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ROTC returns to Harvard, the Qaddafi concerts, & more

From the Scrapbook

Mar 14, 2011, Vol. 16, No. 25 • By THE SCRAPBOOK
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The Scrapbook is just old enough to remember a time, not so long ago, when most gentlemen of a certain age in America were likely to be veterans of the Great War. Today, of course, someone who was 18 at the end of World War II would be 84 years old, and someone who was 18 at the time of the Korean armistice (1953) would be 76. The youngest Vietnam veterans are approaching 60. Every American war has had long-term survivors: The last known veterans of the Revolution survived until the Civil War, and the last soldier of the Civil War, a Confederate veteran, died in 1959. As recently as the 1970s a substantial number of World War I veterans were alive and well; now they’re all gone. The last thread connecting our world to the trenches of the Western Front, the war to end all wars, is broken.

Frank Buckles’s service in World War I was supremely typical: Too young to enlist, he was rejected by the Navy and Marines but lied about his age to the Army and joined at 16. He was an ambulance driver in France and, while never in combat, he saw the consequences of combat on a daily basis. His tenure in the Army was routine, representative, unheroic​—​and yet, we may see in retrospect, heroic all the same. Like soldiers since antiquity, he had joined up out of curiosity, in search of adventure, perhaps for patriotic reasons. And like millions of other Americans in uniform throughout our history, he served faithfully, conscientiously, and without any particular sense of entitlement except the instinct to do his duty. ♦

The Qaddafi Concerts

Muammar Qaddafi has ruled Libya with an iron fist for over four decades. In the 1970s, he helped finance the massacre at the Munich Olympics, the Palestine Liberation Organization, and the Provisional IRA. The next decade, he had at least two dozen critics of his regime around the world—including in the United States—assassinated. He talked about doing the same to President Reagan. We could fill The Scrapbook with further examples.

But popular musicians don’t keep up with the news, it seems. A number of them have just now discovered that Libya’s leader is evil—long after collecting million-dollar paychecks from him.

Nelly Furtado was the first to come clean. The now-estimable Canadian singer, responsible for such wholesome hits as “Promiscuous,” admitted over Twitter that she’d been paid $1 million “from the Qaddafi clan” to play just 45 minutes at a private show in Italy.

Beyoncé was the next to admit she’d been paid—she didn’t say how much, but rumor has the fee at up to $2 million—by the dictator. She played a Qaddafi family New Year’s Eve party in St. Barts in 2009; Lindsay Lohan, Usher, and Beyoncé’s husband Jay-Z all reportedly attended. What a night that must have been! But the “Bootylicious” singer claims she gave away her fee to Haiti relief when she discovered Qaddafi’s true nature—just over a year ago.

Then Mariah Carey did the walk of shame. She was paid $1 million to sing four songs—four songs!—also on St. Barts on New Year’s Day 2009. (The Qaddafis must like that location—and, given that Carey’s last album was called Memoirs of an Imperfect Angel, beautiful, naughty singers. They’d fit right into the colonel’s Amazonian Guard.) Carey, though, didn’t promise to donate the money. Instead, she plans to give the proceeds from a song on her upcoming album to a human rights organization.

Timbaland and 50 Cent have also performed at private concerts organized by the Qaddafis. They’ve kept quiet so far. But it’s not only pop stars who have accepted money looted by a tyrant. The director of the London School of Economics, Sir Howard -Davies, just resigned his position over nearly half a million dollars he accepted from Qaddafi’s son, and former LSE student, Saif al-Islam Qaddafi. (Whose dissertation, by the way,  turns out to have been plagiarized. What? Too cheap to hire a ghostwriter?)

Furtado hasn’t announced to what group she plans to donate her fee. Sending aid to the Libyan rebels trying to take back their country might not be a bad way to atone. ♦

Stealth Unionization Update

Since The Scrapbook last took note of Michigan’s weird scheme for subsidizing unions out of the none-too-full pockets of home day care providers, the lawsuit challenging this racket has bounced around the courts without substantive result. It need bounce no more.

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