal, Taliban, CNN, Barack Obama

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, US International Relations, War in Afghanistan

The domain name JulianAssangeMustDie.com, referencing Wikileaks leader Julian Assange, is registered, apparently by right-wing US blogger Melissa Clouthier. A few days after the domain name becomes news, it is deleted. [The Nation, 1/10/2011]

Entity Tags: Julian Assange, JulianAssangeMustDie.com, Melissa Clouthier, WikiLeaks

Timeline Tags: Misc Entries, Domestic Propaganda, US Domestic Terrorism

Lara Logan, in a 2008 photo from Iraq.Lara Logan, in a 2008 photo from Iraq. [Source: CBS News]Lara Logan, CBS’s chief foreign correspondent and a veteran war reporter, is beaten and sexually assaulted by a mob celebrating the resignation of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarek in Cairo. Logan and her colleagues, including a small security force, are surrounded by over 200 people during a celebration in Tahrir Square. Logan is separated from her group and subjected to what CBS calls “a brutal and sustained sexual assault and beating.” She is rescued by a group of women and 20 Egyptian soldiers, and returns to the United States the next day for medical treatment. The network does not release full details of her injuries, and Logan’s family asks that her privacy be respected while she recovers. [Washington Post, 2/15/2011]
Fellow Journalist Accuses Logan of Trying to 'Become a Martyr' - Within days, American commentators and pundits begin blaming Logan for bringing her injuries upon herself. Nir Rosen, a journalist and foreign policy scholar, posts a series of comments on Twitter accusing Logan of trying to upstage CNN’s Anderson Cooper, who days before had been beaten by a crowd of Egyptians while covering the protests in Cairo. Rosen writes: “Lara Logan had to outdo Anderson. Where was her buddy McCrystal?” referencing General Stanley McChrystal (see September 22, 2009), who once led American troops in Afghanistan and whom Logan has defended in her reporting. Rosen then goes on to say that had Cooper also been sexually assaulted, he would have found it amusing: “Yes yes its wrong what happened to her. Of course. I don’t support that. But, it would have been funny if it happened to Anderson too.” Reacting to her defense of McChrystal, he posts, “Jesus Christ, at a moment when she is going to become a martyr and glorified we should at least remember her role as a major war monger,” and finishes his Twitter blast with, “Look, she was probably groped like thousands of other women, which is still wrong, but if it was worse than [sic] I’m sorry.” Rosen quickly issues an apology and deletes some of his posts, calling his comments “a thoughtless joke” and saying that he “added insult to Ms. Logan’s injury.” Within 24 hours, he steps down from his position as a fellow of New York University’s Center on Law and Security. In a statement, the center’s executive director Karen Greenberg says that Rosen “crossed the line with his comments about Lara Logan.” She continues: “I am deeply distressed by what he wrote about Ms. Logan and strongly denounce his comments. They were cruel and insensitive and completely unacceptable. Mr. Rosen tells me that he misunderstood the severity of the attack on her in Cairo. He has apologized, withdrawn his remarks, and submitted his resignation as a fellow, which I have accepted. However, this in no way compensates for the harm his comments have inflicted. We are all horrified by what happened to Ms. Logan, and our thoughts are with her during this difficult time.” Rosen then sends an email claiming that Logan received undue media attention because she is white: “Had Logan been a non-white journalist, this story would have never made it to the news. Ahmed Mahmoud, an Egyptian journalist, was killed in cold blood and nobody ever heard of him. Dozens of other women were harassed.” [National Review, 2/15/2011; The Atlantic, 2/15/2011; Washington Post, 2/16/2011; Huffington Post, 2/16/2011] A columnist for the conservative National Review, Jim Geraghty, calls Rosen’s comments “appalling.” [National Review, 2/15/2011] Rosen will attempt to explain his comments about Logan in an article for Salon (see February 17, 2011).
