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Monthly Archives: April 2009

On The New Republic website today, the distinguished sociologist Alan Wolfe pens a defense of a left-wing academic, William I. Robinson.The Anti-Defamation League and others are attacking Robinson for recent actions he took in conjunction with a course he teaches at the University of California, Santa Barbara, on the “Sociology of Globalization.”

Robinson did the following. Last January, he sent an  e-mail to  students in his course accusing Israel of war crimes in Gaza, said that the occupation of Gaza by Israel was the equivalent of the Nazi occupation of the Warsaw Ghetto, and sent photographs which he argued showed that what Israel was doing to the Palestinians was the same as what the Nazis had done to the Jews.  In protest, the Anti-Defamation League has called for an investigation of  Professor Robinson.

Wolfe comes to Robinson’s defense by making the following argument. He does not agree with his beliefs as expressed in the e-mail. Indeed, Wolfe acknowledges that “neither Robinson’s leftist kind of sociology nor his activist kind of politics are mine.” Yet he finds the idea of investigating Robinson “appalling” and writes that “the ADL should be ashamed of itself.” As Wolfe sees it, censoring Robinson would set harmful precedents that could have ramifications for anyone teaching at public universities.

Robinson’s defenders say his academic freedom is in danger of being abridged, especially since the University has said it will investigate his actions. Wolfe does not buy Robinson’s critics contention that propagandistic e-mails have nothing to do with the subject he is teaching. Wolfe maintains that professors at our universities who teach controversial subjects should “provoke, and even outrage, their students.” This certainly is what Robinson has done, especially to the school’s Jewish students. Wolfe worries about “academic apathy;’ he thinks it is a good thing when a professor cares so much about issues of the day that he e-mails students about them.  Even if his actions caused damage or hurt to some, Wolfe says, the “arguments and discussion” they provoke outweigh the damage he might have done.

Moreover, those opposing Robinson, like the ADL, are condemned by Wolfe as “thought police,” who are “monitoring campuses for any sign of what it considers offensive speech and putting pressure to bear on university administrators to stop it.” So Wolfe has joined a new committee “to Defend Academic Freedom at UCSB,” which includes Noam Chomsky, a man who has never found an extremist critic of Israel he has not rushed to defend. Noting that his own college cancelled a speech by Bill Ayers and that Clark University considered cancelling a speech by the self-hating Jew Norman Finkelstein, Wolfe  is concerned that “this whole business is threatening to spin out of control.”

So Wolfe, who claims he opposes the “smug political correctness of the academic left,” says it is imperative that he also oppose “the new version of political correctness” of those who want to censor ideas they oppose.

Is Alan Wolfe correct? I think not. First, he confuses the concept of free speech- guaranteed by the First Amendment of our Constitution, with the concept of academic freedom. As a political philosopher and sociologist, Wolfe should know this.  A David Duke may have ideas we despise and detest; that does not give Duke to teach a course, let us say, on English literature, and send out his anti-Semitic hate material to students by e-mail.  It does guarantee Duke the right to spout his bile in public, and for us to denounce him in return.

No one has made the distinction better than Stanley Fish, writing in The New York Times on July 23, 2006. Fish wrote: “Academic freedom is the freedom of academics to study anything they like; the freedom, that is, to subject any body of material, however unpromising it may seem, to academic interrogation and analysis…Any idea can be brought into the classroom if the point is to inquire into its structure, history, influence and so forth. But no idea belongs in the classroom if the point of introducing it is to recruit your students for the political agenda it may be thought to imply.”

I do not think Professor Robinson and his supporters could provide evidence that these anti-Israel e-mails meet that criterion, or Wolfe’s criterion that they provoke thought. Robinson did not e-mail counter arguments with his e-mail. He sought instead to indoctrinate students with his own political agenda, using his power over them via the course he is teaching to make them pay attention to his own political views.

The second document I cite is the famous “1940 Statement of Principles on Academic Freedom and Tenure,” passed by the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) when the group had clout and influence in the academy. Written at a moment when our country was at war, the AAUP statement says: “Teachers are entitled to freedom in the classroom in discussing their subject,  but they should be careful not to introduce into their teaching controversial matter which has no relation to their subject….When they speak or write as citizens, they should be free from institutional censorship or discipline, but their special position in the community imposes special obligations. As scholars and educational officers, they should remember that the public may judge their profession and their institution by their utterances. Hence they should at all times be accurate, should exercise appropriate restraint…and should make every effort to indicate that they are not speaking for the institution.”

In 1970, the AAUP printed an addendum, in which they said the intent was not to discourage what is controversial, since controversy is “at the heart of the free academic inquiry.” It was only meant to “underscore the need for teachers to avoid persistently intruding material which has no relation to the subject.”

To sum up: Alan Wolfe should look closely at Stanley Fish’s argument, as well as the AAUP statement. Freedom of speech is not the same thing as academic freedom. Too many left-wing academics, like Ward Churchill, have hidden under the rubric of the latter to assert a false case that their free speech is being challenged. It is not. They have a perfect right  to make idiots of themselves as citizens; students have the  right to let an administration know that as captives in the classroom, they do not have to listen to a professor’s political agenda and to be subject to indoctrination.

