Those who ignore history are condemned to repeat it. It’s a famous — and wise — adage. Too often, though, the assumption is that one must be deep into scholarship to identify the themes, patterns and strategies to be avoided. Not so. Even sports fans in high office might find warnings to avoid — if only they and those surrounding them have open, flexible, attentive, and democratic minds.
For example, consider what many deem the most brilliant fight ever waged by Muhammed Ali and the lessons of history we now — tragically — are repeating:
OCTOBER 30, 1974
MUHAMMED ALI USES THE “ROPE-A-DOPE” TO KO HEAVYWEIGHT CHAMPION GEORGE FOREMAN IN THE “RUMBLE IN THE JUNGLE”
Here are some excerpts from this (behind firewall) HBO account of the fight:
Excerpt: Ali’s opponent was undefeated Heavyweight Champion, George Foreman.
Read: Bin Laden’s opponent was America, the world’s only superpower.
Excerpt: Promoter Don King had come up with the notion of having the fight take place in Zaire, and labeled it the “Rumble in the Jungle.”
Read: Promoters Cheney, Rove, Rumsfield, Rice and Bush had come up with the notion upon taking office in January, 2001, of looking for an opportunity to have the fight take place in Iraq — regardless of whether any provocation for a fight actually came from Iraq. Once the provocation arrived (see below), they labeled it “The War on Terrorism” and carefullly rolled it out like a product strategy timed best for their electoral goals.
Excerpt: As with any huge international event, this one had extraordinary subtext. Ali’s flamboyant nature, good looks, endless sound bites, and strong pro-African beliefs, made him a huge favorite in Zaire. By contrast, George Foreman surrounded himself with his entourage, and isolated himself from the African people. By the time the fighters entered the ring, the crowd was yelling “Ali, boma ye!,” meaning “Ali, kill him!”
Read: As with any huge international event, this one had extraordinary subtext. Bin Laden’s flamboyant nature, charismatic personality, endless sound bites and strong pro-jihadist, pro-terrorist beliefs, made him a huge favorite in terrorist networks. By contrast, George Bush surrounded himself with his entourage, and isolated himself from the American people as well as people everywhere.”
Excerpt: Ali had boasted that Foreman couldn’t keep up with his speed. To prove that point in the first round, he threw lead rights at Foreman from across his body. The lead right from a right-handed fighter is the easiest punch to see coming, so in a sense, Ali was openly taunting Foreman.
Read: Bin Laden had boasted for years he could hit America at a time and place of his choosing. To prove his point in the first round, his box cutter wielding terrorists threw airplanes at some of America’s most symbolic targets. The Promoters had been advised by the outgoing Clinton Administration to pay most attention to terrorists as opposed to bad actors like Sadaam Hussein. But the Promoters chose to ignore this because they hated the Clinton administration and, so, turned a blind eye to the information set forth in the August 6, 2001 Presidential Daily Briefing. Bin Laden was openly taunting America.
Excerpt: In the second round, Ali fell into a strategy few had ever seen. Ali fell back against the ropes, and waved Foreman to come get him. He protected his head, but Foreman pounded away at his ribs and his gut. Round after round, quite possibly the hardest hitting heavyweight in boxing history unleashed his fury. Only the ropes kept Ali from being launched into the ringside seats. Under the thudding attack of Foreman’s sledgehammer fists, to Ali, every three-minute round must have seemed an hour long.
Read: Just as he had on earlier occasions, Ben Ladin pulled back after the September 11th attacks. The Promoters used the greatest military ever assembled on the planet and the courageous men and women who served in it to pound away at Iraq. Round after round, undoubtedly the hardest hitting heavyweight military power in history, unleashed its fury on Iraq. Only the Pakistani mountains and caves — and the obsession of fighting where Ben Laden wasn’t — kept the head of Al Queda from being captured. Under the thudding attack of the Promoters’ sledgehammer military, though, every day must have seemed to the Iraqis like a year in hell.
Exerpt: But there was a nefarious method to Ali’s madness. After several rounds of relentlessly throwing leather, Foreman began to tire, his arms began to drop. In the seventh round, Ali let Foreman in on his secret. “I beat him for one, two, three, four rounds—beat him good”, Foreman said. “At about the seventh round, I had him beaten, I knew I had him, he fell on my side and whispered, ‘Is that all you got George?’ I knew something strange was happening in my life especially because that was all I had.”
Read: But there was a nefarious method to Ben Ladin’s madness. After nearly three years of relentlessly throwing fire power, money, the blood of brave men and women, national honor, treasured democratic values, the Constitution of the United States, the rule of law and much ballyhooed bravado (“Let’s Roll”, “Mission Accomplished”, “Bring It On”, “Deadenders”. “Last Throes”, “These Colors Don’t Run”), America began to tire. Ben Ladin kept taunting. He continued to release tapes saying that America would never catch him. The numbers of terrorists grew wildly as did the number of their attacks around the world. It dawned on more and more Americans — even those who had put self interest above country to aid and abet the Promoters — that something strange was happening.
Ali sprung like a cobra in the eighth round. He exploded with a right-left combo, over Foreman’s lowered arms, directly to the chin of the exhausted champ. Foreman went down, and couldn’t beat the count. Ali had stared down the barrel of the world’s most powerful heavyweight—a physically superior opponent—and completely out-thought him in the ring. Ali’s strategy, the infamous “rope-a-dope”, reversed the odds. Muhammed Ali was the Heavyweight Champion of the World, only the second man to ever win the title back.
Read: The time has come to put a different fighter in the ring against Bin Laden, Al Queda, and the world’s terrorist networks because our nation — and our values — have never been more vulnerable to terrorists or to those whose ideological obsessions, unlimited appetites for power, and bottomless incompetence endanger the entire world every day they show up to “make their own reality.”