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Ron Radosh

Monthly Archives: January 2009

Who will fill the conservative slot on The New York Times op-ed page, now that the paper has not renewed Bill Kristol’s contract?  With a way out of sync predominance of left to liberal op-ed page regulars (Paul Krugman, Nicholas Kristoff, Bob Herbert, Maureen Dowd and Tom Friedman and on Sundays Frank Rich ) the once highly regarded “paper of record” desperately needs a conservative of note and import to restore a semblance of balance to its editorial pages.

There has been a great deal of speculation on conservative websites about who will get the coveted post, a person who will appear once or twice a week alongside the liberal’s favorite conservative, David Brooks. Brooks is a first rate writer, a man of intelligence and grace. But his own unique brand of conservatism is considered by many conservatives to be so moderate that it hardly qualifies him as conservative.

So here are my suggestions for Bill Keller and the other Times editors. They are presented not in any order of preference. My list includes:

1. Victor Davis Hanson, well known to readers of PJ Media and National Review Online. Hanson is a brilliant scholar who is also a first-rate writer and observer of our national scene. A military historian of the ancient world by profession, he is able to use his knowledge of the past to shed light on our dilemmas of the present, perhaps as few other scholars can. He also writes on many different present-day issues, from culture to foreign policy to politics. I would be more than happy if the Times would consider giving Hanson a large Sunday column in “The Week in Review,” where he could have the kind of space only given to Frank Rich, and in which Hanson could have the space necessary to make a strong case for his arguments.

2. Mark Steyn. Now writing a regular column for the print version of National Review, as well as a syndicated column that appears in Canada and elsewhere, Steyn’s searing prose and sharp sense of humor has the bite and toughness that would appeal to the paper’s readers, even if they disagree with him. Recently on trial in politically correct Canada for his critique of radical Islam, America’s non conservative readers could be well served to read Steyn for the first time in our country’s major newspaper.

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Benicio del Toro: Che Guevara’s Useful Idiot

January 27th, 2009 - 7:04 pm

We all know that Benicio del Toro is a great actor, and that in Steven Soderbergh’s new film “Che,” del Toro sounds and looks exactly like Che Guevara. Most of us- at least readers of this website-also know the truth about the real Che Guevara. The man was the prototype of a ruthless and vicious Stalinist killer; a man who exulted in repressing political dissenters,  and who personally set up and ran the mass firing squad executions that took place immediately after Castro’s victory in 1959.

The facts are easy to obtain. First, read any of the articles by Cuban exile Humberto Fontova, such as this one in which Fontova notes that when the movie made its Miami premier, “protestors outside the Carlyle Theater brandished pictures of relatives murdered by Che Guevara, [while] del Toro paid tribute to their murderer.” Fontova rightfully calls del Toro “Che’s Useful Idiot.”

It is hardly surprising that del Toro’s reception in Cuba was quite different. Appearing  at the Havana Film Festival, he was treated as an honored guest, and  the regime is featuring the film as a truthful depiction of Che that they want all the people to see.   This is a regime, Fontova writes, that “has jailed more political prisoners as a percentage of population than Stalin’s and executed more people (out of a population of 6.4 million) in its first three years in power than Hitler’s executed (out of a population of  70 million) in its first six.” For those who want more information they can purchase his pamphlet Monster from www.frontpagemag.com or buy his book, Exposing The Real Che Guevara. Readers can also buy Alvaro Vargas Llosa’s The Che Guevara Myth for another unvarnished and truthful picture of the real Che.

The individual who should read these, of course, is Benicio del Toro. Last week, Del Toro walked out of an interview on the film with Sonny Bunch, a reporter for The Washington Times. Bunch made the inexcusable mistake of challenging del Toro about the depiction of Che’s life in the movie. As he so gingerly puts it, del Toro “seems ill at ease on the hot seat.” Celebrities are not used to being challenged. How dare a reporter intimate that the film “Che” is not particularly truthful when Del Toro believes that Che’s message was one of love.

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Ethan Bronner’s Quandary: A Fool’s Errand

January 26th, 2009 - 5:35 pm

 

The problem with mainstream media’s reporting on the Middle East is exemplified by an interesting article that appeared in the “Week in Review” in Sunday’s New York Times by their Jerusalem bureau chief, Ethan Bronner. Bronner, an old hand at reporting from the region- he has been on the beat off and on for twenty-five years-has now suffered the slings and arrows of hostile reader reactions to his coverage of the Gaza war.