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Happy Birthday Pete! Seeger at 90!

April 29th, 2009 - 8:15 am

For those who are not aware, this coming week the bard of American folk music, Pete Seeger, turns 90. As many of my readers undoubtedly know, I have mixed feelings about Pete. A childhood hero of mine, and my first 5 string banjo instructor, I have had the occasion to write about him a lot, and to reconsider my first impressions of his life, politics and career. 

For that reason, I will throughout the week post various columns written by myself and others about Seeger. To start, I am posting Chicago Tribune writer Eric Zorn’s blog of April 27th. For the record, I agree with Zorn’s last sentence, about Seeger’s contribution to not only American roots music, but American music, period. 

But I also think that the 1996 column Zorn rescues from oblivion, by Stephen Chapman, is also on the mark. Later in the week, I will post more recent columns of my own that relate to the points Chapman made at the time of Seeger’s Kennedy Center award. 

So, Happy Birthday, Pete! 

Folk legend Pete Seeger turning 90 in style by Eric Zorn

Forty years after writing the stirring lyric, “Old devil time, I’m goin’ to fool you now,” Pete Seeger will turn 90 on Sunday.The sold-out concert in his honor at New York’s Madison Square Garden will feature him, of course, as well as  –

  • Bruce Springsteen
  • Dave Matthews  
  • Eddie Vedder
  • John Mellencamp
  • Abigail Washburn 
  • Arlo Guthrie
  • Bela Fleck 
  • Kate & Anna McGarrigle
  • Billy Bragg
  • Bruce Cockburn
  • Del McCoury
  • Emmylou Harris
  • Joan Baez
  • Kris Kristofferson
  • Tom Paxton
  • Steve Earle  

– and many more amazing artists.

I wrote a letter of appreciation to Seeger in 1991. Dr. Seuss had just died, and I’d been struck by how pleased he would have been to have read and heard all the sentimental slop from grown-ups about how much his books had meant to them.

Seeger recordings gave me pleasure for years — my parents played them for me when I was a toddler –  and helped inspire me to learn to play, however indifferently, several folk instruments. And I guessed that someday soon I’d wake up and read his obituary and regret never having thanked him.

So, tactfully not mentioning what I supposed to be the inevitability of his demise as my motivation, I wrote him a brief but warm letter of thanks and received a friendly reply.

Yes, his politics were extreme and naive at times, as my colleague Steve Chapman observed in a 1995 column, but his contributions to American roots music were phenomenal.

 AMERICA HONORS ITS TROUBADOUR OF TOTALITARIANISM
January 1, 1995 by Tribune columnist  Stephen Chapman.

Americans have a great capacity to forgive and a small capacity to remember, which has been a great asset to the career of folk singer and national monument Pete Seeger. He was recently given two of the country’s highest arts awards despite a life spent laboring on behalf of the most malignant political ideology ever put into practice.

It is doubtful that anyone with a long history of association with Nazism could gain popularity and respect in America-even someone who had repented. But Seeger proves that a long and continuing history of association with communism is no bar to success in the leading capitalist nation on Earth.

Last week, CBS broadcast the Kennedy Center Honors, which included a tribute to Seeger. At 75, he has gained a measure of immortality for writing or co-writing such songs as “Where Have All the Flowers Gone?”, “Turn, Turn, Turn,” and “Kisses Sweeter Than Wine,” as well as remaking an old spiritual into the protest anthem, “We Shall Overcome.” In October, President Clinton gave him the 1994 National Medal of the Arts. He praised Seeger as “an inconvenient artist who dared to sing things as he saw them.”

Clinton didn’t bother to inform his unwitting constituents that the way Seeger saw things was invariably the way the Communist Party saw them. Seeger was a member from the 1930s into the 1950s. Ronald Radosh, a historian at Adelphi University and an authority on the American Left, recalls that one of Seeger’s best-loved songs, “If I Had a Hammer,” was written for a fund-raising rally to help Communist leaders arrested under the Smith Act, which made it a crime to advocate overthrowing the government.

Clinton further obscured the truth by saying it was a “badge of honor” that Seeger was blacklisted from radio and TV during the McCarthy era. Blacklisting was a bad thing, but some care should be taken to distinguish between those people who were harmed when they were falsely accused of being communists and those people who were harmed when they were accurately accused of being communists. Not all victims of McCarthyism were innocent victims.

Seeger generally comes across as an all-purpose idealist, portraying his career as one of “singing for civil rights, singing for peace.” The Kennedy Center press release played along, noting his “pro-union and anti-fascist songs” and his effort in the “civil rights and anti-war movements.” But when interviewed recently by The Washington Post, the old apologist for Stalin declared with pride, “I am still a communist.”

