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Ron Radosh

Monthly Archives: August 2009

The Left used to have a chant: “No war for oil.” But now that  Britain has let a terrorist who killed 243 passengers go free, because to do so meant access to a multi-million-pound oil exploration deal for British Petroleum (BP), we have not heard a word. This is especially the case for the British Left, who, for some time now, has been anti-Israel to the hilt and excessively silent about the crimes committed by Arab nations.

The facts are clear, as the London Times reported. Prime Minister Gordon Brown’s government, after discussions between Libya and BP, made the decision to free Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al-Megrahi, the Lockerbie bomber who brought down Pam Am 103 in 1988. Among the passengers who died were 180 Americans.

Until now, it was thought that Scotland made the deal alone to free al-Megrahi. But investigative reporting found firm evidence that, as Edward Davey,  the Liberal Democrat foreign affairs spokesman, put it, “the British government has been involved for a long time in talks over al-Megrahi in which commercial considerations have been central to their thinking.”

It was a decision, Justice Secretary Jack Straw said, that was in the British national interest. Britain agreed that the terrorist could go free. Six weeks later, Libya ratified the BP deal that the government wanted concluded. So much for “compassionate grounds,” the so-called official reason that led to Al-Megrhai’s freedom.

One other issue has to be raised. After al-Megrahi  was freed and given a hero’s welcome when his plane landed in Libya, the Obama administration and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton protested. But this was  after he gained his freedom. So the question must be stated: Would Britain have allowed this deal to be undertaken without informing President Obama in advance?

After all, scores of Americans were murdered by his action. The families have suffered for close to twenty years. A moving account of one family’s trauma appeared in an op-ed yesterday written by Robert P. George. As George writes: “What did American officials know about the decision to free Megrahi and when did they know it? What, if anything, did our government do to try to prevent it? Remember, 180 of Megrahi’s victims were our fellow citizens. President Obama had a right to be informed in advance of what Scotland was planning to do and a duty to do everything in his power diplomatically to prevent this outrage.”

Did Barack Obama phone Gordon Brown and object strenuously before the release? Did he really not know of Britain’s plans until after it was too late? Frankly, this is rather hard to believe. If almost 200 British subjects were killed on American soil in a terrorist attack, and the perpetrator was freed in a commercial deal by the U.S. government, it is hard to imagine that any administration would not first have informed the British government of what was going to take place.

So the question remains: What did Barack Obama know, and when did he know it?

A Communist in the White House? 1992 and 2009

August 26th, 2009 - 3:12 pm

The year was 1992.  Bill Clinton had won the Presidential election, and he was preparing to make appointments to fill Cabinet positions. The leading candidate for Secretary of Education was an African-American woman who was head of his transition team for education, labor and the humanities, Johnnetta Cole. She was President of Spelman College in Atlanta, a highly regarded institution for black women, and sat on the boards of many corporations, including the Atlanta based Coca-Cola, and Merck pharmaceuticals. She currently is Director of the Smithsonian Museum of African Art. If you Google or Bing her name, there will be scores of sites linking to her solid establishment pedigree.

Only one thing is left out, and seems nowhere to be found. That is her longstanding ties to the Communist Party of the United States. That was not the case as Clinton was preparing to assume the presidency. Using material furnished to him by various sources, David Twersky, then Washington editor of the Jewish Forward, revealed the hidden story of Cole’s then recent past. Cole, he revealed, had held leadership positions in the pro-Castro Venceremos Brigades, a group that sent American volunteers to work in Cuba in support of the Cuban regime. She also held a major position on the Executive Board of the U.S. Peace Council, the pro-Soviet affiliate of the World Peace Council, the “peace” organization of the Communist bloc. As the Twersky articles reverberated through Washington, Cole responded that “right-wing extremists” were after her because she had opposed the war in Vietnam and Reagan’s invasion of Grenada.