Bronner claims that as a skilled reporter, he attempts only to tell the story, and to inform readers how the fight appears to all  those who live in the region. That means that he seeks to be objective. As he writes, his attempt has resulted only in vicious attacks and e-mails from those who support Israel and those who support Hamas. He doesn’t say it, but clearly he thinks that “if both sides are angry at me, I must be doing something right.”

Thus, he writes, the problem is that there are two narratives about the Middle East- one Israeli, the other Arab. If his reports appear to give ammunition to one side or the other, one party to the conflict will find him to be anathema. “Trying to tell the story so that both sides can hear it,” he writes, “…feels more and more like a Greek tragedy in which I play the despised chorus.” The voices of each partisan side become so loud, Bronner says, “that it drowns everything else out.”

 Bronner’s complaint is that if he writes about what Israelis feel and think, and does not condemn Israel’s attack on Hamas as a massacre, he is pro-Israel.  And if he reports on the suffering on innocent Gaza residents,  those who support Israel see him as putting forth Hamas propaganda. Bronner’s answer to his critics is simple. He will tell the “whole story,” not just parts of it that serve either Palestinians or Israelis. His problem is that he knows “it doesn’t matter,” because whatever he writes, anything that contradicts one or another of the two narratives will lead someone to attack him for his objectivity.

He does have a quandary. And he seems to have dealt with it by writing two kinds of stories, one that can be interpreted by some as pro-Palestinian, the other as pro-Israel. Thus, he penned one story on Israel’s use of white phosphorous, “a weapon that militaries use widely to obscure the battlefield but that is also limited under an international convention that bans targeting civilians with it.” Hamas claims that the phosphorous was intentionally used, and Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, among other groups, condemned Israel for war crimes.

Bonner’s report reads as if Hamas and its Gaza sympathizers are right in their outrage, and that the suffering from the phosphorous is typical of Israel’s use of extreme military measures meant to harm civilians and that cannot be justified in any way. He did not in the article, or later, print the many reports exonerating Israel of the charge of committing war crimes. Times readers did not learn of this report from The Jerusalem Post, for example, that showed the International Red Cross concluded that its use “was legitimate under international law” and that it was “not consciously putting civilians at risk” by its use. Without access to articles like this, Israeli supporters understandably would be angry that Bonner’s piece helped the campaign to depict Israel as a violator of human rights and a perpetrator of war crimes. His article certainly fits in with the narrative of the Palestinian side.

 After reporting in a way that inflamed Israel’s supporters, he wrote a column that appeared more  sympathetic to Israel’s plight, and that conveyed the way most Israelis saw the war. He quoted one peace activist who told him “in this case, the entire Israeli public is angry at the immoral behavior of Hamas.” In his own words, he wrote: “Because Hamas booby-traps schools, apartment buildings and the zoo, and its fighters hide among civilians, it is Hamas that is viewed here as responsible for the civilian toll. Hamas is committed to Israel’s destruction and gets help and inspiration from Iran, so that what looks to the world like a disproportionate war of choice is seen by many here as an obligatory war for existence.” 

In trying to be even handed his reporting has become almost schizophrenic.  To deal with his evident need to appear even-handed, he has obviously dealt with the problem by writing one report that is appreciated by the Hamas supporters, and then another that is welcomed by Israel’s supporters.

The fact is simple: one of the narratives is right; the other one is wrong. One side seeks to live in peace aside a Palestinian nation that accepts Israel’s existence. Indeed, Israel is willing to give substantial economic aid to rebuild the Palestinian’s new state once peace is attained, as well as using its own armed force to remove its own extremist settlers from land deemed to be part of the new Palestinian state- as it did to settlers in Gaza when Israel gave it up in 2005.

The other side operates by a charter dedicated to destroying Israel. When one side refuses to accept the others right to exist, looking for moral equivalence is ridiculous. Mr. Bronner has a quandary only because he is on a fool’s errand.

 

 

In his inaugural address, Obama laid out his policy for dealing with terrorism.  He said, “We intend to win this fight. We are going to win it on our own terms.”  And on his first day in office, he issued Executive Orders rescinding Bush Administration policy on countering terrorism. This was, as a New York Times story noted, a declaration that “struck a powerful new tone and represented an important first step toward rewriting American rules for dealing with terrorism suspects.”

The executive orders he just signed both closed the detention camp at Guantanamo Bay within one year, and ended the CIA’s secret prisons and use of so-called “harsh interrogation methods;”  i.e., torture. According to the President’s order, all interrogations will have to follow the noncoercive methods outlined in the official U.S. Army Field Manual. Obama also issued an order for cessation of military trials already under way at Guantanamo.