His life has been one of tireless loyalty to that set of beliefs. His father was a member of the Communist Party, and Seeger was captivated at age 11 by the autobiography of Lincoln Steffens-the American journalist who said after visiting Lenin’s Soviet Union, “I have been over into the future, and it works.”

During the Great Depression, Seeger became friends with Woody Guthrie, another folk singer who was also a faithful member of the Communist Party. In 1955, Seeger refused to testify about his party connections before the House Committee on Un-American Activities and was convicted of contempt of Congress (though the conviction was overturned on appeal).

He was active in the civil rights and anti-war movements, but his agenda was not quite the same as that of Eugene McCarthy or Jesse Jackson. In 1970, he wrote a song celebrating the North Vietnamese dictator Ho Chi Minh that included these memorable lines: “He educated all the people, he demonstrated to the world: If a man will stand for his own land, he’s got the strength of 10.”

Joan Baez, one of the leftist singers he inspired, opposed the Vietnam War, but she also denounced political repression in postwar Vietnam and sang about Soviet dissidents. Seeger’s concern for justice and human rights didn’t extend quite that far. He did, however, write a song claiming that the Soviet Union had liberated Jews from oppression.

He apparently has learned nothing from the record of Stalin and his progeny. Ronald Radosh was surprised recently to see a book of writings by the brutal Sandinista Interior Minister Tomas Borge with an effusive jacket endorsement from — you guessed it — Pete Seeger.

He is not one of those artists whose art can be considered separately from his politics-like, say, Wagner or Picasso. It would be like separating the green from the grass. He has always believed in the old communist slogan, “Art is a weapon.” Nor can he be excused on the grounds that he has changed, because he hasn’t.

For his entire career, Seeger’s art has been a weapon in the service of a cause that has produced more suffering, destroyed more lives and piled up more corpses than any other form of government in human history.

Somehow, a few nice tunes don’t seem to make up for all that.
   �
 

The other day, I wrote about Eric Alterman’s ridiculous assertion that I.F. Stone could not have been a Soviet agent because Stone never told him he was. It turns out that Alterman’s explanation is now the second most stupid apologia for Stone.

The first comes from Jim Naureckas, editor of the left-wing media website, FAIR, which stands for “Fairness in Accuracy in Reporting.” FAIR is dedicated to sifting out what its editors feel is right-wing bias in the media.  

Naureckas quotes from a KGB document cited in John Haynes and Harvey Klehr’s Commentary article providing the evidence that I.F. Stone was working for Soviet intelligence. The KGB file quotes an agent report that  ”Relations with Pancake [Stone's KGB codename] have entered the channel of normal operational work. He went to Washington on assignment for his newspaper. Connections in the State Dept. and Congress.”

To any sensible reader, when an intelligence agency notes that one of its subjects has entered “normal operational work,” they are indicating to their control that the subject is now fully an agent, performing tasks as assigned. As he notes, this is indeed what Klehr and Haynes concludes: “The Commentary writers gloss the phrase ‘channel of normal operational work’ as meaning that ‘Stone had become a fully active agent.’”  And so they do.

What is supposedly wrong about this sensible conclusion? Naureckas writes: “If you enter ‘normal operational work’ into Google with “KGB,” you get two hits, one to the Commentary article and one to Stone’s Wikipedia article quoting Commentary.” If you put those key words into Nexis, you get no hits at all.” (my emphasis)

That certainly settles the issue as far as Jim Naureckas is concerned.  To print his explanation is sufficient. No further comment is necessary.

I.F. Stone: Soviet Spy

April 22nd, 2009 - 4:09 pm

In my very first week of blogging, I wrote about the revered late left-wing journalist, I.F. Stone. Sure, Izzy charmed a lot of his supporters. But as I noted, he was most well known for being an apologist for Stalinism, and a journalist who at the time of the Korean War, perpetrated Soviet disinformation that the war was started by South Korea with the backing of the United States.

Until now, there has been only highly circumstantial evidence indicating that for several years Stone may have been a KGB agent. Now, John Earl Haynes, Harvey Klehr, and Alexander Vassiliev in their soon to be published book, Spies:The Rise and Fall of the KGB in America, present new evidence that indeed this was the case. Actual KGB files they examined, scrupulously copied from the originals by Vassiliev, offer us proof that from 1936 to 1938, Stone was in fact a Soviet agent. The chapter giving the data now appears on the website of Commentary magazine.

There is simply no more room for doubt. As the New York KGB station agent reported in May of 1936, “Relations with ‘Pancake’ [Stone's KGB name] have entered ‘the channel of normal operational work.’” For the next few years, the authors write, “Stone worked closely with the KGB” as a talent spotter and recruiter of other people for KGB work, including William A. Dodd, Jr., son of the US Ambassador to Hitler’s Germany. He also worked with the American Communist Victor Perlo, who while an economist at the War Production Group, led a Soviet espionage apparatus. Perlo compiled material for Stone that he could use in journalistic exposes beneficial to the Soviets.