Cole was being more than disingenuous. The Forward was not a right-wing paper; indeed, it had editorially endorsed Clinton for president. As for Cole, she was not part of the mainstream opposition to the war in Vietnam, but a far-left radical who supported a Vietnamese Communist victory. When the folk-singer Joan Baez circulated a petition condemning the North Vietnamese government for human rights violations and political repression, Cole signed a petition denouncing Baez as “immoral.” Printed as an ad by the U.S. Peace Council in The New York Times, it asserted that under Communist rule, Vietnam “now enjoys human rights as it has never known in history.”  As for Grenada, she was not simply an opponent of the Reagan policy, but president of the U.S.-Grenada Friendship Society, a Communist front group that offered support to the Marxist-Leninist regime of Maurice Bishop. Under her signature, the group issued a statement that spoke of “a history of U.S. aggression and genocidal practices against people of color around the world,” and that said America’s “hidden agenda” was to “destroy all enemies of corporate America.”

What did the Clinton team do with this news? First, the woman who would be the first press secretary of the new President, Dee Dee Myers, explained that the charges were simply “silly,” and was “something we’re just not concerned about.” An aide to Al Gore said that Cole had suffered an “unfair smear.” Samuel Berger, soon to be named Deputy National Security Advisor, said this hullabaloo was about the “distant past.”  In a column in The New York Post, its editorial page editor, the late Eric Breindel, wrote that if Cole got an appointment, it would send an “inescapable” message that the Clinton administration was not “interested in distinguishing between a Left-liberal and someone who cast her lot with the cause of Communist totalitarianism.” In response, Jesse Jackson replied that “Jewish complaints” had harmed her chances for a Cabinet post.

The bottom line was that Bill Clinton, as he had with the also controversial Lani Guinier, did not stand by Johnnetta Cole. He did not remove her from the transition team. Other Clinton appointees-including Donna Shalala and Marian Wright Edelman, had both served with Cole on the Board of Trustees of Spelman College and Clinton did not want to offend them. But just as Cole’s chief supporters in New York, Susan Thomases and Harold Ickes Jr. were preparing a party to honor her for gaining the spot as Secretary of Education,  Cole was told that it was not to be. Appointing someone as a Cabinet secretary whose pro-Communist positions were so open was something the new president was not about to risk.

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Obama’s New War on the CIA

August 25th, 2009 - 3:46 pm

In April of 2009, Attorney General Eric Holder said that it “would be unfair to prosecute dedicated men and women working to protect America for conduct that was sanctioned in advance by the Justice Department.” Now, the tides have turned, and Attorney General Holder has announced that he has appointed a Special Prosecutor, John H. Durham,  to reopen the cases of  “CIA abuse.”

For months, President Barack Obama has consistently said he wants to look forward, not backward.  He was more interested in creating a new culture, not in waging political prosecutions against public servants whose interrogations had already been vetted a few years ago- not by Bush appointees- but by civil service personnel working in the Justice Department. Holder’s explanation was that his review of CIA reports, now declassified, left him no choice. “Given all of the information currently available,” Holder said, “it is clear to me that this review is the only responsible course of action for me to take.”

The 2004 report lists these abuses. They include the threatening of detainees that members of their family would be raped, mock executions, and intimidating tactics such as displaying a power drill and a gun near a subject soon to be interrogated, blowing smoke in their faces, and depriving them of sleep.

Most important, as Vice-President Dick Cheney told the American Enterprise Institute, the details learned from interrogations that included some of these measures, including waterboarding, revealed that they succeeded in uncovering planned attacks on the United States. The report, as even The New York Times story by Mark Mazzetti and Scott Shane emphasized, “found that the interrogations obtained critical information to identify terrorists and stop potential plots and said some imprisoned terrorists provided more information after being exposed to brutal treatment.”

Contrary to earlier stories, in other words, major information was gained only after these harsh interrogation techniques- torture if you will- were used. For example, one report revealed that information from Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the mastermind of 9/11, “dramatically expanded our universe of knowledge on Al Qaeda’s plots.”  Mohammed was told that if another attack on the U.S. took place, the CIA would “kill your children.” Evidently, while Mr. Mohammed could not care if he killed over 3000 innocent Americans, that threat was enough for him to spill the beans.

We know that the CIA had commissioned a review of their methods during the Bush administration’s first term, had sent an unredacted copy of their report to the Senate and House Intelligence Committees in 2004, and to the Department of Justice as well, so that allegations of abuse could be investigated. Career prosecutors—again not Bush appointees-evaluated these claims to decide if any prosecution was warranted. As a result one CIA contractor who beat a detainee to death was convicted.