But will these measures prove to be just symbolic?  Those who are complaining about Obama’s reversal of Bush Administration security policy have not paid attention to the wiggle-room he has left himself.  Certainly Obama does not want our nation hit again by a terrorist attack during his watch. What would the public say if one did occur, and it became clear that the United States had captured al-Qaeda or other terrorists who might have known about the operation before it took place, but that all efforts to get them to talk via Army Field Manual methods had produced only silence?

Should such a scenario occur, Americans would be up in arms about the Administration’s failure to do what was necessary to protect us. That is why, I think, Obama issued an Executive Order that can easily be replaced with another if he deems it necessary.  Two tasks forces have already been set up by the President. The first, led by the Attorney General and Secretary of Defense, will report to the President about detainee policy at Guantanamo.

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Obama the Neoconservative?

January 21st, 2009 - 7:24 pm

Yesterday, Gabriel Schoenfeld asked whether President Barack Obama will bring the neoconservatives back to the Democratic Party?  It might seem a preposterous question, given that during the campaign the Right labeled Obama as both the most left-wing member of the Senate and as a closet socialist. But, Schoenfeld argues, the themes he has laid out—personal responsibility, the need to support strong homes with fathers active in parenting, a liberal immigration program that welcomes rather than rejects immigrants for their contribution to America—-are themes first brought forth by the original neo-cons when they were still Democrats, back in the 70s during the era of Scoop Jackson and Daniel P. Moynihan.

These issues are very personal for Obama.  He was abandoned by his African father,  and later by his mother- a woman of the 60s who left him with her parents when she was intermittently away on anthropological exploits.  Obama’s search for an identity as an African-American man has led him to value and to create for himself a stable nuclear family.  He now appears to be on a crusade to do what people like Moynihan and Bill Cosby were unable to do: rescue the black family.

And in the area of foreign policy, where neo-cons in our own age have been most influential, Obama has echoed many of their concerns, and has adopted his own variant of a hawkish foreign policy. He has emphasized the need to win in Afghanistan, not to allow Iran to go nuclear, and has supported Israel’s right to defend itself against Hamas terrorists. Yet, Obama left many of the specifics out; what would he do differently about Iran, North Korea, wiretapping of phones to monitor terrorist chat, etc? Would he, in fact, really do much that was different from the Bush administration?

This question disturbed a left-leaning journalist, TNR’s John B. Judis and probably many others.  Calling his speech  ”a disappointing hodge-podge,” Judis writes that it was too abstract and was neither  “original nor compelling.”  Judis did not like his call to get rid of “worn-out dogmas,” fearing, it seems, that Obama was just not talking about those of the right. Judis was also disturbed when Obama said that “Our nation is at war against a far-reaching network of violence and hatred.”  Judis writes: “This strikes me as either boilerplate or an exaggeration of the danger posed by al Qaeda. It is reminiscent of George W. Bush and his catch-all war on terror. Obama and the country clearly face grave problems overseas; but they can’t be reduced to a ‘far-reaching network.’” Really?? And reminiscent of Bush? This, as we know, is about the nastiest smear a liberal could make against Obama.

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Bush’s Legacy in History and the Press

January 19th, 2009 - 2:32 pm

As George W. Bush leaves office, more articles have been appearing on the issue of his legacy. Journalism, of course, is known as the first draft of history, and the consensus has been offered: Bush was the worst President in American history. This assessment began a few years ago, when he was less than half through his second term, and was begun by Princeton University’s eminent historian, Sean Wilentz, who wrote two different cover stories for Rolling Stone arguing his case.

Most recently, Time columnist Joe Klein, in a particularly nasty and vitriolic article, argued that torture and related “war crimes” is “the real Bush legacy.”  As Klein sees it, the treatment of enemy prisoners in wartime- those of al-Qaeda and the Taliban-was not only “callous and despicable,” but “stands at the heart of the national embarrassment that was his residency.”Klein is perhaps the strongest example of a partisan journalist whose left- leaning bias color his ability to objectively evaluate the record of the outgoing administration.

In an evaluation from the other side, Jay Lefkowitz, writing in Commentary, shows that  Bush, “despite the absence of any tangible political benefit to himself or his party,” created the most effective and expensive American project to fight HIV/AIDS in Africa, and that he did so “at the risk of a costly break with one of his core constituencies.” Lefkowitz provides the details in his article.  But unlike Klein, he says it will be years or decades before any consensus can emerge about the Bush presidency.