The Stone revelations cannot help but tarnish Stone’s reputation among the legion of his former supporters.  Finding some humor in this, Marty Peretz, writing today in his TNR blog, says the revelations are “devastating. Poor Izzy! He will always have attached to his adopted name his code-name, ‘Pancake.’ (His real name was Feinstein.)”

But, as one expects, the folks at The Nation remain adamantly in denial. Eric Alterman wasted no time rushing to the web, on the site of Tina Brown’s The Daily Beast, to declare, as the headline puts it, “I.F.Stone Was No Spy.” Alterman argues that Stone could not be a spy, because the dictionary definition of a spy does not fit Stone!  Spies, according to the dictionary, have to give military or naval secrets.  So talent spotting, acting as a courier for other spies, relaying information to KGB agents, and giving the KGB information he found that the Soviets might find useful is not spying.

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Farewell, TAC, and Good Riddance

April 20th, 2009 - 3:50 pm

In 2002, a new magazine, created and edited by Taki and Pat Buchanan, appeared on the newsstands. Its name: The American Conservative.   I was asked to write about the new journal of opinion by the Ideas editor of the Boston Globe. This is what I wrote, in an article that appeared in the paper on Oct.13, 2002.

_______________________________
THE RED AND THE BROWN:

 WITH HIS NEW MAGAZINE, PAT BUCHANAN LINKS THE OLD RIGHT TO THE NEW LEFT

BY RONALD RADOSH

SECTION: IDEAS; Pg. D1

WHEN THE FIRST ISSUE of The American Conservative, the new weekly edited by Patrick J. Buchanan, recently hit the newsstand, readers might have been excused for wondering if they had accidentally picked up The Nation. Buchanan’s magazine, which he co-edits with the journalist Taki Theodoracopulos, resembles its left-liberal counterpart in appearance and is printed on the same cheap newsprint. Even more remarkably, much of The American Conservative’s contents could just as easily have appeared in the flagship publication of America’s left.

In their Oct. 7 debut, the editors bitterly lament the victory of the “neoconservatives” in our country’s cultural and political wars; the neoconservatives, in their view, stand for unfettered interventionism, free trade, and unlimited immigration. By contrast, The American Conservative promises to champion a number of causes that also find support on the political left:  protectionism to keep workers’ wages high in America; opposition to globalism (“we will point to the pitfalls of the global free trade economy”); and the struggle against “global hegemony.” Noam Chomsky probably would not put it differently.

Above all, The American Conservative is antiwar. In his own signed contribution, Buchanan complains about “a new triumphalist America” that is leading us into “an imperial war on Iraq.” As one might expect, he believes that the “war party” is being manipulated by the Israeli government, which hopes that war with Iraq will provide an excuse to return to Lebanon “and settle scores with Hezbollah.” Buchanan goes on to claim that the Israelis are “tugging at our sleeve, reminding us not to forget Libya.” Meanwhile, Eric S. Margolis writes that the United States “has been buttressing autocracy and despotism” in the Middle East for years. As for Iraq, it “has not committed any act of war against America,” and to invade would be “an act of brazen aggression.” Writing from Britain, Stuart Reid cites the acerbically conservative writer Auberon Waugh to ask how a country of 15 million impoverished “desert dwellers” can conceivably be viewed as a “threat to world peace.” America, Reid writes, should not “make a burnt offering of innocent Arabs.” These are, to be certain, blame-America-first conservatives.

   On domestic affairs, the magazine is aggressively populist and critical of corporate elites. The maverick journalist Kevin Phillips, whose 1969 classic “The Emerging Republican Majority” championed a “Southern strategy” that would give Republicans control over the electoral map, condemns “extreme levels of wealth concentration and polarization” as well as the “ideological corruption” of conservative ideology that stems from the “worship of markets,” “triumphalist Pentagon saber-rattling,” and “Axis of Evil foreign policy theology.” His proposal: a campaign for Democratic retention of the Senate or an independent presidential bid by Arizona Senator John McCain.

The magazine’s second issue is more substantive, though it continues to sound the same notes. In it, Buchanan goes so far as to praise Al Gore for the antiwar speech he recently gave in San Francisco. Gore, he enthuses, offers “Democrats a choice, not an echo.” Indeed, Gore shows the same “savvy” that Richard M. Nixon, Buchanan’s former employer, did in engineering his comeback from defeat in 1960. Gore, says Buchanan, is “Albert M. Nixon.” The issue also includes a heartfelt tribute by executive editor Scott McConnell to the late Jim Chapin, a brilliant historian and lifelong social democrat. And its centerpiece is a 10,000-word essay opposing the newly-minted Bush doctrine of “preemptive war,” written with considerable intellectual sophistication by the European historian Paul W. Schroeder. The article, which echoes recent arguments by liberal historians, would be a typical realist critique of US policy, were it not for the author’s claim that if the United States invades Iraq, the result “would be an imperialist war.”