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What Robert Novak Got Wrong

August 21st, 2009 - 1:18 pm

Now that the expected plaudits about the late Robert Novak have all appeared, it is good to report that some journalists are finally writing about the dark side of the “Prince of Darkness.” Especially powerful is the article appearing today in Tablet by Jamie Kirchick.

As Kirchick writes, one of Novak’s most pronounced traits was “his unrelenting criticism of Israel.” In Novak’s eyes, Israel could do no good. He was “one of Israel’s harshest critics in establishment Washington.”  This has been known for quite some time. What Kirchick contributes is an investigation into what led Novak, born into a Jewish family, in this direction.  The first answer is that Novak was influenced by his long-time partner, Rowland Evans, whose views slowly rubbed off on Novak.  However, as Kirchick points out, Evans retired in 1993 and died in 2001; yet during the past 15 years, Novak kept up his intense criticism of Israel.

He even attempted to resuscitate the reputation of the leader of the Nation of Islam, the black extremist and anti-Semite Louis Farrakhan. In this effort, he was following the obsession of his friend Jude Wanniski, who befriended Farrakhan and even saw the radical leader as a mechanism for entrée of American blacks into the ranks of the Republican Party.

After September 11th, Novak wrote that the “hatred of the United States today by the terrorists is an extension of hatred of Israel” and that “the united States and Israel are brought ever closer in a way that cannot improve long-term U.S. policy objectives.” Then, later the same month, he called a senior Hamas terrorist a “freedom fighter” on CNN.  And finally, Novak attributed US entry into the war on Iraq- a war he opposed- as one fought on behalf of Israel. Novak ignored the many signals from Israel indicating that most Israelis, and Israeli policy-makers, saw Iran as the major enemy of the West and did not favor going to war against Saddam Hussein.  And like Jimmy Carter, Novak called Israel “Worse Than Apartheid,” the name he gave to a column written in 2007.

There is one other area that Novak covered as  a very young man that revealed more short-sightedness. That was his myopic view of the 1960’s civil rights movement. In a column titled “Danger From the Left” appearing in The Washington Post on March 18, 1965, Evans and Novak attacked Martin Luther King Jr. for surrendering “valuable ground to leftist extremists in the drive for control of the civil rights movement.” Students of Dr. King- and both David Garrow and Taylor Branch have written definitive biographies of the civil rights leader- have written in detail about the tensions between King- who advocated Ghandian non-violence – and younger militants who favored “black power” and eschewed and ridiculed King’s idea of a “beloved community.”

But King did not surrender to them which is one reason it is his legacy that is celebrated today and not that of the militants like the late Stokely Carmichael.  But in their column, Evans and Novak called John Lewis—then a moderate in the leadership of The Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC)- part of a group of  “hothead extremists,” and tied him up with James Forman, who was indeed a far-left radical who opposed the serious moderation of Lewis- (now a Democratic member of Congress from Georgia)-and who with his faction soon ousted Lewis from the SNCC leadership.

The civil rights movement had its problems; sadly, SNCC’s turn to the far Left and its alliance with Third World revolutionaries and totalitarians at home led to its eventual isolation and collapse. Had Evans and Novak written as profusely about the need for an end to segregation in the South and on behalf of civil rights, as they did of Communist involvement in the civil rights movement, perhaps their warnings about the perfidy of the Communists might have had an impact. But the way in which they made their point only served to have the civil rights activists ignore their warnings, and to even extend their hand further to those who had their own leftist agenda.

Oliver Stone shows his usual chutzpah, or at least his press reps at Showtime do, when their announcement of his new TV documentary series on the “Secret History of America” promises to focus on events that “at the time went under-reported.”

Sure, such as those they mention: Truman’s decision to drop the A-bomb; the origins of the Cold War with the Soviet Union, and the “national-security complex.” Take any one of these three, and you can come up with perhaps fifty books and scores of documentaries and reports on television that already treat them. Has Stone, I wonder, watched CNN’s massive- if still flawed but nevertheless valuable- multi-volume Cold War history?

Of course, Stone promise us “newly discovered facts and accounts.” Stone is doing this for his children, he says, so that a “change in thinking can result” after they watch it. If we judge from Oliver Stone’s track record—-his hagiographical TV documentary on Fidel Castro; his conspiracy mongering and ridiculous movie on JFK; his scathing film on Nixon, and any of the rest of his would-be historical films, what we are going to get is more left-wing “revisionist” history made through his unique and damaged mind.