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Israel Must Defeat Hamas

January 15th, 2009 - 3:51 pm

As Israel goes deeper into Gaza, and intensifies its bombardment of Hamas in Gaza City, a  chorus is beginning to be heard: Israel is  now committing war crimes; the conditions of the people there constitute a humanitarian crisis; the only solution is negotiations with Hamas for a cease-fire that will give Gaza’s beleaguered and innocent population breathing space to begin rebuilding its shattered city.

As awful as the situation in Gaza is, an important point was made today by law professor Irwin Cotler of McGill University. Cotler shows that Hamas is violating six different provisions of established international law: deliberate targeting of civilians; attacking with rockets from within civilian areas; abusing humanitarian instruments to launch attacks, such as using ambulances to transport weapons; public incitement to genocide; and the recruitment of children into armed conflict.

Cotler’s main point: The situation in Gaza is tragic, but  ”there has to be a moral and legal clarity as to responsibility.  When Israel responds and civilians are killed because Israel is targeting an area from which rockets were launched, then it is Hamas which bears responsibility for the deaths, and not Israel.”

Despite Hamas’ actions, foreign policy experts like Richard N. Haass, president of The Council Foreign Relations, believes that diplomats can easily reach an agreement. As he sees it, the final outcome is clear: “Hamas will agree to stop firing rockets into Israel; the Israelis will pull back their forces from Gaza.” It all seems so doable to Haass. All it takes, he thinks, is to learn the lessons of the agreement in Northern Ireland that led the IRA to give up armed struggle and work within the political system.  It worked, according to Haass, because the British Army convinced the IRA that it could not “shoot its way into power.” And British diplomats showed the minority Catholics that they could get a fair deal by renouncing arms and embracing politics.

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A Letter from Israel

January 14th, 2009 - 7:52 am

I have just received this open letter to the people of Gaza, from a reader of my blog who lives in Israel. It is a powerful statement, that expresses the spirit, hopes and drreams of the people of Israel. It is important that Americans see this also. Please pass it around. Here’s the letter:

  A letter to the citizens of Gaza from a concerned neighbor

Dear neighbor,

My name is David and I live in Israel, thirty minutes (or one minute rocket time) from you, in a beautiful house by the woods. I hope someday to have you over for a cup of tea. We have a lovely view from the balcony. On a clear day we can see our jets bombing your neighborhood.

I think it’s time we had a heart to heart. It’s time you knew the truth. After all, what are neighbors for? You might have wondered why both you and your parents were born in a refugee camp. Why is it that even though we live only 30 minutes apart, I live in prosperity and you live in poverty and filth? Why you live in despair and hatred while we live in hope and love.

Here is the truth, neighbor:

There really was a Holocaust. I realize you’ve been taught otherwise. I know, that ever since you were a small child you’ve been told that the Holocaust is something the Jews fabricated to justify taking your land. Well, dear citizen of Gaza, it really happened. Not very long ago. It happened. And guess what? It’s NEVER going to happen again. The time in history when Jews were led to slaughter, persecuted, raped and pillaged is over and will never recur. Never. Now we have our own country. Now we have the bombs. We will never forget what was done to our people and you better not either.

We don’t hate you. We don’t hate anyone. Jews are a peaceful people. We do not want your land. We don’t want oil. We don’t want to rape your women or murder your children. We never tried to force our religion on anyone. Our eternal capital, Jerusalem, is open to all faiths to love and to worship. We treat your Arab brothers who live among us as equals. Our hand has been extended to peace with our neighbors since day one. We have proven this time and time again through numerous negotiations and extensive compromise.

We ask only for one thing. Leave us in peace. That’s right. We have no other demands. Just leave us in peace. It’s as simple as that. If you don’t, we will fight back ferociously and mercilessly. We will destroy your homes and your cities. We will make your miserable lives even more miserable. If you don’t want this to happen any more, leave us in peace.

Our soldiers are not motivated by hate but by determination. We embrace life and will do anything to preserve it. However, we will kill and die to protect our land and our way of life. That’s what they should be teaching in your schools instead of useless lies.

A terrorist is a terrorist. Sorry to be the one to break the news, but it’s about time somebody told you that a terrorist is nothing more than a coward. Not a hero. Not a Shahid. There is nothing heroic in blowing yourself up amongst a crowd of woman and children. Anybody can do it. Anybody can hide inside a school or a mosque and blindly fire rockets into cities, hoping to kill as many babies as possible. There is nothing courageous or admirable in these acts of cruelty. To take pride in an act of terror is pitiful and pathetic. I know you’ve been raised to believe the contrary, but it is a lie. I have seen how your children are taught to commit suicide. How your suicide bombers are glorified. This is tragically sad. A real hero faces his enemy and doesn’t hide in schools and hospitals. A real hero protects his people and will die for them but not among them.