How did Buchanan come to this particular pass? The most obvious antecedents of his magazine lie in the old right of the 1930s and ’40s – the pre-World War II isolationists, or “noninterventionists,” as they preferred to call themselves. Buchanan’s ruminations over Israeli influence call to mind Charles Lindbergh’s 1941 accusation that the drive to enter the war against Hitler was emanating from “the British, the Jewish and the Roosevelt administration.” These Jewish interventionists – neoconservatives, Buchanan might say now – were influential, Lindbergh said, because of their “large ownership and influence in our motion pictures, our press, our radio, and our government.”

The American Conservative proudly roots itself in this past by publishing Justin Raimondo’s ode to “the Old Right [who] knew something about the temptations of Empire.” Raimondo is a gay conservative activist from San Francisco whose chief claim to fame is his single appearance on “Politically Incorrect,” when Bill Maher made fun of him for being one of the few openly gay supporters of Buchanan. Now Raimondo runs a Web site called antiwar.com, in which he extols the good old days of the America First Movement. For a short time, he points out, that movement included not only conservatives, but socialists like Norman Thomas and, in the period before the Nazi-Soviet Pact of 1939, the Communist leader Earl Browder.

Indeed, it seems that Raimondo is now attempting to forge his own Red-Brown alliance, as Europeans refer to the coming together in post Soviet Russia of right-wing nationalists and unreconstructed Communists. In August 2001, he even published an article in Pravda (yes, that Pravda) in which he dismissed the idea that “America is a civilized country,” and, referring to World War II, maintained that “the wrong side won the war in the Pacific.” As for Israel, last week Raimondo continued to proclaim the myth that “Israel had foreknowledge of 9/11,” a claim that puts his Web site in league with the most extreme anti-Semitic canards coming from the Arab world, not to mention the poetry of Amiri Baraka.

Buchanan, too, has sought allies on the far left before. For a short time in 1996, the announced vice-presidential candidate on his Reform Party ticket was none other than the fringe radical Lenora Fulani – a New York City activist whose politics combine radical psychotherapy, anti-Semitism, and black nationalism. As a “classic socialist,” Fulani said, she backed Buchanan because he, too, realizes that “the great goal of social justice is not being served in America” by the capitalist economic system.

. . .

Buchanan may continue to dislike the left for many reasons, but one of the chief influences on his current thinking is William Appleman Williams, the radical historian who did the most to develop the New Left approach to American history in the 1960s and ’70s. In his most famous book, “The Tragedy of American Diplomacy,” Williams argued that the United States insisted on free trade, or an “open door” for its products around the world, as a means of acquiring an empire without shouldering the burden of old-style European colonialism.

Williams was my mentor in graduate school. Reading Buchanan’s 1999 book, “A Republic, Not An Empire: Reclaiming America’s Destiny,” I had the strange feeling of deja vu, as if I were reading a rewrite of “Tragedy” and Williams’s other works. It was Williams who acquainted scores of students with John Quincy Adams’s Fourth of July oration of 1821, in which Adams warned that America “goes not abroad in search of monsters to destroy . . . . She well knows that by once enlisting under other banners than her own, were they even the banners of foreign independence, she would involve herself, beyond the power of extrication, in all the wars of interest and intrigue . . . which assume the colors and usurp the standard of freedom . . . . She might become the dictatress of the world; she would no longer be the ruler of her own spirit.”

In “A Republic, Not an Empire,” Buchanan echoes Williams’s enthusiasm for the Fourth of July oration. Williams would no doubt agree with Buchanan that not since Adams’s speech “had U.S. foreign policy been stated with such clarity, force, and eloquence.” At other points in his book, Buchanan cites Williams’s work directly, though without telling his readers that Williams was a self-proclaimed radical and admirer of Karl Marx.

Williams himself well understood the connections between his own aspirations and certain aspects of the conservative movement in America. Writing in 1959, he saw little hope for the kind of radical upheaval that would lead America to stop intervening abroad. Thus, he argued, “the well-being of the United States depends – in the short run but only in the short run – upon the extent to which calm and confident enlightened conservatives can see and bring themselves to act upon the validity of a radical analysis.” A few years later, he bemoaned the fact that they had not done so – and the United States found itself seeking empire in Vietnam. If Williams was still alive, I have no doubt that he would find Buchanan and his new journal to be the kind of “enlightened conservative” voice he had hoped for. With the divisive issue of the Soviet Union gone, both men could join together and try to resurrect the old-style isolationism once so favored by both left and right.

Williams’s admirers on the left will undoubtedly chafe at my comparison of the historian to Buchanan. Where Williams admired the socialist leader Eugene V. Debs, Buchanan looks back fondly on the likes of Joe McCarthy and General Francisco Franco. But their world views have much in common, echoing as they do mid-century critics of American internationalism from Herbert Hoover to the historian Charles A. Beard.

Early in the Cold War, Joseph M. Jones, a key Truman adviser, wrote perceptively that “most of the outright opposition” to Truman’s foreign policy came from “the extreme Left and the extreme Right . . . from a certain group of ‘liberals’ who had been long strongly critical of the administration’s stiffening policy toward the Soviet Union, and from the ‘isolationists,’ who had been consistent opponents of all foreign-policy measures that projected the United States actively into World Affairs.” Some 50 years later, with new threats to American interests, the opposition to centrist policies remains the same, with left and right standing once again on common ground.