Well, for a long time I’ve been looking for an excuse to give up my cable sub to Showtime. Looks like they are finally giving me a very good reason.

Bob Dylan: Like a Complete Unknown

August 17th, 2009 - 11:21 am

Every day is the same thing out the door
Feel further away then ever before
Some things in life, it gets too late to learn
Well, I’m lost somewhere
I must have made a few bad turns

I see people in the park forgetting their troubles and woes
They’re drinking and dancing, wearing bright colored clothes
All the young men with their young women looking so good
Well, I’d trade places with any of them
In a minute, if I could

Bob Dylan, “Highlands”

Well, undoubtedly you’ve heard the story. Wandering around  Long Branch, NJ on July 23rd, while taking a walk before his concert tour, police apprehended the nation’s most prolific and gifted singer-songwriter after homeowners called to report a strange man standing in their lawn.

The owners called Bob Dylan an “eccentric-looking old man,” and one of them followed him as he left the yard and continued to walk down the street. The phone call to 911 led a 24 year-old police officer, Kristie Buble, to respond. “We got a call for a suspicious person,” she told the press. “It was pouring rain outside, and I was right around the corner….I asked him what he was doing in the neighborhood and he said he was looking at a house for sale.” Buble asked his name, and he responded promptly, “Bob Dylan.”

First reports that she had never heard of him and didn’t know what he looked like were incorrect. Buble did know of him, but had only seen photos from decades earlier, and hence, she said, “he didn’t look like Bob Dylan to me at all.”  Besides, he was “wearing black sweatpants tucked into black rain boots, and two raincoats with the hood pulled down over his head.” Anyone who knows about Dylan’s desire for privacy knows, in fact, that even on nice warm sunny days, he often wears a sweatshirt with a hood, so his distinctive give-away hair is hidden and he can go unnoticed in major cities, like “a complete unknown.”

Of course, when Dylan told the officer, and another cop who had arrived, that he was giving a concert with Willie Nelson and John Mellencamp, they didn’t believe it. “We see a lot of people on our beat,” she said, “and I wasn’t sure if he came from one of our hospitals or something. He was acting very suspicious,” and couldn’t produce an ID when asked for one. Dylan might have said, as he did in song:

Ain’t talkin’, just walkin’
Walkin’ ever since the other night
Heart burnin’, still yearnin’
Walkin’ ‘til I’m clean out of sight

As I walked out in the mystic garden
On a hot summer day, hot summer lawn
Excuse me, ma’am I beg your pardon
There’s no one here, the gardener is gone

Bob Dylan, “Ain’t Talkin’”

But, the police officer noted, Dylan was extremely nice and polite, so she drove him to the hotel parking lot where the tour buses were parked, and finally after knocking on the door of one of the buses, was handed Dylan’s passport with his photo. She sheepishly apologized, telling Dylan to “have a nice day.”

Dylan had been through this drill before . A few years ago, when he was recording one of his recent albums at a Miami Beach studio, he was staying in a 5 star South Beach resort hotel. As he came back in during a daytime outing, the doorman refused him entry, saying that only guests could stay there. When he responded that he was a guest, the doorman still wouldn’t admit him.  Only when the manager was called and a staff person from the recording session was found, did they let him in. At another time in October of 2001, he was not allowed backstage to one of his own concerts in Oregon because the security people refused to believe he was Bob Dylan.  Obviously, anonymity has its price.

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Television viewers may know, because of the immense publicity the series has received, that VH-1 has been running a documentary series this entire past week on the legacy of the 1960’s, that will end on Friday with the long-awaited documentary by Barbara Kopple, “Woodstock Now and Then.”  I have not seen Kopple’s film, but one thing is certain, she knows how to make a good film, and has been at it for decades.

The series has had entries so far on Muhammad Ali, Timothy Leary and  Cheech and Chong. But last night, the network broadcast what might just be the single worst, biased, and uninformative documentary ever made. Titled “Lords of the Revolution,” its take on The Black Panther Party is so bad that I suspect even Michael Moore would be embarrassed to rate it with anything higher than a C-.