Right-Wing Columnist: Logan Herself to Blame for Assault at Hands of Muslim 'Animals' - Right-wing pundit and columnist Debbie Schlussel claims that Logan’s assault is typical of how Muslims celebrate anything. She captions her blog post with the tagline, “Islam Fan Lara Logan Gets a Taste of Islam,” and writes: “Hey, sounds like the threats I get from American Muslims on a regular basis. Now you know what it’s like, Lara.” Schlussel goes on to mock Logan’s request for privacy concerning the incident, and seemingly blames Logan for deciding to try to cover the celebration: “So sad, too bad, Lara. No one told her to go there. She knew the risks. And she should have known what Islam is all about. Now she knows. Or so we’d hope. But in the case of the media vis-a-vis Islam, that’s a hope that’s generally unanswered. This never happened to her or any other mainstream media reporter when Mubarak was allowed to treat his country of savages in the only way they can be controlled. Now that’s all gone. How fitting that Lara Logan was ‘liberated’ by Muslims in Liberation Square while she was gushing over the other part of the ‘liberation.’ Hope you’re enjoying the revolution, Lara!” Schlussel updates her blog post with a denial that she supported any “‘sexual assault’ or violence against Lara Logan,” insults her critics’ reading ability, and restates her belief that the assault on Logan is emblematic of Muslims around the world, whom she repeatedly calls “animals.” [Debbie Schlussel, 2/15/2011; Salon, 2/15/2011]
Right-Wing Blogger: Logan's 'Liberal' Beliefs Caused Attack - Right-wing pundit Jim Hoft of the influential blog Gateway Pundit blames Logan’s “liberal belief system” for her attack, and, like Schlussel, blames Logan for the attack. Hoft writes: “Why did this attractive blonde female reporter wander into Tahrir Square last Friday? Why would she think this was a good idea? Did she not see the violence in the square the last three weeks? Did she not see the rock throwing?… Did her colleagues tell her about the Western journalists who were viciously assaulted on the Square? Did she forget about the taunts from the Egyptian thugs the day before? What was she thinking? Was it her political correctness that about got her killed? Did she think things would be different for her?… Lara Logan is lucky she’s not dead.” Like Schlussel, Hoft refuses to retract or apologize for his post, and says “the far left” is at fault for reacting badly “when their tenets are questioned. It must be hard when someone holds a mirror up and you see that your twisted agenda has caused such havoc and pain around the world. These warped individuals must have missed that day of school when they talked about playing with fire.” Hoft calls a report on his commentary by progressive media watchdog organization Media Matters “a dishonest smear job.” [Jim Hoft, 2/16/2011; Media Matters, 2/16/2011] Commenters on Hoft’s blog post take his comments even further. One says Logan must have “the IQ of a tree stump.” Another chortles that she is now an “in-bedded reporter.” Another says, “I only wish it would have happened to [CBS news anchor] Katie Couric.” Another commenter says, “Shame that this is the only cure for a brain dead liberal!” And one commentator, echoing Schlussel, writes, “Hey, if you can’t handle rape, stay out of a Muslim country.” A number of commenters deny that Logan is a victim, because, as one writes, she “knowingly walked into” the situation and therefore is herself to blame, and one says for Logan to expect “a free pass” for being a woman in an Islamic society is cause enough for her to be assaulted. Many commenters question the entire incident, claiming that it is a “liberal fantasy” designed to give conservatives an opportunity to portray conservatives as racist and misogynistic. [Jim Hoft, 2/16/2011] Progressive blogger and pundit Bob Cesca responds to both Hoft and Schlussel: “There aren’t sufficient obscenities to describe Hoft and others his filth. Like Debbie Schlussel, for example.” [Bob Cesca, 2/16/2011]