____________________________________________________________________________________________

I have sought to put this on line because in today’s mail I received the most recent issue of TAC, now listing Buchanan only as a contributor and until recently, the editorial duties supervised by Scott McConnell, who is now listed as Editor at Large. A box appears in their first few pages, informing readers that on May 7, the TAC will print its very last issue. Of course, the editors plead for capital to “keep this voice of thoughtful, independent conservatism alive.”

Their efforts, I predict, will prove forlorn. Aside from the magazine becoming ever more contentious, viciously opposed to Israel and regularly descending to not so veiled anti-Semitism,  my critique holds up well. Each issue presents yet another attack on those cunning all powerful neo-cons, (this time it features Michael Brendan Dougherty’s not too subtly titled article “Neoconned Again,” as well as an attack on liberals who “learn to love war” by the herald of the Old Right, Justin Raimondo, whom I wrote about in my Globe article) the usual attack on Israel, “Bibi’s First War” this time around, and other similar offerings.

No  wonder the magazine is about to fold. When it runs standard conservative fare, it echoes NR and The Weekly Standard. When it runs anti-war, anti-imperialist screeds, it echoes The Nation. Indeed, some of its regular contributors, like historian Andrew Bacevich (the most equipped to hold the title of the successor to William Appleman Williams) often appear in both publications.  The only difference is that TAC would print columns like Taki’s “Fifth Columnists,” in which he slandered Jewish Americans who see the need to support Israel. The leftists at The Nation  know better than to run such drivel.

So, I bid TAC a happy farewell.  Finally we have a magazine that deserves to fold.

What, Hugo Chavez couldn’t have given Barack Obama Noam Chomsky, Bill Ayers or to be really up to date, the new screed by Chesa Boudin? (bitingly and brilliantly dissected in The New York Times by Dwight Garner) Instead, he gave our President a copy of Eduardo Galeano’s late 60′s book, Open Veins of Latin America. (The English translation of which was written by the late British/American KGB agent, Cedric Belfrage.)

 Galeano’s book was published in this country by Monthly Review Press, the  “independent socialist magazine” founded by the late Paul M. Sweezy and Leo Huberman. It  is standard “the US exploits Latin America” fare of the Castro era 1960′s New and Old Left. I think President Obama should have been prepared with an appropriate counter book to offer Hugo Chavez.

There is only one perfect book, and perhaps a reader can send a copy to the White House so next time the President will be ready. It is the book co-authored by Plinio Apuleyo Mendoza, Carlos Alberto Montaner and Alvaro Vargas Llosa, with an introduction by the world famous author, Mario Vargas Llosa: Guide to the Perfect Latin American Idiot.

Pat Buchanan: Still an anti-Semite

April 17th, 2009 - 1:22 pm

The dangers of Right-wing populism are best exemplified in the anti-Semitic ravings of Pat Buchanan.  Take his column in the latest issue of Human Events, in which Buchanan complains about how the Nazi war criminal, John Demjanjuk,  has been ordered deported to Germany to stand trial as an accessory to the murder of 29,000 Jews at the Sobibor concentration camp in Poland. “How many men in history,” he asks rhetorically, “have been so relentlessly pursued and remorselessly persecuted?”

Calling this monster an “American Dreyfus,” he blames Demjanjuk’s persecution on the acceptance by his persecutors of false evidence forged by Andropov’s KGB, which supposedly orchestrated the attack on him beginning back in 1979. Arrested and tried in Israel in 1988 for being a guard at Treblinka known as “Ivan the Terrible, ” Demjanjuk was cleared of the original charges and released by Israel’s Supreme Court.  But now the Office of Special Investigations at the Justice Department, according to Buchanan, has brought up the phony charge that he actually was at Sobibor, and is still guilty of genocide. But, argues Buchanan, he was never there.

The end is that he will be tried as a “sacrificial lamb whose blood washes away the stain of Germany’s sins.” Since Germans voted themselves amnesty in 1969, (more on this false claim later) they need such pawns, and they took a conscripted Ukrainian and made him into a camp guard. Who is to blame? For an answer, take a look at Buchanan’s last sentence:

“The spirit behind this un-American persecution has never been that of justice tempered by mercy. It is the same satanic brew of hate and revenge that drove another innocent Man up Calvary that first Good Friday 2,000 years ago.” Whom might that be, Pat? I don’t think we have to guess too hard to figure out whom he is talking about.

For those who think Buchanan has a case, must reading comes today from Reason magazine’s Michael Moynihan, who goes through the case in great detail. As he notes, Demjanjuk was”the right man on the wrong charge,”  which is why Israel released him after a jury had originally found him guilty. Buchanan now recycles an old 1993 column and dredges up his old arguments, although they were answered long ago. Moynihan notes that American investigators found documents in German archives proving that Demjanjuk had been stationed at Sobibor and Flossenberg camps where Jews were liquidated, and their evidence did not depend, as Buchanan claims, on KGB forgeries accepted by the Justice Department.