Here is VH-1’s summary of the program: 

In the last 6os, there were few radical groups more controversial that The Black Panthers. Led by the dynamic personalities of Bobby Seale, Huey Newton and Eldridge Cleaver, the Panthers boldly challenged white America to deliver justice and opportunity for all. Armed with guns and clad with berets and leather jackets, the Panthers advocated self-defense; initiated social service programs nationwide; and became a defiant symbol of Black Power. They also become a target as the FBI and police waged a bloody war to bring the party down.

You get the idea. They reproduce the Panther’s old 60’s propaganda about themselves. Brought up to date with remembrances spoken by aging Panthers like Bobby Seale and Kathleen Cleaver, and other supporters like their counsel Gerald Lefcourt, the film has one point of view: the Panthers were great heroes; they led the black revolution; they served the people with efforts like the free breakfast program for children in the Oakland ghetto, and they opposed the oppressive police presence in the ghetto in which the cops treated the regular people as enemies.

If anything went wrong with the Panthers, there was one reason: the FBI infiltration of the group through  J. Edgar Hoover’s Cointelpro program and the attacks on the group by both the Bureau and police departments in Oakland and throughout the nation. As Hoover, Nixon or Reagan are shown, the music suddenly turns dark and dramatic, in case the viewer does not realize these are villains. When Huey Newton and company are shown, the music is lively and dramatic, so you know we are seeing heroes.

The film is so one-sided, that even the Panthers’ torture of Alex Rackley, who was held hostage and killed in a Panther safe house in New Haven, Connecticut, is whitewashed.
The Panthers killed Rackley, according to the film, because they were infiltrated by the FBI and were paranoid about enemies. The FBI made them do it!  Missing is the testimony and confession of the Panthers who killed Rackley, who did it for ideological reasons, and because they were ordered to kill the 19 year old by Bobby Seale. You can read the grisly details of what torture they inflicted on him  here. Needless to say, you will not hear about any of this in the documentary. After all, the Panthers did no harm to anyone, unless the FBI provoked them. Telling the truth would harm the film’s narrative.

Then there is the film’s laudatory treatment of Huey Newton, depicted as a hero of the movement. They cannot escape from letting viewers know the Huey died in a gun battle in 1989 with a drug dealer, which took place when he was trying to take over the Oakland drug trade from competing dealers. They mention a few times that Newton was a regular cocaine user, but the film’s script implies that he was driven to this low end by the relentless battle waged against him by the “pigs,” as the Panthers called the police, and the Federal government. As the filmmakers see it, Huey was brought down because he became a moderate and split the movement, and started using cocaine. (Evidently cocaine has that effect on revolutionaries.)

The film uses the term revolution and revolutionary many times, but never explains the Panther’s Maoism, their commitment to Marxism-Leninism, and their unique version of the jargon as substituting leadership of the world revolution to blacks in America and Third World people abroad, all of whom were being exploited by the imperialist American fascist state.  Viewers are never given any adequate explanation of the doctrinal differences between Newton, its hero, and Eldridge Cleaver, who fled to Algeria and North Korea (although they never mention his presence in Kim Il Sung’s paradise) before returning to America a chastened and reformed man. Cleaver is accused of favoring revolutionary war while Newton is depicted as the moderate, although the film never tells us that before his death, Cleaver was the one who became the real moderate.

Indeed, Cleaver became a born-again Christian and a Republican, who spoke for Republican Party events and who supported Ronald Reagan in his bid for the Presidency in 1980 and 1984. Cleaver, as journalist Kate Coleman revealed,  admitted that he and the Panthers had ambushed the police in a major 1968 attack in the Oakland ghetto, which they claimed had been a police attack on their peaceful movement, that was only using guns for self-defense. The movie could easily have interviewed Coleman for a different analysis. She lives in the Berkeley area where they filmed, but Coleman, once a Panther defender and a woman of the political left, is of course never on screen as a talking head.

Nor did they seek to interview Sol Stern, the journalist who brought them to national attention with a major story in The New York Times Magazine in August of 1967, which featured the now famous photo and later poster of  Panther “Minister of Defense” Huey Newton sitting in a wicker chair holding a rifle in one hand and a spear in another.  As Stern acknowledges today, his laudatory story is not one he would adhere to anymore. As he writes, “I understood that I should have described Newton and his cadres as psychopathic criminals, not social reformers.” As for why they self-destructed, Stern nails the real reason: “The Panthers self-destructed because of the murderous violence and larceny they imposed on their own community.”