Israel exists and it belongs to the Jewish People. I’ve seen your school books. I know that Israel has been omitted from your maps. Contrary to what you’ve been told, the State of Israel really does exist. Look outside your window. We are here and we are not going anywhere. Dear Palestinian neighbor, it’s time to deal with the facts. We love our beautiful little country. We will protect it with our lives. You are not getting it. This was explained to you in 1948. You got your country and we got ours. Your arrogant and stupid leaders promised you that you will get the whole thing. Thousands have lives have been lost for nothing. It’s NEVER going to happen! While you have been foolishly drooling over our land instead of nurturing your own, we have built one of the most beautiful and successful countries on Earth. We have done it not to spite our greedy neighbors, but rather in spite of them. We’ve planted forests and quenched the desert. We’ve drained wetlands and culivated fields. We built universities, opera houses, superhighways, hospitals, skyscrapers and stadiums. We have millions of refugees, but no refugee camps.

You could do the same. Focus on what you have and not on what you will never have. It takes love, hard work and determination. We can help. We have experts and scientists helping developing nations across the globe. Accept the facts, lay down your weapons and join us in making this great region of the planet even greater.

Remember, we’re neighbors.

David Rosenblatt, Sarigim, Israel - Jan. 9th, 2009

It has become increasingly evident that The Nation magazine , still the most influential journal of the supposedly moderate and responsible Left in America, is becoming the organ committed first and foremost to the destruction of Israel. This time, its prescription for dealing with the Hamas inflicted war on Israel comes from Naomi Klein, this generation’s Noam Chomsky in women’s designer suits. Klein, with her demonic hatred of Israel, makes your average run-of-the mill self-hating Jew sound balanced.

In an article entitled “Israel: Boycott, Divest, Sanction,” (BDS) Klein calls “for Israel to become the target of the kind of global movement that put an end to apartheid in South Africa.” She endorses a 2005 program put forth by a “huge coalition of Palestinian groups.”  Each day “Israel pounds Gaza,” she writes, “brings more converts to the BDS cause.”

Klein does not even purport to show any concern, indeed any awareness of, Hamas’ self-proclaimed goal to destroy Israel, its Islamist ideology that calls for permanent war against all Jews, or its continued and sustained rocket attacks on Israel.  She does not even attempt to declare a J-Street  type phony “moral equivalence” that equates Israel’s defense of its citizens with Hamas’ rockets.  In her eyes, there is only one guilty party: the State of Israel.

Therefore, Klein sees only one way out of the fighting in the Middle East: taking “punitive measures” against Israel. The model is to do what the West did to South Africa in the waning years of apartheid, and adopt the same tactics that proved successful then against Israel now.

In her eyes, Israel alone has been steadily  escalating its criminality through among other things “its collective punishment on Gaza.”  Is she unaware of the fact that Israel did what its critics had been calling for?  In 2005, it withdrew from Gaza and handed it to the Palestinians.  The result was not a government that built up a Palestinian state committed to modernity and progress, but an armed camp the purpose of which was to launch a new assault against Israel.  

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Cognitive Dissonance in the Left/Folkie World

January 10th, 2009 - 4:37 pm

Here’s some fun for the weekend, if you enjoy reading about left-wing hypocrisy. Saturday’s New York Times has two stories. The first is about the performance in the South Village in New York City by Steve Earle and his wife Allison Moorer. The folk/country duo sang at a new high class venue, The City Winery.

Two things are unique about the restaurant. Its wine-making facilities are on the premises. Annual membership is $5000, and you can make a barrel of your own custom blend for a mere $2000.  OK, the rich have a right to dine and be entertained where they choose. But Earle, as the reporter Ben Ratliff writes, is “a self-defined socialist,” yet he did “not comment on the dissonance of the evening.” He sang songs about the poor, the working-class, the oppressed and the like, all sang “in a blond wood cabaret that seems built on the air jets of Wall Street status.” And Moorer, during her set, told the audience that Barack Obama “has a vision that includes all of us and not just our rich friends.”  All of Earle’s protest songs about the people in Kentucky and Taneytown, the paper’s critic concluded, “felt very, very far away.”

It seems we’ve come a long, long way since that day in the early 40′s when Woody Guthrie walked out of the Rainbow Room on the eve of his scheduled performance, and sang in front of the NBC Building on the street for free, strumming a ballad about old John D. Rockefeller’s riches.  At least Guthrie had the courage of his convictions. We now know that Steve Earle does not.

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