Moynihan, moreover, reveals that Buchanan got information on which he based his claim that Demjanjuk was innocent from a leading American holocaust denier, Jerome Brentar, of the now defunct Journal of Historical Review. And, he notes, Germany did not vote an amnesty for itself on war crimes in 1969, as Buchanan claims. What he most probably is referring to is a 1968 modification of the German penal code which made prosecution of Nazi war criminals more difficult, and gave shorter sentences to those involved in lesser war crimes, such as so-called desk killers who did not act out of anti-Semitic motives. As Moynihan notes, Germany is today trying a leading Wehrmact officer, Josef Scheungraber, for war crimes. This would not be possible if Buchanan was correct about a so-called amnesty on war crimes trials.

Much of this is not new. Many years ago, Josh Muravchick wrote about Buchanan’s anti-Semitism in Commentary. His article may be found here. Later, Muravhcik wrote another article attacking Buchanan on his claims about Demjanjuk. That one may be found here.  Isn’t about time that responsible conservatives  stop giving him any credibility?

In Britain, it seems that the Left is still busy defending the innocence of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg. Writing in the The Guardian a few weeks ago, columnist Joanna Moorhead accompanied one of the Rosenberg’s children, Robert Meeropol, as he spoke in Berlin on a book tour and a campaign to prove his parents innocence.  It is clear that not only has the younger Meeropol not changed his views of the case despite all the evidence of his parents’ guilt, but neither has Ms. Moorhead.

In her fawning and disingenuous article, Moorhead notes that for years, the two brothers had fought to establish the Rosenbergs’ innocence. But last year, she writes, their “hopes were finally dashed” when new government releases proved that Julius was “involved in espionage.” And then her caveat: “although the secrets he stole weren’t atomic and probably didn’t amount to much in terms of damage to the US.” (my emphasis)

With the above sentence, Moorhead reveals she is spinning the same old lies—seemingly admitting some guilt on Julius’s part, but absolving him at the same time of really having done any harm to anyone, particularly his own country.

She continues, quoting Meeropol, who says that “he is in no doubt that the blame lies with the US government,” whose case “was riddled with holes,” and whose mother was not involved at all, and was only  indicted to pressure her husband to talk. Thus his parents “didn’t deserve to die: they were being used to whip up anti-communist feeling,” pawns in an international chess game, and he and his brother were its victims.

I have written about this many times, and to spare repeating myself, I refer you to the following for details. First, my open letter to Robert Meeropol; second, David Horowitz’s commentary, “Guilt of the Son,”  on it and on Robert Meeropol’s views, and third, my review of Steve Usdin’s important book, Engineering Communism. These articles all establish and cite evidence proving that the Rosenbergs were major spies. Secondly, they reveal that the military material they stole did great harm and major damage to America’s national security.

In one of these articles, I addressed Robert Meeropol and wrote: “For your own sake, I hope you are mentally prepared for the inevitable day when the KGB’s own archives reveal that your parents were guilty. Get ready, because it’s going to be soon.” At that time, I did not know how soon that would be.  That time, thankfully, has now come.

In the forthcoming bombshell of a book by John Earl Haynes, Harvey Klehr and Alexander Vasseliev, Spies: The Rise and Fall of the KGB In America (Yale Univ. Press, 2009), the authors prove beyond a shadow of a doubt—-using never before seen actual KGB files—-that the Rosenbergs were indeed atomic spies; that the military data their network stole seriously compromised America’s security, that Ethel Rosenberg was involved with her husband from the start and worked to recruit others to the network; that Julius recruited a previously unknown atomic spy, Russell McNutt, and that their primary loyalty was to the Soviet Union and not to their own country. You will learn the details in their book, and in the review I am preparing for The Weekly Standard .

Knowing the truth, it is revolting and sad to read the words their mother wrote her sons on the last day of her life: “Always remember that we were innocent and could not wrong our conscience.”

In effect, those words reveal that Ethel and Julius Rosenberg were more willing to orphan their own children and die in the cause of serving one of the last century’s greatest monsters, Joseph Stalin. As Theodore Dalrymple writes in The City Journal, “what is clear is that Julius and Ethel Rosenberg supported in theory and aided in practice an ideology and a state that they should have known was responsible for some of the worse oppression and mass murder in history.” Noting that Robert Meeropol extols his parents for not talking to implicate others, he notes that “whether standing firm for one’s convictions is a good or bad thing depends on what those convictions are. A monstrous cause is not any the less monstrous because people are ready to die for it.”

Evidently, this truth is one that neither Mr. Meeropol or the fellow traveling columnist Joanna Moorhead seem able to comprehend.

The Left Explains Piracy: It’s Our Fault!