 Stern thinks that today “no one but a left wing crank could still believe in the Panther myth of dedicated young blacks ‘serving the people’ while heroically defending themselves against unprovoked attacks by the racist police.” It’s a lucky thing Stern is in Israel for the summer, where VH-1 is not available.

Additional reading that VH-1 producers somehow ignored:

 Any of Kate Coleman’s articles on the Panthers. You can find links to them on her website, by clicking on her article archive.

Hugh Pearson’s 1995 book, Shadow of the Panther: The Price of Black Power in America.

The 2005 paperback edition of David Horowitz and Peter Collier’s  Destructive Generation: Second Thoughts About the 60’s.

Since writing this, David Horowitz has made his own observations on News Real at Frontpagemag.com. I Reprint them here:


Celebrating Sixties Gangsters On VH1 by David Horowitz

2009 August 13Leave a comment

tags: , , , , , , , by David Horowitz

Last night VH1’s on going celebrations of the Sixties hit a high and a low. The high was hit by an edited version of Monterey Pop (Canned Heat and Ravi Shankar hit the cutting room floor) which captures the delightful absurdities of the decade, although the drug fog which was not so delightful is much in evidence in the glazed expressions of the attendees. I can’t think of any more exciting live performance caught on tape than Joplin’s show stopper Love is Like a Ball and Chain.

But right after this came a promotional film for the black Panthers who raped and murdered their way through the end of the decade becoming icons of credulous progressives in the process. My friend Ron Radosh has blogged the film admirably, although he misses one salient point. This film is certainly dishonest but also not a little absurd in its attempt to make an alcoholic half-wit the hero of the Panther story. Bobby Seale was a blowhard even in the Panther hey day and had no influence on the direction of the party despite his title of chairman because he was simply Huey Newton’s punk. Newton was a thug and physically dominated and intimidated Seale who didn’t leave the party in disgust over Newton’s drug addiction as he claims in the film but was beaten up and then buggered by Newton and thrown out over a ludicrous quarrel about a film Huey wanted to star in. The aggrandizement of pathetic as well as criminal behavior when the perps are black is so essential to the leftist religion that even fifty years later progressives cannot handle the truth. The much maligned George Bush once referred to the racism of low expectations, but even he couldn’t imagine a film promoting black revolutionaries and stone-cold killers which blames every single bad turn in their  history on clever white cops. Did Eldridge and Huey go to war over whether to start an armed struggle in America? J. Edgar Hoover made them do it — and he did so by writing fake poison pen letters and dropping them in their mailboxes! Did Ericka Huggins boil water so Alex Rackley’s torturers could pour it on his chest before the Panthers took him into the woods to execute him An “informant” made her do it. (Well, to be honest the fact about Ericka is omitted from the VH1 travesty, which however ascribes the entire Rackley affair to the police.)

This film was obviously the work of Seale and Kathleen Cleaver who once referred to Stalin as “a brother off the block” and who backed her husband — a covicted rapist (also not mentioned in the film) — through at least one gangland execution in Algiers. It is a pretty savage (and petty) payback to Newton, not to mention other prominent members of the Panther’s gang, including Elaine Brown, Masai Hewitt, David Hilliard and Geronimo Pratt, all of whom are missing from the film. Shame on VH1 for trafficking in this muck and for enablers like Gerald Lefcourt and promoters like Chuck D for being such diehards in so sordid a cause, and actor James Cromwell for actually weeping on camera over a bunch of sorry-assed thugs.



I last wrote about the controversy over the book Spies some time ago.  Now, once again, it is time to turn to the ongoing debate once more. It seems that it never ends, despite the belief of some people that questions like whether or not Alger Hiss was guilty is of interest only to people over 60.

Of particular interest is the continued use of the term “McCarthyism” to describe serious historians who have concluded, based on careful research, that a lot of people accused of being Soviet agents in the 1950’s turned out to have been the real thing. This is the tactic I mentioned that was used by the writer Amy Knight in a lengthy review of their book that was in the Times Literary Supplement on June 26th.(not available on line) Knight referred in passing to the “McCarthyite style” of John Earl Haynes and Harvey Klehr. As Knight saw things, Haynes and Klehr were trying to retroactively punish Cold War dissenters by branding them as Soviet agents, and she wrote, “to silence those who still voice doubts about the guilt of people like Alger Hiss, Harry Dexter White, I. F. Stone and others”.