Entity Tags: Katie Couric, Hosni Mubarak, Jim Geraghty, Jim Hoft, Debbie Schlussel, CBS News, Lara Logan, Bob Cesca, Nir Rosen, Karen Greenberg, Anderson Cooper, Ahmed Mahmoud

Timeline Tags: Domestic Propaganda

Nir Rosen.Nir Rosen. [Source: Media Bistro]Author and columnist Nir Rosen explains what he meant to say in a burst of Twitter posts that forced him to resign from his position as a fellow at New York University’s Center on Law and Security (see February 11-16, 2011). Rosen made a series of comments, or tweets, that disparaged and mocked Lara Logan, a CBS reporter who was beaten and sexually assaulted by a mob of Egyptians celebrating the fall of the Mubarak regime. Rosen notes: “I undid a long career defending the weak and victims of injustice. There is no excuse for what I wrote. At the time, I did not know that the attack against Lara Logan was so severe, or included apparent sexual violence. Even so, any violence against anyone is wrong. I’ve apologized, lost my job, and humiliated myself and my family. But I, at least, don’t want to go down looking like a sexist pig. I am not. I am a staunch supporter of women’s rights, gay rights, and the rights of the weak anywhere in the world.… I continue to apologize for this comment because it in no way reflects the way I feel about women or violence. Sexual assault is never funny, and it is a terrible crime. I have apologized to Ms. Logan and her family, and to victims of sexual violence everywhere.” Rosen says his posts were “disgusting comment[s] born from dark humor I have developed working in places like Iraq, Afghanistan, Somalia, Yemen, and Lebanon.” However, he continues, his tweets became a focus for “ideological opportunists who have used this ordeal for their personal gain. People whose words have helped create and justify war and genocide are now jumping onto this issue to attack me for my previous journalism (which, naturally, I stand by).” Rosen then makes what he calls “the point I really was trying to make. Had Logan been a non-white, non-famous journalist, this story would have never made it to the news. Ahmed Mahmoud, an Egyptian journalist, was killed in cold blood and nobody ever heard of him. Dozens of other women were harassed and nobody will ever know their names. Credible accounts indicate that the assaults on women took place largely on the Friday of the victory celebration, when millions of non-demonstrators joined the party. Countless women (Egyptian and foreign, journalists and others) have reported being harassed and assaulted in Tahrir Square that Friday, mostly, it seems, by non-revolutionaries.… So why all the focus on Logan? The US media did not care when Egyptian journalists (or any other Egyptian) were being jailed. Only when pretty white people showed up did Egypt really start to matter, and then, they were preoccupied with the scary Muslim Brotherhood possibly taking over, or what would happen to poor Israel now that there was a ‘threat’ of democracy in Egypt. This is why I wrote in a Twitter that I was already rolling my eyes. Even before we knew what happened to her, I knew how to anticipate the media response in the United States. So Logan and Anderson Cooper [a CNN reporter who was attacked by Egyptian protesters days before Logan was attacked] have become the story, instead of the thousands of Egyptians who have far more compelling stories. Meanwhile, I have not seen any condemnation of the pure hatred, racism, and vitriol that I’ve seen spewed all over the Internet in response to the Logan story. I’ve seen Arabs, Muslims, and Egyptians called animals and pigs in tens of websites and, right under the Logan stories, read vile rhetoric about them that would never be acceptable if used against any other group.” Rosen’s anger at Logan, whom he says supported the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, overcame his better judgment. However, “her destructive reporting has nothing to do with the crime she suffered, nothing at all. I point it out now only to explain my thinking, not to justify or defend the hurt I caused.” He asks why he is being vilified when others have called for the assassination of Wikileaks founder Julian Assange (see (Early January 2011)) or the jailing of more journalists, and calls some of the criticism of his tweets “sanctimonious, [e]specially when they come from people who support every kind of American war (or Israeli war), tolerate racism against Arabs and Muslims, and—while focusing on the plight of celebrities—ignore outrages like our scorched-earth policies in Kandahar.” Rosen believes he was subjected to what he says was an undue level of criticism because he is “a leftist opponent of American wars… and I have a hard time taking a lot of the sanctimonious condemnation from right-wingers very seriously, given what right-wing pundits say on a daily basis.” He concludes: “I hope that one day people will believe me when I say that I did not mean it and that it does not reflect who I am. I hope that people will take time to read my work and understand that I have spent my career taking a lot of heat for defending victims of all kinds, not just Arabs and Muslims. And I hope Ms. Logan and other victims of sexual violence will one day forgive me for my terrible mistake.” [Salon, 2/17/2011]

Entity Tags: Nir Rosen, Ahmed Mahmoud, Lara Logan, Anderson Cooper

Timeline Tags: Domestic Propaganda

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