April 14th, 2009 - 12:18 pm

While the rest of the world celebrates the Navy Seals’ killing of the Somalia pirates, and the freedom of Captain Richard Phillips, there is one group of writers who want to alert us all to the real message of this incident on the high seas: it’s the fault of the United States!

First comes Matthew Yglesias, who departs his usual perch at The Center for American Progress  to offer his words of wisdom to the readers of Tina Brown’s The Daily Beast. He tells us that “the ocean is extremely large.” Amazing that he noticed what so many others have failed to observe. I’m being sarcastic, but he explains that  the Indian Ocean alone is too large for foreign navies to patrol it.

And, he adds that sometimes rescues don’t work. The French, he tells us,  killed one of the people they were seeking to rescue in a military action. Of course he neglects to mention that four others were freed, while without the rescue, all of them might have perished. But his real point is to blast those awful Bush era neo-cons who want to see, as John Bolton does, a “coalition of the willing” to storm Somalia and crush the pirate bases.  Indeed, Yglesias goes on to argue that the “broader context” of piracy is the 15 years of anarchy that took place after an early American peacekeeping attempt in the 1990s. Now Somalia is fragmented, due to “a situation to which recent U.S. military intervention has contributed. Things got worse, he claims, when the Bush administration saw the pirates as a “threat to American national security.”  I guess this sentence means Yglesias thinks interference with free shipping of American merchant ships is not a threat, which means that since he wrote this blog, Barack Obama’s tough talk also displeases him.

When Bush backed an Ethiopian invasion of Somalia in 2006, Yglesias says, it sought a “puppet regime” backed by Ethiopian troops. Instead of restraining Ethiopia, which he acknowledges wanted to invade anyway, we egged the Ethiopians on.  Conservatives cheered (of course no one else did) and hence the US produced “a popular backlash and a violent Islamist insurgency.”

His assumption is that the backlash would have been avoided had we let the radical Islamists take over in the first place. That, he seems to think, would have satisfied them, and there would have been no piracy. After all, we have seen from history that appeasement works. Hence the only intervention Yglesias supports is one that “helps resolve the underlying chaos.” Evidently killing the pirates and destroying their bases won’t do that. Quoting the words of New York Times reporter Jeffrey Gettleman, he agrees with his judgment that America’s foreign policy blunders have served to radicalize the Somali population. There would have been no pirate action the past few days, he argues, had “not past meddling [by the USA] knocked the country off the path to stability.” His solution: accept a radical Islamist government, probably there and elsewhere. Or as the late Jeanne Kirkpatrick once said: “blame America first.”

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The Congressional Black Caucus Visits Cuba

April 12th, 2009 - 4:58 pm

Last week, as NRO columnist Mona Charen has pointed out, six members of the Congressional Black Caucus went to Cuba and got a grand reception. They came back delighted, proving Charen’s apt characterization, that they showed themselves to be part of the grand tradition of old communist fellow travelers, all of whom were “useful idiots.”

As one might expect, the Caucus members asked nothing about the Castro brothers’ political prisoners, or asked to see the conditions in the well documented abysmal prisons in which they put their critics. Nor did they seek to visit the Damas de Blanco, The Ladies in White, who demonstrate weekly in protest against the imprisonment of their relatives. These women have borrowed the tactics used by the opponents of the old Argentinean junta, whose female relatives of their victims  marched in front of government offices asking about the whereabouts of the “disappeared.”

Instead, the Black Caucus delegation cherished the chance to meet only with both Castros, and to sing their praises. They came back announcing that they would double their work to lift the U.S. embargo on Cuba and restore travel without conditions to the island. No comment by them on the existing policy of tying any relaxation to Cuba’s lessening of its political repression.

Now there is a case for lifting the embargo, one that has been made by many conservatives as well as liberals. Essentially, the argument is that the embargo has lasted almost as long as the Cuban Revolution, and has proved ineffective in bringing down the regime. Instead, it has allowed Fidel Castro and now Raul to blame their shortcomings on the U.S. blockade, and given them ammunition to reinforce nationalist sentiment.

The corollary to the argument is that with free travel, trade and U.S. investment in the island, the free market would work to slowly erode the power of the regime, and loosen it up so that an opposition could emerge that could not be contained.

The problem with this argument is twofold. First, Cuba is not Poland in the 80′s or the other Eastern European Communist bloc nations. The impending Soviet collapse made it all but certain that the internal opposition would succeed.  The fact is that even though the Soviet Union no longer exists, the investment and trade with European nations has enabled Castro to bolster his regime. The nations who invest do so in collaboration with the Cuban government, and rather than weaken his government, it gives it control as well as hard currency. And, as we now, to some extent the help that used to come from the Soviets now comes from Venezuela and China, and may again come from Putin’s Russia.

 Moreover, an independent movement has in fact already emerged in Cuba, including the brave democracy movement whose petition for free elections has been summarily crushed, and whose leaders have been thrown in prison or neutralized.  The independent libraries, whose equally brave figures have created private lending libraries to allow Cubans to read forbidden books have also been crushed. Remarkably, they have been the subject of opposition by American left-wing librarians!

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