The authors of Spies replied in a brief tough letter, which you can read for yourself. It is a model of how Haynes and Klehr use the facts and documents as a basis for making judgments, not ideological agendas for which they bend facts for their own purposes.  As for the charge of McCarthyism against the two authors, anyone who has read their work knows that they have consistently argued over the years that to prove that evidence is what convicts people like Alger Hiss, Harry Dexter White and others as spies in the court of history, is not to vindicate the campaign of the late junior senator from Wisconsin, Joseph McCarthy.

In the review of their book by Christopher Andrew, the dean of British historians of Soviet espionage, Andrew makes the following  point:

As well as attracting well-deserved praise, the US edition of Spies has provoked outrage from those who claim that it smears the reputation of some American radicals. The outrage reflects the fact that, thanks chiefly to the malign legacy of Senator Joseph McCarthy’s witch-hunts, “Stalin’s Americans” remain a far more sensitive area of research than “Stalin’s Englishmen”. President Truman was right to claim in 1951: “The greatest asset that the Kremlin has is Senator McCarthy.” McCarthy ultimately did more for the Soviet cause than any agent of influence the KGB ever had. His preposterous, self-serving ­crusade against the “Red Menace” made liberal opinion around the world skeptical of the reality of Moscow’s intelligence offensive against the United States.

McCarthy’s antics, his scattershot attacks on liberals as Communists and some Communists as spies- when no evidence existed for his charges- allowed those truly guilty to win public sympathy by claiming that they too were simple victims of a McCarthyite witch-hunt. Nothing served their purpose better. Venona and other Soviet documents prove, for example, that the journalist Cedric Belfrage, a British subject living in America, was a KGB agent. Yet Belfrage, who started the fellow-traveling newspaper The National Guardian (which began the campaign in America to exonerate the Rosenbergs as innocent) had the gall to write a memoir decades later he titled The American Inquisition, in which he depicted the so-called era of McCarthyism as a witch-hunt against dissenters who were falsely accused of being Soviet spies. 

But perhaps the most recent influential essay on what the issue of Soviet espionage is all about comes from Nicholas Lemann, a staff writer for The New Yorker and dean of the Graduate School of Journalism at Columbia University. It appeared in the July 27 issue of the magazine, and unfortunately, has not been made available on line for readers.

Yet, Lemann, a sophisticated and knowledgeable writer, falls into the same trap as those coming before him to largely deal with the new evidence about Soviet espionage by bringing up the bugaboo of McCarthyism. Lemann writes:

The fierce arguments about Soviet espionage are barely disguised arguments about the Red Scare of the fifties–whether it was irrational and hysterical or justified and protective. Even with the Cold War long over, the debate has bite. A book like Spies supports a conservative view: America inhabits a world full of dangerous enemies, and liberals are incapable of understanding this. President Bush’s “global war on terror” implicitly tapped into a wellspring of such conservative conviction. When Bush, in his second term as President, appointed Allen Weinstein archivist of the United States, it sent a message. Bush isn’t President anymore, but these issues have hardly been put to rest. Although Barack Obama has steered away from the hot-blooded rhetoric about America’s enemies, he knows that our political culture is, quick to charge liberals with a perilous naiveté about bad guys from abroad.

Let me dissect the above paragraph. To be candid, I discussed this issue both on the phone and via e-mail with Lemann, and he argued that I had misinterpreted what I took that paragraph to mean.  I have since read it over a few times, and still find Lemann’s words wanting.

First, I do not think the argument over who might have been a Soviet agent is a disguised fight over the Red Scare. Lemann posits an either-or situation: irrational or justified. Could not the era have revealed elements of both? McCarthy and some of his supporters made false and harmful charges. (The anti-Communist editor of the New York Post, James Wechsler, was not a hidden Communist, as McCarthy charged when he brought Wechsler before his Senate sub-committee. ) But scores of people thought by many to be innocent, such as Laurence Duggan, Harry Dexter White, and William Remington—were in fact Soviet agents.

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The great American novelist, non-fiction writer and screenwriter, Budd Schulberg, died this past week at the grand old age of 95.  Working on his memoirs and various scripts almost to the end, Schulberg will most be remembered for his famed Hollywood novel, What Makes Sammy Run? (1941) and his prize-winning screenplay for what is arguably the single greatest American film, On the Waterfront, (1954) directed by Elia Kazan, and starring Marlon Brando and Eva Marie Saint.

But to many in the American literary elite and in Hollywood, Schulberg would never be forgiven for his testimony before The House Committee on Un-American Activities in in 1951, before which he named seventeen people he had known in Hollywood as members of the Communist Party. Like his friend Kazan, Schulberg too would be regarded as a renegade, a stoolie, and a traitor—a man who deserved no plaudits and no accolades.

I will be writing a full evaluation of Schulberg for a future edition of The Weekly Standard, and will save further comments for that venue. At this time, I prefer to keep it short and simple.  Budd was not only a great writer, but a man with a deep social conscience, a devotee of liberty, who stood his ground against all he considered tyrants. He despised McCarthy (and was furious at Ann Coulter when she heralded him a few years ago) and even more, he hated the Communists and fellow-travelers who thought the Soviet Union was a force for peace and justice.

In Budd’s eyes, American Communists were a dangerous group from the 30’s through the late 40’s, when they had influence and power in America’s cultural community. He knew from personal experience how they used their clout to interfere with the freedom of people like himself to write as he pleased, and he never understood how those who thought democratic America was a fascist state, at the same time said nothing about Stalin’s murder of scores of Russian writers, actors and directors whom he had come to know personally.

Helping expose the Communists for the threat he knew them to be was to him an act of honor, and nothing to be ashamed of. His bravery and courage in bucking Hollywood’s strong left-wing community will be remembered for decades to come.

For the past few days, the announcement that Barack Obama would award a Presidential Medal of Freedom to former President of the Irish Republic, Mary Robinson, has created a storm of controversy that is not dying down. The main question that must be asked is whether the expose of Robinson as a long-time opponent of Israel and as the enthusiastic convener of Durban II, despite its open anti-Semitism and the withdrawal from the conference of the United States, will lead many Democrats, as well as Jewish supporters of Obama, to reconsider their once enthusiastic support.

Yesterday, AIPAC, usually non-partisan and not prone to comment on appointments—it stayed mum on the Charles Freeman affair months ago—issued a statement indicating that it was “deeply disappointed by the Obama administration’s choice to award a President Medal of Freedom to Mary Robinson,” and called upon the administration “to firmly, fully and publicly repudiate her views on Israel and her long public record of hostility and one-sided bias against the Jewish state.”

AIPAC is correct in its description of Robinson. UN Watch documented this extensively. They wrote:

Should Mary Robinson be awarded the 2009 Presidential Medal of Freedom for being an “agent of change”?In March 2004, we noted that, “Whatever her accomplishments, Mary Robinson’s legacy will be forever entwined with Durban’s racism-turned-racist conference that disgraced the UN.”In the words of the late Tom Lantos, U.S. delegate to the conference and founder of the Congressional Human Rights Caucus: “To many of us present at the events at Durban, it is clear that much of the responsibility for the debacle rests on the shoulders of UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Mary Robinson, who, in her role as secretary-general of the conference, failed to provide the leadership needed to keep the conference on track.”Lantos thoroughly documented her counter-productive acts of omission and commission in the vital lead-up process.

To even consider Robinson “an agent of change,” supposedly what Obama is giving the recipients this year’s award for, is obscene. Again, it remains for Marty Peretz, whom we all know was once an enthusiastic supporter of Obama during the campaign, to put this nomination in stark perspective.  Despite her accomplishments as Ireland’s chief, he writes, “It has been downhill ever since, a good deal of it in the gutter of anti-Semitism.” Peretz continues:

She was the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights when the commission began to specialize in the practice of supporting governmental repression and calling it freedom–as, frankly, Obama has done with the burqa, also in Cairo. But Robinson’s biggest role on the world stage was as chair of the 2001 World Conference Against Racism in Durban.  She planned it, she mostly ran it and she is responsible for that Witch’s Sabbath of hate against both Israel and America, actually the west and western values in general and in particular. Since then, she has been doing the time-consuming NGO thing, talking mostly to one another and soliciting grants from American foundations.

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